Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum-a fitting piece for the community.

When someone mentions Wausau, Wisconsin, a thought rolls through my mind-  North Woods outdoor recreation.  However, along with its outdoor activities, there is a small museum, refined with a reputation of showcasing avian art.

It’s pretty fitting.  I think of Wausau as a rugged outdoorsy type of town.  Why not have a museum that reflects that same image?  The museum’s claim to fame is an exhibition known as ‘Birds in Art’.  However, that international event doesn’t take place until September 8.  No matter, their exhibitions during my visit were more than satisfying.

Their main exhibit, as with all, was a temporary one, showcasing National Geographic photography-‘Rarely seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary’.(At the museum till may 27)  That is enough to draw me to the place.

I remember as a child, I had discovered National Geographic photos of Mt St Helen’s eruption.  Lava and glowing embers were approaching the photographer who took the incredible stills.  He, facing certain death, caught images no living man had witnessed before.  Yet, instead of fleeing he planted his feet firmly in the ground and took his final shots.

Those images did three things for me.  I marveled at the photos, as I thought they were ultra-cool.  Also, I realized for the first time that you don’t have to be a soldier, firefighter or policeman to be brave.  Bravery is found under many hats.  Lastly, I regarded photos in a National Geographic as the pinnacle of photography to this very day.

So, a visit to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum was in order.

I approach what appears as a brick, steeple roofed addition to an old elegant Tudor style home.  As I cross the threshold of the entrance, I find a very nonsensical and freshly finished lobby, as well placed double glass doors hint at galleries about to be discovered.  A gentleman greets me cordially, presenting a map.  He fills me in on the exhibits and I am left to guess if I will be pleased.

Instead of entering the glass doors in front of me, opening to the main exhibit, I meander a small hall off to the left.  It is there, behind double doors, that I find the museum’s current bird  exhibit-‘On the Wing-birds in flight’ (At the museum till may 13).  It’s focus, as it seems rather specific, are airborne feathered friends.  A variety of birds are represented here, from swallows to Egyptian geese.

At the mention of art that focuses on birds in flight, I endure a sensation of boredom.  Flying birds are as common as dirt in a field.  However, I change my mind quickly as  these images and the way they are depicted are quite captivating.   I find myself inspecting some of the paintings, sculptures and works on paper, which I regard as interesting, for a lengthy bit.  Presented here, are the beauty, habitats and survival tactics of these winged animals.  The different artistic methods and styles give different perspectives and interpretations of these creatures.

Of my favorites, a swallow skimming the water and a walnut sculpture of fishing pelicans highlight my perusal.  I’m enthralled in this small gallery, fixed upon its seventy pieces of art.  It is quite some time before I move on.

When I do, crossing into the main gallery which houses the National Geographic photos, my spirits, which are already recovering from a dismal week, are raised ten fold.  Literally, the artistry displayed is mind-blowing.  I see many extraordinary photographs, taken by some pretty talented individuals.  From men riding the tusks of elephants to clouds threatening to unleash a tumultuous funnel cloud, this invigorates me.

In order to capture these photos, not only skill is required, preparedness and luck also come into this mix.  Most of the subjects, as you would suspect, are of nature at its most compelling.  Yet, there are a few, like a young girl taking a selfie with the Pope in a crowd, that include the human experience-the Pope is posing for the young lady as she snaps the shot.

There are fifty in all.  The vibrance, seemingly fictitious images and artistry incite my question to an attendant.  “Are these actual photos?”

To which he replies with a smile.  “Yep! All of them are.”  I can hardly believe my eyes and ears.

Lastly, I reluctantly leave the photo gallery behind and descend a staircase to the final exhibit.  Its just as cool, as it features artwork that appears in children’s books.  The name of the exhibit is ‘My friend Eric Rohmann'(at the museum till may 27)  and it focuses on his work.  My favorite, as it was his breakthrough work, is time flies.

Here, I’m familiar with some of the artist’s work,  as I have noticed some of these pictures at Barnes and Noble.

After the final gallery, I’m kind of disappointed.  The art was really enjoyable and the atmosphere was equal to the works.  The place is fairly small, I wish there was more.

