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RebeccaMI
03-14-2007, 10:27 AM
Sometimes I get discouraged and I start to wonder: Why should I bother to be as period-correct as possible if nobody notices or cares? Spectators don't really pay much attention at all to civilians, at least not at reenactments I attend. The spectators are mostly there to see the military and the battle. Does anybody else ever feel like this? How period-correct do you try to be, and why? (In other words, what is "the point" of correctness for you?)

Rob Weaver
03-14-2007, 10:45 AM
Although my impression is military and not civilian, I concur with your sentiments. Most of an impression is never seen by spectators, and by few reenactors. While having a fully-developed backstory can be an interesting exercise, unless you carry, wear or use a material item related to it, it is going to be invisible. My "point of correctness," then, is really for myself. I want to be able to live comforably for the weekend using items, expressions, songs, etc that are period, used in a period manner. Most of the time, no one notices. You'll be pleasantly surprised when they do.

netnet81
03-14-2007, 11:09 AM
I try to be is authentic as I can. I do this for myself mostly for several reasons: I enjoy the research, I enjoy the challenge of proving I can do it, and otherwise it's just camping in funny clothes and I reeeeaaaallllyyyy don't like to camp.

The costumer for Gone With the Wind used very expensive lace on the ladies petticoats, not just the stars, but even the one in the background. When asked why as no one would see them, he stated "but the actors will know it's there". Samething with authenticity in reenacting; maybe no one will see me for the weekend, and if they do they are too busy taking pictures of the ladies in bright pink polyester satin ball gowns with fake curls and their battenburg parasols to notice me in my not so flamboyant correct dress, but I know I've done a good job and that is what is important to me.

GaWildcat
03-14-2007, 11:13 AM
....if (for instance) I'm wearing period drawers? I was asked this by my wife as she was sewing them up for me. My answer.. I will. Alot of details that we go to are indeed lost on the general public, but its little things that we as reenactors take pride in. Your general 'tater doesnt care that your musket is defarbed, your buttonholes hand stitched or your seams are hand felled. They dont care that you eat out of your haversack all weekend, unless they catch you making up a batch of skillygalee, cush or ****-fire stew. They get glassy eyed if you start to explain the details to them. In short, while we do this for spectators at mainstream events, in the end, isnt it also for us to try to get the experiance?

Dont get discouraged! Keep it up if its only for yourself... and get the reward of personal satisfaction that Your doing it right, or right as you can!

CSArefugee
03-14-2007, 11:30 AM
My reasoning for being authentic is several fold.

1. We would be doing our ancestors an injustice if we didn't represent our past correctly. While the average "tater" doesn't know, I do and know my 5th g-grandmother is looking down from above and beaming with pride.

2. We would be doing the "taters" an injustice if we didn't make every effort to present the past correctly, including clothing. Sure, they won't see my corset or other undergarments, but you can't get that period correct look with out them. While you are always going to have the farbie barbies, you can politely point out that while their ensemble may be "pretty," the Gone With the Wind look is Hollywood's meager attempt to represent what was worn during the Civil War. I don't look like Scarlet because that isn't how women dressed.

3. Safety. Those huge dresses are a fire hazard. I tend to like events where I can get my hands dirty, which usually involves open hearth cooking or laundry, so for safety I wear a normal cotton dress. I am not a fro fro type of gal, so that reflects in my CW clothing.

4. My ego. I take pride in knowing I am wearing the required undergarments, my clothing is of an authentic material and make and I research my persona and adapt her to fit the event I am attending. I don't mind being in the back ground and not having people following my every move taking my picture.

To me, it all boils down to how important you deem accuracy to be. It is a top priority for me, regardless of whether or not the average "tater" knows or not. I use the farbie barbies to my advantage, politely I might add. I will mention to folks that while her outfit is pretty, here is why it isn't 100% correct. Many times they are receptive, many times they are not.

Just my two cents, for what it is worth.

Mary Beth

Ephraim_Zook
03-14-2007, 12:07 PM
Sometimes I get discouraged and I start to wonder: Why should I bother to be as period-correct as possible if nobody notices or cares? Spectators don't really pay much attention at all to civilians, at least not at reenactments I attend. The spectators are mostly there to see the military and the battle. Does anybody else ever feel like this? How period-correct do you try to be, and why? (In other words, what is "the point" of correctness for you?)

Rebecca,

Two approaches, reduced to their simplest:

(1) I want to experience life in the 19th century for a weekend. I want to go home with a greater understanding of the time period, including experiencing clothing of the 1860s, cooking in the period and early Victorian customs and behavior and so forth. When the weekend is over, I want to believe that I have really been a time traveller.

(2) I want to pretend that I'm in the 19th century between 9 am and 5 pm for a weekend and give that impression to others. It's uncomfortable and inconvenient to wear clothes similar to those that they wore and no one can see under my dress anyhow so I won't give up my maidenform. It's so much easier to heat up Dinty Moore for dinner than to learn something about 19th century menus and cooking methods and then put that knowledge into practice. Etc. When the weekend is over, I go home with the realization that I have been half participant and half spectator, and I'm cool with that.

Try going to an event which has no spectators. Stop thinking about what the spectators are thinking and concentrate on what you are thinking. You are the one who should notice and care. The heck with the rest of them. If you can get up in the morning at an event, look around you, think that you have seen your surroundings before and then realize that you have -- in Brady photographs, then you have seen the elephant.

hanktrent
03-14-2007, 12:07 PM
Simple reason: I'd be bored if I didn't try. It's a challenge. It's fun to learn new things and try to apply them. And pretty much what Rob Weaver said. I'm just happy to find events where other reenactors aren't actively discouraging attempts at accuracy.

To my surprise, I've generally found, though, that there's always someone who notices or is impressed by something--often what you'd least expect. I was wearing a shirt and overshirt at a windy oceanfront event, and one fellow was impressed that I was wearing two shirts. They used to do that back then, you know! At another event, a gun collector wanted to examine the marks on my (borrowed) gun up close, but nobody cared I was wearing two shirts that day too! At another event, of all the things I did, what impressed one fellow the most was that I took a Harper's Weekly reprint and stuffed it inside my coat lining for extra warmth. It's funny how there's no predicting, and it's usually something that you don't even think is noteworthy.

