Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Geocaching Around Town

Geocaching Around Town
Warwick Township , Pennsylvania

Our First Successful Discovery
Last year I was introduced to the activity of Geocaching by my friend and fellow middle school teaching colleague Ruth Gallagher.  This past summer in the middle of a July heatwave, we decided to meet to go and and see what we could find within a a two mile radius of my house.  She went on the website and printed out a list of over a dozen GPS coordinates with accompanying description and clues.  With the help of her hand-held Geocaching device, we began our adventure and pulled out of my driveway to see what local hidden treasures we could find.  A lot of the clues and descriptions are more like a riddle that you have to decode.  Not one of our destinations gave clear and direct instructions but that is part of the fun.   It was often a brain-teaser for us to try and unravel the true meaning of twisted words within given hint phrases.  It's an outdoor thinking game.

Concealed Cache / Roadside Guardrail
Our first target was less than a mile from my house; the designated site described the location of the Scottish Highlands.  A descriptive paragraph, with a complete history of the region in Europe accompanied the coordinates.  The hand-held device's arrow pointed the way and my knowledge of the local roads made it easier for us to find our way from Point "A" to Point "B".  This was a real challenge for us at times while Geocaching last summer because we could see where we needed to go but had no idea how to get there.  At one point searching for a target around Harrisburg, there was a six lane highway between our car and the direction we needed to drive.  We discussed theories of the hint's meaning as we traveled ever closer to the cache location with the hand-held device slowly counting down the distance to get to the target.  We headed in the direction of the Highlands Apartment Complex on top of a hill south of Lititz.  This revealed the connection to Highlands in the cache title and the Scottish half described the heritage of the person who created the Geocache. 

 Heart of Lancaster Hospital Campus
We parked the car when the GPS device began to count down the distance to the cache in feet.  We were not at the Highlands yet and our device pointed to the woods off the road.  Where could it be?    Ruth's experience made it an easy find for her because she knows where to look and what places have been used in previous finds to conceal a cache.  It was found in the metal roll of the backside of the guardrail along the road, which was called Highland Drive.  Inside a small round black film case container was a paper scroll for Ruth to log her username and today's date to register she successfully found the Geocache.  There were over a dozen signatures and matching dates already logged on the tiny roll of paper.  Later, Ruth would go on the website at home to record her findings to update the Geocaching data base.  Each description Ruth printed out listed the last time the Geocache was discovered.  We replaced the scroll back in the waterproof container and returned it to its hiding spot for the next person to discover. 

 Rock Formation Hiding Spot
All Geocaches are rated on a D/T scale of difficulty with one being easy and five very difficult.  The "D" half of the scale represents the mental challenge of finding the cache and the "T" scale designating the difficulty of the terrain involved getting to the target.  After descending the Highlands, there were several to find along the popular walking path on the Heart of Lancaster Hospital campus.  I was trying to figure out how you could hide something on the hospital campus that would not be found by maintenance or landscape workers.  We came to the conclusion that several of the Geocache containers were placed on the property by hospital staff members, based on the names and descriptions of the cache boxes.  Ruth taught me to look within the target area for something that did not look natural or was slightly out of place, such as a rock that might be covering something, which was the case on several of our quests.  It was fun to see who could find the cleverly concealed cache box first, kind of like an Easter egg hunt for competitive adults!  

Geocache up a Tree
Sometimes Ruth would find the location first and then let me discover it for myself.  On more than one occasion, I found the item first but let my excitement get the better of me by blurting it out.  However, it is much more fun to have a partner when Geocaching, so one person can concentrate on the road and the other on the GPS hand-held device.  On the health campus we found two hidden within rock formations of the landscaping along the walking trail and a third in a strip of woods between the walking trail and the cornfields beyond.  A small path zig-zagged through the brush to an open spot within the woods, where we searched over rocks and the knots of nearby trees.  The GPS device does not point directly at the object's location, becoming inaccurate at approximately 12 feet.  This zone is officially known as Ground Zero in Geocaching lingo.  At this point, you have to know what to look for, guided by the riddle-like clues and your intuition.  Eventually, Ruth found the Geocache hidden within the knot of a tree.  She won this round! 

