By Ben Sherman, Fort Sill CannoneerJune 28, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Kids have always liked to dress up and play Army, and seven Fort Sill youths got the chance to step back in time and pretend they were Soldiers in the 1860s during the Kids at the Museum week June 18-22 here.
The program was sponsored by the Fort Sill museums and Child, Youth and School Services, part of the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. Each day the kids got to visit one of the museums at Fort Sill.
"We set up a summer program for kids to see all the museums here at Fort Sill," said Frank Siltman, museums and military history director at Fort Sill.
The kids toured the Air Defense Artillery Artifact Facility June 18, the Field Artillery Museum, June 19 and the Fort Sill Historical Museum June 20.
"Thursday they came back to the history museum for 'Be A Soldier Day.' Here they met Buffalo Soldier interpreters who showed them what Soldier life was like," Siltman said.
The kids dressed up in woolen army coats and hats, were given rubber rifles and were taught to march like Soldiers. "We wanted to give them a little taste of being a Soldier in 1869-70 here at Fort Sill. We took them through the barracks and showed them all the personal items a Soldier would have had. We talked about the food Soldiers ate and gave them a little hard tack. Some of them said it was OK, but most of them threw it in the trash," Siltman chuckled.
"It was really cool because we got to see all of the guns. It was amazing, and we got to eat hard tack," said 10-year-old Sarah Schrader. "Some of the kids didn't like the hard tack but I did. I think I could have lived way back in that time."
Gabryl Cunningham, 9-years-old, agreed with Schrader.
"I liked the hard tack, too. It was good. I liked the guns the best but the uniforms were kind of itchy!" Cunningham said excitedly.
Kenneth Reese volunteers at the Fort Sill Museum in the Buffalo Soldier barracks.
"I enjoy talking to the public and looking at the children's faces when they come in here. I like to hear the questions children have about the history we are showing them here," Reese said.
He gave the kids a tour of the Buffalo Soldier barracks built from stones and timbers more than 140 years ago.
"We showed them the different uniforms of a cavalry Soldier versus an infantry Soldier. It gave them a hands-on idea of what it was like to live out here during the frontier days. This is living history that will be handed down for generations," Reese said.
Dr. Scott Neel, Fort Sill Historical Museum director and curator, expressed his excitement about this program.
"We get kids who will grow up learning about history and being interested in history and museums when they grow up, because they are seeing living history here. It's always great to have that," Neel said.
"We're willing to do this as much as CYSS and MWR wants us to do it. The kids had a great time and they want to have this as an ongoing opportunity so the kids can come in and learn about the Fort Sill history. We're always willing to do this for school groups, too. We do need more volunteers who are willing to come and help us at the museum so we can do more of these programs," Siltman said.
He said the next big celebrations of Fort Sill history are the vintage base ball game and Frontier Army Days. The game is July 14 on the Old Post Quadrangle. Soldiers dress up in old base ball uniforms and play by the rules of the 1890s. The biggest historical celebration is Frontier Army Days, which is Oct. 12-13 at the museum. The event has grown over the past three years with more than 600 children attending last year's school day.
For more information about these events and other historical events call the Fort Sill National Historical Museum at 442-5123 or visit the museum website at http://sill-www.army.mil/museum/index.htm and click on the Education tab.