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Day camp introduces children to olden ways

Blast to the Past offers chores done by hand

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Nicholas Abbott, 8, of Oregon and Haley Jones, 8, of Millbury do laundry on a washboard in a tub at the camp sponsored by the Oregon-Jerusalem Historical Society. It was at the society's museum complex.

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Chamber pots and butter churns haven't been used for a long time, but they were among an assortment of archaic objects children were introduced to at a day camp in Oregon.

The idea behind last week's Blast to the Past Day Camp was to introduce youngsters to the way things used to be. It was at a fitting venue: the Oregon-Jerusalem Historical Society Museum Complex on Grasser Street, the centerpiece of which is Brandville School, the former one-room schoolhouse that dates to 1882.

The children, who were 8, 9, and 10, found themselves doing some of the unglamorous chores of olden days, such as washing laundry by hand and running it through a hand-cranked wringer, beating rugs, emptying chamber pots (containing water, not waste), and churning butter.

Dianne Powers, one of the historical society volunteers who organized the camp, said the goal was to give the children a sense of history and inculcate habits such as manners, cooperation, and leaving a place looking better than when they arrived.

"And it's good to be able to do a job for yourself," said Ms. Powers, a retired Oregon teacher. "I personally believe in a job well done, and I want the children to know that."

Erin Weiker, a social studies teacher at Clay High School and camp volunteer, said one lesson she's been driving home is that a boy should remove his hat when indoors.

"I tell them it's impolite and not proper etiquette to wear a hat inside," she explained. "You see people in public who don't even know to take their hat off during the singing of the national anthem."

The children seemed to regard the implements from the past as wondrous. They oohed and aahed when volunteer Sarah Bretz, an English teacher at Clay, showed them a wooden ironing board from the museum's collection and a clothes wringer.

Maddy Ross and Allison Davis tried their hands at beating a rug, the way things were done before vacuum cleaners. Allison said she wasn't sure she would want to do this chore on a regular basis.

Maddy, however, wielded the rug beater like a pro and said she was having fun. "It gets your anger up," she said, as clouds of dust lifted from the rug. Both girls are in the fifth grade at the Oregon district's Jerusalem Elementary.

For Jackson Maassel, a fourth grader at Kateri Catholic Academy in Oregon, the best chore was wringing laundry. "It was fun to use the crank," he said, "and it did a good job."

-- Carl Ryan

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