Sunday, November 27, 2016

Black Friday? Bah! Time-Travel Friday!

Over the past decade or so I've spent the day after Thanksgiving~Black Friday~wearing period clothing while visiting historic Greenfield Village. It's my place of solace; a place in time where I can go to get my historic fix. And since I am a member, it doesn't cost me a dime.
Plus there's nothing better in our area where I can wear colonial-period clothing.
But for some people, Black Friday is like a holiday. They wait all year for the opportunity to spend the night in line so they can get the best deals on Christmas gifts.
Other folks actually begin their shopping on Thanksgiving Day itself.
If this is what you like to do, great. I mean, who am I to knock someone's shopping preferences, right?
But it's definitely not for me.
In fact, I'm anti-Black Friday, especially when it begins on Thursday - Thanksgiving Day!
So, needless to say, you won't find me in any major retail outlet on either of those two days.
Instead, I'll be time-traveling... 
The Ackley Covered Bridge - my portal to the past...

It seems every time I cross it, I find myself transported to another time...
photo by Mary Marshall

...and the clothing I wear, whether colonial or Civil War era, chooses the time in which I find myself.
As you can (hopefully) tell, I have been transported back to the 1770s.

Horse and carriage - - 
Part of the time-travel experience is not only seeing the past, but hearing the past; the hooves of the horse's clip-clop and the rumbling of the carriage wheels across the wooden bridge is a very special way of hearing what our ancestors heard 150+ years ago.

The thing about time travel is one never knows in what situation they may find themselves. Here I am sitting in the "driver's seat" of the carriage! How did I get there?? 
Now, I know I can handle one horse...while I'm in a saddle, but two horses pulling a carriage? I think I had better take a few lessons first!
(Okay, before anyone from the Village gets their dander up about this picture, remember: in time travel, everything is not always as it seems. Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop are wonderful computer programs!)
I was the only visitor who ventured out in period clothing on this Black Friday, which, many times, is the usual case for me. Now "flying solo" as a reenactor does not bother me one bit. I do it frequently - a "frequent flyer" eh?---ha! - and I rather enjoy it, though having a friend or two join me makes it that much better.
But being that I was the lone wolf, you are going to be seeing lots of pictures...of me...doing period things...and one of the places I spent some extra time in was the Daggett Saltbox (or breakback) house, located at the far end of the Village. 
This wonderful example of popular 18th century architecture was built around 1750. The folks at Greenfield Village present the house as it may have been lived in during the 1760s. 
Me, with my 1770s clothing, fit in very comfortably.
Is that the welcoming Mrs. Anna Daggett I see in the doorway?
There is something to be said about wearing period clothing and stepping into a home of the era in which your clothing depicts; I get a feeling that cannot be explained. It's not just the clothing, mind you---it's also having the knowledge and understanding of the time in which the structure is being interpreted. In this case, the 18th century. And it's in this way I am able, in a sense, to become a part of history.
Am I nuts?
Probably, but let me explain - - -                    
What I believe may seem pretty odd to most, but I am of the opinion that spirits of the past remain in the walls - in the rooms - of old houses.  
Maybe...but not necessarily. Certainly some sort of entity.
There's ghosts in the parlor...
In the ghostly photo to the left we see "spirits" in the parlor of the home once belonging to John and Mehetabel Giddings, which was built around 1760. Of course, what you see here are not actual apparitions from the past. It's just me with a presenter friend (or is it? Hmmm...).
Now imagine the Giddings family and friends – especially the menfolk or even John and Mehetabel – gathered in this very same parlor around 240 years ago as they discussed and probably even debated the news of the day...
Wouldn't it be awesome to be able to hear their conversations and opinions about the Revolutionary War, their thoughts on the Declaration of Independence, the forming of the new nation with its own Constitution, and the news of George Washington becoming our first president?
Just imagine hearing these conversations at the time when the actual events occurred!
Oh! If walls could only talk…

But, maybe they can.
Here is a tale from a former Greenfield Village security guard, in his own words, about a strange encounter he had inside the Giddings Home:
"The village takes on a whole new dimension at night. Doing driving patrols I stopped at Giddings to use the bathroom, which is located in the back. I walked inside and heard people talking but couldn’t make out the conversation; I thought it was the voice recorder that tells the history of the home.
It wasn’t.
I looked around and saw no one but felt a chill, and then I heard someone talking again. As I was leaving I then heard a voice clearly say, “He's leaving now,” and the full conversation started up once again. 
It was weird and spooky. No doubt the place is haunted."
So...were the "walls" talking?
And, I wonder, what was the conversation about...?
Ahhh...the peculiar mind of Ken...thinking about the past in such ways that is out of the norm.

