Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Celebrating the Fight to Become a Nation at Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne 2018

"Estimates vary slightly, but in the 1750's there was an estimated English population of 1.2 million people (in America). At its height, only about 20 to 30 thousand, or roughly about 2.5% of the population, were directly involved in the military. What about the other 97 percent?
They were the Farmers, Shopkeepers, Tavern keepers, Midwives and other civilians that continued to go about their daily lives, in spite of the European power struggles going on around them."
(From the Colonial Living History Alliance site)

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A window into the past...
The colonial period interests me greatly, and has done so since my tiny-tot days. In fact, I consider the 18th century to be far more exciting and enticing than any other time in our great American history.
And now I make a valiant attempt to bring that era to life through the gallant hobby of reenacting.
Imagine recreating the era of the founding of our nation!
Imagine walking in the proverbial shoes of the Founding Generation!
You can just imagine, then, how I felt when I bought my first set of period-proper 18th century clothing, I absolutely could not wait to time-travel to the 1770s!
Please understand, I am no stranger to reenacting; I have been bonafide for 15 years, and that's not including getting my feet wet at the Holly Dickens Festival for a half a decade before that.
Yeah...because of all the reenacting I do (including Civil War), I like telling people that I live in the past and reenact the present.

And now we're back for the seventh annual Colonial Days event held at Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne. As usual, we did our best to bring this era to life for the interested fans of history. Unfortunately, we did not have nearly as good of a turn out of participants as we had hoped. I do understand that the weather was not the best ever; the forecast was for rain for both Saturday and Sunday. Although we did have a few off and on showers on Saturday (and a downpour just as we were taking down our tents on Sunday!), it was mostly dry and we even saw spots of sunlight here and there.
It was not even close to being a wash out.
But this hasn't been the only time that we've seen a low turn out of reenactors, and it's not only in the Rev War camps; Civil War turnouts haven't been in record numbers either.
Well, no matter, for those of us who showed had a fine time indeed, and so did our visitors!
In fact, let's begin with something very special that occurred on Saturday.
The modern-dressed gentleman you see in the following two pictures was being inducted into the Detroit Metro Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.
The SAR rosette was pinned to his lapel.
It was an honor for us to play our small role:
Naming of the period dressed living historians who helped out (from left):
Ken Roberts of the Massachusetts Militia, followed by the head of the DMC of the SAR. Next to him is the new member, and then we have Bob Jones as George Washington, with Len Steinberg from the Pennsylvania Militia, and lastly myself as a Minuteman.
I am glad we could help. This was very special for us.
Yes, I am listed as a minute man. I thought it proper that we should all represent some sort of fighting faction from the Revolutionary War, and since I was more plain-clothed, minute man seemed to work.

Next up we have a long-time Rev War reenactor who crosses over between the Brits and the Americans: he will change sides at the drop of a hat whenever or wherever he is needed.
Dalton is representing an American officer
from South Carolina. Next to him is my son,
Robbie, who has joined the 1st Pennsylvania.

Representing the Americans:
General Washington, Dalton from South Carolina, Ken from the Massachusetts Militia, and Robbie from the 1st Pennsylvania.

When the rain comes they run and hide their head...
Ken Roberts shows our hearty visitors how to load and fire a musket. 
General Washington ensures all is done correctly.

Robbie and Tony, both of the 1st Pennsylvania.
Tony sewed Robbie's frock you see him wearing.
In fact, Tony hand sews and makes practically everything he uses for reenacting. Amazing.

He is also one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to historic guns.

Two sides come together:
members of Simcoe's Queen's Rangers (the three men on the right) meet with Patriots for a "quick sketch."

The family that reenacts together...
Here is a picture of my son and I - both proud Patriots.

A few of us convinced the gentleman you see me with (Bob Jones) to come out to this reenactment - all the way from Fort Wayne, Indiana - and "be" George Washington. We all agreed that he looked convincingly like the Father of our Country, and, upon putting on his jacket, I think you'll agree he really does have a very credible look. The visitors certainly thought so - both young and old knew who exactly who he was without reference!
I believe Bob has been encouraged to continue in this manner at future reenactments!

