Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We Visit Baby V in NOLA

Dear George,
We are just back from a holiday trip to New Orleans where we stayed with J, K, and Baby V.  We'd last seen V in August, and the changes from 11 months to 15 months are dramatic.  We'd always told J as a little kid that he was special and unique.  Despite his telling us that every kid in kindergarten had gotten the same message from their parents, we still believed it.  Now we believe it about V.  She is darling and precocious -- absolutely wonderful.  Here are a few photos that will give you a sense of our visit.


V is strongly bonded with her parents (and vice versa).  Her favorite and best articulated words are "Mommie" and "Daddie", followed by "Doggie" and "Ba-ba" (bottle).  She was a little shy with us strangers at first, but that only lasted for an hour or two.













Here's V's normal temperament.  She is a very happy little baby, and she's very socially responsive.  We gave her goodbye kisses at the end of our trip, and she leaned over each time to give us one in return.














We babysat V one evening, and it was remarkable how busy she can be and how she can entertain herself for long periods of time.  First she tried on her daddy's shoes and walked around in them.  Then she decided to graduate to Katja's high heels.













She also decided to show her Grandpa her artistic abilities.  Not only did she draw on her sketch pad but on her hand, her stomach, the tablecloth, and Grandpa's hand as well.
















V's manual dexterity has increased so much since we last saw her.  She insists on feeding herself with her spoon, and, though it can be a little messy, she eats everything put before her by herself.









V and Titus get along excellently.  The dog is gentle and calm, and now and then he gives V a sloppy kiss.  She likes to pet and hug him, and, when she finished with her bowl of ice cream, she carried it into the other room and gave Titus the remnants.








We'd brought some Xmas presents, and V was very intrigued with them from the outset.
















She particularly enjoyed undoing the wrappings (with great gusto).





















Here's V in her new dress that her Grandma picked out for her.




















We all took a lot of trips together -- to the Art Museum, the French Quarter, the levee dog park, and many good restaurants.  Here are V and J at the Aquarium, her favorite place.














Other times we relaxed at home.  V and Katja are watching a TV show together about the cutest dogs in the world.











Though a rare event, V would sometimes get tired by the end of a busy day. 











We had a lot of fun with J and K too which I'll tell you about another time.  There are always pleasurable things about coming back home (e.g., doggies), but right now we mostly miss our family in New Orleans.

Love,
Dave


G-Mail Comments:

-Vicki L (1-1-10): Hi David and Katja,  …It was such a pleasure to be able to participate, via your photos, in your sweet get together with J**, K** and V**. I'm so happy for you both….These little children bring such joy and light - they definitely carry the message if there's a message to be carried….Love, Vicki

-Linda KC (12-30): david, what a great tribute to your nola family in pictures and in words,   i must say that i feel i have been around very very smart 15 month old children, ben and theo, my own of course, and others, and i can tell a smart kid and she is one smart kid.   i told k*** and j***, i hope you can keep up with v***'s intellect

-Terry OS (12-29): My favorite sweatshirt says that if I'd known how much fun grandchildren were I'd have had them first….Your granddaughter is adorable and I have no doubt she is every bit as

exceptional as you claim.  Happy New Year!

-Phyllis SS (12-29): Dave, She is adorable.  I'm so glad Titus is good with her.  Phyllis-

-Jennifer M (12-29): What a doll!  I'm glad you all had such a wonderful time together!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas on the Riverbank

.

Dear George,

Xmas was the grandest time of the year in our family. A couple of weeks beforehand my dad would take us kids to the big field across the road from river house where he had planted hundreds of evergreens years before. We’d pick out an eight foot pine or spruce, choosing a tree that was not visible from the road and in a cluster that needed thinning. Then we’d lug it home, tie it to the car roof, and drive into town to Van’s auto body shop. My dad arranged each year to have our tree painted in one of the auto spray paint enclosures. The first year we had a white tree, but then moved on to a new color each year – blue, red, yellow, etc. Aunt Martha, on seeing our non-green tree, always thought there was something slightly sacrilegious about it, and she and my dad would engage in some ritual teasing.


My mother was in charge of tree decorations, and she would organize the kids to create long strings of popcorn and cranberries. We’d add silver icycles, shiny red and white balls, and homemade ornaments that we’d create anew each year. Once the tree was complete, wrapped gifts would start accumulating. The children would stare at them wide-eyed each day, speculating about their contents and struggling to endure the painful wait before opening them.


In the late afternoon of Xmas eve we would all go to Ruth and Vic Mars’ home on Northwood Cove where all the parents in our social circle would bring their kids (probably 20 or more). As darkness set in, the children all found hiding places in the living room behind chairs, tables, or the sofa. Everyone would be completely silent, and after a short wait who would appear from an entryway but Santa himself. He carried a huge bag, and the children were hidden so well that he didn’t notice a single one. He discovered and ate the cookies that we’d left for him and then, with a few ho-ho-ho’s, he began emptying his bag of wrapped gifts under the Xmas tree. Amazingly, there was a gift for every child present. Then Santa left and we listened to see if we could hear the patter of reindeer feet on the roof.


