GREENFORD Family brings Civil War history to life

The family shared memorabilia with middle school pupils.
GREENFORD -- A group of children sat attentively in the gymnasium at South Range Middle School, waiting for sixth-grade social studies teacher Michael Sobota to take them back in time.
With a rifle at his side and draped in traditional Civil War attire, Sobota transformed his identity and demanded the pupils' attention.
"I am Pvt. Mike Sobota," he said Thursday. "I joined the Union Army because of the Southerner's dream and that terrible institution of slavery."
Pupils at the middle school, located at 7600 W. South Range Road, got to see and touch memorabilia from the time period at the Civil War Living History Program. The school's gymnasium was converted into a historical museum for the event.
"This is what I call making history come alive," Sobota said. "If they actually see and experience history, it's not going to die with them."
The event was organized by Sobota and his father-in-law, Ron Kyser. Other family members participating in the event were Kyser's wife, Loretta, Sobota's two daughters and his wife, Laurel, a substitute teacher at the school.
In booths
Kyser and family own the memorabilia, which was displayed at a series of booths. The booths contained authentic Civil War material and some materials bought from war re-enactments throughout the country.
One booth displayed traditional dresses from the era, while another booth held pistols, swords, gun holsters and ammunition.
Yet another booth displayed 19th-century children's games.
But Sobota wasn't the only family member who got dressed up for the occasion. At each booth awaited a family member with a Civil War persona.
Loretta Kyser wore a long, flowered day dress. She portrayed a lady of wealth who wasn't overwhelmingly affected by the war.
The booth displayed dozens of dresses that were bought at war re-enactment shows, Loretta said. The dresses cost anywhere from $50 to $300.
She and her family attend about a dozen re-enactment shows a year, which allows her and her family to maintain authenticity of the school display, she said.
Fifth-grader Laura Reed said the dress display was her favorite part of the exhibit.
"I would like to wear a dress," Laura said. "Well, maybe once, but not all the time."
Kyser would not reveal how much his weapon's collection is worth but said he will hesitantly sell off his memorabilia to put his granddaughters through college.
"It's like selling one of your children," he said. "You just can't do it."