Charleston and Savannah 2002

WPS Southern Heritage Tour
April 8-12, 2002


6:00 AM came an hour early, with the change to daylight savings time
only a day old. It was still pitch black as we pulled out of the
Windermere Preparatory School parking lot and headed for Charleston. Two,
buses, one for girls and one for boys, were both nearly full, with 56
students and 23 chaperones — nearly all of the fifth and sixth grade
classes. I was on the girl’s bus, and guess I got the better deal, as the
video player worked. The kids were very patient on the ten-hour drive to
Charleston. They had notebooks with class assignments in all different
subjects, and immediately got to work learning about Charleston

We stopped only twice, the second time at a McDonald’s somewhere in
Georgia for lunch. I had made up a word search
, which helped pass the time. We learned that it’s pretty
challenging to come up with seven-letter words using the letters in
Charleston (never mind that the computer can find 94 of them!) The winners
were Bramjot and Erica Kordsmeier.

We also learned that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a VERY long movie.



We arrived at Patriot’s Point and met out tour director, Frankie, a bit
too late to visit the Yorktown aircraft carrier, but in time for the last
boat to Fort Sumter.


Fort Sumter is operated by the National Park Service.


These aren’t the first cannons from the fort, but they are old.


To strengthen the fort for the Spanish American War, these cannon
placements were filled with dirt and rubble. They were excavated in the
1950s. Archaeologists were surprised to discover that the cannons were
still there.


Tuesday morning we had a nice breakfast at the hotel, then headed for
Charleston. We passed a replica of the Confederate submarine the Hunley.
It was the first submarine to succeed in sinking a ship, although its crew
subsequently perished. It was forty feet long, but so skinny it is hard to
imagine eight or nine men crammed inside, hand cranking the propeller. It
would have been like crawling into your own coffin.

Once in Charleston we discovered we had left one student and his mother
at the hotel, and both buses made the round trip to pick them up.
Nevertheless, we arrived at the Charleston Aquarium with plenty of time to


The best exhibit at the Charleston Aquarium was UFOs — Unidentified
Floating Objects. Between the Tampa and Sydney Aquariums, I thought I’d
seen pretty much everything, but there was some REALLY weird stuff in this
exhibit.Here, Dani points at some very fanciful seahorses.


The salt marsh exhibit yielded few clues in filling out the curriculum.


Picking up slimy things.

We had a leisurely lunch at a food court outside the IMAX theater, then
saw a fabulous film about Earnest Shakleton’s ill-fated attempt to cross
Antarctica in 1914. He and his crew survived a year and a half in and on
the ice, escaping from their ship, the Endeavor, as it was crushed.
Shackleton and five others made an 800-mile journey in a rowboat,
returning to rescue the entire crew. A remarkable accomplishment, and the
best IMAX film I’ve seen.


Our next stop was the market in downtown Charleston. Originally deeded to
the city for use as an open air food market, it is now a souvenir market
with many interesting arts and crafts.


Student group shot.




Hey! Where did everybody go?

The pirate walking tour. Our guide was fantastic. She really brought the
story of Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard alive, including all the gory
details. Roasted lips, anyone?
Dinner was at Bubba Gump’s (delicious garlic bread!)

After dinner we went on yet another walking tour. Scattered showers
forced us to take cover periodically under overhanging buildings. Linda’s
glow stick bracelets added a spooky air to the ghost tour, which proved
frightening — at least to the frighteningly gullible.

Back at the hotel it was nearly 10:00 pm. A few stalwart souls joined
Mrs. Kent in the lobby for a study session., but we were definitely ready
for bed after this, our busiest day of the tour.


After a nice breakfast we loaded our luggage onto the bus and set off
on the rainy two-hour bus ride to Savannah. I handed our a cryptogram
, which proved popular. It was also an opportunity to learn some Savannah History, as these paragraphs
turned out to be the answers.


We stopped at the Savannah visitors’ center to pick up our bus pass and
ruminate about the rainy day. In the end, we decided to follow the original
plan and go to the River Walk, an historic area that has been converted to
shops and restaurants. There, equipped with some newly-purchased pastel
umbrellas, we strolled down the half mile of storefronts.

We had lunch
with Dani, Elise, Miranda and Becky at Fiddler’s Crab House, then bought some
candy and curios.

