I’m such a history buff. I was excited today to revisit Copshaholm, the South Bend mansion built for J.D. Oliver and his family for a travel piece I’m writing. Oliver’s father founded the Oliver Chilled Plow Works. I had been for a tour about 10 years ago. However, we had two kids in tow, including a one-year-old that we tried to keep confined in a back carrier since it’s not stroller accessible. The problem is when he’s on your back, it’s hard to tell that he’s reaching for a 100-year-old chandelier or piece of artwork. The tour was more stressful than informational as we tried to make sure my five-year-old walked only where he was supposed to walk (he didn’t have a good track record and tried to bolt onto Elvis’ shag carpeting at Graceland when he was 3) and that the boys didn’t touch ANYTHING. Today it was just my husband and I and we were able to enjoy the tour and really take in the beauty of the place and every detail we were being told by our knowledgeable tour guide.
When you visit such a place, having a good docent can really make a difference. I remember taking a cave tour back in 2001 and the tour guide left such an impression. I still remember his name – Todd. He really new his stuff and kept me fascinated throughout the tour.
A good docent can take material that may otherwise seem boring and dry and liven it up, which is what Jo did. She told us that she was 75, which was amazing considering how quickly she bounded up and down the long stairways. She mentioned decorating styles that she remembered from her own childhood. She pointed out unusual features. She stopped in the bedroom of the younger son, who moved back home to the family estate following the death of his young wife after she got an infection following a fall off a horse, resulting in a broken back. She explained that following her death he didn’t remarry and lived in a bedroom and sitting room in the home for the next 50 or so years. She read a poem he had written to his wife about how each evening he would imagine her hand in his. She had everyone in the room teary-eyed when she finished.
Later, we went outside to see the worker’s home, which was quite a contrast from the luxurious mansion. The small frame house was filled with period furnishings from the 1930’s. She paused in the kitchen to pull out some utensils and see how much we knew about them. At one point, she pulled out a rolling pin and told a story about her daughter, who was an algebra teacher, and how a question was directed to the students to make a calculation on the measurement of a rolling pin. She was floored when a teenager asked her "What's a rolling pin?"
It got me to thinking. I know my teenager has used one as we always made cookies together around Christmas when he was little and would roll out sugar cookie dough. However, my younger kids have not had that advantage since I rarely do cookies from scratch anymore and the handle of my rolling pin fell off years ago and it was pitched in the garbage. The pre-made dough is so convenient and often more economical than buying all the ingredients separately and putting them together. My younger boys should know what one was if asked because we’ve had kitchen play sets that included rolling pins. However, it’s making me want to put on an apron and roll out a batch of dough. Perhaps some day soon, but first I have to go buy a new rolling pin.