Saturday, August 31, 2013


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Leaving Ashland, we stopped at the Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center. They were celebrating the grand opening of a new exhibit about Aldo Leopold and the docent teasingly said this fall basket of mums matched my clothes and I should have my picture taken with it. The building is quite impressive but I found the displays rather plastic. A voices about Native Americans film was poorly done. The see-through lighted-from-behind screen was shadowed by the exit sign lights and other invasive light made it difficult to see.  The exhibits are designed to play with and press buttons and the story and pictures, except for a 75 foot tall mural, just didn’t give me a satisfied feel, or peak my curiosity, except for this sign:
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Just the sign, then very little about people settling here and struggling to make it. Duluth is in Minnesota, maybe that is why. But, Highway 2 is on a direct line to Duluth. I guess I’m jaded. I’ve seen so many wonderful visitors centers that give you a strong feel for where you are.

The Leopold exhibit was sparse. Aldo Leopold was one of America’s foremost conservationists.  He is renowned for starting the national wilderness system, founding the field of wildlife management and ecology, and writing the conservation classic A Sand County Almanac. He devoted his life to the question, “How do we live on the land without spoiling it?”  A question we are still asking today.  But, no counterpart of what Wisconsin has done to fulfill that goal. I asked the docent where I could see some big sugar maples, some huge hemlocks and pines and birches. She said there are a few stands here and there, on an island, or a park. Except for a nice garden in front of the center, it is surrounded by grass. A beautiful viewing tower to look at twigs for trees and grass. It makes me wonder, is this state way behind in recognizing the very lessons that Leopold brought to American consciousness? I was truly disappointed.

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This map is suggesting that climate change is a reality and this is what could happen. While we travel around the country we hear people everywhere, say:  “This is unusual weather. It isn’t usually like this.” At Ashland, a storm blew up like a veritable tornado. Campers commented at how unusual it is to get so many violent storms. In Michigan, the humidity and weeks on end of higher than normal temps? people were shaking their heads, “don’t know, this weather. My barley heads are bigger this year, but my corn is destroyed,” etc. etc.
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The center had an artists rendering  of the extinct American Carrier Pigeons that were so important during WW1. I was amazed at how beautiful they were and wonder how our society let them die out. It bothers me still that these things happened. In fact, one poster of a former Wisconsin governor claimed, “We have enough great forests to last our population forever.”  If only they knew what greed could do.
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When we reached Superior, we spent the night at the Richard Bong Veterans Historical Center. Richard Ira Bong above was a WWII fighter pilot who surpassed Eddie Rickenbacker’s record for downing 27 enemy planes. Just a young kid of 18, his  first battle netted 6 kills. They stopped him at 22 kills thinking their new, young hero would make a better emissary for selling war bonds.  He got bored with that and asked to go back to battle. Then they stopped him at 40, for fear they’d lose their hero as the war just about over. This center is unusual in that it is mostly devoted to this one man’s exploits with a lot of war statistics and memorabilia to fill a huge three-story building. It is located here because Richard Bong was born and raised in Poplar, WI, just  a few miles away from this center. His control of the Japanese air attacks made a huge difference in the outcome of the war. Many battle plans rested on his ability to perform and he is fittingly a great American Hero. Well worth a visit. This visit came as a positive, in one way because I’d just finished reading In Harms Way, by Doug Stanton, about the horrible shafting the Navy dealt Major McVay, the commanding officer of the Indianapolis when it was sunk by a Japanese sub. It took until 2001, 56 years after the sinking, to exonerate McVay.

And, a negative because I am so anti-war. Not that WWII wasn’t necessary, it was. But most wars are over American expansionism, our corporate interests in foreign countries, intervention in foreign countries leadership, ideology, religion, lack of tolerance for other nations culture, oil, business.  Look at these statistics of World War II:
Of a global population at the time of 2.3 billion people, 85 million served as soldiers. Sixty million died, 38 million of them civilians.
2/3 rds of the Jewish Population was annihilated.  The Soviet Union lost 27.5 % of their population. 17% of Poles died. 19.4% of Germans died. 3.67 % of Japanese lost their lives.  All countries lost some.
I read here General MacArthur’s  statement after the war:
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We do have a better world. But we don’t have freedom, tolerance or justice. We give our freedoms away, piece by piece. We are at war on our city streets. Tolerance and justice are still unmet goals as a nation.
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Protesters then were women and had I been old enough, I’d have been there with them.  I do appreciate that I had the right to protest, a freedom much diminished, narrowing and threatened as I write.

