Friday, December 8, 2017

Travelling Through Time on Black Friday

~Although Thanksgiving was a couple weeks ago, that weekend is always such a busy one for me, from celebrating the holiday itself to the beginnings of the Christmas Season, and, as you may recall from my previous post, tradition and history reigns as well. 
Therefore, the celebration continues...~

It's been well over 20 years since I've been out shopping on Black Friday. Beginning in 1997 I have spent the weekend after Thanksgiving doing all kinds of fun family things and building memories by participating in activities such as cutting down our Christmas Tree, decking the halls of our home, participating in the Holly Dickens Festival, heading to historic Crossroads Village, and, since 2011, immersing myself in the past at Greenfield Village, all of which have taken precedence over shopping.
Yeah...I call it my anti-Black Friday excursions.
I cannot think of a better place to spend Black Friday than the past.
This week, we are back at my favorite open-air museum, enjoying another trip through time, and I am, of course, dressed in clothing that, though few today would be caught dead wearing, was once the height of fashion.
Greenfield Village is such a large place, and to enjoy the full feel of the time-travel experience, one has to find these portals through time and become immersed in the people and surroundings. The first one occurs right after you step into the gates and move past the railroad tracks. There, on your left, you will see a dirt road leading up to the Firestone Farm.
There it is---Firestone Farm, where the workers inside and out present an 1880s farm in all its pureness and authenticity. 
As you step onto the road, the real time-travel magic begins, for you find the path leads back to 1885, and as you move on you will note the fields prepared for winter planting and corn shocks made to protect the winter animal feed, something not seen as much in the 21st century.
Then you reach the white picket fence gate...
Sitting on the porch to watch the sun rise...
On this day after Thanksgiving, the workers/presenters at the farm were "up with the sun" and preparing the day's activities very early on, just as they would have in the 1880s, and that was when these pictures were taken.
I wish I could have seen this in person...
(Pic taken by Larissa Fleishman)

And how about this early morning sunrise from inside the formal parlor, showing its historic beauty like I've not seen before:
Imagine awakening to this...
(Pic taken by Larissa Fleishman)
Firestone Farm is unique from most of the other buildings in that it is an actual working farm, and it's almost as if the presenters are not *really* presenters by definition.
But they are... in every sense.
You see, they are like an 1880s family, working together and efficiently to ensure the farm is run as it should. And this is where immersion begins, for you will find the ladies cooking & cleaning inside the house and the men farming in the fields; everyone has their jobs. So the visitor can see 1880s farm life in action while listening to the interpreters explain their chores almost conversationally as they themselves are doing them, and this gives such a wonderful lesson by way of sight, sound, smell, and even, to a small extent, touch.
Indeed, history comes to life before your eyes.
We were warmly greeted by one of the Firestone Farm ladies who beckoned us in from the cold as we moved toward the side porch.
While inside the house...
The ladies were busy scurrying about, making Thanksgiving dinner just as was done over 130 years ago.

Bringing out the turkey from the cast iron stove.
The Firestone Farm women all know how to cook on the cast iron stove while using recipes from the mid-19th century. A few are also well-learned on hearth cooking procedures from the 18th century, for they also cook at the 1760s Daggett House.

As you can see, this turkey looked amazing, and the scent of a fine Thanksgiving meal emanated throughout the house! You don't know how badly I would've loved to have partaken in such a fine repast of an 1880s dinner with the farm folk here. 

Farmer John had the honors of cutting the bird.
One of the presenters at another of Greenfield Village's historic homes called it a Firestone-giving meal.

Melissa rang the dinner bell to let the other farmers know that Thanksgiving dinner was ready. I am certain of all days of the year to work at Firestone Farm, this is probably the best.
For me, this brings it all home, and thank you to all who participate each year and help to bring an authentic 19th century Thanksgiving to life for the visitors. We so very much appreciate this lesson in our nation's history.