Revealed Geocache / Penn Cinema
Next, we were off to search for a Geocache called Popcorn and a Movie (N 40° 06.807 W 076° 17.500) hidden somewhere on or near the property of Penn Cinema south of Lititz.  It was placed by a couple who are major movie buffs and see a movie every Wednesday when they also likely maintain their Geocache container.  We were guided behind the theater to the deserted back parking-lot and were instructed by the GPS to head to the treeline that borders the back of the property.  We searched the perimeter until a small path came into view that led to a tree and several rocks.  Looking for the possible hiding place, a particular rock stood out that we removed to reveal the largest container yet that advertised itself as a Geocache.  Inside was the paper scroll log paper, a stick of gum (no thanks), a small dog statue, and several other novelty items.  I was hoping for a pair of free movie tickets or a voucher for a free popcorn!  Not today... Onward to our next site!

Caches Hidden Within Rocks
One of our most challenging Geocache quests was located on the Stauffer's of Kissel Hill property.  Kiss my Cache (N 40° 07.699 W 076° 18.340) gave a hint in the form of a crypt word puzzle that needed to be decoded... drill here was the solution to the hint puzzle.  Our GPS was more nonspecific as we came to a tall chain-link fence that seemed to throw off our hand-held device.  We had a hard time trying to figure out if the Geocache was along a long rock-ledge on one side of the fence or hidden within several lush pine tree plantings on the other side.  We started searching through the thick pine trees, which revealed several hidden rock formations but no cache.  We were confused by the decoded hint "drill here" suggesting rock, but which one?  Soon we decided to split up, with Ruth searching on the rock-ledge side of the fence and I continued exploring the pine trees.  I was beginning to think the fence itself between us might contain the cache when Ruth suddenly shouted out that she found it!  It was the most creative hiding spot I have seen yet, a small rock plugged a drill hole within a larger rock that contained the small Geocache inside!  Very cool! 

Fence Post Challenge
The second Geocache hidden on the Stauffer's property was even more difficult, hidden near or within a bus-stop shelter along West Millport Road.  Despite extensive searching and a hint that contained the word "shock" suggesting a connection with electricity, we were unable to locate the cache after fifteen minutes of looking.  A little frustrated, we were beginning to feel the effects of the heat wave with mid-afternoon temperatures in the high 90's with equally high humidity.  However, we always recharged slightly with the AC cranked in the car as we drove the short distance from one location to another.  We decided to push on to finish our list, followed by a late lunch as a reward.  We headed off to the Manheim Township Community Park for our final finds of the day.  This was a trip down Memory Lane for me as I played in this park when I was little and knew exactly where the path was described in the hint provided for Going Nuts 2 (N 40° 06.486 W 076° 18.565)  This one was a little hard to find but the name of the Geocache box revealed a clue in itself when we discovered a walnut tree with nuts laying on the ground around a conspicuous pile of rocks.  The large Ziploc container was found under the rocks and we crossed another Geocache off our list.  
GPS Geocaching Hand-held Device
Our next Geocache was located on the opposite side of the park, where our hand-held device led us to a tall tree.  I was starting to get good at this and looked for less obvious hiding spots nearby.  I was drawn to a series of wooden posts that had several holes drilled into their sides.  The holes went all the way through the wood, where the post may have previously held a chain or cable fence.  One hole appeared plugged and upon closer inspection I found a metal wire barely visible below a wooden plug.  I called Ruth over to see what she thought and she pulled on the wire, which was attached to a small Geocache container concealed within the post hole.   Wow, no two were alike and my developing detective intuition had paid off with a difficult discovery!  We ventured across the street to a sports complex to find our final two cache boxes of the day.  Our final find was a milestone discovery for Ruth as she logged her 100th find of her Geocaching  career.  It was hidden in a small pine tree that contained a plastic container that was wired to the trunk.  Congratulations Ruth!

Congratulations on Find 100!
We celebrated Ruth's achievement with lunch at Issac's Restaurant and Deli back in Lititz, a stone's throw away from our first Geocache find of the day.   We were seated and the waitress could tell there was something on my mind... I had been fighting dehydration for the past two hours... I said "I am really, really thirsty!"  She rushed away and came back with two mugs of ice water for each of us... Ruth sipped... I gulped, and gulped, and gulped!  I don't know how many gallons I put away but it was the best thing on the menu that day!   Overall, the day's searching was a big success with us finding eleven out of the thirteen on our list.  The Geocaching website currently lists the number of active Geocache containers at 1,458,628 worldwide so the fun never ends!  A big thank you to Ruth for accompanying me on this adventure.  We had a lot of fun and make a great team.  In the near future, we may work together on creating a few Geocache locations of our own to monitor.  Stay tuned for the next installment of our Geocaching team effort!  

100 Postings and Counting
Unknown to me at the time, Ruth and I had amazingly shared a centennial benchmark on this trip together.  Her 100th Geocache discovery coincided with my 100th blog posting of Camp Martin Travels!  What are the odds?  As always, thanks for your continued interest and support!     

