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15
Dec
19

Santa Claus at the Department Store

20191214_200420This is me about 58 years ago. Maybe I was asking for a Chatty Cathy doll, one of my favorite Christmas presents! My mother had taken me from our rural community to “the big city” to see Santa Claus. I do not have much in the way of a memory of this, though the magical image of him in the department store window, and lines of children waiting their turn is familiar.

In our area, a trip to the city was a cause for something special – you dressed in your Sunday best and had a special occasion to visit the department store; maybe a wedding or back to school clothes, some sort of milestone. We also dressed to visit the dentist or doctor and maybe had a chance to go out to lunch!

A Christmas visit to Santa was one such milestone! I don’t remember going more than once, but I’m sure many children did. Just a visit to the city was excitement enough, but at Christmas time – oh my! Downtown department stores often had signature restaurants, cafes or tea rooms that were a delight for the senses. I particularly remember the very elegant restrooms in the department store!

Of course all stores didn’t have Santa Claus, some had train displays or lit villages in a winter wonderland, or displays of bows, bells, packages and holly. Snowmen and animated elves working in Santa’s workshop were common. Nativity scenes were often present as well. Carols were played on loudspeakers everywhere, which added to the festive season!

I did not grow up in New England, but for those of you that did, this may bring back some fond memories – http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/downtown-department-stores-meant-christmas/?fbclid=IwAR3tU-LjzYM1W03W1zDh0JTCZoTa4WQf0PPxST_aWIThebo7XunqsVYDgs0

26
Nov
19

Colonial Life in New England

Today I had the best time doing a presentation on Colonial Life. This is something I’ve been fascinated with/by/about as long as I can remember!

I was able to take a few family heirlooms that I have to use as examples.

20191125_195130

Since it’s almost Thanksgiving, this was a fun topic to explore and think about as the Pilgrims landed 399 years ago!

We talked about cranes in fireplaces, baking ovens using cabbage leaves, spider pots and porringers, among other cooking items.

The Colonial table was very different than you might imagine. First of all, it was called a board, as it was a board just set on trestles or sawhorses. The covering was a boardcloth rather than tablecloth! There were no chairs, just benches or stools and we learned that children rarely sat – they stood at the table or even behind their parents, waiting to be handed food.

Most meat was cooked into “spoon meat” which was hash or porridge or stew – things you could eat with a spoon as they had no forks. Bread was rare, unless it was rye or corn bread, but they did have a lot of corn and pumpkin and root vegetables.

Honey and maple syrup were sweeteners when needed, and wild berries were always a treat, along with homemade applesauce. Dried apples as well as dried pumpkin were staples.

Indian corn was quickly learned to be easy to grow and cook, as well as filling and nutritional. It was served in countless ways and the husks and cobs were used for toy making as well as fire starters.

I talked about how cooperative the people were, whether they lived in a village or on outlying farms. There were quilting bees and barn raisings, as we’ve heard, but also stone bees (clearing fields) and husking bees (corn), paring bees (apples) and “whangs” which were cooperative spring cleaning bees (I think we should bring these cleaning bees back)! Of course, this is only a small sampling of ways that early folks used to work together to accomplish small and large tasks.

On Sundays, a horn, whistle or drum was often used to call people to “meeting” before meetinghouses had bells. There was a break in the day, held often at a “noon house,” a specific building for the lunch hour, that evolved into what we now might call a parish house or church society building.

Early meeting houses were not white as we see now, but just wooden buildings. Since they were the local meeting area, notices of all types were nailed to the outside walls and in the times when there was a bounty paid for wolves, wolf heads were also nailed to the outside wall as proof that someone had earned their bounty price.

Some other interesting things I discussed were goose baskets, pine knots, nocake, bean & corn counters, clam spoons, Indian brooms, heel pegs, rippling and more!

Don’t know what these are? Give me a follow and maybe I’ll talk about them soon!

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

22
Nov
19

A New Type of Tour!

This summer we added a new type of tour to our list of historical offerings – a tasting tour!

Brushetta snacks for wine. Variety of small sandwiches on dark

Our Historic Tidbit Tasting Tours are following the trend of the “foodie” tours popping up all over the country, but we wanted to be based in history, as all of our tours are, but also to focus on Maine.

What we’ve come up with are really engaging, interesting tours that allow a guest to taste some real Maine foods and to learn tidbits of history about them in a fun way. If you love food and you love historical trivia, these tours are for you!

Since the tours take place in historic villages, some with original buildings, we thought we’d also offer just a tidbit of history about the restaurant or shop buildings that you’ll be in during the tour. In some lucky cases we also have photos of the old storefronts or can show you parts of the original woodwork or other unique items!

