Saturday, September 13, 2014
OMG, I look just like my father
I watched a lot of Last Comic Standing on TV this summer. It made me laugh out loud. It reminded me that when I was a kid I wanted to be a standup comedian more than just about anything. It’s not an easy business, of course, but making people laugh is one of the noblest things you can do. I don’t know when I got sidetracked, but it’s never too late to begin a new career. I've been trying to figure out what I could develop as a standup routine. Being married fifty years is pretty funny. Or living with rowdy sheepdogs. Growing up in the U.P. has some amusing stories too. Finally I decided that getting older would be the best.
You don't see that that many older standup comedians. On TV, most of the comics seem to be in their thirties and forties. Of course, there’ve been comedians like Groucho Marx in his eighties or George Burns who was still performing when he was a hundred. But these guys got their starts in vaudeville when they were teenagers. I never heard of anybody trying to break into the comic business in their seventies or beyond. Maybe most seventy-year-olds don't think life is that amusing. Or it could be that youth audiences don't think really old guys are hip enough. On the other hand, everybody likes grandfathers. Grandfathers are usually funny even when they’re not trying to be.
I have to admit that I’ve been obsessed with aging ever since I looked into the mirror a while back. I was astonished to discover that I look almost exactly like my father did when he was in his seventies. That came as quite a shock. I have no idea when it happened. Most of my life I’ve thought of myself as the firstborn son in our family rather than a member of the older generation. But there was my aging self, staring back at me – very hard to deny.
Age can be confusing though because it’s not always obvious how young or old people really are. When I went to my last college reunion some of my friends looked forty and some looked 102. Since I was a kid I've always looked younger than my actual age. When I was 16 I could still buy a child’s ticket for twelve-and-unders at the movie theater. At 30 I had to grow a beard because all my students thought I was an undergraduate. It took three weeks before people even noticed I had any facial hair.
The last time I saw my doctor he said, "You don't look 77 and you don't act 77, but don't kid yourself -- you are 77." That caught my attention. I don't feel 77 either. But now it's like there's an old person locked up inside of me. He's probably banging away at my rib cages at this very moment. I'm doing my best to keep him confined. My only hope is that he'll be too feeble to break his way out.
It’s also disturbing when you realize you’re the oldest person in the group. When I was a little kid, I was the very youngest member of my family . Now I'm practically older than all the rest of my relatives combined. I don't know what to make of it. Family members differ in lots of ways. Somebody’s the tallest, the thinnest, has the most Facebook friends, the happiest marriage, has gone to Acapulco the most times. But of all these different things, people are the most aware of who's older and who’s younger. There might be some positive things about being the oldest. But I’ve never heard anybody say that they can't wait to be the oldest member of the family.
In our family, when our parents reached their seventies, my siblings and I began to address them as the “Oldies”. Like, “Hey Oldies, where have you hidden the peanut butter?” I don’t know who thought up this name, though it could have been my sister. Anyway “Oldies” had many connotations. Affection, poking fun, stark recognition of reality, horror at our parents’ imminent decline. My mother was not enthusiastic at all about being called an “oldie”. My father took it in stride, confident that he could contradict any wicked stereotypes we were entertaining. Nowadays the younger people in our family haven’t yet thought about calling their elders “oldies”. I’m not going to remind them.
I wasn’t always nervous about getting older. In fact, years ago I and my friends believed that being older was the best. When I was in kindergarten I thought that sixth-graders, who were twelve, were the coolest people ever. Then when I actually got to the sixth grade I was in awe of high school students. When I was thirty the people I respected the most were forty- and fifty-year-olds who had accomplished a lot in their careers. But at some point that all changed. I can’t remember ever looking ahead and thinking how great it would be to be sixty. Of course, now when I think about sixty, I think of that as a pretty desirable age. Maybe someday I'll look back with nostalgia at my mid-seventies. I'm in no hurry though.