Back home we’d have a big extended family gathering. Uncle Kent and Aunt Millie would bring our cousins Thor, Stewart (Stewpot), and Kurt. My grandfather V.A. Sr. would come along with Aunt Martha, Uncle Ralph, and their kids John and Annie. Generally the last person to arrive was Kent’s twin brother Karl who would drive up from Neenah-Menasha. Often the O’Hara’s or other family friends would join us as well. Everybody would exchange presents. Ralph and Kent, who managed the Marinette and Menominee drugstores respectively, would bring samples of their merchandise, e.g., perfume for the women, Whitman candies for the kids. Uncle Karl who was a bachelor with no family expenses always brought the most extravagant presents. Elaborate toys for the children, fancy dresses for the mothers, even a fur-piece for Aunt Millie one year. In the early 50’s when the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was escalating, Karl gave me an educational nuclear radiation kit which I would take with me on family trips, hoping to discover a uranium lode which would make our family wealthy.


My parents would brew up a large bowl full of glogg – a potent Swedish concoction of brandy, wine, fruits, and spices – and put out bowls of peanuts, sardines, creamed herring, and miscellaneous munchies. The adults would get a little tipsy. We’d have a big fireplace fire. As the oldest kid, I would play Xmas carols on the Hammond Chord Organ, and Vicki would later do this too as she came of age. We’d have a reading of “The Night Before Christmas” by the older children, and my mother would put out a big buffet in mid-evening. The kids liked to sneak up to the second floor balcony which overlooked the living room and watch to see what the adults might say and do in their absence.


After everybody left we would put out some milk and cookies for Santa, then go to bed. Steven and I were in the bunk bedroom just off the corner of the living room. We would leave the door slightly ajar and vowed each year to stay awake long enough to determine if it were really Santa who came and left the gifts. But we always fell asleep before Santa arrived. I forget the age when we finally discontinued our Santa beliefs – maybe 8 or 9 – but our kid rule was to perpetuate the myth for our younger siblings as long as we could.


We’d wake early on Xmas morning and run out to find an ample supply of new gifts under the tree. Santa always knew what we wanted most, and we were thrilled with the toys and games. We were less interested in new clothes, but my mother explained that Santa sometimes brings things that we actually need, even if they aren’t as much fun. The biggest present of all was when a child was ready for a new bike. We’d spend the rest for the day playing with our new acquisitions. My mother would make a big Xmas dinner – turkey, goose, ham, pot roast, or even venison – and friends would drop in throughout the day. As with most families, Christmas was an extraordinary time – filled with excitement, wonder, and joy. Above all it was the most significant time of the year for generating and sustaining a loving family spirit.


Merry Christmas to all,

Dave


G-Mail Comments:

-Donna D (12-29): Sounds like a picture perfect family time... Was it as it sounds really?  If so, I'm totally envious.  You really played the Hammond organ?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Retirement Models

                      Karen at the St. John's Art Show

Dear George,

Whenever I log onto the AARP website to play Spider Solitaire, I get a virtual ad from Wells Fargo inviting me to win $500 by describing a “second half champion”, i.e., somebody over 50 who has retired and whose life has taken on an entirely different purpose.  That’s an interesting task since it seems much easier to flounder around in retirement than to develop a coherent life direction. I haven’t responded to Wells Fargo’s invitation, thinking it some sort of marketing gimmick.  If I were to though, I would have to nominate our friends Karen and Bill Feinberg as “co-champions”.  Both have retired in the 7 or 8 years and begun new careers as professional artists.


                                     Mountain View

This is fresh on my mind because we recently went to an art opening at St. John’s Unitarian Church in Clifton where Karen was showing recent drawings and 3-D mobiles.  Karen completed her doctorate in Classics after they came to Cincinnati in the late 1960s, and she taught Latin in a college-level seminary.  Then she started her own professional editing business, which included working for several of the major academic Sociology journals.  She’s been involved in art throughout her adult life, but became seriously engaged as retirement approached.  She studied formally at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, as well as with mentors in this area and on the West Coast.  We own one of her works which graces the entryway to our house.  The drawing above is a good example of Karen’s work, and you can see the strong Asian influence on her style. 


                                  Bill at St. John's

Bill has done wood-carving as a hobby as long as I’ve known him.  As he developed retirement plans, he decided to devote himself to professional sculpting, and he began studying with Walter Driesbach and Chris Daniel at the Art Academy.  After 35 years as a sociologist at UC, Bill took early retirement in 2001, and he’s been thoroughly happy with his decision (as well as enjoying much improved blood pressure).  He has a sculpting space at Essex Studios in Walnut Hills, and he works in a variety of media -- wood, stone, steel, and plaster.  Bill brings a sociological perspective to his choice of projects, and his wry sense of humor shows through in many of his pieces, as in his homage to Magritte below.  You can view more of his and Karen’s work on their web-site, www.feinberg-art.com. 


