Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bathing at the Buckstaff

Recently we had our bath and massage—part of our training as Interpretation volunteers at Hot Springs National Park. I didn’t get anything out of my only previous experience with a hot tub and I have never liked someone even massaging my shoulders. So I really wasn’t looking forward to a traditional bath and certainly not to a massage. For 175 years men and women have been coming to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for the baths, usually as a form of medical treatment, more recently as a form of relaxation. I found the experience better than I anticipated (or, at least, not as bad as I expected). It was relaxing and comfortable. But I am relaxed. I decided I prefer the physical sensations of running, weight training and hiking to a relaxing whirlpool bath, hot packs, steam cabinet and massage. The massage was not as uncomfortable or to be avoided at all costs as I had imagined. But, unless I’ve injured myself, pulled muscles or over-worked, it’s not to be sought.

In April Hot Springs National Park celebrated its 175th anniversary. In 1832 the springs were set aside (reserved) for the use of the people of the United States by a resolution of congress signed by President Andrew Jackson. The area was called a Reservation until 1921, when it was became a National Park. The celebration of the anniversary included festivities on April 20-21 with an actor portraying President Jackson, dignitaries and dancers from the City of Hot Springs’ sister city, Hanamaki, Japan, special concerts and art shows, and various governmental workshops in the bathhouses that are being stabilized on Bathhouse Row.

The following weekend there was a Walk Through History--living history presentations on various aspects of the history of Hot Springs National Park. I had never attended such a living history presentation and wasn’t very interested. But I did go to two talks—one concerning the depression-era program to house and treat indigent syphilis patients and another about conditions here during the Civil War. Both were excellent. If I ever have the chance to attend a similar event elsewhere, I will take advantage of it. Re-enactors add so much life to history.

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