Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not to make too fine a point about this Sesquicentennial...

Pardon the repetition, but I'm of a mood to reprise this blog post of June 27, 2006. At that writing I had been a seasonal Park Ranger exactly one month and I was flying high. Tomorrow, as a permanent Park Ranger, I'm heading to Manassas to work the 150th anniversary observance of that battle. Add to that a milestone event from last November and you'll understand why I feel I'm flying even higher.

Look me up at Manassas.


When I was nine a watershed event occurred for me. My mother suggested that she and I start a "Civil War scrapbook", whatever that was. Although I had no clue as to what either the Civil War or a scrapbook was, I'm pretty sure that my response was an enthusiastic "Keen!". I was always up for doing stuff with my mom. She had a real knack for making things fun.

What prompted her idea was a recurring pictorial installment in LIFE magazine celebrating the centennial of the Civil War.

She and I spent many evenings with scissors and glue designing this fabulous one-of-a-kind manuscript; my Civil War scrapbook (like, doesn't everybody have one?) which I still have.

One winter night around that same time, my dad stuck his head in the bedroom (shared by my older brother and me) and announced "If you guys keep your room clean, pay attention to your mother, and behave yourselves, I'll take you to Gettysburg this summer." I was dumbstruck! Fortunately our father didn't hold us to our end of that bargan- and that summer, he, my brother, and I were packed in the Corvair and heading toward Gettysburg and my future.(that's me...future Ranger Mannie)

That trip had a major influence on me, as did a timely response to a piece of my juvenile fanmail to Civil War historian, Bruce Catton, as well as the release of the John Wayne movie "The Horse Soldiers" and the manufacture of plastic Civil War playsets by the Louis Marx Company. This was the harmonic convergence of getting a kid, me, interested in American history in general and the Civil War in particular.

So now I find myself with a dream job at Antietam National Battlefield, our nation's most significant Civil War related national park. I give two presentations daily, always hoping to spark the imagination of the nine-year-olds in my audience. I couldn't have hoped to be in a better place with a better job. I only wish that my mother, my father, and Bruce Catton were sill around to accept my thanks.

Kids are listening...you never know what'll spark their imagination.


Monterey Pass Battlefield Institute said...

Hi Mannie,

You and I have a lot in commen. I remember my father taking me to Fort Frederick and Gettysburg several times and the older I got, I really wanted to do something in that field such as the park service. It's funny how that works out sometimes. Have a good one and take care of yourself during the heat wave.

Andy Hall said...

Here's that issue of LIFE online.

Carman said...

When I was growing up with Mannie, his childhood interest sparked an influx of Civil War related items into our home: books, playsets, posters, models, more toys. My younger brother was always generous about sharing his cool stuff. Along with the stuff, a new vocabulary entered mny life. The first times I ever heard the words Antietam, Manassas, Vicksburg, Sharps rifle, etc were from Mannie. I got a early dose of Civil War history that served me well later on in high school. I share Mannie's hope that he can spark the imagination of the nine-year-olds in his audience so that they will have the conviction to ignore their critics and follow their dreams.
The brother,
Carman Gentile
Arcata, CA

Gary Dombrowski said...

Mannie, What a neat keepsake from your childhood. The influences you had growing up have served you very well. I'll be with the 11th NY (Fire Zouaves) and hope to look you up while I'm at Manassas. ~Gary