My So-Called Pilgrim Life

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A chronicle of daily life in the 1627 English village at Plimoth Plantation from both a modern and historical perspective.

Welcome To New Plimoth

January 14th, 2009 by admin

A truly “Behind the scenes” event happened on Monday that I feel needs to be revealed to the reader.  I showed up a few minutes late for my meeting with Penny, our diligent wardrobe employee (she is assisted by two lovely interns) to return the clothing I wore every day in the village when I became, to the visitor, Alice Bradford, wife of the Governor of New Plimoth, William Bradford.  Returning your clothing is a bittersweet moment.  On one hand you’re glad that for the next several months you’ll be wearing modern clothing; warm boots on cold days, slickers on rainy days and of course for the women, no stays!   On the other hand you can be sad to see them go.  I love my orange checked petticoat, that bright blue waistcoat that fit me so well and of course the beautiful robins egg blue (or is is it lilac?) gown that Jill Hall made for me during my first season.  As a woman, I enjoy the ease of wearing petticoats instead of pants,  I miss the practicality of wearing a hat with a wide brim and scoggers are as practical as a garment can be, but, as the season ends our clothing needs to be cleaned, mended, altered and reassigned, so we hand it in each year, say good bye to old favorites and hope that in the spring we will once again be seeing them, bright and clean.

That’s not exactly what I was writing about though.  I showed up a few minutes late, logged in each garment with Penny, had a chat with the wardrobe department, then stuck around to talk with Bill.  Scott came along presently and a discussion about our favorite books, and what exactly was revealed by Massasoit during the story ending with the phrase “three moderate stools” followed.  I picked up a copy of Training Manual IV as I will be scheduled to be on the Mayflower II at some point next season and there was more talk about sweatshirts sizes, hats, golf shirts, Bob Dylan and Neil Young.  Tom stopped in with some vacation dates to be claimed and some camping stories and as noon time rolled around we all made our way to the Carriage House.  The lounge in the carriage house is where we have our breaks.  There are old couches, chairs and a couple of tables where we can eat our lunches.  Pilgrims on break will read magazines, catch up on source materials, nap, chat with co-workers and rejuvinate before heading back into the village.  It’s a comforting place, and this day it was so much so, there were probably 25 people jammed into this one room.  Kathleen Wall, our Foodways coordinator had cooked up two generous pots of comfort.  One was a spinach soup (it reminded me of the escarole soup my grandma made) and the other a vegetarian gumbo. A large pot of rice accompanied either choice.  Around the table conversations ranged from the latest movie someone had seen to what exactly a “Cougar” is and everything in between.  Nearly every department in Plimoth Plantation was represented in this unexpected convergence; folks from WIP, the Craft Center, the Artisan and Marine Departments, Grounds, Wardrobe, Education, Farm and CID were there.  This is why many of us love this job.  Being in a room with so many people who know (for the most part) where you’re coming from, eating a simple bowl of soup that is the best you’ve ever had at that moment and laughing. Is there ever a time in your life when those things aren’t important?  Unfortunately I think there are many times in our lives when we don’t get enough comraderie.  There are certainly many jobs we could have where it would not even be thought of, but we are pilgrims, comraderie and food are very important to us.  The people we are trained to portray would not have survived with out it.  We know this and this wisdom brings us together in modern times as well.  Welcome to New Plimoth, pull up a cushion, have som boyled rice and a bowl of soup….what ever that is.


Apprentice Colonial Interpreter

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12 Responses to “Welcome To New Plimoth”

  1. Jonny Larason, Agricultural Interpreter says:

    This is not only a large part of why we love this job and are willing to do it for peanuts, it is also a large part of why we love Shelly-Jo, a born interpreter, who not only experiences, but understands, and can express her understanding so beautifully.
    We lost some great ones last fall. They built a wonderful community and a fantastic exhibit. If the last thing they did here was leave the place in the hands of people like Shelly-Jo, they can be assured they did their work and left a truly lasting legacy.
    Hmm. Sounds a lot like something that could be said about those historical figures who established this little colony we try to represent.

  2. KMW says:

    I was thinking of writing a post about what it is we do in the winter when the sites aren’t open, but Shelley beat me to it! And we don’t just sit around having lunch, either. Several people are taking turns bringing in lunch so we can come out from our seperate corners and stay in touch with each other. I love our lunch conversations – you never know what will come up, always thought provoking. And for the record, the spinach soup was actually a gumbo z’herbes that included spinach as well as mustard greens, collards, kale and parsley – and since I was out of file, okra.
    Thank you, Shelley, for caturing the spirit of lunch.

  3. Stacy says:

    Thank you Shelley Jo for so elegantly putting forward the comraderie that makes working at the plantation worth it all. With technology today allowing us to communicate and hear news instantly from all over the world it is very hard to understand the isolation those first settlers must have experienced, not seeing a ship for a year or more. But working in these villages creates a comraderie that is not only essential at times to keep each other from crashing but keeps going even after the villages close for the season.
    I miss all of you and I’m glad the spirit of lunch is still going strong.

  4. Shelley-Jo says:

    Hey thanks for reading my ramblings, but I’d like to add to this post a little Haiku for y’all:

    colorful woolen clothes piled high
    not unlike autumn leaves
    invite me to jump in

  5. Stacy says:


  6. admin says:

    I have alerted the Haiku Police as this poem violates the -syllable per line- law. Haiku are seventeen syllables: three lines, first line 5-second line 7-first line 5. S’ok this time but next time…


  7. Justin says:

    Hmmm, I do believe that this posting just goes to prove, it’s not just the food, it’s the ways!

  8. admin says:

    That should read first line 5 syllables, second line 7 syllables,THIRD line 5 syllables. Admin should not try to eat and type at the same time.
    And Justin, keeping in the Asian theme…could one say the tao of food?

  9. Justin says:


  10. Shelley-Jo says:

    Yeah, I can never keep that haiku thing straight.

  11. KMW says:

    Have you ever heard of pie-ku? Haiku in praise of pies?
    Seems like another food -ways!

  12. Buddy just invited me to check out this blog. I love Plimoth Plantation. I represent an international NGO at the United Nations and I love to bring our people from overseas up to Plymouth if I can. They always enjoy interacting with the interpreters. I love history and you people bring it to life. I’ve always wondered what goes on behind the scenes and about how you prepare for your roles. Now I can read all about it. Keep up the good work! You all are a treasure.

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