Frontier House : LUSENET : Beyond the Sidewalks : One Thread

Below is a message concerning a talk that was given by two of the women that did the evaluations for the participants in Frontier House. The lady below attended the talk and was asked to write about it.

Message: 2 Date: Thu, 16 May 2002 09:49:08 EDT From: Subject: Frontier House, the book talk

Well, the talk was wonderful. Standing room only in our little tiny Pioneer Museum. I'm glad I had my book in advance. The book store sold out! I got each of them to sign it, so I was happy! They made LOTS of fun on the Clune's. I took a few notes, but they are still in the car. They did not approve of the Clune's cheating. They felt the same way as us. There was actually another couple on standby in case someone quit. They gave them credit for sticking it out and actually had bets on the teenage girls leaving first! The reason the 3 families were chosen is because the producer wanted to take 3 very real families from the 21st century and just plop them in 1883. They wanted people who were not camera shy. People who would open up and share their real feelings on the video diaries. They said Kristen had told a camera person after the filming, "There were plenty of times I hated Nate, but I was never going to tell that to the camera!" So, I guess she wasn't 100% honest!

The cabins remain on the land. It is private property and it was part of the deal. The cabins were to be left as well as the stoves in them. Not a bad deal for the landowner! I think he was very adamant about protecting his identity and the location. They said it was VERY remote, and in the book it tells about a visit from a sow grizzly and her cubs shortly after filming. A deer carcass was found between two of the cabins and the tracks were from grizzly. A few days later she was sighted with her cubs. To think they were living among the grizzlies all that time and using the trees as cupboards before they got their cabins built. Having food that low is a BIG no-no!

The still was mentioned a few times. They said it was just part of who the Clunes were. They actually got to write the family histories (made up) for the families, but not much of that was brought out. In reality, the Clunes never would've left their lifestyle and came to Montana homesteading..............................unless they were running from something. Their made-up story was that Mr. Clune was bankrupt and running from the law, so it was very indicative of who he was to bring a still! Interestingly though, they weren't given their histories in advance! They were in their trunks with their personal belongings. Linda did say she thought each history was a masterpiece, in her own opinion, and wished they had gone into that a little more.

Time was a huge problem. How do you take 5 - 6 months of filming and reduce it to 6 hours? I would think they could do a couple more shows just on what was left on the cutting room floor. The day they arrived to "judge" the families, the film crew filmed over 900 minutes. That was just one day. That day was reduced to 12 minutes for the show! That must've been a difficult job!

Linda said they were not aware they were not supposed to drink the hooch because it could make them go blind until afterwards. She said it was very good! Well, I could go on and on, but I need to get ready for the day. My little poochy has a Dr's appt for his teeth this morning and I am picking up baby chicks this afternoon!

LaVonne, The Obsessed, which is how I had them sign the book! :-)

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2002


Below is more of what this lady wrote:

Message: 3 Date: Thu, 16 May 2002 23:26:54 EDT From: Subject: Re: Re: Frontier House talk

Yes, you can use what I said and you can include my name and email address. Please also tell them that the Clunes were caught sleeping past 10:00 am more than once! They never knew exactly what days of the week the camera crews would arrive. I'm thinking they said they filmed 3 days a week, always different days to catch them all unaware.

I'm really glad I bought the book and went to the book talk. I learned so much more about the purpose of the whole project. I understand it a lot better. I was furious after watching it. I thought it made a mockery of homesteading and wasn't true to life.

Now I realize the purpose was to take 3 families of different backgrounds, totally immersed in the 21st century and plop them back to 1883 to see how they'd survive. What I got out of it was the shocking realization that there certainly could've been and were people just like the 3 families we were introduced to.

As Linda and Ursula said, "History is just one person's interpretation of events!" and many, if not most times, only the good is written. Linda told of a phone call they'd gotten from a woman at the Museum of the Rockies here in Bozeman one day when they still lived here. The woman was so excited about some personal letters a family had donated and she thought Linda & Ursula might like to read over them for information for their books. The letters revealed some juicy tidbits of family life back then. As they opened the letters, huge blocks had been cut out. Seems as though some of the family members weren't too keen on airing the family's dirty laundry, so they unsuspectingly cut out the "good" parts! History lost! Too bad!


-- Anonymous, May 17, 2002

Forgot to explain that Lavonne posted these at a yahoo website for Tasha Tudor fans, they are not e-mails to me that is why I asked her if she minded if I copied and posted it where others might be interested in hearing about the talk.

