Friar tuckered

Man reenacts history, dressing up and walking from San Gabriel to San Fernando missions.

January 10, 2011|By Gretchen Meier,
(Cheryl Guerrero/Staff…)

Glenoaks Boulevard pedestrians don't typically attract much attention, but a man walking down the street Saturday wearing a friar's habit and a tonsure haircut sure did.

The tonsure, or "Friar Tuck" haircut was the final piece of Charlie Schroeder's historical reenactment this weekend, which garnered jokes about how cold his head was and tears from his wife.

"I walked in and she started crying from shock," Schroeder said. "And yes, she knows I'm crazy."

Schroeder's reenactment of an 18th century friar's walk between the San Gabriel Mission Arcángel to San Fernando Mission Rey de España, a distance of 26.7 miles, is the culmination of a year of research for his first book about the past 2,000 years of Western civilization.

The book, scheduled to come out in May 2012, has taken Schroeder across the country to dress as a Roman Legionnaire to invade Britannia in AD 43 and fight alongside 1,251 soldiers in the largest Civil War battle reenactment.


The writer, actor and radio producer wants to present readers with a unique view of history that he believes has not been explored.

Along the way, Schroeder has befriended other reenactors. Repeated conversations led Schroeder to conceive his own reenactment in his own neighborhood.

"You walk away from a military reenactment seeing the battle and gun smoke but never really grasping the history," Schroeder said. "You get the spectacle without understanding the content."

Schroeder chose the marathon-length walk in an attempt to "ambush" people with history.

"I'm not sure what people will find more peculiar — someone walking in Los Angeles or someone walking in Los Angeles while dressed as a Spanish friar," Schroeder said.

Among his friends who joined him along Glenoaks Boulevard on Saturday included a brother-and-sister pair he met when he participated in an 18th century boat ride called "The Big Row" down the Saint Lawrence River.

David and Reb Manthey received an e-mail from Schroeder in late December detailing his own reenactment endeavor, and they decided to fly out for the day.

"Our motto with 'The Big Row' is that anyone that wants to come play can come play," Reb said while keeping up with Schroeder's quick pace. "We figured if he could row with us, we could certainly walk with him."

The Mantheys were dressed in garb similar to what they believed would suit a Los Angeles-area resident in 1798.

Schroeder loved the quizzical looks from passing drivers and other pedestrians.

"People actually believe I'm part of a religious order, but then I start joking about how cold the back of my head is and how bad my feet are killing me," he said. "Once I get over that hump, they're fascinated by what I'm doing."

Although he was still gathering his thoughts after walking 19 miles of the journey, he knew the experience played an important role in his own life story.

"When people hear the word 'history,' they think 'cobwebs' or 'boring' and this has been anything but that," Schroeder said Sunday afternoon after nursing his sore body. "I've found a new passion in history, and now I'll start looking for a new adventure."

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