Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pre-Beatles Rock and Roll

Trying to hear the great music of the 1950s and early 60s on the radio is like pulling teeth on a rhino - - unless you want to pay for it via satellite. But I'm hoping that today's posting will help folks who are interested to find these wonderful early years of rock and roll so they can enjoy this great music that deserves to be heard. 
By the way...I cover mainly the hits in this post. If you are looking for flipsides, hard to find stereo versions, or what have you, it won't be here. 
(Updated May 22, 2016)
Mel's Drive-In!
Normally I write about 18th and 19th century social history, and I will get back to that. But, I also love the music of the 20th century, particularly older rock and roll, old time country, and big band.
Every-so-often I get into a 1950's musical mood, and, of late, I have been in this mood pretty big time.
In my last posting, I wrote about a few of the teen 1960's TV shows that I have on DVD and how much I enjoy watching these shows. Music - the top 40 hits - of the mid-60's was probably one of the greatest periods in pop music history. It seems that every song was a hit.
But, the 1950's had its fair share of great tunes as well.
Years ago, we had an excellent oldies radio station here in the Detroit area - WHNE/WHND "Honey Radio" - and, initially, they played only pre-Beatles pop music. They played the big stars such as Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, the Platters, and so on. But, the coolest thing about this station is they played quite a bit of the 'deeper' cuts - one-hit wonders, minor localized hits, and some of the excellent adult pop. Groups and artists such as Billie and Lillie, the Danleers, Johnny Ray, Gene Vincent, Hank Ballard, the Tempos, Kay Starr, the Crows, the Crew Cuts, and numerous others.
Then, after a number of years, 'Honey' began to play Beatle-era 60's music as well. As a young teen, this was the only station I listened to. Where else could I hear Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Petula Clark, the Marcels, and Fabian all within a half hour set? And the DJ's (once Honey stopped being an automated station) were the best; very reminiscent of 60's radio - very personable. You just don't hear that today. I was lucky enough to befriend one of them, Richard D, and he and I did lunch together where I 'interviewed ' him to satisfy my own curiosity about radio of the 1950's. You see, Richard D was a DJ back in those days of the early 1950's and had some interesting stories to tell. Probably my favorite was how much he and the other DJ's of the pre-Elvis era didn't like this new rock and roll 'bop' that was becoming popular. They felt there was little talent in the artists putting this stuff out. He said that compared to the lush sounds of the orchestrated pop songs of Eddie Fisher, Rosemary Clooney and the like, rock and roll, such as Elvis, Bo Diddley, and Carl Perkins was truly 'jungle music.'
It took a while, but eventually, Richard and the other jocks of that era came to like this young teen music.
Unfortunately, here in the 21st century, unless you have sirius or xm satelite, music of the 1950's is virtually non-existent on the radio. And what a shame that is. Fortunately for me, years ago I subscribed to Time/Life's The Rock and Roll Era cd collection - a 50 CD set sent to me monthly one disc at a time (except during tax refund time when I would order five or six of 'em at once) - each disc had around 22 songs per. The main bulk of the original recordings covered the years 1955 to 1963, but, at times, reached as far back as the late 1940's for the roots music and continued up to early 1964. Roughly 1000 songs of the era with no repeats: Jimmy Jones, the Jewels, Smiley Lewis, Connie Francis, Eddie Cochran, Brian Hyland, Claudine Clark, Little Eva, Jackie gosh - the list of artists and tunes goes on and on...a phenomenal collection to have, if I do say so myself. In addition, I also subscribed to Time/Life's Your Hit Parade series, a 35 CD set which begins in 1940 and ends in the early 1960's, covering the big band era of the WWII years all the way through the pop stuff of the early rock and roll era. The pop music in this collection greatly complimented my Rock and Roll Era set - Nat King Cole, Guy Mitchell, Kitty Kallen, Johnny Mathis, Teresa Brewer, Frankie Laine, the Chordettes, and so much more, adding a few hundred more tunes to my already extensive 50's music collection. - because, as Richard D told me, they played it all, from Little Richard to Pat Boone, Bobby Freeman to Kay Starr.
With these two great sets of music, which now exceeds 1400 hit songs from 1950 to 1964, I undoubtedly have enough hit songs of the pre-Beatle era (and the beginning of the British invasion including the Beatles) to keep me more than satisfied.