I have seen several people mention that they purchased the book about Frontier House and that it is very interesting.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2002

Thanks for posting this Terry. If it's not too much trouble, could you please ask LaVonne if the speakers addressed the legality of the still? If the families weren't allowed to hunt because it was illegal, why was moonshining allowed when it is also illegal?

I did have a good discussion with several of my non-homesteading friends who watched this show. I think that it gave them a new appreciation of what I want to do with my life. Too bad I couldn't get Keith to watch it, I guess he'll just have to be clueless about what's in store for him. :)

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2002

I haven't been on much lately, and I didn't see the show (too much happening). I was wondering about the still when it got mentioned earlier too -- the toxicity part. Did their still have copper coil or aluminum? It's my understanding that it is the aluminium that causes blindness, which is why you use copper....

I keep seeing references to the Clunes 'cheating'...can someone explain how it was that they cheated?

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2002

Jules, we actually had a previous thread about this here. That discusses the Clune's cheating. Plus, they're rerunning it here in Wisconsin starting Sunday night. You might want to set up mom's VCR to tape it (you know she's hopeless). We should get her one of those VCR's that you can enter the program's number and it automatically records it. THAT I think she could handle! {hee hee}

I don't really remember about the tubing on the still, but I THINK it was copper.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2002


No problem at all. I asked earlier this evening so I'll let you know what she says, I am curious about that too. I was also wondering if a person had made moonshine in the 1860's would he have been able to openly sell it to a storekeeper as Mr Clunde did. I thought one would have had to look for an individual to sell it to.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2002

The still was all copper and pretty nice as I recall. I guess each family?/person? was permitted a "luxury" item, provided it was a "period" item and Clune chose a still. I recall it mentioned that even in those days the feds frowned on "shine" and would wreck stills and jail people.

The first drippings from a still are poisoness, regardless of construction. Theres a name for the first product but I don't remember what it is.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2002

The use of the still could be legal, provided it was registered and licensed by the state and feds. I think TN and KY are the only two states with available licensing for restricted, non commercial disstillery operation.

-- Anonymous, May 18, 2002

After asking LaVonne the question Sherri raised and mine concerning selling it to the storekeeper, the following is her reply:

You touched on a nerve of mine! That part REALLY bugged me too! Your first question of hunting/moonshine, both illegal really bothered me. The answer is that the Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks wouldn't bend the rules at all. Hunting regulations actually began in the late 1800s in MT in an effort to protect the wildlife populations from the settlers. Someone knew something, obviously from previous experience elsewhere!?! But the still is another matter. After seeing the show, I was livid that they allowed G. Clune to make hooch! It is, after all, just as illegal as the hunting would've been. In the book it states they had to deal with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol & Tobacco. They had permission to make moonshine for educational purposes only and that DID NOT mean drinking it. Legally you can brew beer and make homemade wine as long as you keep it under so many gallons/yr and for personal consumption, not for resale. Moonshine is quite another matter. Apparently no one knew they weren't supposed to be drinking it on the show. I wonder if that was just a "little" technicality that slipped by intentionally!? It's easy to get contaminates in moonshine and it can apparently make you go blind. That's what Linda said, anyway! The alcohol could be sold to the storekeeper as a medicinal rub, even back then. That's why they allowed that. I think the book mentions the fact that Gordon would've been slipping off to other parts to sell his hooch to farmers who don't get to town much. Whiskey was free-flowing and cheep for the miners back then, so there wouldn't have been much market to sell to them. I would think they could possibly be in line for a big fine if the Feds wanted to get downright stinky!


Message: 12 Date: Fri, 17 May 2002 22:57:27 EDT From: Subject: Oh, another tidbit I thought of from the book talk!

It was reported at the book talk that Mark Glenn is back living in the Boulder Valley where Frontier House was filmed. (Not the exact location, but south of Big Timber, MT.) I don't know what he is doing, but he had stated that he found himself up there. He fell to his knees in tears when he had to leave. I had read a Tennessee newspaper article that he and Karen were getting a divorce. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing for either of them.


-- Anonymous, May 18, 2002

You know, a beehive might have been a nice luxury. Or the glass carboys/jugs for wine or beer making. Or an oak cask.

This story keeps me pondering. I sure am glad I live in the world today. But there are always things I can learn and be more independent about. I would hope they left with the lesson that they have more skills and ability to learn than they thought.

-- Anonymous, May 19, 2002

More from LaVonne that attended the talk about Frontier House done by Linda and Ursula.