But I don't really care if anyone notices or not; in fact other reenactors or the public wouldn't become aware of some things under average circumstances, like period drawers or those five years back in the 1840s that I spent in the state penitentiary. ;)

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

NoahBriggs
03-14-2007, 12:11 PM
While the spectators may not necessarily glom over the details and finer points as much as we do, I have observed that those of us who dress correctly - and more importantly, comport ourselves correctly - tend to receive overall compliments from the spectators, enen if it's not to our face.

Spectators are pretty savvy people. They know when battles are so goofy they cannot take it seriously. They get the idea that woman over there is a "farby Barbie", and the other one is not. They may not comment on your impression out loud, but they can sense who went to the effort to "git 'er right".

I now reenact for me and the original cast. I make it an effort to have the right material culture - from the skin out, nose to toes, because the overall impression is, quite literally, the first impression and sets the tone for interaction. This includes the wallet, the pocket trash, the hanky, everything. You never know what you are going to find yourself discussing on the street or in the field.

bob 125th nysvi
03-14-2007, 01:28 PM
I find visiting and interacting with the civilians a fascinating experience and a diversion from the impending battle, as I'm sure real soldiers did when they had the chance.

I enjoy watching the children play period games, or the cooking and other activities. I enjoy interacting with a civilian who knows how to play the part.

And to be honest I can't tell an authentic bonnet from an inauthentic one (But then I can't tell a modern gucci dress from a prada dress either) so the 'details' are lost even on me.

I think as a civilian you face the same question we soldiers face, what level of authenticity is comfortable for YOU. Not anyone else.

Georgiana
03-14-2007, 07:33 PM
I understand what you are all saying about how sometimes it feels like it's not worth the bother of being period correct if the spectators don't notice. But I just want to point out that maybe one of the big reasons spectators don't notice is that most civilians tend to be "background color" at events. When I think of the reenactments I attended over the years as a spectator the civilians seems like a sea of women floating back and forth in hoopskirts--with an occasional civilian man or child thrown in for variety. Before I got involved in reenacting I wondered why most civilians weren't "doing" anything from the period, now that I am a reenactor I am still wondering the same thing. We spend too much time caught up in the old debate of justifying why we are there and not just living the time period we are trying to portray. If you are actively being seen in a period role, spectators will notice you. I am not saying the public will totally appreciate your efforts at correctness, but sometimes you just have be like a Southern Baptist--just grab 'em and get them interested. They will probably remember you long after they have forgotten the Scarlett O'Hara wannabes!

I understand that I am probably just preaching to the choir here anyway because most you probably already have a well worked out impression. Just keep focused on what you are doing and don't let it get you down.
If a Southern Baptist preacher can save one soul at a camp meeting, he's happy.

G.

bill watson
03-14-2007, 09:36 PM
Not to go all philosophical on you or anything, but: The reason you do anything correctly is for the sake of doing it correctly.

It is an idea somewhat at odds with our culture's pragmatic view that mastery of a skill or activity is only necessary to accomplish some other thing. Knowing enough gardening to avoid killing the rose bushes is "good enough" to keep the rose bushes alive. Knowing what to do to maximize the ultimate gardening potential of your back yard requires a lot more immersion in gardening lore and more material support of various types. This is primarily of value just to you and me, but the visitor to your garden is undoubtedly aware that whoever created it really threw themselves into it and might correctly deduce that I have a limited interest in the topic.

Sorry if that's off on a tangent; blame the cough syrup.

redleggeddevil
03-15-2007, 05:58 AM
I agree that, more often than not, a higher degree of accuracy goes unnoticed by the public (and, alas, far too many fellow reenactors). I have found, however, that every once in a while there is a payoff.

A recent example was a recent presentation I did for a local sixth grade class. I brought my very best stuff, eager to show off both my kit and my knowledge. The kids were about as impressed as sixth graders can ever be, but it was one little detail that made it all work.

I had mentioned a popular song of the period and how it reflected the taste and interests of the time. It is not a well-known song, and so nobody in the room had ever heard of it before.

One kid raised her hand and said "Can you sing it for us?" I have no idea if she was genuinely interested or just being a smartass, but I said "Yes, I can."

And I did. I do not have a beautiful voice, but it is plenty loud. I practically made the windows shake as I looked out on a sea of stunned faces.

When I finished, there was a spontaneous burst of applause, the first I have ever received in 25 years of such programs.

That made it all worthwhile. Having that detail in my bag of tricks made all the time and expense pay off, and it got even a bunch of jaded suburban kids to clap their hands.

I try to be accurate chiefly for the satisfaction I derive from the undertaking, but then comes a magic moment...

KarinTimour
03-15-2007, 07:03 AM
I try to be as authentic as I can be to experience what they did in these clothes, to experience how the clothes work as a system, to actually feel how they enhance my experience of cooking, laundry, etc. The first time I was housed in a period house in March and the Yankees (before marching off)burnt up all the wood, I discovered just how much deadfall I can carry while wearing an apron if I use the apron as an attached carrying sling. It was a small thing, but one of the highlights of that event for me.

As so many have already said so well, first I do it for me, but the spectators who notice can really make your day. Several times in the South I've had very old people come up to me with tears in their eyes and say "When I saw you, it brought my mother/grandmother/great-grandmother back to me, -- for a moment she was alive again."

Those are minutes that make your day.

Karin Timour
Period Knitting -- Socks, Sleeping Hats, Balaclavas
Warm. Durable. Documented.
Atlantic Guard Soldiers' Aid Society
Email: ktimour@aol.com

BobSullivanPress
03-15-2007, 08:59 AM
Maybe I'm crazy, but I really do. Now I'm a sutler, but for many years I was in the ranks. I try to dress as authentically as possible during events, even though being in sutler row I'm surrounded by a sea of modern display racks, rubbermaid containers and folding tables.

But I still look at my sutler business this way...

