“History On The Waterfront”–a free tour!
October 4, 2010
I’d been telling David, “I’ve GOT to stop by the Custom House one of these days to take that tour…..”
Walking past the Custom House this past weekend, and remembering my vow, I noticed the Open sign outside the building, and decided to go for it. I was hesitant, not knowing what to expect, and quickly and apologetically said, “I’m local and if it’s too busy now, I can come again.” But I was warmly greeted by a friendly, perky college student who dismissed my concerns as warmly and professionally as she had greeted me. She immediately took out the MP3 player that I would be using on the tour, and I immediately got nervous, knowing that I knew nothing on earth about MP3 players and couldn’t even have identified one if my life had depended on it. However, she expertly reassured me, explaining carefully the very simple instructions, instilling bold confidence into my novice non-know-how bones.
Ah, the beauty of technology! With the MP3 ear buds tucked into my ears, (again, with her help, since I was tentative about even that!) I was in my own little world, transported instantly back to the 1700’s…..
The tone quality was perfect; I could monitor the volume according to my exact needs, and the show was ON! I found myself dancing (just a little bit, really hardly discernible to the average onlooker, I’m certain), but since I’m a sucker for the harpsichord and dulcimer sound from that period, I really couldn’t help myself. It was fun, engaging, and so interesting that I was mesmerized.
I had missed the concert at The Prince that had featured Marlon Saunders, so I was delighted to hear his voice (along with others) capturing the simple poignancy of the heart and life of the slave, whose story was a part of this Waterfront History. Tapping my foot there on the sidewalk in front of the Washington College President’s house, I was again transported, empathetically engaged, and simultaneously grieving the message of this living history. As a native, I was mourning the untold truths of my own family’s role in this same south-of-the-Mason-Dixon-line story, and I had much to think about, as I relived the memories of my own heritage. (Thankfully, when re-dististricting occurred at the time of integration in Kent County — when I was a high school freshman at Chestertown High School — I was given the chance to begin to re-write that family history, wiping out some of the shame of the past.)
The tour took about 45 minutes, but if you only had 30 minutes, you could squeeze most of it in, especially if you didn’t pause the player as directed. Only people not used to a regular routine of walking would need the extra time.
Don’t miss this tiny chunk of Chestertown’s story! The brochures are available at the Visitor Center in town and you can catch the tour on the weekends.