Friday, August 30, 2013


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Recycling bins lined up at the Visitors Center in Wisconsin where people are hep to recycling. What a departure from my Native Michigan. We were stumbling over cans, glass, plastic and cardboard under the table in what is already a small space. Thank you Wisconsin.
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The Soo Line Ore Docks adjacent to  Kreher Camp Grounds is being systematically demolished. We chose to luxuriate at a this city camp on the shore of scenic Lake Superior with water, sewer and electrical hook-ups for a change instead of boondocking at a VFW, or American Legion.
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Our first stop Ashland Historical Society Museum. It would figure they would have a picture of the old dock. The docent told us there are still factions asking to retain what is left of the dock for posterity and tourism. It isn’t our fight, but I’m reminded by this picture of the Ore Docks at Escanaba, at one time the biggest ore dock in the world. My dad took us to see the biggest ore ship in the world, The Wilfred Sikes. It was mind boggling to walk the deck of a gargantuan ship and look down from such height to the water oil slicked and a muddy orange color.
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Typically, you will see period clothing in a museum like this wedding dress. But this delightful exhibit presents the dress of the new Mrs.Vaughn in 1864, where she was married, the news about the wedding and a picture of the happy couple.
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This display included the news, the dress and check this out:
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The receipts for the veil, $9.69, and the wedding dress for $19.40. Isn’t that a hoot?  I LOVED it.
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And…what Mom wore to the wedding. Her dress and hat. It was just too precious.DSC09019 (Copy)
Along with about six wedding gowns and their accoutrements, was this tin hat and tiara from a 10th anniversary.
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Getting a decent picture through glass cases with exterior lights is tough, but I couldn’t pass it by.
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And then this wedding gown, the picture isn’t anything special but the event reminds me of a similar event that happened to Doug Roraback, a detective I worked with in the Sheriff’s Office. His plane went down in Belgium;  he parachuted out and had to drag it with him so the Nazi’s would find no trace of him near the crash.  He was secured in a farm house basement by sympathizers until he could get out of the country. The parachute was left with the family. They had two young daughters. After many years, marriage, children, divorce, retirement, he returned to Belgium to meet what was left of the family and ended up marrying one of the daughters. Part of the parachute was used for her veil.
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The schools exhibit was just as clever and personal with memorabilia, pictures of students, classrooms, names, sports coverage, and so on.
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And under the ore docks section was a book with a place for personal stories.
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The human interest made this small museum very special.
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Stereoscoptic viewers with pictures in a basket for visitors to view. I saw my first viewer like this in 4th grade at Soo Hill School when Mrs. Reese allowed us to pass time after our work was finished.
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Some of the pictures were designed to give the flavor of world travel, as in Egypt, 1993.
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Items you are unlikely to see in most museums?  This is a stove from an old Ashland Street Car. A stove? Of course. The winter climate here is brutal. I just didn’t think.
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The Schroeder Lumber Company Whistle. Not many of them around.
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We roamed Old Town Ashland. Sometimes we discover a refurbished old theatre, but most of the time they’ve become converted to other uses. Bay Theatre is  still a theatre showing whatever is popularly on circuit today.
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A beautiful porcelain in a window caught my attention at Malmberg’s Jewelers.
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No single artist, but the company name is Lantz.
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I was fascinated by the porcelains but their store had beautiful clocks, watches, other gift items and a large selection of large diamond jewelry. Quite exquisite. DSC09066 (Copy)
This elegant old Hotel Chequamegon is now owned by Best Western. We were directed their by locals for good fish. I had a white fish “wrapola” which is fish with coleslaw wrapped in a tomato tortilla. Yummy.
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It started to rain so we couldn’t eat on their lovely deck facing the water, but we enjoyed the view through the windows.  Lovely
More on the afternoon storm, later.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