And there are other fine collections out there, notably "The Golden Age of American Rock and Roll" series that, though not as extensive as the Time Life sets, are great in their own right. Again, more hard-to-fine classics such as Jan & Arnie's "Jennie Lee," The Mello Kings "Tonite Tonite," Thurston Harris "Little Bitty Pretty One," the Viscounts "Harlem Nocturne," the Paris Sisters "I Love How You Love Me," as well as all the big hits, spread out over, I believe ten discs, with each CD having about 30 songs.
Not bad, eh?
My autographed copy of the American Graffiti 
album poster. 
I met "Laurie" (Cindy Williams) and "John Milner" 
(Paul LeMat) at a local car cruise. Both actors 
were very nice and happy to talk about their
American Graffiti adventures, including LeMat
telling me what a pain in the butt the '32 Coupe
was to drive.
Then there is the classic oldie album of all oldie albums - American Graffiti! If you just want a very good basic hour and a half of the biggest and most popular (with a few obscurities thrown in) oldies, American Graffiti is your set. And, do yourself a favor: if you haven't already (and only a hermit over the age of 30 hasn't), watch the American Graffiti movie from where the soundtrack came. This music and movie was probably the biggest catalyst of the oldies craze of the 1970s.
I realize this may look like an advertisement for Time/Life and other oldies collections, but, though I'm sure it comes off that way, it's not. It's my way to help other fans of this great music find a way to get their fix. It's such a shame, when you think about it, that folks who do not own the Time/Life and other collections cannot hear this fine music on the radio. Good music is good music, no matter how old it is. My wife and I were both speaking very recently on how the music still had an innocence to it. In fact, in my own Detroit neighborhood, my father - a very conservative anti-rock and roller - would help put on and chaperon teen rock and roll hops/dances in the church basement for all the local teens. Now, dad had a deep disdain for rock & roll - many parents did back then - but he also understood that it was music not meant for him or his generation. It was meant for teenagers.
Just like the music of today.
Except for a couple of songs here and there, most of the music of the 1950's were simple teen tunes. Now, I'll grant you that "I Put A Spell On You" by Screaming Jay Hawkins and "Wake Up Little Suzie" by the Everly Brothers did raise some eyebrows, but put yourself in their place in the environment and culture of 1956 and '57 and I believe you will see why many parents at the time were upset upon listening to it.
And parents haven't changed - it seems each generation, for the most part, does not particularly care for the next generation's music or fashions.
The '57 Chevy club at a local cruise.
A neat discovery for me was when I learned that radio actually played the music of what the 'music historians' today consider to be "white-bread pop" right along side of the more edgier rock. In other words, the teens listening to the radio heard Danny and the Jr's possibly followed by Nat King Cole. They listened to the Crests "16 Candles" and Percy Faith "A Theme From A Summer Place" within the same few minutes and didn't blink an eye. The music guides will show that!
By the way, there is a pretty good book available that not only gives a fine, unbiased (for the most part) representation of the teen music of the 50's and early 60's but also gives an intelligent bit of social history as well, including cruising & cars, fashions, television, movies, adult society and society in general, politics, and the black and white race relations. It's called "Doo Wop: The Music, The Times, The Era" by 'Cousin Brucie' Morrow. Don't let the title fool you - all forms of 50's music is covered, but the Doo Wop style takes precedence. The music of the 1950's is much more complicated than the so-called 'historians' tend to let on. They seem to be unwilling to perceive this and tend to keep it black and white - both figuratively and literally.
But it was for everyone.
That is, everyone who was young.
Me? I listen to it all: "Crazy Little Mama" by the Eldorados, "At the Hop" by Danny & the Jrs., "Crazy 'Bout Ya Baby" by the Crew Cuts, "Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie" by Eddie Cochran, the Danleers singing "One Summer Night," "Banana Boat Song" by Harry Belafonte, "I Want to Walk You Home" by the great Fats Domino, Doris Day's "Whatever Will Be Will Be," the Passions doing "Just To Be With You," "Sweet Nothin's" by Brenda Lee...I even have "Pledging My Love" by Johnny Ace!
Man! It all sounds so good!
It's just too bad this music is being relegated to the bottom shelves of the archives...

