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The World is a Stage

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The Tombstone Tours at the Tillsonburg Pioneer Graveyard were a sold out hit. Many people didn’t get the chance to hear our live ghosts tell their own stories and would like to. The ghosts rather enjoyed themselves as well, so we decided to metamorphose the ghosts into Pioneers.

This means they will be able to tell leave the graveyard and their stories in the warmth and comfort of modern architecture, rather than the frozen winds at the graveyard. The Tillsonburg Senior Centre has some of our Pioneer’s booked for Dec. 9, and in January some will visit Maple Manor. Each story is about five minutes long, so we can bring enough pioneers to fill the length of time desired.

Although taking the Pioneers On Tour is one thing, there seems to be a desire from the public to ‘play’ as well. So why not!

It is fun getting dressed up in period costume. For some people that is all they really want to do. Just to be part of it. They don’t want to learn about a specific person in a pioneer family, who lived in town and pretend to be them. That is okay. Sometimes it is fun to make up your own persona or just float around on the fringe and have fun.

Some people get a charge out of bringing history to life. To not only learn about a person but the way of life when that person lived. Like Dewitt Armstrong a 17-year-old young man who was apprenticing at W. S. Law’s newspaper, The Tillsonburg Observer. How was a paper printed back then? What were the machines like? How many hours did he work? Dewitt started work at 14-years-old and was a hard-working, respected apprentice. He died when moving a big printing press to the second floor of one of our downtown buildings – a derrick collapsed and struck him.

There are also people who like to re-enact, like the War of 1812 re-enactors. The men are all dressed up in appropriate attire to a specific regiment in that war. Their wives are with them and they all dress, eat, sleep and keep the camp as they would have 200 years ago. They go away for weekends and fight in battles and have a great time.

Well, I propose we take all these scenarios, with anyone of any age, who would like to play. I like to play dress up too, and there seems to be a niche for that in Tillsonburg right now. It just might work.

As we change our ghosts to pioneers, you can be a part of it, to whatever degree you want. You can perform or just come along. You can take clothes in your closet or from The Salvation Army or other thrift stores and alter them in to circa 1860s, or you can get someone to make you and outfit that is perfect to every detail. We have pioneers from before and after that decade but it is a good middle time period to work around.

Not only that, there is an English Country Dance group being formed in Tillsonburg and it is about the 1860s time period as well. Plus (you are going to love this one) in about 14 months Canada will begin to celebrate its 150th Anniversary! Who knows, we might be able to get a grant or two and join the festivities by celebrating the way Tillsonburg did 150 years ago!

If you are interested in these ideas and want to learn more and be a part of Tillsonburg’s Pioneers, please come to Annandale National Historic Site on Nov. 25th, at 7 p.m. We will meet in the museum’s program room and talk about how and where the group might go, but we want your input and ideas in the mix.

What kind of things would we do? Well, the Tillsonburg BIA’s Christmas Crawl will be a great example. (No it is not a pub-crawl). They want to get Tillsonburgers to shop downtown and will lure you into the stores and business with chances to win some pretty great gifts.

The Pioneers were asked to spend from 5-9 p.m. at the beautiful and very historic Bijoux Salon and Spa. No we won’t be getting treated, we will be there so you can visit with us. If you wish a pioneer might tell you their story or you can sing a Christmas Carol with us or you can just soak up what it was like 150 plus years ago in downtown Tillsonburg!

For a special treat, before his scheduled presentation on Dec. 13, Charles Dickens, yes 'the' Charles Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, etc. will be strolling the main street occasionally to greet the public and will be drop in at the Bijoux! He will be accompanied by Georgina Hogarth his sister-in-law. We might be able to persuade him to do just a wee reading from one of his books.

Think of it, when Charles does his scheduled presentation on Dec. 13th, we can all go in costume to it! A few pioneers and friends in the audience will change the whole atmosphere of the evening and truly bring history alive. Come, join us!

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