If a sutler is standing there with his light blue or light gray pants stuffed into fringed moccasin boots, and has modern suspenders clipped to his moder pants stuffed into those boots, and tells you how authentic his wares are, well, maybe you'd be a bit skeptical. I know I was when I was reenacting.

On the other hand, if you see someone dressed well and they're telling you that they sell authentic stuff, you might be more inclined to believe them. I know I would (and did).

So to me, trying to dress the part and trying to keep most of the modern stuff hidden away during the day might just add to my claim that I sell good stuff. I want you to walk into my tent, look at me and think, "That guy looks just like pictures of sutlers I've seen in books. Just as shifty and low-down as those guys looked." :)

And that's why I do it.

Rob Weaver
03-15-2007, 09:19 AM
One kid raised her hand and said "Can you sing it for us?" I have no idea if she was genuinely interested or just being a smartass, but I said "Yes, I can."

And I did. I do not have a beautiful voice, but it is plenty loud. I practically made the windows shake as I looked out on a sea of stunned faces.

When I finished, there was a spontaneous burst of applause, the first I have ever received in 25 years of such programs.

...
What did you sing? (And I'm betting it wasn't "The Maid of Amsterdam ;) ) I find that songs, books, poems, literature in general are a big part of my "character prep," if you will. We military types can get blinders on and give the impression that we had no lives whatsoever before 1861, except the occasionally mentioned "folks back home." I listen to a lot of period stuff, and being somewhat musically able, I can play a good bit easily. Singing period songs, or whistling them if you're busy or don't know all the words, is an important detail. "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" is fun to whistle. I read a lot of prewar 19th century stuff. Poe is my favorite American author, a man of great talent and versatility, although I've developed an odd fondness for Fenimore Cooper. Then, of course, there's Melville. "The Whale," "Typee..." I don't really like the transcendentalists, but I really feel I should be aware of their writings as they were intimately associated with the abolishionist movement.

bill watson
03-15-2007, 11:07 AM
Yes, what song did you sing?

If I did that it would empty the room and possibly the school. I'm loud and even more off key than that tone-deaf woman someone tricked into performing on "American Idol." :-)

redleggeddevil
03-15-2007, 01:19 PM
I have to confess that, in the program I referenced earlier, I was not talking about the ACW. Rather, I was doing a program on late 17th/early 18th century Florida, specifically piracy. As such, the song I sang was "The Downfall of Piracy" (lyrics by Benjamin Franklin).

As to 19th century music, my favorite songs are obscure, sentimental tunes-- "General Munro" and "Bridget Flynn" from Ireland and "Bonny Woodhall" from Scotland (a killer-- it makes "By The Hush/Paddy's Lament" sound like Metallica).

Yes, I am one of that most-dreaded sub-species: Reenactorus Melifluous, the guy who will burst into song at the drop of a hat unless physically restrained.

southern_belle1861
03-15-2007, 07:51 PM
The reason I do it correctly is because its correct. hehe

No really, I love doing the research and looking exactly like they did. I don't remember who said it (I think it may have been Mrs. Clark) but they said "I want to look like I stepped out of the 1860's. Not like a reenactor." I also like sewing :)

I have been a spectator long before I before I became a reenactor. I DID notice the people who were dressed right and the ones who were trying to be Scarlett O'Hara! I find it sad that the impression that people get of CW civilans is that they were all just people who dressed funny and hung around the Army camps :(

Anyway, I also like being around other people that make you feel as though you have been transported back in time!

Robert A Mosher
03-15-2007, 08:58 PM
These are all excellent comments and I thought to add my two cents to the chorus, when it suddenly struck me that perhaps the burden should be on those trying to answer a slightly different question, "what is the point of incorrectness?" Why deliberately go out and do it wrong?

Robert A. Mosher

toptimlrd
03-15-2007, 10:39 PM
So to me, trying to dress the part and trying to keep most of the modern stuff hidden away during the day might just add to my claim that I sell good stuff. I want you to walk into my tent, look at me and think, "That guy looks just like pictures of sutlers I've seen in books. Just as shifty and low-down as those guys looked." :)

And that's why I do it.


Bob,

You really need to work on that shifty look, every time I see you you are way too accomodating, friendly, and willing to be a friend for anyone to mistale you for a "real" sutler.

Phil
03-16-2007, 08:41 PM
I don't mean to paraphrase the old joke, but if no one notices nor cares how correct your impression is, are you going to the wrong events?

Brian Wolle
03-17-2007, 01:32 AM
only I question whether it's only a PHYSICAL thing.

In other words

It's a better impression when someone has the veneer (things you can actually SEE), not the depth in details, but utterly CONVINCES you that they are someone from whatever century they're doing.

How true an impression is, is not based solely on how much paraphenalia they've acquired, but on actually getting a "feel" for the times.

Too many reenactors have no idea what happened before the war, for instance.

Or they act like they know more than the newspapers of the time. MacClellan is the perfect example. Most of the Army of the Potomac worshipped him. Do you see even a slight bit of that in anyone? I never have in thirty years.

I say you are not out there to be an historian. You are out there to be a soldier of the times only. If this is September 15th, 1862, you don't know what's going to happen in the next couple days. You're just probably ecstatic that Little Mac is back.

reb64
03-17-2007, 01:35 AM
[QUOTE=Ephraim_Zook]Rebecca,

Two approaches, reduced to their simplest:

(1) I want to experience life in the 19th century for a weekend. I want to go home with a greater understanding of the time period, including experiencing clothing of the 1860s, cooking in the period and early Victorian customs and behavior and so forth. When the weekend is over, I want to believe that I have really been a time traveller.

try this impression and see if no notices!

hanktrent
03-17-2007, 08:39 AM
only I question whether it's only a PHYSICAL thing.

In other words

It's a better impression when someone has the veneer (things you can actually SEE), not the depth in details, but utterly CONVINCES you that they are someone from whatever century they're doing.

I absolutely agree that that's the goal of improving the accuracy of one's impression, but I find it's the part that other reenactors discourage the most, unless you choose events so carefully that you're limited to only a few per year.

