Sunday, February 7, 2010

CNN Article About "Time Warpians"

My friend Pam reads a letter
she picked up at my 'post office.
I received an e-mail from my sister, as well as from a friend, of an interesting article from the CNN News Site about living historians and how far some folks take their living history.
It's a fascinating piece, and I must admit, I can see myself along side the folks mentioned, although we don't actually live the Victorian lifestyle like some may do. My wife Patty and I, more or less, incorporate many aspects of the mid-19th century into our daily lives. And that incorporation grows yearly. I greatly admire those who have the opportunity to immerse themselves into their chosen era.
Anyhow, as much as I enjoyed the article, it's the comments (254 of them!) the readers made afterward that grabbed my attention.
I shall present here a few of my "favorite" comments ahead of the actual article itself:

We live on the same street as one of these evil time warpians. My children are not allowed to to play with their kids.

I think these people are insane. They are probably worthless mongrels who have absolutely nothing to offer society and need an escape from their pointless existences. The only positive thing about "timewarping" to escape reality is that they chose this absurd escape instead of choosing illicit drug use.

"Good manners" and "respect for women"?? I think this was the era when women couldn't vote, own property, get educated, have jobs, etc. Not to mention the brutal oppression of native populations, like what the British did in India. Not to mention child labor and sexual abuse were considered normal parts of life.

I used to belong to a Civil War reenactment group, and that was great fun. I wore hoop skirts and ballgowns, and dated guys who actually had 1860s codes of chivalry (whenever a lady walked by a group of reenactors hanging out, they all stood.) And these men knew how to dance! Not the Krump, I mean real 19th century contra dancing. Happy days...and yes, we were all well aware of how awful the Civil War was. That was another bonus, I could talk about history with guys who weren't intimidated by an intelligent woman. I highly recommend it to anyone fascinated by history. Most American cities have at least one reenacting unit, and the larger ones have several, both Union and Confederate.

These folks are totally incapable of dealing with reality...that's why the escapism! Losers would be a very accurate term to describe them. Wonder if they would have liked the decreased life span that existed back then when people died from diseases that are now curable.

Losers! You can always enjoy what you have right now and live a normal happy quality life. But to escape yourself into the past is only for losers. Don't be fool with Victorian era, there were no personal freedom, racist-arrogant white, sexist, no filtered-clean water, no real doctors, no education for most people, no human connection if you don't live in one of the few cities, and so so much more. So only losers would dress up like that.
Lady Gaga dressed as a sno-ball is accepted nowadays. Which ones are the freaks?

Why are we trying to normalize these outcasts? These bizarre social rejects can't fit into our current society so they've created their own little fantasy world. How sad that they can't find a hobby or activity in our own world.

Its sad how some readers view this reenactment as gay, not living in reality, a bunch of losers etc. These reenactors are just having fun. Is it possible that those of you being so negative lead routine lives but your condescension makes you feel like you are better than these people? Which of course your not.

And this is only a few of the worst comments. There are actually many more that are actually in favor of the harmless practice of what they call "time-warpians." (Two of which are also listed above).

My fellow reenactors portraying the Christian Commission cooling the brow of a soldier just off the battlefield. It was a hot and muggy day - believe me, the soldiers very much appreciated the cool water! Living history at its finest.

And now, here is the article:

Living in a time warp

By Henry Hanks, CNN
February 5, 2010 2:38 p.m. EST

(CNN) -- Social networking may be one of the biggest phenomenons of the 21st century, but for some denizens of the Web, it's a way to get in touch with the past.

Web sites like (with a membership of more than 5,700) and groups on Facebook allow people who enjoy past eras to connect with each other. But it goes beyond that: Some of them dress and live like they would decades, if not centuries, ago.

Step into Estelle Barada's living room in Providence, Rhode Island, and you might feel like you've traveled back to the 1890s.

Barada, a hotel caterer, sees it as an escape from her stressful job.

"I was the middle child and kind of like the dreamer, and for some strange reason I always dreamed of living not in America, but England," she explained. "I imagined having tea with the queen and touring the castle and that was my dream as a little girl."

Today, "Lady Estelle," as she likes to be called, lives out that dream by hosting tea parties for her friends while dressed in Victorian clothing, completely in character.