Oh! to become a part of times long gone, and to do so without actually leaving the present...
Entering the Daggett House on this damp and dreary late fall day, I stood near the hearth in the great hall (the main room) where a warming fire roared.

Pulling up a chair, Mr. Daggett kindly offered for us to sit at the hearth of the fireplace.

It was here that a fine conversation ensued about, of all things, chocolate.

In the early 18th century, chocolate was initially a treat for the wealthy, but soon was available to the every man. For instance, Benjamin Franklin sold locally produced chocolate in his Philadelphia print shop. In 1739, he was selling bibles and other books, pencils, ink, writing paper, and "very good chocolate."

By 1773, the demand for chocolate in the colonies resulted in the importation of over 320 tons of cocoa beans. Drinking chocolate was affordable to all classes of people and was available in most coffee houses, where colonists would gather to talk about politics and the news of the day, as well as in the more wealthier of homes.

So being that we spoke of chocolate as it was during colonial times, you might say the conversation was period correct.
It was very enjoyable indeed!

I enjoyed my time in the Daggett home immensely,
but there were more places to visit before I was to
be swooped back to the future.

For my journey to town, I must head west on a road that winds snake-like over hill and dale, through thick woods and meadow land…

…where I will pass by the farm belonging to the Firestones. I stopped for only a moment to see the fine breed of horses, and then I was on my way once again.

The rest of the way to town was by carriage, where I was dropped off at the local ordinary known as the Eagle Tavern.
(photo by Gary Thomas)

This 'publick house' served up a fine menu of poultry, rabbit, and other delights.

But after all the talk about chocolate, that's what I ordered.

One of my stops was at the home of Noah Webster, festively decorated for the upcoming Christmas Season.

I felt very regal as I stood between the pillars of this great home of one of our nation's Founding Fathers.

But the regal-ness soon left me as I was put to work inside the local printing office. I had to pay for my stay somehow!

Soon it was time for me to leave this wonderful place and head back to the future. 
I took one last gander at the serene beauty of the 18th century before crossing 
the bridge - the portal - that would take me back to the future.

But, mark me, I'll be back soon...
While I was walking around the Village on this Black Friday, one of the Model T drivers was giving a tour to a few passengers, and as they spotted me dressed in my colonial clothing, they asked the driver who I was and what was I doing. He replied, "(Ken) just appears around here from time to time. Another magical aspect of the Village."   
What a fine answer indeed!
As a living historian, I believe it is my duty to recreate scenes from the past, through spoken words and through action, as well as through appearance. It's my hope that when someone sees me while in period attire, they see a ghost of long ago - spirits of the past, so to speak.
And that's what I spent Black Friday doing - immersing myself into an era...becoming a part of the "walls that talk."

By the way, returning back to the future isn't all that bad for me:
This is our back parlor, or gathering room, prepared to greet guests for our Thanksgiving feast.
This addition to our house was built in 1999 specifically because of the depression my wife and I would get whenever we returned from Greenfield Village.
It's our Greenfield Village home away from Greenfield Village home.
All of our candles were either hand-dipped or made
from a tin mold from pure beeswax. 
And, yes, that is a period 1880s oil lamp there
on the drop-leaf table.
As you can see, we are prepared for an emergency should we have a power outage. Plenty of candles were made this fall.
This is my attempt at setting up an Americana scenario, utilizing my 19th century antiques with my 18th century replicas.
I hope you enjoyed taking this journey to the past with me. I certainly am glad you came along. There are more period-Christmas adventures on the horizon, so stay tuned... 
Until next time, see you in time - - - 

Here's a post I wrote about "flying solo" - reenacting alone: HERE   
Here is a post I wrote giving a general overview of life in Colonial times: HERE
Click HERE to check out a very pure and authentic sounding collection of colonial-era Christmas music.
Highly recommended.