By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
Lately I’ve been getting emails from Joann with lines like “way to go Sherlock!” or something like that. I often send her emails of cool things I find in my research. It keeps us excited between the times when we can actually get out photographing. Usually this starts with an email and a subject line of “I wonder where this is”? Often it is followed shortly by another email with the location that I found.
I’ve been perfecting my research skills for years and now sometimes I even amaze myself at how I can figure out the location of something I’ve seen a picture of, when the only information I have is the state. Years ago, my research was done using travel brochures and written books and lists. Now we have the internet, and it is a marvelous thing. I love to visit other photography websites. I enjoy viewing the photos from other areas of the country that we have not been able to visit yet. It helps me suggest some places we would enjoy for our upcoming photography trips.
A while ago I saw a picture of an old burglar alarm in a small town in southern Wisconsin. The picture showed only a small portion of the building and didn’t give any address, just the name of the town. I figured the building had to be on the main street or very close. It would have been an old bank building and I hoped we would be able to find it. On our next trip to the town, we drove up and down Main Street. I kept looking at the buildings until I saw one that looked like it had the same style as the one I had seen in the picture. And there it was – the old burglar alarm!
On a photography website I visit occasionally, I saw a picture of an old church. It was in Sauk County, Wisconsin, and Joann and I have covered almost every road in that county. Why did this church not look familiar? I sent the web address to Joann and asked her if it looked familiar to her. She couldn’t remember the church either. I did some more research and found a picture of an old church next to a cemetery. It looked like the same building to me, and if it was, we were sure we had been down that road just a month or so before but hadn’t noticed the church. I sent this link back to Joann with the original picture link to get her confirmation that this was indeed the same building. Searching our photo logs showed that we had stopped at the church about 10 years prior and had taken one photo. We returned this winter for more photos and now have the location marked for more trips in other seasons.
One of the bigger mysteries we had was an old gas station I stumbled on while searching the web. We love to visit old gas stations but there was no indication of where this gas station was. Again, all I knew was that it was in Wisconsin. With a magnifying glass, I could see a six digit phone number for a business on a sign in the parking lot. I used the phone number to narrow down the area of the state the station had to be in. There were two small towns next to each other with the same phone prefix, and one of those towns we had been to multiple times to visit an old mill that was owned by the local historical society.
How could we have been through this town multiple times and never seen this old gas station? The town has very few streets, so on our next visit we drove each one we thought it could be on. Finally we stopped a woman out walking and asked her if she knew where the station might be. Of course she did, and it was on a road we had never driven in all of our trips, on the edge of town about a quarter of a mile from the old mill.
On another photography site, I had seen a picture of a tobacco sign. I had never heard of the brand before, but the sign was cool. A little more research revealed that the sign was in a town that we had been to before. In fact, it was in Bear Valley, where our second cousins had grown up and their parents had owned a cheese factory. The sign is old enough that it was probably there when we visited as kids, but we weren’t looking for those things when we were younger.
Just this past week, the five girls in our family went with our dad out to Plain, Wisconsin, and the area where he had grown up. Our two youngest sisters had never been to the area with Dad, so we visited some of the places we had been to on earlier trips. Dad told us stories of when he was growing up and showed us places where he had lived and worked. Our route for the day took us to Bear Valley and, as we drove down Main St., we tried to figure out which building had been the cheese factory. As we stopped across the street from the building I thought was the cheese factory, I told Joann that the tobacco sign was on an old building last used as a garage. This time, finally, we came away with a picture.
You would think with all of my research and with both of us watching closely as we drive down the road that we would catch most things to photograph. You might be surprised to learn of the number of things we find out about later. Yes, we were on that road or in that town, but we must have blinked as we passed by.
If you see us out shunpiking, it’s OK to call me Sherlock. I’m the one in the passenger seat when Mary Poppins is driving.