Monday, October 28, 2013

RIP Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

In April of this year during our trip to Ohio, Joann and I visited the Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge.

It was built in 1874 and was one of two remaining humpback bridges in the United States. Humpback refers to a distinct “hump” in the middle of the bridge. It was the longest and most visited covered bridge in Vinton County.

As we approached the bridge, we were dismayed to see all of the painted graffiti and wondered out loud why people can’t find something constructive to do with their time.

The bridge had been bypassed by an old pony truss iron bridge and was no longer open to automobile traffic, but was still open to foot traffic.

We found ourselves nowhere near a park and since it was past lunchtime, we decided to just stand by the cooler at the back of the car and eat our quick picnic lunch.

Sadly, in the overnight hours of June 5, 2013, the historic Ponn Humpback covered bridge was destroyed by fire. The bridge was a total loss.

Covered bridges have a long history. Just like the answer to the question, “Why are most barns painted red?” there are multiple explanations for why bridges were covered. One is that the cover was to protect the wood from the elements while another was to shield the horse’s eyes from the water passing underneath. It was also a place where, in the old days, a boy could steal a kiss from his girl without others seeing them.

We are always saddened when a piece of history is lost, and especially so in this case, since the fire was deliberately started. We will never understand how someone can destroy a piece of history in which so many people have taken such pleasure.

So, rest in peace Humpback Bridge, we’re so glad we got to know you! Whenever you’re near an old covered bridge, check it out. You never know what might happen tomorrow.

Happy Shunpiking!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Burmester Grocery, Loganville, Wisconsin

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

On April 24, 2010, Dave Burmester, owner of Burmester's Grocery in Loganville, Wisconsin, since 1963, celebrated 90 years since his father first opened the store. The event drew a large crowd of people, many of whom spent their childhoods stopping at the store for an ice cream cone or some penny candy.

To celebrate the occasion, ice cream was only five cents a scoop – the price his father set when he first bought the ice cream parlor business in 1920, which he soon turned into a grocery store. On that day, friends scooped the ice cream while Dave took a much-needed break from working six days a week.

Two years ago, in early October, Ruth and I passed through Loganville on our way to spending three days on the backroads of our neighboring state of Minnesota. As we passed Burmester's Grocery, we discussed the fact that we had been through Loganville many times over the years, but had never stopped to photograph the old store. So we decided we should take the time to capture a few images that morning.

As I began to photograph, Dave Burmester opened the door to get his Sunday newspaper. I introduced myself and asked him what he could tell me about the building. He told me that the building was built around 1895 and he was pretty sure that there was originally a hardware store on the left side of the building and a butcher shop and shoe repair shop on the right side. Note the two separate doors in the picture below.

Dave said that the building housed an ice cream parlor in 1920, which his father, Albert Burmester, purchased that year. Soon, however, his father realized that he couldn’t make a living selling only ice cream, so he began adding groceries.

When I asked Dave if he minded telling his age, he said he was 27, with 50 years of experience. Then I asked him if I could take his picture and he said with a grin, “Go ahead, it’s YOUR camera,” as if taking his picture might break the camera. He then invited me inside the store to chat for a few minutes.

On the wall inside the store hung an old framed photograph of the inside of the store around 1925. The photo showed Dave’s father Albert standing at the counter. A small typewritten paragraph at the bottom of the frame said, “In 1920, Albert Burmester purchased an ice cream parlor from John Williams. Albert soon began adding groceries, and in about a year’s time, the ice cream parlor became Burmester’s Grocery.”

In that photo, the free-standing glass cases and shelves lining the walls of the store are stacked full of goods and there is a huge free-standing display of cans of Snider Pork & Beans in the middle of the wooden floor.

That day, the sparsely stocked shelves told a different story. Dave said he was trying to keep the store going, but suppliers didn’t want to deal with him because his store was too small. Although Dave’s father couldn’t make a living selling ice cream, Dave said selling hand-dipped ice cream cones was probably what was still keeping him in business.

Last Saturday, after photographing in the beautiful countryside of Sauk County, Ruth and I came through Loganville and were saddened to see that the sign for Burmester’s Grocery had been replaced by a sign for a realty office. So I spoke to the owner of Aunt Ozie’s CafĂ©, which is across the street from the former Burmester’s Grocery store, and she told me that Dave had finally closed the store due to health reasons. And so, another old-fashioned hometown business is no more, except fondly in the memories of the townspeople who frequented the store when it was in its glory.

If you’re ever in the Loganville, Wisconsin area, be sure to stop in at Aunt Ozie’s Cafe to enjoy delicious food in an old store building with a weathered wooden floor and a warm, inviting atmosphere. It’s located at 200 Main Street in downtown Loganville.

Happy Shunpiking!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Caught by the Google Street View Car

By James, the Long, Dark, and Handsome Buick

Happy Autumn, everyone! Joann, Ruth, and I have once again begun our backroads search for fall color. Today, as we headed west in the early morning hours, I was reminded of the tour of Amish country that Joann and I gave to her friends last fall. Here’s a photo of one of the many Amish buggies we saw on that trip.

We had a lot of fun that day, as chronicled by Joann in her Autumn Shunpiking blog story. And, as usual, the day passed by much too quickly and we were soon on our way back home. But there was a little more to the story. As we headed southeast on Highway 56 towards Richland Center, Joann noticed the Google Street View car heading toward Highway 56 on County Road Z from the south. As we passed the intersection, Joann took her foot off my gas pedal to make sure the Google car had enough time to photograph us.

When we got home, she told Ruth about it and then promptly forgot all about it. Ruth knew that it takes Google quite some time to update the street view photos, so she checked a couple of different times and didn’t find us at that intersection. However, on July 11, she checked again and there we were, passing by Fancy Creek Cemetery as the Google car photographed us.

I don’t mean to brag or anything, but don’t I look good!? Autumn will come and go quickly, as it always does. So take some time to do a little shunpiking on the backroads and maybe, just maybe you’ll end up on Google maps, too.

Happy Shunpiking!