The old Fort Defiance tourist trap at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is shown in this 1972 photograph provided by Mike Waricher. In the summer of 1968, my parents took my sister and me to Gettysburg for our first overnight trip to Pennsylvania (little did I know then I would be living in the Keystone State as an adult and writing books on Gettysburg!). I remember that trip with fondness! My sister Peggy and I enjoyed riding through the tunnels, and we stayed in a TraveLodge in Chambersburg. The following morning, we drove eastward on Route 30 to Gettysburg, and I will never forget the mystical experience of seeing the first monuments peering through the morning fog! I think that was the moment that I knew I was hooked.
After touring the fort, my parents bought me a boxed set of Wm. Britains “Eyes Right” Swoppets 54mm Civil War figures (the Union set), with IIRC eight or so plastic figures with moveable arms, heads and waists. The body parts could readily be swapped between figures, adding variety for those hundreds of mock battles I later played in the sandbox in my Dad’s orchard.
Unfortunately, after my Dad passed away and we were sorting through old family photographs, we never found any from this first ever Gettysburg trip. Apparently we either did not bring along a camera, or the photos did not turn out. I seem to recall vaguely that Mom did take pictures, but the camera was left in the car’s window and the summer heat took care of exposing the film.
I still have the soldiers from that long ago vacation, and they bring back memories of happy times. Many of the old warriors are now missing arms, heads, rifles, and backpacks, a tribute to the hours of play from when I was a child, and then when my two sons were little.
Do you remember visiting old Fort Defiance? It was disassembled in the 1980s IIRC and moved to Emmitsburg Road, where it was briefly reopened as part of the Slippy Dippin’ attraction (which did not last long at all; it had a waterslide and not much more according to locals). Now, the old Fort Defiance is in sad disarray and is badly deteriorated.
For photos of what Fort Defiance looks like as of March 2009, please visit here.