 A quick aside: Greenfield Village, the open-air museum in Dearborn, Michigan, has an annual Motor Muster every father's Day weekend where nearly a thousand cars of the late 1930's through the early 1970's are featured - some stock and some souped up.
Rock and Roll is more than just music!
In previous years they used to have a WWII USO show with a live big band on stage and people dressed in 1940's fashions dancing the jitterbug and other popular dances of the day.And it was awesome!
This year of 2014, however, they changed it up a bit and had a 1963 'high school dance.'  What fun to see the young folk dressed up in their early 60's finest and dance to not only the songs of that great year, but to tunes of the previous few years as well.
Some of the Greenfield Village dancers

What fun this was! Yes---a few of us on the bleachers ran down and danced as well ("Shout!" by the Isley Brothers really brought nearly everyone out onto the dance 'floor'). So many of the great tunes from the pre-Beatle rock and roll era were played by the DJ. We were all singing and dancing along. 

And here are a couple of video clips I took from 2015 when they were in 1964. Yes, it is the Beatles era here in the clips, but I thought you might enjoy seeing them:

This next clip features my 14 year old daughter dressed for '64 and dancing pretty much for her very first time.

They did a pretty darn good job bringing back the spirit of teen youth 1963!

All of this made me realize just how radio was really missing out. There are still a huge number of fans of this great early rock and roll music. Not even so-called "oldies" stations are touching it these days - do you hear me CKWW?
Oh yeah, that's right. It's advertising money, right?
So sad that this wonderful music is being tucked away in the dark corners of the basements of radio stations instead of being kept alive, all for the love of money.
At least those of us that are open-minded in our musical tastes can still get a hold of it.
But you better do so now - it may not be around much longer.
Metro-Detroit's own version of American Graffiti - Eddie's Drive-In, including music of the 50s and 60s and girls/car hops on roller skates.
Yes, this is a very cool place to go for burgers, rides, and cool rock and roll music!
By the way, I also have the Time-Life "Classic Rock" collection, which covers the "Beatle" years of the 1960s: 1964 to 1969. Again, it another 50 CD set filled with approximately 21 songs per disc.
For the post 1960s?
Yep...I collected the 1970s set as well. I pretty much stopped at that point, but it's nice to be able to have such a wide range of music at your fingertips.

Until next time, see you in time.
When I met Cindy Williams and 
Paul LeMat (see American Graffiti 
poster above), I also asked them 
to sign my DVD of the movie.
Very cool indeed!

For an advertisement for the Time Life Music collection, click HERE
And, since the collections are out of print, here is a way to pick up some of this fine music - just click the links: Time Life Rock and Roll Era
and Your Hit Parade
Click HERE for the Golden Age of American Rock and Roll series
And if you are looking for a somewhat cheaper overview of the era, I highly recommend the great soundtrack to the movie that put oldies on the map: American Graffiti soundtrack
And, for a posting on the early Beatles Capitol albums, click HERE


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jump For Joy I'm Telling You It's Hullabaloo!!

Do you remember Hullabaloo,
Upbeat, Shindig and Ed Sullivan too?
Do you remember rock'n'roll radio?

("Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio" by the Ramones)

1964 through 1966 must've been a great time to have been a teenager! Viet Nam War aside, it just seems that that era was filled with fun for any 16 year old guy or girl. TV had the best shows for teens - Shindig, Hullabaloo, American Bandstand, Where The Action Is, and, locally here in Detroit, Robin Seymour's Swingin' Time - all featuring the greatest bands and singers of the rock and roll era, groups like Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Shangri Las, Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, Freddie and the Dreamers, Petula Clark, Sir Douglas Quintet, the Yardbirds, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Rivers, the Supremes...oh man! the list goes on and on...and the kids dancing.
And the groups smiled when they sang!
I am fortunate enough to own hours and hours of clips from the above mentioned shows - some shows in their entirety, others are full clips of the complete songs. And what fun they are to watch. Every so often I like to pull them out and throw 'em on the DVD and sit back and take my mind back to when I was a child. Although I wasn't a teen then, I do remember watching these shows on the tube - blessed with older siblings, you know.
I am also lucky enough to have about 30 hours of local radio broadcasts of the same period - WKNR, WXYZ, CKLW - cool teen commercials and all ("Things go better with Coca Cola things go better with Coke;" "Any home can have a soda fountain now with Great Shakes New Great Shakes;" "You can have that summer look all year long with Summer Blonde by Clairol;" " 'I can't say bacarruda' - 'You mean Barracuda, man!' "). And the excitement the DJ's had while announcing the songs and contests. Radio has not been anywhere close to this era since.
As with the classic teen TV shows, every so often I like to throw on a tape I have of mid-60's radio while cruisin' on the expressway or taking a drive by the lake.

My 17 year old son mentioned to me while watching Hullabaloo recently that he wished it was still like that for kids his age today. He said too many of the contemporary groups are too angry, and many like to use language he prefers not to hear.
And then, of course, there's the sensual dancing that no one under the age of 21 should have to see should they choose not to. Even dancing for the younger pre-teens can be a little too outrageous, as far as I'm concerned.
But, there I go, being a prude!
It's a shame that things have changed so much that innocent fun has either been taken out of the picture or there is a new definition of the word.
Well, I'm glad I have the old shows and clips when I find myself needing to get away - yes, it's true, I don't always go back 150 years when I time travel. Sometimes I only go back 45 years!


Monday, February 23, 2009

I Want to go Down to Gettysburg Town...

I am in a Gettysburg mood.
There, I said it.
It was this time last year that we were planning our April trip to that truly awesome and awe-inspiring place, where we actually walked the battlefields, slept in a historic home, roamed the streets where Yanks and Rebs were, saw the sun set at Little Round Top, and even took a ghost tour.
Unfortunately, this year we are not going there - or anywhere - for a vacation. Not this year. Lay offs are looming over our heads and we best keep closer to home and use our vacation money to pay off a couple of bills just in case.
There is always next year, although we may go somewhere else - Connor Prairie, perhaps.
But, 2010 will also be our 25 wedding anniversary, and my wife hinted at going back to Gettysburg alone (sorry kids! - I'm not!).
Well, one can hope. But, in the mean time, I am going to relive my trip from last year - won't you join me?
The following is what I wrote in my blog last year - - - - loads of pictures are included. I hope you enjoy it

We have been planning our trip to Gettysburg since January, and it came and went much too fast. To help keep those four days in that great historical town with me, as soon as we returned to our home in Michigan, I wrote a day-to-day journal of our experiences:

