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Programs at Kline Creek Farm teach history with a side of elbow grease

Published: Monday, June 17, 2013 9:00 a.m. CDT
A volunteer at Kline Creek Farm stands in the barn in period dress June 6. The upper barn stores hay, straw and food for livestock. Below the animals are kept and fed. Lauren Hill -

WEST CHICAGO – In the 1890s, people were not lounging around watching TV or loading up the washing machine on laundry day.

At Kline Creek Farm, visitors step into the late 19th century and are encouraged to participate in tasks that a normal person from the era would carry out, such as cleaning laundry and stacking hay.

Kline Creek programs, including Children’s Farm Chores and Children’s Story Hour, offer today’s kids a chance to experience the past. Children’s Farm Chores is a program where children take on the chores of a child in 1890. Mondays are dedicated to helping Mom, while Thursdays are all about helping Dad. Volunteers at Kline Creek give children a description of each chore and why it is important, then the kids can jump into the action.

“If you’re a kid on a farm, you are working where you’re needed,” Kline Creek Program Organizer and Heritage Interpreter Dennis Buc said.

Mothers in the 1890s kept the house in order – mowing the lawn and doing the laundry. Fathers were in charge of barn raising and putting up hay and straw for the animals.

At Kline Creek, on Mom’s day, children use a push reel mower. They can scrub dirty clothes in big tubs, wring the water out and hang the washing on a clothesline to dry.

On Dad’s day, children stack straw and make rope using a machine that twists the strands together.

“These are things we are doing on a regular basis anyway. This program gives an opportunity to let kids participate,” Buck said.

Visiting the farm for the first time, St. Charles residents Dagmara Sizmore and her son, Elijah, spent the afternoon exploring and participating in the Children’s Farm Chores program. They stacked straw to form a tower and learned about the uses of the barn and the difference between hay and straw.

The family said they had a good time on the farm and enjoyed the activity.

During Children’s Story Hour, kids gather around and listen to tales that would have been popular in the 1890s. Volunteers hold up illustrations for the children to see and read stories like “John Henry,” “How the Camel Got His Hump” and “The Gingerbread Man.”

“Reading in the 1890s was a form of entertainment. There was no TV, no XBox,” Buck said. “It’s a restful moment in between ongoing activity during the day.”

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