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Hormel Historic Home: Youths on tour ask intriguing questions

For the next 4 weeks, Hormel Historic Home will be home base for 24 12- to 17-year-olds. They are participating in All Access Community Explorations because they have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This program is aptly named because the camp directors and staff strive to offer these youths access to the community so they can become contributing members within their community.

I was fortunate to give the participants a tour of the home when they first arrived. They asked insightful questions and made interesting comments. One boy was quite focused on figuring out how many generations of Hormels had actually lived in the house. In George's office we have an array of photographs that depict the family tree, so we talked about the fact that only two generations lived at this address, but at least two other generations of Hormels lived in Austin as well. He seemed satisfied with that explanation, and we moved on.

Another boy was very impressed with how well the woodwork has held up. He also thought the sconces on either side of the living room fireplace were beautifully preserved antiques. He found the idea of a button under the dining room table that could be pressed to summon servants would be a fabulous idea for homes of today. I am sure his mother would disagree!

When I asked the kids if they could guess why the front doors were so wide, I heard one answer that I had not heard before. A young girl suggested that the ladies of the time wore large "poufy" dresses that required extra large doors to pass through. Although I don't think Lillian's bustle was quite that wide, I thought the comment was very thoughtful. She also came upon the two pictures displayed on the living room wall of French women of the late 1800s wearing the "poufy" dresses she just spoke about. These pictures are reproductions of work by artist Heloise Leloir and published by LaMode Illustree and would have been typical décor for a home in the early 1900s. We are thankful to Sharon Hopfe-Guinta for donating them, and I am glad our young camp participant noticed them.

The 12 people staffing this camp are offering a great service to the kids and families involved. However, I am confident they also feel fortunate to be surrounded by such uniquely engaging youths.

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