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Fitting this beautiful building into a single frame on my camera didn’t do it justice. Built in 1893 as a city hall, then converted to a courthouse for Hurley, WI., it is now a museum and the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The original clock, still runs. We go to so many museums, I always try to find items you won’t see in any other locale.
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This is Iron country and mining was prominent, so I stopped in the mining room first. This is the head frame of an iron mine.  But, I quickly got bored with mining technology. We had limited time because the museum closed at 2 p.m.; we arrived  at 1:oo.
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The electrical switches on the walls are buttons. The wiring is enclosed behind a trim board on the wall’s surface.
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In Hardwood, I spent time with the Dan DuFresne family. Dan DuFresne was like an uncle to me. This milk separator looked very much like his.
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But, I had never seen a milk cooler such as this. Dairy is big in Wisconsin, too.
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I kind of whisked through the rooms because our time was so short. This kitchen scene has nothing new in it but it reminded me so much of hard Michigan winters. Wet clothing drying by the kitchen stove was a fact of life, especially with kids getting wet and chilled coming in to dry off,  then half an hour later, wanting to be bundled up again to go outside and play in the snow.
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Then I discovered the weaving room. Five women were working on woven rag rugs. I counted five looms in the room. Two women were working the looms. This one uses polyester materials sewn in strips with mixed colors. Polyester wears like iron and keeps its bright colors longer than natural materials.
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This weaver was using a loosely woven rags for her rug. There is a garment factory in town and the materials used here would go into the dump if they hadn’t set up a non-profit rug making center in the museum using these old hand looms.
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I’ve seen weaving demonstrations before, but I didn’t know that as one rug ends, (no more material of the appropriate color) two cardboard pieces are slipped into the warp and another rug of the same size is started. Eventually, the weaver will cut between the two pieces of cardboard and the stray threads of the warp become fringe.
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This woman is tying the fringe on a denim rug she just completed. She separates and strands into an uneven number say five or three and ties them by hand into a knot.
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This woman made this rug to order. The customer wanted something that resembled Navajo rugs. She had to wait until the right color material landed on their doorstep. This rug sells for $40.
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They have material packed away, choosing colors, planning rugs. I was enthralled. DSC08978 (Copy)
This is a one of a set of four placemats.
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I was hooked. There are so few things you can buy when you live in a motor home. I bought three rugs and skipped the rest of the museum, which I highly recommend should you ever get to Hurley. Hurley sits on the  Michigan/Wisconsin border.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


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Alexander, son of Tony, who dispatched our electrical problems by 9:00 was curious about the motor home. He'd never seen one. I gave him a tour. He helped Jim wrap the umbilical cord with electrical tape and when Jim paid the bill, he "paid" Alexander $5 for his help. Father Tony had him autograph the bill and hang it on the wall of the station where Tony had the first $5 bill he earned hanging on the wall. The fix was done just before raindrops started.
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We drove to the corner of Laurance St. and Riverview Dr. where my Aunt and later my grandma, owned this small store. The family lived behind the curtain you can see at the back of the picture. When the bell on the door rang, someone would step out and wait on a customer. Traditionally, I spent summers here with my cousins Darlene and Judy. My cousin Gary would be traded to my family on the farm where he enjoyed summers with my brothers, Bill, Norman and Dan. I loved my time here because Darlene took piano lessons and I learned to play elementary tunes. The delivery person who filled the gum ball machine would hand us a small bag of gumballs and charms when he filled the machine. I thought it was magical to just go into the store and grab a can of beans or a jar of mayo when you needed it.
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The store was no longer there, but across from the store was the Constantino families house. We spent many an afternoon with them and I attended a chivaree for the one of the daughter's when she got married. The fun and food and drink went on until late into the night.  Next to  their house on the left was a path to the river where we could swim.  Those summers were special.
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The rain increased. A heavy deluge made for slow driving all the way to the town of Sagola,
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I have no memories of the town of Sagola, but I was born at the McGregor Maternity Home here in Sagola.  My mother had a friend who lived here and worked as a mid-wife at the Sagola Maternity Home. She always talked about how beautiful it was. It served people in surrounding communities including Hardwood 25 miles distant. My parents lived in Hardwood when I was born. We pulled up to Grace Presbyterian Church and decided to have lunch and look around. The church carillon played  music to mark the hour and we enjoyed the concert along with our lunch.
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A former school building has been converted to a Community Center.DSC08939 (Copy)
We were charmed. The town is only two  blocks wide and two blocks deep, with a post office, and an auction house. A gas station and quick mart on the highway serves as the only store.
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At this auction house, which started out in the late 1800's as a school and then was converted to a church and is now filled with antiques and flea market stuff, a gentleman told us where the maternity house had been located and informed us that it was torn down last year. He explained that it was a huge old mansion owned by a doctor and his wife who turned it into a maternity house. He described its beauty, the gorgeous wood staircase and chandeliers and fireplaces in each room. The history and pictures were available in the Community Center. Jenny has the keys.
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We took some pictures around the old-fashioned neighborhood and waited for Jenny.
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The town is small but the post office serves area farmers as well as the town.
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At one time, there were three mills working in the area. While we waited for Jenny to open up the community center, we saw loads and loads of cedar post leaving the area.
When Jenny arrived, she opened up, turned on the lights and said, "Turn out the lights and lock the door when you leave."  Now, that is what I call country hospitality. No pictures of the Maternity Home, however. The history book of the area that does have pictures, was all sold out. We moved on to Iron River for the night. Hot and steamy. Can't wait to find drier, cooler weather. (My place in Murphys is fogged with smoke from the nearby Rim Fire so I shouldn't complain.)