Dressing for the part
Rock Ledge Ranch docents learn to look and act like old-timers

       Here's your chance to go back in time.
       On March 25 and 27, the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site will offer orientation sessions for volunteers who not only want to learn about early Colorado Springs country life - so as to share the knowledge with summer ranch visitors- but to look the part, too.
       Every year, the site, located in the Garden of the Gods City Park, makes use of close to 100 unpaid helpers, including 40 to 50 children ages 10 and up.
       Rock Ledge needs the people to man several buildings and a museum store and to help with special events - such as the Fourth of July activities featuring historic reenactments and the Labor Day old-time baseball game - on the 200-acre property when it opens to the public from June through September.
       “With declining city budgets, we're very dependent on volunteers,” commented Helen Muterspaugh, a member of the Rock Ledge Ranch Living History Association (LHA).
       “We couldn't run without volunteers,” added fellow member Diana Francese. “Whole families sometimes get involved. They are wonderful.”
       The LHA is a “friends” group that provides an ongoing docent core, and also promotes the facility and helps prepare new docents in conjunction with the ranch's two permanent City of Colorado Springs employees and the city Volunteer Office.
       Adult docents are needed for at least one four-hour shift a week during the 13-week season. For the “juniors” (those under 18), the season is broken in half. One group works the first seven weeks; the second group works the last six weeks. The kids work two three-hour shifts per week.
       The Thursday, March 25 orientation will begin at 7 p.m.; The Saturday, March 27 orientation will begin at 10 a.m. Both sessions will be in the Carriage House on the site. People should use the Rock Ledge Ranch entrance at 30th Street and Gateway Road. More information can be obtained at 578-6781, 577-6777 or 385-6520.
       In the training, docents learn how to dress and how to talk in the style of the times when they lead tours of different buildings and explain activities. They are also provided with various insights about the areas where they will be working.
        On May 22, just before the season begins, the volunteers will go to the Orchard House, where they pick out clothes and shoes appropriate to their ranch personnas from roughly 1,000 old-time items. Rent is $4 per item for the summer.
        To bolster the clothing collection, volunteer LHA seamstresses meet monthly. This winter, they focused on pinafore aprons; this spring they'll be working on men's shirts and ladies' blouses, according to Martha Davis, who leads the 20-member group, called the Sewing Bee.
       Here are locations and sample activities for volunteers:
       * The 1860s Galloway homestead cabin - cooking over an open fire or salting food.
        * The 1880s Chambers farm, including the restored Victorian Rock Ledge House - truck farming and irrigating crops.
       * The Orchard House, a country home which was built in 1907 by Gen. William Palmer for his sister-in-law - hosting teas or lawn parties.
       * The Heritage Shop (museum store) - selling books and items that might have been available in the old days, such as sarsasparilla or stick candy.
       “Volunteers get a sense of what came before us, what life was once like in Colorado Springs,” Francese said.
        “It's a wonderful opportunity,” Muterspaugh said. Her own daughter, now 18, was “extremely shy” before she joined the juniors program a number of years ago. “Because of this program, she learned how to talk,” she said.
        There also are volunteer possibilities at the 1775-1835 American Indian Area, although these are limited to people of Indian heritage, according to the LVA.

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