LB fourth-graders learn about local history

Date Published: 
June 2, 2017

Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert: Lord Baltimore Elementary fourth graders learn about old telephones at the Ocean View Historical Society.Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert: Lord Baltimore Elementary fourth graders learn about old telephones at the Ocean View Historical Society.Last week, Lord Baltimore Elementary School fourth-graders took a field trip just around the corner from their school to the Ocean View Historical Society’s complex. The kids were able to tour the Tunnell-West House, the Town’s first free-standing post office (built in 1889), an outhouse and a replica of Cecile Steele’s chicken house, and view artifacts up close.

“Several of us were lifelong educators, so we are familiar with the age group, with classrooms and schedules,” said OVHS member Carol Psaros. “Barbara Slavin, our current president, is very knowledgeable, because she has a business that still operates in schools.

“We’ve tested it a couple times, and we change it after each time. We had far too much stuff in the first go-around a few years ago. We’re refining it. We want them to have fun.”

During the tour, Psaros played the part of Steele, telling the children how, out of an accidental order, the broiler chicken industry was born in Sussex County. She added that Steele had stored the 500 biddy chicks she received in a piano box until she sold them 16 weeks later.

Kids were given the task of completing a scavenger hunt in the chicken house, by finding items such as a chicken catcher.

“When the chickens ran away, they would get the chicken catcher,” said 10-year-old Spencer Christ. “And we learned how they would put the chickens under the stove they had to keep them warm in the winter.”

Psaros said they were fortunate to have a beautiful day for the visit so the kids could also have a taste of what it was like to raise chickens.

“It is hot in the chicken house, but that’s good for them to feel, because the early chicken houses were hot, smelly, dirty places — no running water, no feed troughs, no electricity of any kind, like they have now in the modern-day chicken houses that hold thousands of birds.

“This one held a thousand. It would’ve had a fence around it where the chickens would’ve come out during the day — they would’ve been free-range. They would’ve gone back inside at night to keep them from predators.”

The kids also toured the first floor of the Tunnell-West House, going from the formal parlor to the keeping room and a staged bedroom, where Slavin explained that, before box-springs, beds had ropes underneath that were used to keep the mattresses firm.

“Have you ever heard that saying, ‘Good night. Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite’? Well, ‘sleep tight’ — they’re talking about tightening those ropes.”

Christ said he enjoyed the scavenger hunt, especially seeing four powder horns (used to carry gunpowder) that were made in Ocean View.

“It was kind of like exploring what they had back then. Like what they used for their guns to power them,” he said. “They used a bull horn for one.”

Just outside the house, the kids were able to view a two-seater outhouse, donated to the society by a local family.

“The outhouse — I actually can’t believe it has two holes,” said 10-year-old Amber Riddle.

“In 1860, those people who lived here did not have electricity, they did not have running water, and they didn’t have toilets in their homes,” explained the OVHS’s Richard Nippes. “Electricity did not come to this area until 1928.”

Nippes also gave each child the opportunity to pump water from an old-fashioned water pump.

“We got to pump the water pump. We took turns pumping it, and he told us how they went to the bathroom at night [using a chamber pot],” said Riddle. “My favorite part was pumping the water pump. It was really fun, because water was actually coming out. You could feel the water… It was really cold!”

Nippes also taught the children that, back in the 1800s, those who wished to visit Philadelphia would do so by boat, via White Creek to the Indian River Bay and out to the ocean.

Fourth-grader Ruthie Adams said the field trip was a fun learning experience.

“It showed us what people did back then, like how they made things and how they sent mail. They would go to the postmistress and put their mail through a slot. When the postmistress was ready, she would get it, put a stamp on it and then mail it,” she said, noting that this post office was a little different from most. “It was where the postmistress usually made hats, and most post offices didn’t have that.”

Fourth-grade teacher Kathleen Yuhanick said she was grateful for the opportunity to take the students to see local history.

“It was great. It fits in with our social studies — how the country developed, how cities were developed and towns, and rural areas. Earlier in the year, the kids visited historic Odessa, where they lived the way people lived in colonial times,” she said.

“It’s all part of their history and the history of the United States. That is one of our standards for social studies: How did America develop? We teach them about Native Americans, how they got here…”

“Life was totally different than anything you’ve experienced in your little lives,” Nippes told the students. “And when you become adults and have your own children, you know what they’re going to say to you? ‘How in the world did you live without doing this that way?’”

The tour made an impact on the children, as evidenced by Christ, who asked Yuhanick if the school could buy a paver brick (part of the society’s ongoing capital campaign fundraising efforts).

“We could put Lord Baltimore’s name on it, so when we come back we can see it,” he shared.

For more information about the Ocean View Historical Society, or how to become a member, visit www.ovhistoricalsociety.org or www.facebook.com/oceanviewhistoricalsociety. Those who are interested in purchasing a brick may email ovhsociety@gmail.com or contact Nippes at (302) 539-8374.