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Journey of the Declaration / Part # 2

Journey of the Declaration / Part # 2
The National Archives / Washington D.C.

Declaration of Independence
(Printed Broadside / John Dunlap)
Following the vote of the Second Continental Congress in favor of Independence from Great Britain on July 4th, 1776, Congress commissioned a local printer named John Dunlap to transfer Jefferson's script into type.  They ordered Dunlap to print 200 copies of the document to send the official word along the east coast to all major ports of the 13 Colonies.  Two of the copies were sent to British officials in America who forwarded them to Parliament in London, where they still remain within the Public Record Office archives to this very day.  This was the first printing of the document and today the Dunlap Broadsides are viewed as an extremely valuable artifact.  Of the original 200 copies printed, only 25 are known to exist.  Most copies are preserved in the collections of institutions, including the New York Public Library,  Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. Only one copy of the Dunlap Broadside is privately owned.  

Declaration of Independence
(Copy of Scribed Parchment / Timothy Matlack)
The only privately owned Dunlap Broadside was discovered accidentally in 1989 by an artist searching for cheap frames for his artwork at a flea market outside Philadelphia.  He was hoping to find old wooden frames that he could recondition and reuse for his paintings.  He purchased a faded picture contained within a simple wooden frame for four dollars.  When he got it home he began to remove the picture and the frame fell apart, suggesting a poor investment of four dollars.  However, a folded sheet of paper slid out from under the faded canvas, revealing an old printed copy of the Declaration of Independence.  The artist thought it might be an antique because the paper was old and eventually had it authenticated by experts who officially determined it was an original and dubbed it the 25th Dunlap Broadside.  It went up for auction a decade later in 2000 at Sotheby's in New York City, where it broke a record as the highest selling item ever purchased in an online auction.  I was purchased for 8.14 million dollars by a pair of investors, one of which was television producer Norman Leer.

 Commander-in-Chief/  General William Howe
(Mezzotint Credit / John Morris/  November 1777)
The Dunlap Broadside may have been concealed within the painting to hide it from the British when they occupied the city of Philadelphia during the American Revolution in 1777-1778.  General William Howe's march to the city, following his victory at the Battle of Brandywine, caused the Continental Congress to flee to the west to avoid capture, trial, and execution.  Private citizens stayed put, not willing to forfeit their property and possessions.  However, it could be considered treasonous to possess a copy of the Declaration, which may have prompted the owner to hide it.  This may also explain why so few copies of the Dunlap Broadside survived, as the British Army occupied several additional key coastal cities during the war, including Boston, New York, and Charleston.  Owners may have disposed of the document to avoid arrest.  I always think of the flea market vender who sold the picture for four bucks!  Hopefully he never knew about the treasure he lost to an unsuspecting artist for a few dollars.  One man's trash is another man's treasure, indeed!

Tyler on Top of the World
(United States Navy Memorial / National Archives)
A few weeks after the Dunlap Broadside announced the Second Continental Congress' decision supporting American Independence to the world, Jefferson's immortal words of the document were put into final cursive draft by the court scribe Timothy Matlack.  As clerk to the Secretary of the Continental Congress, Matlack was chosen to engross the words to parchment on July 20, 1776, which must have been a frustrating job.   One single mistake and you would have to start all over again... no animal skin parchment "white-out" was available.  I often wonder if he got it perfect on the first try?  He was well known for putting documents into final form, as well as being a surveyor, merchant, and future delegate to the Continental Congress for Pennsylvania in 1780.  The Matlack Engrossing is considered the one true original copy of the Declaration of Independence and today rests within in the rotunda of the National Archives in Washington D.C.  How many visitors mistake the handwriting of the Declaration as Thomas Jefferson's own hand?

The National Archives / Washington D.C.
The first public reading of the Declaration of Independence took place on July 8, 1776 just outside Independence Hall, which at the time was known as the Pennsylvania State House.  Other public readings that day took place in Trenton, New Jersey and Easton, Pennsylvania.  President John Hancock sent a copy of the Dunlap Broadside to General George Washington in New York with instructions to have it publicly read to his soldiers.  The document was made further public as it was printed in various newspapers, including those in Great Britain and across Europe.  The British published several rebuttal responses of their own in the form of pamphlets and newspaper publications to challenge America's list of grievances but to no avail.  War it would be.