Now, where Colonial Williamsburg and Old Sturbridge Village remain at least partially open during the cold winter months, the weekend of Thanksgiving is traditionally the final one of the year for Greenfield Village to be open during daylight hours, and, aside from the special Christmas Holiday Nights event in December, it remains closed until "opening day" on April 15. So this weekend in November is the last for those of us who visit frequently.
On the plus side, since workers have begun decorating for Holiday Nights, visitors get a chance to see some of the Christmas decorations during the daylight hours, for numerous houses were already decorated for the occasion.
The horse and carriage move past the 1870s boarding house once belonging to Sarah Jordan, who was a distant relative of Thomas Edison. Now bedecked with garland for Christmas, this is the place where a number of Edison's workers at Menlo Park stayed. It was only a couple minutes walk from the boarding house across the way to the Menlo Park laboratory.

There is something about watching horses that can take us back in time just because they're horses and knowing they were the main mode of 'horse-power' back in the old days. I remained transfixed as this vision of the past clip-clopped past the Whittier Toll House, built in 1828, and entered the 1831 Ackley Covered Bridge.

I always think of the Ackley Covered bridge as another portal to the past, for once you step out the opposite end, a world of (mostly) the 18th century opens up.
This bridge is a sort of time-tunnel for me: 
I enter in my modern clothing, but I exit the other end in my period clothing, ready for the world of 1770.
Really!
I am asked frequently why I dress in clothing of the past when I visit Greenfield Village. My answer is not only because I enjoy it, but also because it enhances my experience there greatly. And, mind you, I do not overstep my boundaries; I scurry first thing to the far end - the colonial end - quickly before visitors make it down there, and then will leave as they begin showing up.  
Anyhow, it seems that as you step out of the Ackley Covered Bridge, the world of the 18th century draws you in, even though not all of the structures are from that century. Looking about, you see the 1822 Noah Webster House, the Susquehanna Plantation House representing the 1860s, and the Edison Homestead (built in the early 1800s though presented as 1915) mixed in with the actual structures from the 1700s. This all helps to give the general look and feel, as a whole, of the time of our country's founding period.
The early 18th century Plympton House tends to be over-looked at the Village. 
With the 1751 Daggett House just down the road used extensively to show rural colonial farm life, and the 1750 Giddings House directly across the street used and utilized periodically to show 18th century city life - both with period-dressed presenters - the Plympton house is left as a plexi-glass enclosed home without 
much else than a recording that plays upon entering to tell us its history.
But I do enjoy stepping inside and take note of its colonial simplicity.

By reading such everyday life books as "Our Own Snug Fireside," "Where We Lived," "At Home," and "A Day in a Colonial Home," I can visualize life in this one-room house as it may have been lived. And, I must say, I do kind of enjoy the recording we hear upon entering.

The Plympton House is considered to be the oldest American home in Greenfield Village and is a fine example of early American housing.
Speaking of old Americana: please note the large windmill you see in this photo 
next to the Daggett House, for it is the Farris Windmill, built in 1633 on Cape Cod (just thirteen years after the Pilgrim Separatists landed there briefly before moving on to find a more permanent location to settle, which we know was Plymouth).
The windmill was a gift to Henry Ford from his dealership employees back in 1936.

I am frequently asked what my favorite house is inside Greenfield Village, and I honestly would have to say it is the Daggett House - as if you didn't already know, right?.
Now, I wrote earlier about the wonderful job the folks at Firestone Farm do in their interpretation skills. Well, I can say the same about the workers at Daggett as well, for, like at Firestone, the ladies here cook and clean in the same manner as they would have in the 1760s. The big difference is that this is not utilized as a working farm, so, aside from special occasions such as the fall harvest weekends, most of the action tends to take place in the kitchen and great hall.
Gigi greeted me as I stepped up to the Daggett house.
This one-time home of Samuel and Anna Daggett is a beautiful example of what 

was known at the time as the break-back style of architecture (which many today call a salt box), and though it was built around 1751, Greenfield Village presenters portray it as if it were the 1760s.
A neat piece of trivia that I had heard was that someone measured this entire structure, inside and out, and had a replica made. Now, how cool would that be to be able to do replicate a house like 
this with its unusual shape on your own property!

