SCHWENKSVILLE PA – A look of concern washed across the face of Eva Marie Adame, as she pondered the next move in a game of checkers against her dad Saturday (April 18, 2009) on the side porch of the mansion at Pennypacker Mills.
The young girl had two obvious jumps: one would let her safely capture a piece, another might cost her the game. She hesitated, undecided, until father James offered a suggestion. She took it, pounced, and swept the checker from the board, grinning in triumph.
If there was a better way to spend a warm and sunny spring day in the country, the Adames – who live in Fort Washington PA – didn’t know it. Playing checkers on a porch is a simple joy. At Pennypacker Mills, the historic Montgomery County home of former Pennsylvania Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker, simplicity is at the heart of its annual “Rural Life In The 1900s” day.
The event, held Saturday on the mansion grounds that now is a county park at 5 Haldeman Rd., 8 miles northeast of Sanatoga village, teemed with hundreds of people.
Among other things they learned how, decades ago, rugs were cleaned (by beating them outdoors), how apples were cored and skinned (using a table-top device fitted with a crank), and how butter was made (in a jar churn).
Maddy Bocchinfuso, a New Jersey resident whose grandparents live in Audubon PA and brought her to Pennypacker for the day, quickly discovered butter-making was difficult work. She twisted the churn handle while her mother steadied the jar, and after a few minutes inspected the result. “Is that all I made?, she asked in surprise, as she saw only a small amount of butter floating in the jar full of cream.
Compared to the convenience offered by modern appliances, mansion docents agreed, life in the 1900s was harder. But maybe, as Eva Marie demonstrated, not so bad.
Entertainment a century earlier was usually home-made and family-oriented. The checkerboard on which the Adames played was assembled by hand from hardwoods of varying colors and tones, and lessons learned playing on it – about parenting and growing up, about strategy and tactics, about winning gracefully and losing without bitterness – won’t be found on any television channel.
Pennypacker Mills’ next scheduled event will be a free two-day civil war reunion on May 30 and 31 (2009; Saturday and Sunday). Re-enactors representing the North and South will gather for a weekend of military encampments, and artillery and living history demonstrations. It will feature speakers, live music, a daily battle, and merchants selling their wares, as well as tours of the mansion.