Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Another Day in Amish Country

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Joann and I so look forward to any time we can spend in Amish country. The pace of life just seems slower in those areas for the most part. We always look forward to hearing the clip clop of horses' hooves even before a buggy comes into view.

One of our favorite things about visiting Amish country is getting old fashioned raised donuts at the bakery, just like the ones our mother made when we were kids. You have to plan your visit because many of the bakeries are only open on Fridays and Saturdays, and some only make their famous donuts on Saturdays.

This past Friday, we decided to take a day trip to the Amish area of Columbia and Green Lake counties. Our plan was to arrive at the bakery around the time they opened so we could have donuts for breakfast at a reasonable time and try to avoid the crowds. Fall can bring tour buses to the area and the bakery is small. Often the line goes out the door and up the sidewalk to the parking area. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that we failed in our quest.

As anyone who knows us is aware, we’re easily distracted and, since we were driving in the daylight, we were noticing things in small towns along our route that we hadn’t noticed before. We just had to stop and capture what we saw.

When we finally made it to the bakery entrance, several cars were just turning in from the other direction and, as Joann turned in behind them, we saw a big line of cars coming. And even though the parking lot was relatively empty, people were driving crazily, like if they didn’t speed and swerve around, they wouldn’t get a space. They seemed to be playing demolition derby.

There are a lot of Amish businesses in the area and traffic is always worse near those. But if you get away from those roads, traffic gets better and you can enjoy the quiet as you pass Amish farms and schools. You can also hear the buggies coming down the road.

One of our stops was at an Amish school in the area. The Amish are very resourceful and will reuse what we, the “English,” no longer use. In the case of this school, they have re-used old playground equipment that those of us who are older played on but which is no longer considered safe.

Across from one of the Amish stores in the area were these Texas Longhorn cattle. It took a little while for Joann to get a picture because most animals don’t understand posing and do exactly as they please. This mother and baby finally cooperated.

After breakfast at the bakery and a stop to check out fall produce, we headed out into the country. The sky for the whole day was amazing and we had to take advantage of it.

We found only one farm with corn shocks already in the field, but knowing that crops were planted very late this year because of spring rains, we weren’t really surprised. We’re just hoping that the weather starts cooperating so that fields dry a little and farmers are able to harvest.

We ended our day later than we had planned but, as I said, the sky had excellent character all day long and we had to take advantage of it.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Delta Diner

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In 2010, less than two months after having spent 13 days on an exhausting late-April photography trip to North Carolina, Ruth and I decided to spend five long days photographing in Wisconsin and Minnesota. We were both working stressful Information Technology jobs at the time and all I can say now is, “What were we thinking?!” We worked hard, but we came home with photos of so many incredible places, including the Delta Diner, which is in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

We usually try to start photographing at first light but, having worked the day before, we didn’t leave home until late Friday morning. We took the highways about two hours northwest and then turned north, shunpiking and photographing our way along the backroads to Superior, Wisconsin. We ended that day photographing Wisconsin Point Light on Lake Superior. It was extremely windy and the lake water was brown due to previous storms.

We spent the next two days exploring on the backroads of several Minnesota counties in the northeast section of Minnesota, going as far north as Grand Marais, which is close to the Canadian border. We began heading south on Highway 61, late on the third day of our trip. Highway 61 runs along the Lake Superior shoreline. We ended that day having a picnic supper at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. The next morning, we were at Gooseberry Falls at dawn, in a fairly heavy rainfall. And I must express my gratitude to Ruth, who hiked with me to the falls and held the umbrella over my camera equipment while I photographed.

By the time we left Gooseberry Falls, the rain had let up and we explored a few sights along the rest of Highway 61. Then we returned to Wisconsin, crossing Douglas County and entering Bayfield County, traveling Hwy 13, which runs along beautiful Lake Superior. After taking a few photographs in the small town of Port Wing, we headed south through Iron River and on to the Northwoods town of Delta. There, “in the middle of nowhere,” on the site of the former historic Delta Store, sits the Delta Diner, a restored 1940 Silk City Diner.