If your in the Wausau area, check out this very attractive and entertaining place.  There is no admission cost, its one hundred percent free.

Tuesday-Friday 9am-4pm

Sat&Sun noon-5pm

Every first Thursday of the month 9am-7:30 pm

Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum

In this digital era, many gadgets, once common, have been replaced by new technologies.  We all know the power our smart phone has, practically a billion gadgets rolled into one.  I recall a life without that ‘all powerful’ piece of tech, as daily tasks were a tad more difficult.  The compass, the watch, the typewriter and the landline phone have become practically obsolete.

Yet, there are others, as equally important, that may not come to mind. I discovered one museum focusing on a company that produced a mainstay in the world, before personal computers and printers.  This mainstay has been used for over 500 years and the company, itself, opened its doors in 1880.

That company was known as Hamilton manufacturing and, even if it also produced appliances and furniture, it was known as the country’s largest wood type producer.  The company closed its doors in 1993.  With its closing, the historical society of Two Rivers, the town it has always called home, saved the remnants that resided in the factory.

What is wood type?  That’s simple. It is simply a block of wood used to print a character(Such as a letter or number).  It was used for Newspaper headlines into the 50’s, because large metal pieces tended to have uneven surfaces or would crack. It was also used widely for posters into the nineties.

As I enter the place, which is a large open expanse, I don’t feel as if I’m in a Museum.  It’s a throwback to a time where cinder blocks and wood siding were common.  This isn’t some trendy establishment going retro-its genuine.  Its a break from the norm.

It’s filled with wood type art, which I find interesting.  But of course, what’s most interesting are the bulky machines I see off to my right, as I receive a little history from a staffer.

I learn, from this staffer, that Hamilton’s competitive edge was holly wood.  No, not the celebrity laden city in California.  The wood from a holly tree proved perfect for presses.  Hamilton, after discovering this, bought out his competition and his company blossomed with the design of many other products.

The staffer concludes her brief intro and I’m free to ramble across the concrete floor.  As I have already mentioned, I find the metal monsters used to manufacture the wood type.  There are placards informing me what these were used for.  I find it all a bit technical, I’m not really a woodworking junky, but it’s cool.

After the cutting, sanding and what not, I’m left to appreciate the final products.  I find it incredible that these were created, almost to perfection, in such an early age.

When I was young, My grandparents owned an abandoned farm.  I’m not sure what their intentions were, as it had a farm house, barns,  fields and a swampy woodland.  I just remember the barn being full of antique tractors and machinery.  Also, the house had storage uses, as radios from the thirties and other used items always captivated me.  That’s kind of how this Museum strikes me, almost an old warehouse holding Items that have no place in the modern world.

To prove this point, I find a room full of appliances and furniture, all proclaiming the Hamilton name.  They’re not restored.  There’s rust, scrapes and scratches on the furniture and signing.  However, they look as if I could still find a use for these relics, if need be.

I make my way from the furniture and appliances, once built in Two Rivers, and find  a cool collection of printing presses.  The linotypes are my favorite, kind of like an enormous typewriter.  I look at the antique, cumbersome, and monstrous machinery, thinking that at one time, in the technological evolution of our world, that this was cutting edge.  In the upcoming days, I will write of my experience on something incredibly smaller.  My device is able to communicate text and display color photos, all with the click of a button.

I leave with an appreciation of this modern world.  The digital era has made it so much easier to communicate, versus the days of the tedious printing presses.  So much, these days, can be communicated, whether we appreciate every sentiment or not.

This is a great place to visit if your in the Two Rivers area.  I think this would be a great learning opportunity for any child who utilizes social media.  I truly believe the fact that, once before TV and Radio, an eight page newspaper connected people would blow a kids mind .  It kind of blows mine, what would I do if I couldn’t follow Donald Trump’s boisterous tweets.

Tuesday-Saturday 9-5

Sunday 1-5

Closed Monday

Admission $5 Children, veterans and seniors $3.

