by Paige Eavenson

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to step back in time and see how life was lived before smart phones, iPads and front loading washing machines? A time when women actually hand washed everything from soap they milled themselves? Well if you’re feeling sorry for yourself and all those mounds of laundry you have to tackle, then I recommend a field trip to Cracker Country at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. Not only is it fun and educational, but it will certainly give you a little perspective.

Dipping candlesCracker Country is not a real “country” but rather a living museum with hands-on stations where you can step back in time into Florida’s history and see what it would have been like to be one of Florida’s first rural settlers. 

The first place we stopped was candle making. My kids helped dip their candles in hot wax followed by dipping them in water to cool and harden the wax. They were able to take their candles home as a souvenir.

We saw how pioneer moms made their own bar soap out of pig fat and lye. They used the soap to wash everything from dishes to laundry.  Washing boardThey first used a wash board with soap and water, and then in more “modern” times they used this plunger looking contraption in a wash basin to wash their clothes.  To put it mildly ladies, we have it made when it comes to doing laundry these days.

The kids experienced a little school in the one room school house followed by recess and playing with wooden toys like a Jacob’s ladder. You can purchase the toys along with several other treats in the Cracker Country General Store.

We closed out our tour by visiting the Carlton House where we learned how the Carlton’s and their 10 children lived and did life without all the modern conveniences we have today.

The kids had a great time and I walked away with a new appreciation for all I have and a huge desire to purge. They didn’t have much back in the early 1900s but there was something beautiful about the simplicity of their lives. If you too would like to step back in time and learn more about Florida’s history visit


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