If I had the money, I can imagine myself also duplicating this house.
And the inside would be reproduced as well. 
Ha! Imagine the living history gatherings I could have, recreating historical discussions such as our thoughts on this 'secret' group who call themselves the Sons of Liberty and their tactics to stop King George from imposing more taxes upon his subjects without representation...and of his responses.
Yes, I have to admit, it does give me a very special feeling knowing that I am in a home that was built before the time of Paul Revere's famous midnight ride, before the Boston Massacre, before the Boston Tea Party, before the Intolerable, Townshend, and Stamp Acts, and even before the French & Indian War...and also to think that these houses of Daggett, Giddings, and Plympton, which now stand inside Greenfield Village, were around during the time of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, the American Revolution, and of the time of the Declaration of Independence! And I have little doubt that discussions of the time involving the above topics of the day had taken place inside these walls by those original owners.
If that doesn't get one's history gene excited, nothing will!
We don't have many actual colonial homes like this around here in Michigan, which is why those that have been relocated to Greenfield Village from New England, such as what you see here once belonging to the Plymptons, Giddings, and Daggetts, are so special. 
And it's also why I have literally thousands of photographs of these homes, especially Daggett. You see, because the good old colony days is rare in these parts, I have to utilize what I have available to me, and because of that, these actual, honest-to-goodness 18th century homes are near and dear to me, and I make sure I visit often. And though many of the pictures are similar, the people and presenters may be different, which also adds greatly to the natural feeling I am trying to convey of you are there.

I don't know...I suppose I also just enjoy placing myself back in time with the varying historians and the natural background; the photographs help to sort of legitimize this travel to the past.
It's late November, and it's time to complete the harvesting of the kitchen garden. 

The harvest, for the most part, is ended, and only a few vegetables await. Cabbages, brussels sprouts, lettuce, and a few late carrots are all that's left to pick.

The autumn clouds loomed overhead and a cool wind was a-blowing as I moved about the garden.

Gigi, a proud Navy veteran, is another of the wonderful presenters at the Village and has been working there for a number of years now, and though you may find her at the Susquehanna Plantation, the Ford Home, or any of the other historic houses, of late she has become one of the mainstays at the Daggett Farm House.
She's a natural there!
And she and I have had numerous wonderful conversations about history - especially everyday life history - and enjoy sharing our knowledge with each other.
One of the things I really enjoy about wearing my period clothing in cooler weather is the opportunity to put on the outer garments that are too hot to wear in the summertime, such as the cloaks you see Gigi and I wearing in this picture.

Another house in the colonial portion of Greenfield Village, one that once belonged to John and Mehetable Giddings, shows the upper middle class city life of the 1760s to counter Daggett's rural farm life. At one time, there used to be a presenter inside both Giddings and Daggett, and the interpreters at both houses would sort of work together to show the differences between the colonial country and colonial city lives of folks living in New England. 
Maybe one day they'll bring that program back...one can hope, right?

For this moment in time, however, what we can do is peak at the the parlor and sitting room through the plexi-glass, and a quick jaunt above stairs to do the same at the bed chambers.

On the plus side, the plexiglass is removed and most of the 1st floor of Giddings is opened during the Harvest weekends and Holiday Nights.

On down the road my daughter and I strolled, and on our left was the Burbank House, where 19th and early 20th century horticulturalist, Luther Burbank, was born. The house itself was built in 1800 and is now used for special visitor crafts.
My daughter posed for me on the back porch.

(If I am in the picture, my daughter was behind the camera, and if she is in the shot, it's me taking it.
If we both are in it, then I snatched up someone I knew to photograph us!
That is, unless we take a selfie together - - - - )


From here, I traveled throughout the rest of the Village, enjoying what I consider to be a beautiful fall atmosphere. Sometimes cloudy days such as this can really add to the period mood of times gone by. Almost ethereal.