The main thing about getting older is that different things start to go wrong. For me, one example is that my feet ache more. I figured out on my calculator that I've walked over a hundred fifty thousand miles since I was one year old. That would make anybody's feet sore. I usually wear running shoes because they're more comfortable. I buy them at the big sports store at the mall because there's always a knowledgeable salesman who helps me pick at the best shoes. Last time the guy showed me a pair of Porky's that had been marked down from $110 to $50. I'd never heard of Porky's, but he said they were the best. The cashier at the checkout counter couldn't believe it. "Porky's for $50. Wow! I wish I'd seen those." I wore them the next day, but my feet really hurt. They were way too tight. The box said they were a size 9, but they felt more like a size 8. No wonder they were on sale. That was a year ago. I’ve been determined to get my fifty dollars out of them, so I've worn them every day since. I thought my feet might adjust and shrink a little bit, but I’ve just gotten more resigned to the pain. You'd think these shoes would be worn out by now, but Porky's seem to be very well-made. Just like the guy said.
My hearing is getting crummy too. This started happening when I turned fifty. I was having trouble hearing student questions in the classroom, especially from young women. I finally figured out that the students find it amusing to torture older professors by asking questions from the audience in soft voices and watching the teacher squirm up on the podium. Nowadays I consider closed captions on TV to be humanity’s greatest invention. I've also started borrowing "assistive listening systems" at the movie theater. You put on these big headphones, and you can adjust the volume. It does make the soundtrack much louder. Now, instead of listening to inaudible distorted dialogue, I can listen to noisy distorted dialogue.
Poor hearing is bad, but an even worse thing about aging is how fast your nose hairs grow. It doesn't make any sense. Everything else is slowing down. Why should your nose hairs grow faster? You’d think that teenagers would have the fastest growing nose hair, but that’s not the case. My biggest problem is I don't know how to get rid of them. I tried using a tweezers, but that didn't work. Mostly I grab them between a fingernail and the tip of my thumb and yank them out. I usually do this while I'm driving in the car. It's convenient because you can throw them out the window. It may not be the best idea because the pain makes you wince and close your eyes. I told Katja if I die in a car crash, they should engrave on my tombstone, "Done in by his nose hairs.”
While getting older is interesting and often enjoyable, there are various other negative things that can also be connected with it. Curiously, most of these start with the letter “D”. For example, disease, deterioration, decay, disability, deformity, disfigurement, depression, drunkenness, delirium, dementia, dunderheadness, dandruff, and death. This plethora of D-words makes me a little nervous because my first name, David, also starts with the letter “D”. Then I realized that most of the other bad old age things are “C” words: cancer, cardiac arrest, coronary thrombosis, colonitis, cirrhosis, canker sores, corns, cramps, clammy palms, and crows’ feet. Of course, my middle name – Cramer -- starts with a “C”. This does not strike me as a coincidence. Since I’m a DC person, I worry that I might be especially vulnerable to these frightening DC outcomes. So far though I’ve only been afflicted with drunkenness and clammy palms. Thinking more positively, it could be that my DC name will actually protect me against the bad DC things because my electrical field gives off the right vibes. Only time will tell.
That’s it for tonight. Thanks a lot, guys. You’ve been a super audience. I hope to see you again soon.
Monday, September 8, 2014
It’s been quieter than normal around our household recently. Katja flew to Sacramento last week for her nephew Tyler’s wedding. She, her sister Ami, her brother David, and her sister-in-law Susan drove down to L.A. for the big event. The wedding, Katja reports, was a great success. Katja has never been to Southern California, so it’s been an exciting adventure. I chose to stick around here with our aging sheepdogs. Mike and Duffy have never been in a kennel, and, given that they need extra attention at their creaky ages, boarding them at this point in their lives seemed out of the question. It’s actually enjoyable being home on my own. It’s quiet and relaxing, the dogs are faithful companions, and I get to set the air conditioning wherever I want.
You’d think that with only one human in residence there would be excessive room in our kingsize bed. The dogs, however, have taken it as an opportunity to enlarge their dominion. There’s always been an unspoken rule in our house that the dogs get whatever spaces on the bed that they like. Since they claim the entire lower half each night, it means that I lie sideways at the top. That works out all right. The dogs get about nine hours of sound sleep a night. I get at least six.
The new Moroccan restaurant
The exciting addition to our neighborhood business district is the new Moroccan restaurant. We’ve had five Indian restaurants on our street for years, and, when one of them closed, the Moroccan Restaurant opened in its place. Katja and I visited it on its second day, and we liked it a lot. The service wasn’t perfect. Katja’s Bastilla dish arrived on time, but they entirely forgot my order until I went up and reminded them. The waiter was better the next time around, and I’ve been there a couple more times since. It’s definitely my favorite.
