In the background the year was 2001 in a city called Seaside Oregon.
In the foreground the year was 1806 near a village of friendly Clatsop
Indians. Sergeant Patrick Gass sits while Private William Bratton tends
to the fire under a kettle of boiling seawater.
Patrick Gass was played by John Luzader, who has a business called "Living
Museums of the West" in Colorado, and William Bratton was played
by Matt Hensley, a teacher at Astoria Middle School in Astoria Oregon.
Hensley also works as a Ranger at Fort Clatsop National Memorial each
Others in the total cast of characters were Shawn Williams as Private
Joseph Field, Thomas Wilson as Private Thomas Howard, and Sean Johnson
as Private George Shannon. Williams works at Fort Clatsop, Wilson is
a teacher in the Astoria School District, and Johnson is a student at
Astoria High School and volunteers at Fort Clatsop.
tells about the Salt Maker presentation:
Over 6,000 visitors met the Lewis and Clark Salt Makers at the special
events held in July and August. This event was sponsored by the Seaside
Museum and Historical Society in partnership with Fort Clatsop National
Memorial. The programs were very well received, with many of the participants
giving high praises about the interpreters. For many it was a new way
of learning the history of our country, specifically the Lewis and Clark
Corp of Discoveries experience on the beach, boiling salt water to make
salt for their return trip.
As first person interpreters, they knew only what had happened in their
lives before February 1806. Extensive research was done for each of
the characters, such as their birth dates and birth places. Who were
their parents and grandparents? Where did they live before joining the
expedition? What was their childhood like? Did they attend school? When
and where did they sign up with the Corp? As they were a regiment of
the US Army, what was the protocol of the Army in 1806? What kind of
tools did they bring with them? What experiences did they have on the
way out here? Because the characters knew this information, their interpretation
of the salt makers was made very realistic.
The program was a tremendous success and at our critiquing meeting after
the event it was decided to try to obtain funding to have it again in
2002. This year's program was funded by the Oregon Community Foundation
Historic Trails Fund, The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee (Clatsop
County), the National Park Service 2001 Challenge Cost Share Program,
and Fort Clatsop National Memorial. The Clatsop County Genealogical
Society, the City of Seaside and Oregon State Parks also contributed
to this project.
tells about being a Contextual Greeter
What is a "contextual greeter"? I found out when I accepted
that assignment for the "Salt Makers Return", a unique interactive
learning experience for the entire family. For two 72-hour sessions,
during the summer of 2001, a first-person historical interpretation
program was presented on the beach in Seaside, Oregon. The character
interpreters had set up camp, were tending the fires and boiling seawater
about 300 yards from the actual Salt Works monument.
As a "contextual greeter", my job was to welcome visitors,
let them know they were traveling back to the year 1806, and tell them
they were approaching the Lewis & Clark Salt Works. They were to
forget the hotels, houses and parked cars a few hundred yards behind
them and imagine they were approaching this camp 195 years ago. The
visitors would soon find themselves entering a different culture.
This was an interactive experience and the visitors asked the salt makers
questions about their exploration with the Corps of Discovery, remembering
the answers would all be in the context of this moment in 1806. The
salt makers had researched their character, thoroughly, and would answer
only in their present and past, and in the jargon of 1806.
In 1806 bartering was a routine way of doing business at the Salt Works
and bartering continued at the Salt Works in 2001. The original expedition
members' diet was limited with elk, fish and dog on the menu. Visitors
were offered "valuable" blue beads, shells, bits of copper
or pieces of ribbon for the pet dog accompanying them. I am relieved
to report that no offers were accepted and all dogs returned home with
My work as a "contextual greeter" turned out to be a rewarding
experience. Not only was I able to greet the visitors and prepare them
for their adventure, but I also found myself being approached, after
their interactive experience, to answer questions about the Corps of
Discovery expedition and why certain things happened the way they did.
Almost all of our visitors went away from the Salt Maker experience
eager to learn more about this moment in history and to prepare for
the 200th anniversary celebration of this event in the year 2006.