Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Telling in St. Mary's and Sistersville

Monday I was in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, telling stories at libraries in Sistersville and St. Mary's. For Sistersville, it was a return performance. I've been to this library several times for Summer Reading and more recently to present a book talk about my books to the library's book group. I've posted many photos of Sistersville in previous posts, along with information about the town and its history, so I did not take new photos on this trip--mostly because of the time crunch I was facing.

The day presented a time challenge. The program in Sistersville started at noon, and included a craft. I needed to be in St. Mary's by 1:45pm to set up for my program there. So I was focused on keeping everything on track and on time to meet the time limitations.

The program I presented this time was a little different: I told stories with puppets and audience participation for the first half of the program, and then the children made finger puppets. I brought all supplies, including the 330 (count 'em!) finger puppet blanks that my daughter-in-law Jennifer and granddaughter Jordan prepared for me (I owe a huge thank you to them! I'd have been cutting and gluing for most of the weekend without their willing help).

Since the audience was mostly 5 and under and since most of them were unfamiliar with storytelling, it was an interesting event. Some wanted to talk; some wanted to participate all the time. The program was 100% improv as I worked with a two-year-old who wanted to be the puppy in one story, and two teens in another. We had a good time. It was noisy, a little chaotic, but we had fun. As any storyteller reading this can tell you, a program like this can take a lot of energy as you are not only telling stories and controlling action on the stage, but also doing audience management.

Making the finger puppets was next, and we had messy, creative fun. Some very excellent puppets were made by very young children. Since the Summer Reading theme is Get Creative, the stories and the puppets were both a good fit. We finished in time (the gods must have blessed me!) and packed up and headed to St. Mary's.

This was my first performance at the Pleasants County Library. Although I've driven through the town many times, and remembered my late friend, the herbalist Dot Griffin each time, I had yet to be invited to tell stories there, so I was excited to perform for their Summer Reading program.

I have no pictures of the storytelling in St. Mary's because my husband was off browsing the books, but I do want to share photos of the town with you.

Yes, it's true. George Washington visited here in 1770, during his surveying trip in the frontier region prior to the Revolutionary War.

The oldest house in Pleasants County, according to our informant "Tom."

The railroads play a major role in St. Mary's, as evidenced in the photos below:

Train coming! The tracks run right up Main Street. The locals know to expect the train every 1-2 hours. Obviously we weren't local: we took pictures of the train, coming and going.
A friendly wave from the engine made me think these guys are used to tourists like me.

The train continues its journey down Main Street,

and we follow along, entranced by the idea of a train that rolls freely through the business district of a town and causing little hubbub except a couple of camera-wielding tourists.
There is more to know about St. Mary's, like the nature preserve on the island beside the town, ghost stories and railroad stories. I hope I have the opportunity to visit again and learn more about another of West Virginia's unique river towns.


smallpines said...

Well, the names would be cool enough - St Mary's and Sisterville. But the pic of the street and that old Colonial? Awesome. It's so funny - Colonial architecture is not really my personal thing, but I LOVE looking at it. It amazes me that this stuff was built without bulldozers, loaders, and powertools.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me so much of my hometown in Iowa. Growing up there in the
60's has provided very fond memories. We lived near the Raccoon River and it was a sleepy little railroad town. These pictures look so much like my hometown. Thanks for posting!


Janet, said...

I've only been there once, but I love the eastern panhandle. It is just steeped with history around every corner. I love that train going through the middle of the street.

Jason Burns said...

You probably know this already, but the name St Mary's is from an actual vision the founder, Alexander Creel, had. Apparently he had a vision of the Virgin Mary while traveling on a steamboat one night up the Ohio River. Later he returned to establish the town, which he called St Mary's, at the location where he had the vision. This happened in 1815.

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