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Pioneer kids

Gun Blodgett's pioneer day camp at Luscher Farm gives a children a chance to still be children
by: vern uyetake Tess Kloster of Lake Oswego hangs laundry on a clothesline like the pioneers used to do.

No guns, gadgets, screens, keyboards or video games were available at Gun Blodgett's Children's Pioneer Days camp at Luscher Farm recently.

Instead, little girls made dolls out of ears of corn and cloth, made old-fashioned lemonade, apple butter and thumbprint cookies, and played with simple toys like tops and wiggly gigs.

They walked with chickens and played tug-of-war. No electronics were in sight.

'I wanted to inspire them to entertain themselves,' Blodgett said.

She succeeded greatly.

'If you give them ideas, they can certainly do it,' Blodgett said. 'They appreciate the past, then they have fun.'

As a former Lucia Queen of Light, the Swedish native and long-time Lake Oswego resident is the just the right person to inspire children with the pioneer spirit.

'I'm sort of a pioneer myself,' Blodgett said, and she is quite right. Just like a typical pioneer kid of the past, she grew up on a farm in Sweden and was given responsibility at an early age. As a teenager she came to the U.S., leaving behind her country, language, family and friends. 'I left everything,' Blodgett said.

She was a preschool teacher for many years, and she still teaches today, overcoming her chronically painful back with her love of children and teaching. Especially at Luscher Farm.

She flashes a big smile while saying, 'I love the kids, I love the outdoors, I love the farm.'

Blodgett instantly intrigued the children at Luscher with her double table of 'props' - knitting, blackboards, a washboard, bonnets, aprons, a coffee pot, and a coffee grinder once used by her own grandmother - she has collected over the years.

Once the kids get a load of that, they are pumped for all of the other fun stuff: Chickens, the barn, berries, corn, pear trees, etc. They discovered that the good old days were really good.

'Pioneer families couldn't go to the store all the time,' Blodgett said. 'Wood had to be chopped, kerosene lamps lighted, stoves started, cows milked and eggs collected.

'Kids like realizing how important kids were back in those days. Today, kids can get by with doing very little. Parents set a timer for kids to go outside and play. They should want to be out.

'Here kids can learn things and it's fun. They can use all five of their senses. If something is hands-on, they will learn. It's just natural.'

Teamwork is perhaps Blodgett's biggest lesson, like in the old-fashioned sack race and the tug-of-war.

Some day, Blodgett will finally retire from teaching. But she is still enjoying it too much to quit. Besides, she is performing an important service to society.

'Children can still be children,' she said. 'It makes me really happy to see kids having fun and being carefree, and they learn how to problem solve.'

But Blodgett foresees a future dilemma.

'What will happen when we don't have people to help kids look back and learn?' she asked. 'It's going to be a big gap.'