History Comes Alive
Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

History Comes Alive

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

Sunday evening. One of our favorite nights for television.
This winter we are as deep into the lives of the very real Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as we were into the fictional lives of the inhabitants, both upstairs and downstairs, of Downton Abbey. The characters who came alive in that wonderful six year historical drama coincidentally represented the very real people who lived through not only the Victorian Era but the period following that Queen’s reign, the period of the First World War.
Most of us learned about the tiny (4’11” tall), dynamo who reigned over a vast empire for 64 incredibly productive years from a big, ole dusty textbook. After the death of her young husband (from typhoid at 42) and for the rest of her long, long life, she swathed herself in yards of rustling taffeta as black as her broken heart. History tells us that she refused even to wear the color purple (a step down from the full mourning code expected of a widow for just a year) except at the happy wedding ceremony of her daughter (one of nine children she bore) and slept next to a plaster hand cast of her beloved Alfred.
Unlike the big, fat texts where we found our “history,” the PBS series “Victoria” shows a wonderful picture of a delightful young queen who is nobody’s fool, is passionately in love with her German prince, and who is portrayed as a monarch who cares deeply for her subjects. Not quite like some histories which suggest she had no interest in social justice, the film shows a compassionate side to this powerful ruler.
Irish Catholic families, suffering from starvation during the Potato Blight, touched the Queen deeply. The film shows her stepping in to demand changes by her government, something the British Parliament was unaccustomed to a monarch doing. Victoria’s 64 year reign saw great cultural expansion; advances in industry, science and communications, the building of railways and the London Underground, as well as a move to a Constitutional Monarchy. That is another lesson for another day.
On Sunday afternoon we visited the Carnegie Library on the square in Newnan for another history lesson. This time at the hands of Master storyteller Adam Miller who shared the songs, both anti-war and patriotic, mostly sung by the Doughboys, as well as the folks at home in England and later in the USA during the First World War. Some were humorous Soldier Songs, “Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning,” others from Australian lads fighting the Turks and dreaming of a simple hiking trip or walkabout at home; the trek is what they call “Waltzing Matilda.” Some were sad songs which told of the suffering of those who survived the battle but knew something “worse than death,” the loss of their legs or arms. Some ballads were from the point of view of mothers and sweethearts waiting for news of their boys, their men, sons, husbands, lovers. Seventy million men would fight in the “War to End All Wars.”
We learned that some songwriters got wealthy writing ditties for piano sheet music, for 78 records, and for vaudeville. Other songs were written by the boys who lived and died in No Man’s Land. Trench warfare with its millions of miles of razor barbed wire was grizzly, as all wars are; wars that men and governments seem never to learn from.
From his home in Oregon, Adam has traveled over 72,000 miles to schools, museums, conferences–venues all over the United States–sharing his expertise on the autoharp and guitar as part of the heartfelt presentations. He makes history come alive through tales, through poetry, and through these touching ballads that have survived among the “folk.”
We are so incredibly blessed to have many free cultural and educational events in Coweta County. The Carnegie Library should be on your radar; check their website weekly. And speaking of terrific educational and entertaining events, you would do well to join the Senoia Area Historical Society and get on their mailing lists.
They have free programs on the second Thursday of each month. You missed one of the best last week if you did not stop in to hear David and Rita Brown of Longview Farm, Senoia describing early Homesteading in a “grown-up” Show and Tell. David lugged about four tons of axe heads, an authentic oxen yolk, arrow heads (some thousands of years old), and a large, perfectly intact whiskey jug found on their property—imbedded in the sand of a “branch,” or stream, left behind by moonshiners. A mate to the very jug signed by potter Gordy can be found in the Smithsonian. Good stuff happening at our Museum!
My IPad just asked me if I had a case of the Morning Blues. Not so smart are you, Mr Apple? The time according to your digital clock shows 6:01 PM. And actually, I was just thinking about how contented I was feeling at this very moment. No blues in sight.
I  just returned from Publix with a pastry box filled with four beautiful cinnamon buns and can smell the Hazelnut Coffee brewing; its aroma wafting from the  kitchen into the den where I work to finish this little note to you, Dear Reader.
The house is quiet except for the low murmur of a recorded Hallmark Mystery movie taped during the Christmas holidays and now playing because I refuse to allow my serene mood to be compromised by watching cable news at this hour.
It is grey out; an overcast day does not make for a fine sunset, but there is something sweet about the street lights coming on early and the wet pavement shining. I think I will turn in early, perhaps start another book. A historical romance would be just right for my mood tonight. Til next time.