Thanks to Judy Mills, president of the Key Peninsula Historical Society, last month I got to attend the premier gathering of elementary school third- and fourth-graders at KPHS’s hands-on exposure to life on the Key in the days of the pioneers. Judy’s son, Matthew, and his wife, Lisa, who are longtime teachers in the Peninsula School District, presently work at Vaughn Elementary.
On a beautiful, sun-bathed day, Key Peninsula history came alive for Vaughn Elementary students visiting the KPHS museum located in the KP Civic Center. Their teachers introduced the timeline of history beginning with Native Americans on the Key, continuing through early explorers, loggers, homesteaders and into development of communities. Information provided by the museum’s new “Traveling History Tote” program piloted at Vaughn will be introduced to other KP schools this fall. It meets Washington state standards and is filled with historic photos, instructional guides, maps, power point presentations and resource books.
“Our students weren’t sure what to expect but were pleasantly surprised to see so many activities waiting for them,” said docent Elise Michaels. “They thoroughly enjoyed washing clothes in a wash tub and hanging them up to dry. The coffee grinder increased their realization that common daily chores were all done by hand, that nothing was automated like today. Students found the museum fascinating. Many want their families to visit.”
“Grinding coffee beans was awesome because I got to see how old coffee grinders worked,” said student Kenzie Miller. “At first it looked weird to see the bigger grounds.”
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“When I shared that the coffee grinder and washtub had been used in Vaughn for 100 years, there was always a chorus of ‘Awesome,’” (from the kids) said docent Christine Anderson. “Students were engaged with the activities and amazed at the hard work it took to live in Vaughn in the 1890s.”
What student Mia D found interesting “was the station for fire because when the flint and striker made a spark it looked like a mini firework.”
Students delightedly experienced the drudgery of washing clothes in a washtub with a washboard.
“One girl said, ‘I always dreamed of washing clothes this way,’” Anderson said.
Docent Paul Michaels “was impressed how interested the kids were to learn about logging methods and equipment used here on the Key. They used actual tools including stamp hammers to mark logs. They set chokers needed to yard logs out of the woods and rolled and lifted a log with peaveys and log tongs. That log was rolled all over the Civic Center yard.”
For student Mia Stitt, “One of my favorite activities was writing with a quill pen. I have done that once and seen the ink and a quill pen on my grandma’s piano.”
As they had fun discovering the secrets of the museum through a scavenger hunt, many kids decided that doing lessons with a quill and ink would be too laborious.
Said fourth-grader Reaghan, “I learned that by axe, it takes four hours to cut down the Douglas fir tree (docent) Mr. Michaels pointed to. To cut down the same tree by chainsaw it takes only 10 minutes.”
“My favorite was branding tree stumps because they used interesting tools to put the brand of the company on the tree,“ explained student Jicel Richerson.
Noted fourth-grader Danikah, “We learned about a boat named Sophia that was used like a ferry for passengers.” Classmate Elsie “got to use the canceling machine from the Lakebay post office that put a mark to show the stamp has been used.”
“Kids were very interested in the old methods and historical information,” said docent Ron Schillinger. “They acknowledged that life in the old days was different and a lot harder with fewer machines and equipment to work with. They were impressed with how much a person could get done without electricity and equipment.”
Judy Mills is delighted that the KPHS goal to provide an opportunity for students to learn their local history is being met.
“Key Peninsula is unique, made up many small communities developed and built by hearty souls who left a legacy to share,” she said.
And that’s the truth!
Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at email@example.com.