July 10

Today we got up early and hit the continental breakfast.  Then it was off to the visitor’s center where everybody has to start.

I guess because it was Sunday, the crowds were pretty light.  They stacked up later in the afternoon but in the morning, we felt we had the place to ourselves.  It was quite interesting; we entered just about every home or tavern that was open and talked with some characters.

My big highlight was the cabinetmaker due to my unhealthy obsession with woodworking but unfortunately, he was popular with just about eveyrbody.  His shop was full.  Full of people asking all sorts of political type questions and he was enthusiastically engaging in all sorts of talk about what the politics of the time would have been like.  I wanted to tell him to shut up and build something.  Cut some dovetails man!  His assistant was busily rasping out the leg of an elegant chair so at least I could watch him but I wanted some chips to fly.  There was a room outside his shop that was displaying some of their creations which were way more elegant than I ever expected.  With only hand tools, they managed to build many pieces that were more elegant, complex, and attractive than anything you can buy now.  Most impressive handywork.

They had also built a ‘spinnet’ which was a small harpsichord.  There was a man in-character minding the store, so to speak, and he managed to talk Erin into sitting down at it and playing a short piece.  She did and it she picked a good one – it sounded like perfectly suited to the environment.

We took the tours of the Governor’s Palace which was where the colonial governor (Great Britain’s representative) lived, and the “Capitol” building which is where the local officials (the house of Burgesses) met and eventually from where the new American government met but only briefly.

Of course, we had to visit the gift shops of the visitor’s center but they were much less interesting to me than the shops up in the village.  In the village, Erin bought a small journal made of some fancy paper, a quill pen, and a packet of ink powder with which you could set up to write in your journal with the quill.  Very classy.  Evan tried his best to find himself a tri-cornered cocked hat but there were none in his size.  The picket fences of the village all had gates that closed by themselves and I noticed that they accomplished this not by any mechanism but by the simple and elegant expedient of hanging a couple of cannonballs on a chain that attached to both the gate and the fence.  The weight of the hanging cannonball would close the gate automatically but if you pushed the gate all the way past open, the weight wasn’t enough so that it would stay open for you.  Very clever.  They sold these things at the shop in the village.  They also had a variety of things like household items and games that would have been popular at the time.

We took the shuttle back to the visitor’s center so that we could sit in the air conditioned restaurant called:  “Huzzah’s”.

One of the highlights for me is always the blacksmith and so I was dissappointed to find that he was not working that day.  But we did get to see the silversmiths.  One was operating a forge out back where they were melting some brass to pour into a mold.  They tried to get Evan and I to pump the bellows for them “for fun” but we know work when we see it.  The other was an actual jewelry type guy who was cutting little pieces of silver to make some sort of medallion.  These sorts of things fascinate me and, unlike the cabinetmaker, he was making stuff and describing how he did it.

We also went into the printer’s studio to see him make a newspaper.  I had to ask why all their lowercase “s”‘s looked like “f”s and this is apparently his most frequent question by far.  He had a wooden display made up that he pulled out from under his bench just to explain it.  He answered the question in detail but the fact remains that the words printed that way look goofy and that’s why we don’t see it done that way any more.  Suffice it to say that the “s” and “f” do look differently even though that difference is microscopic.

It got pretty hot that day but fortunately, many of the homes and buildings have had airconditioning cleverly added so that you don’t see the vents.  The characters must have been used to the heat because they stayed outside a great deal with out sweating.  As to the characters, I like to see and talk to those characters who are portraying someone of skill.  I like the idea that just because they didn’t have machinery and mass production back then, they still created things of great elegance and beauty.  But the character of the slave-woman kind of made me feel weird.  I can imagine lots of people wanting to be the cabinetmaker or gunsmith but I wonder how they found anyone willing to pretend to be a slave?  I suppose that was part of life but I still wanted to tell the woman to stop using words like “master” and “mistress”.  It just sounded wrong.

The gunsmith was quite interesting also.  He was apparently a genuine gunsmith who made real flintlock muskets and so was all the more interesting to me.  He let Evan and I hold one and aim it.

We finally wore out and retreated to the hotel and it’s pool.  Both Evan and Erin seemed to have adapted to the vacation lifestyle and had energy enough for all of us but Mel and I stayed tired a lot. No matter, that’s what we were there for.

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