                            Homage to Magritte

In my view, Bill and Karen have mastered the challenges of retirement.  They’ve expanded upon activities they’ve always loved and have become members of new art worlds in the process.  In effect, they haven’t really “retired”, but rather have moved on from their former work lives to new careers.  Bill counseled me to work out goals and plans long before I was close to a retirement decision.  I haven’t managed to be as systematic about this as he and Karen have been, but they are definitely my role models for how to succeed in managing this major life transition.

 

Love,

Dave

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Washington School Days: 8. March Madness*


Dear George,


My parents had no interest in sports, but my grandfather, V.A. Sr., decided that they were vital for a growing young man.  He forced me to go to the YMCA for swimming lessons, and, when he learned in my sixth grade year that my school had a basketball team, he insisted that I join.  I was resistant to the point of screaming and crying, but my grandfather simply took me by the hand to the first practice.

 

Washington had a powerhouse team.  Dick J., our center, was the second tallest sixth-grader in Menominee.  Bobby G. and Tommy H. were forwards.  Bobby was tall and strong, and Tommy was an excellent outside shooter.  Jimmy B. and Bobby H. were the starting guards, both speedy and good ball-handlers.  The second string included Kenny S., Roger D., Bob C., Dicky M., and myself.  I was the shortest kid and judged myself to be the worst player on the team.  I always sat at the end of the bench and prayed that the coach wouldn’t send me into the game.  Usually he didn’t, or, at worst, I would only have to play for a minute or two.

 

Our guys thought we had a good chance of winning the city championship.  Only two other teams were serious contenders.  Roosevelt had Arthur (“Woz”) Woznicki, who seemed about eight feet tall and who could take on any other team in the city all by himself.  Fortunately, his supporting cast was terrible, and we felt we could assign three players to guard Woz and consequently limit that team’s scoring.  In fact, we did beat Roosevelt handily. 

 

Our scarier nemesis was St. John’s parochial school whose star player was Dermot Finnegan.  Dermot was already a legend in Menominee.  He was not only the best grade school athlete in town, but he was the meanest and toughest kid as well.  He headed up a gang of poor kids – the Rudden’s, the O’Connor’s, and others – who were known for stealing, smoking, drinking, and fighting.  Dermot, it was rumored, could destroy people with his fists, and we all believed it was only a matter of time before he would wind up on Death Row.   His team had a couple of other good players as well, and we had serious questions about whether we could defeat them.

 

St. John’s was our last game of the season, and, as the game approached, both teams were undefeated.  A week before the game, a couple of our first-string players took me aside on the playground.  They wanted to talk about a plan they had which would guarantee our victory.  Dermot, it turned out, had a history of hernias.  One good knee to the groin, they said, and he would be finished.  The team, they said, had gotten together and decided that I should go into the game, guard Dermot, and “accidentally” knee him in his vulnerable area.  They showed me how to do it.

 

I couldn’t believe what they were asking.  I totally rejected it, of course, but they brought it up over and over, sometimes with an accompanying threat of physical harm.  “Dermot would kill me” was my primary retort.  “We’ll protect you,” they replied.  “Dermot’s gang isn’t that big.”  I argued, pretty logically I thought, that any of our main players could injure Dermot because, once he was out, we were certain to win.  My teammates rejected this.  They wanted to run up the score as high as possible, they said, and they needed all the first-stringers in the game to do that.

 

The game day came, but unfortunately I can’t report the end of the story.  The game was filled with so much danger and anxiety that I’ve completely blotted the whole event from my mind.  I considered later that my teammates might have been putting me on, but I don’t think so.  Anyway, the coach never did put me into the St. John’s game.  Maybe they won, maybe we won.  The main thing of importance is that both Dermot and I were spared catastrophes of different sorts.

 

Love,

Dave

 

*Pseudoynms used in this story  


E-mail comments:

-Phyllis SS (12-17): Dave,  I'm so glad you wouldn't do it.  You were so right  - he would have FOUND YOU.  Plus, it was wrong.  Even though teams do play that way.  Have a merry xmas. Phyllis

 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

ARCHIVE: VIC'S PHOTOS

This file is a cumulative archive of “Vic’s Photos” that have previously appeared in the righthand column of this blog.  The photos have been changed every week since July 2009, and, because they aren’t automatically saved on the blog, I’ve decided to store the old ones here for a new viewer’s potential interest.  Updated additions will continue to be made from time to time as photos are posted.  My dad, Vic L., was an excellent photographer who documented a lot of our family’s world from the late 30’s to the late 50’s and beyond.  My brother Peter restored and shared with our family many of these images from Vic’s original negatives, and his project is the source of the photos contained here.    