Another of my favorite buildings is the Eagle Tavern, from around 1831. Even though it was built sixty years after the time of the American uprising against the Crown, the architectural style harkens back to that Revolutionary period.
With the Eagle Tavern on the left, the road to the 18th century
 on the right, and the beautifully ominous November clouds overhead, the horse and carriage almost gives the viewer an other-worldly feel.
By the way, if you look closely in the driver's seat, you can see yours truly sitting there on the right.
(To me, this photo shows how much my daughter has grown in her photographic capabilities) 

Inside the Tavern~
See? This 1831 structure truly does have that 18th century feel!
The beautifully restored Eagle Tavern once served stage-coach passengers traveling from the east coast of the U.S. to settle in the relatively new state of Michigan or maybe even move further west to Chicago.
It's here where I always enjoy dining on period-correct meals of 1850 by waitstaff who are all dressed in mid-19th century clothing.
This is another amazing way to utilize your sight, sound, smell, and touch...and especially taste, for what we have here is historical perfection in every sense. 

And another picture of my daughter and I, standing on the long porch of the Eagle Tavern. Though she is wearing a period cloak, she has her modern clothing on underneath, so we can kind of get away with having a period look together.
Ha! And the Nike shoes are a dead giveaway!
This one little scene captures so much: to the far left we see, off in the distance, the Firestone Farm. The large structure with the water wheel is the Loranger Gristmill (from 1832). The dark gray building we see a bit further back is the weaving shop, which was built in 1840. The red structure is the Tripp Up & Down Saw Mill from 1855, and the long brown building is replicating another 1850s saw mill.

It seems everywhere I turn, there are so many visions from the past that open up to me, and this road, sort of a "behind the scenes" path that visitors can enjoy, seemed to have, again, the 18th century spilling out all over, even though the buildings were built a half century later.
As we walked along the way there were a couple of very interesting scenes that just sort of popped up on me as I passed the gristmill. This road you see me on here used to be closed off to the public, but has now been opened, and it gives an interesting perspective as we can now view buildings from a different angle.
That's the side of the gristmill you see there, and that very colonial-looking, almost Sleepy Hollow-ish structure is the 1840 weaving shop mentioned above. 

Even my daughter got in on the picture fun, looking mysterious and *almost" forlorn (even though she is not!)

Now, this next photo is me having a little Paint Shop Pro photo software fun.
Since my clothing does not fit with the 1880s style of Firestone farm, I did a little photographic trickery here and replaced Firestone Farm with the more period accurate Daggett Farm house.
To be honest, it does sort of give one an idea of what the Daggett farm may have looked like where it originally stood back in the 1700s.


She is her father's daughter~
Rosalia enjoys her time near the fireplace in the Firestone sitting room. If there is one thing she looks forward to up and beyond everything else on such a cool day in November, it's doing what you see here in this picture, and she makes sure she does it every year.

There was one final stop that I had to make on this last day - - a visit to a good friend, Mr. Fred Priebe. Fred, after 31 years, is retiring from Greenfield Village, and I caught him on his last day there, wonderfully presenting in the world of an 1880s storekeep at the JR Jones General Store, which, though it was built in 1854, is presented as being around the year 1885.
A sort of timeline photo here, but I needed a picture of Fred and I on his last day working as a presenter. Though I've known him as a presenter for pretty much his entire tenure at Greenfield Village, I am proud to say that I now can call him my friend, for we reenact the Civil War era together (can you guess who he portrays?) and we, with our wives, get together every-so-often for dinner and visiting.
Now, Fred will be working a few evenings at the Village during Holiday Nights, but after December 30th, he can enjoy the Village as a visitor.

My friend, thank you for sharing your seemingly infinite historical knowledge and stories for so many years. Your presence will be missed.
(And I am so glad you plan to continue reenacting!)

There you have it, folks!
How I, once again, spent my Black Friday. It's such an enjoyable time, especially when my daughter (and every so often, other living history friends) joins me. She and I have such great fun, and I like to think she will always remember these days with her old man, because I treasure them like little else.

Until next time, see you in time.

