Part 3 (the final installment) of Charlie and the Magical History Tour (Part 1: https://historyeducator.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/charlie-and-the-magical-history-tour/; Part 2: https://historyeducator.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/performance-review-professor-henry-higgins/)
This blog post was supposed to be about how developing friendships through Charles Shaughnessy led to a group of people I met through Charlie visiting historic sites during the “My Fair Lady” trip. Obviously, I should have made sure that everyone would be well enough to participate in the “magical history tour” (and, as someone who has a compromised immune system, I do truly appreciate it when people opt out of spreading the plague) and that travel wouldn’t be virtually impossible. But this trip still was an adventure, even if it didn’t turn out quite the way I planned—and I did still manage to meet some more fans of Charles Shaughnessy, even if they didn’t get to experience me dragging them from site to site (only my mother had to endure that pleasure–and even she opted to wait at the Visitor Center instead of pushing her walker through Plimoth Plantation).
My first new “Charlie friend” who I met in person was Candice Spears Cossel, a professional photographer from Miami who was in town for a Boudoir marathon and went to the same performance of “My Fair Lady” that I saw (and, in fact, sat in the row behind me). Candice was kind enough to take a photo of me with Charlie (unfortunately, the one I took of Candice with Charlie didn’t turn out). We would have met up in Boston to do some sightseeing, but the fates conspired against us—and she got to see the historic stuff I would have liked to see, while I got caught in traffic, misdirected by MapQuest, and ended up at the U.S.S. Constitution—certainly an important historic site, but when you’re an early American historian looking for photos to enliven lectures for a course on the American Revolution, well, it’s not the same. And it was at the Charlestown Navy Yard section of Boston National Historical Park (where the U.S.S. Constitution is docked) where I was told that it wasn’t possible to drive from that location to the other visitor center for Boston NHP in downtown Boston (the person staffing the visitor center desk only knew routes for public transportation).
Even with the assorted traveling adventures (missed exits, changed destinations, an unexpected tour of Beverly, Massachusetts), Thursday’s “magical history tour” turned out acceptably, even if I was unable to “connect” with another Charlie fan. Of course, these misadventures also meant that when we went to Adams National Historical Park, we missed the guided tour of the historic homes by ten minutes—so, instead of waiting two hours for the next tour, I took photos of the models of the houses in the visitor center and bought a book about them. Next was the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Boston. This site wasn’t originally on the itinerary, but, having recently visited the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, I wanted to compare the two museums. There were some similarities; if one uses these two museums as representative examples, apparently all presidential museums have a portion of the Berlin Wall (of course, for Bush it’s because he was president when the Berlin Wall came down; for Kennedy, it was because it went up while he was president). Bush’s museum focused more on his entire life (especially his career in public service), while Kennedy’s focused on his presidency. And, of course, it was at the Bush Library where I got my picture taken in the Oval Office…and if I had been able to do the same on Thursday, the only difference would have been that I wore shorts in Texas and slacks in Boston (and the knee brace was visible in Texas). Yes, I was wearing the same polo shirt for the two visits to presidential museums, so any security cameras that were operating caught me wearing the Coffey Buzz polo shirt.
The next stop would have been the Freedom Trail and Boston NHP—but I’ve already told the story of that misadventure. The final stop of the day was Salem Maritime National Historic Site, which also has two visitor centers—the one I stopped at, and the “real one” that you get to by following the red line on the sidewalk, something that is not recommended if you are driving a car (and no, I did not drive on the sidewalk; even my visually impaired mother would have noticed that).
Next up was Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth Rock, and Mayflower II on Friday, June 17. This was the trip that was supposed to include four other “Charlie friends.” But, well, the fates conspired against us, and a combination of travel exhaustion and illness prevented them from accompanying me on this journey. So they missed out on the fun of me getting misdirected by MapQuest (for future reference: there is a big difference between Rt. 3A and Rt. 3). But I did take lots of photos, including Plymouth Rock (where the sign told the REAL story of the rock–no, the Pilgrims did not step off the Mayflower, carve the date ‘1620’ into the rock, and then build a Greek portico around it).
After that I strolled over to Mayflower II, the recreated vessel that in 1957 reenacted the Pilgrims’ voyage to the New World (with a few exceptions–the reenactment only included male sailors, and they did not encounter the same North Atlantic storms as had the “Pilgrims” and “strangers”). Then it was off to Plimoth Plantation, which included two historic areas: a Wampanoag village and the 1627 interpretation of Plymouth (in other words, what the community would have looked like in 1627, at least what they think it looked like). The Wampanoag village was quite interesting, as Native Peoples did the interpretation–and signs warned visitors how they should approach and address the Native Peoples so that they are properly respected.
Next was the recreated village. I had been to Plymouth once before–in May 1970, before my family moved from Enfield, Connecticut to Houston, Texas. The village itself had not changed appreciably since then, but it was different to experience it as a college history professor who teaches about that time period (and who has experience as a costumed interpreter) than it was as a 5th grader. At Plimoth, the interpreters do “first person interpretation” (unlike what I did at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site or Daniel Boone Homestead); with first person interpretation, the interpreter “becomes” a character from the past–in other words, he or she portrays an actual “Pilgrim” from the time period, and he or she appears quite confused if you are talking about something “modern.” For instance, at the one house Samuel Fuller’s wife (she didn’t give her first name; she was just Goodwife Fuller) asked all of us where we were from. When I answered Pennsylvania, she had a confused look that she had never heard of it. Then I remembered where I was and asked her if she had heard of the Iroquois and the Seneca; at this time, the part of Pennsylvania where I currently live had not yet been settled by the English (and, in fact, would not be purchased from the Iroquois until after the American Revolution). At the next house I visited, I decided to “play along” and speak with them as if I was a traveler coming through town during that time period–in other words, interact with them as if I, too, were in 1627. I don’t think they expected that at all, and I did not “out myself” as an early American historian (after all, they did not have historians of New England at that time, other than John Smith and William Bradford–and even Bradford’s History of Plimoth Plantation was still being written). It was then that I realized that it was best that the larger group could not participate in this part of the adventure, because I had become the obnoxious historian that everyone hates and probably would have spoiled their experience.
Before heading back home, we took another crack at exploring Salem–this time not only trying to follow the red line to the National Park Service Visitor Center, but also checking out the witch stuff (after all, Salem is predominantly known for the witch hunt in the early 1690s). Salem is a hoot; it’s a town that prides itself on its witchcraft heritage. Once again, I failed to “connect” with any “Charlie friends,” but I know a couple had already visited, and others were planning on touring later in the day. Two particular stops were particularly interesting: the Salem Wax Museum, which had a rather interesting interpretation (polite way of saying “traditional”) way of explaining the witchcraft hysteria in 1692. Then I went to the Salem Witch Village Museum, where my tour guide introduced herself as a practicing witch (no, she wasn’t wearing a black pointed hat, although they did sell those in the gift shop). As a future reference…avoid this museum. It would have to work its way up to be cheesy, from the defense of witchcraft (according to the guide, everyone is a practicing witch) to the stereotypical portrayal of Pilgrims/New England colonists in the exhibit on the pressing of Giles Corey. At the end of the tour, visitors are asked to rub the dragon’s belly for good luck…
By the way, I did finally get to meet up with “the gang” who were unable to participate in the “Plymouth Adventure” and experience Salem with me:
Overall, it was a great three days of touring Massachusetts, even if I couldn’t “connect” with some Charlie fans and see history through their eyes like I had at Morristown. Then again, maybe JoAnn had warned them about what it’s like to participate in the “magical history tour”…