Friday, October 16, 2009
Sometimes I get a bit stir crazy and can't wait to get out of the camper when it seems as though the four walls are closing in around me. I have to admit that the past few weeks I've felt this sensation a bit more than usual. I seem to have an inner urgency to begin checking names off my list of all the places in Alabama that I want to see before moving on down the road. I'm not quite sure why I feel this way, as I'm pretty sure we'll continue to be in the area for a while yet. But in the meantime, that means a few field trips for my kids and family outings, when my husband is interested in joining us.
Last Thursday it happened to be a lucky, impromptu field trip day for the kids. Normally that would be the day for our afternoon biology class, but it happened to be cancelled, so we took a field trip to the Jesse Owens Memorial Park. Easy to find, the park is located on a county road just outside Danville, Alabama almost an hour southwest of Huntsville. As we pulled into the parking lot, we were immediately greeted by a friendly volunteer outside the Visitor's Center, asking if we were there to see the museum, which we were. He directed us to the top of the hill where the facilities awaited us.
Though our first stop was inside the museum to see the memorabilia and exhibits, I think I really made a mistake by telling the kids about the Long Jump Pit outside. They were so eager to see how far they could jump that they weren’t about to watch the 45 minute film highlighting the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where Jesse won four gold medals. We hastily made our way through the museum before moving to what the kids thought of as the ‘good stuff’ outside.
We all enjoyed touring the replica of the small sharecroppers home that Jesse was born in and lived in with his parents and nine siblings, until moving to Cleveland, Ohio when he was nine. Upon entering, you will hear a narration telling you a bit about the home and Jesse’s early life.
On the grounds you’ll also see a replica of the 1936 Olympic Torch lit in 1996 by Ruth Owens, his widow. The focal point of the grounds may be the impressive 8-foot tall bronze Statue of Jesse Owens, depicting him running through the Olympic rings.
And finally, the highlight of the trip, the Long Jump Pit. As the kids said, that’s not something that you find at every park or museum and it was certainly new to them. They spent several minutes preparing the pit and then each took turns trying to jump further than anyone else- though no one came close to hitting the 26 ½ foot mark that Jesse held the record for until it was broken in 1960. I don’t think we have any long jump candidates in this family but they sure had fun trying.
The museum is free unless you have a group of 10 or more, but donations are appreciated. We enjoyed our trip here, even though it was brief and I’m sure there’s at least one aspect that the kids will remember forever.