The Packer Hall of Fame-Green Bay’s shrine

Green Bay has one identity in pop culture, being the smallest city an NFL team calls home.  I guess it beats being known as the Toilet Paper Capital of the world, which is a  tagline the city has received.  I prefer Title Town, a title earned during Vince Lombardi’s pursuit and capture of five NFL championships in the 60’s.

However, in this city, it’s a little beleaguering thinking of all the commercial and governmental aspects that incorporate the Green Bay Packers.  There’s a couple of streets labeled after past head coaches, an elementary school known as Lombardi, businesses  with names like ‘titletown’ or ‘Packerland’ and Packer memorabilia everywhere during football season.  Even the local Walmart sells cheese heads and Jerseys.  I kid you not, in my fridge sits the remains of a six pack from Title Town brewery, an Irish Red named after Johnny ‘Blood’ McNally.  Its actually really good.

That being said, as a child there were two things I did on Sundays, during the fall and early winter months.  The first thing was go to Sunday school and Church.  After that, I would sit down and watch the packers play.    I remember hoping during that upcoming week the packers would get their crap together and, maybe, just maybe, eek out a win.  Many times I was left with disappointment.  The 80’s weren’t the best time to be a packer fan, but I was, and am, through and through.

So, a Green Bay Packers hall of fame visit is as natural as drinking water.  In this day and age of hype and publicity, sometimes its hard to separate truth from fiction.  Truth-the Green Bay Packers are a historic team, filled with traditions and grid iron legends.  Its in the name of their Iconic stadium-Lambeau Field, named after the founder, player and coach Earl ‘Curly’ Lambeau, who guided his teams to an unrivaled six championships.

I walk up to the ticket counter, located inside the Stylishly uplifting expanse that is the atrium of Lambeau Field.  I pay my fifteen dollars and make my way into the exhibits.  As like many Museums I’ve visited, the first features are modest but interesting, getting you primed for the main event.

I find a wall, highlighting the typical work week of a Packer player, Monday through Sunday.  Also, on an adjacent wall, I scope out  equipment worn by players through the ages, from dog-eared leather helmets to a progression of footwear.  Front and center, however, is the ‘state of the art’ equipment used by today’s players.

I turn a corner and find an Escalator, heading to the fun part of the Hall of Fame.  On the second floor, starting on the left hand side of the large room, the story of football in Green Bay begins.  It was born with the first organized game, played in 1895 in Hagemiester Park.

It doesn’t take long to discover Green Bay’s first winning team, coinciding with a dark time in American history.  The 1929 team is commemorated in a small case, as more  exhibits run along the walls showing the early championships of Lambeau’s era, most captured during the Great Depression.  Here I find some very cool artifacts, like Game worn jerseys of players whose busts reside in Canton.

Among the placards and artifacts, I find an Ironic bit of history.  In the first forty-two years of existence, Green Bay played one home game in town during December .  For those who don’t know, the Packers have a great record in Lambeau Field during the month of December.

Moving from the Lambeau era, my envious eyes feast on the most notable portion of Green Bay’s legendary history.  It’s the Lombardi era and it features the Packers’ five championships won by the coach and GM, plus the loss in Lombardi’s first championship game.  I am envious because this was my grandfather’s and father’s Packers, winning in an era where television broadcasts had just begun bringing people football.

There’s plenty of hardware and stories of the, almost mythical, teams Lombardi coached.  My favorite collection is Bart Starr’s donations, including his leauge MVP trophy.  The fact that he has donated so many personal awards is telling of the man, which is why an autographed photo, made out  to me from the legend, resides in my writing room.

Tributes to Lombardi and the Ice Bowl, the Iconic NFL championship game against the Dallas Cowboys, are also in this section.

Little time is spent with the 70’s and 80’s.  As a matter of fact, two decades of Packer futility is commemorated in one case.  Bart Starr’s contribution to the Packers as head coach is recognized here.  I didn’t realize it was 9 years of his life.

Two large cases pay homage to the two Super Bowl victories I was privileged to witness, in 1996 and 2010.

At the very end of the exhibit area, a timeline of the many venues the packers have called home are highlighted.  Yes, there were plenty before historic Lambeau Field.  From minor league baseball stadiums and horse tracks to old City Stadium, I learn that some stadiums held as few as 5,000 people.  Of course the population of Green Bay was around 40,000 people at the time.

