Saturday, August 12, 2000
To Build a Fire
We started the tour with Bob telling us that Pensacola is the oldest placed city in the United States, unlike St. Augustine which is the oldest continuous city in the United States, but both were started by the Spanish.
Pensacola is also the only city to fly under five flags, the Spanish, French, Brittish, Confederate and American, since the bay was very important strategically. Bob also stated that the waterfront has been expanded outward by all the ships dumping their ballast overboard when being loaded.
But our tour started with the oldest house in the Historical District—a simple box structure with a few windows owned by a freed slave woman in the late 1700s/early 1800s.
Next up was a facinating demonstration of fire building. In Florida, most of the cooking was done outside, it being way to hot to actually cook indoors for most of the year. One of the employees, dressed in period, demonstrated how they used to light fires. A patch of flax, a dry stringy material, is placed on a flat surface. On top a small piece of charred cloth is added. Then a rod of iron, curled at the ends would be placed across the top of the fingers and struck with flint. The sparks are caught by the charred cloth and the person would blow on it, catching the flax. Once the flax is burning, the bundle is then placed under the kindling of the cooking fire. The demonstration had a fire going in under two minutes, albeit with lots of smoke from the burning flax.