The Delta Store, built in 1923 in the middle of the Chequamegon National Forest, was the center of activity for the town of Delta until it was destroyed by fire in 1972. During that time, you could do most of your business in one location – buy goods or mail a letter at the post office housed in the store, quench your thirst or satisfy your hunger at the bar or restaurant, or fill your car with gas from Standard Oil.

In the early 1990s, Todd and Nina Bucher left their corporate jobs in Chicago and moved to Iron River, Wisconsin, in the hopes of creating a better life for themselves. Todd had grown up, attended college, and worked in Wisconsin. After their move, Todd spent time fishing in the Delta area and often drove past the spot where the Delta Store used to stand. He was drawn to the old Standard Oil sign and small dilapidated stone building, both of which survived long after the store was gone.

In 2002, the Buchers purchased the property where the store once stood. Todd had been in love with old diners since a boyhood visit to an authentic railroad-car-style diner in Pennsylvania had sparked his interest. It had a stainless-steel exterior and an interior filled with colorful tiles and a long counter with stools.

Since that visit, he had sought out these classic diners whenever he traveled. After some quick but extensive research into their options, Todd and Nina decided to contract for the restoration of a 1940 Silk City Diner, which was delivered (with the last 10% of the restoration to be finished on-site) in October 2003. The Delta Diner officially opened less than three weeks later.

The Delta Diner was closed the day we visited. Little did we know, Nina was inside working in the kitchen. As I stood in the parking lot snapping a few photos, Nina came out of the diner and invited us in. She said that the diner was her husband’s business and that she had a small business herself, producing jars of “Jalepena Nina’s Spicy Pickled Garlic.” She graciously allowed me to take some photos of the inside of the diner.

In researching for this blog post, I now feel Nina was way too modest in saying that the diner was her husband’s business. One of the articles said that Todd provided construction and marketing skills and Nina took care of the books, the Diner Store (which was set up in the restored stone building), and some of the recipes for the diner meals. And in reviewing their website, I can see that they have worked hard over the years to expand their business.

Their Taste Budz Diner Store is now serving handcrafted Wisconsin ice cream from Purple Door Ice Cream and house-made waffle cones. They also sell coffee, drinks, and diner gear. And this summer, they opened a new seasonal Jamaican-style restaurant and bar next to the diner with a goal of serving the overflow of summer customers. It’s called the Chicken Shack and Tin Tap House. The restaurant serves jerk chicken and the tap house serves craft beer from Superior’s Earth Rider Brewery.

If you’re ever in the Northwoods near Delta, make sure to visit the wonderful and authentic Delta Diner “in the middle of nowhere.”

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Kohlmann Cemetery Murder

By Phyllis Ringelstetter Buskager

(Note from Joann and Ruth: We are pleased to announce that our sister, Phyllis, will be joining us occasionally in telling the stories we love to share with you. We also plan to begin sharing some of our family history and photographs. We know you will enjoy reading her first blog post about a discovery she made recently in a local rural cemetery.)

Earlier this summer, Joann and I had a family photo session with our Aunts (our mother’s sisters). We’ve been meeting with them once or twice a year for the past few years to get their help in identifying the people and places in a large collection of family photos. A bonus is that the photos jog their memories about family stories and anecdotes! More recently, they have also been sharing a lot of family history information with us. The photo below shows our mother, Dorothy Barman (top left), with seven of her siblings, circa 1945.

Part of the family history that we recently received included information about farms in the Township of Springfield in Dane County, Wisconsin, where our grandparents grew up. On a drive that my husband Vern and I took to locate those farms after that photo review session, we came upon an interesting little cemetery. Vern knows that I’m always interested in the stories that are told in old cemeteries so he asked if I wanted to stop. And, of course, I did.

Right away we noticed the black granite Kohlmann Cemetery monument, indicating that the cemetery was established in 1848. As we walked through the small cemetery, we noticed a story on the back of the monument, which states that the cemetery actually has multiple names, including Methodist, Yankee, and Kohlmann Buckel Cemetery.