 The Declaration of Independence
(Printed Broadside / Mary Katherine Goddard)
In January of 1777, the Continental Congress deemed that the Declaration of Independence should me mass published and made available to the general public.  Mary Katherine Goddard was the first to print a type-set copy of the document with all the signatures included at the bottom.  In addition to being the official Postmaster of the seaport city of Baltimore, she owned a book store and published an almanac.  She offered the use of her printing press for the task and helped bring the Declaration into the American mainstream.  Even more rare, only nine copies of the Goddard Broadside are known to still exist.
The Rotunda Viewing Area
The engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence moved with the Continental Congress throughout the war and later found a home within the new national capital of Federal City within the District of Columbia.  The document was moved to Virginia during the War of 1812 to protect it from the invading British, who later attacked and burned much of the nation's capital to the ground, including the President's Mansion.  The responsibility of the Declaration safe keeping was later assigned to the Secretary of State.  In 1820, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams wanted the fading engrossed parchment copy preserved for the future.  He employed the services of printer William Stone to create a wet plate image transfer using a chemical process to burn Matlack's script of the original document onto a copper plate to be used for future printings.   The process was completed in 1823 and probably caused additional damage to the original document.  However, the accuracy of the script was saved from decay and all modern copies are taken from Stone's copper plate, including the one actor Nicholas Cage tried to steal from the gift shop at the National Archives in the historically entertaining Disney created movie, National Treasure.   

National Treasures on Display
In 1840 the Declaration was put on public display at the United States Patent Office in Washington D.C., formally known as Federal City.  It remained on display for the next 35 years and was not properly cared for, causing extensive damage from moisture, light, and humidity.  In 1876 it was loaned to Independence Hall for the 100th celebration of the Nation's birthday where it remained for a full year.  By this point, the Declaration was in such poor condition, all future planned public displays were cancelled indefinitely.  In 1921 document rights to the Declaration of Independence were transferred from the care of the State Department to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. where restoration efforts slowed decay.  Soon the document was open to public display once again.  During World War II it was relocated west to Fort Knox in Kentucky for safe keeping, just in case the nation's capital became a war-time target once again.  

Declaration of Independence
(Copper Plate Transfer / William Stone)
Finally, in 1952, the National Archives won the right to store and care for the document permanently, using the latest technology available at the time.  Today the Declaration resides in protective argon gas filled cases made from titanium and aluminum.  It was put on public display once again, along with the four page United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights within the rotunda of the building.  Years ago I was able to attend a private showing with one the curators of the archives.  I was hoping to pry some secrets from him to see if the documents were really lowered into underground vaults with magnetic locks, as were rumored in stories and suggested as fact in the movie National Treasure.  You could tell the curator had been down this road before but he wasn't showing his cards.  The best security system is the one that remains a mystery.  The rotunda was like standing in an solar eclipse, as light is very damaging to documents.  The high-tech lighting system was a specific candle wattage and not directly facing downward.  Everything was scientifically monitored in efforts to slow the aging process as much as possible.  We were also able to see Stone's Copper Plate, which will be used to make additional copies on parchment in 2026 for the 250th birthday of the Declaration.  The limited printings will be sold or gifted to private collections and museums.  

 The Declaration of Independence
(Matlack Script / The National Archives)
The private showing was a plus because we were able to fast track through security.  It was held in the early morning before the museum opened.  Already people were lining up outside to get in but we were whisked through a side entrance for staff only.  The Constitution and Bill of Rights were still in very good shape and completely legible.  However, I was taken aback by the poor condition of the Declaration of Independence.  I knew it had faded but never anticipated how much.  It was barely legible and the signatures, including John Hancock, had all but faded into obscurity within the parchment.  The parchment itself appeared to be two pieces sewn together, set apart by different shades of color.  Additional display cases on the sides of the Rotunda contain revolving content so you can see new treasures with each visit.  We were able to see Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Magna Carta on loan from England.  An amazing experience to say the least!  Look closely at my picture of the Declaration of Independence above and see if you can find a visible mystery contained within the document.  I will reveal the answer in the next paragraph...

Jefferson Medallion / 1804
(Painting Credit / Gilbert Stuart)
Please Note / I used many sources to check my facts and figures when writing this blog, including, the National Archives, Library of Congress, and the United States National Park Service, among others.  Much thanks to these sources!  The mystery I mentioned above contained within the Declaration of Independence itself is the image of a small hand-print in the lower left hand corner of the document.  Did you see it?  No one knows where the child-size hand-print came from or when it actually first appeared.  Efforts to remove the print have been unsuccessful as it has become engrained within the parchment itself.  It is a ghostly addition and adds an aura of mystery to the legacy of the document's long history.  A trip to the National Archives should be a pilgrimage every American should take once to pay homage to the words that started a nation and brought freedom to countries the world over.   We hold these truths to be self evident....