So, who knew that Maine blueberries used to be thought to have magical powers? Who knew that Maine potatoes are put to several unique uses other than just mashed or baked? Who knew that lobsters used to be avoided, or if necessary, eaten only by the poor or prisoners? Who knew that Moxie was not created as a soft drink?

There are many more fun tidbits that we share on these 2 hour tasting tours. Even though we say “tastes”, you should probably skip lunch if you’re joining us! You’ll have a chance to check off many of the food items in the “Maine Must Haves” booklet that you’ll receive at the beginning of your tour.

These tours are not just for visitors, local people also love the Tidbit Tastings just as much as someone who’s never been to Maine before! We are open through mid-December, and then will re-open again in the Spring – see you soon!

Red Cloak Historic Tidbit Tasting Tour in Bath Maine W

14
Nov
19

National Pickle Day

google eyes

Well, who knew, but I guess there’s a National Day for almost everything! I do love dill pickles, but I’m writing today because of a historical connection.

Half of my heritage is German, on my mother’s side, and I grew up in a German settled community in Nevada, now living in a German settled community in Maine.

Apparently there is a German custom of hanging a pickle ornament on your Christmas tree – the very last ornament to go on. This glass pickle ornament is supposed to be hung deep within the branches of the tree and a contest ensues as to who will be the first to spot it.

The first adult to spot it is guaranteed good luck for the following year, while the first child to spot it on Christmas morning gets an extra gift, something special from St. Nick.

I did not hear of this tradition until fairly recently and was a little puzzled that I hadn’t, given my background as well as having traveled in Germany several times in my life and knowing several German exchange students during my high school years.

In my house the star on top of the tree was always the last to go on! We didn’t have any tradition even close to the pickle and none of the German neighbors, church members, etc. practiced it.

Well, come to find out, no one in Germany does it either! Here is a link to an article that sums it all up pretty well – https://www.german-way.com/history-and-culture/holidays-and-celebrations/christmas/the-christmas-pickle-ornament/.

The idea is fun, though and could be something you start as one of your family traditions – hiding an ornament of some type in the tree and having a prize for the finder! I think I’ll put a pair of spooky google eyes in the tree, or maybe a skeleton, and use it similar to the “Elf on the Shelf” – you’d better be good because someone’s always watching!

Have a great day and enjoy gearing up for the holidays, whatever your customs and traditions!Pickle

09
Oct
18

Lighthouse Legends, Lore & Haunts

We have been having such great lighthouse legends & lore trips, I just have to write you about them!

These pictures have been taken by guests on the cruises and they are kind enough to let me share them. One is of a seal that has caught a sturgeon. Sturgeons have been very scarce in our area until recently, so this is very exciting to see! (photo credit Ted Madill)
seal sturgeon
On the past few tours we have seen seals, porpoises, an eagle and many other shore birds. We also saw a school of striped bass jumping like crazy! They were feeding on either tinker mackerel or pogies.
A high point for me was just this last week when we had a guest who was coming along for a very specific reason. They had seen our tour advertised last year and had not been able to make it, but made a point to come this fall. This gentleman’s father had been born at one of our lighthouses and he’d seen pictures of him as a baby there, but had never seen the lighthouse personally. That lighthouse is Cuckolds Lighthouse in Southport, pictured here (photo credit Pat Mahoney)
cuckolds
Because my Bucket List includes wanting to go to every place that my ancestors lived, I could certainly understand this gentleman’s wish to see his father’s birthplace! I only wish that we could have actually landed him on the island where this particular lighthouse was. We were able to give him a good view from the boat (thank you good weather and a skillful captain!) and fill him in on the history of the lighthouse.
On every trip we land on Burnt Island off of Boothbay Harbor. This is quite a treat for many visitors – not only to go to a Maine island, but to see a lighthouse up close and explore the area where 30 lighthouse keepers and their families spent their days in the last 197 years! Burnt Island Light will be celebrating her 200th birthday soon and needs a little sprucing up, so a portion of our ticket proceeds goes to the restoration fund. (photo credit Greg Latimer)
Burnt Island Light
We see several other lighthouses on our cruise and learn the history, the legends and the haunts associated with them. If you’d like more information – we have 3 tours left this season (every Saturday in October) – the foliage is perfect right now! – here is a link to Maine Maritime Museum who hosts our tours.
28
Aug
18

Helping & Sharing & History (and a ghost story)

I’m writing this at the end of August – cannot believe summer is over already! I have spent some great moments these last few months discovering all kinds of new tidbits, meeting fantastic new people, investigating new places and helping with some fundraisers.

