My son’s third grade class visited Old Salem last month for their spring field trip. I joined along as a chaperone. Although I’ve lived in North Carolina for over 20 years, this was my first visit and I was excited to learn along with him and his classmates.
Old Salem Museums and Gardens is located in Winston-Salem and brings to life the town’s Moravian history of the 18th and 19th centuries. Following introductions at the Visitor’s Center and Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, our class headed to St. Philip’s African Moravian Church where we learned a bit about the town’s African History.
History Comes to Life
We spent the rest of our visit freely roaming the town and stepping into buildings at the kids’ requests. We learned how guns, pottery, silver, and butter were made; where the saying “sleep tight” originated (from having to tighten the ropes supporting the bed mattress); how to tell time using a sundial; and so much more.
The craftsmen and interpreters were fantastic at showing us how their various items were created and answering the many questions the kids came up with.
I appreciated how many hands on opportunities we found throughout Old Salem. Some of the buildings had displays and exhibits that were to be viewed only and we had to remind the kids periodically. But just as many had options for the kids to fully participate. Trying on period clothes and laying on the beds in the Single Brothers’ House was a huge hit. Another favorite? Spraying water at the Water Pump in Salem Square.
I had heard well in advance of our trip that Winkler Bakery was a “must do” while visiting Old Salem. We stopped by in early afternoon and the line wrapped through the building to the front door. There are a few treats, coffee, and restrooms upstairs. A few members of our group headed up while I stayed in line to hold our spot. The wait was worth it though. We selected an assortment of cookies and cheese snacks. Then headed outside to try them.
As we were leaving, the kids noticed Krispy Kreme on the map. Naturally this peaked their interest and they quickly located the marker on the opposite side of Main Street noting where the original donut shop was located.
One of our last stops during the tour found us in the Miksch Gardens learning how to make soap. This was interesting to the kids in its own right, but even more fascinating to me, I learned my father actually did this as a child. As the interpreter explained the process, my father joined in the conversation. His grandparents made their own soap their entire lives. He recalled the smell of the fat boiling. The long process of making the soap. And how it was the only soap in their home so he always used it there.
If I had heard this story beforehand, I had long forgotten. I reached out and touched the soap when given the opportunity. It was firm, but smooth and gentle. The final product had what I can best describe as a strong soap smell. Far different than the Dove beauty bar I use today.
I set out on the adventure expecting to learn a bit of North Carolina history. I did that and so much more.