Cat T. Gardiner
D-Day in August 2017
Hi-di-ho, friends! I hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend by doing something you really enjoy. Let me share with you a little about my swell adventure doing something that I enjoy: Wartime Reenacting.
It all began with a brain child that everyone said I was crazy to put the work into. I wanted to build and transport 1200 miles, an early 1940s wartime one-room apartment for an exciting step back into history at "D-Day Conneaut, Ohio." I had a vision, which was different than the vision of those around me, and with persistence - and openness to some modification - the end result was not only executed but completed beautifully with the assistance of my talented dad. Handyman extraordinaire (even at 85.)
The annual D-Day reenactment on Lake Erie was like nothing I had ever experienced. The wartime impressions knocked my bobbysocks off! I met knowledgeable ladies acting as American Red Cross Clubmobile "Doughgirls," the WACS, Red Cross ambulance nurses, a period hairdresser, a seamstress!, and victory garden aficionados, etc. And, of course, incredible military impressions by the men ranging from tankers to German, Canadian, American, and British soldiers. Medics and chaplains and mock-skirmishes by men and women of the French Resistance, too! The boys all participated in honoring D-day and the cherished WWII veterans present for a special medal service prior to the mock-Normandy invasion. Wow, just wow, right down to every detail from hedgehogs to landmines (simulated by pyrotechnics designed by the police bomb squad.) (Mr. Cat was a gunner in the Sherman tank!)
My experience was phenomenal despite the long drive north through wacky/scary mountains in Virginia and West Virginia, a cranky husband who did most of the driving in a truck not meant for long-distance (bless his heart,) a cock-eyed mix-up with lodging that bankrupted my checking account with a change of plans, and rain that pummeled my little apartment on the first day, and wind that threatened its destruction the next. Oh and lest I not forget my possibly broken big toe. But you know what? Each day's mishaps and challenges were insignificant because just participating was an absolute blessing. I was surrounded by friendly, excited visitors present to honor and learn about The Greatest Generation, and I made happy memories with good friends: authors and readers who came (some bearing gifts and books to sign) from far-and wide to meet/visit with me in my little rooming house abode. All of whom made the weekend that much special. THANK YOU!! I am still so flattered that you came to see me and shared in my adventure!
The house, lovingly built over three months, made the local newspaper (front page in print!!) Here is a link to it online. I was interviewed by a charter school to teach students about life on the Home Front. Can you believe it? Me and my little apartment were photographed by visitors and professionals! I TAUGHT people!! OMG, I felt like a docent in a museum - and everyone wanted to know about the old photographs of my two aunts displayed at 52 Bliss Street, N.W (the address.) My heart was filled with joy and gratitude in abundance each time I said "My father, 85, helped me build this house to share with you. These are his sisters in this photograph." Visitors actually told me that I brought history to life for them! Yup, that's why all reenactors from every era do this.
I assumed a role, a persona, in 1944 where music, commercials, news reports, FDR's Fireside Chats, and The Guiding Light played over the iPod hidden behind my vintage radio on the fireplace. It was laundry day at my apartment as the clothesline attested to, and "soap operas" sponsored by Duz Detergent were a wonderful distraction to the soggy ground below my aching feet! LOL Vintage furnishings hid the modern "tent" structure, keeping visitors' eyes fixed on the details - items such as the vintage wallpaper, the camera, gloves, magazines, and wartime souvenirs sent home by G.Is.
For a complete photo gallery of the apartment and other reenactors, visit my gallery HERE. You won't be disappointed.
I came away from the weekend with an immense sense of achievement, but an even greater sense of patriotism (if that's even possible.) Thank you to all the organizers and volunteers of D-Day Ohio and thank you to a special generation who fought to keep the world free from tyranny, leaving their indelible mark on our great Nation and others. May we always remember their sacrifice and the sacrifice of every service member from every generation.
And ... thank you, dad. Without you, none of it could have have been possible. And ... Mr. Cat, you gave me wings to fly. Thank you, sweetheart.
I hope I have the opportunity to come back to this phenomenal event and its lovely picturesque town on Lake Erie. The people were warm and friendly. And, God willing, with a few further "weatherproofing" modifications, my little apartment will be even better - stronger!
Thanks for stopping by and for being a part of this incredible journey. Until next time, my friends. Keep 'Em Flying!
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