~   ~   ~ 
^   ^   ^

I would like to thank the presenters at Greenfield Village for doing such a wonderful job. It's not only those who work at Firestone & Daggett that are amazing - just step into any of the homes here and be prepared for a trip into the past like you've not experienced before by folks dedicated to history.
Thank you.


If you would like to learn how colonials celebrated Christmas, click HERE
If you would like to know how colonials celebrated Thanksgiving, click HERE
There there is the colonial harvest time - click HERE
If you are interested in learning about everyday colonial life, click HERE
If you would like to learn about colonial cooking and food, click HERE
If you ever wondered about how the colonials lit there homes, click HERE
Would you like to know more about the Daggett House? Click HERE
How about the Giddings House? Click HERE















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Friday, December 1, 2017

The Past is Present in our Thanksgiving Traditions

Over the river and through the woods...
(picture taken from inside the tree farm log cabin)
Many believe that Thanksgiving is an over-looked holiday, that Christmas has pretty much claimed it. Well, to an extent, it has. I mean, the Thanksgiving Day parades throughout the country have marching bands playing Christmas tunes, Christmas-themed floats, and nearly every one of them ends with a real live Santa Claus coming to town, right? So what it basically comes down to is Thanksgiving, whether we like it or not, is the official opening of the Christmas Season, and has been since, as near as I can find, around 1920, when the first Thanksgiving Day Parade, hosted by Gimbels, took place in Philadelphia. However, this parade was a much more low-key event, and it was put on seemingly more for the employees to rouse them up before the Christmas season.
Yes, that first parade did have a Santa Claus.
So this goes to show that the ties between Thanksgiving and Christmas are strong and have nearly a century of tradition together.
And to me, tradition is everything. I believe without it we are in sad shape, for it's tradition that builds memories, creates laughter & good times and, simply put, ties us to our families, past & present, in such a way that little else can.
In fact, I'd like to share some of my traditional experiences that occurred during the 2017 Thanksgiving weekend with you. Mind you, I get a few snarky comments sent my way because of how my family and I celebrate this holiday, but it's all taken in good stride. I really don't care what anyone else thinks. We do our holidays in our own special way, different than most others, and have done them in this very same manner since Patty and I got married back in 1985, a dozen years before we began wearing period clothing, and we're not about to stop now.
This particular post will show you how we merge the past with the present in our celebration of Thanksgiving, which was, of course, in a traditional way...well, as traditional as we could make it:
Being the family that we are, we of course churn our own butter, as you see my daughter doing here.
Okay, so she wasn't really churning butter...it's a posed picture, doncha know...but it does make for a fun photo, doesn't it? I suppose it could *almost* be a sort of "what if" picture...you know the kind..."what if they had cell phones in the old days?" Or "what if we still churned butter today?" 
It's also my reply to those who think I am all about "we live just like the pioneers did!"
(Just so you know, yes, my daughter has actually churned butter before at our reenactments, but, no, not on this day)

All ready for our Thanksgiving dinner in our 'Greenfield Village' room. 
We had this addition built back in 1999. You see, I used to be all depressed after visiting the wonderful historic houses at Greenfield Village, so we decided that since we could not afford to buy an old home, we would at least have one room where we could go for our historical solace. 
And this is it.
You see a mix of authentic antiques with newer replicated furniture, both styles still giving it the period look I was hoping for.

The candles are lit!
We eat by candle light often throughout the fall and winter months, but lighting candles on a holiday makes it even more special. When I brought my three-year-old grandson in to see the room lit, he ooo'd and ahh'd with wonder. And I am proud to say that each candle we burn is made of pure beeswax that we hand-dipped ourselves or made with a candle mold.

Eating our Thanksgiving meal by way of candle light has been a long-held tradition in our family, one that my wife and I began back when we got married in 1985. My family, now including my young grandchildren, all look forward to it, for it just seems to give it the perfect touch.
What did we eat?
Why, all the traditional fixin's of turkey, stuffing (real homemade stuffing, with nuts, berries, fruits, and raisins included), rutabaga, mashed potatoes, corn, brussels sprouts, asparagus, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce canned and jellied, apple sauce, and bread. And for dessert we had pumpkin pie (from real pumpkin), apple pie, and cannoli (a traditional Sicilian dessert from a recipe passed down from my Victorian-born grandfather).