Wednesday April 23, 2008
As planned we were on the road by 4 a.m. and all went very well on the ride out. That is, until we got to East 30, which takes us into town. It is an extremely steep (ascending and descending) mountain pass that makes the engine smoke going up and the brakes smoke going down. It’s so bad in fact that they have gravel run offs for the truckers (and cars, I suppose) who lose their brakes. I was really worried about my 1997 Ford Econoline - can't afford to have anything happen to it.
We finally made it into Gettysburg by mid-afternoon and checked into the Quality Inn and, as soon as we got our suitcases in the room, we were off walking down Steinwehr Street, going in the shops. We ate a late lunch at the Dobbin House Tavern (built in 1776), a great atmosphere in which to dine, then it was off visiting the town and shopping once again. Late in the afternoon, Patty and I went off to the Corner Clothiers so I could pick up my new period correct sack coat. It’s AWESOME!!! Oh, Man!! I Love It! It's from an 1861 pattern. Kara does phenomenal work!
By nightfall we were back at the hotel where everyone but me went swimming in the indoor pool (I chose not to swim but watched Patty and my two youngest), then watched TV. Very un-19th century but the kids loved it.
A warm and sunny day.

Thursday April 24, 2008
We woke up early and we all put on our period clothing (including me in my new awesome sack coat!), and remained in our period clothing for the next three days. After our free breakfast (courtesy of the Quality Inn), we checked out of the motel, and then took a ride up Taneytown Road. We drove nearly 5 miles to the exact location where my time-travel story that I have been writing takes place – it was so cool! The lay of the land is very close to the description in my story…and I’ve never been there before! I was even able to visit Mt. Joy Lutheran Church, which is also in my story! How cool is that?
After our Taneytown excursion we parked in the back of the Tillie Pierce House in the middle of town (since we were going to spend the night there) at the corner of Baltimore and Breckinridge streets

and went on a guided Civilian Tour to hear what the citizens of the burough experienced during the great battle. We had the same company and guide ( - ask for Pat) as we did back in ’05. We really enjoyed it tremendously. It really puts the whole battle into perspective. Many people do not realize just what went on in that town during the summer of 1863, and this tour will give you that understanding of what took place on the streets. It could be a movie unto itself

It was then back to shopping, this time on Chambersburg Street and around the “diamond” (town square).
From there it was to the Farnsworth Inn for lunch. It was built in 1810 with an addition in 1833.
Mid-afternoon we checked into the Tillie Pierce House Bed & Breakfast (under new ownership as of 2010). Initially we had some concerns: it was pretty warm, the room we had, although fairly large, was too small to accommodate all seven of us, and Rosalia had a fear of staying there (she told Ashley she could feel someone staring at her…someone who couldn’t be seen). Another concern was trying to keep the kids busy with no TV to watch. But the owners, Keith and Leslie, were extremely nice and, since there would be no other guests staying there that night, gave us – at a reduced rate – another room for the overflow. In fact, it was the actual bedroom of Tillie Pierce herself! They also gave us a couple of roll-away beds to use. Now, if that isn’t courtesy, I don’t know what is. Keith also promised to have the air-conditioning on for us when we returned from our day out (which he did). So, it was off to shop and walk around town once again and, upon returning, everything was set up for us perfectly and comfortably.

The landing on the 2nd floor has a small shrine to the namesake of the home. It's really kind of cool, in an eerie sort of way (see the above picture). The rooms, just so you know, are filled with antiques, including the beds we slept on. It was great – a dream come true! Dressed in period clothing and staying in an actual Civil War house in Gettysburg. It does not get any better! And it didn't matter that we didn't have a TV because everyone was so tired from the day's adventures that they all went right to sleep. No problem!
By the way, Keith and Leslie did an amazing restoration job on the house and I highly recommend staying there if you get a chance. Awesome!
As we hung around the house I got a phone call from JEB from the 21st Michigan (he, Bruce, and Ray also went to Gettysburg – separately from us, of course) inviting us to Little Round Top to watch the sunset. We accepted and drove out there in the early evening. That really set a great mood – how beautiful!! Patty said that was one of her favorite parts of the trip. I took loads of pictures – most of which turned out really good.
When we left there we went back to town and ate at a pizza place called “Tommy’s.” It was so-so – pretty greasy - but we were hungry.
Back to the Tillie Pierce House where, as I mentioned earlier, everyone but me went to bed. I decided to stay up and read for a bit. While in my period clothing, I went to the un-used darkened front bedrooms (all bedrooms were on the second floor) to look out to see Gettysburg at night. Below us and also across the street I could see there were ghost tours going on. Gettysburg is considered the most haunted town in America, in case you didn't know. So I decided to see if I could scare anyone by just standing there in my period clothing, maybe looking like a spirit from the past, but no one looked up at the window I was in. I even moved the curtains to try to get attention but, unfortunately, no one noticed, so I went back to the room. I found out the next day that Tommy did the same thing and got the same response that I got - nada. He would have been even cooler, being dressed as a Civil War soldier. That would have been a riot if we could have given a bit of a fright to a few folks on a ghost tour.
Later, while lying in bed, I heard a few creaks, a couple of raps, and slight footsteps up in the garret (attic). Tom said he heard the same thing. Could it be? Hmmm... Probably the oddest thing I heard was the ticking of the wind up clock (that was already in the room when we got there) became very loud for about a minute – yes, LOUD – then quieted back down. Was it a ghost? If it was a spirit of some sort, I think it liked us. Maybe because we were in period clothing - who knows? Whatever the reason, I felt very comfortable and slept great. Rosalia fell asleep very quickly, considering how afraid she was initially. They say kids can see and feel things better than adults. By the way, Keith told me that he heard groans the previous morning – I didn’t tell anyone else in the family.
Another day of beautiful weather.