At a shop at the very end of the street I bought some
Savannah ceramic tiles as prizes for the cryptogram contest. (Later, on the
bus ride to dinner, we handed them out to the winners. Five people solved
all five cryptograms: Gabrielle, Alannah, Dani, and Chris. )

At 4:00
pm, soggy but cheerful, we headed to the Fairfield Inn to check in and get
ready for dinner.

Dinner was at Fort Jackson, a Civil War era fortification located on the
river downstream of Savannah. The students were greeted by three soldiers
dressed in Civil War garb.They learned some basic field drills and then had dinner (fortunately
chicken tenders, not salt pork). Afterwards, they were split into three
companies, and cycled through three different presentations.Up on the wall, they learned about the role of blacks during the war, and
inspected a fiberglass cannon used in the filming of Glory.Back on the field they learned about nineteenth century communications,
and got to try their hand with semaphore flags.

In the supply room they were shown what soldiers ate (yuck) and wore.

The grand finale was the firing of the 12-pound field cannon. We learned
how it is cleaned and loaded, a non-trivial process that could be
accomplished in 15 seconds by a team of seven. We also learned that when
it’s fired you want to have your fingers in your ears!


Thursday morning one of our buses broke down, so we had to transfer the
group to our first stop in two shifts.

Our first stop was the Railroad Museum, where we had a very entertaining and
informative tour by the museum’s director. She showed us how the turntable
worked (we went for a very noisy ride), and described the machinery and
tools that were used to service the locomotives. The facility was quite
sophisticated for its time, using a central steam engine to drive rotating
shafts that went to buildings throughout the yard, providing power to the

A circular building in the yard was a community shower. Excess steam
heated water in a tank above the individual stalls, and a tall smokestack
carried away the leftover heat.

Next stop was Fort Pulaski. I was dubious that we could find a third fort in
as many days interesting, but our National Park Service Ranger guide was
funny, fascinating and really brought the place to life. When one girl
asked what cause the impressive holes lining one wall of the fort he exclaimed,
“Woodpeckers! We’ve got a terrible woodpecker problem here!”The fort, originally constructed prior to the revolution, was believed
impregnable. Yet its wall was breached in just 36 hours, using a new cannon
developed during the Civil War.It was quite exhilarating to be up on the railing-free wall. Particularly
for those of us trying to keep the kids away from the edge.


Near Fort Pulaski is The Crab Shack, an unparalleled dive where we had some
delicious crab, shrimp, mussels, and crawfish. Well, some of us did. Chicken
and hotdogs won the popular vote.
We stopped briefly at the lighthouse on Tybee Island, but with the museum
closed it hardly seemed worth the price of admission, so we walked along the
beach instead. It was cool, with a stiff wind blowing, but no rain. Nearby
was a great concrete structure, now the Shriners’ Hall. I wondered if it was
originally a WWII era fortification or U-boat lookout station. There were no
explanatory signs, but plenty of keep off warnings.

Dinner was on a river boat on the Savannah River. The group, wearing their
school uniforms, posed on the River Walk in front of it prior to boarding.
Quite a few of the kids were dragging from our busy schedule, and a few had
colds or the flu, but there was still an enthusiast group doing karaoke
after dinner.We were all definitely ready for bed by the time we got back to the


Luggage packed, continental breakfast, and onto the bus by 9:00 am, we
headed for our final stop: the Mighty Eight Air Force Heritage Museum. This
wonderful museum presents the history of World War II, particularly the
European Theater, from 1933 through 1945. Several videos and our informative
guide brought the conflict to life. It appeared to be the first time that
many of the girls had been exposed to this information, and I think they
learned a tremendous amount about it.

One terrific multi-screen show put us in the seats of a B-17 mission,
including explosions and wind coming in the bomb bay doors. It was quite

On the way home I handed out some Weird
Facts About Florida

At last the six hour bus ride was over. A cheer went up as we pulled into
the Windermere Preparatory School parking lot. Kids and luggage tumbled out
of the bus into the arms and cars of their waiting parents.

We learned a tremendous amount on the trip. The students learned about
everything from the Civil War to World War II, with stops in Antarctica and
under the ocean along the way. The adults learned a few things, too,
particularly about keeping track of students. I think everyone had a great
time, but I also know we’ll all be happy to be home in our own beds, for a
loooong night’s sleep.Steve Alcorn
April 2002
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