The River of Time


I was glad to be back in my hometown with my family, in part because I forgot a few things there the last time I was home, but my timing was good. Not only did I get to see everyone (often my brother is away for work or just fun travels), but the River of Time event was going on this weekend. This sort of fall activity has been going on for a long time, and I had gone to it at a young age.

Part of it is reenactment of battles (primarily American Civil War) or historical characters. When I was younger, it often wasn’t the best of weather, but with lots of shops with old time toys, kettle corn, and bottled root beer, along with all the tents with artifacts and people in period clothing, it was fun. And really, who can say no to kettle corn and root beer?

This weekend the weather has been perfect. And it seems the periods of time have expanded. I hadn’t remembered anything 20th century the last time I had gone, but they now have folks with pieces or clothing from pre-revolutionary Native Americans to the Vietnam War. Period tents from the two world wars stood out to me, and they had what looked like one of the machine guns from the days of trench warfare (too small to be a Maxim machine gun, though). Occasionally groups marched through with instruments of drums and fifes playing old tunes, either of the Revolutionary or Civil War periods. There also was a battle reenactment, though I missed that. But I did get to watch a very good performance by the local Abraham Lincoln. Sure, we expected his Gettysburg Address, but he did more than just recite that. Setting the scene with words, from the battle to his involvement in consecrating the graveyard to his arrival at the town and public square, it was a great build-up to the speech itself. The actor I think also captured the wit of the former president.

I don’t know how much how much my town was involved in the Civil War (Bay City wasn’t officially a city until 1865, the last year of the War Between the States), but afterward there was some considerable ship building that would help in later conflicts. Some of the remnants of those ship yards can still be seen right by the park the River of Time took place (and the water is really down now, making it even more noticeable). But then again, thinking of history as a series of battles isn’t accurate. One of the participants that chatted with my mother noted how it seemed history was a bunch of wars. And while wars obviously are big events in human affairs (especially in the modern world), it overwhelms what is the most important part of history: the people that flowed with it. Fortunately at this event there were many tents showcasing early American lifestyles, the explorers of the Great Lakes, the gold panners that went out west, and the Native Americans.

In addition, there was a bit of an air show; two planes that flew over seemed to be of WWI design (though they didn’t have cloth wings), and from what I could tell a WWII P51 Mustang. Mixing World War tech with early settlers? What is this, an episode of Doctor Who?

*SPOILERS*

It’s not. Sorry. Heck, I didn’t even say anyone wear a fez, and those are cool.

While walking around there, I also visited the Trombley House, the first frame house in the city and where I had done my Eagle scout project back in the day ten years ago. The place looked to be in good order, but I couldn’t tell if they had been using the sprinkler system I had helped install with the volunteers I got to work with. Nonetheless, the Olde Thyme garden seemed just fine with its pun intact.

It was enjoyable to go on a nostalgia trip to something that is itself historical nostalgia of sorts. (Does this make what I did the Inception of nostalgia?) And it’s not the only sort of thing that the locals have done. Last year my mother and her sisters went up to Mackinac Island for the Somewhere in Time festival, a weekend based on the movie that was filmed there in 1979 with Christopher Reeve. They all had dresses made up to look like something from the Victorian era to match the theme of the movie with the time-traveling Reeve (using wishful thinking rather than flying around the Earth really fast), and that must have been a blast. If you go up there, the Grand Hotel tries to keep things looking like a late 19th century upper-class accommodation, requiring proper attire for all its guests. A beautiful building with a lot of history, along with the rest of the island. Oh, and don’t forget the fudge!

So, a lot of time travel this weekend it seems. Now I need to watch the most recent Doctor Who episode, and the circle will be complete. (And don’t spoil it for me James!)

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