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Children watch a potter turn a bowl at Old Sturbridge Village. | (Submitted Photo)

A day spent in the 1800s


Last week, our family drove to Massachusetts to visit Old Sturbridge Village, the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast. If you haven’t been, it’s a working village, set in the 1800s, complete with farms, working tradespeople and employees dressed in that period’s attire.

On over 200 acres, Old Sturbridge Village is made up of homes, a school, a working farm, a country store, a pond, meetinghouses, water-powered mills, a potter, a blacksmith, and more, so it takes a full day to see it all. There is a restaurant and a café for hungry bellies, and a gift shop for souvenirs.

A blacksmith talked us through his job while he forged metal for a tool he was making, and a woman worked a loom while explaining to my four-year-old that her job would have been sewing tea towels back in the 1830s.

In the kitchen, we learned about the practice of sticking one’s arm in the oven and testing temperature by seeing how many counts until the skin protested. Everyone’s pie count was different, but knowing your pie count allowed cooks to accurately calculate the oven’s temperature, and know when it was time to put the food in to cook.

We also learned that pie wasn’t considered a dessert; rather it was often served as a meal. Yes, please!

In the schoolhouse, we were told that the school year back then ended around Labor Day, to allow the children to help with harvest, and that during the school year, kids went to school Monday through Friday, and in the morning on Saturday. They didn’t have homework, because they were busy with chores after school.

My six-year-old soaked up every nugget of information tossed his way, and he could have spent all day watching the tradesmen working. His younger sister was more interested in the farm animals, wool carding and the paper marbling craft. They both enjoyed the magic show, which they watched while eating our packed lunch.

Both times I have visited Old Sturbridge village, I notice more similarities between then and now, as well as more differences. Being tied closely to the land and eating pie for breakfast is very appealing, but so is indoor plumbing and access to telephones.

Adding a bit of colonial flavor into our lives would be great for the spirit, and I always leave the village considering taking up knitting or canning vegetables, but then I get online see how to do those things, and end up sidetracked by the modern world.

Old Sturbridge Village is fun for kids and adults, alike. Check the website (www.OSV.org) for events and discounts, and consider making a trip. September is Senior Month, with visitors age 55 and over receiving half priced admission, as well as various other discounts throughout the village. Fall is a beautiful time to visit, and the Sturbridge is only an hour away.



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