The back of the monument also indicates that the cemetery was created as the first cemetery in Springfield Township when a man named Charles Kohlmann was murdered near the spot he is buried. So, we walked around looking for his grave. Finding a black metal cross with his name on it, we noticed that it is somewhat unusual in that it actually says that he was murdered! His grave marker shows “Murd. 1848.”

When we got home that evening, I decided to see what information I could find about that murder, which occurred back in the mid-1800’s in this rural Wisconsin community. I located several different sources, including some newspaper articles and a document prepared by the township, which all told the same story. Charles and Wilhelmine Kohlmann and their four children came to America in 1847 from Prussia, Germany. After arriving in America, the Kohlmanns came to Springfield Township, bought some farmland from the US Government, and settled into a new log cabin on the land.

Soon after arriving in the area, Charles set out on foot for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a yoke of oxen and about $140 worth of gold coins. This was enough to buy a wagon and other necessities such as tools and household provisions. When Charles said goodbye to his family to leave for that lengthy on-foot trip, it proved to be the last time they saw him alive. And though his grave marker shows “Murd. 1848,” the articles and documents that I found indicate that he was actually murdered in October of 1847.

A local Madison newspaper article dated October 23, 1847 says that the oxen returned home without him on the afternoon of the day he left, which was Thursday, October 14. The article goes on to say that a search was initiated and it went on until the next Tuesday, when his body was found in some bushes about 100 feet off the road and less than two miles from his home. His throat had been cut and his money was gone.

The article concludes by saying that various circumstances cast suspicion upon a man named Jacob Gross, a Frenchman living in the area. Apparently, a search turned up the missing money in Jacob’s possession. The article writer also says he was informed that Gross had confessed. Jacob Gross was arrested and placed in the local jail, awaiting trial.

The second newspaper article that I located was from May, 1848. It summarized the results of the trial of The United States vs. Jacob Gross. It turns out that the jury, after a brief deliberation, acquitted Jacob Gross to the dismay of many who believed he was guilty of the dastardly deed. There is no information to indicate that anyone else was ever tried for the murder. Jacob Gross continued to live in the township and is actually buried in the Kohlmann cemetery several feet away from the grave of Charles Kohlmann.

When you’re out for a drive and come across an old country cemetery, stop and walk through it. You never know what stories may be told in those old cemeteries.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Curses, Foiled!

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

My plan for the first day of our 2015 spring photography trip was to be in Galena, Illinois, at dawn. We’ve told you about eating out of the cooler but never about what it takes to get that all ready. When we have pasta, potato, or fruit salads, those are not store-bought. Everything is made or prepped by one of us, including our snacks.

So, the night before we were to leave, Joann called and said maybe we should leave home around dawn rather than try to be somewhere more than an hour and a half away at first light. That worked for me because we were both exhausted from packing and preparation. I crossed Galena off my plans, so the first thing we captured after entering Illinois was this wonderful old lumber yard building.

So often, especially on these long trips, we leave very early and drive for long distances in the dark. On this day, we had an opportunity to see things and photograph things we normally do not.

Sometimes, a day of photography has a theme. We’ll get in an area and almost every stop is a church and cemetery, or maybe it’s a day of almost all schools. On the morning of this trip, we ended up being foiled by a train. I had no idea it was going to be a theme for the trip!

We passed this BNSF train coming down the tracks as we approached Savanna, Illinois. Our plans were to capture the old Savanna-Sabula Bridge. When we saw the bridge from a good location, Joann pulled onto the shoulder and parked. She got her equipment out and snapped a photo of the train coming down the tracks. It seemed to be traveling slower than normal and we figured that was because it was nearing town. But it continued slowing down until it was idling on the tracks, blocking our perfect view of the bridge before Joann could get any shots. Curses, foiled!

We didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to photograph this historic bridge, so we waited a very long time until the train finally moved on.

