Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Archive: Vic's Photos (#11)

Our family home on the Menominee River (circa 1948)

Dear George,
This is the eleventh archive of family photos that my dad, Vic L., took between the 1930’s and the 1970’s in Menominee, Michigan.  Most of these come from postcards that my brother Peter reproduced from Vic’s negatives in the early 2000’s.  Past archives can be accessed by going to the right hand column of this blog, clicking on “Archives” in the “Labels” section, and scrolling down.  I put one new photo of Vic’s in the right hand column each week, and I’ll be posting more archives in the future.

My mother Doris L., the only child of insurance executive Guy Cramer and homemaker Nora Cramer, grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.  She was an honors student in high school, met my dad in college, and married at age 22 in 1932.  Doris and Vic lived in Menominee for nearly all of their married life, were members of a wonderful long-term friendship group there, raised four kids, and enjoyed a rich life together.  I think this picture was taken when Doris was in her mid-20’s.  

Vic and Doris and their friends would have regular social get-togethers, including costume parties and theme parties of all sorts.  Here Doris and Vic look like they’ve stepped out of a L’il Abner comic strip.  

Florence Caley and her husband Bill were very good friends of our parents, and we often visited their home on the Green Bay shore at Northwood Cove.  Their three boys, Bill Jr., Tom, and Bruce, were friends of myself and my siblings.  Florence was a former teacher, and she was a very generous and warm person.  The Caleys were enthusiastic boaters and we’d sometimes join them on trips across the bay to Door County.    

I was eight when my dad returned from the war.  He was a Lieutenant JG, served in the Pacific theater, and spent months in postwar Japan.  I was initially let down when I learned that he was on a communications ship rather than a destroyer or aircraft carrier, but I felt better when I learned that he’d had been in battle zones.  My dad regarded his wartime years as the most important and meaningful in his life,  He and his Menominee friends would talk about their military experiences, and he’d occasionally get together with former Navy shipmates.

The end of the war and the return of husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers were huge events during our childhood.  My dad came back from the Navy, Mike O’Hara from the Marines, and Pat Steffke from the Army.  Here are Jean O’Hara, Pat, and our mom, Doris L., relaxing at a get-together after the veterans’ return.  

This is my sister Vicki with our beloved Irish Setter, Mike, on the window seat at river house around 1948. I have another of my dad’s photos of Vicki and Mike when she was a teenager, so Mike lived quite a while.  He was a very smart dog, faithful and loving, energetic, and very good with us kids. 

Peter was born in June of 1945, the third son in an eventual family of four kids.  Peter always had a keen sense of humor and an unflagging spirit.  He and Vicki were very close.  As an adult Peter knew more about our family life than any of the rest of us and was the best source of family history.  It’s his postcard project that made available most of “Vic’s Photos” shown here.    

Here’s Doris with Vicki and Peter at some sort of summer outing.  My siblings look mildly amused, but our mom, as was characteristic, was much more ebullient.  

This is my sister Vicki and our cousin Thor, Kent and Millie’s oldest child, at Washington Grade School.  I think Vicki and Thor were in the same grade, though I’m not positive.  Washington Grade School was an important part of all of our lives.  It’s where I learned that I could do well in school, got a reasonable grounding in the 3 R’s, and began my lifelong academic career.  

This is my Aunt Martha, Vic’s younger sister, and my cousin John, probably at their house at Pine Beach in Marinette.  Martha’s husband, Ralph, along with Clarence Nelson, ran the Marinette drugstore, and Martha and Ralph had two kids, Ann and John.  Martha was a long-time librarian at the Stephenson Public Library on Dunlap Square in Marinette.  John has recently retired from a long career as a physical therapist in the twin cities.  He’s a devoted mountain biker, and we enjoy getting together on visits to Menominee.  

My grandfather’s Menominee Rexall drugstore had a fountain that served lunches and ice cream.  Steven and I ate there daily when we attended Washington Grade School, a half block away, though we usually ate in my Uncle Kent’s office so that the fountain stools would be available for the customers.  One of the great thrills of my childhood is that my dad used to bring us to the drugstore after hours and allowed us to make any ice cream concoction that we deserved, with the sole limitation that we had to eat whatever we made.  It was a child’s dream come true.  

Dooley Worth was the oldest daughter of Jean and Margaret Worth, two of my parents’ closest friends.  Jean was the editor of the Herald-Leader in Menominee, and our families enjoyed many happy outings as his hunting camp in Cedar River.  Dooley was a couple of years younger than me and went to the University of Michigan, eventually becoming a medical anthropologist.  She was smart, funny, and full of spirit.  We enjoyed some e-mail correspondence a couple of years ago, but then lost touch.  I’m sad to say that she passed away in 2014.  