STEVE AND MARGIE (posted 5-17-10)

Steve and Margie met as college students during spring break vacation in Florida.  My recollection is that they fell in love on the spot.  Steve was going to Northern Michigan U., and I believe Margie was at Carroll.  They married after college graduation.  As you can see in the photo, Margie was darling and Steve was handsome.  I’d say they were the most fun couple in our family, had a wide circle of friends, and were wonderful dancers.  They moved to a Detroit suburb when Steve entered Law School at Wayne State, and, because I was finishing up graduate work an Ann Arbor, we were able to get together numerous times.  Many good memories. 


BATHING BEAUTIES (posted 5-10)

An enjoyable thing about growing up on the Menominee River is that, once we reached our teens, our family home became a frequent gathering place for our friends for picnicking and particularly for swimming.  My friend Bob A. helped us build a fancy raft floated on empty oil drums, and we spent many hours cavorting in the river.  These are three of our female friends from those days: (from left to right) Sally F., Nancy J., and Sally H.  I grew up in the same Ogden Avenue house with Sally F. (her family on the first floor, ours on the second) and she is my oldest friend in my life.  The two Sally’s were best of buddies.  Sally H. was the head cheerleader at Menominee High, and Nancy J. was the head majorette for the school marching band.  We had a really good friendship group throughout our high school years.


BOATING ON THE MENOMINEE RIVER (posted 5-3)

This photo is from our front lawn on the Menominee River.  Needless to say, the river offered myriad adventures, and the green rowboat was our vehicle.  We’d travel along the shore to explore lagoons to the east and the west of our house, row across the river and explore Pig Island, or go west to Pig Island’s tip and enter the mysterious channel, a silent place inhabited by blue heron, lilypads, and ever-present deadheads from the logging days some seventy years before.  I enjoyed reading about Huck Finn’s Mississippi adventures as a teenager because it reminded me of growing up on the river.


INTERIOR, JEAN WORTH’S HUNTING CAMP (posted 4-26)

Jean and Margaret Worth were close friends of my parents and were integral members of their friendship circle.  Jean was the editor of the Herald-Leader newspaper in Menominee, was wellknown as a historian of the U.P., and owned a large tract of land outside Cedar River, about thirty miles north of the city.  Cedar River developed as part of the logging industry in the U.P. in the late 1800’s, and the whole region is forest land.  The Worth hunting camp was the site of many gatherings of family friends, and we kids spent a lot of time roaming through the forests with their gigantic cedar trees.  When the boys turned 16, they joined the men at deer hunting camp in November.  We’d go to our hunting stations at 5 a.m., rifles in hand, and watch for deer on the trail.  I never saw one, nor am I aware that anyone in our group ever shot at a deer.  We did, however, enjoy Jean Worth’s wonderful stories about Cedar River people and the camaraderie that goes along with the hunt.


GEORGE AND VICKI (circa 1970)  (posted 4-19)

Vicki came to the University of Michigan as a freshman in 1965, about a year before I was to depart from Ann Arbor to my new job in Cincinnati.  There’s a ten year age gap between us, but we’ve always been very simpatico and enjoyed being at Michigan together.  It was a turbulent time, and Ann Arbor was a national center of political protest and radical politics.  All of our lives were pretty unsettled as a consequence.  Vicki met George in an elevator in Haven Hall around her junior year.  She was a Psych major; he was a Ph.D. student in Political Science.  They’d dated for a while by the time that Katja and I drove up from Cincinnati for one of our occasional visits.  We all went out together for dinner and dancing at a local restaurant, and we felt certain that Vicki and George were made for one another.  George worshipped Vicki, and he was a very steadying influence in her life.  Many good things came to pass in their lives (most of all children Jacob, Rhys, and Abra). 


DORIS AND VICKI (circa 1949) (posted 4-12)

Here’s our mom and her last-born child and only daughter, Vicki.  Vicki looks about two in this photo.  After three boys – David, Steven, and Peter – my parents were thrilled by the birth of their first and only daughter, and she occupied a special place in the family ever after.  While we older brothers could be pushy at times, we regarded Vicki as special too, and we all had very strong ties which extended into adulthood.  Of the four children, Vicki was closest to Doris, and this had some rewarding effects as well as some conflictful ones. 


DORIS L (circa 1935-37) (posted 4-5)

My mother was very pretty, and my father took many admiring photos of her.  She and my dad had a wonderful circle of friends, and they enjoyed a social life in small town Menominee that I’ve never seen elsewhere.  All sorts of theme parties (e.g., costume parties, art parties, poetry parties, jazz parties, etc.), community theater, organizing great books discussion groups, bringing musical groups to town.  In her younger adult years my mom was very outgoing, socially adept, fun, and a great hostess.  We were lucky offspring in many ways.


PETER AND DAVE (circa 1958) (posted 3-29)

This is my younger brother Peter (about 13) and myself (around 21) at Christmas vacation in Menominee.  My dad had bought the 1952 Buick for me from my friend  Bob  A’s uncle, and I was getting ready to drive it back to school in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  My beret was Katja’s doing.  As a French major at Antioch, she thought it gave me style and a bohemian air.  It didn’t really fit in Menominee though.  Peter’s hair style was avant garde, but he would soon progress to more radical extremes (a la Elvis). 