Cannoli
Yeah, I know it's very "in" for people to eat more of the non-traditional food on Thanksgiving such as steak, Chinese, a pork roast, or whatever else besides turkey, and that's all well and good for them. But for me, I do prefer the traditional meal mentioned above.

Heading to Greenfield Village is my mental therapy and solace from the 21st century...a sort of catharsis for me. It gives me the dose of medicine I need to survive in this modern world in which I live. But it's here in these strange times that I can also work the past and tradition into my present life outside of Greenfield Village or reenacting.
Such as when we cut down our Christmas Tree.
I can't tell you the comments made to me by acquaintances and even close friends about how crazy my family and I are to actually travel out into the country to a tree farm, take a wagon ride to where our trees of choice are growing, cut one down with a hand saw, then have it tied atop my vehicle.
"Why would you do that when all you have to do is go to the corner lot and get one?"
"You really go through all of that trouble just for a Christmas Tree? We take ours down from the attic and put it up with the lights already attached!"
Not my style, folks. Not at all.
Patty and I went out to cut down our first Christmas Tree during the 1984 season - four years before kids - and we've done it every year since.
We enjoy it each and every time.
In fact, tree cutting day has almost become a holiday in itself for us, and all of my family bundle up warm, pack into the car (now multiple cars), and take the long nearly two hour drive into the middle of Michigan's rural thumb to the best tree cutting place around, Western's Tree Farm in the tiny town of Applegate.
The tree farm cabin built with the logs of trees that once grew on the property.
The owners, Scott & Jill Western, know us well, for we just may very well be their most dedicated and oldest continuing customers. They serve hot chocolate, hot dogs, and chocolate chip cookies inside, and they also sell neat little country Christmas decorations not found at other places.
But perhaps my favorite part of all is the horse and wagon ride out to the trees.
Here is my three year old grandson, very excited to see these beautiful horses and wanting to get on the wagon.
My grandson, my pal.
I love this picture of Ben and I. He really enjoyed the horse-drawn wagon ride and kept on making horse-neighing sounds

By the way, the knit cap you see me wearing was made by my wife from a period 18th century pattern. She made it from raw wool that she cleaned, carded, spun, dyed, and then knitted for me.
Pure 18th century all the way!

This is such a pleasurable outing for us, and it thrills me to no end that my kids and now my grand kids continue to partake in this tradition my wife and I began when it was just she and I.

After searching high and low, we found our perfect Christmas tree: a 7 1/2 foot blue spruce!
That's it! That's the one we all think is best!

With my oldest son stuck working, the job of carrying the tree back to the cabin was left to my other two sons, and they did an admiral job...when they weren't grunting!

Even Paul Anka, our dog, came along with us!
Yep, after a cool trek out into the cold, he needed to warm himself by the fire inside the Western's log cabin.

The following few pictures are of us decorating the tree.
It's so hard to believe that another year has gone by and it's Christmas time once again.
Grandson Ben was all about decorating the tree, and he was so good with the ornaments, some of which were boughten before we even had kids ourselves.

Our granddaughter, Addy, who was born on Christmas Day a couple years ago, was also pretty excited to decorate, and she, too, took great care in handling the old decorations.

My wife helped Addy hang her bulbs.

My daughter holds our newest grandson Liam, who was born this past July, and who also doesn't seem to show much of an interest in the tree yet (lol), but I am certain he will in the coming years.

And here it is, all lit up and ready for Santa!
I think the kids are ready for Santa, too!

I do hope you enjoyed this little "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" post. I realize it is not necessarily historical, but it is rooted in history.
And, anyhow, my next posting will be about my annual Black Friday excursion away from the madness of shopping the day after we give thanks for what we have!
But I do hope that you have your own traditions that can be passed onto other family members, so one day maybe they will say, "Remember when we ..."

Until next time, see you in time.


















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