Message: 3 Date: Sat, 18 May 2002 23:24:00 EDT From: Subject: Frontier House rules

There weren't any rules about what they could or couldn't wear. The whole idea behind the project was to thrust those 3 families back to 1883 from the 21st century and see how they'd cope. They were taught a lot about how it was and what people did, as well as teaching them the basics for survival out there. Beyond that, it was totally up to the families. What we perceived as rules (what we know about how they would've lived back then) were probably not even thought of as rules to them. They simply didn't care how it was done, they were going to do it their way. I am speaking of the Clunes. The Brooks' and the Glenns did a wonderful job in that dept, IMHO. (In my humble opinion!) Where Karen broke one of "my" rules was when she shut her husband out and took over the helm! Woman were MUCH more submissive back then, just as everyone was much more modest. They wouldn't been seen running around in their underwear! Mark Glenn broke another of "my" rules when he made the statement about not wanting to be a step-dad any more. That made me mad. If he had married Karen in 1883, a woman with 2 children, he would've assumed the role and she would've let him. So, short story long, the rules we perceived weren't really there. The basic rule was to live without 21st century amenities. The Clunes CLEARLY broke that and far more than the TV shows ever let on. That to me was sad! And yes, Morgan, you are absolutely correct when you say he was only teaching his family to be the same way, this century or not! And I, like you, believe he operates in this century much in the same way! I was shocked at the lack of religion on the show. We all know FAITH is what got most, if not all of those people through! I asked Ursula about that when she was signing my book. The Glenns were the only ones that were spiritual at all, although as I said to Ursula, Karen did a lot of preaching, but didn't practice what she preached! I asked her if she thought in actuality they would've built a church before the school. She said yes, and that had been my opinion all along. Ursula and Linda were the senior historians on the project. I am obsessed with this subject! I love to talk about it! At one point when Linda was signing my book and visiting with another woman about the birth control methods she said, "I don't know if we mentioned that in this book!" I said, "What? I've read it, I can tell you! She laughed and asked if they had mentioned Hunter's Pills. They hadn't mentioned them in this book, but had in a previous book of theirs!

Just tell me to shut up! :-)


-- Anonymous, May 19, 2002

I was going to say that there were shiftless folks, even "back when", but then I thought, no they weren't shiftless, they were running around in their shifts all the time! {hee hee!!} Actually, I wondered about "shiftless" so I looked it up in the online Merriam- Webster dictionary. "Shift" meant resources or resourcefulness, so from that you can get the meaning of "shiftless". I guess that makes sense, when you think about the phrase "shift for yourself". Makes me wonder though, how a chemise came to be known as a shift?

But they didn't BUILD a schoolhouse -- they found an abandoned shed that could be renovated. Personally, it wouldn't surprise me if communities built something that would be church on Sunday, school through the week, and occasionally used for social gatherings.

I distinctly remember it being mentioned that divorce was far commoner than is thought in these modern times, and women filed for divorce just as often as the men. The women also didn't stay single long -- there were lots of other available men wanting a wife, even if she did have kids.

I have no clue what "Hunter's Pills" are. Does anyone else know?

-- Anonymous, May 19, 2002

I think there would have been a lot of men with kids ready to snatch up a single gal since one wife had already licked the bucket. Life was far more dangerous for women since we are the ones who die during childbirth, not the men. Death by child birth was pretty common. I know that if I had been having my Cammie in 1883 we'd both be dead and the obstetrician that helped us out during the birth told me afterwards that if we hadn't been in hospital we'd not have made it. (he got his shoulder caught behind my pubic bone in the birthing and NO amount of pushin' would have got my darlin' boy out). So, poor Mr Glenn in having to be a step dad. Back in 1883 he'd have been made in the shade. As for Karen's non submissiveness..were there no strong willed women on the frintier back in the olden days or were the all pretty much meek and mild? Strong women need a strong partner and he didn't seem to want to make that extra effort. LaVonne's insights and emails are fascinating. I thought there were more rules than there apparently truly were. Such an interesting experiment don't you all think?

-- Anonymous, May 19, 2002

The extra effort in this case allison woulda been brawling all the time. Not worth the trouble IMO.

-- Anonymous, May 19, 2002

SHOCKING BAD WORDS. I went to the 'link' to discussing cheating, and it wiped out my entire reply.

Some thoughts that I will try and resurrect about the time and what I remember from some of my history classes on the westward expansion.

Men frequently abandoned wives & children and simply moved on on the frontier. When then squatted down at the latest boom town, they often took up with an available woman there (that usually meant a prostitute) and 'married' her (church sanction questionable), had a few more kids, and moved on again.

