Young Interpreters Experiences

Young Interpreter Melissa Moor The following speech was presented by Melissa Moor, a Year 2000 Young Interpreter, as her entry in the Effective Public Speaking competition sponsored by the Lions Clubs of Ontario.

Having taken a first prize in the regional competition, Melissa went on to participate in the Ontario finals. Although she did not place in the final three, she took every opportunity to express her excitement at being chosen as a YIP, and revelled in telling the stories that came from her time working at Upper Canada Village:

Can you imagine what it was like to be a child in Ontario over 100 years ago? There are books to read about it and films to see, but what about a real life experience? I did not just read about it, I lived it!

Good afternoon honourable judges, parents, teachers, and fellow students. Today I would like to speak to you about my life as a child in the 1860s. Did I find H.G. Wells time machine, and travel back in time? No my dad drove me there.

For 9 days last September I worked at Upper Canada Village living the life of a child in Ontario, in the year 1866. Upper Canada Village is a living museum in Morrisburg Ontario, that portrays life as it would have been the year before Confederation.

Every weekend this past September I took part in the young Interpreters program, playing the role of a young girl, from 9 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. I enjoyed working on the farms, in the print shop, going to chapel, singing and just talking with the other kids. But, there were a lot of rules. While on our own, and out of site of the tourists, we followed today's rules.

When working in the village with the public, we had tons of new, or should I say old, rules to follow. We were expected to portray life in the 1860s correctly, and were instructed in the proper manners of a child of that time. Therefore we children were to be seen and not heard, to speak only when spoken to, and to never, ever talk back to an adult, even if we knew they were wrong. My parents tried to convince me to practice these rules at home, no such luck !

Children were expected to be miniature adults. So along with the rules there were chores, and lots of them! Feeding the pigs, peeling apples, preserving, sewing, sweeping, baking, gardening, and preparing meals were just some of the chores girls had to do. My favourite chore was feeding the pigs, especially when this turned into a chase as the piglets made one of their many escapes from the pen!

Boys had many of the same chores, although there was more outside work on the farm and no cooking or sewing. It wasn't just chores and rules, people back then liked to have fun too.

Like today sports was a favourite activity for most kids. I ended most days at Upper Canada Village playing baseball with the other young interpreters. It's not our modern game with 3 bases on a diamond. This was the 1860s version, 4 posts in a square, played on a grassy field.

It is the same idea, a ball and bat, but different rules. Oh, and as with everything else we did we were dressed in the clothing of the 1860s. It is one thing to sweep the floor in a long dress, but try running the bases in one, while keeping your straw hat on your head at the same time!

Tug of war and ring toss were other popular games at this time. Games were not the only source of entertainment. There were no T.V.'s to flick on or gameboys to play. Instead local musicians, fiddlers and flute players provided entertainment, along with the village choir. Children in the 1860s had to go to school too, but it was very different from today. No computers, or art supplies, one teacher, one room, all grades, and no gym. Boys sat on one side of the school house and girls on the other.

Memorisation was the base of everything. Poems, spelling, math problems, and history dates. The punishments at school were based on public humiliation, and could be harsh. Boys stood for 15 minutes with 3 logs in their outstretched arms. Girls placed their noses in a circle on the chalkboard.

Just as today, children were part of many social activities. Performing in skits, singing in chapel, and attending local fairs. Children were often members of the Total Abstinence Society. This society had children protest against tobacco, drinking, and swearing by singing outside of the local tavern.

Do you think you would like to be a child in the 1860s? You would acquire new skills, and try many new activities, but you would face many new challenges and hardships too.

Would I like to live in the 1860s?

Well not exactly, but I have applied to work at Upper Canada Village this year, and maybe, just maybe I'll be able to time travel again.

Thank you.

How to Apply
To apply, please print, fill out and send back the Young Interpreters Application Form.