By Marian Brennan Pratt
We bought the tickets in August. It seemed like such a good idea at the time and it WAS a good idea, it’s just that no one thought it would be so frigid in Greenfield Village on “Holiday Nights”. But then again, it IS December; what were we expecting?
My friends decided I needed a wheel chair; they’re tired of carrying me. Things were going pretty well until the pusher of the wheelchair forgot about me and inadvertently pushed me off the sidewalk, over the curb and into the street. She was sorry. She would do better. The next stop was to see the home of an 1850’s pioneer who lived in a gully. Do you know what a gully is? Well, it’s a low spot in the terrain. On our way DOWN to the house, this one who was sure she could do better announced that she was not at all sure that she could hold on to me since I happened to have picked up speed. She was fired and another friend took over the task.
We watched glass blowers make a thin line of glass several feet long which would be later cut into pieces and twisted to make glass candy canes. We learned how a printing press worked and how the Post Office handled mail. Some went on horse and buggy rides and little Ford Model T’s were running the roads with passengers.
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The entire Village was decorated with lights and every house had a bond fire out front. We stopped by and seated ourselves by one of these fires and soon a small black woman, dressed in 1800 period costume rose and started to speak.
“My name is Letty Mae”, she said “and I am a slave.” I belong to Mr. Johnson
who owns this plantation. I have always been in bondage. I know nothing else.”
She became very animated then as she continued: “But let me tell you about
Christmas- time for us slaves. Most plantation owners give their slaves some
weeks off around Christmas and that is when we have parties and, especially,
weddings. My Henry made me a ring out of a red button. He honed it out and
carved and polished it and when he put it on my finger, it fit me like it was
supposed to be there all along. That ring is my prized possession.”
She held her hand with the ring on it up to her face and cradled it. The marriages of slaves were performed by their own ministers but were not considered legal marriages. Letty said they didn’t care; they held hands and “Jumped the Broom” anyway. She went on to say how they were allowed only a few days and nights together and then Henry had to leave because he was owned by the man at the next plantation. She said that she had a baby soon but then was worried that Henry would be sold off somewhere and she would never see him again, and her children would not know their father. Letty ended by saying that it was not right that some people should have to live that way. “It’s not right.” she said. “Is it?” she asked us. We found ourselves shaking our heads and saying in soft voices. ”No, No, It’s Not ….” then one man in the back spoke louder and said: “No, Letty, it’s not right.” I turned to see him and he was a white man from our spectators group. She nodded her head and sat down around the fire with us again and not another word was spoken. We were all occupied with our own thoughts.
We finished up by watching fireworks in the town square while groups such as the “Sweet Adelines” sang Christmas carols. It turned out to be a wonderful night and we did not freeze to death or get hit by a Model T. We had started out with a seven-course meal. How could I have forgotten that?
I guess you could say we were full, frozen and forgetful.
Marian Brennan Pratt held the position of Church Secretary at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in the Village of Emmett, Michigan for 24 years. She has four grown children: Barbara, Suzanne, Bernie and Steve, seven grandchildren: Daniel, Kaitlynn, Emily, Ashley, Taylor, Brennan and Benjamin, one great-grandchild: Paislee and another on-the-way. While a member of the community, she joined the ladies of the parish in a Book Club, was a member of Daughters of Isabella #452 and a past member of the Village Council. Marian lives in Port Huron now and has always been interested in Journalism which led to her joining the staff of St. Stephen’s High School newspaper, the Stephecho. She has written several articles for the Emmett News and has had a book published, entitled “Emmett Township”, part of the Images of America series by Arcadia Publishing which plays a large part in the preservation of local heritage.