By Joyce Lavene
The 35th North Carolina Volunteer Regiment was camped out at the Carl J. McEwen Historical Village last weekend. It was a cool night and a frosty morning for the soldiers and their families. The renactors also have wives and children with them who help tend the fires, cook food and even march with the soldiers and handle weapons.
Twelve-year-old Robby Rhyne is one of those children. He is in seventh grade in Charlotte and spends many weekends with his parents camping out at renactments. He has been pretending to be a boy during a turbulent period in American history for more than four years.
“If I’m home, I normally play with my electronic games,” he said, a cap on his head and buttoned suspenders holding up his loose trousers. “That’s what I miss most when we come out to these events. It makes me appreciate everything electronic even more. But I’d rather come out here anyway than stay home.”
His mother makes and shows off the types of toys children would have played with during that time. Most are made of natural materials, things that might have been found around the home.
Robby demonstrates a Jacob’s ladder toy, a yoyo and a wooden cannon. “Most children would have been lucky to have more than one toy back then,” he said. He takes out wooden trains, a tic tac toe board, dominoes and pick up sticks. There are also checkers, which might have been called draughts during the Civil War. It is the British name for the game.
Robby offers to demonstrate how children made marbles out of clay but his mother said the last time he was covered in mud when it was time to go home and nixes that idea. He wanders over by the fire and stokes it up, one of his favorite things to do. The older soldiers sit around, holding their hands out for warnth.
“My friends think it’s cool,” Robby said. “I know a lot of history buffs my age and they’d like to do it too. Everyone likes the idea of the old guns. I do that too.