The problems arise because if you're a century apart from everyone else, you've got little in common with them, except on the most superficial level--the weather, what's immediately in front of you (assuming it's period), etc. You can do a convincing portrayal as a stand-alone thing, but trying to relate and make friends and open up is difficult without either...

a) dominating every conversation to turn it to what you want to talk about. That works fine with visitors, because they expect you to do the talking, but with fellow reenactors, it's just rude and annoying, and difficult for a shy or quiet person anyway.

or

b) being polite and friendly by listening and trying to get interested in the other reenactors, which constantly keeps the focus on their modern life and mindset, if that's what they want.

And that's not even touching on the problem of convincing everyone that you're really who you seem to be, except they assume you're that way in modern life for real.

So what's the solution? To tie this in to what Phil said, what are some upcoming events this year where one can try to take one's impression to that level, with the support of others?

Immortal 600 at Fort Pulaski was definitely one of them, but at another upcoming "right event," the surgeon finally said it probably wasn't worth me coming to portray a wounded man, because the hospital wouldn't really want that type of accuracy most of the time.

What events do you-all recommend, preferably for civilian portrayals? Or is there a better option than a) and b) above?

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

netnet81
03-17-2007, 10:03 AM
What events do you-all recommend, preferably for civilian portrayals? Or is there a better option than a) and b) above?

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Henkel Square, Round Top Texas, in September.

hanktrent
03-17-2007, 11:19 AM
Henkel Square, Round Top Texas, in September.

If I wasn't already committed to an 1888 veterans reunion in Gettysburg that same weekend, I'd be there! But I sure hope lots of others take advantage of the opportunity.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

RebeccaMI
03-18-2007, 05:48 PM
That may indeed be the case, Phil, but when the events where no one seems to care about the civilians and/or their level of correctness are all you have available to attend, it can get discouraging. I'm sure there are plenty of "hard-core" events in terms of correctness and spectator interest in the same, but they don't seem to be around southwest MI, and I can't afford to travel long distances to go to reenactments.

netnet81
03-18-2007, 07:49 PM
That may indeed be the case, Phil, but when the events where no one seems to care about the civilians and/or their level of correctness are all you have available to attend, it can get discouraging. I'm sure there are plenty of "hard-core" events in terms of correctness and spectator interest in the same, but they don't seem to be around southwest MI, and I can't afford to travel long distances to go to reenactments.

That is exactly what we were finding in Texas. We had plenty of heritage festivals to attend and some "on Yeah, the civilians...we'll have tea" events. So now we are attempting our own. That might be what you have to do. If there are no parties you want to go to, have your own. :)

hanktrent
03-18-2007, 08:19 PM
but they don't seem to be around southwest MI, and I can't afford to travel long distances to go to reenactments.

Can you get to Frankfort, KY the weekend of Aug. 10-12? That weekend is the all-civilian Kentucky Trial event http://cw186165.homestead.com/TrialIndex.html

If driving isn't an option, if you can afford an $86 bus ticket to Lexington, KY, we'll pick you up and give you a ride to the event site. You don't need anything but your basic clothes and personal items, since period food, bedding, and lodging is provided by the event. For more information, contact Linda Trent at lindatrent@zoomnet.net

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

RebeccaMI
03-19-2007, 09:50 AM
Wow, that's very generous of you. I will have to think about it.

If I did come, I think I'd be worried that: #1 I wouldn't have enough clothing and #2 what I have wouldn't be correct enough.

NoahBriggs
03-19-2007, 10:41 AM
One of the beauties of the event like this is that prior to said event the newer folks are assigned a mentor, whose job is to smooth out anxieties and provide guidance on proper material culture.

If you do not feel comfortable speaking at a first-person immersion event, that's cool. Shy people existed back then, too!

Hank and Linda Trent are great mentors. Liz Clark is also a great mentor. Forgive me if I do not mention other people's names, (Monday morning cerebral flatulence) but basically you would have a lot of good folks helping you create and research a character and getting your material culture up to speed. It's easier than you might realize.

hanktrent
03-19-2007, 10:41 AM
#1 I wouldn't have enough clothing and #2 what I have wouldn't be correct enough.

#1: No different than any other event. It's not really about clothes. You only need one set of indoor clothes, except maybe for an extra change of undies if you want. Typical middle/working class stuff is fine. Inn staff is really what Linda needs now I think, so even if you're supposedly living full-time at the inn, the event can assign you a trunk or chest full of generic stuff that's your "other things" you aren't using this weekend or in this weather.

#2: Well, it kinda goes with the territory, that events where accuracy is appreciated, tend to have people who worry about accuracy. :D But even never having seen you, I'd be really surprised if what you had wouldn't do just fine, or with at most minor tweaks. There's lots of time before the event to discuss privately individually what you have, what you're worried about, quick-and-easy fixes if necessary, etc. By the time you showed up at the event, all that would be squared away.

If you're interested, send Linda an email. And that goes for anyone else too, of course, who has a civilian impression and would like to attend.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Spinster
03-19-2007, 03:13 PM
Rebecca,

One decent work dress, aprons and extra underpinnings will get you through any weekend event of this sort unless a real disater occurs. I used to pack all kinds of plunder under the heading of 'what if I set my dress on fire", and then realized that in all these years, the worst I've done is scorch a hemline.

My personal best is currently 4 days in the same dress. I considered going to Banks Grand Retreat with only one dress, but figured seven days was pressing the issue a bit.

Folks who aren't paying attention to the realities of 19th century life think they have to fill their closets in order to portray that life.

Folks who know a lot fill their heads instead.

Ephraim_Zook
03-20-2007, 08:20 AM
Terre, you've come up with a keeper. Better copyright it fast aforn it's all over the web.

"Folks who aren't paying attention to the realities of 19th century life think they have to fill their closets in order to portray that life.

Folks who know a lot fill their heads instead."

regards,
Ron

Spinster
03-20-2007, 08:44 AM
Ron,

You have my permission to snag it as a signature line for the OTB. You know we don't copyright such things there. And its where we store the real information.

