LOCK HAVEN-When the 38 high school students from Shenzhen, China (southern China, just north of Hong Kong) toured Lock Haven recently, they didn't just see the city as it stands now, but journeyed into a time capsule of the past.
This exploration took them down creaking halls, into a parlor that once rang with music from a Victrola, past a mirror adorned with top hats, up a winding staircase leading to a girl's room whispering of tea time, and outside to the carriage house where the clatter of horse hooves and the jangle of harness were the sounds of coming home.
All of this history sparked to life as volunteers of the Historical Society gave a tour of the Heisey Museum on Water Street.
Top, 38 high school students posed for a picture outside the Heisey Museum after spending several hours learning about the history of this area. The students are from Shenzhen, China and are here touring the United States and learning the culture and language. They found the history of Clinton County most interesting and enjoyed their time in our area.
The Heisey was built in 1831 as a farm house, and Col. Shoemaker owned the carriage house, Bonnie Hannis, who's on the Historical Society's board of directors, explained to the students. After a period of time, it was made into a tavern, where people could wine, dine, and slumber.
The students, aging between 15 and 17, split off into groups separated by gender for the tour, and the girls first went to the carriage house behind the Heisey. An old carriage and kerosene lanterns were within, alongside an old bicycle. The bike was donated by one of the Lock Haven Little League team members who won the World Series in 1948. Each of the team members received one of those bicycles, a tour guide said.
Through a doorway was the ice house where ice from the river was kept below the floorboards. Outside was an herb garden, maintained by the Clinton County Herb Guild, and the students took turns inhaling the sweet aroma of the mint leaves.
They walked past the grape arbor, through the lush, shaded lawn and through the front double doors to behold the sleeping antiques ready to awake to tell their stories.
Into the parlor they came, where a 1926 Victrola came to life, playing music as Hannis wound the crank, near a grand piano. "This was before iPods," Hannis said, laughing, even as the students pulled out their iPhones to take pictures. Paintings of local artist Amy Snyder graced the walls; she was self-taught, and died in 1927, Hannis said.
But it was not Snyder's paintings that piqued the most curiosity. It was the picture made of human hair that got a chorus of "oohs!" from the students. A mother had fashioned a pattern of design from her daughter's hair.
They also enjoyed looking through the Stero Optic glasses that showed three-dimensional pictures.
Perhaps the most interactive element of the tour was the pipe organ. Student Brenda Hu fairly leaped onto the bench to play it. Her fingers flew over the keys, creating a lovely and rich sound.
As they walked into the kitchen, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin documents hung on the hall's walls. Their excitement created a bottleneck of traffic in the hall as they pulled out their iPhones to take pictures. Exclamations of awe resounded with their excited chatter.
Upstairs was a girl's bedroom with baby dolls and a master bedroom with a lovely Crazy Quilt. Volunteer Karen McPherson explained that Crazy Quilts were made in the Victorian time period from saved scraps of cloth, sewed into a quilt, then embroidered.
After the tour, the students, some in halting English, described their favorite parts of the Heisey.
The old piano was Yang Yu's favorite. "I love music," he said. "I don't play any instrument, but I can appreciate it."
Elaine Liu loved the "room for babies (girl's room)," she said. "It was so cute. I had a baby doll like that when I was young."
Brenda Hu, who had played the pipe organ with ease, liked the Victrola the best. "It's very cool because you can play it without electricity," she explained.
The ice house was Lv Yu's favorite. "It's cool" how the ice was kept in the basement, he said.
The students were in Lock Haven for a week through the FLS program, partnering with Lock Haven University. Kristen Brown, 22, a Spanish major at LHU, works with FLS on campus and explained the students took English classes in the day, and toured Lock Haven afterward. She and several other FLS volunteers were there to guide the students.
This is the first year the Historical Society is involved with the tours, and this group was their fourth and largest group this year, Hannis said. Other Historical Society volunteers who helped with the tour were Margaret Kelley, Pam Fiorentino and Karen McPherson.
The students had also gone to Piper Aviation Museum that day, and the lock where a cable ferry pulled boats across the river in 1835 for 30 years; after the railroad came, it became obsolete, Hannis said. "This is the last lock house standing on the West Branch of the Susquehanna," she said. And on another day, the students went to Amish farms to get a taste of yet another culture.
Mia Cao, the students' English teacher in China, explained she and the students are on an 18-day tour of the United States, including New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and universities like Harvard, Stanford and Yale. Lock Haven University was the only college where they would take English classes.
In this way, Brown said, the students get to know the culture and the language.
This is the students' and Cao's first time in the United States, and they were loving it.
"This is the most beautiful town I've ever seen," Cao said. "Some houses are like castles like in Cinderella." She's also fascinated by the squirrels. In southern China where they live, there are no squirrels-only up north. "They're so cute!" she exclaimed.
For students Elaine and Brenda, their favorite city so far is San Francisco. "I like urban life," Brenda said. "I like city life better than country life." Back home, she lives in the city.
Cao and her students noted many differences between America and their country.
"There's more public transportation here," Cao said. In China, most people ride their bicycles or walk. And there are different kinds of school buses in China, whereas here, they're mostly uniform, she added.
A student noted there are far more churches here than in China, particularly in the universities.
Other students commented on the differences in people's attire and attitude.
"The clothes are more open (revealing) here," one male student said. "In China, you do not see people walking around with such open clothing."
"People here are very enthusiastic," one student said, while another chimed in, "Strangers in China don't greet each other."
Cao had one last observation to share before hopping back on the bus. "There are many fat people in America," she said. "I am trying to figure out what is in the food, or if it's in the genes that makes people get fat here." She patted her stomach. "In fact, I've gotten a lot of fat since I've come here!" Other girls said they too have gained weight since the start of their tour.
But through the tours, Hannis observed the students' curiosity and other behaviors, and concluded one thing:
"These kids from China are just like American kids....Kids are kids no matter where you are in the world."
Chinese students tour the Heisey