Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for July, 2011

Harriet Tubman Delights Audience at Coshocton Chautauqua

“I didn’t think all you Yankees would show up,” quipped Harriet Tubman as she entered from the rear of the easily recognizable red and white striped Chautauqua tent.  Her sense of humor sparkled all night long as Harriet delighted the audience with stories of her leading slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Ilene Evans portrayed Harriet Tubman for this year’s Ohio Chautauqua presentation at Coshocton’s Bi-Centennial. She was a master storyteller and inspired young and old alike as she wove her story keeping the audience involved with rolling bandages and singing songs.

On the plantation where she was born in Maryland, birth records were not kept. Harriet was never certain about her birthdate. When she was about twelve,  an overseer struck her in the head with a two pound weight when she attempted to defend a run away slave.  This resulted in sleeping spells for the rest of her life where she drifted away for so long that she missed happenings in her surroundings. In her twenties, her escape from the plantation to the North began her lifelong quest for freedom of blacks from slavery.

Called “Moses” because she, too, led her people out of captivity, Harriet frequently burst into song.  After singing “Battle Cry of Freedom” she explained that when fighting for freedom, “a song in your heart is the best weapon.”

During her time of freeing the slaves, Harriet  served with the Union Army. There she took care of the injured soldiers, made and distributed bandages, and learned where the supplies were kept and where bridges were being mined. Often she said the injured men were covered with flies, so healing was a difficult proposition. The first United States Colored Troops during the Civil War did not receive any pay for eighteen months.  So their wives had to support themselves and their children by doing laundry for the officers, making pies and cakes to be sold to the boys in camp, and brewing ginger beer.

Harriet had nine scouts and a riverboat captain in her command. But this bold, young lady in her twenties said, “She felt no fear as long as she was doing what God wanted.”  She did however believe in a faith that required action and good deeds. She waved the 35 star flag proudly as she talked about her role in this fight for freedom.

After her performance, the tent was opened for questions from the audience to which she gave candid answers. Harriet felt that after the Civil War even though the Emancipation freed the slaves, they still had no rights.  She had hoped that the war would not be just a vehicle of freedom, but a way to real equality.

She thought that President Lincoln moved way too slowly during the war years both in abolishing slavery and allowing blacks to fight as soldiers. Later wished she could have thanked him, at least for the end result.

The biggest disappointment in her life was an issue she didn’t really like to talk about because it hurt her so much. After the war was over,  she returned to her husband, who was still living in the South in their family home, hoping he would go North with her. When he met her at the door, he had his new wife there with him in the cabin Harriet considered home.

One of the happy moments for Harriet that evening in Coshocton occurred when a third grader in the audience stood to ask her his second question of the evening:  “Could I give you a hug?”  He rushed down the aisle between the folded chairs and they hugged on stage while Harriet remarked, “This is the best present I could have.” The young boy’s mother later stated that the young man had been reading all day about Harriet Tubman  before coming to the evening presentation.

Freedom is what this country, the United States of America, is all about. It was begun with freedom at its core, and the hopes and dreams of men and women still struggle to maintain that freedom today.  God bless the USA!

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Calliope and Monkey Organ Sounds Fill the Air

“The Happiest Music on Earth”  rang out through the streets of Roscoe Village. Strolling down the street, it seemed a carnival like atmosphere but the instruments used were exquisite. The Mid-American Chapter of the Musical Box Society brought about thirty varied automatic and mechanical instruments for the enjoyment of everyone who visited. Some were small hand-cranked music boxes, while others were large trailer size.

A larger music box called “Ruth Organ” was open on both sides, as were many, so you could see the inner workings as well. This was a German made calliope, owned by an enthusiast from Indiana, with carousel horses peeking out at the sides. There was an interesting sign on the open back side, which said Achtung (Attention in German).  Below was a humorous verse using a German like twist and it ended like this: “Relaxen and listenin to die gekneekicken und fusstampen musik.”

One of my favorites was a small monkey organ, or hurdy gurdy,  hand turned by a happy lady in a flowered hat.  Music was fed through the monkey organ on a paper-feed much like the old player pianos, but on a smaller scale.  She kindly gave me a chance to try my hand at being a monkey organ grinder by turning the handle at just the right speed for that particular song, Walkin’ Happy. Still makes me smile!

Many of the participants here at Roscoe Village were planning to attend many more Musical Box Festivals throughout the summer.  Next stop for some was New York or the Monkey Organ Rally in Indiana, and many of them had plans for the the 62nd Annual Meeting in Washington D C this year in August.

Visiting Roscoe Village was Myron Duffield, “The Calliope King of the World.”  Myron performed to a crowd standing in the street from his red circus wagon organ that he built himself.  His plan is to play at every surviving calliope event in the world. This is like a trip back to childhood for him as he grew up hearing the calliopes on the Mississippi riverboats.

Catching my eye at one end of the street, “Rolling Thunder” was one of the larger calliopes there.  It was built in Antwerp, Belgium and across the front it said: “Not Your Father’s Organ”.  In the center there were three accordians, where the bellows moved as well as the keys playing the lively carousel sounds. All of them seemed to have drums as part of their inner workings.

