It was a packed, cramped room on the night of Sept. 8 at the Stonehenge Memorial in the Maryhill State Park, as people gathered for an engaging and insightful presentation on World War I from state park ranger Mark Harris.
Harris began giving this Saturday night presentation earlier this year, after the Goldendale Observatory operation was moved to the Stonehenge Campus during renovations. Stonehenge, a full-scale replica modeled after the original in England, is a memorial commissioned in 1918 to honor the 14 soldiers from Klickitat County who died in World War I.
“With the 100-year anniversary of the armistice coming in November, my bosses thought it would be a good idea to do this to tie things in,” said Harris. “They know that I do living history when I can, and I enjoy talking about the era that I’m passionate about.”
A self-proclaimed “history junkie,” he was a fan of CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite growing up and loved the way he delivered the news. And it certainly didn’t hurt that his father was a United States history teacher, either.
Harris is dressed in full uniform with a litany of accessories while delivering his presentation, all of which he was able to find on the internet.
Perhaps the biggest treat of the night came at the end of the presentation, when Harris channeled his Scottish and Welsh ancestry — accent and all — to reenact a soldier’s war experience, from first hearing about the war, to getting shot, to dealing with the affect the war had on him back home.
That included the famous Christmas truce of 1914, where ceasefires occurred along the Western Front as soldiers on both sides mingled together, singing Christmas carols, playing soccer and exchanging food, drinks and in some cases even prisoners.
But Harris also reminds the crowd that the war resumed the very next day, that the good times didn’t last.
Harris hopes his presentation helps people better understand this time in history and to tie it in with what’s presently happening around the globe in 2018. “With all of the stuff going on in the world today, a lot of it started back then,” Harris said.
There will be one more free presentation Sept. 29 at 6 p.m.