Friday April 25, 2008
We had a wonderful omelet breakfast - cooked by Leslie - that we ate in that beautiful period dining room. A fine meal, that was!
What was neat was that we had the dining room to ourselves - kind of like it was ours'. day maybe...

Unfortunately, because they were going to have a full house for the next couple of nights, we could not stay another night there (there was no way we could all fit into one room – even the large Elizabeth Thorn suite that Patty and I slept in), so, by mid-afternoon, it was back to the Quality Inn. But, I want to, once again, publicly thank Keith and Leslie for what I consider my favorite part of our vacation - staying in that historical house. What an honor. And also for their courtesy and kindness.

After leaving *sniff* the Tillie Pierce House, we met with JEB, Bruce, and Ray for a personal battlefield tour. If you want a detailed tour of the Gettysburg battlefields, it doesn't get any better than hitching up with these three guys.
We went to Spangler's Spring, Culp’s Hill, and the west end of Reynold’s Woods, at Willoughby Run. We also went to the Sachs covered bridge (off the beaten path – built in the 1850’s). JEB said that General Longstreet hung three deserters there and supposedly their spirits remain.
It was a beautiful bridge.
I got reservations to have us all eat lunch at the Cashtown Inn (built in 1797). Out of the way, but a historically beautiful place.
After lunch, we split from the the other 21st members and went to the area of Pickett’s Charge. Patty, Tom, and Rob walked the entire length (me, Ashley, Miles, and Rosalia stayed at the van and slept – I walked it two years ago - no need to do it again). While they were walking the length, there was a Boy Scout troop walking it also and when they saw Tommy they “shot” him with their toy guns. He, of course, “died,” which they thought was great. The scoutmaster came up and thanked Tommy for making their day.

Continuing on the street called Confederate Avenue, we passed by the Round Tops then stopped at the Weikert home where Tillie Pierce stayed during the battle – I took lots of pictures of it. It is located right near the foot of Little Round Top – imagine what they saw while staying in that house on July 2, 1863!
More walking around town took place until the late afternoon when we went to the Gibson Photography Studio to have our tintypes taken. It was so cool (yes, I know I’ve said that word quite a bit, but it’s true!). The guy uses an actual 1867 camera and posed us authentically. The tintype turned out excellent.
Rob Gibson is a well-known modern "period" photographer who has done covers for Civil War Historian magazine as well as taken tintypes of the actors from Gods & Generals and Cold Mountain.

Back to the motel for the evening.

Saturday April 26, 2008
Tommy, Robbie, Ashley, and I began our day by going to the Evergreen Cemetery to search out the local graves. I took photos of many of the grave stones, including citizen patriot John Burns and Jennie Wade, who was the only civilian killed during the battle. We also found many of the graves of the citizens mentioned on the Civilian Walking Tour from a couple days previous.

After a bit more of walking the town, I split off from the rest of my group and took a tour of the inside of the Farnsworth House (known as the Sweney House in 1863), including the garret where a Confederate sharpshooter was stationed and (as the story goes) shot Jennie Wade from the window. It was chilling to be in that actual spot knowing what happened. The feeling one gets when in an area like that is indescribable. Again, I took loads of photos.

While touring the house, I met up with a couple of guys from Richmond, Virginia, and began telling them some of the civilian stories that I heard (and read) about and took them to the Tillie Pierce House to introduce them to Keith. They hadn't realized all that happened in town during the battle - most folks don't seem to know that, unfortunately.
Back with my family and, for dinner, we ate at a greasy spoon – I don’t recall the name of the restaurant, but it was cheap and filling but not that great.
In the evening, Tommy, Robbie, Ashley, and I took a Ghost Tour of the town. If you have never done one of these my advice is to do it because it was another really good time. Unfortunately for us, rain poured the whole tour time but we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying ourselves. I’m not complaining since it was the only time it rained like that during our whole time there. The stories told of the most haunted town in America were pretty cool. They kind of make you look over your shoulder a bit more, if you know what I mean.

