Civil War display leaves impression

EVERETT – Evelyn Jameson wishes her high school history teachers had possessed as much imagination as William Louf does.

Jameson thought she hated history, but she was captivated by a diorama of the 1862 Battle of Antietam that she saw in the window of Louf’s downtown Everett store.

“It makes it seem more real to me,” said Jameson, 50, who was in town with her husband from Shelby Township, Mich., to visit their son at Naval Station Everett. “If I’d had a teacher that made history so interesting, I would have enjoyed it. When I took history, it was just, ‘Read the book.’”

Louf, 50, of Marysville was hoping for such reactions when he installed the diorama June 18 in the window of his store, Image Master, 1814 Hewitt Ave.

Above and below the diorama are explanations and photographs of the Civil War conflict.

The 5- by 7-foot display includes more than 300 plastic soldiers, along with rifles, trees and wagons. Walls are made of foam, concrete sealer and pea gravel. The details continue down to bandaged men on crutches and cups of coffee on wooden tables.

The Battle of Antietam, in which more than 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died, was the bloodiest single-day battle in U.S. history. Historians say the battle was a turning point that led to the South’s eventual defeat.

“This was the first time the Union army didn’t run from the Confederate army,” Louf explained to Image Master customer Bob Curtis, 49, of Mukilteo. “The Confederate army retreated.”

Curtis said the display took him back to mock Civil War battles he’d had with friends on the beaches of his native Michigan.

Smudge marks on the window attest to the display’s popularity with passersby.

“Isn’t that cool?” said Vickey Harper, 43, as she lifted her daughter, Jessmyn, 9, so she could see better.

As Harper looked, she became morose and thought of the soldiers dying in Iraq.

“I think of all the people who died and the kids who lost their dads,” she said.

Louf began creating the diorama two years ago, and put it up in his Marysville bedroom last summer. It took him about an hour to paint each of the 300-plus soldiers, and countless hours more to put together the rest of the display. He had to leave 3 feet of the display at home because the whole thing wouldn’t fit in the store window.

Louf was planning to take the display down July 30, but now he’s thinking of leaving it up longer.

His ultimate goal is to create a huge diorama and make a full-fledged Civil War museum out of it, complete with spotlights and sound effects.

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