Exploring the past

September 12, 2012

 SCOTTVILLE – There was a time when the latest technology was a telephone that you cranked and asked an operator to connect you to the person you wanted to call. Technology was using a pedal to spin a wheel which sharpened axes or made wooden dowels. Modern technology was a 2-cylinder tractor.

Area fifth graders got a chance Wednesday to experience was life was like before cell phones or box stores, when most people grew their own food and life wasn’t so easy, but it was simple.

The Western Michigan Old Engine Club hosted its 18th annual Education Day at its showgrounds at Riverside Park. Organizers estimated over 400 children toured various educational stations with the help of 100 volunteers.

“They love it,” said Mason County Eastern teacher Karen Mazur. “In a time when technology is in these kids’ lives everyday, this is something new to them, seeing the way things used to be done.”

Each student is given a list of questions they must ask the interpreter at each station.

“This is the fourth time I’ve taken students here and I really enjoy too,” Mazur said.

Brianna Wysong of Ludington’s Foster Elementary said she enjoyed the telephone demonstration. Retirees from AT&T, known as the AT&T Pioneers, demonstrated how telephones used to work. “I could pick up the phone and hear someone on the other end of the line.”

Volunteers demonstrated various rural activities of the past including baling hay, threshing wheat, blacksmithing, sawmill operation, wood cutting, laundry and metalsmithing, among many other exhibits.

“I liked the laundry,” said Savanna Stark of Foster Elementary. “We washed clothes and then used a roller to get the water out.”

Savanna’s mother, Cindy Stark, said she was glad to hear her daughter enjoyed doing laundry.

“I liked the hay baler,” said Josh Ledemsa, also of Foster.

Nick Sarto of Ludington Area Catholic tried cranking the fire for the blacksmith. “It wasn’t too hard to turn, but pretty hot,” he said.

Education Day was started in 1994 by then-Mason County Central teacher Terry Hankwitz and retired principal Ed Malkowski. Malkowski still volunteers, demonstrating bee keeping.

Story, photos and video by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief