Friday, July 13, 2012


Columbia State Park is a great place to visit with kids.  A basic description is that it was a surviving old gold town that had burned down when it was wooden buildings. Rebuilt using brick, it survived. The gold petered out, the town was abandoned. An enterprising real estate person advertised the whole town for sale, without success. As the town continued to deteriorate, locals tried to get the state to step in and turn it into a historical park, which they did in 1946. In the 1980′s, as a journalist I interviewed the last remaining resident of Columbia, Geraldine McConnell. True living history.

The kids liked peeking into the open doors and windows of shops with “weird” stuff in it from the old days. But the Ten Pin Alley is a favorite.  Alyssa takes her turn to bowl…

Dad helps her reset the pins. The ball is returned by setting it on the slot and gravity brings it back for the next bowler.

Amanda really got into it, while Angelo watched.

At the black smith shop, Dad showed his skill untangling those metal pieces that defy you to pull them apart.

Hand dipping candles and learning about how they are made and understanding the dependence on candle light, is always a fun place to stop. The park during various seasons has festivals, music, a Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn fence painting contest, watermelon seed spitting contest, pie eating contest and so on. The old jail, outdoor toilet, chicken pen and other necessities of the old days amaze children.  The artifacts of the Chinese are exotic.  And the hardscrabble life of the Native People who lived here are on display, along with the activities of temperance groups and Fraternal Organizations; banks and hotels.

When the stage rolled into town, the kids got to pet the horses. A daring first for them.

And, a ride on the stage that got robbed when they approached a sharp turn near a huge boulder.  “Can you imagine how scary Aunt Mary?”

Probably the best fun was panning for gold. While even small flakes are scarce, each filled their tube with tiny gem stones in the sand and water. They got garnets, amethyst, turquoise, peridots, crystal, quartz and a few other stones that gave them “color”.  And the fun lasted for hours. They quit for awhile to climb the boulders or just walk around, then came back to it and kept cool until we were all surprised how late the day.

And since it was late, we ate dinner at the saloon where the waitresses and waiters  wear a holstered pistol. “Is that a real gun, Aunt Mary?”  Yep!  Their packin’ ” I told them in my best western drawl.
For information about Columbia, click on the following link:

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