Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lefty, the Milkman

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

For those who are not familiar with milkhouses, they are buildings used by dairy farmers for cooling and storing milk. They are also the place where the milking equipment is washed and sanitized.


When we were kids, we used to play in the barn and outbuildings, but the milkhouse was pretty much off limits due to the need to keep things totally clean and sanitary. After all, this was the building that housed the milk which was sold to generate income.


Once a day, usually late morning, a big milk truck would pull into the driveway and stop in front of the milkhouse. The milk truck driver’s name was Lefty and, no matter where we were on the farm, we would come running when he arrived.


Lefty would run a big hose from his milk truck through the small hose port on the side of the milkhouse. Then he would go inside and hook the hose up to the milk cooler. We would wait patiently while Lefty drained the cooler contents into the tank of his milk truck.


Hanging on the wall inside the milkhouse was a big tin cup that we used to “catch” the last bit of milk that didn’t make it up the hose. And, Lefty, who had a big soft spot in his heart for us, would “accidentally” leave a bit more milk in the hose than he should have.


Then he would unhook the hose from the cooler and pour the perfectly chilled milk into our tin cup, which we would pass around so that everyone got a taste. It was especially good on a hot summer day.


I mentioned above that the milkhouse was pretty much off limits to us kids, except when we were helping with the milking. However, kids will be kids and occasionally we would take advantage of the availability of the water and sprayers that were in there to clean up the milking equipment (sorry, Dad).


One summer day when our cousins were over, we decided to “pay back” a neighbor girl who had stolen something from our sister Phyllis when she had come over to play. She and another neighbor girl came walking down our driveway toward the milkhouse.


So we ran inside and one of our cousins (you know who you are, David!) grabbed the sprayer, stuck it out the milk hose port and sprayed a cold blast of water just as the neighbor girls walked past the milkhouse. The funny thing is, they didn’t find it nearly as entertaining as we did.


Due to the decline in small family-owned dairy farms, these wonderful little buildings have begun to fall into disrepair. So we try to capture them with our camera whenever we get the chance. And we will always fondly remember Lefty, our favorite milkman.

Happy Shunpiking!
Joann

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mills of the Ozarks

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

In the spring of 2008, Joann and I set off on a 10-day trip to Missouri and Arkansas. We had so much to see, starting with portions of Route 66, including Gay Parita and Red Oak II and continuing into the Ozarks.

Since the beginning of our travels, we have loved old mills. Luckily, the Ozark region has many of these old mills still standing.


Our first mill was the historic Wommack Mill in Fair Grove, Missouri. The mill was built in 1883 as the Boegel & Hine Mill and it is the oldest standing building in town. From the mill’s beginning in 1883 until the doors closed in 1969 after the death of Clifford Wommack, the mill was known by many different names.


The mill stood idle until 1984 when the Fair Grove Historical and Preservation Society bought the mill from the Wommack heirs and began restoration.


Joann and I are always impressed and incredibly grateful for the extraordinary amount of work that these dedicated volunteers undertake in restorations such as this one.

Next we came across the remains of the the Truesdale-Pyeatte and Moore Mill, with its huge overshot waterwheel. This mill is perched on the side of a small hill and, as you drive up, the remaining stone foundation and huge wheel are very impressive.


In 1840, the 36-foot waterwheel was shipped by wagon to Cane Hill for John Truesdale. In 1866, the mill was moved one mile north of its original location by Pyeatte and Moore.


The mill is now owned by the Cane Hill Restoration Society and the site is now a small roadside park. It was an impressive place to take a small break as Joann took her photos and we spent some time out of the car.


Another mill we visited was an old two-story wooden mill with a wooden waterwheel and a long wooden flume.


We don’t have any information about the mill, including who built it or when. This mill sits at the site of a Civil War battle.


Searching for Falling Spring Mill took us miles down lonely unpaved forest roads in the Mark Twain National Forest. We were wondering if we had missed the signs, until finally we reached the mill. The pond in front of the mill is a startling tropical-like blue, and you can see the blue color in the water pouring from the spring behind the mill.


This small two-story mill was constructed beginning in 1927, first of timber and later covered by saw board.


This mill was a multi-purpose mill that was used for grinding corn, sawing shingles and firewood, and generating electricity.


Reed Springs Mill is a replica of an earlier mill. The original mill and dam were built in 1881 to grind corn and wheat. Sometime before 1915, the mill began to generate electricity for the town.


