Saturday, July 30, 2011

Singer Castle: Through the Eyes of a Tour Guide

Pictured: Griff Stark-Ennis, author of this post.
(Click on photo to see it larger.)

This past Monday, as I rode the staff boat across the St. Lawrence River from Chippewa Bay to Dark Island, I glanced up as I drew nearer to my work destination. There Singer Castle sat gloomy and enigmatic against the distant Canadian landscape, draped in a summer’s heavy rain. I found myself wondering how I came to be a tour guide there. How is it that this historical and mysterious castle became my summer job and what exactly makes it special to me?

Last summer after attending college orientation in Boston I received a call from Singer Castle on Dark Island Tours explaining that they were seeking to fill a position at the castle. Like any other soon-to-be college kid, I was in great need of spending money so needless to say I accepted the position. I soon found myself memorizing hundreds of historical facts and stories preparing for my first tour, one that every “newbie” dreads. Now, I can proudly say that I have a well-structured, informative and – in my opinion – fun tour, one that took many days of practice and embarrassment to perfect.

One may think that giving tours day after day would get monotonous, but the truth is I find myself learning new things every day. Whether our historian finds something new for us to include in our tours, or if I, myself, come across some small but important castle detail, I am constantly learning, discovering and adding. But what about Singer Castle inspired me?

Singer Castle in itself represents something that every young American, like me, is striving to achieve: the “American Dream.” Frederick Bourne, the original owner of the castle, worked his way up from choirboy to president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company making him one of the wealthiest men in the world at that time. The castle stands as both historical and modern proof of what persistence mixed with big dreaming can bring one in life.

I consider myself very lucky for two reasons, the first being that I am fortunate enough to have a summer job in a time when many teenagers in the United States are left seasonably unemployed. The second reason is also the greatest reason I look forward in coming to Singer Castle every morning…and that’s the fact that I actually enjoy my work! I am on a beautiful river all day inside an equally as beautiful castle, working with students – both high school and college – who share many of the same aspirations as I.

Behind the walls of Singer Castle lies an eclectic and diverse sort of family, who together aim to educate people from all over the world about the great history that these very walls have witnessed. History is very much intertwined with the present, however, and I myself am becoming a part of Singer Castle’s historic greatness every day I am there. Like Mr. Bourne, the castle employees and I are seeking to better ourselves through teaching others and working hard. Stepping back into history to change the future? Sounds like an all right summer job to me.

This post received direct from Dark Island. Authored by the talented tour guide: Griff Stark-Ennis.