The school year has just ended and as I clear out old papers the kids don't need (and I don't need to save), I remember a project my son had to do for his 3rd Grade Literacy Enrichment class. The class read a book called Fair Weather by Richard Peck and do a lot of writing for the project. The story is about a farm family with two children, a boy and girl, who receive tickets to visit their aunt in Chicago. The best part is they get to visit the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 when they visit! My son loved the book so much and because it was a topic I love, I read it too. Now he is in love with the World's Columbian Exposition too. Fair Weather is a Juvenile book with a good story and quick read if you want something different than your usual book genres.

So today I pose this question. If you could go back in time, to visit any time period of one of your ancestors history, where would you go and why?

My answer, without even blinking an eye, is the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. I am fascinated by the Fair. The enormity of the it, the wonder, all the new technology, food, people, sights, and smells. I often wonder what it would have been like to visit the Fair.

My great grandmother, Bessie Zajicek, was a visitor and I have a small souvenir medallion she got from her visit. She was 10 years old when she visited, and I wonder what she saw. Her father was a Tailor, but I'm not sure if he was wealthy enough to take the family multiple days or if they only went for one day. By all accounts, the Fair was so large you could not see everything in just one day. How did they choose what to see?

When I first think about how amazing it would be to travel to the Fair, I picture myself as I am today with the knowledge and experiences I have gained to this point in my life.  Would I only see the Fair through the eyes of a historian or family history researcher? Would I look upon the Fair with eyes that take in everything so I can add more depth and beauty to the family stories I write? This however might not be the only time travel option.

Two other options occur to me. The first is to travel back and be a child of immigrant Bohemian parents. Would I only have seen what they allowed me to see? Would I have had an opinion about what we saw? The second is to travel back as an immigrant Bohemian parent. This options allows me to choose what to see. I think all three have their benefits and if I had the ability to experience all three options, I would.

If I traveled back as myself, I would be looking at the Fair, the exhibits, the people, through modern eyes. These eyes would likely see the people and exhibits with less shock and awe than my ancestors did. The world is so "small" today that all we have to do is turn on the computer and we can learn about anything.  We are exposed to new people, faiths, ideas, places, and things daily. Seeing a belly dancer, or any other Ethnic group of people other than my own at the Fair would not phase me. The technology as it was presented in 1893 would be antiquated, yet interesting to see. Tasting the foods that were new like ice cream and gum would not excite me at all. The beauty of the Great White City would excite me. I wonder if it was really as blinding white as the books claim. Was it really as beautiful at night all lit up as people say?

If I were to travel back in time as a Bohemian child, the sight of a belly dancer or people of other colors and faiths might really shock me, if I were even allowed to see it. At that time I would have lived in an area of the city made up of mostly Bohemian families. I likely would have lived with my grandparents if they had come to America, or very close by. In short, I would have lived a more sheltered life than I live now. Would I have tasted ice cream for the first time at the Fair? Would it be a great and delicious experience? Would I have been dragged from exhibit to exhibit looking only at what my parents wanted to see? Would we have only gone on Czech Day and been among our own people celebrating our ethnicity?

If I were to travel back as an immigrant Bohemian parent, still assimilating to this county, I hope I would have an attitude of helping my American born children experience all the new things they could. Helping them to be American and not take after their parents with our old country ways. I hope I would not feel embarrassment at seeing new things, people, shows, listening to new music like Scott Joplin's Ragtime music. But would I have felt that way, as a Bohemian immigrant?

Unfortunately there is no way to know what the experience would have been like. My great grandmother left no written record of her experience at the Fair. The only oral history she passed down, to my knowledge, was that she was there. Since I cannot travel back in time, I will continue to read the books about the Fair and keep imagining what it might have been like.

You have my answer, so I ask you again, where would you go? I would love to know so please feel free to comment below.

This entry was posted on Sunday, June 6, 2010 at Sunday, June 06, 2010 and is filed under , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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