As for filling closets, I learned a lesson there too. I thought I needed 5 pair of drawers for the 7 days of the civilain side of Banks Grand Retreat. My house ate 2 pair, and another pair went traveling. Down to 2 pair, I snagged a pair of Sister's old ones, before her 200 pound weight loss. They wrapped around my waist twice, but were other wise satisfactory.

In the end, when I shook out the bags last night, I had worn 2 pair drawers, a linen chemise and a cotton one, 3 pair of stockings (mostly at the same time), one light cotton dress for a day of touring, a saque and petticoat that quickly became just another layer under the wool dress, two more wool petticoats, and one badly sprung corset--and that oiled silk rain coat Mrs. Simpson made for me in trade for my chicken cage. Now there was a fine bargain if I ever saw one.

hanktrent
03-20-2007, 08:44 AM
Terre, you've come up with a keeper. Better copyright it fast aforn it's all over the web.

Too late.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Ephraim_Zook
03-20-2007, 09:57 AM
Nice guy, Hank. ;-)

Guess I'll have to come up with my OWN clever quotable quote.

ElizabethClark
03-20-2007, 10:02 AM
Rebecca, I think you'll find that the group working on the Trial event is very willing to mentor. I'm still on board in "clothing mentor" stuff, so if it works date-wise and finance-wise for you, feel free to get in touch (or Linda can put you in touch with me). There's still plenty of time to make sure you have the clothing and other personal stuff you need, plus get comfortable with a role for the event.

Phil
03-20-2007, 11:08 AM
That is exactly what we were finding in Texas. We had plenty of heritage festivals to attend and some "on Yeah, the civilians...we'll have tea" events. So now we are attempting our own. That might be what you have to do. If there are no parties you want to go to, have your own. :)

Heck, we had to do this with military events in Texas and the surrounding states as well. If you can't find a good event, sometimes you just have to make one.

hanktrent
03-20-2007, 05:25 PM
I wish it were as simple as putting on one's own event.

Been thinking a lot about this lately.

I tried to put on a civilian event last year, that was what I'd always wanted--a combination of basic period backpacking skills and 24-hour first person. Not just doing, not just talking, but the best of both. EVERYONE dropped out beforehand, one by one, until it had to be cancelled.

When one reenactor finally offered to do it with my wife and me, it went well, it was fun for all of us, no problems. We all stayed healthy, never got lost, and modern talk could have been counted in words, not even sentences. So the concept and preparation and planning were sound--it's just that almost no one else cared enough about doing it, to show up.

We had the same result when my wife and I built the Bradford Place, where civilian reenactors could come and "live in 1863" free for a few days. Cooking, laundry, cutting wood, milking a cow, tending a garden, interacting and talking as if it was 1863, with just us out in the country--it was too intimidating, they said. "Their worst nightmare," one of the civilian reenacting bigwigs of that era told us, because all her friends wouldn't be there to chat about modern stuff with. We had only a handful of visitors, literally, over several years.

I'm wondering if there are so few reenactors with both physical skills, and an interest/aptitude in overall accuracy, that events have to emphasize one or the other, but an event with both just isn't possible (with more than 3-4 people)? I haven't seen it happen in the army either, at the few military events I've attended.

Had fun working 12 hour days at an inn in 2005, but come to think of it, most of the people portrayed guests, with little to do. Only me, my wife and one other reenactor worked all day and into the night as staff. Again, three people, in character and working, the rest just in character. Not that that was a problem--we needed guests to make the event succeed, so they were just as valuable. But what if the event was designed so everyone had to work?

I dunno. I can think of all kinds of physically and mentally challenging situations, and sites to do them on. But I don't want to invest another year of planning for nothing.

I'm not knocking physically easy events either, if period interaction is required. I'm happy as a clam at them too. People were sometimes bored or lazy or stranded in the 1860s, and the time travel illusion is what it's all about for me.

But even those events are hard to find anymore. I'm going to one this weekend in Tennessee (email me real quick if you're interested in coming along!), two have been mentioned on this thread, one in Texas and one in Kentucky. I know of another this fall, set in 1888 Pennsylvania (email me if you're interested, though I'm not the organizer), some small carpe eventums, and one in the just-thinking-about stage. Is that it? Really?

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

TeamsterPhil
03-20-2007, 08:15 PM
I'm wondering if there are so few reenactors with both physical skills, and an interest/aptitude in overall accuracy, that events have to emphasize one or the other, but an event with both just isn't possible (with more than 3-4 people)? I haven't seen it happen in the army either, at the few military events I've attended.


Hank,

I believe you are very close to the truth. The number that can do one or the other for an entire event (and do so at least two or three times a year) is probably in the 3 to 4 hundred range for the whole country, with a few internationals in the mix. Those that can and will do both for the whole weekend is much smaller -- especially if the physical end gets tough. On any given weekend, I'd bet you'd have a hard time assembling mare than a dozen or two. As I recall from AARs, Struggle for Statehood was one such event, and most of the civilian portion of Picketts Mill 2004 fit that bill.

I would have loved to accompany you on the camping trip, but my scarcity of paid time off has severly limited my road trips that past two or three years. The same reality is proving true for the KY Trial event.

If someone could just come up with the "perfect" site, the "perfect" scenario, AND the "perfect" weekend we might just get the "perfect" event for everyone in both camps - the "do-ers" and the "be-ers" - and all us that overlap.


Phil Campbell
Independent Civilians of Kansas

netnet81
03-20-2007, 09:34 PM
I'm wondering if there are so few reenactors with both physical skills, and an interest/aptitude in overall accuracy, that events have to emphasize one or the other, but an event with both just isn't possible (with more than 3-4 people)? I haven't seen it happen in the army either, at the few military events I've attended.
Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

I think perhaps part of the issue as far as the working part is modern life. Most of us can only take out a weekend to do these things, maybe 4 days. Most of the chores of the time were in for the long haul--agriculture, home production, etc. These are a little impractical for a weekend event unless you have a site that can be continously maintained.

Regardless of how much we say we want to see what it was like to live then, if most of us were honest, a weekend of cooking and cleaning the hard way is probably not the way most of us want to spend the small amount of "our" time we have. Maybe once or twice a year, but I think that is about all most people would be willing to put into something like that.

