Skip to comments.Oprah Goes Back In Time In PBS 'Colonial House'
Posted on 05/18/2004 7:48:54 AM PDT by presidio9
Imagine one of the wealthiest people on Earth living without indoor plumbing.
Granted, she only lasted a few days, but Oprah Winfrey took that challenge. She sat down with KMBC's Kelly Eckerman to talk about what life is like without electricity, running water or modern conveniences of any kind.
Oprah and her friend, Gail, recently stayed in the PBS "Colonial House," where the pair agreed to live as people did 400 years ago.
Eckerman: "Were some people surprised you were anxious to do it?"
Oprah: "I come from a very poor family, so it was like going back in my own time for me. Gail, on the other hand, grew up with a maid and always had indoor plumbing."
There were many unforgettable moments for the television talk-show guru. Oprah seemed to take most tasks in stride, but Gail was another story.
Oprah: "First, you arrive and they make you strip all your underwear because women didn't have underwear in the 16th century. Just one of those facts, I guess I never knew that."
Eckerman: "I never thought about that."
Oprah: "You never think about it. The panties have to come off, bras off."
The chores were another big adjustment for Gail.
Oprah: "We're trying to cook bacon, gasping for air, and Gail says, 'I'd like mine extra crispy.' And I said, 'This is not the Fairmont Hotel, sister.'"
A rodent finally sent the pair packing -- that was where Oprah drew the line.
Oprah: "I'm not going to survive if a rat falls on my face!"
Oprah's said her stay was short, but priceless for "seeing how far we've come as women, as people, and all the people who did so much for us to have this exquisite life that we so often take for granted."
Oprah added that the most revealing thing about her colonial experience -- besides no underwear -- is how hard they had to work. The women, especially, never had a minute to themselves, Oprah said.
Thanks for the memories! Remember back in '93 when the midwest had severe flooding? Well, Des Moines was without water for ten days! It was contaminated when the river flooded the water treatment plant, so it was entirely shut off...in a city proper of around 200,000 people (at the time).
We had to line up to get gallon jugs filled by the National Guard water tanks. Those of us lucky enough to know someone in the suburbs could go there every couple of days to shower...but then the suburban water systems became overloaded and ran low so that ended.
We couldn't wash dishes or laundry, and "showered" by pouring water over our heads; and flushed by pouring buckets of water into the toilet to "force" it down. There was even a saying regarding the latter, coined by our water works director, "if it's yellow...let it mellow; if it's brown flush it down"....YUCK!
We ALL became immediately thankful for that we had. And the funniest part was that as the days wore on, people started looking worse and worse. By day ten, it was ponytails, baseball caps, and shorts and t-shirts...even in the most esteemed of businesses. After the fact, they reported that the CDC had people in town monitoring the medical situation. They EXPECTED an outbreak of disease...but it didn't happen, thankfully. I still think about that sometimes when I turn on the water!
I can't stand the narrator, who says the same crap over and over again just to speak.
I don't care about your damn facts you stupid woman.
Tell me something interesting please or just let the people there tell the story PLEASE.
Hmm....well, maybe they will be later. Whenever the next installment is...the title is "Regime change" or something.
I didn't go into conjugal rights and pleasures,but hinted at all you said.Yes,I know about what the Puritans were like.Please reread my earlier post. Thank you.
I thought I replied to mondoman, not to you.
You seem to have a good handle on things.
Maybe my eyes are not working well tonight (finals week...)
This is NOT one of my "pet" historical periods,but apparently I know far more about it than most.LOL
Oh,now I see...you replied to me and it should have been to another poster.That's okay,that sort of thing happens all the time.
I'm particularly interested in clothes,food,daily life, of other times,so that's why I know about this kind of thing.Due to T.V. and movies,most people tend to have a rather confused,at best,idea of what it was REALLY like to live in other eras.
Good luck with your finals!
That IS an interetsing book.
We'll have to keep this thread going as the series progresses. They are repeating tonight's episodes this hour so I'm trying to pay a little more attention
I tried to surf FR and watch,the first episodes and had to get off line and then watch the repeats.It's one show you can't watch with one eye.
I hope they have a boxset *lol* I'll need to play catchup.
It did get annoying. How many ways can one say "things in 1628 were much more harsh and strict than 21st century Americans are used to"?