I head down stairs and find bronze footballs, commemorating each Packers Hall of Fame inductee. I enjoy this as names I remember from my childhood bring a smile.  Players like Johnny Gray and Gary Ellis are probably long forgotten by football fans outside of Green Bay.  Here, my memories are jostled and I remember plays that thrilled me in my younger years.  Past that, cases stand in tribute to the twenty four packer legends in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

At the very end of the tour, I am enveloped in a circular room full of championship trophies.

Like any museum, the hall tells the story of an important part of the community, being that the Packers are community owned.  This is a simple trek through the ages that mainly focuses on the great years of the franchise.  It also brings to light many favorite players that tons of die hard fans appreciated.

Mon-sat 9am-6pm

Sun 10am-5pm

Adults $15, Seniors $12, Military $12, Youth (12-17) and students $12, children (6-11) $9 Children 5 and under free

you can also purchase your museum ticket with a tour of the stadium for a discount.

The Paine Art Center-a manor for the community.

Who in the world meticulously creates an English style house, guilded in yellowed limestone, and never lives in it? Well, for starters, an American couple with English heritage, Nathan and Jessie Paine.  Although the head of a wood products company, Nathan’s intention, with the building suitable for nobility, was to share his interests with the city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

I guess I can sum up the reason for constructing such a place best in one word, as my companion commends a museum staffer for this particular trait-Passion.  Pride in one’s heritage also comes to mind.  However, the passion one has, not only for his work, but family and community seem to be on display in this house.

The groundbreaking took place in 1927, however, the great depression and WWII created obstacles.  The house was finally finished in 1948, although it feels as if this place has had generations of inhabitants.  It had always been intended that this house would be for the community, and it still is.

As I enter, I feel as a boy reaching the entrance of my childhood church.  There’s nothing finely ornate, as the wood paneling and small coat room greet me with casual formality.  Off to the left I find a counter, manned by some of the most knowledgeable receptionists I’ve come across. They collect my $9.00, as they offer information on the house and some of the art work displayed.

To start off with culture, we find a room of crimson, full of brilliant paintings.  My favorite is set over a mammoth fireplace.  I’m told, by a knowledgeable woman, that the piece, titled ‘Wallachian Pack Train’,  is a scene from the Crimean War.(usually its home is in the Great Hall)

We Move from the beautiful art gallery to a more stunning room, its not even a room, the limestone foyer is stunning, as the first floor is brilliantly laid out.  On my right lies the library, created  to represent those of the Jacobean period.

As a matter of fact, although I confess I forgot most of the periods, the rooms were made to replicate an authentic Tudor country manor. Since most of the old world estates had many additions, the rooms of the Paine House represent different periods of English design.

As I stand on the polished limestone floor of the foyer, peering into the library, I’m captivated by the finite details.  They give this place more than an authentic resonance.  I’m wrapped in the inspiring tones of superior craftsmanship and artistry, one only the well to do could afford.  I feel, at any given moment, an English chap sporting 19th century apparel and a well groomed mustache will greet me.

As I survey the walnut paneled room, I notice the panels have a design that appears as flowing drapes, carved into each.  What is more impressive about this very artistic endeavor, displayed on over three hundred panels throughout the house, no two are exactly alike.  As I also notice the ornate ceiling, I’m impressed by the immense skill and labor it took to finish one room.  The woodwork is outstanding.

I tread over the limestone tile to the ladies reception room, as the library would have been the men’s.  I love the tea set next to a large window as, with seemingly every room, there is a fireplace ready to make visitors feel cozy.  I try to Imagine the proper tones and pleasantries that would be exchanged by wives of men with means.

Beyond the reception areas lie the rooms where gatherings would commence.  A dining room, very similar to those portrayed on shows, delights me.  My thoughts of Sherlock Holmes stories stir in such places, being just the setting of many scenes.  The dining room is a stately sight, a long table, littered with silver and china, before a monster of a window.

A breakfast room, reminding me of a conservatory, would be the perfect place to allow the suns rays to dance on one’s face, while starting the day off right with a hearty meal.

