by Steven Dugan
Our Volunteer Spotlight this month celebrates Ruth Green, who has the distinction of being the longest-serving volunteer at the Homestead. Ruth took part in the museum’s first docent training class in 1982 (the museum opened in May of 1981). In her almost 36 years of service, she has volunteered over 4,100 hours, mostly as a docent for public tours and school programs. Today, Ruth remains active as a special event volunteer, sharing her knowledge and love of history with visitors of all ages. Here are some reflections on her years of service.
Where does your love of history come from?
When I was in high school, my favorite subject was history. Since I lived near Philadelphia, I was surrounded by historical sites such as Independence Hall, Betsy Ross’ House, and Valley Forge. History was all around me. Just before my senior year in high school, my family moved to California. The first place we lived in was Covina, coincidentally between Workman and Rowland Avenues (named after William Workman and John Rowland). I had no idea that they were pioneers of this area. I might have learned about them, but strangely enough, I was not required to take a California History class since I had already satisfied the state history requirement in Pennsylvania.
What inspired you to become a volunteer?
For me, it was as easy as reading a story in the paper that the museum needed docents. I called the Homestead to arrange an interview and fill out the application. One of the interesting things about being in that first docent training class is that we were learning along with the paid staff. In that first training class, docent training consisted of twenty classes!
As our longest-serving volunteer staff member, what have been some of your favorite experiences?
I always loved giving tours and getting to know our visitors. My favorite tour technique was asking questions of our visitors to get them involved in a tour. One item on the tour that spoke to me however, was the family photo in the Living Room of La Casa Nueva. The Temple family is decked out in their “Sunday clothes,” with Agnes, the Temple’s daughter, wearing a lovely dress and a huge bow in her hair. Whenever I showed visitors this photo, I suggested the bow in Agnes’ hair must have been very popular. The photo reminded me of a story growing up. My sister would always wear bows in her hair and some of them were very large, much like Agnes’ bow. When our mother was still alive, she would always comment that my sister always had the bigger bow in her hair—and she did! That photo of the Temples always reminds me of that story.
When you’re not giving your time at the Homestead, what are some of your other hobbies?
My most favorite hobby is traveling. This past year, my husband and I went to Japan. We were amazed how clean the country was—there was no litter anywhere! My other “big” hobby is genealogy. My genealogy ritual includes taking photographs of the tombstones of my relatives. Bob [Ruth’s husband] and I have traveled across the country for the last eight years, going to as many cemeteries (commercial and local) as we can find in search of my relatives. One of the unexpected joys of our travels is that we have met so many interesting people on our trips. Some of them even knew the relatives we are searching for! We also research the area where we are traveling; looking for any other points of interest we might want to visit. Our trips have taken us to most of the presidential libraries and state capitol buildings. Next year, we plan on taking a trip to Alaska; which will complete our goal of visiting every state in the union.