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Friday, July 12, 2013

The weeks leading up to the 4th of July........

were memorable ones for me, filled with summer fun and unexpected happenings. Living so close to historic Gettysburg, PA, and this being the 150th anniversary of the battle as mentioned in my last post, we went down there twice in the course of two week. We weren’t there for the grand-slam reenactment or the 4th itself, since the town was absolutely mobbed with visitors. However, we did make for the Antique Arms Show and the Mass said by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

    To cover our first excursion, I went to the Show and met up with Mr. H., a friend of mine who is in the antique arms business. He had his booth set up, stocked with an assortment of amazing articles from days of yore, including a blade from the 1630’s that had apparently been passed down from one generation to the next, since the hilt was from a later date. There was also a Turkish trident and an unusual Italian-made object used to latch hold of a horse’s reins, ornately decorated with Greek and Roman gods.

    Mr. H. is an amazing gentleman himself. He served in the diplomatic service during the Cold War and has traveled the world over. He also worked at the College of Washington and Lee in Virginia and is full of stories relating to history and his own career. In addition to all this, he collects an array of amazing artwork, weaponry, and other rarities of antiquity at his he home. While we were seated behind the booth, he pulled up some of the photos of his collections on his iPad for my perusal. Soon we got to talking about some of our “mutual friends” like General James Wolfe, General Simon Frazer, Major Francis Pierson, John Hampden, and the like. We also analyzed the current political situation briefly, and mused about how the art of manhood seems to have declined since the days of long ago.

    “Riding shotgun” behind the booth, I enjoyed observing the pitter-patter exchange between salesman and customers, good-natured and clever, aiming for a sale yet not discouraged if a sale wasn’t made. More fish would come for the bait. Finally, a bite from an “old friend” and reluctant buyer, and the Turkish Trident was history! I suggested the lucky buyer might like to dress up as Neptune sometime and take a photo to hang up in his living room for effect! I wonder if he’s taken my advice to heart……???

    After parting with the world of antiques, we headed off to mass in Emmitsburg where we were thoroughly surprised to find Archbishop William E. Lori presiding! Apparently it was something of a “sneak attack” visit on the parish, since there was only a small gathering at the mass, and it wasn’t even advertised in the bulletin. We managed to get a photo shoot with him at the end of the mass, and then headed over to the nearby pavilion where a country/folk band was playing and hotdogs were grilling to raise funds and garner support for the Fortnight for Freedom. The scene emanated with the spirit of Catholica Americana at its best.

    We promptly headed off on our next stop, and that was a meeting with a dear nun friend who belongs to the order of The Daughters of Charity. She is now in her early 80’s, but still full of youthful joy and a terrific sense of holy humor. We picked her up from the historic National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and spirited her away to the nearby Pizza Hut where we indulged in the very-cheesy, tangy-sauced, soft-crusted delicacy. At the same time, we strategically seated ourselves at a table by a window so we could have a good view of the 4th of July parade heading down the Emmitsburg streets.

    At first, we thought the parade would be something of a small-town blow out, as there was a long interval that passed after the initial fire trucks and police cars came by. But sooner or later the baton twirlers came forward “giving us hope” for further surprises, as the good sister said. There was a “Miss-somewhere-or-other” girl, riding atop a car and throwing candy. There was also a cute little boy dressed as Abraham Lincoln. Many cars bearing campaigning local politicians, lots more tossed candy, another set of marchers breaking into gymnastic displays. It was quite enjoyable all around. What was even more amusing was observing the way those around us seemed intrigued by the fact we were going “out on the town” with a nun, seemingly under the impression that ladies with habits aren’t allowed to have a good time!

    As twilight descended we headed back to the Seton Shrine for a reenactment involving “ghosts” – or more specifically, locals pretending to be historical personages in the old cemetery! When we first approached the gate to the graveyard, we were confronted by a young man dressed in 19th century attire, chewing on a piece of hay. We inquired if that was where we were supposed to enter for the event. He strutted about awkwardly for a moment, seeming to feel it was his duty to stay in character no matter what, and we had to repeat the question. He finally confusedly blurted out we were supposed to wait till the lantern-toting tour guide showed up!!! Whoops.

    At long last we joined up with “our party” and managed to breach the gates with them. We then walked the gauntlet of hometown would-be Hollywood-ers, dressed as Daughters of Charity in “Flying Nun” habits, Civil War soldiers, school-girls, and a black-robed priest, all telling us snippets about the truly heroic activity of the Daughters of Charity, who cared for the wounded of both North and South during the American Civil War. Although the acting was a little el cheesmo (okay, veeeery!), they obviously put a lot of effort into the little production in order to honor the sisterly heroines of the 19th century. And the whole this was made more poignant by the fact that we were taking the tour with a real live Daughter of Charity of our very own!

    To be continued…….

The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Emmitsburg, MD


  1. It sounds like you had a great time seeing Mr. Hoover again (it's so funny to realize that he's the person who actually connected us in the first place!)
    The excursion with the Daughters of Charity sounds fascinating too! It's always hard for me to take reenactors seriously, that poor 19th century gentleman probably worked very hard on his imitation. Can't wait to hear this posts continuation!

  2. That "ghost" re-enactment sounds pretty interesting!

  3. Hi, gang!

    @Carolyn: Yes, it was a delight getting to meet up with Mr. Hoover, as I'm hoping to be able to do with you soon as well! I'm so glad he took the initiative to connect us! As for the 19c actors and actresses, well....ehem.....we'll give them "E for Effort"! ;-)

    @Emerald: Yeah, the "ghost" re-enactment concept was interesting, although I think the effect would have been enhanced had it been darker, as the lantern light against the graves would have added to the illusion, and maybe I wouldn't have been so distracted by the hoaky acting!

    @Mack: Indeed, it was a fun couple of weeks, and I do plan on the continuiing the saga! Unfortunately, I've been having some very weird blogging trouble these past few days. Hence, no google images and a failure to carry over links on these last two posts! I'm having a really hard time even cutting and pasting from microsoft to get anything up at all!

    So how did you guys spend the 4th and the days leading up to it?