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Larry Clowers

Electrical Engineer
Living Historian/Re-enactor
California, USA

What did you do before you began portraying Ulysses S. Grant?

After I finished my four years in the Air Force, I attended college.  My military training in electronics prepared me to become an engineer.  I am an electrical engineer.  Currently I work for SBC as a central office engineer.

What do you like best/least about engineering?

The most enjoyable aspect of being an engineer is to see my accomplishments, least enjoyable is the paperwork we seem to be buried in (and growing each year).  I'm so fortunate that my earnings have supported my family over the years.  We never needed a second income so my wife had the option to work or not.

What should young people do to prepare themselves in elementary or high school, for a future career in engineering?

Determine what you like to do the best and find a career that equals or matches it.  Engineering is what I did best.  Engineering is demanding but the rewards are worth it.  Always place yourself in that role and you will succeed.

How did you come to portray Ulysses S. Grant?

I started reenacting in 1957 as a member of an Indian War cavalry unit.  Since, then, I have progressed from Cavalry to infantry, to living history, to portraying historical figures.  Prior to appearing as U.S. Grant, I had portrayed a number of historical characters.  As I studied more about Grant, I found that I admired him and the work he did.  I was hooked on his character.

How did you become interested in historical presentations?

My love of all aspects of history.  In college, I wanted to be an archeologist but that didn't fulfill my dreams.  I became interested in historical presentations after watching James Whitmore portray Will Rogers.  After that, I knew that's what I wanted to do.

What is a "Living Historian"?

One who makes history come alive.  A living historian is one who wishes to educate the public by bringing history to life by demonstrating, interpreting, or presenting an impression of an actual or fictional person.

When did you work for Retlaw at Disneyland and what did you do?

I worked for Retlaw from 1964 to 1965.  I was with the Monorail team.  During that time, I did meet Walt Disney when he visited the Monorail shed and took a special ride with the team.  To sit in the same car with Walt was unforgettable.

Do you have any special memories from your time at Retlaw that you would like to share (especially since this year is the 50th anniversary of the opening of Disneyland)?

I worked in the Monorail shed.  I watched Small World being built from the ground up.  It was amazing to watch it come together.  I was one of the first to ride on Small Work when it opened.

Where did you grow up?

My family moved to Anaheim in June of 1955.  Other than the military and a few other jobs, I have lived in Anaheim 40 of the last 50 years.  I remember when Disneyland opened and thought this was the greatest place to live on the Earth.  In the Air Force, I was stationed in Greece.  I remember the Greek figures from Small World and saw them in person.  I learned to read and write Greek, Russian, and German.

What were your favorite activities as a child?

Spending nearly every day at Disneyland.  My father was on security and spent many years on Tom Sawyer's Island.

What were your favorite subjects in school?

History, History, and more History.  I took every history class in public schools as well as college.

What were your least favorite or most difficult subjects?

Calculus.  I never found a use for that subject.

Did you always like History?  Is the Civil War period of particular interest to you?

I was born in Mississippi and spent my first 8 years in Arkansas.  The town I lived in was a battlefield during the Civil War.  I remember walking the battlefield with my Grandfather and listening to his stories about the war.  Much like I found out later, that he listened to his Grandfather, who fought in the Civil War, tell his stories.  General Grant visited the town in 1863 during the Vicksburg Campaign.  Even though I was born in the South, I always liked Grant.  Perhaps I like Grant so much is because my grandparents never said a bad word about him.

How are you like or dislike President (and General) Ulysses S. Grant?

My personality has changed considerably since portraying Grant.  After studying him, his values, his family life, his history, I have begun to "morph" into the General – both in appearance and deportment.  I used to portray other historical persons but have settled on presenting Grant.  I decided to become the most knowledgeable person about Grant as well as being the best presenter in the country.

Where do you perform?

I have presented my Grant presentation at schools, parades, civic events, and National Battlefield Parks, in 9 states.  Recently, I appeared as President Grant at a two-day event at Forest Lawn.  Normally, I appear as General Grant, but at Forest Lawn, I had the opportunity to present to the public – President Grant.  Most Americans know very little about his Presidency and it was quite an educational experience for them.  Many claim he was one of the worst Presidents.  After studying his Presidency, I found that was untrue.  Many eyes were opened after finding out the great works that President Grant accomplished.

Why do you do this work?

All of this work I do is to educate the public about this great American.  He was real, wholesome, and accomplished so much that is little known to this generation of Americans.

What is it like to portray husband and wife, Ulysses and Julia Grant, with your real life wife Constance?

I could not be as successful portraying Grant without the support of my wife.  She encourages me to always present the finest impression and not to become complacent in my presentations.  This has created a dynamic presentation of the Grants as each presentation adds something special.  Being married to her creates a marriage similar to the Grants.  We work well together and continue to grow with our studies of the Grants.  Combined, we have over 100 books about the Grants.  She adds the spark of Julia Grant to our presentations that exposes the public to much more than just another general but a great love story.

What did you dream you would grow up to be?  Did you realize any of those early dreams?

I always wanted to be a history teacher but became an engineer.  I loved watching the movies about the Civil War and now I experience them through reenacting and through living history presentations.

What should young people do to prepare themselves in elementary or high school, for a future in engineering or any career?

Determine what you like to do the best and find a career that equals or matches it.  Engineering is what I did best.  Engineering is demanding but the rewards are worth it.  Always place yourself in that role and you will succeed.

How do you manage to have two careers?

I find that my Grant career is overcoming my engineering work.  At first, I would appear maybe once a month as General Grant.  In 2004, I appeared at over 60 events and in 2005, I have over 70 bookings so far… some with a contract option of 5 years!  That role is fast overtaking my current career.  However, I retire in May of 2006.  From that point, I will devote my "retirement" to portraying Grant full time… doing what I want to do and totally enjoying it.

If you could relive your life, would you choose the same path or would you like to do other things?

I would choose the same path.  Otherwise, I would not have met Constance who is the brightest star in my universe. I realize that after all these years, I am living my dream of both teaching and being a part of the history.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with those who read this interview?

Find what you love to do in life.  When you find out what it is, become the best there is.

Do you have a favorite quote (or a favorite person) that inspires you?

Grant's presidential election motto of 1868 was "Let us have Peace."  He wanted to reconcile the peoples of the Union and Confederacy… end the differences and have one country.  For a man who never wanted to be a soldier, he was one of the greatest.  He was great in both war and peace.  He was proud to be an American and makes me proud to be an American too.

- 4 April 2005

 


Last Updated:
8 January 2015
 

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