As many of you know, I enjoy setting up scenarios, either as living history through speech and action or, in this case, as a sort of photo shoot.
The barracks at Detroit's Fort Wayne have been restored to varying degrees, and the southern-most section has a very early look to it. In fact, though it is from the 1840s, it works well for what we hoped to accomplish: an attempt to create/recreate a tavern scene from the Revolutionary War period.
This young lady is relatively new to historic reenacting & living history, but she did a very fine job indeed in her representation as, in this case, a bar maid or a tavern wench. Now, before you all get on me by calling this wonderful reenactor a "wench," I have it on good authority (my friend Amy, a long-time historian and presenter at Colonial Williamsburg) that this was a common term in the 18th century and was not considered derogatory:
As Amy told me:
“Here is the thing about the word ‘Wench:’
It’s actually an everyday normal title that just meant “women” or “girl”  that worked outside the home. (Or in some cases, the tavern owner’s daughter.)
So, what this all means for those of us who represent the colonial era is that the word ‘wench’ had no negative connotation in business society, except, at times, in a slight negative skew in certain religious circles because “women are for family raising!”
The word ‘wench,’ by the way, becomes derogatory in the 1840s when the term was used by plantation owners and the like for mistresses, specifically for the mulatto and African Americans.”
Amy promised she would get me the source for her information.
Thank you Amy bel!
And now I am asked to build a June!

"General Washington, I am your most obedient servant. Pray, if I may be so bold as to ask you to join me in the tavern?"

It was nice to see that General Washington had brought his wife, Martha, along with him. She did not stay with us long, for she knew her husband had important business at hand, but it was a pleasure to have her join us for the brief time.

Washington, like many others in the army, had been waiting for this declaration for some time. He had grown impatient with representatives who hoped for reconciliation with the mother country, something he knew would not happen.
He was very impressed in finally receiving this broadside from the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

Washington decided to have this Declaration read to the thousands of Continental soldiers who had come from Boston to defend New York City from the British, and this reading would take place on that evening of July 9, 1776. He would have his men march to the parade grounds there in Lower Manhattan and assemble promptly at six o'clock to hear the Declaration approved by the Continental Congress calling for American independence from Great Britain.

Before he would have the Declaration read, however, Washington decided to explain to his men that Congress had "dissolved the connection" between "this country" and Great Britain and declared the "United Colonies of North America" to be "free and independent states."
(Photograph by Susan Hanson)

(The young man I "hired on" as our photographer took many pictures from differing angles. I've always been a fan of window shots, and this is a pretty darn good one.)
Twas not long before the hour in which the General had to wish us a good day was upon us, and we replied that we were honored to have him take time to speak with us.

Ah, but the bar maiden did a rap tap upon the window to gain our attention:
"Kind sirs! You left this broadside here. 
I am sure you will not want to leave without it!"
If she only knew the importance of that piece of paper she held in her hands.
I will be honest with you, this little photo shoot we did gave me some big ideas of future possibilities for actual scenarios. It was also the first time for all of us to work together in this capacity, and it was a real pleasure to have their willingness to create such scenes.

Back at our reenacting camp, 18th century life rolls on...
Heather learned the ropes of reenacting from the ground up. Susan taught her the survival skills needed to spend a weekend in the past, though she was already quite astute at the butter churn and made some marvelous spread for the bread...

 But she played out her role wonderfully.

Of course, there is always time for the servant to take a break!

Susan is a long-time reenactor - over twenty years - and it shows.
She baked this delicious apple pie, made from scratch, in her dutch oven.
As you can see, she also made, again from scratch, a blueberry pie as well:
Yes, she shared them with us!

Susan is also a very accomplished spinner. She goes from "sheep to shawl," as is said. So upon the shelves of Mrs. Hanson’s shop are the woolen items she has made that may be applicable to multiple eras, and she will inform her customer as to the technology and techniques that were in use at a given time frame.

Meanwhile, over at the gaol (the colonial spelling of jail):
We find members of the 49th regiment of foot battalion company.

49th regiment of foot battalion company
A bunch of fine people who, unfortunately, are fighting on the wrong side!

The youngest member of the Church Family..
Raising your children in history:
I've done this with mine in one form or another, and
they, in my opinion, have a deeper understanding of
modern politics because of it, and they can hold their
own well and strong in debates.

Here we find members of the 49th Regiment of Foot Battalion and Grenadier Company as well as two members of the Queen's Rangers.

They were actually about to shoot me for being what they called a treasonous traitor to the crown.

But I, being the Patriot that I am, stood bravely for Liberty and Independence.
(Of course, it does help that we were only reenacting, otherwise I probably would have been quaking in my shoes!)

Although there are no pictures of "dead Ken," I did die a good death by jerking myself backward and falling on my back. It was only when they tried to steal my shoes that I came back to life!

What I like about this picture, like a few others in the mix, is seeing the variety of clothing that folks wore during the Revolutionary War. 

And that's a wrap for another fine day visiting and teaching of the past. I hope you enjoyed your time spent with me. I certainly loved being there.
We may not have had a very large turn out for this event, but those who did come out to participate certainly had a great time, and, well, just being with like-minded friends of whom you can share information and discuss historic passions with...maybe even come up with ideas for future reenactments...makes me feel very excited about our future in the past, but also a bit sad for those who missed out, for they did miss a great time.

