Thursday, August 27, 2009

Remember the Alamo!

School Projects
I know it's going to be hard for you to believe, but I loooove school projects helping my kids with their school projects.  It doesn't matter what subject, either ~ history, family tree, reading, science.  They're all so much fun...for the kids.  Usually, though, our the kids' projects are kept by the teacher, and we don't get them back because they want to use them in the future years as examples.  Now, before you gear up your fingers on your keyboard to type a comment in righteous indignation because you feel that the kids need to do their own work, please hear me out.  This is my theory for kids kindergarten through 6th grade on school projects:  I help them a lot, but I teach it as we go.  I explain the how and the why, sometimes more than the textbooks, and quiz them as we work.  If we live near something that we are studying, we go see it, tour it, use their bathrooms, purchase overpriced snacks, purchase a small token of our visit, take the obligatory photos, see the IMAX movie, etc. ~ we experience it [i.e., the San Jacinto Monument and Battleground ~ yeah, we walked the battlegrounds, never mind it was to get to the Battleship Texas across the way.]  I also feel that elementary schools have an inordinate amount of home "projects" because they don't have time to do this stuff in class.  Have you seen some of the instructions for these projects?  [Sheesh.] 

Also, growing up, my dad always helped me with my projects, and as I've mentioned on my companion blog, Texas Family Stories, my dad looooved Texas history, and lucky for me he was good at building things.  Trust me.  I learned a lot when dad was "helping" with my projects, and they looked awesome.  Not only did I learn what I was supposed to learn from the project, but I learned how to construct the project.  [Do you see where I'm going with this?]  O.K., I'm just going to say it, "The projects sent home nowadays are age-inappropriate."  Therefore, I "help".  After 6th grade, I feel that I've taught them all that I can about designing and constructing school projects, and if they need assistance, it will be limited.  [See, I'm not so bad, right?]

The Alamo 2001

You Could've  Knocked Me Over With A Feather...
About 1 1/2 years ago, my next door neighbor's 4th grader had a project.  She told me it was Alamo-related, something about reconstructing it, and she wanted me to help her daughter with it.  "Cool," I thought because I've been to the Alamo a gazillion times...I know the Alamo.  My parents were born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and with my Dad's penchant for Texas history, not only have I visited the Alamo many times, but I have had the distinct pleasure of visiting all the missions in San Antonio ~ all on the same day, "Amazing Race-style".  [What, you didn't know that there is more to San Antonio than just the Alamo, Sea World, and Fiesta Texas?  See, I teach ~ be ready for a quiz later ;) ]  Well, when I actually looked over the project instructions, I realized that the teacher didn't just want the chapel of the Alamo [which is what stands today along with the long barracks], but she wanted the complete reconstruction of the Alamo fort as it stood in 1836 right before the Battle of the Alamo.  [Now, come on, isn't that a bit much for a fourth grader?...students of architecture, anyone?]  I did all my research and printed out diagrams of what it looked like back then, plus got out my personal photos of it for my neighbor's daughter to look at and study.  You have to remember, my Cajun neighbor was displaced by Katrina, and she opened my eyes to something so very important.  You could've knocked me over with a feather when I found out that the rest of the world is not "up" on Texas history.  Needless to say [but I'm going to anyway], I had some Alamo teaching to do.

Walkin' the Walk
Now, my neighbor and her family had not yet been to the Alamo, so I had to describe it to my neighbor's daughter.  I cannot express enough how humbling it is to walk where our Texas forefathers valiantly fought and died all in the name of freedom.  To know that I have walked where they have walked is awe-inspiring. 

Can Cannons Make Forts Look "Cute"?
I think I outdid myself we outdid ourselves on that project.  It was awesome, and of course, the teacher kept it, but would you believe I didn't take a photo of it?  I didn't.  Really. [Sigh.]  I did learn a lot from reconstructing it, more than I had learned from the short historical films shown at the Alamo and, of course, textbooks, and so did my neighbor's daughter.  Plus, we learned what materials work best in making an Alamo fort, and how realistic and "cute" forts look with little plastic horses, goats, hay, and especially cannons.

Kids at The Alamo 2001


Davy Crockett 'Coon Hats, Blue Birds, & Befriending
In the past, according to an article written by Ben Cassellman, Remember the Alamo? It's Under Siege Again -- This Time From Within the Daughters of the the Republic of Texas [which is in charge of the Alamo] has financed the maintenance and preservation of the Alamo by unsolicited donations and the revenue from the gift shop.  [Now let me just say, that's a lot of Davy Crockett 'coon hat sales, one of which my parents purchased for me when I was younger.  I wonder what happened to my Davy Crockett 'coon hat...]  Now though, there is a push [that has been met with a little resistance] by some of the Daughters to take fundraising for the future to a new level that includes increasing the awareness of the Alamo through internet social networking such as Twitter and Facebook as well as other modern fundraising activities.  [I think they should have a blog, too.  Can you tell where I stand on this issue?  BTW, have you seen my new Twitter and Facebook buttons that I designed in the sidebar?  Are you following me?]