Here are my brothers Steve and Peter and my sister Vicki posing on the window seat in the living room of our house on the river.  This was probably taken around the time that I’d left for college.  Steve is looking handsome, Peter is the most animated, and Vicki seems happily absorbed in the mysterious object that she’s holding. My siblings were great, and, despite the usual rivalries and occasional spats, we got along well and grew still closer as the years went by.   

My brother Peter, who played football at Menominee High, was always annoyed that he was a bit shorter than average.  He dealt with that as a teenager by taking up weightlifting as a serious enterprise.  He definitely wound up the most muscular of us kids.    

This is Mary St. Peter, a close family friend, in her teenage years.  Her brother Frank St. Peter and I were the same age and did lots of things together, including YMCA and boy scout camps. Mary was a couple of years younger.  Katja and I visited Mary and her husband John in San Francisco in the early 1960’s, and we still keep in touch via occasional e-mails or e-greetings.  Mary and John now live at Orca Island, Washington.  

Aunt Martha was the family genealogist, and Katja and I would visit with her on each of our Menominee trips and find out about her latest projects on our family.

Katja first visited my family’s home in Menominee in March of 1957 at age 19.  Having grown up in center city Philadelphia, she found everything about Menominee amazing, and she took readily to my parents, siblings, and family friends.  This photo was taken in 1960, the year we got married.  She certainly was a pretty family member.    

In the Autumn of 1963 Katja and I did a six-week tour of western Europe.  We met up with my dad in the latter part of the trip, and he hosted us to a French Riviera stay for several days at a hotel in Rocquebrun which was built into a mountainside overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean below.  We enjoyed a fancy, exotic get-together which included continental breakfasts on the high-rise outdoor patio each morning. 

When my parents purchased a large tract of land in the Birch Creek area, they initially had no interest in the dilapidated Farm buildings on one portion of the property.  Within a few years, though, they began renovation of the log cabin that dated back to the 1890’s, with the aid of Menominee construction expert, Jim Dama (pictured here) and then George Jansen Jr.  Very quickly Farm became the love of my parents’ golden years.

This is the log cabin at Farm in its original condition when my parents bought the property.  After its renovation, Vic and Doris sold our house on the river and lived at Farm for  the last decade of their lives.  They loved their new home and, during our many family reunions there, taught their children and grandchildren to love it as well.  Now Farm is jointly owned by Vic and Doris’ nine grandchildren, and it continues to be a source of family togetherness and enjoyment.    

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spring is for Poems

Dear George,
Today our Poetry Writing Workshop came to an end.  That makes me sad, though, of course, one doesn’t need a workshop to write a few poems.  Here are some of my products from the Spring quarter.

Bigfoot Lives

Last month I went on a U.P. trip
I found a motel near Birch Creek
I hadn’t been home for years and years
The land still retained its mystique

I hiked for miles in the wilds of the forest
Woods teeming with cedar and pine            
The snow on the ground made walking a struggle
Dead deer were an ominous sign

I found large tracks heading off to the north
Two feet long and nearly as wide
It couldn’t have been a bear or a cougar
It had moved with a gigantic stride

I followed those tracks to the heart of the woods
A loud wail burst forth from the trees
At a distance I saw a blurry shape
I felt myself flinch and then freeze

The creature started to move toward me
I couldn’t believe my own eyes
He must have stood over eight feet tall
And he bellowed great howls and cries
I started to run as fast as I could
But the beast was much faster than me
He knocked me to the ground with a piercing blow
Then he pinned down my chest with his knee

He had blazing red eyes and horns on his head
He was covered with matted black fur
I kicked and struggled and tried to break free
But his foul breath made my eyes blur

The monster pummeled my head with his arms
He was snorting like a bull through his snout
My heart was pounding like a battery of drums
It was then that I must have passed out

When I finally came to, the beast was gone
I’m amazed I survived my ordeal
Some people still wonder if Bigfoot exists
This poem surely proves he is real

What They Thought About Humpty


All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again

What the King’s men thought

This King has drunk too many kegs
He forgets we’re the palace guards
What do we know of broken eggs?
That Humpty is nothing but shards 

What the King’s horses thought

We are horses, for God’s sake
We don’t even have any hands
We’re ever so sad to see Humpty break
But the King should rethink his commands

What the King thought

These are the world’s worst horses
And I’ll need to replace all my men
Next week I’ll have better resources
We’ll put Humpty together again

What the Queen thought

My husband the king is a schnook
He didn’t even put me in the rhyme
I’ll bring this smashed egg to our cook
She’ll whip up an omelet sublime

What Humpty thought

I should never have sat on that wall
I’ve always been wobbly and tippy
Now I’m broken into pieces so small
And my innards are disgustingly drippy