Buying a share in the co-op
Our local IGA shut down three years ago, and our neighborhood business district has lacked a grocery store ever since. There’s been a serious move afoot to establish a co-op grocery store, and residents have been invited to buy ownership shares for $200. They’ve now reached about 700 members, though they need to raise $4 million to make the co-op actually happen. I’ve been besieged almost every day by e-mail to buy a share, but I’ve put it off to get a better sense of whether the venture has a hope of succeeding. Recently I got an e-invite from an acquaintance who was holding a house party to promote the co-op. I didn’t recognize any of the invitee’s names. I promptly walked down the street and purchased my $200 share. This suggests an effective strategy for fund-raising with introverts. Invite them to a house party with strangers, and they will pay practically anything to get out of it.
Checking our breath for liquor
Katja and I were coming back from a Thursday night outing via one of Cincinnati major north-south streets when we ran into a sobriety checkpoint staffed by around a dozen sheriff’s deputies and police officers. One of them stuck his head right into our window to smell my breath, asked me a couple of routine questions, then waved us through. My initial reaction was relief at not being caught drinking and driving. Later I got more indignant about the police stopping me and thousands of other drivers indiscriminately with no probable cause to check us out for criminal violations. My understanding from a quick Google search is that about 1.5% of motorists wind up being arrested at such mass traffic stops. I guess our checkpoints in Ohio are fairer than New York’s stop and frisk procedures since the police here stop a lot of white people and not just black and Hispanic males. Nonetheless, they treat a lot of people as potential criminal suspects with no justification.
(Un-)controlling my blood sugar
On my last annual physical exam all my lab tests turned out normal except for my blood sugar. That’s been running above normal for a few years. The doctor gave me a self-testing monitor and a batch of test strips which I use every morning. If anything, my readings have been steadily creeping upwards. I saw in a tabloid at the grocery store that Jennifer Aniston had lost ten pounds in ten days, and I decided that I could reduce my blood sugar if I were to lose five pounds in eight days. I went on a strict diet of water, salad, and red wine as soon as Katja left town. After six days I’ve lost one pound. My blood sugar is higher than it was a week ago. I’m still confident I have complete control over my own body. Unfortunately, my inner organs don’t seem to be listening. Perhaps the next step is to cut down on the water and the salad.
Like myself, the dogs’ recent lab tests were mostly good, though one of Duffy’s liver enzymes was running high. They did another blood test, and it was still high, so the vet ordered a urine test to check for the possibility of liver disease. I gathered a sample of Duffy’s urine in a plastic cup on our morning outing the other day. That turned out to be easy to do, and Duffy never noticed this intrusion on his privacy. Now we’re awaiting the results. I guess at Duffy’s and my age we can’t expect everything to be perfect.
I bought a tall and handsome plastic rabbit at a neighborhood yard sale last year, and I was thrilled to find his identical twin along with a short pudgy rabbit at a Dayton thrift shop this summer. My vision is to create a sculpture garden in our rear patio. I wasn’t sure that Katja would be as taken with the new rabbits as I am, so I kept them hidden behind the porch for a few weeks. When I did bring them out and tell her about my plans for a sculpture garden, she was less than enthusiastic. I hid the rabbits temporarily, but now I’ve brought them out again during Katja’s absence. I’ve never been to Disneyland, but I think it might look like this.
School starting soon
Just before Katja left we registered for OLLI courses (for people over age 50) at the university. I was wary of being back in a classroom when I started OLLI last year, but then I discovered it was more pleasant to be a student than to be an anxious teacher. We are both signed up in the autumn quarter for “Poetry Writing Workshop” among other things. We’re sort of apprehensive about it, but perhaps a few poetic rhapsodies will show up on this blog.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
It’s hard to believe, but another September is almost here. All of these months are rich in meanings, but September is certainly one of the best. Perhaps it’s most important because it’s always the beginning of the school year. But there’s lots of other stuff too. When I was a kid, we’d go with my dad to the union Labor Day picnics in Menominee County to help with his political campaigning for prosecuting attorney. As the weather got cooler, our summer swimming season would come to an end, and we’d begin toasting marshmallows in our outdoor fireplace. The squirrels would be busy gathering acorns from our front lawn, milkweed pods would release their fluffy innards, and the maples and oaks would be turning to their brilliant reds and yellows. We had stored dried cattails in the garage all summer long, and now we’d douse them in kerosene, set them on fire, and race in circles around the driveway. Best of all, the Menominee and Marinette High School football seasons would start with all their accompanying excitement.
