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Field trip provides look at past, insight into future

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By Jackie Torok, Managing Editor

Last week, I took most of the members of our Beacon newsroom staff on a field trip to Brunswick Town State Historic Site. It was a team-building exercise, in a way, in that it allowed us to spend quality time together on the clock. It was also a chance for us to get outside the confines of the Smith Avenue building as a team. I’d planned to take this field trip about a month earlier, but we were thwarted by the first winter ice storm that struck Brunswick County. By now, at the end of a long and lingering winter, I think we were all suffering from a little cabin fever and just needed to get away, if only for a little while. Thankfully, our schedules permitted us to do that last Wednesday, with none of us having meetings to attend, interviews to conduct or projects to tackle.

All we needed were permission slips signed by our parents and use of the hand-holding buddy system and suddenly we’d have been transported back in time to our elementary school days. In my case, that would have meant field trips to Old Salem, the living history site of the early Moravian settlement in Winston-Salem. I remember how much I enjoyed those visits in my grade-school years and how much I was able to learn each time. Field trips always seemed to feed my natural curiosity about my environment. It’s the same thing that fuels my interest in National Geographic reports and programming on The Discovery Channel. And like all journalists, I like to know a little bit about a lot of things, even though I’m not an expert on anything.

My main reason for last week’s trip, however, was for each of us to learn more about the history of the county we cover every day, to give us a little more perspective that I think can only help us do our jobs better. There is so much we don’t know about Brunswick County, and it just so happened that our Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson visit complemented the special Discover Brunswick County section published in the Beacon last week.

I’ve been to the site three times now in my nearly nine months here, and each time I’ve learned something new about its role in the history of our county, our state and our country. I’ve also learned about things like the way wharfs were built on the Cape Fear River during the Colonial era, the technology employed in Confederate torpedoes and the archaeological techniques pioneered during the excavation of the site. I’m particularly interested in the ways life during these periods mirrors modern times. Did you know, for instance, the Brunswick Town settlers used a device called a Dutch crown to chill beverages at the bottom of wells? It was sort of like the Colonial equivalent of today’s beer coolers. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit there is one more reason I’m drawn to the site: Poppy, site manager Brenda Bryant's slim 15-year-old purr machine of a cat, keeps her company in her office. As the mom of three felines, I’m always partial to places that have animals on site.)

If you have the opportunity, as we did, to take a guided tour of Brunswick Town State Historic Site led by Jim McKee, its historical interpreter, do it. You’ll be educated and entertained. I expect you’ll also be fascinated, as we were, to find out about all the things happening at the site even now as more history is uncovered. The stories of Brunswick Town and Fort Anderson haven’t ended, by any means, and you can expect the Beacon to help tell them now and in the future.

Judging from the success of our outing last week, I’ll be planning more newsroom field trips to other sites in Brunswick County in the coming year to learn more about our community and generate even more story ideas. If there are any other historic or interesting places you think we should add to our list of sites to explore, please let me know. I’m already looking forward to our next adventure.

Jackie Torok is the managing editor of the Beacon. Reach her at editor@brunswickbeacon.comor 754-6890.