Sunday, June 30, 2013

Movies Under the Stars

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Today is the last day of June, so I am coming in at the buzzer on this story. Eighty years ago this month (June 6, 1933 to be exact), the first outdoor movie theater was opened in Camden, New Jersey by Richard Hollingshead.

The cost was 25 cents per person plus 25 cents per car to watch a British comedy called “Wives Beware.” Although a few more outdoor theaters opened over the next few years, the concept didn’t really catch on until the early 1940s when movie-goers were provided with in-car speakers.

In the 1950s, the idea really started to take off and, by 1958, there were over 4,000 outdoor theaters. Drive-in theaters offered more flexibility for families, especially those with small children. The movies were often family-friendly and small children could be taken care of while watching the movie.

On nostalgic Route 66 near Carthage, Missouri , stands the 66 Drive-In Theatre, which opened on September 22, 1949 during the post-war auto boom. At the entrance, along old Route 66, stands the original neon theater sign. On August 1 of this year, the 66 Drive-In Theatre is hosting a special screening of the 2006 Disney-Pixar animated film “Cars” as part of the International Route 66 Festival. The real Route 66, with its famous landmarks, provided inspiration for this movie and the 66 Drive-In is featured in one of the movie scenes.

As I was preparing to write this blog post, a faint memory kept coming to mind, but I wasn’t at all sure whether it really happened. So I asked my older sister Phyllis if we had gone to an outdoor theater when I was a small child. I told her that I remembered that the whole family had piled into the car and had gone to see….could it have been The Sound of Music? My only recollection was that, by the time the movie finally started, I couldn’t stay awake anymore.

I guess I got Phyllis’ gears turning because she did recall us going, but her Internet search on the Badger Drive-In (an outdoor theater on the east side of Madison that opened in 1948) and the Sound of Music wasn’t successful. And then she remembered that we had gone to see a double-feature and, to her surprise, the name of the second movie came back to her. So she searched on that movie and came up with an ad for the Badger Drive-In from August 8, 1961.

The Badger Drive-In on the east side of Madison was connected with the Big Sky Drive-In on the west side of Madison. The ad was for both theaters and it said:

Open 7:00 p.m.


“Gidget Goes Hawaiian”
In Rainbow Color

Doris Day
“Midnight Lace”
In Color


“The Trapp Family”
In Color

“Snow White and the 3 Stooges”
Color Cinemascope

A little research on The Trapp Family movie revealed that it was a successful 1956 West German film that was dubbed in English and released in the US in 1961. Four years later, the story of the von Trapp family would be told again in the Julie Andrews musical, “The Sound of Music.” Phyllis said she didn’t remember The Trapp Family film at all, but recalled that it was our mother who was the driving force behind the whole family going (all seven of us) because she wanted to see the Trapp family movie.

Phyllis did remember that she and our brother Dave enjoyed Snow White and the 3 Stooges. I, unfortunately, have only the memory of being very upset with myself for not being able to stay awake for either of them.

The Badger Drive-In expanded to four screens in 1979 and, according to an old ad, was still showing four double features in 1989. At that time, the “Early Bird” ticket price until 7:30 p.m. was $1.75. Phyllis remembers taking her kids to the Badger Drive-In and “they would usually be asleep in the backseat before the movies even started.” I know how that goes!

In 2008, an article entitled, “The History of the Drive-In Movie Theater” on reported that only about 400 drive-ins remain in the United States. Before it’s too late, grab the family some evening, pile into the car, and head out for a movie under the stars!

A special thanks to our sister, Phyllis, for all her help in putting this story together.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, June 23, 2013


By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In 2004, the first of several murals in downtown Stevens Point, Wisconsin, was completed on a building near the Wisconsin River, around which the city developed in the mid-1800s. It was designed and outlined by Kelly Meredith and then painted with the help of Susan Prentice Martinsen and local volunteers who “painted by number.”

The mural honors Wisconsin’s logging history; in particular, the rivermen who drove logs from Northern Wisconsin down the river to mills and then to market. Forests in northern Wisconsin were logged during the winter. When spring arrived, the winter thaw caused the river to swell, creating a fast-flowing means of transporting the logs downstream to the mills to be cut into lumber.

This was a dangerous job because the rivermen, or “river rats” as they were commonly called, rode the logs down the river, pushing and prying them with pike poles to keep them from jamming up. Many rivermen were injured or killed on the drive down the river. So why were they willing to do it?

River rats could earn three times what they earned as loggers. And there was a certain pride in having the strength and stamina to do it, along with being among the elite in the logging industry. For some, being flexible meant having a job for most of the year: cutting down trees in the winter, driving them down the river in the spring, and sawing them into lumber in the summer.

These brave river rats, who represent a big part of Wisconsin’s history, have been honored with a River Rat statue and historical marker in Merrill, Wisconsin. They are also honored at the Lumberjack World Championships held in Hayward, Wisconsin every year in July. If you get the chance, head to Hayward to see the competitions in sawing, chopping, tree climbing, log rolling, and other lumberjack skills.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

“I Must Have a Glass – Thanks!”

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

In the fall of 2010, Joann and I made a trip to Crawford County, Wisconsin. We often start our fall travels with a trip to the apple orchards there for apple cider doughnuts and fresh apples.

After our visit to the orchard, we continued our wanderings and came upon an artesian well next to the road. The water poured from a pipe into an old crusty bathtub, and next to the bathtub was a hand-painted sign that said “Jeg-Skal-Ha-En-Glas-Von - Takk! “. Hanging on either side of the sign were two mugs.