A lot of famous people have been born in September. Just to name a few, Adam West (TV Batman), Twiggy, Rocky Marciano, Trisha Yearwood, Mama Cass Elliott, Jimmy Fallon, and Joe Morgan of the Cincinnati Reds. Closer to home, our son J’s entire family was born in September: our daughter-in-law K on Sept. 15 (Independence Day throughout Central America), our granddaughter V on Sept. 16 (Grito de Dolores, Mexico’s Independence Day), J himself on Sept. 19 (International Talk Like a Pirate Day), and our grandson L on Sept. 30 (Martyrs Memorial Day in China). September is practically a nonstop birthday party in their NOLA household. For us oldies, National Grandparents’ Day is on the first Sunday after Labor Day, and the Japanese celebrate Respect for the Aged Day on the third Monday of September.
I think one could plot out one’s entire life course just by listing personal events in the month of September. Here are some memorable Septembers that come to mind for me:
- Sept. 1942: I started kindergarten at Boswell School in Menominee’s west end. The main thing I remember is being petrified.
- Sept. 1948. My sixth grade teacher, Miss Guimond, appointed me Captain of the Safety Patrol. That meant that I had to stand guard at the street corner over the lunch hour while the rest of the boys were playing football (actually with my football that I brought to school each day).
- Sept. 1949: I began seventh grade at Menominee High. Going from being a big shot sixth-grader to a puny seventh-grader was petrifying.
- Sept. 1953: I was elected president of the junior class at M.H.S. That’s only because everyone thought it was such a nerdy thing to do.
- Sept. 1955: I started my freshman year at Antioch College in Yellow Springs. I won’t say I was naïve, but, when my new classmates started talking about “socialism”, I thought they were referring to some type of social disease like syphilis or gonorrhea. I was really confused.
- Sept. 1957: I moved to New York City on an Antioch coop job and, after a single visit to Times Square, I decided New York was the only place I was ever going to live.
- Sept. 1958: My steady girlfriend Katja W. left for a year abroad in France and Vienna, a painful and perilous separation.
- Sept. 1960: Married for one week, Katja and I moved to Ann Arbor after Labor Day to begin graduate school. Though we were initially snobs about the Big Ten, it only took one game for us to become devoted U.M. football fans.
- Sept. 1965: As a teaching fellow I had my first experience of teaching discussion sections of a large social psychology class. Consumed with anxiety, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience.
- Sept. 1966: I taught my first class in my new faculty job in Cincinnati and immediately came down with a stress-related fever blister (which was to recur annually every September for the next 43 years).
- Sept. 1969: Our son J was born on the nineteenth. Back home from the hospital, we’d tiptoe into his room every night because we couldn’t tell if he were breathing from next door.
- Sept. 1978: I began my first academic year as a new full professor. I came down with double pneumonia on the first day of classes and spent the next three weeks in the hospital.
- Sept. 1984: Katja began graduate study in the M.S.W. program at the university, switching from adjunct teaching in the French department to a better paying career because of imminent college expenses.
- Sept. 1987: We drove J to New York City to begin his freshman year of college. After dropping him off, I immediately became deathly ill and was confined to bed for the next three days.
- Sept. 2006: I began a two-year term as Acting Head of the Sociology Department, a job I’d always dreaded but which proved surprisingly tolerable.
- Sept. 2008: Our sweet grandchildren were born, V in NOLA, L in China.
- Sept. 2009: I began my last academic quarter of teaching social psychology before retiring at the end of the year.
- Sept. 2013: I started taking OLLI classes for people over 50 at the university. I thought I would hate being back in the classroom, but it was actually kind of pleasant to be a student again.
