When I was in grade school it was a very special day if we were able to see a movie. This was well before DVD's, netflix, or VCR's. The teacher would load up an old reel projector that made a unique clicking sound as the shutters opened and closed and the film looped through. It demanded a change of roll every forty minutes or so. This meant intermissions. Not a bad thing for rowdy 10 year olds!
My favorite movie, the one I couldn't wait to see each year, was "Johnny Tremain." The story about a young boy growing up in Boston during the lead up to the American Revolutionary War. We got to meet Paul Revere, Doctor Warren, and John Hancock. We saw them all dress up as Indians for the (real) "Boston Tea Party" and sang along with "The Liberty Tree." ("It's a tall old tree and a strong old tree, And we are the Sons, yes, we are the Sons, the Sons of Liberty!" ... it still gets to me.)
Walking through Boston, on the Freedom Trail, brought back the memories of that movie and the history that it told. It's fascinating to observe how a contemporary city with all of its madness and noise competes with the past. There is advertising for the Freedom Trail along with a nod to the Cheers Bar (Johnny Tremain meets Frasier Crane!)
Seeing the Old North Church was brilliant for me. Again, grade school comes back to me, remembering "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. . .
Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year. . .
(Just a hint. Do not use this poem if you need historic facts.) I was in this famous church one morning when a clergy member of this still active congregation gave a talk to the tourists. We sat in boxes, similar to a small cubicle you might sit in at work. Back in the day, church members would have to purchase their own box. The more money you spent . . . the closer you would get to the front of the church. (I don't think too much has changed since then.)
Walking along the streets of Boston, amongst the contemporary buildings, we see the homes, meeting places, and final resting places of the people who started this country.
Tour guides happily take you on a tour of the dead.
And there are plenty of those!
(Dead as well as tour guides . . .)
But, I digress. Long before these cemeteries were filled with ghosts from Christmas past, or tour guides who longed to play them, there was quite a bit going on in bean town. The (real) “Boston Tea Party” didn't just happen out of thin air. There was a lot of build up to that event, and the subsequent events, that were the prelude to The American Revolutionary War (aka: American War of Independence).
Boston Massachusetts was the center of a pressure cooker that started cooking somewhere around the French and Indian War. That was 1754 - 1763 to give a bit of time frame. From that point on, England started to get a little greedy with the little colony's that could. There were "Sugar Acts" and "Currency Acts" and "Stamp Acts." Those were followed by more acts, and agreements, and affairs. Toss in a massacre, a few clandestine meetings along with some treason, and KA-BOOM!
The next thing we know, Patrick Henry is saying "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" and Paul Revere is getting ready for his ride. It couldn't have been very comfortable living in that pressure cooker. What does it take for a person to make a stand, to shake things up, and to create change? Were they afraid? Did they ever question themselves if what they were doing was right or possibly wrong? I wonder if I would have had the courage to step up and say "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
Then again, at that time, I wouldn't have been allowed. We don't see many women of this time. Where are they? And where is the working class? Where are the commoners? The people of color? The people that sat in the balcony at church? Do we only get to look at the extraordinary part of our past through the lens of the leaders and forget that, much like today, the city was bustling and noisy with people who just went about their business; people who didn't, or couldn't, read the paper or get involved with political activities?
We learn about history through stories, art, and documents. But, unless we look at these artifacts thoughtfully we only see the extraordinary. We shouldn't forget the ordinary. I'm sure they, too, had a part to play.
NOTE: I am not an historian and I do not play an historian on TV. For accurate historic data on any of these sites please go to your public library for more information.