Sunday April 27, 2008
Up at 6:30 and on the road by 8, we had a very good (but lo-o-ong) ride home. We made it back by 5:15. I didn’t take East 30 (or, rather, West 30) back – I took the longer way around as I didn’t want to possibly have any problems with my van. Too scary - I don't need any damage done to my van. It has to last me a while yet.
Visiting Gettysburg is a fantastic experience that I never get tired of – even three times in four years! I always learn something new. And, what really helps the experience is wearing period clothing, which we did the entire time from Thursday morning through Saturday night, even when we went out to eat at fast-food joints. We were stopped so many times by folks so they could take our picture, and the residents certainly appreciated it as well.
I can’t say what my favorite part of this year’s vacation was, but I really enjoyed staying in the Tillie Pierce house – an actual house that was there during the battle that has been restored back to its original 1863 splendor. I also really liked watching the sun set from Little Round Top. The two tours we took (civilian and ghost) were both excellent. I guess I just liked it all, just being engulfed by all that history.
Unfortunately, this will be it for Gettysburg for two or three years. *sniff*

Here are a few more shots taken in April 2008 on our Gettysburg excursion:

This first shot is of the Dobbin House built in 1776. Great food, by the way.
This next pic is of Tom, Rob, and Ashley reading the many tombstones in Evergreen Cemetery

Tom and Rob at the Lincoln shrine in the National cemetery. This is the cemetery where President Lincoln gave his infamous Gettysburg Address.

Here is a photo of all of us at breakfast in the Tillie Pierce House. The food was awesome! Another shot of mia famiglia, this time in front of the Tillie Pierce House.
Here, Patty and I are on the porch of the Cashtown Hotel / Inn

This next pic is was taken at Willoughby Run, on the west end of Reynolds Woods. There's a lot that happened here in this stream - too much to write at this time. Look it up - fascinating stuff.
Spangler Spring supplied both the north and south with much needed fresh water. It's located at the foot of Culp's Hill. By the way, if you haven't noticed, we all seem to wear our 'Civil War Faces' when having our images taken while in period clothing. It's a habit. We all had a fantastic time. Really.
Here is the famous Farnsworth House - known in 1863 as the Sweney House - where a Reb sharpshooter reportedly shot Ginny Wade from the garret window. Notice the more than 100 bullet markings (in white) on the side.

One of my favorite pictures that I took: my wife (and son) during sunset at Little Round Top
I have tons of photos of Gettysburg. I will probably post more in a future blog.
I hope you like them.
I highly recommend a visit to Gettysburg when the opportunity allows. Truly an awesome historical place.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

State Preambles

I received the following in an e-mail a while back. I double checked and found them to be correct.
Interesting in this day and age.

Do you know the Preamble for your state?

very, very interesting. ....... sure to read the message at the bottom!

Alabama 1901, Preamble We the people of the State of Alabama, Invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution.

Alaska 1956, Preamble We, the people of Alaska, Grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land.

Arizona 1911, Preamble We, the people of the State of Arizona, Grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution. ..

Arkansas 1874, Preamble We, the people of the State of Arkansas, Grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government.. .

California 1879, Preamble We, the People of the State of California, Grateful to Almighty God for our freedom...

Colorado 1876, Preamble We, the people of Colorado, With profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of Universe...

Connecticut 1818, Preamble. The People of Connecticut, acknowledging with gratitude the good Providence of God in permitting them to enjoy.

Delaware 1897, Preamble Through Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights of worshipping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences.

Florida 1885, Preamble We, the people of the State of Florida, grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, establish this Constitution. ..

Georgia 1777, Preamble We, the people of Georgia, Relying upon protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution. ..

Hawaii 1959, Preamble We, the people of Hawaii, Grateful for Divine Guidance ... Establish this Constitution.

Idaho 1889, Preamble We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings.

Illinois 1870, Preamble We, the people of the state of Illinois, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.

Indiana 1851, Preamble We, the People of the State of Indiana, grateful to Almighty God for the free exercise of the right to choose our form of government.

Iowa 1857, Preamble We, the People of the State of Iowa, Grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of these blessings, establish this Constitution.

Kansas 1859, Preamble We, the people of Kansas, Grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges establish this Constitution.

Kentucky 1891, Preamble. We, the people of the Commonwealth are grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties...

Louisiana 1921, Preamble We, the people of the State of Louisiana, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy.

Maine 1820, Preamble We the People of Maine acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity. And imploring His aid and direction.

Maryland 1776, Preamble We, the people of the state of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty...

Massachusetts 1780, Preamble We...the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe In the course of His Providence, an opportunity and devoutly imploring His direction.

Michigan 1908, Preamble le. We, the people of the State of Michigan, Grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom establish this Constitution.

Minnesota, 1857, Preamble We, the people of the State of Minnesota, Grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings:

Mississippi 1890, Preamble We, the people of Mississippi In convention assembled, grateful to Al mighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work.

Missouri 1845, Preamble We, the people of Missouri, With profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness. Establish this Constitution. ..

Montana 1889, Preamble. We, the people of Montana, grateful to Almighty God for the Blessings of liberty establish this Constitution.

Nebraska 1875, Preamble We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom. Establish this Constitution.

Nevada 1864, Preamble We the people of the State of Nevada, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, establish this Constitution. ..

New Hampshire 1792, Part I. Art. I. Sec. V Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.

New Jersey 1844, Preamble We, the people of the state of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.

New Mexico 1911, Preamble We, the People of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty.

