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Stephanie Salomon: Emergency Training and Living History

September 4th, 2009

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

Junior Stephanie Salomon (front of #7) competes in kayak race at STEP

Junior Stephanie Salomon began her summer canoeing, rappelling, and learning auto maintenance. She ended it by repairing period costumes and working as a living history cast member at Harper’s Ferry National Park. The first part of her summer involved participating in the Skills Training for Emergency Preparedness (STEP) program, an all-girls program at the International ALERT Academy in Texas. 

At STEP, Salomon learned how to work in a team while performing a particular set of adventure-based life skills like search and rescue, navigating with a compass, fishing, repairing a car, performing CPR, cooking and basic plumbing repairs. The “Emergency” in “Emergency Preparedness” covered everything from plumbing eruptions at home to volcanic eruptions abroad. And the girls executed about half of these activities while wearing skirts, which, according to the STEP website, “encourage the girls to remain feminine in an active lifestyle”—unless it simply isn’t practical, as, for instance, while rappelling off the side of a cliff.

A STEP instructor shows how to plot a course on a map

“It’s mostly about teamwork,” says Salomon. “When we actually began working together, it was pretty fun.”

After STEP, Salomon flew back to Virginia for what turned out to be an unexpected History major internship at Harper’s Ferry, located 20 miles from Patrick Henry College in West Virginia. The historic, picturesque town where John Brown launched his ill-fated assault on slavery is a popular destination for PHC students, who gather there for its beautiful hiking trails, pastoral study nooks, and phenomenal view of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. When another internship opportunity in Pennsylvania fell through after car problems in Texas, she turned her sights to West Virginia.

“I had also been accepted for a living history internship at Harper’s Ferry,” Salomon recounts. “I had applied twice before for this internship, but the timing didn’t work out. However, a paper I had written on the Ordinary Men, a book by Christopher Browning, caught the attention of one of the rangers. It covers the Order police in Germany, a topic which greatly interested him. And so he asked me to come anyway!”

Salomon at Harper's Ferry, in a dress she sewed herself

With a little scrambling and a helping hand from PHC’s Professor of Rhetoric, Dr. Jim Tallmon, Salomon found herself flying across the country and ensconced in a three-story Harper’s Ferry townhouse owned by one of Dr. Tallmon’s friends. Shortly after July 4 she began life as a living history matron of the Civil War, dividing her time manning a storefront in period costume and sewing in a little back room.

“For ‘Hospital Week,’ we prepared medical supplies, and then we baked bread with a wooden stove,” she reports with a laugh. “It was a new experience, so… the bottom crust on every loaf was maybe a little crispy.”

Salomon has enjoyed the slanting, brick-and-cobblestone avenues of Harper’s Ferry, with its working railroad, hiking trails, and the graceful converging rivers. While other interns dress for their jobs in tailored suits, Salomon dons a long, flowing dress she sewed herself. And in an emergency, she is ready for almost anything.

 Click on the one-minute video below to see Stephanie Salomon at her Harper's Ferry internship.