It will always be difficult to "find something to do". We are trying to capture an entire life in just a fraction of time. No matter how long we maintain a communication with the other participants, we have no history, no life in that time. If you think about all the things you do in a day, most of it is in response to other events, some maybe happened several years ago. Or you do something so that something else will occur in the future. Because our events have no past and no future it is difficult to play act that there is something to do. The only way I can see this changing would be to have a "Brigadoon" effect, where the event at a particular site happened once a year or perhaps more frequently and picks up where the event last ended. Or the personas you have are carried from one event to the next and a shared past and future is developed, but this will take time.

Spinster
03-20-2007, 10:52 PM
Hank,

One of the surprising commentaries I received this last week came from more than one 'invalid' soldier who came into our midst in the Howling Wilderness of Banks Grand Retreat. We'd agreed to be a dropping off point for those in need, so that one man out would not take a whole carpool down, and that adequate medical care could be rendered while not completely loosing the period experience for those men who could not complete the physical necessities of the march.

In each case, we met them at the 'gate', took care of medical needs and welcomed them 'home' with a quick briefing as to water rules and first person requirements.

To a man, they marveled at the variety and number of tasks going on around them, the quality and quanity of material goods, the work assigned them as they convalesced. When time permitted, the Rev. Linde provided them with leave or discharge papers.

Those that view reenacting the 19th century as some sort of break or vacation are living in a rose-colored world----one cannot adequately portray the vast majority of the populace without working, and working hard.

Sparse closets, full heads, calloused hands.

hanktrent
03-20-2007, 10:54 PM
Those that can and will do both for the whole weekend is much smaller -- especially if the physical end gets tough. On any given weekend, I'd bet you'd have a hard time assembling mare than a dozen or two.

Agreed. By the time you factor in the usual real-life date conflicts (work, family, school) and the inevitable emergencies (illness, car breakdowns), and the various opt-outs (just not fun to do this, don't know how to do that, wish I could but I'm in California/Maine/Florida), the final numbers can dwindle darn close to zero.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

hanktrent
03-20-2007, 10:58 PM
Most of the chores of the time were in for the long haul--agriculture, home production, etc. These are a little impractical for a weekend event unless you have a site that can be continously maintained.

Which is why we gave up maintaining a garden, storing food period-style year round and milking a cow every day, so it could be ready for reenactors, who unfortunately didn't want it.


Regardless of how much we say we want to see what it was like to live then, if most of us were honest, a weekend of cooking and cleaning the hard way is probably not the way most of us want to spend the small amount of "our" time we have.

Well, that may be true. I dunno.

But if that's not what they want, I wonder what it is that reenactors do want? Since we're talking about authenticity in this thread, let's assume that they do at least want to try to experience a two-day slice of the past, and not a modern socializing weekend. What slice of the past would you choose?


Because our events have no past and no future it is difficult to play act that there is something to do.

I've not really noticed much problem in getting backgrounds coordinated well enough, that reenactors have a basic sense of their friends, enemies, quarrels, local gossip, etc. It's certainly not perfect, anymore than any illusion of the past is perfect, but I think it's satisfactory. The McDowell events, the old Burkittsville events, Struggle for Statehood, are just some examples I've personally been part of. At Burkittsville ('01?), the event started with a meeting of the Ladies Aid society, with reports read about what the donations that had been collected and disbursed since last month's meeting, a treasurer's report, etc. You really can pretty much hit the ground running.

That's assuming it's an event where everyone knows everyone, which is the most complex situation. The other much simpler approach is to set up a situation where only small groups know each other, and are strangers to others. The Inn at Peaks Mill and the civilians at War on the James, are some personally-experienced examples of that.

And I think events like those are just dandy, especially if the interaction is continuous for everyone, and not daytime-only, or opt-in. I'd be happy reenacting at them for the rest of my life. Absolutely. No problem there. I'd just like to find more of them, because they're so cool.

The hard work kind of events, for me, aren't as intrinsically interesting if the work alone is the focus. For me, what makes it fun is not just the work itself, but the people I'm working with. While I was cooking at the inn, I had a female employee I was hitting on who didn't like my advances (Linda), who I had to watch because she hated her job and wasn't polite enough to the guests, and a male employee (Noah Briggs) who was not only having better success flirting, but was also secretly pilfering from the guests, and if I didn't keep them in line, I had my boss (Nicky Hughes) to answer to.

And all of this so subtle, that I doubt anyone not immediately involved would even notice.

The stereotype, though (whether true or not) is that civilian reenactors at first person events just sit around. The other kind of event stereotype, is events where everyone is so busy at tasks that they don't have time for that first-person stuff. If authenticity is an issue, the hope is usually that they will also be too busy to talk about anything modern. I've never found that to be true. In my experience, the modern talk runs rampant at any event where the only method of preventing it is keeping people busy.

So if we start with the assumption that an event is based on the typical "sit around" model with period interpersonal interaction, here are some examples of "work" (or at least action) that could be added:

--An underground railroad event, where the goal would be to travel as far and fast as possible, mostly at night, swimming/wading a river, evading pursuers, deciding who to trust, etc. This is already done with public participants in a 2-hour, 1-mile version at several museums in the midwest. I'm talking two days, 20-30 miles. Got the site, just name the date.

--The 1857 camping trip. Not exactly "work," but not exactly "leisure" either to carry four days worth of food and gear for 20 miles, sightseeing over steep terrain, with no support wagon, because the paths are inaccessable except on foot. Could be done again. Got the site and research, just name the date.

--Nicky Hughes' Inn at Peaks Mill, Frankfort, KY. Fully furnished inn, available for reenactors. Other reenactors have made the most of it as well, and for the staff, it's a busy full-time job. For the guests, not so much. But there are some winter-quarters style cabins around the bend. Wonder if they need any repairs, any additional work done, any more built? Perhaps a gang of workers staying at an inn, fixing up a site for an upcoming camp meeting?