When going out, she's dressed in a more understated fashion, but still completely consistent with the late 1800s, with a long skirt and hat. "I always wear hats and when I go shopping, I get the attention of the older women, who say, I love the way you look," she said.

iReport: Fashions of a modern-day Victorian

"Eighteen-seventy-four should have been my birth date ... instead of 1974," said Raychyl Whyte of Hamilton, Ontario. Her fascination with the Victorian era began in childhood, coinciding with a pop cultural revival of Victorian themes in the 1970s.

Whyte and her "Victorian gentleman" began restoration on a circa-1898 house in 2008. Now they host 1800s-themed events there, where dress from the time period is always encouraged. They use to organize these events as part of the Hamilton Victorian & Steampunk Society.

Why would one live this lifestyle? For many of these iReporters, it's a reaction to modern society just as much as a love of the fashion and style of days gone by.

"I suppose others might call me an eccentric, but I just live the life I want to live and don't care about what others say or think about me," said Ray Frensham, a "Living Victorian," from London, England. "Even though I've felt increasingly disconnected from the modern world for many years now, I'm not retreating into some past nether-world seeking a kind of comfort-blanket."

Modern society in the United Kingdom can be "remarkably cruel and unforgiving," Frensham said. "There is certainly no sense of any kind of community anymore," he said. "People are purely self-centered, only in it for what they can get out of themselves." He points to the recent MP expenses scandal there, which led to the resignation of British House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin, as an example.

At the same time, something just feels right to Frensham when he wears a suit and bow tie, or more recently, an ascot. "It just creates a mind set that you're ready to face the day," he said.

Frensham is also the coordinator of the London Victorian Strollers, who take walks around the city while decked out in Victorian garb, and says that the reaction from passersby, especially tourists, is extremely positive. "It's quite extraordinary, people just love it."

Social networking certainly plays a large role, but Frensham also believes that groups like the Victorian Strollers (with its 125 members on Facebook) are emerging more and more lately. "I think it's just a lot of people saying 'I don't like what I see anymore, so let's create our own reality.' "

Carmen Johnson of Orlando, Florida, certainly sees that as being the case. She runs one of several social networking sites that bring together retro lifestyle enthusiasts of all stripes. "The first thing I ask [members of the Web site] is what they would like to bring from the past. Many of them say they would like to see the return of good manners and morals," she said. "They like the values of respect for women, respect for others. Now with the society we live in, anything goes."

Johnson, like Frensham, can trace at least some of what influences her to Hollywood. Growing up in the 1970s and '80s, she was a big fan of "Grease," Elvis Presley and "I Love Lucy," but "Back to the Future" captured her imagination. "Just thinking about traveling in time to whatever year that I always dreamed about was fascinating to me!" she said. Needless to say, the 1950s are her favorite era. This translated into her pursuit of art, which she described as both modern and retro.

When her love of this time translated into reality upon viewing a documentary about "time warp wives," she was inspired to start the blog, eager for the opportunity to interview women who live their lives as "traditional 1950s housewives."

iReport: Johnson's life as a "retro artist"

Now, those with casual interest as well as those who live their lives in a past era, what Johnson calls "timewarpians," interact on her site,, which boasts more than 250 members. "When people come to this site, they see that they're not alone," she said.

Johnson considers "Lady Estelle" Barada to be a great example of a "timewarpian." Barada hopes to pass on the manners, if not necessarily the fashion, of the era to the next generation by hosting parties with young girls and teaching them about etiquette.

As for her own granddaughters, she said they love paying a visit. "They ask their mother if they can wear a pretty dress and go to grandmother's house."


My wife and I along with some very good friends of ours many times have stopped off at a restaurant after a reenactment while in our period garb. I can say with complete honesty that we have yet to meet anyone who treated us as if we were freaks. In fact, it has always been quite the opposite, some even taking pictures of us.
And we do enjoy milling about the modern world looking like specters from the past!
As for some living historians living their reenacting era while not at a reenactment, well, it's a choice right? What harm is there for anyone to live in a way that makes them happy? Besides, it truly is a great release from the rigors of our modern daily life, one that can include entire families. I cannot think of a better way to spend your time. As I said, I know a number of people who have incorporated the past into their present-day lives. And these are some of the finest people I know because of the meshing of the two eras.
God Bless 'em!

The men of the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society

(By the way, Lady Estelle, mentioned in the above article, is one of my blog followers. You might enjoy reading her blog as well!)



Chandra said...

