Day 31: Saving the Revolution!

Outbuilding. Photo: Jenny Williams

Since we got almost none of our RevQuest challenge attended to yesterday, today we made it a priority to finish the challenges. I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to solve the mysteries therein, so that’s what we started our day with. The included three challenges give you cryptic clues in 18th century language that lead you to figure out words that you can text to a secret number. If you get the right word, it will text you back a clue to help you continue. If not, it will say that someone led you astray. Once you solve all three mysteries, you text something from each one of them in a final text, and it tells you when and where the final ceremony is. It also tells you that you saved the Revolution! In case anyone out there plans to do it themselves, I won’t give any of it away. But the mysterious plot is based on actual events from the American Revolution. Unless you are incredibly pressed for time, it is very worth doing, even if you don’t have kids along. It’s challenging enough for adults. And it takes you to parts of Colonial Williamsburg that you might have overlooked otherwise.

Printing Press. Photo: Jenny Williams

The first trade we visited today was the Printing Press, the last trade that I had my heart set on seeing. It was fantastic. He demonstrated how the press worked, and gave us plenty of information on what the printing press business was like back then. Printers were members of the middling class, and were decently paid. They think that the actual operator of the press itself was usually a slave, but the typesetters were not, and were paid well. In Williamsburg, they didn’t sell individual newspapers; they sold annual subscriptions. When the one press was the only one in town, an annual subscription was 15 shillings. After competition moved in, it was 13 1/2 shillings. Middlings in general made about 2 shillings (or 24 pence) per day, with 20 shillings to the pound. Higher-paid ones made 13-16 shillings per week. So it would be about a week’s pay for an annual newspaper subscription. This may seem like a lot, but if it’s your only news source, consider how much we pay these days for cable or satellite television, internet, etc.

The Actual Printing Press. Photo: Jenny Williams

On the Palace Green today, the kids played some kid games for a while. The girl played some push-the-hoop-and-run-after-it (not sure of the official name) and a marble game called Nine Man’s Morris. It’s a bit like Tic Tac Toe.

The boy really got into Trap Ball. This is one of the only times he voluntarily participated in any kind of sport! To play, you place the ball in the Trap Ball device, stomp on it to make the ball fly up in the air, and then try to hit it with a Cricket-like bat. If someone catches it right off, they get to be the batter. If they catch it rolling on the ground, they stand exactly where they caught it and roll it toward the Trap Ball device. If it hits, they become the batter. If it doesn’t, the batter gets another turn at bat. It’s a really fun game. They sold a version of it in a gift shop, but I didn’t really want to pay $65, no matter how nice the set! Though now I’m wondering if we should have gotten it. I can’t find one anywhere else. And everyone loved it. I think we might head to the shop on our way out of town tomorrow.

Cabinetmaker. Photo: Jenny Williams

We had lunch again today at (surprise!) the Cheese Shop. French bread, Gouda, and incredibly lean and tasty corned beef was our menu. Yum. We then went to the few shops around Merchant Square that I wanted to go to. Didn’t buy anything, except some “regular” flavor of Necco wafers. I wasn’t sure what flavor “regular” was, and the boy really wanted to try them, so we got them. But that was it. We’ll probably eat them in the car tomorrow.

We visited the Basketmaker, who was doing her thing behind the George Wythe (pronounced “with”) House. Apparently George was quite a guy, being a mentor to Thomas Jefferson as a young boy, and his house was where George Washington stayed for a few weeks while he got ready to fight at Yorktown. But the Basketmaker told us that, back in the day, both boys and girls would learn how to make baskets starting around age 5 or 6. Baskets weren’t something that most people went out and bought, unless they were rich. Most just made a bunch of baskets in a bunch of different shapes and sizes to use around the house and farm. They cut down the trees, split the wood a bunch of times, dried it, and later shaped it and wove it together.

We also briefly visited the Brickmaker, Cabinetmaker, and Cooper. I learned at the Cooper that if you make a bucket or barrel that is to be used for wet purposes that you had to keep it wet all the time. If for dry, keep it dry all the time. This is because it’s the back and forth that makes the wood form gaps and become problematic.

We capped off the day, and our Colonial Williamsburg experience in general, with a performance called “Ready, Aim, Sing!” It consisted of ballads, in music and poetry, that were sung and read to us by lovely costumed folk. We even got to participate a bit for three of the songs, including an interesting version of Yankee Doodle (the tune was different for the chorus). Even the boy enjoyed this musical experience, and clapped enthusiastically after each piece. Many of the songs were reused tunes with new words (well, new at the time, over 200 years ago).

One nice thing about Williamsburg, though we didn’t take advantage of it, is that they sell cold drinks all over the place, and they don’t charge an obscene amount for them. Unlike amusement parts that can charge about $4 for a cold bottle of water, here the prices were more reasonable. That was nice to see.

I highly recommend Colonial Williamsburg to anyone who is interested in history or the founding of our nation. It’s a fun way for kids, families, and grown-ups to have an educational experience through hands-on activities, performances, food, reenactments, and osmosis. It isn’t expensive, either. For the kids and me, for a three day ticket, it was less than $80 total (that was the online price). Compare this to one day at Disneyland and you’ll see the value.

Our favorite parts of our experience here were the hands-on activities at the Powell House, RevQuest, eating at the Cheese Shop, and visiting the trades of the Bindery, the Printing Press, and the Weaver. Those craftspeople had the most things to say and were the most lively, and I learned the most. The Bindery guy was especially a hoot.

Drove: Around town.

State: Virginia.

Weather: Very hot and muggy, though there was an occasional cool breeze.

Kids: The boy was utterly done with his experience here, but was fairly patient while we wrapped up our visit.

Best Parts of the Day: Visiting the Printing Press, finishing RevQuest, and the music performance that capped off our day.

Worst Parts of the Day: The heat and humidity, my aching body.

Total GeekDads and GeekMoms Visited: 9.

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About Jenny Bristol

Jenny Bristol is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, playing board games, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.
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One Response to Day 31: Saving the Revolution!

  1. Whenever I see Necco Wafers, I’m reminded of Paul and Storm’s fake commercial for them: http://www.paulandstorm.com/archives/necco-wafers-commercial/

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