Period Pieces

Kentucky couple make items
for re-enactors, collectors of guns, etc.

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

MT. WASHINGTON, Ky. (November 2002) – Cathy Elfgen had to learn to love history. The ironic thing about this is that she became a living history interpreter, often traveling to rendezvous and setting up camp alone.
To Elfgen, history used to be only endless lists of meaningless names and dates until she realized that “it all fits together to bring us where we are today,” she said.
Elfgen and her husband, Joe, recently opened their own business at 120 Bardstown Rd, in Mt. Washington, Ky. The couple agrees that if they can’t personally make an item for a customer, they’ll find someone who can.

Cathy & Joe Elfgen

Cathy & Joe Elfgen

A native of Fern Creek, Ky., she previously had a similar store in Bardstown, Ky. She and her business partner then moved their business to Brown County, Ind. When her partner grew homesick for Kentucky, they dissolved the business and she moved to Mt. Washington four years ago.
Upon returning to Kentucky, Elfgen did not immediately reopen the business. But as she sat looking over the many pictures she had taken regarding her work one day, she realized just how much she missed it.
She said she knew then that this was what she should be doing, so when store space became available she opened Cantuckee Primitive Arts & Décor.
The store caters to pioneer and Civil War re-enactors, carries a variety of Native American items, black powder guns, knives, and related period articles.
Elfgen said her future goals include the addition of primitive furniture when more store space becomes available. She would also like to stock cowboy-related items, she said.
While her business was located in Bardstown, Elfgen worked with the county extension office on a program she took into the local schools. She would often set up a tepee inside a school building, and surround it with a complete Native American campsite.
Dressed in Native American attire, Elfgen said she would teach children the importance of treating the Earth with respect. She researched the stories she told the schoolchildren, authenticity an important part of each presentation.
Elfgen and her husband continue to educate interested clientele by teaching seminars for those wishing to learn certain aspects of period life, such as how to tan a deer hide.
The couple are believers in self-education. “You have to educate yourself first,” said Elfgen, before teaching others about period lifestyles.
Joe, who has native Cherokee Indian ancestors, said he spent time with a Hopi elder learning all he could about the Hopi tribe.
This opportunity provided him with a glimpse into the Native American culture that most people are not able to experience.

• For more information, call (502) 538-4749.

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