New York 1846, Preamble We, the people of the State of New York, Grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings.

North Carolina 1868, Preamble We the people of the state of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for our civil, political, and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those..

North Dakota 1889, Preamble We, the people of North Dakota, Grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain...

Ohio 1852, Preamble We the people of the state of Ohio, Grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and to promote our common...

Oklahoma 1907, Preamble Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessings of liberty, establish this

Oregon 1857, Bill of Rights, Article I Section 2. All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their consciences

Pennsylvania 1776, Preamble We, the people of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance...

Rhode Island 1842, Preamble. We the People of the state of Rhode Island grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing...

South Carolina, 1778, Preamble We, the people of he State of South Carolina grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

South Dakota 1889, Preamble We, the people of South Dakota, Grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberties.

Tennessee 1796, Art. XI.III. That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their conscience.. .

Texas 1845, Preamble We the People of the Republic of Texas, acknowledging, with gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God.

Utah 1896, Preamble Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty, we establish this Constitution.

Vermont 1777, Preamble Whereas all government ought to enable the individuals who compose it to enjoy their natural rights, and other blessings which the Author of Existence has bestowed on man.

Virginia 1776, Bill of Rights, XVI Religion, or the Duty which we owe our Creator can be directed only by Reason and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards each other

Washington 1889, Preamble We the People of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution

West Virginia 1872, Preamble Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia Reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God ...

Wisconsin 1848, Preamble We, the people of Wisconsin, Grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, domestic tranquility. ..

Wyoming 1890, Preamble We, the people of the State of Wyoming, Grateful to God for our civil, political, and religious liberties, establish this Constitution.

After reviewing acknowledgments of God from all 50 state constitutions, one is faced with the prospect that maybe, the ACLU and the out-of-control federal courts are wrong! If you found this to be 'Food for thought' copy and send to as many as you think will be enlightened, as I hope you were.

(Please note that at no time is anyone told that they MUST worship God.)


Monday, February 16, 2009

Reenacting Preparations

You know, in this day and age, to have a hobby - a passion - in which one can include their family - I mean, to actually leave for the weekend to pretend to live 150 years ago and to have your wife and your adult children want to join - is wonderful thing.
No, on second thought, it's a GREAT thing.
That's what reenacting is for me and my clan. My 21 and 17 year old sons excitedly showed me their lists of upcoming events they plan to attend this year and are already speaking of what they'd like to do while there.
My wife is getting herself prepared to begin her sewing projects for the season: pants for one son, a new waistcoat/vest for me, a new dress (half mourning) and a new homemade bonnet for herself, and I have planned a period dress meeting to take place in March for our civilian contingent.
Just because the ground is white and the air is frigid doesn't mean that we can't begin our planning for the months ahead, right?
In fact, it's actually a lot of fun!
Of course, like I wrote a few weeks back, there are those who think me and my family are nuts - even members of my own reenacting unit!
Yup. We certainly are! But, we're having more fun than ever! And, thanks to the many responses I received from that blog (both in the comments section as well as through personal e-mails) in which I found most back me, I have a renewed sense of excitement for this season.
In the words of our illustrious unit president, it will be the best ever!!
There are also quite a few other members in our unit who have expressed how excited they are about the events of 2009.
One of our own members does an awesome job as a laundress. She gets into her first person persona and speaks to the patrons about her life in the military camps washing the men's clothing.

For me personally, I have had some from other Civil War groups ask me about expanding my 'post office' impression to include even more units.
This is the sort of thing that makes it worthwhile! This is the sort of thing that gets me excited about reenacting.

It's easy to sit on your rump in camp and be bored and complain. But to make history come alive makes this whole so-called hobby worth it. Unless one makes the effort to have fun, no matter what part of reenacting they fall in, they will be unhappy. And with the group I belong to, our civilians - our living historians - have really been making an effort to not only bring history alive, but to have fun doing it!
Yup - I am definitely excited about the upcoming reenacting season. And to do it with my family in tow, well, it just doesn't get any better!
And how cool is that?

Monday, February 9, 2009

President Lincoln's Birthday Celebration (and more)

This past Saturday we had our first (unofficial) reenactment of the season - the celebration of President Lincoln's 200th birthday at the Plymouth Historical Museum in Plymouth, Michigan.
Man! Was it great to be back in my period clothing!
The museum is set up with false-front buildings to look like one is situated on old Plymouth's main street from the 19th century, so it wasn't too hard to get into character.
While our 16th president made speeches and shook hands with the public, we civilians cavorted with the crowd, speaking of everyday life as it was during the Lincoln era: our resident fiddle player had many - reenactors and patrons - singing the period tunes of the day, our washerwoman explained her important job as a military laundress,

and I spoke of mail delivery of the time. I also told a bit about every day life during the 1860's as well. Some of our other period-dressed ladies there worked on their projects, the type that women would have done at that time, and my daughter had our collection of children's toys to show other kids the type of recreational activities kids would do.
Our military boys in blue guarded the president during his speeches and also spoke to the public about their lives in the military camps of the Civil War. At one point they captured a lone Reb who they happened upon while marching and drilling for the public. They marched the Reb through the 'village,' much to the delight of the crowd. And what a crowd it was! At least a thousand people, including a group of girl scouts, walked through this beautiful museum, interested in all we were portraying. And, when my son and his friend pulled out their fife and drum and began performing, it seemed that everyone inside this gigantic building came out and crowded around to watch and listen.
It really felt great to be back at a reenactment - I was in the best mood in months afterwards!
It was a fine way to celebrate the 200th birthday of our 16th President.