Now that I’ve made my list, it looks like September has been a stressful month for me. But that’s just because it’s the time of the year for new beginnings. I don’t know what this September holds in store. We’ll find out as we go along.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
I wrote a couple of months ago about the sad state of the massive yew tree in our front yard. It was ailing all last year, and a guy from the Ulysses Tree Service* came over, pruned off the dead branches, and infused the root system with vitamins and fertilizer. Despite his best efforts, half the tree was dead by the end of this past winter, and Mr. Ulysses said there was little or no hope for it. He didn’t see any evidence of disease or insect damage and concluded that the tree was simply declining from old age. He gave us an estimate for taking it down, but we were so attached to the yew that we couldn’t bring ourselves to take that fateful step. For the past five months I’ve gone out and looked at it every day, hoping for some miraculous sign of rejuvenation. But no such luck. Several of Katja’s acquaintances have asked when we plan to chop the tree down (because its sort of a blight on the neighborhood), but she’s been noncommittal.
Last week a guy named Rich knocked on our door and asked if we’d like to have the yew tree removed. He gave an estimate that was $200 less than Ulysses Tree Service. I’m usually wary about people who knock on the door, but Rich looked at least semi-reliable and so we went with it. He and his partner Rick arrived the next day, and they proceeded with the tree cutting as shown in the photos below. They cut many of the branches into eighteen-inch lengths. I set aside a pile to use for firewood, and they put the rest at the curbside. All were gone within 24 hours. Rich said that carpenter ants had killed the tree, and we actually did see a bunch of them scurrying about. Katja asked Rich about his tattoos. He had one on his arm for his ex-wife, three across his shoulders for his kids, and WILD AND CRAZY tattooed in large letters down his right side. Katja asked what that meant, and Rich said his coworkers nicknamed him that because he was such a hard, intense worker. I wasn’t so sure, but that was his story. A few days later a stump guy came by and took out the stump with his grinder. I’d counted the rings before he arrived; there were 72. This tree had begun its life during World War II.
I was bagging up the wood chips this morning when a neighbor from down the block walked by. She said that she was shocked to see the tree gone and couldn’t believe we’d done that to her tree. She said her dog was confused and upset that the tree was missing and has been looking here and there. I tried to explain why we had to do it, but she just kept shaking her head and looking grim. She wondered whether the tree would grow back, an unlikely possibility. I understood how she felt -- I feel the same way too. It’s sort of like losing a grandfather or a long-time friend of the family.
*Pseudonyms used in this story
Thursday, August 21, 2014
La Calisto, Cincinnati Opera
Though it’s still hot and muggy here, summer is gradually winding down. Classes at the university start on Monday, first grade has already begun for our NOLA grandkids, and the NFL season and the US Open will be upon us before we know it. The mid-summer highlights for us involved Cincinnati’s opera season. Katja is an officer in the Opera Guild, the Cincinnati Opera’s fund-raising arm, and so she was immersed in a batch of activities and events, some of which she cajoled me into attending as well. Her favorite opera this year was La Calisto; I liked Madame Butterfly best. We both also enjoyed Carmen and Silent Night (set in a combat zone in France during World War I). Katja, of course, is much more of an opera buff than I am, though, after forty years of accompanying her, I’ve become more and more appreciative.
The big August event for us was Cincinnati’s Western & Southern Open tennis tournament. I’ve been going to it since it was a much smaller pro tournament in the late 1960’s. Now it’s one of the top ten tournaments in the world, and it draws all of the leading men and women players, e.g., Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova. Thanks to tickets from our friends Paula and Frank, we went to two evening sessions. We were thrilled to watch Milos Raonic, seeded fifth and looking like a graphic novel superhero to me. Federer, however, beat him in straight sets and went on to win the tournament for the sixth time. Serena Williams won on the women’s side, her first Cincinnati title and one of the few majors that she hadn’t won over the years.
A couple of days later I took our sheepdog Duffy on a short camping trip to nearby Winton Woods, while his brother Mike stayed home with Katja. What a change – from big crowds and high stimulation to peace and tranquility. The campground is spread out in a large stand of tall, elegant pines, and our campsite was right at the edge of the lake. Duffy was an excellent companion.
