Social Events

picture of Victorian couple courting

One of the grandest things the Carter family's seen yet was the Iowa State Fair, held over at Burlington a few weeks ago. Half of Mt. Pleasant got to go, it being this close. It was expensive, just to get in the gate—a quarter for adults and a dime for children!

Most fun I ever saw in my life, though--worth every penny. Greatest of all was the circular swing. I heard the man who operated it call it “an amusement ride.” Well, it was amusing, all right. Joshua and I about laughed our heads off after we stopped being dizzy from going round and round way up off the ground.

Ma can’t believe they’ve managed to keep the fair going all through the war years when we had to stop even having plays at the schoolhouse in Missouri on account of it being so dangerous for people to be out an’ about.

I can hardly remember the last time we got together with more than one other family in Missouri, just to have fun. We all missed the programs, especially at Christmas when Santa Claus would come and give out big bags of fruit and candy.

Sometimes the older kids would organize plays during the year. Pa might write some of the characters’ parts and get Ma to help with costumes. People come from far and wide for such entertainment.

The time I remember most, I was about 5 years old. Ma dressed me up like a fairy. I was quite a sight to see! It was for a Shakespeare play about a dream, and I just remember I was off in the woods fluttering around like a silly, little girl.

Wasn’t long ago that going to theatre was considered by many to be sinful, Grandpa says, but folks are starting to change. Ma wants Jenny to be an actress, say soon as the rebellion is over, she’s gonna organize a group at the Union Building here in Mt. Pleasant, try to make her dreams for Jenny come true.

There’s big singings and band concerts at the gazebo in the park downtown after all the stores close on Friday nights.

Besides the schools, churches are the other big gathering place in every community. Music recitals and big dinners plus the visiting preachers that come and stay for 2-3 weeks, families going to hear the man every single night, sometimes every single morning, too. Some of those fellows are as entertaining as the actors at the Union Building.

Sometimes work gets combined with social events: quilting bees, hog killing, and barn-raising, just to name a few.

Lately, we’ve been going fishing. Nobody accuses us of goofing off as long as we bring home a string of catfish for supper. Of course, we don’t have as much success as we could: it’s hard to catch fish when you’ve jumped in the swimming hole with alongside ‘em.

Square dancing happens about every week in the summertime. In the winter, there’s ice skating, after which somebody’s always inviting skaters home for hot chocolate and popcorn.

There’s one form of entertainment that my friend Hosea Johnson finds disturbing. Mr. and Mrs. Mullins are the only white folks I know who agree. It’s the minstrel show—what Mark Twain even wrote fondly about in Huck Finn, calling the shows delightful and “the genuine nigger show.”

Say, you don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, maybe that’s because it’s about died out in your time. Yet it was the most popular entertainment all over the country, even abolitionists seem to think it’s pretty clever. White folks blacken their faces and get up on stage, sometimes with black folks, but mostly pretending to be black folks. They talk just like a slave, dress up in very fine clothes and walk around real proud and silly, too, often doing this real popular dance called “tap.” I never thought a thing about it until Hosea told me that it seemed to him like white folks were making jokes about Negroes. Even Joshua’s fine teacher, Mr. Howe doesn’t seem to see it that way. Neither did Grandpa, and he would more than any white man I know, if he thought there was anything wrong with it at all. Still, because of Hosea, I asked to stay home last time there was a minstrel show in town.

Makes no difference if I miss out on what others think is fun. We sure don’t have to look far to find something even better.


To learn much more about the recreation, culture and conflict in the days of the American Civil War, check out Just Following Orders: Escape from Guerrilla Warfare in 1863