--The dreaded "cooking and cleaning" event, where a new family with help from neighbors moved into a run-down period house, and worked to fix it up.

And those are just ideas that I know specific sites for, with logistics and permission in place or almost ready to go, that could be literally happening with a few months if there were guaranteed dedicated participants. I'm not even considering more-complex events, like a western wagon train, a cabin or barn raising, a charcoal burn, etc.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

netnet81
03-20-2007, 11:56 PM
But if that's not what they want, I wonder what it is that reenactors do want? Since we're talking about authenticity in this thread, let's assume that they do at least want to try to experience a two-day slice of the past, and not a modern socializing weekend. What slice of the past would you choose?
Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

I don't know; that's what we're trying to decide for the Texas event. Do we want to try to continue with the "every day life" thing or a special event such as a muster or market. I personally feel I would rather experience the every day life thing. It can be boring, but it can also be surprising if the participants will take responsibility to "make things happen" rather than ask the event to entertain them.

NoahBriggs
03-21-2007, 05:21 AM
It can be boring, but it can also be surprising if the participants will take responsibility to "make things happen" rather than ask the event to entertain them.

And that's your key to a better, first-person event right there.

Rob Weaver
03-21-2007, 08:39 AM
Noah: I suspect you're getting close to some of the real reasons people reenact. Or I sould say, continue to reenact. They may start because they like or love history, but after a while, they have formed relationships that are deep, or they discover that they like certain aspects of the hobby over others. Many years ago, I led my board of elders in a seminar exploring why people go to church. At the end, one of my eldest elders was flabbergasted. "I thought people went to church because they love Jesus." Well, they do, but they also love things about that fellowship which become important in their maturity, too. Since both the church and reenacting are human activities that have first a passionate interest and second an element of fellowship, I suspect that the reasons people continue to reenact are similar.
You've stumbled upon an awkward truth in your farming experience. Truth be told, we're campers in the past, not residents. Few of us really want to put down roots there. I think that's one of the reasons military periods are popular. They require a minimum of equipment and are portable not just physically, but mentally. I myself realized this uncomfortable truth even about myself several years ago. I was simply not excited about a highly publicized immersion event in which the troops were to build fortifications all weekend long. After much soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that I had no interest in dressing in expensive and difficult to replace clothes to spend a weekend doing manual labor. If I wanted to do that, I could work in my wife's garden at much less expense. (BTW - I also have no interest in gardens!) The event was sparsely attended, leading me to the conclusion that many others apparently have the same feeling. It's said that one of the best first-person living history settings in the nation is Plymouth Plantation, but it is helpful to remember that their staff are paid to recreate the past. Most reenactors, reluctantly including myself, wish to get a flavor of the past, a little insight, chase the ghost of the past, if you will, but do not have the consuming desire to live the past in the depth which you've described. Remember "Frontier House" or "Colonial House?" Where am I going here? There is a place in the hobby for the casual reenactor at the one pole, and the highly dedicated and educated reenactor at the other. I suspect there will always be more of the former than the latter, and they do not necessarily run the same circles.

Never to be confused with Miniver Cheevey, I remain,

bill watson
03-21-2007, 08:44 AM
"It can be boring, but it can also be surprising if the participants will take responsibility to "make things happen" rather than ask the event to entertain them." Hank

"And that's your key to a better, first-person event right there." Noah

Right. And right now the number of people who "get it" is small and spread out geographically so that it is very difficult to get enough critical mass for more ambitious undertakings. So if one is determined to only do it at this level, the opportunities are indeed small, in number and in size.

This will grow if the various events of more than mainstream standards are supported and not eschewed by those who have already made their bones with a "Struggle for Statehood" event. Every time there is a Shenandoah 62 or a McDowell, where people are asked to invest in the event's success rather than simply attend as a consumer, the number of people who "get it" grows and the pool of people interested in even more immersion in the past gets deeper and broader. There is detailed preparation going on right now for the federal side of McDowell, with every man in blue getting information about attitudes and activities that can be "deployed" at his particular rank to get more out of the weekend. It's a real how-to, plugging one of the gaps in knowledge and taking some of the mystery out of what can be done, without expense and without much labor, to get into the past for both personal satisfaction and group success.

So from where I'm operating these days, the future looks better, the glass is half full and filling or something. The only question is "how fast?" Some of us are not getting any younger. :-)

netnet81
03-21-2007, 09:11 AM
"It can be boring, but it can also be surprising if the participants will take responsibility to "make things happen" rather than ask the event to entertain them." Hank

There is detailed preparation going on right now for the federal side of McDowell, with every man in blue getting information about attitudes and activities that can be "deployed" at his particular rank to get more out of the weekend. It's a real how-to, plugging one of the gaps in knowledge and taking some of the mystery out of what can be done, without expense and without much labor, to get into the past for both personal satisfaction and group success.


Actually, that was me, not Hank :).

That is what we are also doing for the Texas event. We are planning a pre-event workshop to do the same thing as you are planning for McDowell. It takes a jump, I think, for some to realize that this type of event requires more than just being, as was stated, a consumer; you have to invest more than just showing up.

Mainstream events can be fun if you go knowing what it is and go with the flow. You don't have to give up your personal authenticity at these events, it's just harder to hang on to. I think there is room for both types of events, but would like to see more of the first person-history heavy-immersion types.

hanktrent
03-21-2007, 10:02 AM
After much soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that I had no interest in dressing in expensive and difficult to replace clothes to spend a weekend doing manual labor. If I wanted to do that, I could work in my wife's garden at much less expense.

My viewpoint is very similar to yours, though we probably diverge on what would make manual labor fun. I have zero interest in just doing old timey tasks at events, because I can do that anytime alone or with my wife.

For me, what makes it fun is not the work itself, but the chance to pretend I'm back in time, working with real people from the 1860s. No chance of that if they're snapping pictures, telling modern jokes, talking about the hobby or the internet.