We’re looking forward to Autumn. We’ll watch a lot of the US Open and cheer for the Bengals, Saints, and Packers. Katja is flying to California for her nephew Tyler’s wedding. I think I may have talked her into a camping road trip with the sheepdogs at some point after that. We’ll get the catalog for OLLI classes at the university soon. All in all, life is looking good.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Family portrait (1947): Vic, Peter, Dave, Steve, Vicki, Doris
My father, Vic L., created a wonderful photographic record during the years that we were growing up in Menominee, and my brother Peter recirculated many of Vic’s photographs to family members in the early 2000’s in the form of postcards. I’ve been posting individual photos from Peter’s collection on my blog once a week, and here’s a batch of them in the form of an archive. There are seven earlier archives of Vic’s photos on this blog which can be accessed by clicking on “Archives” in the “Labels” section of the righthand column. The most frequent subjects in the photos are my mom Doris, my brothers Steven and Peter, my sister Vicki, and myself.
I’m going to guess this was taken on my brother Steve’s first birthday (2-27-42). It would have been at our house on Ogden Ave. where our grandfather V.A. Sr., age 67, is blowing on a paper whistle. V.A. was a gentle and kind grandfather, much loved by his grandchildren.
Here’s Vic riding a bike on Riverside Boulevard near our house. On the postcard containing this image, Peter wrote, “I don’t remember Vic ever riding a bike.” I’d have to agree, though here we have undeniable evidence. Riverside Boulevard was a gravel and dirt road when we first moved there in the 1940’s, and the county blacktopped it in the early 1950’s, making for much better bike-riding.
The Mobil gas station in Menominee was at the corner of Ogden Ave. and Highway 41 near the Courthouse. Gas in my youth was usually 19.9 cents a gallon, but when the local stations had a gas war it could drop as low as 9.9 cents. The only traffic light in town was at this corner. When my high school friend Nancy D. was driving a bunch of us around in her parents’ car, she bypassed the traffic light by driving right through the gas station space. We all screamed in mock horror.
Jean and Margaret Worth and their kids – close friends of our family – lived on State St. in Menominee, near to the Burke’s and the St. Peters. They had three girls – Dooley, Ann, and Jean, similar in ages to the kids in our family. Jean Worth was the editor of the Menominee Herald-Leader and later the Escanaba Daily Press, as well as a well-known U.P. historian. The Worths had a fantastic hunting camp in Cedar River where we enjoyed many outings with my parents’ circle of friends.
Each year my parents brought us on a trip to Chicago where we took in the big city attractions, including the Art Institute, the Museum of Science and Industry, Lincoln Park, and the Maxwell Street Flea Market. Here are my brother Steve and our mom Doris in a Chicago restaurant (circa 1950).
The Ferris and Watts circus visited Menominee each summer, staging a parade through town with elephants and other wonders of the world. The circus grounds were near the site of the present-day airport, and our family would go there shortly after dawn to watch the men and the elephants set up the tents.
In my midteens I constructed my own private camp in the forested area of our family property between the house and Riverside Boulevard. It had a lean-to made of Alder tree trunks, a fire pit, a table I constructed from tree branches, and various other accoutrements. It was hidden away, and I kept its location secret, fantasizing that I would escape there if family life became unbearable. I guess I must have invited my father and my sister Vicki to come and visit, since Vicki shows up in this photo. I think I blindfolded them before leading them to my hideout.
This is family friend Muriel Sawyer with one of her children. Peter suggested that the baby is Chip, Muriel’s son. Dick Sawyer was my Dad’s law partner, and we’d visit the Sawyers regularly at their State St. home and sometimes at their hunting camp. I once went out with Dick and my dad on a duck-hunting expedition at dawn. We didn’t get any ducks, but it was a memorable adventure nonetheless.
My mom, Doris, and her close friends Jean O’Hara and Florence Caley are in the back of the Caley’s boat on Green Bay. Peter commented on his postcard, “It was the only boat I went on as a kid, usually to Fish Creek or Ephraim where the Caleys had built a summer home on the bluff.”
When my parents moved to their Birch Creek farm in the early 70’s, they continued to entertain friends regularly. Here’s a lawyer and lawyer spouse group -- Margaret St. Peter, Ken Doyle, Muriel Sawyer (seated), and my mom Doris L. at the kitchen table.
Though our U.P. small town was in a largely rural region, my parents insured that we made trips to Milwaukee and Chicago at least once or twice a year. Here are Doris, Kevin (Kiera) O’Hara, Vicki, and Peter at a restaurant in Milwaukee.
