SPRINGFIELD, NJ - As part of the festivities at the December open house, the Springfield Historical Society got into the holiday spirit.
Visitors to the event not only got to hear about the history of the house and the town during revolutionary times, but in the spirit of the season, the house was decorated for Christmas as it would have been in colonial times. The tour guides and docents explained that during the colonial period, Christmas was just another day on the calendar. There were very few special celebrations.
As a result, everything from the decorations to the gifts were different. A good child might expect to receive a piece of fruit, like a lemon or apple, or a plain peppermint candy cane. Most gifts were placed in the stockings since they were already hanging to dry by the fireplace. Along with Christmas decorations, the historical society had set up a small Hanukkah display as well, made up of books from the Springfield Library about the holiday. Historical society member Barbara Rappaport was also handing out informational packets about the festival of lights
Upstairs on the second floor, each room tells the story of a different aspect of colonial life. In one of those rooms, 10-year-old Talulah Whelan gave a tour about the sleeping habits and day-to-day life of colonial residents. Whelan, who was there with her mother Kate Coscarelli, is a junior docent and has been coming to Cannon Ball House for as long as she can remember.
"I just like history in general," Whelan said. "I like reading a lot of books about olden times and things like that."
Coscarelli explained that Whelan went on school tours with James Caldwell elementary school, and would often come back for the open houses. Having gone so many times, she could give the tour by heart to her family. The next logical step was to ask if she could give the tour to other visitors as well. About a year ago, Whelan sent out a letter to the historical society asking to work with them.
"So we wrote them a letter, and they said no at first," Whelan said. "And then like a year later, they called back, and they asked me if I still wanted to do it, and I said yes."
Since that time, Whelan been on board with the historical society, and shows visitors around in the upper bedroom believed to be the parent's lodging. As she went around the room, Whelan pointed out objects like a bed tightener, which was used for securing the mattress ropes in colonial times, and a bed warmer that was filled with hot coals and rubbed on the bed to make the sheets warm in winter.
Norbert Kowalski was one of the visitors taking the tour at Cannon Ball House with his two young children. He lives nearby and brought his daughters to see the house. When asked what his favorite exhibit was, Kowalski had a hard time narrowing down the choices, instead saying that each one of them told their own part of the story.
"Almost everything, because it showed the history of our region. I mean I'm from Union, but it also influenced Union. So everything."