DORIS AND STEVE IN MILWAUKEE (circa 1951) (posted 3-22)

This is my mom and my younger brother Steven on, I believe, a trip to Milwaukee.  Green Bay, Milwaukee, and Chicago were the big city destinations from our Upper Peninsula small town.  Steve and I grew up together.  I was the shyer of us two older brothers and more of a loner, while Steve and Doris were outgoing and sociable.  In adulthood Steve enjoyed a kidding relationship with our mother, but one always accompanied by heartfelt love.


VIC IN HIS CAP (posted 3-15-10)

This is my dad, Vic L.  He was a complex, interesting, unique person.  Bright, well-read, engaged with many different pursuits, shy but still socially assertive.  He often held his feelings in, just as he’s crossing his arms in this photo.  He joked that he liked to wear a cap to keep his brains from leaking out.  My dad regularly made fun of the English language, inventing his own words and phrases in pidgin French or Swedish.  He loved nature, conversation, music, and all of the arts.  He was a lawyer, municipal judge, and prosecuting attorney in Menominee.  Plus a father, husband, friend, and community supporter. When I was a child, I fantasied that my dad might become President one day, but I don’t think it was his inclination.  


DORIS LAUGHS, VICKI AND PETER SMILE (circa 1953)  (posted 3-8)

Doris is laughing heartily, while her children are amused but more restrained.  My mom’s later years were difficult, plagued by ill health and numerous problems, but her early and middle adulthood were filled with joy.  Having fun was one of her central life values, and I think that she was disappointed that her children (at least some of them) didn’t fully achieve this, though I’ve known very few people who had as much fun as my parents and their friends. 


FAMILY TENSION (circa 1969) (posted 3-1-10)

This might well be my favorite family picture.  My brother Peter took it in Ann Arbor in the late 60’s during a time when our family was beset with generation gap strain, e.g., our small town conservative Republican parents, on the one hand, and Vicki and George riding the crest of the counter-culture at the other.  I project into this photo some long lost confrontation between my mother, Doris, and Vicki in her hippie garb, mother initiating the issue at hand, and daughter defending herself.  My dad stands aside stolidly, eyes hidden by sunglasses and hands in pockets, while George is intently attuned to Vicki, ready to lend his support.  My sister-in-law Faith in the background looks vexed and stymied as a daughter-in-law.  While we all loved one another, this scene repeated itself for at least a decade or two, then finally abated.


HIPPY PROF (posted 2-22)

That’s me as an untenured assistant professor of social psychology in the early 1970’s.  It’s a little hard to recall right now.  Katja started persuading me to grow my hair long when I was 20 and wore a World War II era crewcut.  The mustache and goatee were partly my idea since, without some facial hair, I looked younger than most of my students.  Those were the days.


SOFTBALL PLAYERS, circa 1951 (posted 2-15)

Our front yard at river house was a sports palladium.  This is me batting, Steve catching.  We played football in the yard, golf, basketball (in the back yard at the garage), archery, did high-jumping, threw horseshoes, ran races, snow-shoed, and had acorn fights.  In good weather, we spent most of our time outdoors, and our forest surroundings offered endless diversions.


CIRCUS (posted 2-8)

The traveling circus came to town every summer, and it was one of the community’s biggest events.  They held a parade down Ogden Avenue,with elephants, clowns, and many other wonderful things.  The morning of opening day, my parents would wake us at sunrise, and our family would all go down to the fairgrounds (now the airport) and watch the trainers and their elephants erect the tents.  Setting up the circus was almost as exciting as the circus itself, and it was the most amazing day of our young lives.


GEORGE AND VICKI, circa 1972 (posted 2-1)

This is George and Vicki at river house in about 1972.  Our son J is in the foreground, undoubtedly puzzled by his rambunctious relatives.  George, a serious and deep-thinking person, also had an ever-present zany side, inspired in part, I’m sure, by childhood exposure to the Marx brothers.  Vicki was filled with fun too, though she often counterbalanced George’s exuberance by showing her serious side.  We began having annual family reunions in Menominee about this time, with Vicki and George coming from Toronto and then Santa Cruz, Steve and family from Seattle, Peter and family from their many different abodes, and Katja, J, and myself from Cincinnati.  We got along really well as a family, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much before or since.


PETER’S PHOTOS: THE IDEAL DAIRY (posted 1-25)

The Ideal Dairy was located on Highway 577, Menominee’s westward city limit, and we would pass within a block of it each time we traveled to and from town.  My father was a dedicated ice cream fan, and we were raised to believe that ice cream was a dairy product and one of the healthiest foods available.  We made regular family expeditions after supper to the “Idol” where we were allowed to select any size ice cream cone so long as we ate the whole thing.  Since the price was two dips for a nickel, we couldn’t go too deeply in debt.  About age thirteen I began riding my bike for the two mile trip to school and back, and, if I had a little change, I would stop at the Ideal Dairy.  I got to the point where I could ride one-handed and eat six dips of Lemon Flake simultaneously.  It’s one of the most pleasing memories of my life.