The rest of the first day was filled with a variety of subjects, including the historic Ryan Round Barn in Henry County, Illinois. Today, it sits in the Johnson-Sauk Trail State Park. It was built in 1910 for Dr. Laurence Ryan, a world-renowned brain surgeon in Chicago, for his Black Angus show cattle. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.

We started Day Two in Burlington, Iowa, and we managed to get through the whole morning without running into any trains. We heard them around town, but the closest we came was this BNSF Lift Bridge over the Mississippi River. When river traffic needs to pass, trains are paused on the tracks while one section (or span) of the bridge is raised using towers and counterweights (almost like an elevator) to make room for the river traffic to pass under it.

We photographed many locations downtown, including the beautifully restored
Capitol Theater. This 1937 Art Deco theater opened on July 1, 1937 during the Great Depression, offering hope to the people of Burlington. Movie admission was 36 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. After nearly 40 years, the theater closed in 1977. Fortunately, it survived demolition for the next 35 years, re-opening in 2012 as a movie and live performance theater after a major renovation project was completed. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

As we finished up in Burlington, I decided our best bet was to just cruise a short distance down the highway to Fort Madison. Our plans for the day were huge, and we had to keep moving. We came down the highway from the north, and almost everything I knew about was in downtown, which runs along the river.

And this is where the foiling really began. One of the first things Joann attempted to photograph was Old Fort Madison from across the railroad tracks so that she could capture all the buildings that make up the fort. Just as she was lining up her shot, a train came down the tracks and stopped, blocking our view of the fort. Curses, foiled again!

Luckily, the historic downtown, which is on the side of the tracks away from the river, had quite a few things for us to photograph, so we began searching for those subjects. We captured photos of an old bank, a historic jail, some vintage signs, a carriage house, a prayer chapel, and a couple of brick summer kitchens. (A summer kitchen, for those who don’t know, is a small building separate from the main house where cooking and canning could be done in the summer months to avoid heating up the main house.)

All the while, though, we kept circling around checking to see if we could get to those things on the side of the railroad tracks by the river. Here’s a photo of one of the brick summer kitchens.

Finally, the train tracks were empty and there was a clear view of Old Fort Madison. Historic Old Fort Madison was the first U.S. military outpost in the upper Mississippi region. From 1808 to 1813, the fort acted as a trading post between the US Army and Native Americans. It was the site of Chief Blackhawk's first battle against U.S. troops, making it the only real War of 1812 battlefield located in the state of Iowa and the first U.S. military cemetery in the upper Midwest. This replica of the original fort was built a few blocks away from the original site and serves as a museum.

And at long last, we were able to cross the tracks to get some pictures of the Fort Madison Toll Bridge over the Mississippi. Built in 1927, this toll double-decker through truss swing bridge is also known as the Santa Fe Swing Span Bridge. It carries the Great River Road traffic over the Mississippi River, with road traffic occupying the upper deck and rail traffic on the lower deck. Unlike a lift bridge, a swing bridge has a section (or span) that rotates, usually 90 degrees, to allow river traffic to pass by.

This historic bridge is currently owned by BNSF Railway and Amtrak’s Southwest Chief also uses the bridge. River traffic has the right of way, so the 525-foot swing span opens about 2,000 times annually for 15-20 minutes at a time for river traffic. And I’ll bet you can guess what happened next. A train came barreling across the bridge, stopping on the tracks in front of the park, which blocked our exit. Curses, foiled by a train for a third time.

Little did I know at that time, about 100 trains pass through Fort Madison on any given day. And they idle on the tracks sometimes before crossing the toll bridge and sometimes after. It’s no wonder trains kept foiling us. As soon as we could get out of the park, we got in line to cross the bridge and continue on our way. Luckily, as we traveled away from the Mississippi River, we managed to avoid train issues for the rest of the trip.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Horse is a Horse

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

When we were kids, there was a sitcom on TV about a talking horse named Mister Ed. The show, appropriately called “Mister Ed,” aired from 1961 to 1966. There was a total of 143 episodes, all filmed in black and white. Mister Ed was owned by mild-mannered Wilbur Post, who was always in trouble due to Mister Ed’s shenanigans.

