Today we’re wrapping up our July “Slice of Americana Series,” highlighting fascinating posts from all 50 states + Washington DC!
We’ve enjoyed your smart comments, and thank all the talented bloggers who write about this country we love. We want to leave you with a smile, so we’ve brought back one of our most popular posts from last summer.
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The oak door stood open and the cavernous foyer was empty. It was a quiet, weekday afternoon, and it took a “hellooooo” to flush out the museum attendant. A “Yesssss, come in,” echoed around the corner, and we stepped into the foyer. Then suddenly, a petite, gray-haired, iPad totin’ woman popped into the room … and we recognized her immediately as a “character.”
The characters we encounter in our travels are one of the true perks, and this docent at the Cayuga Museum of History and Art in Auburn, New York fit this category perfectly. She was all smiles as she ticked off the different exhibits scattered around the early 19th Century mansion. And what began as a warm welcome, became even warmer when she discovered that we were from the far off land of Georgia. Without missing a beat, she shifted into town ambassador mode suggesting attractions that we might want to see. Auburn, a relatively unknown city of 30,000 people, sits like a fingernail at the north end of the Finger Lake of Owasco in north central New York. The town isn’t as quaint and charming as some of the other villages in the area, but for a small place, it has a surprising number of famous sights and historic figures. All of which, the ebullient docent happily proceeded to enumerate.
Harriet Tubman, the famous abolitionist and Underground Railroad leader, established her home and a haven for southern slaves seeking their freedom in this small city.
Theodore Case, the first person to successfully add sound to movies was born here, and the docent pointed out the museum window to the upscale garden shed out back which was Case’s “lab.”
Then in a casual voice, the docent said, “And then there’s the maximum security prison just down the street. You might want to drive by that as well.” This is the prison where William Kemmler, the first person to be executed by electric chair (Or as they say in Texas, “ride Ol’ Sparky”), met his maker. We were surprised by this revelation and had questions, but the docent’s tourist train rolled on.
Next, we mentioned that we were camping in nearby Moravia. Then a twinkle came to her eye, and she said, “But Have You Been To The Nudist Camp?” Four eyebrows shot skyward, and in unison we said, “What Nudist Camp?”
As it turns out, the Empire Haven Nudist Park was very near our State Park Campground. A visit to their predominantly (but not totally) PG-rated website proved informative. The rules and regulations were pretty standard until we got to the only rule that was in all caps:
IF YOU ARE NUDE, YOU MUST SIT ON A TOWEL.
And at that point, we decided that we weren’t quite ready for that type of camping experience.
Our conversation in the museum was a pleasant surprise, and one that will stick in our memories for a long time. In addition, we added another character to our travel list.
1. By Gerbil via Wikimedia Commons
6. By Albert Yam via Wikimedia Commons