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.   

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