It’s the one question our interpreters say they get asked the most this time of year, “How can you stand working in this heat?” It turns out they have a few tricks up their sleeves (and in their salt glazed mugs!)
Master Blacksmith Ken Schwarz told us back in October that he drinks at least a gallon of water a day in the summer. And while most of us reach for a cup of coffee during our morning commute, he starts his off right with a little H2O.
Brickmaker Josh Graml’s secret for beating the heat is drinking pickle juice. In fact, if you ask around, you’ll discover he’s sort of notorious for it. He tells me he keeps a jar or two in the break area and will pour it into his mug on hot days to keep from cramping up. He joked with us that it also keeps his coworkers from drinking out of his mug! And of course, all the apprentices and journeymen know one of the best tricks to keeping cool is treading clay out at the brickyard.
Historic Gardeners Emily Nelson and Jen Mrva also shared a few tricks of the trade. They showed us how they dip their caps in the water cistern before tying them back on their heads for an instant cooldown.
And to make their water a little more refreshing, Jen tells me they like to add a couple of 18th-century syrups to their mugs. When we stopped by the garden, they were mixing in a few drops of their lavender concoction. The duo has also been known to cut up watermelons and take the slices to the other trade sites on especially brutal days!
Arthur Johnson says covering up with lightweight, breathable materials like linen is actually the best way to stay cool—including long pants and long-sleeve shirts. In true 18th-century fashion, he also recommends a straw hat to keep the sun off your face. Basketmaker Kristy Engel agrees that clothing plays a big role in staying cool. She tells me the wool petticoats have long since moved to the back of her closet. Summer means lightweight jackets and sometimes even working in her stays.
Amanda Doggett (Apprentice Joiner) says when she used to work at the Market House and help with our live auctions , the key was to “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!” She also admitted it wasn’t uncommon for her to swipe some ice from the barrels that hold cold beverages—and put it in her cap or stays… and sometimes even down someone else’s back.
Now, a little advice (and humor) from our very own James Madison about how our actor interpreters endure these 100+ degree days in the Colonial Capital.
Here are some other pictures of our colleagues proving the show must go on, 365 days a year, no matter the temperature. A special thanks to Colonial Williamsburg Ambassadors (and friends of the Making History team), Fred Blystone, Arden Billings, and Jerry Shell for adding their pictures to our photo slideshow!
Do you have any interesting tricks to stay cool during the intense Virginia heat and humidity? Leave them in a comment below or just drop a message of support to our interpreters!