RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN)- In the tiny town of Wasta, 38 miles southeast of Rapid City, just off I-90, there is a sort of plain looking building, almost like it's camouflaged.
But walk inside that building and it's like walking back in miltary history.
It's a private collection, displayed in museum form.
Tom Rancour has amassed a private collection of military memorabilia that's too much to take in from ground level, focusing primarily on the time frame of World War 1 through Vietnam. It's taken a lifetime to collect.
"Since 1976. My father was a firearms dealer basically since I was 6 years old and I was always around law enforcement and many of the law enforcement personnel are ex-military and always around small arms and going to rifle and pistol shoots," says Tom Rancour, owner of a private military museum,
His family has a strong miltary background and he wanted to be part of that. He wanted to join the Army.
"Type 1 diabetic since I was 4. Army recruiter kept telling me no, even though I kept asking, but. So this is in a way my service for those that serve for me," Rancour explains.
This place is like a living textbook, with far more stories than there is time to read. By trade, he is a structural engineer.
So which is the moneymaker, engineering, or the museum?
"Engineering that's the moneymaker. I spend it here. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I never have. All of my interest has been military and veterans and that's where my investment and earnings over time have gone, into the colleciton,"Rancour says.
He and his family opened the doors to this collection in 2010...
"I don't like a one sided display. I like to show both sides of the conflict, like to show a diverse type of display, rifles pistols, machine guns, equipment canteens, just anything and everything," Rancour explains.
Not many folks own their own museum, and not many people get a personal tour. But he and his family kindly show us around.
"This is 155806 "This is my wife Roberta, my daughter Samantha, and my son Louis," he says, introducing his family.
Stop 1 on the personal tour: cool vehicles.
"It's a British 105 millimeter self propelled gun. It's called an Abbot FV which is fighting vehicle 433, manufactured in 1965. It's mechancially fully operable. The main gun is demilled at this time per the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms specifications," Rancour says.
"British Spartans are still in service in the British military. They've just been upgraded to diesel engines. The one I'm sitting in is, has a Jaguary unleaded engine in it. It'll go 54 miles per hour. It's amphibious like an airplane, pressurized for nuclear warfare, has star light vision periscopes for the driver and the commander who is also the gunner," Rancour explains.
There's alot of pictures, each one with a story.
"That's my Uncle Bob, my mother's brother. He was a half track driver in Europe. He was at the Battle of the Bulge," Rancour says as we look at a picture of his uncle.
There's a full array of U.S. military memorabilia.
"This one's artillery marked. It's dated 1918 and it has the US Patton Sword on it named after General Patton," he tells us as we look at a saddle and a sword on display.
He shows us some historic guns from inside a glass case. "This is the model 17 Enfield, the primary rifle issued to us infantry personnel . This is an 03 Springfield with a magazine extension kit fitted to it," he says, pointing at each gun.
"This is a 81 millimeter USA WW Two and Korea mortar. It's essentially design from a French brandt mortar. It was essentially mobile artillery of the infantry," Rancour says.
The museum also incldues examples of what our U.S. Veterans were up against.
"The German Army used this device in 1934. It's considered the most significant machine gun in WWII in that it's rate of fire is 900 rounds a minute or more," he says describing a gun on display.
"This is a Maxum 1908 water cooled 8 millimeter German Machine gun," he says as he describes another piece in his collection.
And then there's this, and plenty of pictures he says are of this exact aircraft.
As he shows us a plane outside he says, "This is a Marine Corps a4C Skyhawk ground attack aircraft, not a fighter, a ground attack for low level support of essentially ground troops in the Vietnam era."
Before I go, he backs out that tank looking 105 millimeter British self propelled gun. He says he has to run it to make sure it stays in mechanically sound condition.
And the smaller gun on top still shoots rounds. However, they're now just harmless ones filled with oxygen and propane. Rumbling through a field, this bugger will turn a few heads. No big flashy sign for this private museum, almost camouflaged, just off i-90 in Wasta.
He says the veterans of Aghanistan, Iraq, and Desert Storm were not allowed to bring home the same type of stuff as the veterans of the past, so no machine guns or things like that, making it tougher for collectors to get ahold of. However, he does have a small collection of items from the more current conflicts.
If you've met someone cool "Along the Way" please call or e-mail us to let us know.