Sunday, September 17, 2017

Spending Time in the early 1900s: The Old Car Festival at Greenfield Village

Rows upon rows upon rows...
You read the title correctly - - I recently spent some time in the early part of the 20th century. No, not as a reenactor - it wasn't even really a reenactment - but as a visitor. It was at the 67th annual Old Car Festival held at Greenfield Village (in Dearborn, Michigan). It was here that hundreds upon hundreds of automobiles from 1901 through 1932, owned by just as many old car enthusiasts, were on display, and visitors could get up close (and almost personal) with these beautiful rides. The auto owners love to talk shop, and many dress up in clothing that represents the era of their car - some will even display period accessories such as a gramophone or other items, which really helps to put the early auto "in its place in time," as well as help to make this event quite unique.
Now, understand, this wasn't necessarily a reenactment per se', but, rather, a car show that acted as one (does that make sense?), and it gave me more of an over all feeling of "wow...I kind of feel like I'm in 1930" (or whichever pre-1932 year one chooses). And that is due to the involvement of not only the car owners but of Greenfield Village itself.
This is not your typical car show, that's for certain.
So I spent an entire day enjoying the America of a hundred years ago, and, of course, I had my camera with me to document the sights and even the sounds. As you look upon the photographs here, please note that The Old Car Festival is not just a showplace for hundred year old autos, but a spectacle of another time brought to life - the time of my own grandparents:
Just like at our actual reenactments, it's always good to see young people get so into depicting other time periods.
Well, actually, these are vocalists of period music...but they sure look (and sound) good!

The only thing that would make this scene even more vibrant would be to have the pavement be brick instead of cement.

I know...this picture is just begging to be "aged" as if it were taken over a hundred years ago...but it is kind of neat to see our grandparent's time in color, isn't it?

I did not catch the year or make of this auto, but I love the trailer hooked up to the back.

The Grand Army of the Republic had quite a nice display over in the yard of the birth home of Henry Ford. The G.A.R. was originally formed in 1866 by veterans of the recently ended Civil War.
Note the old carriages on the, they are not cars - - 

- - but you can see why the earliest of cars were known as "horseless carriages"!

Meet my friend Keith, a member of the Eaton Rapids G.A.R.
Though the G.A.R. was "officially" dissolved back in 1956, there are many people today, including reenactors and former reenactors, who are keeping its spirit alive.

Right off Main Street was a line up of food vendors. They lined up on both sides of the street, which gave off an old-time street fair look.
Picture courtesy of Gary Thomas

There was a variety of food and treats available.

Tell me you wouldn't buy a bag of hot-roasted peanuts from a vendor set up such as this. Just for the experience, I think you would.

Live and recorded music played an important role throughout the 20th century. The sounds can help to place us into a certain year, such as the hits of the 1910s that we heard this quartet sing and dance to.
Picture courtesy of Charlotte Bauer

I loved that they began the Pass-in-Review with an actual horse-drawn carriage to give a more complete history of the automobile.
And then they moved into the horseless carriages...

This is the Ford 1903 Model A -
The Pass-in-Review actually went on for nearly two hours!
But there was so much else to see and do that we only stayed for the earliest of cars and then went on our merry way...
Loved this 1928 Pontiac. And, if you happened to be around back in that year, you could purchase this beauty for only $745. What makes this car so special is that it had the first ever fuel pump! 

I asked these young ladies if they would pose for me in front of the Pontiac, for they were dressed appropriately for the car's year, and they happily did.

Check out the spokes made of wood!

And then, sitting atop of this classic ride was my favorite of all the hood ornaments 
I saw there - Chief Pontiac!

And the owners also get into dressing the part!

Down just a ways from this fancy car we found we had stepped into rural Georgia...
A rural scene out of the...hmmm...possibly the Great Depression.

Well, the first thing you know ol' Jed's a millionaire...(if you look close, you can see a cabin in the background. Do you think it belongs to the Clampetts'?

Now, if this were the 1860s, these lovely young ladies would be making something for the boys off fighting the Civil War...
But it's not the 1860s - - -  

Instead, it's 1918, and they were making signs to march for a woman's right to vote!
That'll be the day!

Siren's a-blarin' as the firetruck moved about the streets of Greenfield Village.

These ladies were planning a a rally for voting rights, maybe?

An actual old-time phonograph playing 78 rpm records of the day.
Yeah...that's a Model T you see there.
Of course it's a Ford---after all, this is Greenfield Village!

A fine day for a picnic!

There was a Great War scenario, with the WWI reenactors commemorating the 100th anniversary of America's involvement in a war like no one had seen before. 
You know, I certainly appreciate all of the wonderful reenactors who help to keep our history alive, no matter what period (or which side) they represent.
My own grandfather was a doughboy in the Great War, so seeing the accouterments here was pretty exciting for me.
By the way, here is my grandfather in 1917:

I was told that to have such a picture of an ancestor who was in WWI is a rarity because it was such a short involvement for the United States.

Now, let's move onto something a little lighter...
This just might have been everyone's favorite---ha!
Too bad he wasn't selling any ice cream out of it!

This young lady, posing for her mother, reminded me of Samantha from the American Girl Doll collection.

Another scene right out of the past:
The two beautiful rides you see here happen to belong to Lee and Shirley.
The car on the left is a 1930 Ford Model A Roadster, while the one on the right is another Ford, this time a 1930 Town Car. Both have been meticulously restored, and both Shirley & Lee enjoy dressing the part as well. 

