By Rebecca Gaunt
The Elf on a Shelf was conceived in Acworth, the mass production of candy canes began in Albany, and a family of German immigrants in 1850s Elberton is believed to have introduced the Christmas tree tradition to Georgia.
That’s not all for interesting local Christmas facts, according to Kennesaw resident and historian Andrew Bramlett, who recently did a lunch-and-learn lecture for the Georgia Archives on Christmas traditions and customs around the world.
General William T. Sherman presented the city of Savannah as a Christmas gift to President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, Atlanta’s Fox Theatre opened Christmas Day in 1929, and the Atlanta downtown Rich’s started the Great Tree tradition in 1948, followed a few years later by the beloved, and recently retired, Pink Pig ride.
As for Andrew’s favorite local tradition – he loves the Christmas parade. He has even been a float judge once and the grand marshall twice.
“In Kennesaw, it’s always fun seeing the parade. People really seem to enjoy that. It’s always nice to see the floats and what people do to celebrate the season,” he said.
Andrew, who will turn 16 later this month, might look familiar to anyone who has an interest in local history. In addition to regular speaking engagements, for which his 14-year-old brother Daniel provides tech support, he leads tours in downtown Kennesaw, the Kennesaw City Cemetery, and at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. And while he’s passionate about local history, his Facebook page Archive of the Past demonstrates that his interests are far-reaching. Earlier this year he started volunteering at KSU’s Museums, Archives and Rare Books department.
“During the summer, I worked with the rare books side, just researching some of the books. I created a digital exhibit,” he said. More recently, he inventoried 600 antique tools for KSU.
He serves as the vice president of the Kennesaw Historical Society and as an honorary member of the Cemetery Preservation Commission. He’s also the social media administrator for Friends of Kennesaw Mountain.
The COVID-19 pandemic put his speaking engagements and tour guiding on hold in 2020, so he turned his focus to making daily 3-5 minute educational videos. He created 408 videos as a result, including two series called Overlooked History of Georgia and America’s Forgotten National Parks.
Andrew keeps up with current events, too. He regularly attends Kennesaw City Council meetings, with the agenda pulled up on his tablet. If, say, a reporter were to hypothetically miss something that was said, he can likely be counted on to fill in the blanks. Mayor Derek Easterling sometimes calls on Andrew to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Joe Bozeman, a lifelong Kennesaw resident who also attends, likes to joke to the mayor that Andrew is coming for his job.
“It’s nice to see what’s happening in real-time,” Andrew said.
Andrew, for his part, did have a clock on his computer at one time counting down until he was eligible for office, but studying history at the University of Georgia or Kennesaw State University has moved to the forefront of his plans.
Daniel, on the other hand, prefers to stay behind the scenes. Math and computer programming are more his speed. Rather than public speaking, he enjoys the puzzle of figuring out what equipment Andrew needs for his presentations and putting it all together. He also enjoys collecting postcards with his dad, and volunteering at Kennesaw Mountain and big events put on by the Kennesaw Parks and Recreation department.
So that the boys can focus on their interests, they are homeschooled by their father.
“When the boys were young, we made the decision to homeschool because we wanted to give them the best opportunities to move ahead in the areas in which they excelled. We also wanted to be able to expand their extracurricular activities and possible volunteer efforts in the community,” Lewis Bramlett said.
Andrew can trace his love of history back to when he was very young, starting with Ancient Rome and Greece. When he wasn’t watching “Thomas & Friends” – an appropriate start for someone so interested in the history of town with a significant locomotive history – he watched History Channel documentaries with his dad. His love of public speaking may have been sparked by watching Lewis do presentations for the Stanly County History Center in North Carolina.
“It’s just always sort of been there,” he said of his inquisitiveness.
Naturally, one of his favorite stories to share as a tour guide is that of the 1862 Great Locomotive Chase, when Union Army soldiers and sympathizers commandeered the General, a steam locomotive, and were pursued by Confederate forces. The General is on display at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw.
In 2018, he won a Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council award for local history advocacy.
This season, Andrew looks forward to watching his favorite holiday films “Christmas Vacation” and “Die Hard.” (Yes. “Die Hard.” History will eventually show he’s on the correct side of that particular modern online debate). Daniel’s highlight is the pumpkin pie.
Andrew’s videos and speaking schedule can be found on his website.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.