Yet that actually seems to be the default preference of most reenactors. In my experience, it will take over any event, unless the organizers make very very clear from the first announcement right through the final day, what the rules are and that the rules are being enforced. With that kind of confidence, one can relax and let the magic really happen, and once the magic starts happening, it begins to take over instead, and you can get an experience like no other.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Rob Weaver
03-21-2007, 01:29 PM
You're on to something there: it's not what's being done but the attitude it's eing done with. I sat with a friend discussing our recent deer hunting experiences. We were both carefully couching them in period language rather than modern. The end result was a strongly period moment for both of us, although the event being described didn't happen in a period manner. This attitude is possible, even in mainstream reenacting. It means choosing to relate through a period filter if possible. While standing guard recently, two of us engaged in a good bit of period discussion, simply choosing to avoid certain give-away expressions. For instance, how much difference is there really in "While I was web-surfing last week I read ..." and "I read once that ...?" I also try to arm myself with a few jokes that "translate" well. While they may not be culled from a period source, they can be told in a period manner and still be entertaining.

bill watson
03-23-2007, 05:31 AM
"It can be boring, but it can also be surprising if the participants will take responsibility to "make things happen" rather than ask the event to entertain them." -- Annette


Sorry, Annette! Chalk this up to the infirmity of advancing years..... :-)

netnet81
03-23-2007, 08:24 PM
That's ok. I don't mind having my words mistaken for Hank's :)

micaila
03-29-2007, 02:06 PM
I think, for myself, there is a definite intimidation factor. It is partly a fear that I won't measure up( I've been out of "active duty" for about 6 years and am just making the move to "the dark side") and that I'm seriously lacking in the skills dept.
For instance, I would love to attend the KY event, but I don't have any real period skills to bring into play and I have been lazy and spoiled lately. Not a lot to recommend me, I know.
What I would really like to see is an event, or site, or workshop where civillians could get together to hone their period skills and learn new ones in a group setting. And if it's not too much trouble ;) , I'd like it centrally located, near a major airport.
As I said, I'm just rejoining the hobby and am without a support network thus far, so a group setting all about learning the skills needed to live in the period would be great for me and less intimidating too. From there I would feel more comfortable attending more immersion-style events.
Sorry that was so wordy,
Micaila

NoahBriggs
03-29-2007, 02:15 PM
An alternative to meeting directly is to set up with others an online chat room, and converse in first-person. Agree in advance who will be there, what they are portraying, and so on. It's not quite the same as face-to-face but it does work.

The KY organizers (Linda Trent) would be happy to work with you to create a character. Perhaps you are a relative of one of the jurors, or just another guest travelling through.

netnet81
03-29-2007, 02:18 PM
What I would really like to see is an event, or site, or workshop where civillians could get together to hone their period skills and learn new ones in a group setting. And if it's not too much trouble ;) , I'd like it centrally located, near a major airport. Micaila

That is what we are looking at for Texas as well. We are planning a civilian workshop event before our Henkel Square event to talk about first person, period skills, etc. to prepare participants for the event.

You might also look into ALHFAM; they offer workshops at their annual meeting that focus on period skills. There are also several conferences throughout the country that deal with period skills.

micaila
03-29-2007, 02:49 PM
That is very true Mr. Briggs, the online chat rooms are most helpful in breaking the ice, and a valuable resource too.
Truly, If these were my only concerns about attending I would find a way, there are other complications which take me out of consideration this year, family health issues, weddings, work(or lack thereof), the purchase of and repair to a new(old) house and three babies all due in August.(Friends', not mine.:) )
My biggest needs, I fear, are the development of my physical, hands-on skills. After living in a New York walk-up for the past 5 years I fear all those skills have gone by the wayside and my calluses and muscle with them. I fear I have no stamina for physical activity anymore and would feel quite foolish sitting about looking ornamental. Granted, the frustration of breaking in a new servant is quite in keeping with the times. However, this is surely a burdensome complication on an already stressful event, and one I would not subject anyone to.
Sincerely,
Micaila

ElizabethClark
03-30-2007, 02:57 PM
Micaila, I think you can find locations around the Willamette Valley to gain the skills you want--they just may not all be through living history experiences, but will have the background you want to pull into living history.

For physical stamina, Portland has some great walking locations, as do historica areas nearby (head down to Aurora for a really interesting aspect of mid-19th century settlement in Oregon, a religious commune--but the town has some great antique shops to browse, too.)

Historic Skills: check out various crafts guilds for quite a few on the domestic side, as well as things like "artisanal cooking" for that end of things (great bakeries in Portland, and some do workshops and classes in hearth baking, etc.) Too, there are some forts and sites to go "play" and try out skills in short-term ways.

The main branch of the Multnomah Library has an archives room with period publications, too (not much on the skills side, but fun to look at.)

When the windstorms knock out power, you can experience "urban camping" and refine your LH survival skills. :)

If you want to try out full immersion, unfortunately it's normally going to involve long-distance travel out here in the West. But that doesn't have to stay the same! There are some folks interested in history-heavy, immersive experiences, and I predict there will be growth in small, alternative, citizen-focused events in the PacNW in the next 3-4 years.

BUT--don't underestimate the value of shoddy help at the Inn event. :) Even a pair of hands still learning is better than no hands at all, so long as you can take good directions, and not get your modern feelings hurt if your period persona gets yelled at by your historic boss. It's like that with many experiences: willingness counts a LOT. And because most immersive events have a loooong lead time, you'd have time to gain desired skills before the event (but with three babies arriving plus everything else this year, perhaps just keep yourself "on the list" to hear about future event opportunities with a similar structure?) :)

NoahBriggs
03-30-2007, 05:39 PM
I'm telling you Micaila, the Trial is the Finest Kind opportunity to try this!! You can do it; we can help.

Trish Hasenmueller
03-30-2007, 06:23 PM
Ditto on what Noah said.

Trish Hasenmueller

micaila
03-30-2007, 11:59 PM
Wow! Trish, Noah I am speechless, I truly am.
That is so sweet and generous and it makes me feel so welcomed.

My DBF and I have wrestled with this and I just don't think it will be possible.
I shall just have to spend the next year building those skills and keep my ears open for the next such event.

I thank you all for your kind words and if something should change in the next ten days to alter things you will be hearing from me.;)
Micaila