Monday, April 28, 2014

Archive: Vic's Photos #7

Peter, Dave, Vicki, and Steve on the frozen Menominee River (circa 1950)

Dear George,
My dad, Vic L., captured our family life in Menominee in photographs from the late 1930’s to the mid-60’s and beyond.  In the early 2000’s my brother Peter recirculated many of these photos in the form of postcards that he created.  Peter’s postcard project, along with images taken from family albums, are the source of the family photos shown here.  This is the seventh such archive that I’ve put on this blog.  Earlier ones can be accessed by going to the righthand column, scrolling down to “Labels”, and then clicking on “Archives.

Here are Vicki and Peter as little kiddies.  I was born in 1937, Steve in 1941, Peter in 1945, and Vicki in 1947.  As a result of that spacing, we had two kid cohorts in our family.  Steve and I, the two older kids, were close playmates, and Vicki and Peter spent most time with one another.  Some years ago Steve’s best childhood friend Peter J. reminded me that we always referred to Peter and Vicki as “the babes”.  I can see why when I look at this picture.  

This is my brother Steve on his prom night in high school.  The photo captures 
Steve’s great capacity for exuberance.  Steven was one of the most popular kids in his high school class, and he was the most adept of our four siblings at having fun.  This carried over into adulthood as well.  Steve influenced us all to enjoy life more fully, though he always remained the master.  

This is my grandfather and myself.  V.A. Sr., was born in 1875 in Sweden, emigrated to the United States as a teenager, and became a prominent pharmacist in the twin cities.  He was about 65 at the time of this photo and was a very warm, gentle, and giving grandfather.  He’d retired by the time I started working as a teenager at his Marinette drugstore, but he’d come in every now and then to help out.  V.A. wintered in Miami Beach.  He lived with us for a short while at river house, then moved to Pine Beach with my aunt Martha and uncle Ralph, and passed away in the late 1950’s when I was away at college.  

We had two Irish Setters when I was growing up.  The first was Mike who was a gift from our neighbor, Lou Reed, who lived a half mile west of us on the Menominee River.  Then my grandfather bought Micki (pictured here) in Florida and had him transported to Menominee. We were very close to Mike and Micki throughout our childhood.  The dogs swam with us, went on boat rides and camping trips, joined in on hikes in the forest, and hung around as we played in the yard.  They were smart, loyal, and well-behaved dogs -- good companions to grow up with.  

The circus was the most exciting event of the year for Menominee kids and families.  It set up near what’s now the airport and launched its arrival with  a parade through downtown on Ogden Avenue.  This dinosaur float for the Ferris and Watts Circus is advertising Sinclair Gasoline.

Peter explains on his postcard:  “Steve is crawling in the front yard during the building of the fireplace which was made from the excess rock from the house chimney.  I would guess he was 5 or 6 months old.  Though in theory this was our outside grill, I don’t remember too many marshmallows or hot dogs roasting there.”  I’d have to add that I remember roasting some number of hot dogs and marshmallows there, but I was older and maybe the novelty wore off after a few years.  

Here’s our sister Vicki, perhaps 8 or so, at the Monopoly board, undoubtedly playing against one of her older brothers.  We played many different board games, but Monopoly was always the family favorite.  Steven and I used to invent new rules so nobody would go bankrupt and we could prolong the game as long as possible.    

This is a sailboat race that was held weekly in Menominee on Green Bay.  Peter wrote on the back of this postcard image that the weekly race is still going on some 60 years later. 

My dad was a serious amateur photographer who subscribed to the professional photography magazines of the day and strove for artistic compositions.  This is one of my favorites among his images.  My mother looks very pretty, and I look like a happy kid.  

Xmas was a major event in our household, and the profusion of toys in this photo looks like a good haul for the youth.  The tree, however, is sort of raggle-taggle.  This wasn’t taken at river house, but at our house or apartment in town.  Just looking at the image reminds me of the high level of excitement in receiving presents from Santa.  Hardly any adult experiences match the wonder and joy of a child’s Xmas. 

This is my younger brother Steve, about age 2, enjoying Xmas morning in our house on Sheridan Road.  It looks like his long-legged pajamas were either hand-me-downs or were designed to last for a couple more years.

Vic was the family photographer, so photos of him are relatively rare in our albums.  I look about three in this picture, which would make it 1940.  My dad looks quite jaunty in his pullover and hat.  

It could be that three-year-old Steven is having a conversation with a friend, but who knows for sure.  We lived on Sheridan Rd. when this picture was taken, and I was in the second grade at Washington School, about a half-mile walk from our house. 

My grandfather, V.A.L. Sr., lived with us for a year or so at river house, having constructed a one-room pre-fab log cabin on our property for that purpose.  He’d retired from the drugstore business and enjoyed various carpentry and fix-it projects at our garage workbench, enlisting my brother Peter as his helper and apprentice.  After he moved to Pine Beach to live with Martha and Ralph, the cabin became Steven’s poker hangout and a changing room for swimming parties.