At the end of the foyer,on the east side of the house, lies an enormous room known as the Grand Hall.  This room was common in English homes and was the predecessor to today’s living room.  Such a room was intended to entertain guests, this room is normally furnished, however, due to an event the furnishings are absent.

Tucked away in the corner, lies one of the largest oriental rugs in the world, the pure silk floor piece is rolled against a wall. On our left, arched doors open to a patio which overlooks the gardens of the estate.  I picture this place in summer with doors open to the outdoors- fairytale perfect.

As we follow the stairs to the second floor, we find bedrooms equipped with canopy beds.  There is the guest bedroom, laid out with its own bathroom and dressing room.  There is also a magnificent master bedroom.  Of course, the bedrooms are accompanied with their own fireplace.

Also on this floor, a beautiful sitting room, a testament to the style of home Nathan grew up in, is amongst the bedrooms.  In addition to the private rooms, a space, once intended to be the echo chamber for the pipe organ of the grand hall,  known as the Gothic Gallery is left to wow a visitor.  However, this addition was completed in the 1980’s.

Its early spring, and the tour of the house is definitely the highlight today.  Yet, I can’t wait till the beginning of may, when flowers will sprout from bulbs- already planted in the formal floral  gardens of the estate.  Today, I walk the grounds, trying to imagine the gardens just over a month from now.

This destination is worth revisiting.  There are events such as their holiday ‘Nutcracker’ in December, not to mention ones coming much sooner.  There is also a building known as the conservatory, used for private events.  I imagine a wedding in such a place as a marvelous affair.

I loved this place.  As I mentioned, it touched that same part of me that loves to curl up with my collection of Sherlock Holmes stories.  I barely touched on the artwork, as it is an equal delight.  If you’re intrigued with classic art or, much more to the point, old world architecture and design, I do suggest this place.

Tuesday-Sunday 11am-4pm

$9.00 adult   Children are $5.00  Wednesdays seniors are admitted for $5.00

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum

In Wisconsin, one city is set apart from the rest of the state.  It’s not a conglomeration of agricultural or industrial interests, nor does it play home to professional sports teams.  It’s the state’s second largest town and has two separate Identities.  It harbors the grandest college campus in Wisconsin, a College renowned for sports, partying and great academics.  As of equal or greater importance, it also hosts government representatives from across America’s Dairy Land.

Anybody living in Wisconsin will have guessed, by now, that I’m writing about Madison or Mad Town.  Some of the State Capital’s tourism allure, besides college athletics and concerts, are free attractions.  Those include a tour of the Capitol building, Museums and even a free zoo.  Today I visited one of the free Museums, which is directly across from the Capitol building.

The streets set near the Capitol building are confusing, as one way streets intersect with two ways and so on.  However, if you can navigate your vehicle to the nearest open parking space, and pay the modest $2.00 an hour, your right in the thick of the city.  I do find a parking spot, set on a side street, only a few blocks from my destination.  There are parking garages, however I discovered that very few spots, inside said garages, were for the public.

I stroll along the Capitol building, witnessing something inspiring.  I’ll be more specific at the end of the blog about my discovery.  Meanwhile, I search for my chosen attraction as I’m not very familiar with Madison.  Low and behold, as it is standing proudly on a street corner, I find the old building faster than I expected.

The Attraction today is the Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum.

Before I tell of what I find inside, I’d like to write a rather small disclaimer.  I am a vet.  Yet,  sometimes I feel uncomfortable and, frankly, a tad guilty when someone thanks me for my service.  Many people offer thanks in a tone, that I can guess comes from the media’s portrayal of vets, like I made some monumental sacrifice and have been abused ever since.

I get it, some served in wars and came back with life altering ailments.  I’m not one of them.  I served during a time of relative peace, between Desert Storm and 9/11, the Cold War had also ended.  I served most of my enlistment in Alaska.  So, my biggest battles were with frigid temps and homesickness. I didn’t join because I felt it was my patriotic duty.  At the time, I needed a direction in life and the Air Force seemed a respectable path.

