Former high school history teacher Stan Ellsworth, now the host of a different kind of TV show about American history, says, “When you come to the northwest, there’s so much history here.”
I caught up the 6’ 2”, 300 lb. muscle-clad Harley Davidson-riding host of BYUtv’s American history program, American Ride, at the Anacortes ferry terminal Wednesday as he waited for the ferry to Friday Harbor and a few days of shooting for his weekly tv show.
I asked what takes him and his crew to SJI. “I think most people don’t know the whole story of the Pig War and how the Pig War almost started another war with Great Britain. And, that the guy who was leading the charge up here was George Pickett. He’s famous for Picket’s Charge at Gettysburg.”
Ellsworth called Pickett “the original wild-eyed Southern boy.” “It took General Winfield Scott,“ he said, “to come up here and settle things down. The British, for their side, were going to defend their pigs and George Pickett was going to defend our potatoes.”
Ellsworth is comfortable to listen to. He has a very slight Southern accent which he says he has to work at to keep buried. He says he still has trouble with “all.” What? It took him saying “all” three times before I realized it was “oil” he was saying.
Ellsworth was born in Salt Lake City, but was raised in the Carolinas, Virginia and Pennsylvania. At the age of 14, he traded his Schwinn for a Harley, went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history, played and coached football, and then became a high school history teacher.
A videographer for American Ride shoots as Ellsworth heads onto the Friday Harbor-bound ferry.
American Ride, which starts its seventh season next month, has, up to now, told the American story from “discovery” to colonization through the second World War.
“Now, we’re going to do regional histories because then we can tell all these great stories from different areas with different perspectives. And, there’s thousands of stories we can tell,” he said.
He’s enthusiastic about telling the American story and said the focus of the show has moved to regional and local history. “Instead of talking just about history, we’re talking about what’s pertinent to the area; what are the important things. We want to encourage Americans to come out to see their country.”
When I said his show looked like it’s part travelog, too, he answered, “Yes. There’s lots of great rides everywhere in America. I’d encourage using a motorcycle ‘cause then you’re part of the environment. In your car, you’re kinda locked in your little bubble, still.”
While we talked outside the ferry terminal, we were interrupted by, first, one man, then a second, who recognized him from his show. Both returned a few minutes later with cameras to take his picture.
The show apparently has a long reach. Ellsworth said he’s even heard that it’s being used to help teach English to locals in Ukraine.
American Ride is on cable channel BYUtv, as well as online.