I do think the people told a very good, if subtle, story last night.
When the governor was complaining that many didn't want to follow the laws and were acting like children, a little flag started waving in the back of mind.
These are the types of attitudes and laws that eventually led to the founding of our nation. People that were like "the heck with this, I'm not going to live under such an oppressive government". As more and more had children in the colonies, and their children had children, you had more and more people that had no connection with England and were wondering why they should have to follow some of the harsh laws that were around.
You also got a slight glimpse of why those drawing up the Constitution were very adamant about the seperation of Church and State. Back then, the Church was used to keep people in line and was basically an extension of the monarchy, to an extent. The atheist and her family showed their liberal leanings when they caved into authority and went to church, even though they didn't believe in it.
As an experiment, it's not a very good one. In the 1620s, they would have considered themselves subjects, and were born under the rule of a king/queen, and were used to having much of their behavior dictated. It took generations before things reached a point where action was taken. The "rebellion" your seeing on the show is basically an accelerated version of this, because it's coming from people who were used to being free and then having harsh laws imposed upon them, rather than the other way around.
They made the governor look like a jerk in that it looked like he was the one making the laws (although the voiceover did remind you that the laws he was coming up with were in place in 1628). By extension, because he's a Baptist preacher, it painted a somewhat grim picture of of Christians, even though he wasn't actually making the laws, but was reading documents that the producers gave him, and was just roleplaying.
There are people in this country that think many Christians would love nothing better than to return to the kinds of laws and lifestyle of the 17th century.
Very uncomfortable. Even with an army of servants--far less comfortable than our society.
I wathed it for a short while last night until the gay guy came out of the closet. It was obvious that he was gay, why did they have to ruin the show by making a big deal out of his sexuality? It had nothing to do with the premise of the show but was simply another attempt by the left to castigate conservatives. After that I turned it off as worthless tripe.
Homosexuals are a cancer to any society. As the Van Whatstheirnames pointed out, nobody is having sex in the one-room communal houses anyway. Therefore, one's sexual preferrence is completely irrelevant. The only thing he accomplised was making some members of the community uncomfortable in his insistence for acceptance.
So sorry to correct you, but I grew up in New England where Pilgrim lore is much a part of school history. From a quick search on Ask Jeeves:
Women; Women's hair was always worn up and pulled tightly back, and worn under a coif (bonnet) or hat.
Common colors include red, earthy greens, browns, blues, violets, and grays. Contrary to popular myth, black and white clothing was clearly not the most common colors worn. An examination of the probate inventories of many early Plymouth women reveal a large variety of colors. Mary Ring, a long-time member of the Pilgrim's church in Leyden, and married to one of the more prominent members of the church, had her estate inventory taken in 1631. She had in her possession at that time: one waistcoat "of mingled color", two violet waistcoats, three blue aprons, two white aprons, one black apron, a red petticoat, a violet petticoat, white stockings, blue stockings, and also had some red cloth, grey cloth, and blue cloth ready for sewing. Desire (Gorham) Howland, daughter of Mayflower passenger John Howland, had a green apron, red stockings, white apron, and black cloak in her estate inventory.
Men: Whites, beiges, blacks, earthy greens, and browns were the predominant colors in men's clothing. Contrary to popular stereotype, buckles were not worn on hats, shoes, belts, or anywhere else, nor was black the predominant color except for on Sunday or formal occasions. From the probate inventories of Plymouth Colony, we learn that Governor William Bradford had a green gown, violet cloak, lead colored suit with silver buttons, and a red waistcoat. Elder William Brewster had green drawers, a red cap, a violet coat, and a blue suit. And Mayflower passenger John Howland had a red waistcoat listed in his inventory.
The Thanksgiving Primer, by the Plimoth Plantation Museum, 1991.
A Little Commonwealth, by John Demos, 1970. (Available in the Mayflower Web Page bookstore).
Estate Inventories of the Pilgrims, reprinted in various issues of the Mayflower Descendant as well as in Charles Simmons, Plymouth Colony Records: Wills and Inventories, 1633-1669, Picton Press, 1996.
Once PBS brought the gay guy out of the closet I could not watch the rest of the usual PBS political correctness.
