We are living in a time when a lot of people -- at least for the moment, and hopefully for a relatively brief one -- have a lot of time on their hands.

To provide a bit of perspective, it might be useful to recall how the people of Columbus many years ago spent their leisure time in an era with no radio, television or internet.

Earlier historians of Columbus, writing about a century ago, recorded some memories of the pastimes of local people when they and their parents were young in the 1850s:

"The first pronounced phases of spiritualistic excitement seem to have been manifested in Ohio in 1851. In September of that year, announcement was made that the Misses Fox, the original mediums from Hydeville, New York, had arrived in Columbus and might be found at a private residence on Third Street, north of Broad. Their 'sittings' for spiritual communication were three per day, price of 'admission to the circles' was one dollar. ...

"In May 1857, meetings of the believers in what was then known as spiritualism were held on several successive evenings in a hall at the corner of High and Rich Street. To render the spiritual presence more assured on these occasions the windows were padded, and all manner of interior light was strictly forbidden. The charge for admission was twenty-five cents. ...

"Equestrianism began to be popular as social recreation in the fifties, and from that time on we often hear of merry parties of cavaliers and their fair companions dashing through the streets and along the suburban thoroughfares. Cavalcades of twenty and even fifty couples, some going to the country and others coming from it to the city are mentioned.

"May parties, particularly for children, were common in the forties and the fifties. If the weather was inclement, as often happened, they were held indoors, sometimes at one of the hotels. The May festivals of the schools normally took place at Stewart's Grove (now Schiller Park), south of the city.

"The inauguration soirees and balls of the early '50s were notable. In 1858, a 'legislative festival' was given by Mr. and Mrs. Kelsey, the host and hostess of the American House (at the northwest corner of State and High streets). In 1854, an inauguration ball in honor of Governor Medill took place at the Neil House (on High Street across from the Statehouse). The installation of the State Executive was thereafter usually celebrated by such festivities until the outbreak of the Civil War (in 1861), since which inauguration balls and parties have been occasional.

"On a few rare occasions, the officers of State and members of the General Assembly have been entertained, as a body, at private residences, much more frequently these public functionaries have been guests of the City, or of the Board of Trade, since there has been a Board of Trade. ..."

An effort was made to organize a board of trade in Columbus in 1858. That organization lasted for a few years and then was succeeded by several other groups, also of short duration. A more permanent organization was founded in 1884 and remains today as the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

"White Sulphur Springs, in Delaware County (on the west bank of the Scioto River just south of the Home Road bridge), was a favorite pleasure resort of Columbus people during the later '50s and earlier '60s, as the Springs Hotel -- now a part of Ohio Wesleyan University (Elliott Hall) -- at the town of Delaware had been at an earlier date. In 1869, the grounds at White Sulphur were purchased by the state for an industrial home for girls."

Operating under different names and with renewed missions, the site remained a state institution until the early 21st century.

White Sulphur and the Springs Hotel in Delaware were notable for their "hot sulphur springs." At one of these resorts, visitors could enjoy good food, clean country air, the company of friends and an opportunity to soak in a natural hot spring that spewed a large cloud of sulfur gas. Enduring all of this supposedly improved one's health. Thus, one could return to Columbus relaxed, refreshed and smelling of rotten eggs.

"Among the more unique social devices of the later period have been such as were descriptively termed necktie, leap year, surprise and ghost parties, gentlemen's receptions (by ladies), Dickens parties, cooking clubs, dairy maid's festivals, pound socials, trades carnivals and many others mostly designed for charitable purposes and not of a purely social character.

"The balls and parties of military and fire companies, secret societies and other like organizations, together with church fairs and bazaars, have been very numerous, but for the most part have had a money object."

That is how people spent their spare time a long time ago in Ohio's capital city.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.