What Humpty’s mother thought

How could you do this, cruel Humpty?
Fate has played us a terrible joke
It’s painful just to be a Dumpty
We’ve nothing of Humpty but yolk

What Humpty’s wife thought

I fear that's the end for my Humpty
He was always a fragile sort
We planned for a baby Dumpty
But now I am free to cavort

Death Sends Warm Regards

A while ago I had a chat with Death
She scared me and I tried to get away
Her pale white visage took away my breath
 “Relax,” she said, “I’ll come another day”

Then Death returned as she had vowed to do
She said the time had come for us to leave
We held each other’s hands and off we flew
I hoped my chums would find some time to grieve

I met St. Peter at the Pearly Gate
He handed me a long form to fill out
I couldn’t think of anything that great
I drank too much and acted like a lout

So that was the end of my days on Earth
I haven’t any stories left to tell
I’d like to say that everything’s been mirth
Except that it is quite hot here in Hell

An Ode to the Green Bay Packers

The Packers of Green Bay are America’s team
They’re the only group owned by their fans
They first got started in nineteen nineteen
Their field didn’t have any stands

They beat Menominee in their very first game
The score was fifty-three versus zero
They had guys named Biggy and Hexbert and Sam
Captain Curly Lambeau was their hero

When I was a kid Don Hutson was the star
An offensive force, he played defense too
The greatest receiver in league history by far
Three NFL titles were his due

Coach Lombardi arrived in fall fifty-nine
He brought fame and glory to Green Bay
They won the first Super Bowl in sixty-five
Then Super Bowl Two went their way
Brett Favre joined the Pack in ninety-two
He stepped in when Magic got hurt
Seventy thousand yards is what Brett finally threw
Two Super Bowls in that Packer spurt

So that’s how it’s been for us Green Bay codgers
Our moods are altered by the Packers’ fate
Right now all our hopes are with Aaron Rodgers
We’re sure he’ll be nothing but great

Friday, May 15, 2015

Growing Up in Cincinnati

Dear George,
We moved to Cincinnati in 1966, and our son J was born here in 1969.  Because we’d only lived as a married couple in Yellow Springs and Ann Arbor, we worried about big city living with kids, but Cincinnati turned out to be an excellent place for family life and raising children.  Not so large as to be overwhelming, but large enough to have plenty of cultural, sports, and urban attractions.  Here are some vintage postcard images that highlight locations and activities that were important for our family during J’s growing up years.  Nearly all are still here and remain rewarding parts of our lives. 

Christ Hospital
J was born at Christ Hospital in 1969.  Katja was less than enthusiastic about the birthing process.  After her labor had gone on for about a day, she started yelling at the nursing staff, “It’s my turn!  It’s my turn!”  Back then mothers and infants stayed in the hospital for a week to ten days.  Then  our son and mother came home to our rental townhouse in the suburbs.

A Clifton residence
In 1973, when J was 4, we moved to Clifton, the center city neighborhood adjacent to the university.  Clifton had originally been a hilltop suburb of Cincinnati, settled by wealthy families with large estates.  We rented the first floor of an old mansion on Clifton Avenue, and, with its Rookwood fireplaces and Italian murals, it was the fanciest place that we lived before and after. 

The Presbyterian Church
The Presbyterian Church, just two doors down Clifton Ave. from our apartment, operated a daycare center, and J and his friend Jessica G. were pupils there for two years.  J’s favorite teachers were Ann and Judy.  Katja bought a motorcycle from Ann, but, when it proved too large and unwieldy for her, I took it over and frequently went on forays on the city’s west side.

Burnet Woods
Burnet Woods is a city park that extends about a half mile from the Ludlow Avenue Clifton business district to the university.  I frequently walked to and from work through Burnet Woods and still do.  As J grew older, he and I spent a lot of time hiking on the Burnet Woods trails.  One time we let our dog Winston off the leash, and J had to chase him a quarter-mile through the park to get him back.  

Clifton School
J and his friend Jessica started kindergarten at Clifton School in 1974.  The school had an excellent reputation, dating back over 70 years.  In the early 1970’s it introduced multi-age classrooms, so that the first through third graders were in the same rooms together, as were the fourth to sixth graders.  Along with the 3 R’s, J perfected skills in skateboarding and hacky-sack.  His favorite teacher was Miss Williams.  

The Cincinnati Zoo
Katja set aside Saturday mornings to do her errands about town, and J and I nearly always went out on expeditions around the city.  The zoo was our favorite destination, just a short car ride from our house.  The Cincinnati Zoo has long been one of the top ten in the nation, and it’s also one of the oldest in the country.  Despite our many visits, there were always amazing new things to see.  

