This week the Bulloch County Historical Society, in partnership with the Averitt Center for the Arts, hosted its annual “Ol’ Scarecrow Statesboro Medicine Show” for third-grade students in Bulloch County’s public and private elementary schools.
For 14 years, local puppeteers have used various forms of puppetry, plus slapstick comedy and music, to tell the unique history of Bulloch County through the fictional characters of Russell Scarecrow and his crow pal, Jim. The pair encounter Mrs. Franklin, a teacher who has brought her students on a field trip to Scarecrow’s magical ‘Ol Statesboro Medicine Show cart for a history scavenger hunt. From the Pangea supercontinent to the Georgia Southern Eagles, the pair travel through time and welcome dinosaurs, Guale Indian Medicine Man Tumaque, Chief Tomochichi, General James Oglethorpe, Hernando DeSoto, Eleanor Roosevelt, Blind Willie McTell, Emma Kelly, Erk Russell, and even Freedom the Eagle, to tell their real stories and their historical connections to Bulloch County.
While some of these names and their connection to Bulloch County might be quite familiar, you may not have known that Bulloch County’s namesake, Archibald Bulloch, is the great, great grandfather of Eleanor Roosevelt. Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, Bulloch’s great-granddaughter, was the mother of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and the paternal grandmother of Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms of office.
The “Ol’ Scarecrow Statesboro Medicine Show” is an excellent example of a live theater production and is set on the main stage of the Averitt Center for the Arts’ historic Emma Kelly Theater. Students and their teachers attended one of four performances on September 22-23, at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. The BCHS provides the learning experience annually at no cost to schools, and they provide each school a stipend to cover bus transportation to and from the event.
Each child who attends also receives a free copy of a locally illustrated coloring book of the puppet show’s characters entitled, “A Colorful Tale: History of Bulloch County,” and a pack of crayons. This is underwritten through a grant by the local Jack N. and Addie D. Averitt Foundation. BCHS also provides teachers with supplemental teaching resources to further help them provide lessons about local history. The show helps teach lessons within Georgia’s Math, Science, Social Studies, English Language Arts, and Reading standards.
The “Ol’ Scarecrow Statesboro Medicine Show” premiered at the Averitt Center for the Arts in fall 2012. It was written by local author Kathy Bradley and created by Scott Foxx, a talented artist and puppeteer, who at the time was a Master of Fine Arts candidate at Georgia Southern University’s Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art. It was funded by a grant from the Bulloch County Historical Society and produced exclusively for the Averitt Center for the Arts.
“It is our desire to use it as a learning experience for children in Bulloch County,” said Virginia Anne Franklin Waters, local historian and president of the BCHS, who helps coordinate the show annually.
The show received the 2014 Roger K. Warlick Local History Achievement Award from the Georgia Historical Society. The Warlick Awards recognize outstanding achievement in the field of public history by Affiliate Chapters of the Georgia Historical Society.