I have many fond teenage memories of the Gateway CafĂ© on Ogden Ave.  Peter’s postcard comments echo my own feelings: “All think about Jozwiaks & Mickey-Lu’s but the high school hot spot was the Gateway Cafe across from St. Joseph’s hospital where everyone went after high school football and basketball games.”  That was entirely true for my generation as well as Peter’s and Vicki’s.  

This is my brother Steve, perhaps age 10 or 11, with his bike along the shore of the Menominee River.  Bikes gave us our means of freedom and independence on the river, whether going into town and back or making our way through the forest on the overgrown “old road”.  

Vicki looks very serious in her capacity as a model.  The sculpture was done by Bill Caley Sr., and it was greatly prized by my parents who treated it as a family heirloom.  When Vic moved to Cincinnati in his later years, he hand carried the sculpture on his trip, but it very unfortunately got chipped en route, and Vicki’s nose was lost.  We still have the broken bust in our attic.  

This is our new blue Plymouth at the driveway at River House, around 1959.  Vicki and Peter are in the background; Steve and Doris seem to be inspecting the grillwork.  According to Peter’s postcard message, Vic was suspicious of local car dealers, so he would order his cars from Detroit and have a driving service deliver them 600 miles to the U.P.    

This is my mom, Doris, probably at the farmhouse she and Vic were busy renovating in the early 1960’s (inferred from the log walls in the background).  I think it’s a pretty good character portrait, with Doris conveying a certain mild angst at this life stage.  At one time or another all of our family members were smokers, not a healthy tradition.

Our family collie Puff was a “gift” from my brother Steve to my parents sometime around the early 60’s.  If I recall correctly, Steve and Margie had acquired the dog from an acquaintance in Florida, and they named him after “Puff the Magic Dragon” of pop music and psychedelic fame.  My dad became very attached to Puff, who was his constant companion in the woods at Farm.  Sadly, Puff was hit by a car when running free on the road.   

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2014 So Far: Bests and Worsts

Dear George,
When I was thirty or so I rarely considered whether I was having a good year or a bad year.  There were limitless years ahead, and I had more pressing things to worry about.  Now that I’m older, have extra time on my hands, and no longer have an infinite number of years ahead to enjoy, I’ve seem to be more preoccupied with assessing my quality of life.  My New Years resolution this past January was to do something special every day.  (Not super special – but at least somewhat special.)  I’ve managed to do that at least half of the time, but I tense up when I ask myself how many really big things have happened in my life lately.  Anyway, now that we’re almost done with the first third of 2014, it seems like a good time to evaluate the year so far.  To accomplish that, I compiled two lists: (a) my best experiences; and (b) my worst experiences of 2014 to date.  I encourage readers to try this for themselves since it’s an instructive exercise.  Here’s how my lists wound up:

Bests of 2014

·       Biggest trip: To New Orleans for six days in late March, visiting J and K and our grandkids V and L
·       Most enjoyable workouts: At my line dancing class
·       Best sheepdog outing places: Eden Park and Miami Whitewater Forest (tie)
·       Best OLLI class at the university (for 50-&-overs): Behind the Scenes in the Arts
·       Most engrossing sports event: The Winter Olympics (esp. ice dancing and halfpipe)
·       Best flea market expedition: Monthly Flea-n-Tique show at the county fairground in Dayton
·       Most nostalgic kid activity: Riding in a bumper car with my granddaughter V at City Park in New Orleans
·       Best hostess: Katja entertaining 20 members of the Contemporary Club at our house
·       Biggest family laugh: When I told my NOLA physician relatives that I’d given my primary care doctor my detailed blood pressure records in which I’d listed all my systolic numbers on one sheet and all my diastolic numbers on a separate sheet (very amusing to physicians) 
·       Cutest pet: My granddaughter V's tiny white bunny, Olivia Rosetop
·       Best museum experience: OLLI Tour of the National Underground Freedom Center
·       Best fashion exhibit: "Threads of Heaven" at the Taft Museum, featuring garments of the Chinese royalty from the Quing dynasty (some of which required 250 artisans to make)
·       Best photography show: Civil War photos at the New Orleans Museum of Art 
·       Best art show:  Steffen Thomas at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans
·       Best gallery visit: A Gallery for Fine Photography on Royal St. in New Orleans (with photos priced to $95,000)  
·       Best movie we've seen so far in 2014: Nebraska, with a demented Bruce Dern
·       Best TV show: HBO's True Detective with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey
·       Quirkiest TV show: The Search for Bigfoot in Menominee County (National Geographic Channel)
·       Most enjoyable book: Jonathan Goldstein, I'll Seize the Day Tomorrow 
·       Best theater:  CCM's "Les Miserables" and Broadway tour of “Evita” (tie)
·       Best opera: Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” at CCM
·       Most enjoyable jazz outing: Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses at the Spotted Cat Music Club in New Orleans
·       Best outdoor music festival: Rhythm Festival in Congo Square in NOLA
·       Best lunch: Baked Drum at Peche in New Orleans’ warehouse district 
·       Best dinner: Three-course prix fixe at Jean Robert's Table with the Opera Guild group on Vine Street downtown
·       Best holiday outing: Easter brunch at La Petite France with Ellie and Sam M.
·       Most fulfilling dramaturgical experience: Directing my five-year-old grandchildren L and V in our homemade play about “The Joys of Spring.”
·       Most enthusiastic dog encounter: Noisy reunion with our sheepdogs Duffy and Mike at the airport on my return from New Orleans.

