LOWELL | Shaking the still sizzling pan filled with roasted chestnuts, Mr. Buckley offers the treats to his visitors.
Juggling their heat, Bonnie Venable, of Schererville, bites into one and declares it tastes like a potato. "This is the first time I've ever had one," she said as Mr. Buckley unveils the wringer washer he purchased for Mrs. Buckley for Christmas.
It was all part of "Christmas Long Ago" at Buckley Homestead County Park, a living history farm, Saturday where park staffers and volunteers offered a glimpse of Christmas as it was observed in rural Indiana in the early 1900s.
Performances continue today at 3, 3:20, 3:40, 4, 4:20, 4:40, 5, 5:20, 5:40 and 6 p.m.
After giving visitors a tour of the tool shed where antique tools dot the walls and Christmas gifts he has crafted for his children sit on the workbench, Mr. Buckley introduced the children who led visitors to the barn. There, they completed their chores while charming their visitors with a "legend Papa told us" about how the animals long ago in a manger spoke at exactly midnight in praise of the gift of the swaddled baby.
The participatory theater presentation by staff and volunteers in character invited the visitors to use their imaginations and stroll back in time.
"It's a fascinating era," Judy Richards, of Crown Point, said. She was part of a party of eight that included her son and his family from Arlington Heights, Ill.
"I wanted to introduce my granddaughters to the simpler life. They have so much," she said.
In the hired hand's house, volunteer Jan Koble, of Lowell, welcomed visitors to her tiny quarters with a story of feather trees for Christmas. Children in the group then helped string popcorn to be draped on the 2-feet high "tree" decorated with bird feathers gathered in the fall and dyed with berry juices.
Lenny and Nancy Wisniewski, of Hammond, brought their family to the event. "I love this," Lenny Wisniewski said.
Their friend, Rosie Kotlowski of Hammond, said, "It's really something. I'm glad we came. ... It's a sense of back in the day."
The "Christmas Long Ago" tour ended appropriately at the main house where Mrs. Buckley offered molasses cookies and cider. In the parlor, the family Christmas tree shone and an ancient copy of the Sears-Robuck catalog lay open for perusal. St. Nicholas arrived, much to the children's delight.
Sucking on a candy cane, Sedona Richards, of Arlington Heights, said, "I like St. Nick the most."