One of the best parts of this business is helping others, often by the usual monetary or time donation, but also in many other ways. We did a really great fundraiser earlier in the season that raised a good amount of funds for a children’s project – they assist with meals, back to school supplies, Christmas, etc.
We help by reassuring folks who might have some unnerving experiences with the paranormal. Sometimes they are so relieved just to learn that other people might have had a similar experience and that they are not alone. Just being able to tell your experience in a “safe” environment is often enough.
We also help to encourage people’s interest in history. Many people think that history is boring and we open their eyes to a whole new world of fun, exciting, history – kind of like thinking out side the box and looking at it in a different way. I saw an exhibit at a new found museum that used art sketches and stereotypes from the 1800’s to tell a portion of the area’s fishing industry. It was certainly more interesting than reading a book about it!
That museum was one of my newfound treasures! Maine has surprises at every turn if we just keep our eyes open – a historical marker hidden by a tree branch can be just the thing to open your eyes to a piece of that area’s history. A local corner store might have some old photos on the back walls that showcase something you’ve never seen. Even a lecture at a small historical society can really spark a new interest in something you didn’t even think about.
Our new Maritime History Tours have opened my eyes to a lot of things that I’d seen over the years, but didn’t really realize the meanings behind them. I am having such a great time sharing on these new tours in Bar Harbor and Boothbay Harbor. I hope to finalize one for Rockland over the winter. All of the early history of Maine was associated with the water – rivers or sea, as it was the main mode of transportation as well as the livelihood of most, one way or another. Farmers, brickmakers, coopers and more all sent their goods off on boats for trade, unless of course they were small operations and dealt locally.
One of the reasons I like offering custom or specialty tours and speaking engagements is that it does give me the chance to look into different pieces of history. A tour on a singular topic or a particular person offers all kinds of challenges, but what fun when you find the hidden tidbits that make it come alive! Better yet, you get to share it!
I have 3 places on my fall bucket list of travel. We don’t have that much time to travel between May and November, but these are right here in Maine and should be easy. One is to Greenville and the Lumberman’s Museum in Patten – these are really 2 places, but they both relate to the lumber industry in Maine, of which my ancestors were a part of.
The next is to Castine – just a place I’ve always wanted to go. A huge maritime history as well as Revolutionary War ties are there and I hear it’s beautiful! Maybe there’s a ghost or 2 as well…
Lastly, an inn in Bethel that I just heard a haunted story about. Now, I hear ghost stories all the time, but this one was intriguing and offers an opportunity to go somewhere new and different to see what we can find! I’ll share it with you –
A couple was staying at this inn and both commented in the morning how they had heard noises in the night and both had heard similar things. It sounded as if someone was scratching inside a bureau drawer, opening it and rattling the handles. The handles were the hinged pull handles which do make a pretty distinctive noise when jiggled. Neither one of them got up to investigate, but did comment to each other in the morning. When they returned to their room after breakfast, they could not get in. No matter what they did to jiggle the key in the lock and turn it every which way, it would not open! In frustration, they went to get the innkeeper who opened the door with ease. They couldn’t help but think they were being kept out of the room just at that moment for some reason, though nothing seemed amiss!
Thanks for reading – share some history today!
03
May
18

National Paranormal Day

Happy Paranormal Day to you! It’s good timing for us at Red Cloak Tours since we just opened for our season 2 days ago.

Paranormal interest certainly has its cycles. There are not quite as many shows on TV anymore, so in some cases interest has waned, but in others it has left a void for some who would like to continue to live vicariously through those shows.
In the later half of the 19th century, Spiritualism was very, very popular with seances, table tippings, and private readings. The Civil War had prompted many to try to connect with their lost loved ones. Over time it became less and less popular to be associated with such events.
We have an interesting story of a minister who spent some time here in Maine in the early 1800’s. Rev. John B. Dods was preaching in Levant as a Congregationalist and had so many experiences with spirits and haunts (not for the first time – his deceased father appeared to him several times as a younger man) that he was forced to to leave the house that he’d built. Many Levant residents witnessed activity at his home.
He moved to Union, changed his vocation per the demands of a particular spirit, and began preaching at Universalist Churches in Thomastonand Rockland. His home in Union was also taken over by violent activity, deemed to be poltergeists! This activity was again witnessed by many people. “This was followed by a series of astonishing physical phenomena, such as loud rappings about the room, the moving of a table across it without perceptible means, the raising of himself in his chair, etc., until he had all the evidence that the senses were capable of receiving, that these things were real, and that he was in his normal state.”
Rev. Dods often used the pulpit to share his paranormal experiences and over time this was considered inappropriate and his connections were dissolved by mutual consent on June 20, 1829, according to “A History of the Town of Union, in the county of Lincoln, Maine to the middle of the 19th Century” by John L. Sibley.
John moved to Massachusetts, became involved in animal magnetism and electrical psychology and wrote several books. He converted to Spiritualism and became very well known in that circle. Some credit him with coining the term “Spritiualism.” Here is a link to one of my sources if you’d like to read more –



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