While we're on the subject of Lincoln, I'd like to mention a little book I purchased on my last trip to Gettysburg called, 'Gettysburg Remembers President Lincoln: Eyewitness Accounts of November 1863' by Linda Giberson Black. What's unusual about this book is that it is nearly all in the words of those who were there, mostly taken from the diaries of the witnesses. As the back of the book explains "These narratives have been largely neglected by historians."
And I have found by reading this that the events as the newspapers of the day wrote can be quite different than what may have actually happened. For instance, "Many newspaper reporters wrote that the audience applauded heartily at the end of (Lincoln's) short speech.
Despite the newspaper accounts that have gone on record, several of the local inhabitants maintained that the audience responded to Lincoln's speech in a sudued way. William Tipton declared that there was 'slight applause' and 'Mr. Lincoln's sad face and the solemnity of the occasion seemed to forbid any excessive demonstration,' he noted. Henry Eyster Jacob's wrote that there 'was applause, sufficient to indicate the respect of the audience, but no tumultuous cheering.' "
On the day of this historic event, while the procession was beginning, Henry Eyster Jacobs wrote, "The sun shone brightly; the air was almost balmy."
I particularly enjoyed what Henry Holloway wrote about the president after he mounted his rather small horse for the parade: "After he had mounted the animal, Mr. Lincoln's feet were near the ground. The spectacle was humorous, and no one seemed more conscious of it than himself." With Henry Jacobs adding, "If there had been an accident, he certainly would not have had far to fall."
The book gives an account of the whole Lincoln/Gettysburg experience, from his arrival through his departure, and everything in between. Being familiar with the streets of Gettysburg, and because this little book (only 52 pages long) is written by those who were there, I, too, almost feel that I was there, only because I am seeing this history through their eyes. I could picture virtually everything that the eyewitnesses there wrote of in my mind.
A fine book to own that gives the historian a real perspective of that historic November day in 1863.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"It's Just A Hobby!"

What would you say if I told you of a stamp collector that purchased a stamp for $950? Would you say that he takes his hobby seriously?
What would you say if I told you of a coin collector who just purchased a coin for $1195? Would you say that she takes her hobby seriously?
How about the person who spends thousands of dollars restoring their classic 1941 Ford Coup to take to the car shows at the local bowling alley parking lot every Wednesday night during the summer months? Let's not forget the sign he has placed upon it that says "Do not even BREATHE on this car"? Would you say he takes his hobby seriously?

Would you say that the above hobbies are "just a hobby"?

I believe that the above hobbyists would take offense to the 'just a hobby' statement.
So, why is reenacting any different?
To sack coat cost $240, my pants (2 pair) $120, my shirts (2 pair) nearly $60, my waistcoat/vest $80, my shoes $110, socks $6 a pair (multiple pairs), my hat $40, my ties (2 of them) $40, and my underdrawers (2 pair) $40. Oh yes, and my period winter wool coat $150 (made by a friend).
Total that up and you'll find nine hundred bucks spent just on my period clothing.
Do you think I take my hobby of reenacting seriously?
I haven't even told you about my wife's clothing and accessories. Nor have I mentioned my two oldest son's Union uniforms, leathers, accouterments, brogans, or the two muskets. And what about my youngest son and my daughter's clothing?
Heck! I haven't even included our tent and fly, my postmaster supplies, our period dishes and glasses, children's toys, gas to get to the events...
One would definitely say that I take my re-enacting hobby seriously, I would think.
Now, I did not list the prices of my garments to brag or to be thought a fool of. And, yes, I am aware that their are seamstresses that can save one quite a bit of cash...sometimes. But, no, I write it out because I am sick and tired of folks - other reenactors, mind you - telling me that reenacting is "just a hobby!"
No, it's not.
It is a passion.
It's my solace.
It's a part of my everyday life.
It's what keeps me sane in an insane world.
It is what I look forward to doing on my weekends.

Would I (and so many others in both the civilian and military camps) spend so much of our waking hours studying every aspect of this hobby if it was "just a hobby" ?

Do I expect everyone to take it as seriously as I do? One could hope, but, no, in all reality, I do not expect it. Especially from those who say it's just a hobby.

By the way, I have also been told to "get a life" because I do take it so seriously; because I do spend so much time not only reenacting, but researching my hobby as well (see my previous blog on books to get a glimpse of how I do some of my research).

"It's just a hobby." "You need a life!"
Say that to the guy who spent his life savings purchasing, meticulously restoring, and showing his 1933 Model A at a parking lot car show.
I dare you.