Last week I attended a program in Gettysburg, PA offered by Roads Scholar. They offer “educational adventures” combining tourist type activities with educational sessions so that you really learn a lot about the area you are visiting. This program was a tour of Gettysburg and Antietam Battlefields and Harpers Ferry.
Having attended Dickinson College in Carlisle PA just up the road and being a History major, Gettysburg has always held a special place in my heart. I joined my Aunt and Uncle who drove from Wisconsin to attend the program. On our first night we had a visit from Abe Lincoln (Jim Getty) and he even had time to pose for a photo op with my family and me.
Each day we had an educational session with a local expert, and then visited the location to bring the information to life. Our Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide was absolutely wonderful. His name was Ted Gajewski, and he is a 30 year retired steel mill worker from Pittsburgh PA. Not what I would have imagined when it comes to a Civil War expert but his depth of knowledge was truly impressive. His stories and presentations really brought history alive for us.
When Ted was 10 years old, his parents took him to visit Gettysburg National Military Park and he decided then and there that he was going to be a battlefield guide one day. He never gave up on his dream, over the years while working in the steel mill he read everything he could get his hands on about the battle and the Civil War. When he retired he moved his family to Gettysburg to pursue his dream of being a guide. He had to wait for awhile until the National Park Service needed more guides and offered the test, but his opportunity finally came and he was ready.
Ted’s passion for the subject was contagious and his love for what he was doing incredibly powerful. I found myself thinking that he was lucky to be living his dream, but as I reflected on my time with Ted, I realized that luck really had nothing to do with it.
Ted is a wonderful example of creating your own luck. He could have waited until he retired and moved to Gettysburg to start acquiring his tremendous knowledge base, but he would not have been ready when the Park Service decided to test for new guides. Maybe over the last 30 years people who met Ted thought he was silly for spending his time and money building his library of over 2500 books about the Civil War and the battle at Gettysburg, but ten minutes with Ted on the battlefield would silence any critics. He is in his element there and he loves what he does. As he says, even though he leads tours 4-5 days a week, he hasn’t worked a day since he retired.
We should all be as “lucky” as Ted.
PS: This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. If you are planning a trip to Gettysburg, I would be happy share Ted’s contact information with you. He will really help to create a one of a kind experience for you.