With the Fourth of July just a few days away, I figured today’s column would be the perfect time to tell our readers about the time I met “George Washington”– well not really THE George Washington/The Father of our Country– but a darn good imitation.
Several weeks ago, my dear hubby Steve set up an Americanism program for his Elks Lodge members and guests featuring a historical impressionist by the name of Peter M. Small. Although Mr. Small has also performed nationally for many audiences, portraying Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Harry S. Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Golda Meir– yes, Golda Meir– our evening’s entertainment was to include his educational characterization of George Washington.
Arriving at the event early, Steve, Mom and I had the opportunity to visit with Mr. Small (he asked me to call him Peter) before he donned his costume and presidential persona. Chatting with him was so interesting. He told us of his love and enthusiasm for history and how much he enjoys performing at schools, churches, libraries– including the Reagan, Bush, Nixon and Hoover Presidential Libraries. The more we learned about Peter, the more anxious I was to see him portray George Washington. As we headed for the lodge room, Peter left us to change into costume and get into character– which he did beautifully.
I’ve never been much of a history buff, as I found my history teachers to be less than riveting (except for a teacher I had at Golden West College named Michael who really got my attention– but that’s an entirely different story). Experiencing American history through Peter’s eyes was amazing. I swear, I learned more about George Washington from his half-hour performance than I did all through my years at school. Listening to him, I felt that I had actually traveled back in time, and from the looks of the faces of the audience members, they concurred.
“President Washington” addressed the crowd and told of his experiences and adventures while continually peppering us with little-known facts about his life. He shared with us that he was born February 11, 1732, under the Julian calendar and that when the Gregorian calendar was later adopted it moved his birth date forward by 11 days to February 22– the day we all know today as his birthday. He also claimed that his teeth were not really made of wood but of different elements such as ivory, metal and bone.
Furthermore, according to Peter, the “I cannot tell a lie” cherry tree story is just that– a story. Apparently, the tale was concocted by Parson Weems, who wrote a biography of George Washington a short time after the president’s death. Because people at that time knew little about Washington’s childhood, author Weems took liberties and downright invented vignettes about the virtues of Washington as a boy and young man in order to sell his book.
More information was shared as we learned about the signing of the Declaration of Independence and how Washington became our first president– as well as how he came to live at Mount Vernon and later marry a wealthy widow named Martha.
The evening ended much too soon, as our guest speaker bid us adieu and was escorted from the lodge room.
I must say, I think I would have retained a heck of a lot more information about history if I would have had the opportunity to learn from a historical impressionist like Peter M. Small. He truly brings history to life.
To learn more about Peter, visit his website history-alive.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.