OK, I must confess that I am not a history buff. I can take it in small doses, sometimes. This was the day… We visited Fort St. James, a National Historic Site, and I liked it. I think that it is presented well. Most of the buildings are original. They have
been renovated and filled with original artefacts and pictures. Each building
has a guide who presents a story, giving a history lesson about life in the
fort in a fun storytelling way. There were no signs saying “do not touch” in fact, this is a hands on experience. I like that.. We learned about daily life at the fort. We learned how to judge a good fur from a poor quality one.
When they began killing the beaver for their pelt, the beavers were huge. By the end of the “Beaver Hat craze”, the beavers were half the size and scarce.
We were given the opportunity to try spear throwing. I managed to throw the spear over the target.
In one building, we were given a look at various furs, feeling each one. The
ermine, fox, wolf etc. We could hold a trap in our hands. At Fort St. James, furs
were gathered from many other trading posts and shipped by boat then portaged
by mule train ending up in Prince Rupert for a trip around South America to
Europe. The schooners returned a year later with goods such as guns, liquor,
tobacco, soaps, food etc.
One item that they sold back then was a “Chinese Hair Growth Tonic”. The funny
thing is, it was made in Montreal, They wanted to give the idea it was chinese. Odd that “Made in China” was something special to the balding men of the 1800’s.
The children and teenagers were quite involved outside playing games and carrying
large canoes. I could hear their laughter and enthusiasm. No-one sounded bored.
We were entertained in the men’s house, where travelling men could stay. A boarding house really. I tried out the recliner of the day; complete with the pipe and bottle of liquor. Very comfy chair. I am on the lookout for a new recliner, fur-lined of course. They lined the walls with newspapers to help insulate from the cold in winter.
We toured with another couple, Bob and Rita from Las Vegas, which was fun.
I am proud that Canada presents the National Historic Sites well. I think it is
important to preserve our history.
I think it is important for families to preserve some history too. Everyone has a story. I know a lot about my parents history, but very little of my grandparents and earlier generations. I think that is sad. I never met any of my grandparents and only one Aunt. May be history means more to me than I thought. Storytelling is the best way to learn history.