The original mill was taken down board by board and shipped to San Francisco for exhibition at the 1939 World’s Fair. Then it was shipped to Washington, D.C. and is currently held in storage at the Smithsonian Institution.


The small, one-story mill is privately owned but can be seen from the road. The mill is very picturesque.


Every day of our trips, as we review the photos from the day, we appreciate all of the places we were lucky enough to visit that day. And, as the months and years pass since these trips, the photos still remind us of those days on the backroads of America, which makes us excited for the backroads to come.

Happy Shunpiking!
Ruth

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Stone and Log, Historic Churches of Coleraine, Minnesota

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In June of 2010, Ruth and I visited the city of Coleraine, Minnesota in search of a couple of old churches that were on the National Register of Historic Places. We weren’t exactly sure where they were, so in the interest of saving time, I stopped and asked a man who was tending to his flowers in the front yard. He kindly told me that the two churches were located close to each other and they were just down the street on Cole Avenue.


As we drove along Cole Avenue, the first church we saw was the Methodist Episcopal Church, known as “The Stone Church.” When it was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, it was described as “easily the largest and most impressive religious edifice on the Western Mesabi Iron Range.”


This church was built from 1908-1909 as both a church and a Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The YMCA portion of the building contained a parlor, an office, a reading room, and a gymnasium with shower facilities.


According to the plaque in front of the church, “the town fathers felt that the young people of the community should have an alternative to visiting the liquor establishments in nearby Bovey during their leisure time.”


The architectural style of this church is the rather rare “shingle style.” This style is uniquely American and it originated in the 1870s in the northeastern coastal resort towns of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island.


This style typically included continuous wood shingles on the roof and siding with roughhewn stone for the foundation and lower levels. For this church, coursed fieldstone was gathered from within two blocks of where the church was built.


The plaque in front of the church states that the cornerstone of the church, which was laid in 1908, contains a capsule of artifacts that were collected during that time period. It also states that the church has been privately owned since 1974.


As we walked around the church taking photographs, we were saddened by its current state of disrepair. However, we understand how challenging it must be to have the financial means to keep up with the repairs that are necessary on historical structures such as this.


We continued down Cole Avenue and quickly found the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, also known as “The Log Church.” This church was built in 1908 and it was the first church to be completed in Coleraine. The construction of this church was supervised by John C. Greenway, the general superintendent of the Oliver Iron Mining Company, and the style and construction resembled his company quarters.


According to the plaque in the front of this church, “the logs used in the construction of the church were taken from one of the few remaining patches of virgin timber in the area. The interior of the church is built entirely of wood, including the cathedral ceiling. The altar rail and lectern are made of birch logs, still in their natural state.”


The plaque also states that “the large stained glass window at the rear of the church was donated by Greenway as a memorial to his young nephew, Addison White Greenway, who drowned in a hunting accident.”


Regular church services were discontinued in 1982 due to declining enrollment. A few years later, the church was deeded to the city of Coleraine. The city soon developed a preservation plan and the church has been lovingly maintained ever since. Special services and events are held at the church and the proceeds are used for continued preservation.

Happy Shunpiking!
Joann

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Waiting on Mother Nature

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Friday afternoon, as I worked at my computer, I glanced at the thermometer and was surprised to read 48 degrees! How is that possible in January in Wisconsin? We’ve barely had enough snow this year to make a snowman, although I have seen some small attempts by neighborhood children.


After several days, the snow and the snowmen were gone.

Usually by this time, Joann and I have made multiple winter trips out into the snow-covered countryside to help us unwind from our office jobs. No such luck for us this year, but we have our prior years’ photos to look back on.


So far this winter, we’ve had one rain event where, had it been snow, we would have had a foot of snow on the ground, along with several small snows of one to two inches. Those small snows whitened the ground for a few days and then the roads were clear and slowly the temperature rose again and the snow melted quickly.


Winter in Wisconsin is usually cold and snowy. I know that the official winter season has several months to go yet. Since we have already passed the winter solstice, the days are slowly getting longer again and we’re gaining about two minutes of daylight every day.


The majority of the country is experiencing the same lack of snow. According to David Robinson, a professor in the geography department at Rutgers University, December of 2011 was the 11th least snowy season of the past 46 years across the United States.


We’ve had winters like this in other years, but our memories of Wisconsin winters are filled with snow. We’re spending our time this winter catching up on some other things. Joann is busy working down her photography to do list, while I continue to research new locations to explore. There never seems to be enough time for either of us to get all of our “to do” items done. Although this downtime without snow is not feeding our backroads passion, it is allowing us some time to catch up.


