Saturday, May 24, 2014 — A truly magical evening Wednesday. The café bulged with diners; extra tables were brought in. I was a guest at our town’s Duck Creek Historical Society Burger Night Fundraiser at The Odd Fellows Café on Main Street: all natural, farm-fresh half-pound burgers, homemade French fries or kettle chips; for dessert, The Odd Fellows Café superb bread pudding.
I sat among a party at a long table. I was pleased to find myself sitting opposite Rick and Tish Schuman, whom I have known for a decade but never have had the opportunity to converse with beyond saying hi. Rick did much of our historic Smyrna Opera House restoration, including the sprung hardwood floor. Rick and Tish are folk musicians, performing at the café and elsewhere. They are former members of Delaware Friends of Folk, where they were married at a performance some years ago, and are friends with my group of good friends centered around the historic Maggie S. Myers oyster schooner, oystering, horseshoe crab preservation, and Emmy-winning Michael Oates’s 302 Stories, “telling the stories of Delaware people and places.” I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Rick and Tish better, such down to earth people. Too, I have been looking for a piano, a good one someone wants to give away, and Rick, playing in two bands, knows of a piano restoration/moving guy. He will put me in touch.
The Duck Creek Historical Society is a nonprofit local organization. The Society, all volunteers, operates The Smyrna Museum. The Museum is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.
The building housing the Smyrna Museum has a fascinating history itself and served as the site where in 1863 men between the ages of 18 and 45, who had their front teeth, were conscripted, by lottery, into the Union Army during the American Civil War. If you were rich, you could buy your way out, by paying someone, such as an Irish immigrant, to fight in your place.
Presently, the Museum offers an extensive Civil War exhibit including a collection of letters from one soldier, Alexander White, to his uncle. In one letter, he writes to send his greetings to his various family members and that he hopes to see them again: his company has been ordered to a battlefield near a small Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg. His letters detail the Gettysburg battles and his intimate combat experiences and difficulties receiving packages from home. He survives the battles and the war and comes home. I plan to return to the Museum to sit and read these letters. We are fortunate to have this treasure at our Museum.
The Civil War exhibit occupies one room. There is much to see at the two-story Museum building, a feast for the eyes and sensibilities, such as the wreath made from human hair; and new this spring has been an exhibit featuring ladies fashions. The exhibits in two rooms change every two months. Presently, globally-esteemed, local sculptor Richard Bailey is on hand exhibiting his Italian marble, granite, and semi-precious stone sculptures, including beautiful translucent butterflies. Coming this fall – and I mustn’t miss this one – are the Haunted Ghost Tours. A group called Delmarva Historic Haunts (DHH) has detected paranormal entities in the Museum and, I’ve been told, has captured at least one on video.
Some of the videos are posted on the Duck Creek Historical Society Facebook page.
Also on the Historical Society Facebook page are videos of the Delmarva Historic Haunts investigations at the historic Odd Fellows Hall. Spellbinding.
I am intrigued with the energies DHH found in the Café kitchen where two employees, separately, felt a shadow brush behind them late at night – I have felt such in my own historic home – and the energies and grumbling in the Café basement: I have been in that Odd Fellows Hall basement, and I sensed something down there. The walls are brick, the floor is dirt and the ceiling is low. Despite my girlfriend and I, at age 20 (just last year, mind you), referring to the I.O.O.F. as the Idiotic Order of Odd Fellows, the Odd Fellows have always engaged in humanitarian activities. I feel uplifted whenever I enter the building, now The Odd Fellows Café, and a few years ago, when it housed my friend Jackie Vinyard’s The Gathering Place store. Jackie restored the building, almost single-handedly, with help from her dad and a friend.
Smyrna is a town of ghosts, and lore, and rich history. Most of the spirits are friendly, some of them are child pranksters. I had lived in this town not more than two months when I went out into my backyard one blustery day and I knew: This Town Has Ghosts. Yes, there are many and many of us in human form have witnessed them.
Behind the Smyrna Museum stands The Plank House. The Plank House has been moved twice from its original location, the second time in 1998-1999, when after diligently working to gain possession of this building, the Historical Society disassembled the planks, carefully numbering them, like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, and moved the building to the rear yard of the Smyrna Museum, where the building was reassembled. Now completely restored, the Plank House is considered one of the finest examples of a local structure from the early 1700s, said to be one of three plank houses in Delaware. The Swedes were the early colonists who knew how to build plank houses and log cabins, dating back to medieval Scandinavia, at least. Other European colonists (the Germans knew, but arrived later) didn’t know how and followed the Swedish example – except for the French, who knew how to build log cabins, but set the logs vertically, rather than horizontally, as in a stockade fence. But, of course. They were French, after all. How small in stature those early American settlers were; even I, at five-two, would stand stooped in the Smyrna Museum Plank House, had not they added another plank to the wall upon reassembling, thus elevating the ceiling a foot.
I find visiting the Smyrna Museum, enjoying conversations with Duck Creek Historical Society members and visitors, fellow history lovers, a pleasant and edifying way to spend a Saturday morning. I was there this morning again. I enjoyed a wonderful discussion about sculpture and art with Richard Bailey and revisited the Civil War exhibit. If you are interested, you can find pictures and learn more of our Smyrna, Delaware, history when you visit the Smyrna Museum website and the Duck Creek Historical Society Facebook page. You can find The Odd Fellows Cafe on Facebook and Café photos at The Trip Advisor.