Seal of Washington D.C.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Journey of the Declaration / Part # 1

Journey of the Declaration / Part # 1
Graff / Declaration House / Philadelphia, PA

Graff House / Philadelphia, PA
(Illustration Credit / Robert Shaw)
We hold these truths to be self-evident... The simple words that changed the political face of the world forever, were penned by a young Thomas Jefferson in rented rooms at the Graff House in Philadelphia.  Jefferson stayed in two rooms on the second floor in the Georgian Style brick home on the corner of Seventh and Market Streets, while representing Virginia during the Second Continental Congress.  Jefferson was new to the Congress and had not attended the First Continental Congress the previous year.  A lot had transpired since the last meeting, including the skirmishes of Lexington, Concord Bridge, and the fall of Fort Ticonderoga to Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys.  Despite the exchange of gunfire and causalities on both sides, the delegates were unable to make a full commitment to war with a vote for independence.

Jefferson's Parlor at the Graff House
The delegates had good reason to ponder the decision of Independence carefully.  Great Britain was the most powerful nation in the world with the robust military muscle to manage a worldwide empire.  The British Royal Navy had over 130 frigates at the ready, while America had no ships of war and in fact,  no real official navy.  In retrospect, America really had no standing full-time military at all, they had few military weapons, and little funding available to purchase the supplies they would need.  Common sense pointed to obvious failure and the wealthy men seated within Independence Hall had the most to lose, including their lives.  A vote for Independence was a self admission and full confession for committing high treason against the Crown.  During the exhausting debate, a motion was put forth to create a declaration of grievances, listing the reasons why Independence should be the course of action.  President of the Congress, John Hancock, decided to forge a committee to create a document that would make the issues on the table more clear, which would hopefully lead to a final vote, once and for all, on the pondering issue of Independence.  

Jefferson's Rough Draft Changes
(Image Credit / National Archives)
Members of President Hancock's Committee of Five were chosen carefully from the three regions of the 13 Colonies to ensure equal representation in the proposed Declaration.  The group included John Adams from Massachusetts and Roger Sherman from Connecticut to represent the New England Colonies.  Pennsylvania delegate Ben Franklin and Robert Livingston of New York served for the middle colonies.  The lone southern appointment was Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, who had a respected reputation as a scholar and gifted writer.  Four of the delegates represented the most powerful of the 13 Colonies with a representative from Connecticut chosen to represent the interests of the smaller provinces.  The group independently decided to appoint Jefferson to write the document with the other members in the panel editing the Declaration with agreed upon revisions.  At the time, the task of creating the Declaration was looked upon as a chore that would be little remembered... in the course of human events.  They couldn't have been more wrong!

Graff Declaration House Today
(Photo Credit / Google Earth Images)
It was Jefferson's burden to capture the meaning of the concept of Independence.  His end product was a document that would impact the decision path of the Second Continental Congress and the lives of the American people they were illegally representing.  The task was an awesome one.   In order to find the words, Jefferson sought solitude away from the center of the city by moving into furnished rooms on the second floor of the Graff household on the edge of town.  Today it is hard to visualize the busy location as the quiet edge of Philadelphia as it appeared in June of 1776.  The rural setting of fields and farms provided a Monticello-like atmosphere for Jefferson to do what he did best... write.  We know from Jefferson's rough drafts that the declaration was a difficult work in progress with many rewrites and revisions.  The entire process took three weeks from start to finish.  Jefferson said little as the other members of the Committee of Five edited his words and revised his thoughts.  Much to Jefferson's disappointment, his committee colleagues, none of whom owned slaves, removed his statement within the Declaration condemning the institution of slavery.

Declaration of Independence
(Painting Credit / John Trumbull)
Thomas Jefferson was a man consumed by conflicting principles throughout his life.  He hated the Peculiar Institution but owned and depended on slave labor to support his livelihood.  He did not believe in carrying financial debt and yet he was often deeply in debt.  It was said that the only thing the impressive Monticello plantation wasn't... was profitable.  He hated politics yet would be pulled away time and again to reluctantly serve in political office, later including two terms as the third President of the United States.  Jefferson had always desired to become an academic scholar like the famous men he admired and displayed throughout his home in the form of portrait and sculpture.  However, it was not to be and in some ways he became what he detested most.  However, he showed the world his gifts of thought, expressed in documents, including the Declaration of Independence.  His powerful words would change the future path of the world in ways he never could have imagined.

