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Norwich — Students in the Norwich Extended Learning summer program participate in the annual wreath-laying ceremony honoring Founding Father Samuel Huntington by writing essays on Huntington or historical issues.
This year, 90 students submitted essays on the differences in childhood life between themselves and their Colonial-era counterparts some 200 to 300 years ago.
First-place winner Ariana Coons, who will enter fifth grade at the John M. Moriarty School next month, said life was much different for children in Colonial times, as they spent their summer days tending the garden, making butter, collecting eggs, milking cows and doing other chores that would have consumed most of their days.
And since families were larger then, "there was little free time, and there was always brothers and sisters to bother you."
Essay winners described how they spend their free time playing video games on their iPods or on the computer and watching TV. Some said they do help their parents and grandparents with the garden, but they don't have to draw water from a well, sweep the kitchen floor or haul dishes to the well or river to wash them.
"Now you put the dishes in the dishwasher and wait and you are done," said third-place winner Ruiwen Lin, a fifth-grader at the Thomas Mahan School.
"Sometimes I sweep my room," fourth-place winner said Damian Ayuyu, a fifth-grader at the John B. Stanton School, "but mostly I vacuum instead."
"I don't have as many chores as children did in Colonial times. Yay!" second-place winner Karelei Quimby, a student at the Integrated Day Charter School, wrote in her essay.
Bill Stanley, president of the Forgotten Founders organization, which was founded by his father, the late William B. Stanley, said the students' essays highlighted the lesson his father always stressed, that young people should learn about history.
"Keep history alive," said Stanley, the emcee for Wednesday's ceremony. "Keep learning about history. That was my dad's big message. You'll appreciate it as you get older."
The ceremony is held annually in July to mark Huntington's birthday following the national tradition of laying wreaths at the graves of deceased U.S. presidents on their birthdays. The elder Stanley promoted the concept that Huntington should be recognized as the first president of the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War with a similar wreath-laying ceremony.
About 50 people attended the ceremony in the historic Norwichtown Cemetery, as members of the Marine Corps League accompanied Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom and school Superintendent Abby Dolliver in laying the wreath.
Original state Troubadour Tom Callinan, who lives at the Norwichtown Green, sang a song he wrote several years ago that gave a quick three-minute biography of Huntington starting from his youth learning the cooper's trade to his respected years as the king's attorney in the Connecticut Colony to his rise to state and federal offices, becoming president of the Continental Congress during the Revolution and his final years as chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court and 10 years as governor of Connecticut.
"And that's a bit of history everyone should know," Callinan sang.