We stopped for photos, but didn’t have a drink of the water. Maybe it was the looks of the bathtub that put us off.

Later that same month, returning from a one-day trip to Illinois, I directed us to a town that I had noted also had an artesian well. I do so much research for our travels that sometimes I can’t remember how I found out about things on my list. This was one of those times. All I knew was that the well was in town.

As we entered town on the main drag, there was a sign pointing to the well, but we couldn’t tell if the sign pointed down the road we were near or into what appeared to be a driveway.

We turned on the road, which climbed up a rather steep hill. Once we reached the top without seeing any more signs, we decided we must have picked wrong. We went back down the hill and turned into what we thought was a driveway. It went back to a small parking lot where several cars were parked with people filling jugs of water at the well.

As people filled their jugs of water, they would pack them into their car. As soon as they would leave, another car would pull in with more jugs to fill.

This well has been producing thousands of gallons of water a day since 1927. The town even uses this as their water source. Next to the pump house was a spigot where the water was flowing and people were filling their jugs.

The small park has a gazebo, a waterfall, a waterwheel, and a covered bridge. There are also walking trails going back into the woods. While there was a crowd filling their jugs, Joann walked around taking pictures.

Before we left, we emptied the small amount of water that we had left in a gallon jug and filled the jug and our water bottles at the spigot. Then we continued towards home sipping our cool, clear water.

As I prepared to share these photos, we tried to get the Norwegian sign (from the well with the bathtub) translated. Joann even emailed a friend with a relative in Norway. The closest we could come was “I must have a glass – Thanks!” In Norwegian, vin means wine, and in German, von means from, so we’re not quite sure which they meant, other than to try a glass of water.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Quick Pic - Pantsless Pierre

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

At the end of June of 2010, Joann and I took a marathon four-and-a-half-day photography trip to Minnesota. On the third night, we had reservations at a mom and pop motel in Two Harbors. When we’re on the road for so many hours each day, we get rather punchy and everything gets funnier. As we pulled into the parking lot of the motel, there was a statue of a large voyageur, but something looked wrong. I said to Joann, “He’s not wearing any underwear!” This resulted in a hysterical fit of giggles, and it was all we could do to get checked in to the motel.

The next morning we decided to get a photo, and only later did we find out that he’s known as Pierre the Pantsless Voyageur.

Pierre had stood for over 50 years at that site, overlooking Two Harbors. For a while his future was unknown when the lot he was standing on was sold, but the owners of the Earthwood Inn, Bar, and Grill bought him and had him moved to their location about a mile south of town where they are restoring him. In the beginning, his head moved, his eyes glowed red, and thanks to an employee in the old motel he stood near, he talked to visitors. The people at the Earthwood Inn hope that eventually he will be talking again.

If you visit Two Harbors, be sure to visit the Earthwood Inn, Bar, and Grill and say hello to Pierre. Who knows, he might have something to say in return!

Happy shunpiking!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Impromptu Meet and Greet in Polo, Illinois

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Toward the end of April, on our way to Ohio, Ruth and I passed through the town of Polo, Illinois. As always, Ruth had done extensive research to locate old historical buildings for me to photograph. Our first stop was a Masonic Lodge in the center of town. First, I photographed two vintage street lights that were on either side of the Masonic Lodge sign.

Then I crossed the street to get a better angle on the lodge sign, which was actually a globe that probably lit up at one time or maybe still does. It said, “Mystic Tie No. 187,” which is the name of the lodge organized in 1855.

Because it was around noon and the sun was high in the sky, I was struggling to capture the sign in good light. So I moved around and decided that the best spot to take the photo was in the middle of the crosswalk. As I began to set up my tripod, a car with two women inside, slowly approached the crosswalk and stopped.

“Where’s the best place to eat?” the driver said through the open window.

“I don’t know, I’m from Madison, Wisconsin,” I responded, with a smile on my face.

They both started giggling and then the passenger said, “I was just there last week. Well, thanks, anyway.” They drove away and I finished taking my shots. When I returned to the car, Ruth directed me to drive about two blocks from where we were parked to photograph a beautiful stone church called St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church.

I parked near the intersection where the church was located, grabbed my camera and tripod, and crossed the street to set up. As I was positioning my tripod, the car with the two women I had talked with a few minutes before pulled up and into my scene.

“We found two good places!” the driver said as they smiled, waved, and drove away.

When the intersection was clear, I again attempted to begin photographing, but a truck then pulled into the scene. As it came to a stop, the driver said, “If I smile, will you take my picture?” Then he impishly grinned and drove away.

I did finally capture a few scenes of the church and then Ruth directed me to an old school located down the street behind the church. I parked the car, took my camera equipment out of the back, and started to set up in the expansive parking lot in front of the school.

Just as I was composing my first shot, a pickup truck pulling a garden center trailer pulled into the scene. “Oh no, don’t park your trailer there!” I was thinking, as he started to circle around the parking lot.

As he passed me (and probably saw the look of dismay on my face), he shrugged and sheepishly said, “Sorry.” Then he drove away and I was finally left in peace to capture some images of the old, abandoned school.

The school was built in Greek architectural style with beautiful Ionic columns highlighting the entrance to the building. When I thought I was finished, I picked up my tripod and turned around to go back to the car, but Ruth was pointing toward the top of the building. I turned around and gave the school another look, but I didn’t see anything. When I got close to the car, she pointed out an old rusty school bell way above the entrance near the roof.

If that old school bell was still working, it should have begun ringing because it was certainly time to hit the road. We still had many more miles to travel that day, but we left that friendly little town with smiles on our faces.

Happy Shunpiking!