Worsts of 2014

·       Saddest event: Attending the funeral of a long-time friend and department colleague
·       Most distressing news: A friend’s recurrence of cancer after several years in remission
·       Poignant week: Family birthdays in the last week of February including my mother’s and my deceased brother Steve’s, as well as my sister Vicki’s
·       Worst effect of our unusually harsh winter: Car stuck in the ice and snow three times
·       Most unpleasant financial expense: $1500 in car repairs from subzero temps (broken hoses, brakes, etc.)
·       Most anxiety-provoking: Dogs’ arthritis, evident in their difficulty climbing stairs and struggles to get up from the hardwood floor
·       Scariest accident(s): Me falling on the ice while walking the dogs and then Katja tripping on the parking lot pavement (no persisting injuries for anybody)
·       Worst recurrent nightmare: Having to teach a graduate seminar though knowing nothing about the topic
·       Stupidest comment to a doctor: Telling the gastroenterologist that I was looking forward to my colonscopy
·       Most annoying age discrimination: Doctor cuts my Ambien dosage in half because of federal government age guidelines
·       Daily pet peeve: The University's shuttle bus stop at our corner for which patrons wait in our driveway and on our side lawn
·       Most chronic frustration: my crummy hearing
·       Biggest life worry: What to do with too much stuff (i.e., attic and basement filled to capacity)
·       Worst late-night snack:  Katja’s leftover fig pizza.
·       Neighborhood dog losses: Lucy (died), Archie (died), Prissy (ran away), Harmony (moved to Illinois)

Like every other year, life continues to be a potpourri of goods and bads.  Apart from catastrophes to friends, the positive things for me outweigh the negatives in 2014 so far.  While I never anticipated it, I think this is mostly a consequence of being retired.  A lot of the sources of external pressure, evaluation by authorities, interpersonal conflict, and daily stress disappeared from my life when I left the workplace.  Instead I get to spend a lot of time doing things I like.  This is an unique and special time of life.  My immediate plan is to appreciate and enjoy the rest of 2014.

G-mail Comments
-Donna D (4-27): absolutely wonderful david!!!
-Jennifer M (4-23):  I'm glad the good outweighs the bad so far! And it seems like the trip to NOLA created a lot of the good!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sheepdog Pics

Three sheepdogs on Ludlow Ave. (Mike, Sophie, Duffy)

Dear George,
Sophie -- Mike and Duffy’s younger sister -- came for a weekend visit last Saturday.  That’s always fun.  Two Old English Sheepdogs in the house are enjoyable, but three sheepdogs are an absolute circus.  I don’t know if it’s gender or socialization or simply genetics, but Sophie is perkier than her old brothers, and everybody livens up when she appears on the scene, even the humans.  Sophie likes to play more than the boys do, and, whenever I read the newspaper, she brings me a tennis ball to play tug of war.  Then she pushes on Mikey’s nose with her paw.  Mike growls like a grumpy old dog, but I think he secretly enjoys it. 

All the dogs are older.  Mike and Duffy turn twelve this month, and Sophie’s just six months behind.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that I came home and saw two little black and white balls of fur in our kitchen doorway.  At first I thought they were baby raccoons, but, when I came closer, I realized they were puppies.  After the death of our Bedlington Terrier, Katja and I had firmly decided not to get another dog – at least that’s what I’d thought.  However, Katja had seen an ad in the paper and, with no other plans for her afternoon, had gone to see what sheepdog puppies are like.  She claims she had no expectation of buying.  However, two of the puppies were so cute that she brought them both home.  At first I was shocked, but it took only minutes before I was completely attached to the new puppies.
Passersby are always surprised to learn that the sheepdogs are twelve.  They’re good-looking and could easily by mistaken for young dogs.  They are, however, showing signs of age.  Mike was born with bad hips and now suffers from severe arthritis, which contributes to his reluctance to go for walks.  Recently we’ve decided that he’s stone deaf as well, since I can’t rouse him when he’s sleeping by shouting at the top of my voice.  The dogs always leapt into bed when they were younger, but now I boost them up.  Most veterinary web-sites estimate the typical life expectancy for Old English Sheepdogs as ten to twelve years.  We worry a lot about our twelve-year-olds and take the time we have together as a blessing.  We just enjoy each day as it comes.  There aren’t many options.  Here are a few more photos of the sweeties.     

Katja walks three dogs in front of our house (Mike, Duffy, Sophie)

Mike on the back porch with flowers

Dogs milling and sniffing on the patio

The bed gets crowded with two dogs, not to mention three

Sophie and Duffy on the porch steps

Sophie with our new bear, Alfonse

A portrait of Duffy

Mike sunning himself

Alert watchdogs on the front porch (Sophie, Mike, Duffy)

Dave with three dogs (Sophie, Mike, Duffy) 

Sophie on the sofa

G-mail Comments
-Donna D (4-17):  this was so much fun and a bit sad.   :(