Welcome to Sturbridge Village!
We have made our way north, leaving Gettysburg to travel the interstates. Much better driving on wider lanes. A typical motorhome is 2 feet wider than your car. It makes back roads a lot of fun.
The tradeoff is total disrepair. Every Interstate I-81, I-83, and I-84 are shockingly bad in the smooth ride category. I-87, although a toll road, was much better. At least my teeth stopped chattering, and the silverware stopped rattling. I-90, from I-87, I kept waiting for the toll booth. There is none. You either have an EZ Pass or they bill you based on your license plate. That is using technology wisely.
We settled in for a few days, needing to try and forget the jarring bumps of travel on the frost heaves of New England. Food, fuel, and fun, well grub and sleep actually.
I did it again!
I made a last-minute decision, you know those stupid things I do while navigating this behemoth. Getting to the RV park, in Sturbridge, a beautiful Thousand Trails™ park, the final road that the Park is on, had no street sign. The Garmin was screaming at me to turn.
Turn here idiot, it said.
It looked more like a county depot entrance where they pile sand and salt. The road unseen, cut back to my right. Without a street sign, I rolled by.
Not good, not good at all.
Against the wishes of my navigator, I attempted a U-turn. A 38-foot motorhome with a towed vehicle has no turning radius: the score, navigator one, driver zero. Ok, better stated, my wife was right!
By then, the navigator and the Garmin were pouting, well, one was mad the other pouting I had failed to follow directions, and we had to wait for a new routing. While we waited, I got the rig straightened out from being across both lanes of travel. The locals clapped. It turned out to be no big deal.
At the moment this happens, it would be akin to being in a submarine and suddenly taking on water. Your brain sees dead-end streets with Freddy Kruger waiting. The Garmin, casually made us turn four right turns, scolded us and said, “Whew, you made it, I really don’t know how you would get out of bed in the morning without my guidance.”
Our next day was going to be one of those historic days I enjoy. Sturbridge Village was next on our list. If you have never been, make it a destination, Covid-19 or not, it was great.
Unfortunately, we had to make an appointment, wear a mask, and follow the rules. Still, the pace was our own strolling through a fully recreated New England village in and about the early 1800s. Over the years, the keepers of such things have brought in authentic buildings from all over New England. Taking them apart, board by board, and reassembled here on site. As a kid, I thought it was a real town, who knew.
Please bear with me for a moment, imagine yourself an adult back in the early 1800s. Fifty years a country, and in between any wars. You are primarily a farmer, that is your life, your livelihood. The recreated town has everything imaginable, even a Walmart. More on this in a minute.
Many shops, a tinsmith, oddly I remember it as a Pewtersmith back in the day.
What day is that you ask?
Well, I walked these hallowed grounds some 50 to 55 years ago on a class trip. The grade I was in was 6th, I believe. The memory was of standing in front of the large white clapboard meeting hall, looking down across the Commons. Everything else was almost new to me.
My quest here was to buy a real Pewter nail, shaped into a ring, from the gift shop. You see, some 50 years ago I failed to buy that ring, for some reason of childhood reactions to not staying with my group, I guess. Yea, I was like a 13-year-old adult. The teacher said back on the bus, and I lost out. I was disappointed, most of my classmates got one, I did not. A few days later, one was offered to me at no cost. I was thrilled to no end.
Nothing in life is free. I should have asked why, the sharp warning from the friend’s father was, you’ll rip your damn finger off wearing that. He had to get rid of the ring. Of course, I ignored the warning and accepted the ring.
This story doesn’t end here, of course. Within a few days, maybe a few weeks, I did precisely as cautioned against. I caught my ring on something. No idea what, but nearly ripped a finger off.
At any rate, I removed the ring to wear a butterfly bandage for a week. YOU see, my parents were not the rush to the hospital types. Flu, measles, chickenpox, mumps were all treated at home in bed for a few days or a week, then you were allowed outside again.
I am fairly sure the only insurance was that school policy for accidents. Doctors still made house calls, well almost. I do remember complaining of a toothache and having to go to a dentist. That was all though.
So back on the farm in the early eighteen hundreds, you farmed, so how did the craftsmen, the tin smith, and shoemaker, make their living? Everyone was a farmer; first, you grew your food and ate it. Beyond that, most everyone had a fall back apprenticed skill. Most teens learned something under a craftsman tutelage. The craftsmen simply took orders, the cobblers, the tinsmith all accepted advance orders.
Interestingly so; the pottery guy took orders all year long. They worked those special orders as time permitted. Understand the pottery dude had to fashion the item, dry it for weeks on the shelf and then work it for sharp edges. Talk about waiting, Amazon Prime, he wasn’t.
The most out of place item was a 25 foot tall, “bottle kiln.” It was called that due to its shape, not what it made. Believe it or not, the pottery guy would make his list of items all year, still farmer first. Most likely, he worked at night and off times when crops were growing. He would dry each hand made item, and store it all year, only lighting the kiln once a year. That most likely took place after harvest before winter. For two days, he would stoke the fire and finally finish his creations to order, first glazing each.
The History on this particular kiln is unique, its not original. It was from a known pottery shop in Connecticut. They found the foundation of the hearth under the grounds, knowing that pottery dude had to have a kiln. They applied mathematics and came up with the apparent design. I told the guy in baggy clothes pretending to be back in History, “it looked like the Apollo landing capsule,” it really did. He said, “well, no one had ever said that before. I said. “it’s yours to use in the future, no charge.”
Back to the Walmart thing, we were now talking, at a proper 6-foot distance, through a mask to a woman in the general store. She was displaying all the wares of the time. Handmade brooms, candles, and such were the thing. She said the farmers wanted utility, not fancy stuff, and pointed to the more unusual items vs. the utility items. In this case, it was beer steins, OK just mugs for drinking from. Each one looked like the next. I very casually said, “so, in essence, you were the first Walmart selling discount junk?”
Once again, no one had said this before, and she laughed and said, “I suppose so.”
My name is now on a list at Sturbridge Village, not a good one either.
Ponder the life, farming, a craft that you make money from. Items you barter, sell in the city or consume. No TV, no radio, just the sun, family, and hard work, your only means of existence is to work.
Our next stop is my oldest son’s driveway, another undisclosed location. It is time to meet the grandchild, spoil her and leave. We are in hiding from the Sherriff of Sturbridge for making sarcastic puns of the stories they tell.