 Sandy / Runaway Slave Reward Notice
(Article Credit / T. Jefferson / Virginia Gazette 1769)
The decision to remove Jefferson's condemnation of slavery from the Declaration of Independence was a political decision of geography and economics.  Thus far, the conflict between America and Great Britain was a northern fight centered mostly in Massachusetts.  If the vote would pass for the support of Independence, the northern colonies had no chance of victory without support from southern colonies.  The idea of bringing an open debate on slavery onto the floor of the Second Continental Congress was counterproductive to their end purpose.  The southern colonies would never support a cause that would put the foundation of their future economic vitality in jeopardy.   Benjamin Franklin hoped the institution of slavery in America would follow the example of Europe and slowly fade from existence.  As tobacco markets flooded with product and the price continued to fall, the dependence for slave labor fell with it.  A decision was made not to make an issue over something that would hopefully dissolve by itself with time.  However, the future introduction of cotton as a new southern cash crop would upset the theory.  The failure to address the issue of slavery during the nation's birth, would implode in the American Civil War 85 years later, ending in the deaths of an estimated 600,000 Americans.

Thomas Jefferson / Pop Art Portrait
The Committee of Five presented a copy of the Declaration of Independence to members of the Second Continental Congress at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on June 28, 1776.  A fevered debate erupted within each individual colony on what the final position should be when the time came to officially cast their single collective vote.  The first vote was tabulated with eight colonies voting "Yes" for Independence, Pennsylvania and South Carolina voting against it, Delaware's two delegates disagreed and were split equating to a no vote, and New York did not have permission to vote at all from their colonial assembly back home.. so they abstained.  Internal conflicts prevented Georgia from sending a delegate to the Second Continental Congress until July 20, 1776... so they were out of it.  Talk about complicated!  They decided to table the motion and vote again the next day, time enough for some political maneuvering, bargaining, and dealing.  The more things change, the more they stay the same!  Looking back, it seems like they would continue to vote until they achieved the desired outcome of the majority present, time for all to jump on the band wagon!

 Delaware State Quarter
The next day they voted again with two opposed members from Pennsylvania abstaining, allowing the colony to support Independence with a 3-2 internal vote.  Pennsylvania was now on-board!  South Carolina decided to reverse their posted "No" vote from the previous day to a "Yes" vote.  In addition, New York finally received the authority to actually cast an official vote from the powers-to-be back home and cast a "Yes" vote for Independence.  Only Delaware was on the other side of the fence at Independence Hall, looking very isolated and alone.  Delaware's two delegates in attendance were on extreme opposite ends of the debate and their 1-1 tie vote equated to a "No" vote.  Caesar Rodney was the third assigned delegate for Delaware, but was back home in Dover attending to government business when he learned of his colony's dual deadlock cancelling vote.  He was the deciding vote for the colony yet to be cast and jumped on his horse and rode 80 miles through rain and storms to dramatically arrive at Independence Hall.  He was just in time to vote "Yes" and bring Delaware in line for Independence with the eleven other colonies in attendance.   Caesar Rodney's determination to make his vote count earned him a place of honor on Delaware's state quarter, the first created by the United States Mint in their highly collectable 50 State Quarters Series. 

Signing the Declaration of Independence
(Painting Credit / Armand-Dumaresq / Circa 1873)
The Declaration of Independence was officially adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776 but most likely may have been signed by the delegates about a month later.  President John Hancock had the privilege of signing his name first, making it large enough for King George III to read it without his spectacles.  As a result, his famous scripted name later became synonymous with the word signature.  One delegate stood opposite of the table holding the Declaration so he could see each delegate's facial expression as they signed what might very well be their own death warrant.  Their names were all now a matter of public record, as they openly committed treason and flirted with death.  The signature of Stephen Hopkins appears  little more than a jagged scratch suggesting fear.  However, the truth of the matter was that he suffered from a nervous condition called palsy that caused his hands to shake, making writing difficult.  "My hand trembles but my heart does not," he said, as he signed his name to the parchment.  The 56 members who signed the Declaration of Independence became forever known as the sacred fraternity dubbed the Founding Fathers.

  The Expanded Graff House (1880)          Reconstructed Graff House (1976)
Over time, the Graff House went through many architectural changes and expansions that made the building almost unrecognizable compared with the original structure of 1776.  Eventually the site was torn down in 1883 to make way for the Penn National Bank, including the original Graff house somewhere deep within the expanded four story structure.  On July 4, 1956 the Independence National Historic Park was created in an effort to preserve and protect a 55 acre area within the Old City and Society Hill sections of the city of Philadelphia.  Much of the historic area had been previously built up with commercial properties and many wished open space would be created within the newly designated park.  Eyesore buildings and businesses were torn down and removed from view as historic buildings were added to the list to be protected by the National Park Service.   Today the area is also known as America's Most Historic Mile because so much history is contained within such a small area. 