I believe this is a Ford, and I just really like the whole 'look' with the Eagle Tavern in the background.

The Wheelmen were riding their big-wheel bikes along the streets.
(Here is info on the from their website): The Wheelmen is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to keeping alive the heritage of American cycling, promoting the restoration and riding of early cycles manufactured prior to 1918.

Autumn comes early to southern Michigan~
I couldn't resist taking this scenic fall picture, even though the date was only September 9. 

So! We arrived at Greenfield Village right when it opened, at 9:30 in the morning, and we stayed for a good part of the day. It was unfortunate that we had to leave in mid-afternoon, for they have an evening gaslight tour, and I really didn't want to miss that! I mean, how often does one get a chance to see the earliest of automobiles ride around a historic village at night time with the headlights on?
On the way home we got the brilliant idea to go back and not miss such an opportunity!
Lucky for us we live fairly close, so after taking care of some home business, we soon found ourselves riding, once again, to Greenfield Village to enjoy the evening activities. 
One of the evening features was a ragtime street fair, which was, simply put, awesome! The music, the dancing/cakewalk - - was great fun to watch and listen to.
Picture courtesy of Gary Thomas

But my main purpose in returning for the evening was to see the gaslight tour. This is where the visitors can "enjoy (a) spectacular sight as hundreds of cars featuring gas, kerosene, and early electric lamps take to the streets."
And that they did (to get an idea of what it was like, here are three video clips I took, though they were taken before the sun went down and not necessarily night time, for my camera does not do night time video very well):

And just a couple of shots I took in the same location:
The cars began their riding around the Village not too long before sunset - maybe an hour or so...

And many of the people who wore modern clothing all day dressed in their period clothing for this special activity.

Speaking of dressing period, my friends also showed up in the proper clothing for late 1920s/early 1930s girls.

The location I chose to plant myself was at the front entrance of the Ackley Covered Bridge, which was built in 1831.

Looks like a traffic jam up on the Ackley Bridge.

Hmmm...could this be the cause of the traffic jam?
The girls had loads of fun with the drivers, who "owooga'd" as they drove past. And how could they not??

As the sun set, the lamps on the old cars really gave me an idea of what night time driving was like a hundred years ago.

Here is a close up of the lamps on a 1914 Model T.

As you can see, the look of the evening drive really did become quite spectacular. Amazing, in fact.
It was well worth heading back to Greenfield Village for the night time affair, for it really is not very often that it is open past sundown, aside from Holiday Nights at Christmas time and a couple other nights dotted throughout the spring and summer.
So I took advantage of the opportunity while I could.

Well, before I leave you, I thought you might enjoy a few fun lamplight poses from my friends as we were leaving for the night - - - -



My friends, this was a car show like I've not seen before. It absolutely took me back to the time of my grandparents - who were born in the 1890s - and sort of helped me to see the more fun portion of their world. Yes, I am very much aware of all the bad that occurred during that era, but I choose not to write about it here, for I remember hearing some of the stories my grandparents and great aunt told me about their lives at the turn of the century, and none of them ever mentioned anything to make me believe life was all rotten 'back then.' In fact, they enjoyed the fact that I was interested!
History, as it is taught today, tends to accent the down side of our past and keep the good 'under wraps.' I'm not like that - yes, I do study the down side of our great nation's history, but I also study and choose to celebrate the good.
And that's what I'm doing here - it's a celebration!
By the way, I actually have previously reenacted the 1920s (about ten years ago), as well as the 1910s (about two years ago) a couple of times:
Here I am with two friends in the year 1915 helping the Lion's Club celebrate their 100th anniversary. We are in the Detroit Historical Museum where they have replicated "old Detroit."

And then...
I helped out in a garden party set in the 1920s that the Crocker House Museum of Mt. Clemens, Michigan put on.
I did have fun doing both of these events, especially the 1920s garden party. In fact, my own ancestors were very much on my mind as I took part. The words my great Aunt Babe told me when I interviewed her before she died echo'd in my head: "The Roaring Twenties, I'll never forget. We wore everything that came in style. Wearing dresses where our hips were the dividing line instead of the dividing line being up here," Babe pointed to just below her ribs. "It was down on your hips so when you walked your a** would swing," she said with a smile. My aunt followed the fads, trends, dances, and music of the era. She considered herself a 'flapper.' "We were getting kind of wild. Our shoulders were bare - that was bad! You didn't show your shoulders." However, Pearl (Babe's sister - my grandmother) "wore her hair in a bun." Aunt Babe went on to explain that most young girls wore their hair in a short 'Bob' cut, not in a bun like Pearl. "She tried to be like the others but she just never made it. She wasn't that type. She wore her clothes a little different from the other girls." 
Hmmm...I wonder what grandma would say about that...?
As for me, yes, I did reenact this period a couple times, but in my time travel excursions I much prefer to stay in the pre-electric era. I am just not comfortable reenacting outside of the perimeter preference of the 1770s and the 1850s/60s, which are my two favorite periods of American history.
But I am glad for those who do - we need to represent American history in all its stages, especially in our modern day. And when a sort of immersion feel can be created at an old car show like they did at Greenfield Village, it truly is a celebration of our past!

Until next time, see you in time. 

Would you like to see more of the cars that are at the Old Car Festival? Click HERE

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