I have no doubt we’ll still get some snow this winter. Some years March is our snowiest month, so if we can just wait it out, Mother Nature will deliver some snow. I’m sure the winter enthusiasts can’t wait.


We still have several locations we are waiting to capture in winter, so when we do get snow, we’ll try to head out and capture those scenes.

Until then, Happy Shunpiking!
Ruth

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Blevins Grocery, Preston, Kentucky

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In early May of 2010, on our way home from our North Carolina visit, we had planned to spend our last day photographing on the back roads of Kentucky. The afternoon before, as we left West Virginia and drove into Kentucky, it became overcast and then began to rain. It rained all through the night and we left our motel in the early morning rain.


Ruth had lined up a number of old grocery stores to visit that morning. At every one, I struggled to capture them in the driving rain. As we stopped to photograph Goldy’s Grocery, in addition to the rain, some very ominous clouds quickly moved in and we decided we’d better try to drive out of the approaching storm.


Our next stop was Blevins Grocery in the small town of Preston. In her research prior to our trip, Ruth had discovered that folks often “hung out” on the front porch of the store. We were looking forward to capturing some nostalgic scenes; however, it was Sunday and we figured that the store would be closed. As we pulled into the parking lot across the road from the store, there was a torrential downpour, along with lightning.

Even though it was early on a Sunday morning, the old grocery store was indeed open and there were men sitting on the porch socializing and watching the rain come down. We sat there in the car for about 20 minutes waiting for the rain and lightning to let up, but it wasn’t about to do that. Heavy rains are not exactly good for a camera and lightning is certainly not good for a photographer, especially one who is standing there with a metal tripod.


The longer we sat there, the more disappointed I became that we would have to leave without capturing this wonderful, old-fashioned scene. So I looked at Ruth and said, “I just can’t bear to leave without SOMETHING! I’m going to go for it as soon as the rain lets up even the slightest bit.” In a few minutes, the rain slowed just a bit and I jumped out of the car, grabbed the camera, tripod, and umbrella from the back seat, and set up in the rain.


I’m sure those men thought that I was absolutely crazy, but they were also happy to have their picture taken. One of them jumped up, looked in through the screen door, and shouted, “Hey, everybody, come out here. Someone’s taking pictures!” Soon, a couple more men came out of the store and sat down. A minute or two later, the owner of the store came out and sat for just a minute to make sure he was in the picture, too.


After snapping just a few precious photos, I grabbed my gear and darted across the road and into the little country store. I talked with the owner, Rubin Blevins for a few minutes and he told me that he and his wife had been operating the store for 40 years. He runs the store and his wife runs the post office, which is in a little room attached to the store. She also helps out with the store. He said that the post office was open two hours a day from 9:00 to 11:00 am. The store is open seven days a week from 7:00 am until 6:00 pm Monday through Saturday, and from 7:00 to 10:00 am on Sunday. He closes at 10:00 am on Sunday so that he can go to church.


I walked across the weathered wooden floor, past the old coal stove, to the vintage Ale-8 cooler at the back of the store. Ruth had told me that I needed to be sure to buy a couple bottles of this regional ginger-flavored soft drink. If it hadn’t been so early in the morning, I might have also purchased a “Preston Steak Sandwich,” which is actually old-fashioned bologna sliced with an antique meat slicer. On my way out of the store, I photographed the rusty old Rainbo bread sign that was attached to the screen door.


A couple of months after our visit there, the Owingsville/Bath County Chamber of Commerce gave Blevins Grocery the honor of being named Business of the Year. According to the book, “Nana’s ScRaMbLeD Memories,” by Jodie Blevins Ratliff and published in 2011, Blevins Grocery is 82 years old and her parents, Rube and Helen Blevins, have owned and operated the store for 42 years. The store is still in its original state, with “no running water, no restrooms, no electric or gas heat and no air conditioning.”

The train tracks that were used in the early days to deliver the mail to Preston and the gas pumps that dispensed Regular and High Test (unleaded) gas are now a distant memory. One thing, however, that hasn’t changed is how the Blevins treat their customers, old and new. They treat them like family. If you ever have the pleasure of visiting Blevins Grocery in Bath County, Kentucky, be sure to have yourself a “Preston Steak Sandwich” and a bottle of cold Ale-8.


Happy New Year and Happy Shunpiking!
Joann