The Natural History Museum
When the weather was rainy or snowy, we’d spend indoor time at the Natural History Museum on Gilbert Avenue (since then relocated to the Union Terminal Museum Center).  They had a few hundred thousand artifacts – fossils, gems, animal skeletons, seashells, etc.  There was an artificial nature trail where you’d see stuffed deer, foxes, porcupines, and other wildlife.  Practically all the wonders of the world.

Mt. Airy Forest
On Sunday mornings we’d frequently go as a family for a hike at Mt. Airy Forest, bringing along our poodle Jacques.  We’d park at the Arboretum and follow a trail through the forest for about half a mile till it came to an end at a road, a creek, and a field containing a couple of horses.  The horses were curious about intruders and usually came over to see us and vice versa. 

Eden Park
Eden Park was another of our favorite family outing places.  We’d go to the Overlook, check out the ducks and geese, and play at the playground.  J was always interested in the Romulus and Rhemus statue that Mussolini gifted to the city of Cincinnati in the 1930’s.   

The Cincinnati Art Museum
My parents used to take us as little kids to the Chicago Art Institute, and we continued the same tradition in our Cincinnati family.  Art museums aren’t as exciting as zoos for kids, but J liked the Henry Farny paintings of Indians in the Old West, Greek statues of people and cows, and the medieval armor exhibition.

The Taft Museum
Another Museum treasure in Cincinnati is the Taft Museum, originally the home of the Taft family.  We’d go there regularly for their Victorian Christmas exhibits.

Music Hall
Katja is a classical music lover, and we’d go as a family to Music Hall to the Cincinnati Symphony, Opera, or the May Festival.   We’d also have season tickets to musical theater at the College Conservatory of Music at the university.    

The Public Library
Cincinnati has one of the best public library systems in the nation.  The main downtown branch has the second largest circulation of any library branch in the U.S.  J and I would go there to check out books, videos, and CDs, and also take in the current art exhibition.  

Union Terminal
Union Terminal is one of Cincinnati’s historic treasures, though it’s been many years since it operated as a train station.  It’s said to be the inspiration for the comic book Hall of Justice, headquarters for Superman and friends.  For several years Union Terminal housed a shopping mall, and we’d go there on weekends to browse.  Nowadays we take our grandchildren, V and L, there for the wonderful Children’s Museum, the Imax, the History and Science Museums, and other exhibitions.

Coney Island
Along with its amusement park rides, Coney Island has a gigantic swimming pool.  J used to go there during his grade school years with his friend Jessica and her mom Susan.  One summer he got such a bad sunburn that the doctor said he could never take his shirt off in the sun again. 

Good Samaritan Hospital
J jammed his hand in a door at preschool, and they rushed him to the emergency room at Good Sam.  Although J had never touched a violin, Katja said, “There goes his violin career,” and they discharged the resident assigned to the case and brought in the chief hand surgeon.  J never even had a scar.  

Kings Island
Kings Island opened up in 1972, and we’d usually go there at least once a season during J’s childhood.  It’s one of the biggest amusement parks in the Midwest.  They had a kiddie ride area that we all liked better than the gigantic rollercoasters.

Fire Station
When we smelled something burning on the second floor of our house, we called the fire house, and a hook-and-ladder truck arrived in minutes.  The firemen found some burnt matches in the upstairs hallway, and, despite J’s initial denials, it turned out that he’d been setting the matches on fire.  His parents were perplexed by their perfect child’s behavior.    

The Krohn Conservatory
The Krohn Conservatory has wonderful, jungle-like trails to explore, as well as a desert cactus area and an orchid room.  We took in their seasonal shows a couple of times a year.  

Crosley Field
J was in preschool and grade school when the Big Red Machine, with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Chris Sabo, George Foster, et al., was at its peak, and he soon became a kid fan.  Crosley Field was replaced by Riverfront Stadium in 1970, and we’d occasionally go to ball games at Riverfront.

Avondale Tennis
My tennis partner Irv G. and I started playing with J was he was 8 or 9, and by the time that he was 12 neither of us could beat him.  J joined the Cincinnati Tennis Club in East Walnut Hills, and he spent nearly every day in the summer there.  He soon developed into one of the best tennis players in his age group in Cincinnati.  We were insane tennis parents.   

Lunken Airport Playfield
The main Cincinnati junior tennis tournaments were held at Lunken Playfield, adjacent to Lunken Airport.  We spent many exciting hours there in the early to mid-80’s.

Walnut Hills High School
Walnut Hill is Cincinnati’s college preparatory high school and one of the top academic high schools in the nation.  J passed the test to get in and enjoyed his six years at Walnut, writing for the school newspaper, playing on the varsity tennis team, being a student in the Honors Program, and taking the required two years of Latin.  Then he was off to Columbia in NYC. 

These were some of the best years of our lives.  We still hang around at many of these excellent places.