Apparently the music was enjoyed as several people were dancing in the street. Well, that is except for one lady, who told me upon arrival, “Get your aspirin handy.”   Music was loud but entertaining, and definitely “Fusstampin.”

Get Your Kicks on Route 66 in Oatman, Arizona

Spectacular Route 66 takes a lot of twists and turns as you travel through the breathtaking mountain vistas from Kingman to Oatman, Arizona.  Around every bend there is another beautiful view and not many cars, so you can move at a leisurely pace and even stop for pictures.

Best place to park is on either edge of this living ghost town and then enjoy the walk down the street. You will find many unique stores along the way such as: New Diggin’s, Classy Ass, or White Buffalo Trading Post.  Today there are only about 100 people that actually reside in the town although in its gold mining days population reached 3500.

“Get your kicks on Route 66” is a familiar saying, but here in Oatman you have to be careful it isn’t a burro kick! Wild burros eating from your pockets or purse make it a challenge just to walk down the streets of Oatman, Arizona. That is the reason nearly every store has available carrots or “burro chow” at a small cost. The burros are descendants of the pack animals used by early miners in the area and turned loose in the 1940’s.  They are today protected by the US Department of the Interior.

An old adobe two story building, Oatman Hotel, is the oldest building in town, having been built in 1902.  Now it is especially remembered as the honeymoon suite of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard in 1936.  Often they returned here for some peace and quiet, and Clark liked to play poker with the local miners. Their ghosts are said to frequent the place as witnessed by many guests.

On the weekends, you might be lucky and see a “Wild West” show on the streets. While visiting there, they held up a tour bus (they called it a stage coach) coming to town.   Stopped the bus with gunshots from the middle of the road, then boarded the bus to rob the passengers.  All in fun of course! This was followed by a gunfight in the street.

Lucky to have found a place to step back in history and get the feel of the Old West.  Wonder if my luck would continue in the nearby gambling town of Laughlin, Nevada?  Taking the shortcut over a thirty mile dirt road,  should be there in about an hour.  Hop in Lady Luck, let’s go for a ride!

Bishop Castle – One Man’s Dream

Bishop Castle: “The Largest One Man Construction Project in the USA,” and possibly the World! When you see this beautiful, magnificent castle, it is difficult to imagine that one man did all of the work.  Everyone has their dreams, but Jim Bishop’s dream turned out to be larger than most. Jim has never stopped working on his inspiration since 1969.

Located in the Rocky Mountains near Pueblo, Colorado, this 150 foot high castle is a treasure when discovered among the pines on a back country road.  Due to all the problems Jim had with governmental interference, you won’t find it listed in the Colorado travel literature.  After seeing several cars parked along the highway, your curiosity makes you wonder what the attraction is here, so you look a little more closely and discover a medieval castle peeking through the tree tops.

Jim works on his castle on weekends and more often during the summer.  His family also operates Eagle River Pewter in Pueblo, which explains the beautiful ironwork seen throughout the castle.  He is often seen strolling the grounds either on his way to add something to his castle, or to talk with visitors.  Seems like quite an ordinary guy with a huge imagination.

When Jim was 15 years old, he purchased two and a half acres for $450 at the edge of the San Isabel National Forest.  He had saved his money from mowing lawns, delivering newspapers, and working with his dad at the iron works. That is the year he dropped out of school as his English teacher told him, “You’ll never amount to anything, Jim Bishop!”  To begin withl the land was used for hunting and fishing, but then Jim decided to build a small cottage on the property. Since the Rockies were handy, stone by native stone was added and the beginnings of a castle rose from the forest.

No castle would be complete without a huge fireplace, but this one had a unique feature as it vented through the head of a dragon made from recycled metal hospital trays.  Smoke escaped through the nostrils of the dragon’s nose.  Just for a little added excitement, sometimes the dragon breathed fire with the help of a burner from a hot air balloon.

Inside the castle on the upper floor was a beautiful ballroom with stained glass windows, which were custom made by individual request.  Many of them commemorate a wedding held there or remember a loved one. A studio in Colorado designed the windows, and then Jim installed the stained glass beauty himself. He definitely lived by that old saying: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” This is his unique work of art except for the wall around the water tank in the corner of the castle…his dad helped build that when Jim was first building the cottage.

The Gift Shop was the main source of funding for Bishop’s Castle as there was no charge for admission. Here you could purchase dragons, Renaissance and fantasy weaponry, Jim’s own ornamental ironwork plus all the regular gift shop items. Actually the picture at the beginning of this article is from a tee shirt purchased there on a Rocky Mountain trip.

Over the years, Jim had many legal problems with his building of the castle. At one time he posted a sign that said: Lawyers, Politicians, Bureaucrats, Gestapo  Most of you need to get an honest job.

While work is nearly complete on the castle itself after forty odd years, there are plans for a gatehouse as well as a fence around the castle. Jim has decided to let a few volunteers help him with this last phase of construction.  Men like Jim Bishop make you realize that even an ordinary man can make their biggest, wildest dream come true. Don’t forget to dream!

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