Women wore a whole lot different clothes than are usually imagined today. I was tickled to see the young girl come out waving her corset and saying that she wasn't going to wear THAT anymore. Photos from the time period show pioneer women who clearly have not had acquaintance with stays in many a year of chopping wood, hauling water, pulling a plow, or planting crops. The many prostitutes of the frontier were photographed at the time in (or out of) garb that would probably shock a lot of folks. Those froofy/glitzy dancehall girl get-ups of 'Gunsmoke' which people said showed too much leg and cleavage? They showed ALL their leg (and then some) and went topless for a number of photographs that somehow don't seem to be featured in history books very often. (college history courses are MUCH more fun than high school ones!)

Hooch -- going blind may have been one of the more benign side effects. Rotgut -- rightly named -- was often spiked with all kinds of things, including tabasco and rattlesnake heads, to increase the 'kick'. Poisonings were frequent, altho it is hard to ascertain exactly WHAT in the concoction killed them. I am not certain, but since Montana was not a state until 1889, I believe in this timeframe that it was still part of the Indian Territories? Law was kind of spotty & lax there -- it was where people fled to when avoiding the law over some silly law about not shooting other people, or avoiding their in-laws, and/or creditors. I don't think that a still would be out of place.

Submissive women -- well, some of them were. Some of them also dressed as men and fought on the battle lines in the Civil War. The women who went west as prostitutes were pretty independant minded as well. An interesting book for anyone curious about frontier life for women might want to check out 'Wisconsin Death Trap' as to what it was like for them (a high percentage went insane, a higher percentage died). Also try 'Uppity Women of The New World', by Vicki Leon.

"HUNTER's PILLS, Injection Powders, and Cerate!!!--These long established preparations have met with a very extensive sale in this city and state and throughout the Union. They were prepared by the late Dr. CONWAY for above fifteen years, and administered with unrivalled success during that period. The Pills, when used with the Injection Powders and Cerate, (when the latter are required) effect a thorough and rapid cure of the Syphillic Disorder, from the slightest infection, to the most inflamatory stages, and of every other species of the disease. The timely administration of these Pills has saved thousands of unhappy sufferers from all those calamities incident to the disorder, when by neglect it is suffered to become deeply rooted in the constitution. A remarkable case has recently come to the knowledge of the proprietor, of a person who after he had been given over as incurable by his physician, was raised up as it were from the very borders of the grave."

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2002

Thanks, Julie for the references to other books on the subject. It IS important to hear from some real womens' voices who were actually THERE, so see how things were. It's so easy for we human beings to judge the behaviour of folks from different backgrounds, eras, etc, based on our own personal and/or current values. I'm off in search of those books.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2002

Julie, where on earth did you get "Wisconsin Death Trap"? I can't find it in Amazon or the local library system (which searches all of South Central Wisconsin libraries). You'd think that if anyone had it, the libraries of Wisconsin would! Is that the correct name?

There was a stagecoach driver, Charlie Parkhurst, known as one of the best in the business (fast and safe, and robbers were afraid to take him on after the first two to try it were shot dead on the spot). Eventually retired to a small cabin to raise cattle and haul freight for neighbors. Upon death, neighbors who came to prepare the body for burial were astounded to discover that "Charlie" was female, and a doctor who was summoned to examine the body confirmed that "Charlie" had had a child. I read about Charlotte "Charlie" Parkhurst a number of years ago. Here is a good link to read about it: LINK

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2002

Joy, Amazon seems to have a glitch in their search system with this book; happened to me too. If you do a book search for that title a screen comes up that says at the top: "We were unable to find....", but if you scroll down a little ways it says "close matches for this search" and the book comes up first.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2002

Wisconsin Death Trap, by Michael Lesy. I haven't seen a copy in some years now, it was quite the hot ticket when I was in college and creating quite a stir in the historical circles for a very different presentation of history than previously. Used to see it on the main floor at the University Bookstore in Madison, but I haven't been in there in just years to know if they still carry it.

Found it for sale on-line tho -- st=sl&ac=sl&qi=5.uRt2GYFf56bgajIDa4Icr5.u5RE8a4:0:0

I like all of the 'Uppity Women' books. They are very amusingly recounted, fun reading, and relate history made by women that they never taught us in school. Queens, explorers, businesswomen, Popes (yes, one of the Popes was a woman -- they didn't take it well when she got pregnant), warriors, spies, scientists -- they did a lot more than 'the hand that rocks the cradle'. Makes you want to rethink what constitutes a 'traditional role'.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2002

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