Chico State profs go back in time for reality TV series
By Devanie Angel
TIME TRAVELER Carolyn Heinz said the women enjoyed the challenge of coming up with creative meals using minimal supplies.
Thirteen/WNET, the production company that filmed Colonial House for PBS, wants all press inquiries to "cast members" to go through its New York office, but the News & Review and the Heinzes chose to disregard that.When some professors take time off, they travel to an exotic locale or enjoy some mind-easing down time. Don and Carolyn Heinz spent their "vacation" in 1628 colonial New England.
As participants in Colonial House, the sixth installment in PBS's series that takes a couple of dozen people and thrusts them into a snapshot of history, the Heinzes spent nearly five months in rural Maine, on a "set" constructed to mimic the lives of settlers, right down to how they ate, slept and took care of bodily needs.
For the married Chico State professors, whose prior reality show experience was watching a couple of episodes of Survivor three years ago, it was all about the intellectual experience.
"What interested us as intellectuals was that we could actually enter a historical period that one reads about and lectures about but doesn't live in," said Don Heinz, who is partially retired from teaching religious studies. His wife teaches anthropology.
The trip back in time wasnt even their idea; it was their daughter Susan's.
"She applied for us, and we didn't know anything about it," said Carolyn Heinz. The producers were especially eager to get Don Heinz on board. As a real-life Lutheran pastor, he was cast as the colony's lay preacher and assistant governor.
The series' filming ended in October 2003, but before it was over the Heinzes had tried to pull out of the project more than once.
They were already forgoing professors' wages to participate (PBS paid them $10,000 apiece), and the couple began worrying that they were the only ones in it for the historical experience. "We were afraid we would be the schmucks who were taking it seriously," Carolyn Heinz said. "Nobody's heads were in the 17th century."
Also, the producers told the preacher they would allow him no books, even though his research of the time showed that someone in his position would have a large library. And they told Carolyn Heinz she couldn't keep a journal.
"It was going to be five months with no books and nothing to write on," she said, and that was a deal-breaker.
Eventually the producers relented, and the Heinzes were back in--Don with a copy of Pilgrim's Progress and Carolyn with some sheets of period-correct paper and a feather quill for a pen.
Photo By Tom Angel
When Don Heinz was named governor of the colony, he was able to draw from his academic studies for a historically accurate representation.
The only other exceptions to historical accuracy were the addition of bug repellant, sunscreen and tampons. The producers allowed toothbrushes after participants threatened to sue if the flavored twigs they were using caused dental bills.
"There were endless discussions and arguments off camera with the production crew," Don Heinz said.
Because of the head-butting and the close-quarters intensity that drives reality shows, the couple is somewhat worried about how the producers will portray them through editing. It may be PBS, but it's still television.
The series will air May 17, 18, 24 and 25 from 8 to 10 p.m., and online synopses make frequent mention of the Heinzes, going so far as to derisively characterize Don Heinz, who has extensive knowledge of early religions, as "somewhat of a history buff."
"We felt to some extent they trivialized us," he said of the 20- and 30-something producers. "They were annoyed that we were always correcting them and challenging them. I think they probably thought we were something of a pain in the butt."
The Heinzes are suspending judgment until they see what airs, and they're not sure they even want friends and family over for their first viewing.
"It was a very intense social community," Carolyn Heinz said. "But in the end, it is reality television, and what they want is a good show that is going to get a lot of people watching it.
"It was pretty clear the cameras were after the quarrels and the struggles among the [people] rather than authenticity."
The shows cast was primed for the experience by spending two weeks at the Plimouth Plantation, where actors, always in character, taught what it was like during the time of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. (The Colonial House residents weren't supposed to play-act, but rather maintain their own personalities in the context of the time.)
In spite, or perhaps because of, the fact that the Heinzes, who are in their early 60s, were the most senior members of the "cast," they had little trouble adjusting to the physical demands of colonial life. They didn't mind washing their hair once a month, eating moldy meat or going without toilet paper.
Photo By Tom Angel
PREACHER MAN While colonists of the 17th century would have been subjected to a full day of worship, lay preacher Don Heinz kept his sermons to less than two and one-half hours. He planned his addresses over the course of each week; one of his favorite topics was the struggle to build communities in difficult times.
