Thursday, January 18, 2018

December 2013 – Message from the Guildmaster

December 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Message from the Guildmaster

Hello All:

Monday, December 2nd.,  the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 77 points. Various analysts commented that the market  was “disappointed” with Black Friday sales levels and fell off its previous record setting trend. Seems that ever how many millions were spent last Friday just weren’t good enough for our economic growth.

I find this to be a disturbing statement on several levels. Number one, our economy is no longer largely based on what we make and produce. One of the primary economic indicators these days is consumer spending. I am sure that some economists out there will argue this with me into the ground, but that is the major indicator that is always quoted. The days of the United States being the number one producer of goods in the world are over. Want better economic growth?….. spend  a lot of money on items imported from other countries, from whom we borrow money. Quite a system isn’t it?

With the Christmas holidays upon us, this message is louder and more clear than ever. Pick up your local Sunday newspaper. It is now so thick with multi-page ads and flyers it is difficult to find the news sections. We joke that if we can recover enough grocery store coupons to pay for the price of the paper, we will be happy.

Twenty or more years ago, Jan and I decided that our days as “typical” Christmas shoppers were over. We asked (ie. pleaded) with family members to join us and make Christmas something more than an exchange of gifts. Some were agreeable with this idea and looked forward to making our holidays more a time of gathering and sharing than running between stores looking for something “special”. Others were appalled that we would dare to fly in the face of the marketing programs designed to empty our wallets and put us in debt for several months. We did it anyway, and have never regretted it.

As members and supporters of the historical community, we have discovered that our area offers a plethora of interesting activities for the Christmas season. All of these can be shared with family and friends and usually involve little or no monetary expenditure. I suspect that many of you have access to similar programs and traditional celebrations this season in every part of our country.

Point of  Honor is a mid. 1700’s home inhabited by a long line of Lynchburg, VA citizens. Originally an over  800 acre plantation, it sits on a beautiful hillside above the James River, next to downtown. It’s most notable owner was Dr. George Cabell and his wife, Sarah, during the early 1800’s. Dr. Cabell was a noted physician, a popular local resident, and treated many important people, including Patrick Henry. This past Sunday, Point of Honor held its traditional Christmas open house, offering residents a rare glimpse into the lives and traditions of citizens in the earlier half of the 1800’s. The docents were all properly period attired and the house was decorated with local greenery. Period music was performed in the sitting room. The cook was busy roasting chicken and making bread on the hearth of the large outside kitchen. The large dining room table was set with all manner of delicacies including oysters brought up the James River from Richmond on the bateaux. The 12th. Night cake was the centerpiece of the table. Its recipe includes 40 eggs, 4 lbs. of butter, 4 lbs. of sugar, 5 lbs. of flour and 5 lbs. of fruit. This was a holiday treat looked forward to by all in attendance.

A few miles down the road from Lynchburg near Brookneal is Red Hill, the home of Patrick Henry. Now a fully restored home and farm, Red Hill is a popular destination for colonial history followers. For Christmas the home and farm are opened free of charge to the public. The house is decorated with greenery and docents provide guided tours. Traditional hot cider is offered along with Brunswick stew. Historical boxwood wreaths and “kissing balls” made from mistletoe are available for purchase.

Some miles west in the town of Altavista is the historical Avoca museum. First built in 1755 by Colonel Charles Lynch and named Green Level, the house burned twice during its history, the last time in 1900. The present Victorian Queen Anne style house was constructed in 1901, and stands today, following its complete restoration and full reopening in the 1990’s. At Christmas each year, the grand mansion is opened with period decorations and music along with tours and tasting of traditional holiday treats.

Thomas Jefferson’s homes, Monticello and Poplar Forest, also offer special holiday tours and programs, offering a look at traditional celebrations in centuries past. This is one of the few times that visitors have the opportunity to visit Jefferson’s grand dome on the top level of Monticello. Both programs feature historical attire, decorations and period customs as part of their presentation.

One of the most popular television shows of our time was “The Waltons.” First aired as a Christmas special in 1971, it became a nine year series, detailing the lives of a rural Virginia mountain family during the depression and World War II. Created and narrated by Earl Hamner, the series offered a genuine  perspective of a small mountain town and its community.  I knew Mr. Hamner as a teenager, and was always impressed by his open, friendly outlook toward life. Growing up and living in a rural mountain area, many of us empathized with the characters portrayed on the show.

The Walton’s Mountain Museum in Schuyler, VA. will be open this weekend for its annual Christmas celebration. Housed in the old Schuyler school building,  the museum recreates many of the sets used in the filming of the series. In addition to the furnishings, the museum holds nearly  200 scripts of the series along with lots of memorabilia from the show.  Visitors are also allowed access to display areas not normally accessible. While not as grand of a celebration as found at more traditional historical venues, it promises to be a fun glimpse of an important earlier time.

These are just a few of the diverse and entertaining activities that are available to our local populace for the holidays.  Friends who accompanied us to Point of Honor this weekend had a great time, and are looking forward to some additional excursions this season. I hope that many of you will spend more time with family and friends during the holiday, perhaps on activities outside the normal Christmas realm. You may disappoint the economic analysts, but I doubt you will disappoint yourself.

May you all have a most joyous and fulfilling holiday season. Good night John Boy…….


Thank you,

Jeff Bibb

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