Peter suggests on this postcard that this friendly group is seeing our family off at the depot on a trip to Milwaukee. From the left: my Aunt Martha, Mike and Jean O’Hara, our grandfather V.A. in the cap, an unknown man behind him, my Uncle Ralph, and probably my Uncle Kent.
The Ann Arbor car ferry ran between Menominee and the Lower Peninsula. This is Car Ferry #5. When we lived in Ann Arbor, we thought about taking the car ferry across Lake Michigan many times to save on driving time, but we couldn’t afford it. Then it shut down, and we’d missed our opportunity.
This scene is somewhere on the shore of Green Bay on a boating expedition with a group of my parents’ family friends. From the left: Florence Caley, Bill Caley, Jean O’Hara (kneeling), probably Doris L under the bag, Mike O’Hara, and Peter guesses Mike W. This bunch had lots of fun together for many years.
On his postcard of this scene, Peter labeled the image “Ice Cutters” and commented: “One of the things I remember is the ice house on the Marinette side of the river up from the Paper Co. where they would store huge blocks of ice sawed out of the river & then buried in sawdust.” They delivered ice to my grandfather’s Marinette drugstore when I worked there as a kid.
This is Peter L., Vicki L., and Kiera in front of the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, about 1957 or ‘58. Peter commented on his accompanying postcard, “The Pfister Hotel completed in 1893, cost $1.5 million, a staggering sum in opulent Victorian times. One of America’s first electric hotels and the first in the world to have a thermostat in every room. In 1962 it was sold to Ben Marcus at a bankruptcy auction. He invested $12 million to return it to its former glory.”
Here’s my mom Doris with my siblings Peter and Vicki at YMCA Camp near Green Bay, probably about 1951. They would have been visiting my brother Steve at the time because I’d graduated to Boy Scout camp by then. I never liked going to any of these camps (too nerve-wracking being with all those strangers), but Steven was more socially adept and did better in new situations.
I look pretty dressed up for this occasion, even sporting a handkerchief in my breast pocket. Peter speculates on his postcard that it was my prom night (a good guess since I can’t think of any other occasion for wearing a suit in my high school years). That’s our Irish Setter, Mickey, resting on the ground.
I missed out on my sister being a Junior Varsity cheerleader because I was away at grad school. There weren’t any high school sports for girls, so cheering for the boys’ teams was the sole athletic option for girls. Vicki didn’t pursue her cheerleading career after junior high, probably because it didn’t fit with her life priorities.
Here's a beautiful photo taken in Menekaunee on the Green Bay shore across the river from Menominee. Menekaunee started out as a separate fishing village and eventually was absorbed by the city of Marinette. I went many times with my dad to buy fresh whitefish at Pederson’s fish house in Menekaunee on trips home from college and graduate school. There’s still some active commercial fishing on Green Bay and Lake Michigan that’s based there, though substantially less than in days gone by.
Katja first came to visit Menominee in March of 1957, three months after we’d first met in Milwaukee. This photo, with Peter, Vicki, and myself, was taken a couple of years later at our house on the river. Vicki was 10 and Peter almost 12. My brothers and sister loved Katja, and it took no time at all for her to become a full-fledged member of our family.
As newlyweds, Katja and I moved from Yellow Springs to Ann Arbor in September 1960, and we’d make biannual trips to Menominee via the Mackinac Bridge each August and sometimes in December. Here’s my mom Doris talking with Katja as I packed the trunk, probably about to depart on a wintry trip to the Lower Peninsula. Xmas vacations in Menominee were full of excitement because of all the togetherness with siblings, socializing, thrift shops, Jim Beam, and laughter.
Around the late 1960’s my parents, Vic and Doris, teamed up with Vic and Ruth Mars to buy a large section of land in the Birch Creek area, north of Menominee. Vic and Doris’ half included a dilapidated farm building compound in which they originally had little or no interest. After a couple of years, though, they decided to renovate it, and Farm because the heart and soul of their later lives. This is my dad on the front porch before the work had begun. Now the property is owned jointly by Vic and Doris’ nine grandchildren, and they’ve turned it into a thriving rental and family vacation property.