"Half the world lives that way today," said Carolyn Heinz, who has resided with less-developed cultures as part of her academic work.
The biggest surprise--and disappointment--for the Heinzes was that the environment stifled rather than piqued creative thought.
"It suppressed creativity," Carolyn Heinz said. "I felt myself fading intellectually. There was no sharing of ideas. We were hunkered down to endure."
Two months into the filming, they almost left again, sick of the sheer tedium of it all.
But even through the monotony, drama was unfolding among the colonists.
Don Heinz was irked that, even though it was the law of the time that everyone attend church services, he was forced to deal with a handful of modern-day atheists who refused to play along.
In the midst of what the preacher called "the Sabbath wars," one participant skipped church to go skinny dipping--an historically unlikely escapade that earned her the punishment of being bound and paraded around by her husband.
It's that type of clip that the Heinzes are sure will make it to the final edit as the producers condensed 700 hours of film into eight hours of air time.
The Heinzes also had an indentured servant, 24-year-old Jonathon Allen, who did chores by day and slept on a straw mat at the foot of their bed by night.
One day, at a church service, Allen revealed that he was gay--an emotional moment for him in part because he wasn't "out" in real life.
Photo By Tom Angel
HOUSE RULES Carolyn Heinz, shown with her husband, Don, in their Chico home, convinced Colonial House producers to allow her to keep this journal. During filming, participants were allowed to receive mail twice, under the pretext that it had come by ship from the "Old World."
The news didn't faze the Heinzes. "You're talking to two Northern California liberals here," Don Heinz said. However, it did bother him from the perspective that "it's not the way anything would have happened in the 17th century."
Partway into the series, the colonists, all of whom were furnished with "back stories" about their lives in Europe, were joined by a man from the English homeland checking on the "investment." (The colonists were supposed to be making money off their work on the land.)
That threw the settlement's structure on its ear, and, when the governor's family had to leave after a real-life emergency, Don Heinz became acting governor.
"I think I had been chaffing to be governor all along," he admitted.
The PBS Web site also claims that Carolyn Heinz was "hell-bent on serving as de facto governor via her husband, an arrangement that would have been highly unlikely in the 17th century."
"I simply had ideas about how things should work," she countered. "There would have been strong-minded, opinionated women who had to live in patriarchal societies."
When the cameras werent filming, the participants, who included several children, talked freely about the outside world. Many of them became friends.
The Heinzes have kept in touch with Allen, their indentured servant, via e-mail, even helping him get into graduate school. Recently, he drove to Chico from South Carolina for a visit.
At the end of the series' filming, the cast members were asked if they'd do it again. "There weren't many people who said yes," Don Heinz said. "I suppose we're glad we did it, but we would not do it again."
She is a typical Fema-Nazi.
I watched that too. I do remember the rich guy complaining more than once that they couldn't hunt and that the real frontier people did. It was also Montana's law that they couldn't hunt out of season. But they had a Native American hunt for them one time. Indian Nations could hunt anytime.
We are going to have to agree to disagree I guess; this is the area I like to research a lot.
I will concede your point that the Pilgrims did not always wear black and white, however.
But, they did not like the Puritans for their colorful clothes and "lace."
Strange. Devanie Angel's article makes the wacko CA leftists out to be the center of the story and completely ignores the Baptist preacher, governor, and his family who were really in the center of the series. I watched the first 2 days but it was going down hill fast and don't think I can watch them replace the only leader they had with a leftist wacko.
That wen't downhill in a hurry.
P.B.S loaded it with Liberal Flakes, the only stable people are that Family from Texas.
I'm surrounded by these liberal hippy bastards every day,I' can't stand them.
They should have done it with Freepers, all the work would be done,and we could cross-breed Oprah with the goats and sell the offspring to the Natives
I've never seen so much whining in my life.
I'm glad I watched the Hockey game instead.
Yeah, right after they fought off the Indians, cleared and plowed the land, sowed the crop, weeded the crop, harvested the crop, fought off the indians, and took care of hundreds of other farm chores.
"...The Pioneers NEVER would have succeeded in the wilderness had they not subsumed their personal desires and philosophies to the community."...
That is the same kind of crap like the "Army of One" slogan trying to sell military service to young people today. Whether it is the military or in business if you have a bunch of people that want to "do their own thing" then the military mission and business mission will surely fail.
