Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Salem Maritime NHSNothing says Thanksgiving like turkey, football, and pilgrims. We took care of the turkey bits at Mammoth Cave National Park and the football at Wyoming’s Fossil Butte National Monument. (See Below) But what about the pilgrims? Through vociferous readings of our website we are sure that you know that there is no National Park Site dedicated to the pilgrims. The puritans are forgotten too! We’ll try to right that grievous wrong with our Salem Maritime NHS story which includes a pious complaint. But first, forget about our moaning and have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

We left our $35 a night (thank you priceline.com) Courtyard by Marriot in Woburn, Mass. at 9:00 a.m. hoping to have missed the commuter traffic. We had. Once Gab had successfully determined our route to Salem (I-95 to Route 128 then Exit 25 to Route 114) she started reading from Michael’s university history book. Today’s lesson, naturally, is about the famed Salem witch trials. We both slightly remembered the context from grade school. Possessed women, hysteria, spookiness, ghosts. Right? Wrong.

The Salem Witch Trails of 1692 were series of real events with real consequences. Hundreds were wrongly imprisoned and 20 died. The base cause of the trials was the movement away from a purely religious Puritan society and towards a society heavily influenced by commerce and trade. The witch trials were a culmination of a growing class struggle as well as a struggle to retain a Puritan societal order in the midst of increased independence and individuality. The primary victims were land-owning women and the aggressors were the conservative male theocracy. “Whoa,” we thought. “We can’t wait to learn more. This park is going to be fun.”

We put the book away as we neared Salem’s center. The town’s tricky one way streets and odd intersections couldn’t damper its old New England beauty. We stared at its broad common, and stately Georgian and Federal style buildings. We parked and entered the Visitor Center. Sailing ships, commerce history, trade displays. Were we missing something? It was as if history began after the trials; the Puritans had already lost the hearts and souls of Salem.

We walked down Hawthorne street, down to the harbor, down to the wharf. We learned that Salem was America’s second largest port in the 18th and 19th centuries. We learned that eastern countries believed Salem to be a country of its own because so many boats bore the city’s name. We learned about trade goods, scales, and storage systems. We were a little bored.

Our path back to the car would pass the Old Burying Point Cemetery. Maybe there would be something about the trials there. We turned onto Liberty Avenue and, lo and behold, witches galore. Witch wax museum, store after store selling cheap supernatural paraphrenalia, crystals, broom hilda-esque cardboard cutouts and candlelit host tour vendors. an unending barrage of lowest common denominater madness. More Bewitched than The Crucible, more Buffy the Vampire Slayer than The Scarlet Letter.

Why would the Park Service ignore the Witch Trials? Why would it leave the retelling of this socially significant and often remembered American event to amateurs and spectral tour guides? A 2003 AP article revealed that Salem wanted to change its image from chintzy Halloween destination to stately historic place to live. Why must the two be mutually exclusive? Why can’t the trials be taught by National Park Service. Why can’t they take dominion over the past?

In 2005, Viacom’s TV Land network unveiled a nine-foot tall Elizabeth-Montgomery-as-Samantha-the-Bewitched-witch statue at the corner of Essex and Washington Streets, two blocks from the Park’s Visitor Center. What happened again in 1692? We’ve already forgotten.

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Gobble Gobble

Mammoth Cave’s Thanksgiving connection is probably lost on anyone except the usa-c2c.com team. Here’s a hint: look at the accompanying picture. Yes indeedy, Mammoth Cave is where we saw the trip’s first wild turkey. What a turkey it was! His red gullet was swinging, his large breast was fully puffed, his feathers were furled, and his strut was a sight to behold. Where are the fine lady turkeys? Surely somewhere close.

We however were still in our car and moving towards one of the world’s grandest cave systems. But the turkey wouldn’t be our only above ground experience in this underground wonderland. No siree. We were camping for the first time ever in the United States. Yes, the first time. At the campground check-in, the Park Ranger suggested a nice spot so we followed her advice and took Space #76.

All night we were serenaded by gobbling turkeys, chirping crickets, and other less identifiable but surely benign things. That is until the rains started. Rain. Nice to sleep in when it’s outside your apartment window, not so nice to sleep in when you’re in a tent and the water is seeping in. We were having shelter issues in a cave-based National Park. It’s funny in retrospect.

Click Here to Read More about the Park indoor activities.

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