VICKI AND KIERA MAKE THE BIG TIME (circa 1961)  (posted 1-18-10)

This is a picture of Kiera O’Hara and Vicki L. on the local Uncle Tom Show in Marinette.  They'd been studying tap dancing with Julie Johnson (one of Vic's friends), and they report being excited and nervous about debuting their talents on television (though looking quite cool in the photo).  Kiera recalls having silver cardboard top hats with their dancing outfits.  Vicki writes, “What I remember best was my favorite step called the "\’shuffling buffalo’ .... I can perform it well to this day and sometimes can't resist demonstrating my tap dancing skills in the most surprising settings.”


FATHER & SON (1939)  (posted 1-11-10)

I always find these late 1930’s photos of my father, here at age 31, puzzling and amusing, since he always looks like a Trotskyite.  Nothing could be further from the truth, since his mother was a high-ranking official in the Wisconsin Republican Party and Vic followed in her footsteps.  We appear to have some shared focus of attention, Vic with more of a sense of urgency and of angst, while I look a bit reserved but calm.  Perhaps this is meant to be a photo of father and son moving forward to the future, father carrying the son, but anxious about what awaits them out there in this depression era, while the more na├»ve son is mildly curious.


STEVE & PETER PLAY CAROMS, circa 1955 (posted 1-4-09)

My younger brothers Steve and Peter L. are playing caroms in the living room at river house.  Probably about 1955 (Steve, 14; Peter 10).  The children in our family were pretty competitive with one another, and you can see the seriousness with which these players approached the game.  Steve became an outstanding pool player as he grew up, the leader among his peers, and Peter was pretty good too.  Caroms was a favorite family game, and I still think nostalgically about buying a carom board whenever I see one at the flea market.


SALLY HENES (posted 12-29-09)

I sat right behind Sally in Mr. Robare's 7th grade core class, and we soon became friends.  One day when we fooled around too much, Mr. Robare put me in the cloakroom and Sally in the outside hallway, but we communicated by knocking in secret code through the door.  Sally had a great personality and an infectious laugh.  She was my first date to a school Holly Hop dance in the 9th grade, and I was embarrassed when my fathere showed up at her house beforehand to photograph the event.  Sally became the head cheerleader in high school and was a leader of our social clique.  When Katja came to visit me in Madison in 1957, Sally arranged for her to stay in her UW dorm.  I was really happy to see her at our recent 50th high school reunion.  


MARTINA AND PAT STEFFKE (circa 1950) (posted 12-21-09)

The Steffkes were part of my parents’ close friendship group.  Martina was from Austria.  Pat met her in Europe at the end of World War II, married her, and they came back together to Menominee.  They operated the local dry cleaning shop, and later Pat became an insurance agent.  Skipper Burke and I thought Martina was the most beautiful woman we’d ever seen.  I believe that she had trained as an opera singer in Austria.  I can still vividly recall the night in our Wells Ave. apartment when my dad (Navy), Pat (Army), and Mike O’Hara (Marines) returned from the war, and the three couples got together for a joyous reunion.  Pat and Martina were very warm and generous people.  In their older years Pat and my dad had season tickets to the Menominee High School football games.  After Pat passed away, Katja and I visited Martina in her Green Bay shore home on each of our annual visits to Menominee.


MOTHER AND SON (posted 12-21-09).  Vic brought an artist’s eye and craft to his photography, and this portrait of my mother Doris and myself (age 2) is a good example.  This was taken in our Ogden Avenue apartment.  While I have no primal memories going back this far, life looks pretty idyllic at this early juncture.

ARTISTS AT HUNTING CAMP (posted 12-7-09)   For years Vic and his group of male friends maintained an oil painting group in which they picked given local subjects of common interest, and everyone generated a painting employing their own style.  Here, it’s birch trees on the bank of the Cedar River.  The participants, from left to right, are Vic Mars, Jean Worth, John Sargent, and Bill Caley.  Vic M., John, and Bill were local business executives, all of whose families lived at Northwood Cove on Green Bay, and Jean was the editor of the Menominee Herald-Leader.  I’m pretty sure the photo was taken at Jean’s hunting camp.  As amateurs, this was a pretty accomplished group, and my dad passed along his art interests to his offspring.


FAMILY FRIENDS AT RIVER HOUSE, CIRCA 1958 (posted 11-30--09)   These are the respective kids of Vic and Doris L. and of Mike and Jean O’Hara.  The front row (from the left) includes Sean O., Vicki L., Kevin (Kiera) O., and Peter L.  The back row is Michael Dennis O., Steve L., Dave L., and Terry O.  Our families were best friends, and the O’Hara’s visited our house or we their’s multiple times a week.  Terry and I were close friends, as were Steven and Michael Dennis.  Vicki and Kevin were best best friends and as tightly knit as young girls could be.  Vicki’s great aspiration at this age was to become a nun.  We did a lot of swimming in the river and Green Bay and general mischief-making in the great outdoors.


