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Young students experience life of bygone days

WARRENSBURG - Barbara Grant's fifth graders weren't sure what to expect when they filed into a room at Warrensburg Central School and saw strange paraphernalia scattered around the room buffalo-plaid blankets.

They may have been expecting a show, but soon learned that they were the show.

Local author Persis Granger author of the two "Adirondack Gold" historical novels the students had been reading in class, asked them what they knew about our area in the late 1890s.

They discussed life without television, electricity and automobiles. They laughed when a classmate emerged from the hallway wearing simulated 19th century garb. They began to hear about the important role of children on family farms, where all members of the household had to pitch in to make sure that the chores got done and there was enough food for winter.

Then Warrensburg octogenarian Irene Hall talked with the students about bygone days, telling them that life in rural Thurman was not so very different when she grew up there in the 1930s with a large family sharing a home with no utilities, no central heat, and no plumbing.

The students' eyes widened as they listened attentively to stories of after-school and Saturday chores, programs at the one-room Dartmouth schoolhouse and the rigors and joys of family life.

And then it was their turn. The students divided up into groups to try their hand at carrying heavy buckets, stringing apple slices to dry for winter - harder and slower than expected - grinding coffee beans, and churning butter. When the butter was done, they all sampled it, and most sampled a sip of the buttermilk, as well. Old-fashioned switchel - a water, vinegar and sugar combination said to be a precursor of today's sports beverages - topped off the snack. All hands pitched in to clean up, the final lesson in sharing responsibility.

Teacher Barbara Grant said this "living history" program, held June 15 in her classroom, taught children a valuable, character-building lesson.

"It's good for children to experience life from this bygone time period, without all this everyday technology they now take for granted." she said.

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