Wow, some of those comments left me angry! I take personal offence to them, and I don't even live like the "time warpians". I do identify with their desire to do what they do, and negitive comments like that really ruffle my feathers.

Historical Ken said...

I understand what you mean, but I don't believe the time warpians are too different from us. I believe that was just the article's slant.
But, I did get angry at the comments initially, then I sat back and laughed due to the fact that the writers of the comments have such little knowledge of history and of what we do. They seem to be of the Howard Zinn school of history (look the man up - he is a historical revisionist).
Thanks for your comments Chandra. I appreciate it.

lady Estelle said...

Wow, all of this is taking me by surprise. I feel I am just an ordinary girl that enjoys some of the aspects of history that I would love to keep alive. I feel we must do this for our children to learn where our history has lead us. My living in the past helps me appreciate the present and prepare me for the future.
I enjoyed all the comments and I am pleased.
Thank you for this beautiful blog!
Lady Estelle

Jen said...

Interesting article and comments. However, I do not see why one should become angry over them. In addition to having misunderstandings about the periods they are, well, dissing, they are hyper-offended over something they don't understand. Part of me wonders if they take it personally, realizing that one reason many wish to return to the past is because morals, manners, and ideals were far better than they are at present!

Interesting site, stumbled in on accident. Though not entirely a "time warpian", you could call me a "time warp wife" living somewhere in the late 40s, early 50s.

Historical Ken said...

Jen, I am in full agreement with you about the anger some people have. I mean, such hatred for folks who are doing no harm to anyone and just espousing good manners, morals, and values.
Maybe that's the problem, as you stated.
Thanks for writing.
The time warp site is an interesting site - kind of like a blog/facebook mix.

Ray Frensham said...

Like Estelle, I was rather taken aback with thjis sudden attentiuon I have to my liffestyle. As long as people don't take the piss", I'm fine with whatever they want to say or think. As I said in a recent interview with the BBC "we're not harming anyone". Indeed, this term "timewarp living" is new to me - but people (and especially the media) want labels. As for me, I just live my life the way I wish to live it and really don't care what others' think or say about me anyn longer... I;m too old for that and life is too short for that!

dalekennemer said...

The hateful, acerbic comments to the CNN article only serve to illustrate exactly why timewarpians do what they do. Our society no longer values tack, respect, or manners ... as seen in the rude comments themselves. It's perfectly fine to have an opinion but it's the manner in which you express it that counts. Their comments also point to the common misconceptions that "modern is always better" and that "all progress is good." Belief in such statements is to misunderstand the meaning and consequences of history.

Historical Ken said...

People like to preach diversity and inclusion. And yet, as you have stated Mr. Kenemer, they spew hatred for what they find not to their liking.
And, as Mr. Frensham hinted, much of the non-acceptance stems from the media.
As for me and my family, we continually find our lives intertwining with the past.
For those sad citizens who do not accept us I say "shake or wipe the dust off our feet upon leaving" (to paraphrase a biblical quote) and I will not concern myself with them.

I thank you all for the comments made. There are more of us than I ever imagined!
That's gotta tell the modern world something, doesn't it?

Terah Ware said...

For those that are judging a "Timewarpian"... We learn from our past. Viewing and appreciating the past allows us to understand where we are today and what we have accomplished. Taking on the "qualities" of the Victorian Period in today's society can only strengthen us. Some morals and values have been lost and some have been erased. I find being a "Timewarpian" allows you to take pride in your ancestors for they are what brought us here today. Celebrate your past! Remember where you came from! Consider that we will ALWAYS carry the past with us and in our hearts.

Robin's Egg Bleu said...

One of my favorite people dressed in period garb her entire adult life: Tasha Tudor, and she is beloved by hordes of people.

I think dressing in period or quasi-period dress is charming. I think demonstrating manners is something so lacking our 'our' world, that when we come upon it via a
'time-warpina' it is surprising.

It needs to be the NORM, not the exception we see at a re-enactment.

Historical Ken said...

Robin, you are very right. But, modern society will not allow us to go back to the Victorian manners. They will, instead, bring up all of the worn out stereo-types of the 19th century and convince the masses (as they already have) that we live in the best of times here in the 21st century.
What fools these mortals be...
And how awesome about Tasha Tudor! I would like to try it for a week - spend an entire week, day and night - in period clothing, and maybe even using as little of our modern conveniences as possible.