RIVER HOUSE (1942)  (posted 11-23-09)   This photo was taken shortly after the completion of river house.  The adult is my grandfather, V.A.L. Sr., and the barely distinguishable kid to the right near the water is me at age 5.  The newly created yard looks barren compared to the home we grew up in.  The small trees grew to 30 or 40 feet by my late teens: two evergreens, a weeping willow, another large evergreen, birch trees near the river bank, and a tall poplar.  My mother planted a lengthy garden next to the stone wall., and my dad and his friends erected a tall flag pole by the garden.  The lawn was our football field, baseball diamond, golf fairway, and terrain for acorn wars.  The structure in the distance in mid-river was built by a logging company in the late 19th or early 20th century for use in the industry’s log drives.  Pig Island is to the right, Riverside Cemetery is located among the trees toward the left, and the town of Menominee begins on the other side of those trees, whereas Marinette is to the right.  Though I’m undoubtedly biased, I think this is the most beautiful spot on the Menominee River.


FAMILY PORTRAIT (1947)   Family photo on front lawn of river house (from left): Vic (39), Peter (3), David (10), Steven (6), Vicki (0.5), Doris (37.  My dad set up the camera on a tripod, then triggered a delay gadget and ran back into the picture.  Looks like sweet Vicki will have to grow up in a group of older and bigger brothers, though she will enjoy a special status.


VICKI AT THE HAMMOND CHORD ORGAN (posted 11-16)   When I was a teenager, my parents bought a Hammond Chord Organ which occupied the west wall of the living room at River House.  With a chord organ, one played a melody with one’s right hand, while pushing buttons for the accompanying chords on one’s left (A major, C minor, etc.). We had a lot of different chord organ books which covered a lot of standards from the first half of the twentieth century.  Old Buttermilk Sky, Elmer’s Tune, and Way Down Upon the Suwanee River are the first pieces that come to mind.  Vicki and I were the most serious organ players in the family.  I still have our chord organ books, some of which have Vicki’s notations, evaluating various pieces.  As I type this on my PC, the chord organ is a few feet to my left, though my room is such a terrible mess that I couldn’t play it without doing some major cleaning up.


STEVEN L., Age 19.   (posted 11-9-09)   Steve was born in Feb., 1941, 3 ½ years after me, and followed by Peter in 1945 and Vicki in 1947.  Thus our family sort of had two birth cohorts, Steve and myself, then Vicki and Peter.  This photo was taken in Yellow Springs in August 1960 at Katja’s and my wedding.  Steve, looking very handsome, was my best man.  He’d just finished a freshman year at the University of Michigan, where he’d belonged to a fraternity and had a wonderful time (probably too good since it led to his eventual transfer to Northern Michigan).  If I was a quiet, shy young man, Steve, as the second born child, was the opposite – outgoing, fun, a bit on the wild side.  We all turned out to have rewarding lives, but I’d have to say that Steve’s had more excitement than anybody else’s. 


GOLFERS AT THE STAG JAMBOREE (circa 1953)  (POSTED 10-12-09)   This is a picture of Frank St. Peter (left), myself, and Jim Jorgenson at Riverside Country Club, participating in the annual Stag Jamboree.  I was good friends with Frankie from early childhood on and with Jim J. from fifth grade on.  All our families belonged to Riverside, and we started taking golf lessons probably around age 10.  We played on weekday mornings, and it was fun, though it was rare that I would shoot par on a given hole (perhaps once every hundred holes).  I usually shot about 55.  The part I liked best was to go wading in the river and retrieve golf balls that the adults had given up as lost.  When I turned 16, my brother Steven (at age 12) began to beat me consistently, and, perturbed by the injustice of this, I bought a tennis racket and took up a new sport. 


RIVER HOUSE IN MID-WINTER, CIRCA 1952 (posted 10-5-09)   That's Mike and I walking across the Menominee River ice toward our family home.  The tall evergreens are Norway Pines, and the tall hardwoods at center right are oak trees.  The river froze solidly every year from late autumn to early spring and allowed us access to Pig Island on the opposite side or expeditions to the east or west along the shore.  In December we'd keep a skating rink cleared for a while, but snowstorms would inevitably cover it up.  When the ice went out, it made a wondrous sound of tinkling bells, and my Dad would carve the date of "Chinese Bells Day" in the wooden archway between our living and dining rooms.


VIC AND DORIS, circa late 1930’s (posted, 9-24-09)   My dad rarely appears in his photos, but here is an exception, I’d guess dating back to the late 1930’s.  I view my parents’ social world in their adulthood as richer than anybody’s that I’ve encountered since.  Living in a small U.P. town with none of the cultural resources of the big city, Vic and Doris and their friends generated their own creative sources of entertainment – music, art, community theater, great books discussion groups, theme parties, expeditions with friends, etc.  Their social group had big parties all the time, discussed the political issues of the day, boated on the Great Lakes, went to hunting camp, etc.  It’s a life style model that none of their children have approximated and reflects the unique bunch of people of which they were a part.