Until next time, see you in time.

Please visit the web site of Historic Fort Wayne HERE
Other postings of mine you might like:
With Liberty & Justice For All
Paul Revere
Life in Colonial Times
Boston Massacre
Battle of Lexington & Concord

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Motor Muster 2018: Not Your Father's Car Show

Oh! To own a classic car!
I find it difficult to call the 2018 Motor Muster a classic car show. I mean, yes, it is a car show. But there's so much more. One may even call it a borderline classic car living history event.
But it's not all living history either.
Let's just say it's unique, for what the good folks at historic Greenfield Village have done is build living dioramas around the classic cars on display throughout the Village. They've created vignettes of a life gone by to accent the hundreds of autos, from the mid-1930s through the mid-1970s, brought in by classic car buffs throughout Michigan and the U.S. And that's what I decided to concentrate most on in today's post: the living history scenes.
Unfortunately, I did not get to visit every scenario - Greenfield Village is a pretty big place - but I did capture a few of them, mostly of the WWII era.
But we'll begin with a year that is near and dear to my heart and soul, 1976.
Why 1976?
Why, that was the year I turned 15. It was also 12 months of fervently celebrating our nation's bi-centennial - the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
And did we celebrate! One could hardly make a move without seeing or hearing of our country's founders. Magazines, radio, newspapers, television...the media exploded in history.
I was in my glory!
So for this year's Motor Muster Greenfield Village decided to have a little fun with the essence of that year and did a sort of 'spirit of (19)76' revisited.
Here we see some "chick" getting into the red, white, and blue.
Yes, we called girls "chicks" back then.
I'd be afraid to say that today - - (lol) 
What's strange to me is seeing a sort of reenactment of a time that I remember!
So...why don't I feel old?? are visiting Greenfield Village...and it is the summer of 1976 - the bi-centennial celebration is on...and they have the 1st Michigan Fife & Drum Corps performing the "hits" of 200 years earlier...
What is unique and even sort of strange about this vignette is the fife & drums are reenacting the reenactors from the 1976 who were reenacting 1776!
Did ya get that?
It reminds me of the Beatles song "Things We Said Today" which has a reverse nostalgia premise in that we’ll remember the things we said today, sometime in the future. So the song projects itself into the future:
('Someday when we're dreaming, deep in love, not a lot to say,
then we will remember things we said today.')
Ha! My wife says this proves my mind works in ways unlike most normal people.
I would say she just might be right...
To add to this - - - a couple of the performers performing on this day were 
playing at this very spot in 1976, reenacting 1776!
In other words, they were reenacting themselves as reenactors!
Sort of like the "I'm my own grandpa" country song.

From 1976 we'll jump back 13 years to the summer of 1963 where we find a family having a picnic- - -
~Summer 1963~
Perhaps they're from out of state and they're headed to Michigan on a vacation to visit - where else? - Greenfield Village, and they've stopped off to rest up and have 
a snack or two before continuing their trip.
1963...the Dovells "You Can't Sit Down," Leslie Gore "It's My Party," "Hey Girl" by Freddie Scott, "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" by the Janettes, "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen...
Ahhh...what a great year for top 40 music!

Ten years earlier and we find a family from the early 1950s after church and preparing for their day of rest.
Meet Cyndi and Gilbert Carlson and their three "adopted" daughters. Cyndi & Gil also enjoy dressing in Civil War era as well, and have even dabbled in the colonial period.
But this day at Motor Muster we find them during the time of 

"Sh-Boom - Life Could Be A Dream" and "Rock Around the Clock."

One more stop before we head over to World War Two:
It's the 1930s at the Mattox House and it's here we found a wonderful very traditional blues singer and musician named Revereand Robert Jones. This guy brought my old blues records back to life! Yes, he was that good!

Because my parents were both born in the 1920s, my early growing up experiences included lots of talk about life in the 1940s and of the War itself. The sad part for me personally is that my father died when I was still twenty years old - not old enough to care about his past and of his 'adventures' during WWII. I never thought to ask him the questions that now interest me about what it was like for him while he was in Okinawa, Japan in 1945.
But being amongst the good folk who reenact the War does help to give me an idea.

It did my heart good to hear an old WWII veteran who was actually "there" fighting back in the early 1940s exclaim how honored he and his friends were to have the reenactors honoring them in such a way and never letting people here at home forget what it was like. I would like to imagine that people of any era would be honored.
The men were set up inside the Cotswold Cottage, which was originally built in England around 1620.
This cottage, however, was brought over to Dearborn here in Michigan in the 1930s, so it never actually "saw" the war. But it was set up as if it were still in England during the 1940s and American soldiers had made it their "home" for the time.
The vignettes for WWII were outstanding and somewhat a bit more elaborate than the other decades.
For instance:
Buy, buy, buy, buy a bond.
And by and by,
The bonds you buy will bring you victory.
Buy, buy, buy, buy a bond.
And you’ll be standing by the victory arch
When Johnny comes marching home again.

