Camp 1800s style
Stockdale Christian School’s Maverick Hawley certainly captured the sprit of “Frontier Life in Kern County” with the way he dressed
Sisters (from left) Brittany, Brianna and Angelina Ganiere seemed to enjoy the experience of washing clothes by hand.
Camp was never like this. Imagine being thrilled about washing clothes by hand, concocting your own medicine and endlessly cranking a handle to get butter. Not only did dozens of students from Valley Oaks Charter and Bakersfield High School perform those tasks — they asked to do it. It was all in the name of education at the annual Living History Camp/Frontier Life in Kern County Day — held at the Kern County Museum from March 30 — April 2.
During the first three days of the week, students from Valley Oaks were immersed in learning how to live frontier style with help from their teachers, museum staff and docents. They had to perform the unglamorous tasks, such as washing clothes by hand, and also learn why pioneers did it that way — same story for concocting home remedies, branding, coring apples, churning butter, wool carding, embroidering, oil papering windows, rope making, cooking, candle making and more.
But on April 2, the fourth day, students became teachers, when approximately 1,000 county students came to the museum for Living History Day: Frontier Life in Kern County.
“Our students had been through all the stations of learning about pioneer history and how to present it, and it was their turn to volunteer as docents, passing on what they had learned and their knowledge to their student peers,” said Beverly Wetterholm, Valley Oaks resource teacher.
Not only did Valley Oaks students and those from Bakersfield High’s Career Education Opportunity Academy live the daily life of Kern’s early settlers, they dressed it. Everywhere you looked across the museum landscape, bonnets, long gingham dresses, woolen shirts and trousers were on display. One enterprising youngster wore a Revolutionary Minute Man replica uniform and another pre-teen donned a stove pipe hat, fake beard and mutton chops that would have made Abraham Lincoln proud.
Several students were drawn to the table where Valley Oaks eighth-grader Sarah Murcavitch was docent. The table didn’t have much on it. Some Eucalyptus leaves, a pot filled with heated water and a large slice of Aloe Vera. As each visitor passed by they noticed Murcavitch was dropping a Eucalyptus leaf or two into the heated water. And she would invite each to breath in the aroma, explaining that this was a pioneer home remedy for breaking up congestion and curing the sniffles.
“What we did was heat the water in a kettle over an open camp fire and, by adding the Eucalyptus leaves, we made what was the equivalent of an old-style inhalant,” Murcavitch said. “Going through the hands-on training made it easier to realize what the early settlers had to go through. They couldn’t go to a store, and they had to make their own medicines and food.”
Nearby, Valley Oaks student Lorenzo Brino was instructing students who came by his station in the art of “felting.” You could tell by the look on his face and the way he formed his words that Brino took his role very seriously.
“I think it was a difficult life for the pioneers,” Brino said. “Making your own toys and clothing had to be hard. But you know what, almost every thing they did back then was good for the environment. Seems like we could learn something from that.”
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