Shake winter doldrums with Winterfest

WAYNESFIELD — Stepping into one room at Waynesfield-Goshen Local Schools included stepping back into time.

A group of Civil War re-enactors hosted an 1860s ladies tea to help visitors to the Waynesfield-Goshen Muchinippi WinterFest learn about the time period and a different pace in life.

“We were really teaching people about what the teas were all about and why the ladies held them,” Carol Baker, one of the re-enactors dressed in a hoop-skirted blue dress, said.

“I just wanted to impart a little bit more information about the way life was at that time,” said Lisa Clark, who donned a more simple grey and white floor-length dress. “They weren’t really called ladies teas back then they were simply known as teas, and they were really just an opportunity to socialize and to meet with friends and families to share news amongst one another.”

Clark, whose husband, Niles Clark, dressed as George Edward Picker from the West Point Academy class of 1846, explained the teas later served as an opportunity to organize events, to decide ways to fill a need and to help the troops fighting the war.

“They had to have men present at the meeting because the men had the power,” Clark said. “I did try to explain to them that women had no rights at the time, but they didn’t like to hear that. Back then, I (a woman) had to rely on my husband, I had to rely on my father or I had to rely on my son. If my husband and father were dead and my son too young to be the head of household, then I would have to rely on my brother, father-in-law or uncles would take pity on me and let me live with them.”

Clark and Baker said opportunities developed out of the war including women starting to speak about the suffragette movement.

The two women also described their clothing, which was typcially comprised of all natural fabrics, and the style of clothing developed from the triangle theory — broad shoulders, narrow waist and wide hem.

Clark and Baker also took the opportunity to discuss the foods served with tea, which included biscuits, not cookies, and a fruit and nut salad, later to become known as Waldorf salad.

“They were not called cookies, they were called biscuits,” Clark said. “I would have served lemon biscuits, ginger tea cakes and Benton tea cakes and Naples biscuits, or lady fingers.

“I was going to make cheese sandwiches because they were actually a staple at teas,” she said. “People don’t think about that but they talked a lot about toasting a cheese sandwich and having that with their meal.”

Lemonade was popular in the South as lemons and citrus fruit was grown in South Carolina. Tea was more difficult to come by in the South than the North, but it was still the popular drink.

The two women explained how tea would be confiscated if a traveler from the North traveled to the South and had more than a pound of tea. If they had less than 1 pound, they would be permitted to pass.

“During the war, the teas (parties) slowed down because the women did not have as many opportunities to get together for a social gathering,” Clark said. “If they had company, they would still serve tea.

“In the North, they would still have them in the cities where there were people of wealth and social standing, writers and poets, local statesmen,” she said.  

Outside the room, children and adults played games, listened to bands play and visited with local merchants who had stands. Funds raised from the two-day Winterfest event help support the Muchinippi Theater Group and other organizations.

Pat Noykos, of the Muchinippi Theater Group, said Winterfest continues to be well received.

“We have had a really good crowd and everything has gone really well,” Noykos said, noting the only hiccup in the event schedule was a band had to cancel because a singer became ill. “It was really crowded last night and again this morning and it will here shortly when dinner is served and the play starts.

“For me, I think people like this because it is just a great opportunity to get out and get rid of some of the winter doldrums because we have been penned in for so long,” she said as temperatures outside climbed to reach 50 degrees. “The music and bingo has been well received and we just finished a euchre tournament.”

She said they try to have events for each age group.

“This is not only a fundraiser but a chance for everyone in the community to get out together,” Noykos said of the largest and only fundraiser for the theater group. “We are really happy with the turnout because there has been a lot of people here and a lot of interest in what we do. We have had a really nice crowd these two days.”