Friday, April 10, 2009

Are You a 9 to 5 Reenactor?

My daughter is a true living historian, even when I took her picture here at Crossroads Village at the age of seven.

So, here it is, the early springtime of the year. As a reenactor living in the northern state of Michigan, it's time to begin our preparations for the upcoming season of time travel. We're going to have our wall tent water-proofed (it's been years - it's due), my wife has been a crazy lady sewing her new dress as well as completing her bonnet - plus she wants to make me a new waistcoat!, we had our spring civilian meeting, and we're even going to a Lincoln mourning presentation in a couple weeks at the Plymouth (Michigan) Historical Museum.
One has to admit, a whole lot of time, effort, and money goes into our...ahem..."hobby."
And most of us want that feeling of "being there," do we not? We strive for that "seeing the elephant" feeling that comes on those rare instances where your mind and body seemingly gets transported back to the early 1860's - I LIVE for that instant!
I have found that it can be rather difficult to transport oneself back in time while the general modern day public is milling about. I mean, even though they are a big part of the reason we do what we do, the sight of shorts and tank tops does take away the time travel experience.
But, after the park closes and the public leaves, that's when one can truly make the attempt to "see the elephant." You look around and all you see are others dressed as you are - all in their 1860's finest. And in the distance you can hear a fiddle playing. maybe a parlor game is taking place in the tent a few down from yours.' And if you are lucky enough to be in a historic open air Village/museum, then the period structures will add to the "I am really in 1863" experience.
It just doesn't get any better!
Then, just as your mind and body are about to transport you, seemingly literally, back in time, you hear it - - - the sound of the baseball announcer on someone's portable TV. And, as you turn your head, someone else just pulled out there lap top computer and is sitting - in period clothing - under their fly, whittling away on Facebook. Now, you look over to another area and what do you see? Reenactors - not patrons who forgot to leave, but honest to goodness reenactors - in shorts, tank tops, sweat pants...
In my opinion, the reenactors/living historians that I am most impressed with are the ones who remain in the period clothing and personas for the whole weekend, including when there are not patrons about. We in my family do not even bring a change of clothing to any of the events, unless it's extra period clothing. I fully agree with a fellow living historian who said, "Nothing annoys me faster than the sweatshirts-and-tennis-shoes-at-5-O'clock-crowd. If you are camping in authentic camp you should stay in period dress all weekend. People that don't destroy the mood for the rest of us."

And I can just hear the whining - - "I'm so HOT!" "I've been in these clothes all day." And my favorite - - "YOU try wearing a corset all day!"
Well, we're all hot and sweaty. But so were the folks we're trying to emulate. And, yes, the women back then wore corsets all day and into the evening. The greater majority of men did not wear corsets, and neither will I (although there were male corsets still being worn during the Civil War era, but that fashion was fading fast). To be honest, my wife prefers her corset over her bra - she feels it's more comfortable.
Don't get me wrong, the sack coat does come off while in my camp, but it goes back on if we decide to take a nighttime walk.
Folks, this is not a 9 to 5 job. This is something that we all love dearly, that we work on and spend our hard-earned money on. If you must wear modern clothing, watch TV, or play on the computer, then get a camper, get a motel room, or go home for the night.
If you truly want to get into that historical persona that one would hope for, please leave your 21st century lives behind. It's only for a couple days.



Kelsey said...

I really don't understand reenactors that go through the trouble of reenacting, and then when the public leaves, they stop caring. My favourite part of reenacting is after the public leaves! In fact, that's why I prefer tacticals instead of living histories.

Historical Ken said...

Thank you Kelsey for your comment.
I'm with you!

Kelsey said...

Where are you located, by the way?

Historical Ken said...

I live just outside of Detroit in a tiny hole called Eastpointe.

I checked out your blog - awesome pics - I plan to check it out further this evening.

Kelsey said...

Thanks! If you'd like to see more of my reenacting photos, you can check out that category: