Learning about the past
TROY - What was hard work for children in the 19th century was fun and educational for kids in the 21st century Friday at Alparon Park in Troy.
The Bradford County Heritage Association (BCHA) held the final day of two-day, new event called "Farm Days 1866," at the Farm Museum and Heritage Village. It was inspired by the book, "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and offered a glimpse into the way that kids once worked around the farm. The program was open to fourth-graders, with children from several districts attending.
According to Joie Brasington, vice president of the association, the planned activities showed many of the tasks of daily farm life from that time period.
She said Debbie Lutz of Troy Township and her sister, Barb Barrett, spearheaded the program.
On Friday, Lutz said the association had a great response from teachers and students in the various districts, and everyone was having a great day. She said the majority of the children read "Farmer Boy," which helped them understand, appreciate, and assimilate what they saw at the event.
Eileen Anderson of Watsontown, a re-enactor, played a Confederate washer woman. She taught kids the old-fashioned way of washing clothes, with a washboard, wooden tub, and lots of hard work.
"You've got to watch your knuckles, because it's hard on your hands," she noted.
According to Anderson, people used to work together on washing.
"It was a family affair on Monday," she said. She shared a song designed to get everyone involved.
"This is the way we wash our clothes," she sang.
"Everyone gets involved in everything on the prairie," she commented. "Everything was a joint effort."
People didn't buy soap back then, but made their own. Anderson had a big bar of soap, noting that it was made from the lard and fat of a 700-pound pig.
She explained that the wash water was warmed up in old times with a rock or canon ball that was heated. She demonstrated this method with a cannonball.
Wyalusing teacher Nick Maghamez was impressed with the day.
"I think it's fantastic," he said. "The kids get to see the history, interact with the history."
Beverly Hunter was showing children how water was carried, with a yoke across the shoulders and buckets hanging on each side.
"Your weight goes on your shoulders," she told one student who tried out this method. "Walk normal."
Connie Boyles was showing children how to garden the old-fashioned way. Kids could till the soil with an old cultivator.
She said children were curious about the old-time chores.
"One boy asked, 'do you get paid?'" she said. She told him that the children back then simply were able to eat, as a result of their efforts, rather than get paid.
"They had to work to survive," she noted.
Boyles hoped the event would also be held next year.
"I think it's great, and the kids seemed to be so interested in it," she said.
Sylvia Roy, a former teacher, was in the Thomas School House, telling children about going to school in a one-room school house.
"They didn't know quite what to think," she said. "They couldn't understand why all these people in the same grades were in one room."
One student, Ashley Dalton, said she thought the school house was little.
"I feel bad for the kids because they had to do farm chores," she said.
Bill Brasington, a board member with the association, said that a little more than 700 students took part in the two-day event.
"I thought it was fabulous, it was a great educational opportunity for the kids," he said. "There were so many hands-on demonstrations, and very knowledgeable people. The children reacted well to it. There were a lot of smiles, and lot of energy." He said he was very impressed with one demonstrator, Andy Lyons of Roseville, Tioga County, Pa., who had a full-grown team of oxen pulling logs. Brasington noted that these animals can easily be used by kids.
"From the ('Farmer Boy') book, the 9-year-old boy would have easily been able to lead them and control them," he said. He said the children had a lot of good questions, which he said is a sign that the teachers prepared the students well for the event.
Brasington said the association hopes to continue the event "for many years in the future."
Students from Troy, Wyalusing, Loyalsock, Wellsboro, and Muncy school districts; students from St. Agnes, Trinity Lutheran, and Mountain View Christian schools; and home-schooled children attended. Honor students from Troy Area School District and FFA students from Canton and Troy area school districts volunteered, and workers at the Martha Lloyd Training Center at the CopperTree Shop stuffed envelopes for packets that were mailed to the schools, and helped volunteer at stations.
Financial donations included a grant from the United Way and contributions from Sylvania Lions, Warner Tractor, Dandy Mini Mart, Leona Meats, Country View Farms, First Citizens Community Bank, and Hoover Hardware.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.