 Map of the Historic Mile
Independence National Historic Park
As the Bicentennial celebration approached, many previous lost historic buildings were brought back to life including the Graff House that was rebuilt with help of historic research, including photographs and drawings.  Today it is known as the Declaration House and serves as a museum to Thomas Jefferson and the process of writing the famous document.  It has since been included within the Independence National Historic Park.  The two rooms Jefferson occupied are recreated for visitors but contain few original artifacts with the exception of the key to the front door.   The house itself is one of the most narrow I have ever seen in the city and almost appears to be a facade of some kind.  Each floor consisted of two long narrow rooms connected by a center hallway and staircase.  The Declaration House does not have consistent hours and it is best to call in advance to see when it is open to the public when planning a visit.  On our next installment of the Declaration of Independence we will travel to Washington D.C. to view the document in person at the National Archives building.  See you next week!

Philadelphia. PA

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ocean City Memories / Part # 2

Day at the Beach
Ocean City, New Jersey
Part # 2

 Katelyn's First Trip to Ocean City
When my daughter Katelyn was a toddler, Susan and I decided to try our first family vacation, traveling to Ocean City, New Jersey to create some memories.  We packed up the car and I think we even brought along some Orange Crush soda for the ride, just for olde times sake.  We were on a tight budget and I remembered my parents saving some money when I was a kid, by finding cheap lodgings during our stay.  How much time were we really going to stay inside the hotel room anyway, other than sleep?  This was before the internet came into the American mainstream, so I was going on information from multiple brochures I received in the mail from various sources in Ocean City.  I soon found a really cheap room in an old hotel in the middle of town.  The brochure portrayed the place as a classic style hotel from the bygone golden years of Ocean City as a resort town.  It was only $65 a night but it had a pool and everything.  I threw caution to the wind and booked us for three nights!  It seemed like a win-win... they didn't even require a deposit to hold the room!  Home run!

Pictures of Katelyn and Tyler Back in the Day
As soon as we pulled the car a foot out of the driveway, a single raindrop hit the windshield... a bad omen?  A steady rain followed us the whole way down into the Garden State and continued to pour down in buckets as we drove across the bridge into Ocean City.  We found our hotel and arrived before check-in time.  We decided to park the car and check out the place.  Inside, the main lobby smelled stale and appeared dim with inadequate lighting, dark wood paneling, and brown carpeting that had seen better days.  A very large hand painted sign was posted on a wall by the front desk warning no refunds would be given following check-in.  We were having second thoughts but maybe the room would be nice, after-all we weren't going to be hanging out in the lobby.  The young girl working the desk offered to show us the room and we took her up on the offer.  Meanwhile, the rain continued to pour from the sky.

Escaping the Ocean City Monsoon
We went upstairs in a freight elevator to the third floor and exited into a narrow hallway with red velvet fuzzy wallpaper complimented with a worn bright red carpet to match.  Instantly, I noticed the wooden doors we were walking past were locked with padlocks!  An elderly woman was sitting in a chair outside her room smoking a cigarette with an extended ash that was at least a inch long.  She looked like she had been there for quite a while, possibly several days.  The hotel clerk opened our door to reveal a two room suite that looked like it hadn't been updated in thirty years.  The beds were more like iron cots, the dressers were made of faded wood, there was no air-conditioning, or television.  And the bathroom... Well, it looked a little rough.  All that was missing was the classic unadorned light-bulb hanging from a black cord overhead.  We descended back down the freight elevator and thanked the hotel clerk telling her we were going to the car to get our luggage.  We passed by the tiny pool that was filled with brown leaves from last fall.

Biking Down the Boardwalk
We ran through the rain to our getaway car and drove straight to the Howard Johnson several blocks away that luckily still had a room available.  We wound up paying almost triple the price but it was worth every cent!  Our new room was on the second floor looking down on the pool that was crystal clear and void of decomposing debris.  We dried off and took a break, watching the rain drops fall into the pool below through the balcony door glass window.  Later the rain slowed to a drizzle and we ventured out to find the boardwalk a short block away.  Despite the weather, the beach and ocean looked beautiful in various shades of grey from the exiting storm.  The torrential rain had taken its toll on the streets close to the boardwalk as they were flooded in several feet of water.  When you are at sea level there is no runoff areas for heavy rain to exit.  At least we were high up on the boardwalk and began to explore the shops, stores, and got something really good to eat. 

