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.    

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