As spring nears, the activity at the Benicia Historical Museum heightens as we host tours for kids of all ages. Our tours include the Museum, Powder Magazine, and the Industrial Exhibit. The student visitors, generally third to fifth graders studying local and state history, have
one additional stop—the hands-on experience. They become those long ago youngsters, with stations that take them through the chores necessary to sustain the entire family as they struggled to eke out a life without electricity, running water, supermarkets, cell phones or automobiles; all while facing the elements of nature.

The first stop is the Bucket Brigade. If a fire broke out, townspeople needed to supply the water for firefighting from their wells, streams or rivers—and everyone lined up to get water to the fire, bucket by bucket.

For the home, water was again hauled from a source, hopefully nearby, bucket by bucket, for cooking, bathing, laundry, and for the crops and animals. A yoke slung across the shoulders enabled the carrying of two pails at a time. Laundry involved large buckets and scrubbing boards. The key was to wring out the water before hanging the clothes on clotheslines.

Families grew their own food and raised animals, large and small and ground corn or wheat by hand with a mortar and pestle. Games and toys were very simple, mostly handcrafted. To mirror how walls were built in a home, our students make adobe bricks from dirt, straw and sand, then put them into a form to dry.

It was not an easy life and the chores were not optional, but life-sustaining hard work. With their chaperones as leaders, our young guests really dig into the spirit of these work stations, which hopefully provoke some thought after they return to their twenty-first century lives. Hurrah for the simple life!

The Historical Tours are one of many areas where volunteers are needed. To become a volunteer, or for more information about our tours, visit