PETER L., AGE 15 (1960)   (posted 9-19-09)   Hair pomade was "in" in the Elvis Presley era depicted in the movie Grease, and my brother Peter L. was at the forefront.  We kidded him about his look, but he took it with a sense of humor and a definite capacity for rebellion.  Now it looks pretty good.


FAMILY PORTRAIT (1972) (POSTED 9-12-09)   Back row: Vicki, George, Steve holding Jennifer, Margie, Faith, Vic; front row: Dave holding J., Doris holding Greg, Katja.  Annual family portrait and annual family reunion at Farm in Birch Creek, MI.  Dave & Katja came from Cincinnati; Steve and Margie from Seattle; Peter and Faith (harder to track) might have come from Kansas City or Minneapolis; Vicki and George, from Santa Cruz.  Peter, not seen, took the photo.  Looks like a happy bunch, and it was.

VICKI SLEDDING ON THE MENOMINEE R. (Posted 9-4-09)  This photo was taken on the river in front of our house, probably in Dec. 1949.  The ice froze like glass to a depth of a foot or more, and, when the snow fell, we shoveled it off to make a skating rink and built a ramp of snow off the bank for sledding.  We could walk to Pig Island and back, as well as up and down the river.

DORIS IN TAXC O (posted 8-26-09)   My parents, my brother Steven, and I took a trip to Mexico City in 1951.  This was inspired in part by my taking Spanish I from Miss McNeill at Menominee High.  I was designated the family interpreter as well as being required to mail regular reports back to my Spanish class (which my peers regarded as blatant brown-nosing).  We lived in a bed and breakfast operated by a host named Jorge who my parents regarded as an angel.  We took an overnight side trip through the mountains to Taxco which was a very charming city.  We also visited Xochomilco, where we took a gondola ride and the traveling musicians claimed their songs were free after the first one, but then charged my dad $100.

XMAS 1949 AT RIVER HOUSE:  VICKI, THOR, PETER.  [Posted 8-15-09]   Throughout our childhood Christmas Eve was the major get-together time for our extended family at our house on the river.  My mom would make a big turkey dinner, or sometimes goose or ham.  My dad would take a spruce tree over to the local auto body shop and have it painted white or blue for our artistic Xmas tree.  Uncle Kent & Aunt Millie would bring their kids, Thor, Stewart, & Kurt.  Uncle Ralph & Aunt Martha would bring our cousins, Ann & John.  Kent & Ralph usually brought presents from their respective drug stores.  Uncle Karl, the only bachelor in the group, would drive up from Neenah-Menasha, and, while everybody else was more moderate in their gift-giving, Uncle Karl, unfettered by family expenses, would shower all of us with expensive and tasteful presents.  This was the most exciting day of the year in our family, and thinking about it still elicits good feelings. 

DORIS L AND JEAN WORTH AT FARM.  [Posted 8-9-09]   This is my mom and our close family friend, Jean Worth, having a look at my parents' Farm in Menominee County, Michigan, probably sometime in the late 1980's.  My dad had a dam built across Birch Creek, creating the pond in the foreground.  The small building to the right, The Coop, is a two-room guest house.  My parents' two-bedroom log cabin house is in the center.  The large barn, adorned with stained glass windows made by my dad, is partially visible at the left.  My parents, with great love and attachment, completely restored this hundred-year old farm, and it has been the site for many years of our family reunions. 


STEVE L. WITH BB GUN (circa 1951)  [posted 8-3-09]   Steve is shooting the BB gun in the front yard of river house.  I'm guessing age 10.  He's facing north; the Orth's house is in the background.  Steve was a good shot, the best in our family.  We'd have target practice by shooting at floating objects that we'd throw in the river.  As we got older, my dad would bring out the .22 for carefully supervised rifle practice.  We were allowed to shoot red squirrels in the oak trees near the house, but not gray squirrels, and porcupines if we could find them.  (I should mention that all these rotating photos were taken by my dad, Vic L, in the 40s and 50s and resurrected by my brother, Peter L, in the 2000s).


VICKI L. AND HER DOLL (posted 7-25-09)   Vicki was the first girl and youngest child in our family.  After three boys (David, Steven, Peter), my parents were thrilled to have a girl, and her brothers loved her too.  It wasn't easy for Vicki to grow up in a pack of bigger boys, but she more than held her own.  As they grew older, she and Peter (two years ahead) would regularly go out to the cabin on our river property where they would have all-out, no holds barred fistfights which usually resulted in a draw.  From early childhood on, Vicki and Kevin (Kiera) O'Hara were inseparable friends, and Vicki begged my parents to let her convert to Catholicism so she could become a nun.