Watch out for Angry Mr. Krabs
The next day it was still very grey and overcast with intermittent showers but we were able to go for a bike-ride down the boardwalk in one of the classic four seat buggy bikes.  We didn't hit any bike safety signs, so that was a plus!  We went down onto the beach, which was practically deserted and Katelyn touched the Atlantic Ocean for the very first time in her life.  My wife took some of the best photographs ever contained in our collection from that morning, enhanced by the stormy skies.  We continued to deal with rain but on our third morning in Ocean City the sun finally came out.  Finally, a nice summer day!  By mid-morning, Katelyn started throwing up, and throwing up, and throwing up some more.  We decided to cut our losses and depart for home early.  We loaded up the car and waited to be sure there was nothing left in Katelyn's stomach that would cause her to throw up in the car on the way home.  She seemed fine and we put her in the car seat and headed out of town. 

Tyler Riding the Waves
As we passed the "Thank You for Visiting Ocean City" sign, Katelyn projectile vomited all over the back seat and beyond.  It was like a scene from the Exorcist movie multiplied by at least ten... I thought for a minute that our doctor back home just might diagnosis her as being possessed by the devil?  We drove three hours home with all the windows of the car rolled down and completely open, trying not to become nauseous ourselves from the smell.  Katelyn settled into her car-seat and drifted off to sleep... What a disaster!  Despite the hardships and challenges of our first family vacation, we were not discouraged from attempting future trips after the birth of our son Tyler.  We learned from past mistakes and booked a room at the Impala right from the start.  We made several trips with semi-success but we just didn't fit into the mold of an extended multiple-day vacation family.   

 Chillin by the Sea
Vacations, like Christmas, and most other events... are a lot more fun when you are a kid... because all you have to do is show up.   You are oblivious to all the planning, cost analysis, stress, reservations, pet watching arrangements, mail collecting detail, long distance driving, etc... As is sometimes said, you often need a vacation from your vacation, a few days to recover after you return back home.  Over the years we evolved into a day-trip family rather than leaving home for several days and nights.  I just could never get a good night's sleep in a strange bed and the kids missed their stuff back home, especially our pets.  It turned out to be a good fit.  We would leave in the early morning, and arrive for breakfast on the boardwalk as the sun came up.  We would hit the beach for a few hours, scope out our favorite shops and food spots on the boardwalk, and then head for home.  It was a little like a marathon but a lot cheaper and involved a lot less planning.  Another plus is you can go on the spur of the moment, avoiding bad weather and stomach viruses.  Our day-trips to the beach later spawned into day-trips to a lot of other destinations, many of which became the foundation for this blog.  All's well that ends well.  

The Rolling Tide
We still try to make a run at least once a summer to get our fill of the boardwalk sand and sun.  Glenn's Toys is long gone but a lot of the the old icons from my childhood are still in business.  Probably my favorite store of all is the Old Salt that sells all kinds of nautical themed gifts and souvenirs.  When I was a kid they had a real whale skull right inside the store along with an early diving suit with a brass helmet.  Those curiosities have disappeared for additional shelf space but many of the same items are still present for sale, including the old carved wooden sailors that my mother bought back in the 70's and still has on display at home.  And you can't leave without stopping in to buy some salt water taffy at Shriver's, where you can still see it being made in their factory on site.  A large glass window reveals several old machines making and packaging the taffy.  Back in the day you could only buy it by the box of assorted flavors.  Now, you can buy individual flavors by the pound so you don't wind up fighting over your favorite flavor with your selfish little brother in the back seat the whole way home!    

Where Have You Guys Been?
Every year there is something new worth checking out and I heard from a friend that Chickie and Pete's from South Philly now have a food stand this year on the boardwalk, featuring their famous crabbie-fries.  A new must-have item on the day-trip agenda.  Saltwater taffy and some fudge from Shriver's in hand is the signal to depart and time to hit the road back toward home.  Car travel is made much easier today because the kids can watch a movie on their individual iPods or other electronic devices.  Recently my son's iPod battery went dead and he asked what he should do... I told him he should look out the window to entertain himself, like I did as a kid!   It is a full day and you are tired when you pull back in the driveway late at night but you are rewarded by slumber in your own familiar comfortable bed.  Somethings you just can't put a price on!  Our three dogs and three cats may keep us limited to day-trips but we don't mind... aren't they precious? 

Thanks for the Memories Mom and Dad

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