I admit I probably would have been the "don't wake up until 9 a.m" folks...any excuse to sleep in and it would just be maybe 2 hours lost there.
But, the rest of the stuff I would have a hard time with if I was there.....people just playing games and skinny dipping would not go down well.
any comments now that the series is completed?
The atheist woman was a whiner. I thought the take on why the black man left was pretty interesting though.
No, actually I felt it was natural to select him as the Governor. Those colonies were very religiously oriented (not the best way to say it) and he seemed like a very natural leader. Due to the fact that we saw only 8 hours out of 700+ filmed, and the personal tragedies that led to his family having to leave, I don't think you ever really got to see him reach his stride.
As far as the post interview and him saying it bothered him that some were leaving Europe to escape religious intolerance only to fall back into it here, I found that to be very interesting/signficant, however it's not surprising.
Consider this - he, a Republican/Conservative Christian, felt uncomfortable imposing religion on others (after all he wouldn't want it imposed upon him). Natural reaction for a true Conservative. We want to worship as we see fit, not as the State determines.
The liberal/democrat Christian, on the other hand, wanted mandatory church attendance for all. Some would defend him and say he was just trying to act the part of the 1620s, and they would be partially right. However, any sane/rational person would know that this would be one 21st century belief that probably shouldn't be touched upon too much. I believe he probably understood it was sensitive, but maybe he wanted to do some kind of personal study to see just how far he could push others in regards to religion. I don't know.
If this was a real colony facing real problems, I think Wyers, or Jack Lekza or Don Wood would have been much more capable leaders/governors than Heinz. Wood most of all. Besides the fact that he is a real carpenter and used to hard labor and and efficiency, he seemed to understand just what would have been at stake. He seemed like a better manager of people.
Eight hours out of 700+ filmed is not enough. Way too many people didn't get the credit they deserved. Human drama became more important than actual results and any lessons learned.
The part about Dominic relying on his faith, and realizing how important it was to him, and going back to study to perhaps join the clergy was a surprise.
I think they all pretty much sucked at fishing.
I think several proved they were more than capable at being able to survive back then - I was impressed by Don Wood, the girl who tracked the chicken/eggs, Jack the company guy, etc.
I agree that it would not have been a success in reality.
I watched last night as well (well, the last hour conclusion) and the evaluators even said they were a lot more inclined to "be nice" because everybody "stuck together."
I had no blasted idea Dominic even was a believer!
I only heard about the faith of the Wyers.
I did expect this to go on for a couple more weeks......so I was a bit shocked when I just happened to catch the show ending tonight.
It should have kept going for another couple weeks.
I could swear Pioneer House was longer than this!!
I think that very much needed to be said on this thread.
If the original colonists had that kind of success we would not be communicating now by internet but instead by smoke signals! I think that the show participants were smoking somthing in their clay pipes other than tobacco.
There were several that were that way (Jack, plus the other family of freeman, not the Vorhees/atheists). They either downplayed it, or more than likely, never had enough time. They say eight hours, but with all of the ads for future PBS specials, the behind the scenes, the credits, etc., it was probably more like 6.5 hours, and with large portions of that tied up with the ship at the beginning, the audit/grading at the end, the Wyers' tragedy, the bickering, the punishment, the governor stuff, etc. you really had little room to find out what people truly believed or how they were responding.
The leftists ruined it for me.
The atheists and the hen-pecked Hippie Governor and his insufferable wife took over the show.
The Colony lost money on trade with the natives.
The original Plymoth Colonists build a defensive stockade and other structure such as a blockhouse for defense of the Colony.
No Guns? Where were the Matchlocks? The original Colonists did not assume the Natives would be friendly, they would have trained with weapons,set up a watch,and an alarm in case of attack.
If there was a country called Woodstock, and they wanted to set up a Colony where everyone would get back to nature and sit around and talk about their feelings, this would have been it.
P.C-P.B.S needs to realise that History is not improved by Liberalism.
They would have been the first to go home,get slaughtered by the Natives,or be banished by the other Colonists.
On the "savages", the Wampanoags (the ones who stole a chicken and 2 eggs) didn't look very Indian to me--curly hair is uncommon in native Americans!