Indian Creek Elementary Teacher Is a Member of Les Troupe de Levis Re-Enactment Group
Photographer / Michael Durr
During the week, Steve Hardwick is a fifth-grade teacher at Indian Creek Elementary School in Lawrence Township. On weekends and in the summer, the educator and veteran is immersed in the living history community — the French and Indian War time period to be exact — through his involvement with the re-enactment group, Les Troupe de Levis.
Les Troupe de Levis is a re-enactment group of about 50 people from all walks of life. Members portray the French in North America during the Seven Years War, otherwise known as the French and Indian War. Member’s clothing is as historically accurate as possible, based on countless hours of research. The troupe accurately portrays everything from war re-enactment to making period-correct meals and using period-correct tools.
Hardwick has found his place in the group because of his passion for veterans and history.
“Some people go out and golf. Some people are out playing softball or are out running the mini-marathons,” Hardwick says. “Well, this is what I do.”
Hooked On Friendship
Hardwick first became acquainted with the troupe during Valley Forge Day, an annual event at Indian Creek where students dress up in period clothing for a day and learn what it was like to live in the Pennsylvania town during the 1700s.
To make Valley Forge Day more of an immersive experience for students, Hardwick sought out re-enactors. The father of one of his students was part of the re-enactment group, Les Troupe de Levis. As the years went on and the troupe kept coming back for Valley Forge Day, its members started asking Hardwick when he’d join them in re-enacting.
The turning point for Hardwick was when he learned “they had their own cook section and they make great meals anytime they re-enact.
“That’s all I needed to hear,” he says.
From then on, Hardwick was committed to the troupe.
“I was hooked,” he says. “What hooked me more than anything was the friendship with these people and troupe and how they’re willing to teach you, how family-oriented they are.”
Across the Country
Part of living history is visiting history.
Hardwick says he travels and puts on his period-correct clothing about four or five times per year. The farthest he’s been is Fort Niagara, located in New York, which was a significant location of the French and Indian War.
His troupe also performs at Fort Ouiatenon, in Lafayette, Indiana. The group is invited on behalf of the Tippecanoe Historical Society, where Les Troupe de Levis role-play a French settlement for its Feast of the Hunters’ Moon.
As much as Hardwick enjoys getting to see historical sights, what he enjoys most about the troupe is its overarching theme of family.
“I truly believe I could leave my wallet out around these people and it would not disappear,” he says. “It’s amazing.”
Hardwick also says that, like a family, the troupe likes to make sure they can all experience some things together. For instance, most of its members have been to Fort Ticonderoga, in New York. All five people from his main group went again this past summer because of him. They want him to experience those prominent places associated with the French and Indian War — Fort Ticonderoga being one of them.
The troupe doesn’t meet regularly. Rather, they’ll meet at Triton Brewery in Lawrence occasionally to catch up and map out their next living history event.
Dressing the Part
Even though stores in 2019 don’t have a 1700s clothing section, Hardwick is still able to dress the part. He gets most of his period-correct clothes from people who are phasing out of the events or from others who have extra pieces they no longer use.
“We’re always trying to find ways for each other to improve characters,” Hardwick says. “In Fort Ouiatenon, I bought a vest because I wanted to improve my outfit. I’m always trying to improve myself so I don’t look the same year after year.”
Hardwick says that he often relies on others in the group to know what to get. In true 1700s fashion, he often will do trades to get some of his pieces.
“If some people are getting out of the business or hobby, they want to give you a good deal – they barter,” he says.
When Hardwick re-enacts, he often portrays a French Milice, a common military man. He prefers that character over others because “it’s a cheap uniform and it’s always cool.”
He has been asked to move up and portray a French Marine, but to date has passed over that “promotion.”
“I like playing a common person,” Hardwick says. “The people that settled in Indiana were common folks. I like trying to represent that kind of person. I don’t want to be someone famous. That’s how I can truly feel who those people were.”
For the Love of Veterans
Hardwick enlisted in the Army when he graduated high school in 1982. He was stationed in Germany for two and a half years, during which time he was a company clerk. After leaving the Army in 1985 to pursue a degree in education at Indiana State University, he joined ROTC, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
“I wanted a little extra spending money and didn’t want to work at McDonald’s,” Hardwick says. “I worked in the MI (military intelligence) field and the logistics field. I was a platoon leader and company commander.”
Hardwick says that he was in the Indiana National Guard during the first Gulf War, but his unit was never activated.
“They say you can take the person out of the military, but you can’t take the military out of the person,” Hardwick says. “It was very cut and dry, but I loved it. I miss the camaraderie. I enjoy being around troops.”
Hardwick also attributes his interest in veterans and military life to the bicentennial and watching a lot of old-time movies as a kid.
“I was in the sixth grade during the bicentennial of our country,” he says. “I remember so much the celebrations going on about the founding of our country. I just somehow started to become very patriotic.”
His patriotism carries over to his involvement with Les Troupe de Levis. He enjoys getting to teach people about history because of how much can be learned from it, as well as getting to interact with other veterans.
“It really, somehow, ingrained in me to appreciate what they did for our country,” he says.
After many years of putting on a World War II Tribute for area veterans with the help of his students, Hardwick had the joy of calling many veterans friends. While he no longer puts on the tribute and the number of living veterans decreases each year, Hardwick has found another outlet for his love of history — and teaching others to appreciate the freedoms we have thanks to the men and women who serve our country.