Thursday, July 27, 2017

Wonderful Memories of John Hamant, Historical Interpreter of Colonial Williamsburg

Breaking the silence on my blog to share a sadness that I am grieving today...the loss of a great man from Colonial Williamsburg...John Hamant.

I'll never forget the first time we met him. We had only lived in Virginia for a year, attending every single program we possibly could before the busy days of college would succumb my kids' lives. The beauty of homeschooling is a flexible schedule. We were at Colonial Williamsburg every month, sometimes multiple times a month, and as a result many of the interpreters took the time to get to know us.

While attending our very first President's Day weekend at Colonial Williamsburg, we attended every special event we could, including one that culminated the weekend on Sunday night at the Kimball Theater...an Evening with the Presidents. While a modern day gent hosted the event, he introduced famed presidents from America's early years...all of whom had spent part of their lives in Williamsburg. George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. James Madison. There was a theme to the topic of discussion around which the host queried the presidents. Then the host allowed questions from the audience.

Midway through, my 14 year old son had his hand in the air, but another guest was chosen. After that question, my son started to raise his hand again, when we heard a bit of commotion on the stage. A surprise guest was being announced by the host. This guest was someone whom our early presidents had never met. However the special guest was well aware of our Founding Fathers. And with that, FDR rolled onto the stage in a perfect 1940's reproduction wheelchair, proudly grinning with the iconic cigarette. He had the accent. He had every gesture. He had every phrase, every word, down to a science. Our first presidents were stunned to hear what FDR had done to the office of president, which made for a fun evening of banter.

FDR3

Anyway, after a bit of stunned silence, then a roar of surprise from the crowd at the entrance of FDR to what we thought was solely to be a late18th/early 19th century program, my son shot his hand into the air and the host immediately called on him to ask a question. We just happened to be studying FDR in our homeschool. Who knew that we could meet FDR himself at Colonial Williamsburg?

On October 20,1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt paid a visit to celebrate the opening of the restored historic area and participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the Duke of Gloucester Street. Downtrodden by time and modern buildings and telephone poles, the rector of Burton Parish Church envisioned restoring the little town to it's late 18th century look. His dream had come true. FDR declared the Duke of Gloucester Street which he dubbed, "the most historic avenue in all America."  John Hamant later reenacted this scene from history.

After the program we went to the stage to meet John Hamant. My kids told him they had been reading a book about FDR, so he asked for the book title to add to his collection.

FDR 1

At the time, CW mgt knew about my blog. Although they encouraged my love of posting about my visits to the historic area, they asked me to not post this photo of John Hamant with my kids, because they did not want me to spoil the fun for future guests who would attend this yearly program. I understood, but was deeply saddened, so someone sent my e-mail address to Mr. Hamant, who remembered us. He sent a kind e-mail with professional photos of his famous drive down Duke of Gloucester Street as FDR.

FDR2

Also, every time he saw us in the historic area he stopped to say hello. Funny thing is, we realized we knew him from other historical roles.

Here he is as Governor Berkely at Historic Jamestowne reenacting a scene from Bacon's Rebellion.

7-Governor Berkely

Our prayers extend to Mr. Hamant's family and loved ones.