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Shelter Island time machine

Time traveller Siebren Meidema-Haynes cutting the rug and doing the Charleston.
Time Traveller Siebren Meidema-Haynes cutting the rug and doing the Charleston.

As the sun beats down on a hot July day, a young girl churns butter by the barn. An excited boy plays with a rolling hoop over dry summer grass. A group of kids work together cleaning clothes on a washboard.
Shelter Island a century go?

No, try July 2016.

Though it may seem that images came from the pages of history, they are just some of the activities Island youngsters got to try last week at the Shelter Island Historical Society’s (SIHS) “Time Travelers” camp, which ran Monday through Friday mornings last week.

Time Travelers, geared for kids ages 6 through 12, started in 2012. Registration opened in the spring this year and filled up quickly, according to Program Coordinator Sarah Shepherd.

“It’s really grown in the last couple of years,” she said.

The camp starts in modern times and gradually journeys into the past. Campers learn about United States history, and how it shaped Shelter Island’s. This year, the camp focused on the Prohibition Era and the Roaring Twenties.

Each day held a new adventure, from archeological digs to arts and crafts to jazz. The kids learned about the two Shelter Island hotels that burned down, the Prospect and the Manhanset. A large timeline of American and Island history, including inventions, accomplishments and groundbreaking discoveries, made up one wall of the barn. Artifacts, such as old typewriters and toys from the previous century, were available to play with.

One recent experience reiterated the importance of having a connection to the past. While making medicine out of flowers and herbs, Ms. Shepherd recounted, one boy asked, “Why do we need to learn this? Doctors give us our medicine.”

A young girl then replied, “But you don’t know what the medicine is made out of!”

Agreeing with the wise young camper, Ms. Shepherd remarked, “The deeper our connection to the past is, the more impactful our future can be.”

Other campers echoed this sentiment, with CC Hanypsiak commenting, “You have to know your history. You need to know where you came from.”

The smallest things became an opportunity to learn. When asked about the best part of camp, Lauren Hanypsiak replied, “The double-stuffed Oreos!” Sure enough, the invention of the Oreo had a place on the SIHS timeline.

The program culminated with a show in which the young historians performed songs and dances and portrayed famous figures in Shelter Island history. Rather than introduce themselves with their given name, many children greeted the Reporter last week with, “I’m the flapper,” or “I’m the captain.” Such introductions indicated both their excitement for the show, as well as the program’s success in transporting the campers through time.

On a rainy Friday, the time traveling kids took the stage. First, Music Director Heather Reylek led them in song, with the campers singing as well as playing kazoos. Then, each performer went up to the microphone and introduced his or her character.

Narrated by “Ralph G. Duvall,” played by a counselor, the play described the shift in Shelter Island from a quiet fishing and farming area to tourist destination. It also recounted major moments in Island history, such as the hotel fires and the arrival of influential families.

The youngsters, whether they played a puppeteer, a reverend, a rum runner, or a chef, were all proud of their performances, bowing and blowing kisses to the audience. Along with the show, the kids ended the week with ice cream made by a vintage ice cream machine.

Although the ice cream was gone in a matter of minutes, the lessons learned from Time Travelers camp are certain to remain relevant for years to come.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Time Travelers ready to take a bow.
BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Time Travelers ready to take a bow.