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Elixirs enchant event-goers at medicine show (video)

By Carolina Astrain
Nov. 10, 2013 at 5:10 a.m.
Updated Nov. 11, 2013 at 5:11 a.m.

Joe Walker, aka Ban-Joe, right center, holds up a "Dr. E.T. Bushrod's Wonder Oil: The Only Medicine that Will Cure All Curable Disease of the Human System" bottle during the end of the Historical Medicine Show.

HALLETTSVILLE - From wonder oils to sarsaparilla - Dr. E.T. Bushrod's Old-Time Medicine Show had it all.

Dennis Riedesel, retired University of Houston-Victoria education professor, wore a bright red vest and a feather in his hat for the re-enactment show Sunday at the Hallettsville Cultural Events Center.

"This is as authentic as we can make it," Riedesel, 65, said. "Everything has to be accurate."

Trash can lids clanged together as the sound of Americana folk music played by the Tanner Family Minstrels in the background.

The crowd laughed at the actor's old-time jokes and miracle elixir testimonials.

The medicine show, put together by a group of professional re-enactors from across the state, has been going on for the past 25 years, Riedesel said.

Riedesel, who has an undergraduate minor in history, said he had no sense of a timeline for past events until he started re-enacting.

"This is showing history in a more practical format than just purely academic," Riedesel said. "I always kid with history professors by telling them that their books will be better after they get into the living history hobby."

Riedesel would know.

He wrote a book called, "Isaac Hamilton: Surviving Amidst the Texas Revolution."

Leading the show was University of Houston-Downtown American history professor James M. McCaffrey.

McCaffrey led the show from a lectern made of boxes, topped with glass bottles of miracle elixirs.

McCaffrey invited members of the audience to join him on stage to read some of the jokes.

The Hallettsville Cultural Events Center has received $18,000 this year from the city's hotel-motel tax funds to put on events like the medicine show, said Nancy Braus, one of the coordinators.

"We're trying to do more cultural things that will bring people back in time," Braus said. "There are no paper plates here; nothing gets thrown away. It's all used and reused again."

Joslyn Williams, 30, of Hallettsville, was at the show watching Riedesel, one of her professors at UHV this year, in action. Although Riedesel is retired, he is teaching as an adjunct professor this year at UHV.

A big smile spread across Williams' face during one of the comedic sets.

"In a way, he's not much different here than what he's like in class," Williams said. "He fits his character pretty good."



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