The show always started with Mister Ed whinnying, then pushing open the barn doors and looking out at the audience as he said in his deep voice, “Hello! I’m Mister Ed!” And then as the theme music started to play, two big horseshoes appeared superimposed over Mister Ed and, as they clinked together, they turned into the letters “ED” with the word “MISTER” above them.

The theme song was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, with Livingston doing the singing. It went like this:

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse, of course.
That is, of course, unless the horse
Is the famous Mister Ed.

Every episode had Mister Ed doing some very silly things, like talking on the telephone. Wilbur was an architect who had his office in the barn. In one episode, Mister Ed is alone in his stall when Wilbur’s phone starts ringing, so he picks it up.

Mister Ed: Hello?

Voice: Hello, I’d like to make a reservation. Is this Trans Continental Airlines?

Mister Ed: No, lady, this is the Pony Express!

In another episode, Wilbur moves the telephone away from Mister Ed.

Wilbur: You phoned the feed store again, didn’t you, Ed? I thought I told you that I was the one to give the orders around here. Ya know, that’s the fourth load of hay we’ve had delivered this week.

Mister Ed (talking while chewing a mouthful of hay): Well, I’m hungry!

Wilbur: How come other horses don’t eat as much as you do?

Mister Ed: ‘Cause they can’t phone the feed store.

The show was sponsored from 1961 to 1963 by the Studebaker Corporation and the show often featured Studebaker cars. Despite the exposure they got by sponsoring this sitcom, their sales dropped dramatically in 1961. They never recovered and U.S. production of the Studebaker was ended in December 1963.

Allan “Rocky” Lane, a former B-movie cowboy star, provided the voice for this funny, talking horse. Mister Ed was a palomino whose real name was Bamboo Harvester. He had a stunt double named Pumpkin who later appeared in the sitcom “Green Acres.” Bamboo Harvester (Mister Ed) died in 1970. He was about 20 years old. He is buried at Snodgrass Farm in Oklahoma.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Elmira School, Elmira, Illinois

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

The first time I stumbled on a picture of the Elmira School, I thought it was very cool and knew I had to mark it as a location for us to visit. I also worried that we wouldn’t make it there before it gave up the ghost to Midwest winters.

Finally, in 2015 when I was planning a photo trip that would take us through some very southern Iowa locations, and just the very northern section of Missouri, I managed to include it as one of our “on the way” locations. I remember sharing the picture with Joann when I first found the school, but I made it a point to not remind her before the trip so she could be surprised when we pulled up to it.

As we came down the highway, we could see the school sitting there looking forlorn. Joann quickly found a place to park, which was in the driveway of the town cemetery across the road. She got her equipment out of the car and headed across the highway.

From what I can tell, this two-room frame building with a brick foundation replaced an earlier building in 1902. In the beginning, some high school classes were offered, including the subjects of Algebra, English, Latin, Physical Geography, Civil Government, and Ancient History. High school classes were held until about 1915 when the school became only grades 1-8.

Two teachers were employed for the school until 1918 when classes were combined into one room, and one teacher taught all grades. Then, from 1928 until 1940, two teachers were employed again. In 1946, three surrounding school districts combined with Elmira to become the Elmira Community Consolidated Grade School, District 39.

In 1952, the Osceola school district petitioned to join the Elmira district. It was approved and a new school building was also approved to be built at another location. That consolidation and subsequent new school building marked the end of educational life for this building. One source says the school was used for community meetings for a while, but was completely abandoned by the early 1970’s.

As you can see in the photos, most of the boards are missing from the back of one end of the building. The bell is long gone from the bell tower and the vent of the stovepipe is lying on the roof. There are also holes in the roof, which is always the beginning of the end. Since our visit was in 2015, there’s no telling what the building looks like now, if it’s even still standing.

It will probably be years before we’re even near this location again, and I don’t know if we’ll even want to drive past since seeing no trace of a building we’ve enjoyed photographing always makes us sad.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!