Back at the Café for Burger Night, as the evening mellowed, a well-liked couple arrived, and everyone cheered, “The Neighbors [as I shall call them for this story] are here! The Neighbors are here!” and applauded. That’s the magical charm of this small town, augmented when my friend and I stepped out into a light rain on Main Street, brightly lit by period lamps, to walk home.
My Dear Friend,
What a lovely way to spend your time and to think that you are now one step closer to getting a piano is a very pleasant surprised.
I believe we turn the events of our lives when we start moving toward those precious dreams and desires that we have in our hearts. You, for example, met a couple that you had been desiring to meet, Rick and Tish, and they are musicians. How wonderful that at this moment a connection appears.
Personally, I love reading about the past. History can help us prevent making the same mistakes if only we would examine it. So, I too am interested in what you find out from those letters from the soldier who made it through the Civil War. I am quite sure that you will read and sense the changes that he went through. That could also develop into a series of articles from one soldier’s perspective about the Civil War.
As for your ghosts, I will pass on that one, but I do believe there is a heavenly realm that is too vast for our minds to comprehend.
I enjoyed reading your article, enjoyed watching you enjoy yourself, and I could really see you laughing through the way you wrote your article.
You did an excellent job of describing your scenes.
Yes, I agree with you, Patricia, that achieving our dreams starts by taking the steps towards them, with passion and intention. Where there’s a will there’s a way: I believe this.
Regarding history, why repeat the mistakes of the past if we don’t have to, by learning from others’ experiences. In the movie “The Monuments Men,” Lt. Frank Stokes, played by George Clooney, states, “You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground, and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements, then it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants, and that’s exactly what we’re fighting for.” This is a powerful statement and cannot be said enough — especially in these days where in the U.S. teaching of history, literature and the arts diminishes daily.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments here, Patricia. I always look forward to hearing from you and learning from your wisdom.
Excellent as always!
An excellent town and week, Bettielou. Thank you. Richard Bailey gave me a litany of praise for you, Bill and your mom. We had a nice chat. And those butterflies — my mother, you, your mom and Richard Bailey’s sculptures. Do you know that when I came home and sat on my porch, a small yellow and a large translucent blue butterfly flew around me. I think your mom and mine have met in the afterlife, dressed in hats and gloves, of course. They were probably headed to luncheon somewhere.
And thank you for stopping by here and commenting, as always.
Lovely post Samantha thank you. Sounds an extremely edifying way of spending a Saturday morning! Lovely also to see snippets of friends you’ve mentioned in times past.
I am much hopeful that the piano will manifest! Am putting a bead on that – piano piano piano for Samantha … piano piano piano.
Thanks for noting my snippets of friends mentioned in times past, Susan. I didn’t want to go through their stories again, obviously, since they are already posted here on my website, but they deserve mention. It’s amazing how we’re all connected, though, and especially in this small state.
It has indeed been a lovely and edifying Wednesday evening, Saturday morning and week.
Thank you for the piano piano piano bead — I’m hoping, hoping, hoping. I believe one will turn up. Then I’ll have to practice every day. Should be my pleasure.
Hi Samantha, It sounds as if you had a lovely time exploring the history of your town. Plus, you hinted that you may have found a free piano for your home. I’ll cross my fingers for you. I am disappointed that you didn’t describe your hamburger though. 😉 You are very fortunate to live near such history. I know you will enjoy it!
We are steeped in history here in our town, Gwynn. It is all around us; I live in one element of it, my Victorian home in the historic district. As I keep telling you, you have much fascinating history out in the Seattle area, too — the Native Americans and your Poulsbo Norwegians, to name some. I describe the burgers in my first paragraph, Gwynn. Mine was prepared medium rare topped with bacon, tomato and red onion. Of course, I took half my meal home — huge portions.
I have been enjoying this town, its history and its residents, most of whom have grown up here, for 12 years now. I think I will continue to.
Thanks for the wonderful food. Home made potato chips, burgers, and whatever that was on the top of the Odd Fellows Facebook page, I want some! Now I’m so hungry I can’t stand it, and then it turns out it’s in Delaware, and I’m in Wisconsin.
There’s so much history around us. Those who preserve and appreciate it are a gift we will someday appreciate.
I think that was the bread pudding on The Odd Fellows Cafe FB page. I’m not sure. I should ask Howard Johnson, the owner. The food definitely was delicious that night (always is). Of course, I took half of it home. No way I could eat all that in one sitting. One day they’ll figure out how to send packets of food via email from Delaware to Wisconsin.
Yes, history creeps up on us; that is, it’s not old when we’re young, and then we get old and our buildings, whatever, have suddenly become historic. To this end, some of our beautiful Victorian homes in our town were torn down for parking lots before they got old enough to become historic.
Thanks so much for coming by and for commenting, Gary. I truly appreciate it.
Cheers, Gary. I was hungry, too, and didn’t get any of that burger. Samantha took it home instead of bringing it here to the blog so I could have some.
Nice to meet you. Thanks for your coming by.
–Moriarty, the Phantom here