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PUC Student Brings History to Life

Beth Whittemore
Having a wide variety of students at Pacific Union College means that they have some fairly unique interests. Isaac Hrimnak, from Placerville, California, is one of these students. Now a freshman, Hrimnak has what some would consider to be a split personality. Aside from being a normal Californian, he has also taken part in Civil War re-enacting for half of his life. As he says, his frock coat, forage cap, and red sash may be “140 years out of style,” but his uniform fits right in when he joins his friends for battles and tours of historic sites.

Hrimnak’s interest in history began when he was young. While his classmates were out playing soccer and baseball, Hrimnak stayed inside, absorbed in history books. At nine years old, he became interested in joining a Civil War re-enactment group, but was required to have a parent join as well. However, since his mother was a single parent at the time, she was too busy home-schooling his younger sister.

Hrimnak’s mother finally asked whether there was any way he could join the group and was told that the only position a child of his age could hold during the Civil War was that of a musician. The man in charge of the group bought Hrimnak an inexpensive fife and sent him on his way. With some coaching from his mother, who had played flute when she was younger, he learned a simple song and played it for the re-enactors a few weeks later. He doesn’t remember the experience very well, but he recently watched a video of himself at that age, and he comments, “I could not play the fife!” Nevertheless, he was accepted into the group with applause and was fitted with a child-sized uniform.

Although Hrimnak has outgrown the tiny uniform, he has never outgrown his hobby. He is now a member of the American Civil War Association and faithfully attends many of their events. He plays fife with a few friends and has even tried his hand at the drum. His hobby is so much a part of his life that he even wore his uniform in the college funnybook picture. When asked why he has such a strong interest in the Civil War, Hrimnak responds, “Most people don’t realize how influential and devastating the Civil War was. For me, by teaching someone about that history, I keep the memory of the Civil War soldiers and their conflict alive. Before the Civil War, people said ‘the United States are...’, but afterwards, they said ‘the United States is...’”

For now at least, Hrimnak does not fight at the re-enactments, but rather speaks to the public about the battles. One of his jobs is to answer the audience’s questions. A question someone once asked was, “Do you use real bullets in the battles?” When recounting the incident, he says jokingly, “Well, we used to, but when the ranks started thinning out, we decided it probably wasn’t a good idea.” He also explains the three stages of the battle--maneuvering into place, the battle itself, and the aftermath--and shows the audience the proper way to shield their ears from the noise of black powder guns and cannon. If the ears are plugged, the pressure build-up can be damaging.

Civil War re-enactment is not Hrimnak’s only interest. He is also a great connoisseur of historical airplanes. This is one reason why he is now an aviation major at PUC. Almost all of the requirements for his private pilot certificate are met, and he will be taking his oral and practical exam soon. Besides being one of the part time student workers at the Angwin airport, he also volunteers many hours maintaining the flight school’s fleet of training airplanes and fixing up the airport grounds. Hrimnak also loves drafting and architecture. In fact, last year he won first place in the El Dorado County Fair and California State Fair for an architectural plan and model of a Victorian cottage.

Hrimnak’s future plans, aside from possibly joining a World War II re enactment group, include finishing his aviation education at PUC and obtaining all the ratings and certifications needed to fly for an airline. He has yet to decide exactly what he wants to do, but if he’s living in the 1860’s, he has a few decades before airplanes are even invented!
Note: This is an archived article and does not necessarily represent current issues at Pacific Union College.