Laurel Hill Cemetery – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO

[Gwen Kaminski] You know, if you think the views from along the Schuylkill are pretty fantastic, you should see them from Laurel Hill Cemetery. I’m Gwen Kaminski, and I run the programs at Laurel Hill. I’m sort of like the social director for the cemetery. Now, our great vistas are for a reason. Before we were founded in 1836, burial grounds were dark and dank places. But our founders had another vision. They wanted Laurel Hill to be a garden of light, that celebrated life, and that welcomed people of all faiths. [David Horowitz] Well…not all faiths. I’m David Horwitz, a history professor. And despite the founders’ good intentions, Catholics and Jews were not welcome here in the early years, and blacks were not welcome here until the 1960s. Today, Laurel Hill is much more democratic. The famous are here. The not-so-famous. One of the most famous is General George Gordon Meade, who won the Battle of Gettysburg, and prevented General Lee from attacking Philadelphia. Meade’s monument is just a simple white marble headstone, with his birth dates, his death dates, and nothing more. And just across from where I’m going to be buried is a large granite microphone, commemorating a modern-day Philadelphia legend. (Voice of Harry Kalas) “The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of Baseball!” [Horowitz] The man under the microphone monument is Harry Kalas, the broadcaster who gave generations of Philadelphia fans high hopes. [Sound of train] [Bill Doran] That sound you hear is not a squeaking ghost. That’s the sound of the train passing by. I know that’s not a ghost, because I’ve been here since 1985. I’m Bill Doran, the superintendent. I take care of the grounds. People ask me if I’ve ever been spooked by ghosts, I say “no!” No, it’s not the dead you need to worry about, it’s the living. Well, I have seen sunbathers, I have seen people dancing, I have seen a lot of romance. I used to make monuments. And some of the most touching monuments are the cradles that you can see all around the cemetery. They signified babies, and small children, and they were all made different sizes depending on the age of the children. And of course the families come out every weekend, and planted flowers in the cradles, and that represented, what they planted represented the loss of their child. [Child’s voice] Four! [John Madsen] I’m John Madsen, and that’s my seven-year-old grandson, Tony. And he has been chasing Wiffle golf balls around Laurel Hill since he was three years old. But now he says he chases other things around the tombstones. [Tony Madsen] Ghosts. I chase ghosts. And I’m not afraid of dumb ghosts! [Madsen] I hope not! Because after I buried my father here, I decided this is where I was going to be. I’m an ex-Navy guy, and while Tony runs among the tombstones, I mark the grave sites of veterans with small American flags. One by one, all year along. Hey Tony! Find anyone interesting? [Kaminski] We have lots of interesting people here. In addition to our seventy-five thousand permanent residents, people come here to ride their bikes, take tours, walk their dogs, paint, photograph, picnic, and simply enjoy living.

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