One of the best things about being a docent at the museum is the opportunities it affords to meet new and interesting people. I just did a tally and noted that during 2009, I had the pleasure to give 34 adult tours and 17 educational programs to kids of all ages. During this same period, I also met visitors from 46 of the fifty states as well as individuals from Tanzania and Vietnam. It never ceases to amaze me that people come from so far and wide to visit Astoria!
Often at the conclusion of a tour, several adults will stay behind because they want to share something from their life experience. I have found these times of listening to very rewarding and always educational. During the past year, three individuals and their stories stand out. I offer a little of their stories for your reading pleasure.
In early June, I noticed a gentleman in bright yellow spandex clothing wandering the deck of the Lightship. Experience tells me that few middle age men will appear in public wearing spandex unless they are a serious bike rider. During our conversation he told me that it had been a life long goal to ride across the United States; at the time of our meeting he was in the second day of the journey. The story would have ended there except about a month later I stumbled across his blog on the Internet. I spent the rest of the summer following the progress of his journey. I am happy to report that his goal was met when he dipped the tires of his bike in the icy water off the Maine coast just after Labor Day. Congratulations on a job well done!
Another afternoon a gentleman approached me and told me how excited he was that the museum had a model of a LST, a Navy vessel capable of delivering tanks and personnel onto the unimproved shoreline. He went on to share that during the war, many of these vessels were made in his home town. With pride, he also told me that his father was one of the engineers who designed the vessel's front ramp/door. Now every time I pass the LST model, I remember that gentleman and his father's contribution to the second World War.
My final encounter occurred in the navel history gallery one morning in September. At the tour's conclusion, a woman pointed to the picture of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri and told me that her father was in the picture. As she proudly pointed to him, I felt as if I was an eye witness to the historic event!
Maybe this summer I will offer a tour that will focus on past visitors and how their stories contribute to the life of the museum.