The Duke, Red Flared Pants, & "Bad Girls"
This got me to thinking about my visits and photos of the Alamo, and I remembered I had a photo from the lovely '70's of my parents and myself in front of the Alamo [with me wearing some outstanding red flared pants].  I located the photo, but it didn't look quite right [other than the pants].  According to my previous research of the Alamo and a photo of the Alamo ca. 1930, there was a courtyard in front with steps up to the front door.  However, my photo was from 1977, and there was only dirt and sparse grass in front.  Then I thought possibly it was of one of the other missions, but from my memory of those missions, that didn't look right either.  Well, I got to thinking about where I found this photo.  More precisely what other photos were with it.  It was with the the photos of my family's vacation to Big Bend in West Texas.  [Remember, Family Stories: Swimsuit Edition?]  Also, I looked the same age in the this collection of photos. Interestingly, this is all located out west of San Antonio, Texas, but we would've traveled through San Antonio to get there and then again on our way back.  So what's in between Big Bend and San Antonio, you ask ~ besides, of course, the ghost towns and tumbleweeds?  Funny you should ask that because another post of mine [a recent one] jogged my memory a little more.   Remember my Cowboy Dreams post?  You know, the one about the pony and cowboy family photos?  Remember how I mentioned that my dad looooved John Wayne movies?  What I didn't mention [and probably should have] was that he especially looooved the film  The Alamo from 1960 with John Wayne.  Take a guess as to where that set was built and where the movie was filmed: Bracketville, Texas ~ in between San Antonio and Big Bend.  I googled the set and found its website.  Turns out that my photo [below] indeed was of my parents and myself in front of the reconstructed Alamo on the set, otherwise known as The Alamo Village.  To think, I have walked where not only our Texas forefathers have walked, but I have walked where John Wayne walked, too!  Not to mention a whole slew of other famous people because there have been many other westerns and films of other genres filmed there.  This, would mean, of course, that many famous people have walked where I have walked, like Matt Damon and Rick [but he'll always be Ricky] Schroeder.  Also, the movie "Bad Girls" was filmed there.  [You know, the one with the cowgirls with attitude?  I like that film.] 

"The Alamo" Movie Set 1977

If I Had Only Known [or Remembered]...
James T. "Happy" Shahan was the name of the man who convinced John Wayne to film The Alamo there on Happy's land.  Also, he built the set, and after filming was over, he maintained it by opening the doors to the public.  [What a jolly idea...]  When he passed away, his wife Virginia F. Webb Shahan took over.  Sadly though, she passed away this summer, and the doors have been closed [hopefully, temporarily] as of last month [July].  The message on their website indicates that they are assessing everything and considering what they are going to do in the future.  I am so depressed about this.  If I had known [or remembered] that it was there, I SO would've visited it!  Now, my chance to share it with my kids, might just be gone.  They have a great website, but if you don't know it's there, what good does that do?  It sure doesn't help your day-to-day business if your potential customers/visitors have never seen the movie The Alamo that gave birth to the movie set that you want/need them to visit.  I know that this is hard to believe and you may need to sit down to hear it, but some of them don't even know who John Wayne is.  [Unbelievable, I know, but it's true.]  Need I point out, though, I know who John Wayne is, I've seen his movie The Alamo, I've been to the movie set, and I still did not remember it.  You can only rest on your laurels for so long.  I mean, when was the last time you were able to pay your bills with your laurels?

Do You Have A Favorite Super Bowl T.V. Ad?
Don't get me wrong, though.  I'm not saying that this struggle with the status quo with the real Alamo in San Antonio will lead to the closing of the Alamo doors.  Nope, that would never happen, but it does make one think about the progression of technology and those who lag behind.  In 1941, how did the major radio advertisers feel about the first T.V. commercial that was made by Bulova?  Were they happy with the status quo and did they think that television advertising was just silly, or did they start thinking forward?  And if you have watched a Super Bowl on T.V., then you don't need me to spell it out for you.  I think I can safely say that the whole T.V. advertising "thing" worked. [Maybe.]   If people outside the state of Texas [or in it] don't realize the significance of the Alamo ~ not to just Texas history ~ but to American history, then how can one ever expect growth of the awareness of the Alamo, and thus, more money for maintenance, preservation, and expansion?  [You didn't really think I'd tell a story about Texas, the Alamo, and John Wayne without mentioning football, did you?]

All kidding aside, approximately 1/3 of what is now the United States is land that our Texas forefathers fought and died for so courageously.  Shouldn't everyone know that?

Become a "Friend of the Alamo" by following it on Twitter and FacebookGo on.  Become a fan.  [Ya'll don't forget to buy a Davy Crockett 'coon hat, too.  I am SO going back to replace mine.] 

Kids at The Alamo 2005

1 comment:

  1. Things I learned from your post:
    1. I should thank your Texas ancestors for 1/3 of the US. (thank you!!!)

    2. Our Dads shared a love of John Wayne.

    3. Helping kids with school projects (and teaching them more along the way) is a GREAT idea!

    See? You ARE a teacher! Now I need to put some music on so I can get the Davy Crockett (King of the wild frontier) theme song out of my head. lol!


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