Oh, you should need no request,
For after all, you know that you’re investing in the best,
Till the lads come back again,
Back the old attack again,
Buy, buy bonds.

This is no time to say you’ve done enough.
This is the time to really do your stuff.
And even if you can’t be a soldier in the ranks,
You can be the guy that helps supply the guns and planes and tanks.
This is the time for you to do your best.
This is no time for you to take a rest.
The enemy is reeling and his morale is low,
So now’s the time to fall in line and deal the final blow.

And you can hear Der Bingle sing this all-but-forgotten patriotic tune in a clip from 1945:

One of the stories my mother used to tell me was how she and her sisters and their friends would all have Victory Gardens.
If you grow your own food, then more food can be sent to the soldiers fighting the axis.
How to win a war - - get everyone involved!

And the World War Two scenarios just kept on coming...
This could be just about anywhere in the USA during the War. I think it's scenes like this that I enjoy most, for it almost felt like I was walking among my parent's generation while they were still in their youth.

Tell me that pie doesn't look good enough to eat!
She's so proud of her accomplishment!

I didn't catch the make or year of this auto (1940s...), but I did capture a reflection in the window...

I bet these three young ladies were photographed more than nearly anyone else there! It's great to see young people get involved in living history, even if it's just wearing the clothes of the past.

My friend Meg has worked at Greenfield Village, either as a historic presenter or, more recently, a Model T driver.
Oh, she also swing dances and portrays Rosie the Riveter.

Speaking of Rosie the Riveter...
My friend Beckie also portrays the
great American icon!

So many people dressed the part. As I've said, it was almost like being at a reenactment. I suppose in a way, it kinda was!

This young lady was one of the dancers at the USO dance in the evening.

Meg and Jillian: both dancers, both Greenfield Village employees, and both Civil War reenactors with the 21st Michigan. Meg is also a member of my Citizens of the American Colonies 18th century group!
Wonderful young ladies!

This pose right here.
It's 1943.
Before we get to the USO dance...
...I did a little dancing myself.
Unfortunately, I am not much of a dancer at all, but Meg made me look like I knew what I was doing. Sorta.

She even taught me how to dip!
Didja catch the sign?
There's a USO Show tonight!
I plan to be about you?

I do believe she plans to make it to the USO Show as well.

Greenfield Village will change up the Saturday night dance entertainment every few years. They've done a teen sock hop covering the years 1963, 1964, and 1965. Last year and this year we're back to the 1940s.
For the sock hops they use a disc jockey playing records. For the 1940s USO shows they have a live big band playing the swing and sweet music.
How cool is that?
The show began with a few of the girls coming out, reading letters presumably from their soldier boys. And they compare notes, giggle, and, well, acted like young girls of the World War Two era might have acted. 

Then they suddenly see their men in uniform and run to greet them, screaming all the way.
And then the dancing commenced.
The band played all the big hit songs of the day, beginning with Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade."
The beat picked up a bit with "The Hucklebuck."

Benny Goodman's "Sing! Sing! Sing!"

And this trio emulating The Andrews Sisters sung "Bei Mir Bist du Schon" and "The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."

Numerous other great big band era tunes were played, including "In The Mood," Is You Is or Is You Ain't My baby," "'Tain't What You Do It's the Way That You Do It," and "Pennsylvania 6-500," among others.

Most of the dancers are Greenfield Village employees, and they rehearse for weeks leading up to the big day, and their hard work shows. The crowd loved 'em!
In fact, I took a few videos:

Afterwards, as I've done for the last five years or so, I take a group picture of all the dancers...and this year I've included their dance instructor, Susan, in the photo.
Standing on and in front of the porch of the home once belonging to aviator pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright, we have the wonderful group who entertained us for two HOT swinging hours (and it was hot - low 90s temps!). 

As I said, this is definitely not your father's classic car show.
"But Ken! Where are the cars in your post? I thought this was a car show!"
You know what?
There were so many different things going on that I simply forgot about the hundreds of classic cars covering most of the Villages grassy areas!
Fear not---I did take a couple of video clips of two Mr. Gasket hot rods during the Pass & Review:


And you can also check out my posting from a couple years ago - - Click HERE to see a ton of cars from previous years.
No worries, by the way...I will be going back to this event next year.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this time travel journey of a different sort - not my usual post, eh?
With this being Summertime USA, I got to take advantage of all my area has to historically offer.

Until next time, see you in time.

If you are interested in learning more about teen life in the late 1930s and early 1940s, please click HERE

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