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Leaping into the north country’s past HERITAGE DAYS: Activities from bygone eras still entertain

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WATERTOWN — Holding a palm-sized wooden rod attached to an oversized wooden ball, similar to a ball-in-cup style game, Sarajeanne L. Perkins announced to a group of children that it was a bilboquet.

“The goal is to get the ball on the pedestal or the tip in the hole on the ball,” she said, demonstrating how difficult it is to match the two parts up.

The bilboquet was one of several toys from the 1700s featured at the Jefferson County Historical Society’s Heritage Days held Saturday at the Historic Paddock Mansion and Museum, 228 Washington St.

Mrs. Perkins is a French and Indian War re-enactor. She was on site with her husband, Steven, who gave musket demonstrations on the mansion’s front lawn.

“It just gives kids a perspective of stuff without electronics,” said Mrs. Perkins, who oversaw the toys and games section.

That much was evident on the painted faces of the children as they ogled games such as graces, Jacob’s ladder, tops and pecking chickens — a marionette-style toy in which wooden chickens on a flat disc bob their heads and ‘peck’ corn.

“I want them to learn from it. To realize this is what history was and that it is more than what they see in history books,” said Mr. Perkins, who said the love of history runs in his family.

Hayden R. Houghmaster, 4, of Sackets Harbor, came with his grandparents.

“I’m glad he likes to play old-fashioned games,” said Nancy Cooke, watching as Hayden played with several of the toys. “He loved going in and looking at the old carriages.”

Displayed on the property were several carriages, including a posh-looking 1910 Babcock Model 30 automobile, two doctors’ carriages and a family surrey buggy complete with brakes.

Giving the detailed background of the carriages, as well as the H. H. Babcock Carriage Company, was Stuart Perkins, Mrs. Perkins’s father-in-law. According to the elder Mr. Perkins, the carriage company once was housed in the current Black River Paper Company at 1 Factory Square. On the side of the building, the vague outline of “H. H. Bab” still can be seen.

The elder Mr. Perkins also showed off the grandfather of the global positioning system: a scrolling map of the Watertown area inside a small black box.

“There’s stuff of interest to little ones, older kids and adults,” said historical society interim Executive Director Stephen P. Lyman. “We like to see folks stop and go through the museum.”

The annual Heritage Days celebration has evolved from an education-based program for students in the early 2000s into an event that offers something for everyone.

Groups of fourth graders from Jefferson and Lewis counties visited Friday for in-depth demonstrations.

The free event was sponsored by Slack Chemical. Guests could vote on their favorite antique fire apparatus among several visiting from across the county, eat homemade old-fashioned ice cream, design paper quilts and meet with a number of local organizations.


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