However, I am very proud of my time spent serving this country, even if I counted the days till I was a civilian again.  I see the Wisconsin’s Veteran’s Museum as a fun tribute to all who served.  I accept it as the State’s way of saying ‘thank you’  in a way that makes me feel good.

As I enter the building, two men greet me.  They give me a brief overview of the museum, which is quite unnecessary.  The museum has only two exhibit areas which feature the wars, in which Wisconsin participated, in a chronological format.  I have to be honest, I was expecting more.

I walk through the Civil War, Spanish-American War and more.  Although the museum is small, the artifacts are certainly interesting and preserved.  As I investigate placards and wartime hardware, I feel as if these relics came straight from the factories.  Guns, tools, uniforms, rations and more give a distinct impression of what day to day life was like during WWI and the Civil War. Also, with every war that is highlighted, Wisconsin’s ties and contributions are noted.

The exhibit area, like many museums, is darkened and fresh.  There are scenes that captivate my imagination.  Of the many exhibits in this first area, I find the Civil War scene of Soldiers firing through a cornfield interesting and telling.

I find my way to the second Exhibit room.  Here, the exhibits are more awe-inspiring.  Aircraft are suspended from the ceiling as tanks and other vehicles are present in replicated scenes of warfare.  Everything from WWII to the War on terror is represented.  Plenty of munitions, from guns to grenades, are also showcased.

As I am finished, I realize that this stop should be incorporated with other attractions, if one is to visit this part of Madison.  I would suggest the Wisconsin Historical Museum along with this one.  They, after all, are set across from each other.  I only spent about half an hour in the Museum.

As I mentioned, something is going on at the Capitol.  One of the sights you will only see in Madison, versus any other town in the State.

I leave the Museum to witness a fairly historic sight.  High school students stand on the Capitol lawn, in recognition of one month anniversary of the Florida school shooting, protesting the gun violence that has affected schools across the nation.  I’m impressed by the mass of children exercising their right to assemble peacefully, which, along with the right to bear arms, is also in our bill of rights.

It seems, as I’ve left a museum showcasing weapons that defended and preserved democracy, the irony of how similar weapons can tear it apart stands before me.  This is a benevolent and upbeat crowd, encouraging speakers to continue voicing their frustrations.

No matter what side of the fight you’re on, you can’t deny that this passion is a good sign.  It speaks of a new generation freely fighting for security and a better future.  I applaud this gathering.

I leave Madison today feeling appreciated and, with the sight of exuberant children fighting for what they believe, a positive view of the future.  A perspective I could have only gained in my State’s Capital.

Weiss Earth Science Museum

So, tariffs reigned supreme in the media this past week, pitting congress against the white house yet again.  Actually, the White House, itself, is divided in result of this latest move- I believe the chief economic advisor said ‘hasta la vista’ to Trump a few days ago.

Is the economy going to tank or will the US steel and aluminum industries start booming again?  Hell, I don’t know, not remotely qualified to answer those questions.  However, I do know where steel and aluminum originate.  That’s right, before they are finished in a factory they start from good old mother earth.  So in celebration of yet another Trump political fiasco, I figured I’d visit the Weiss Earth Science Museum at the UW-Fox Valley campus.

I know, the Paris Climate Accord would seem a better angle at current affairs.  The climate accord is a climate driven pact, and the Weiss Earth Science Museum is a mineralogical museum, however.  So, minerals taken from the earth, to create and manufacture common goods, seemed a more relevant topic.

As I reach the gift shop/reception desk, I’m stunned.  The price of the museum, besides one other, is the cheapest Museum I’ve visited.  The fee for an adult is an affordable three dollars.  Immediately, I start considering the wisdom of driving thirty minutes to visit this tiny place.  Why is it so cheap?

As I enter, I spy some underwhelming fossils in rock.  I wonder if that’s the highlights of this small collection.  Plus, I recall the receptionist’s words as I paid my two dollars, “We are doing some remodeling.  So, there are glass cases strewn about-please excuse our mess.”  She recited these words in a businesslike fashion, without a smile.  I feel like I’ve visited a family member when their house is in disarray, border line intrusion.

Yet, I turn a corner and my anxiety melts away.  Before me lie the most prolific geological specimens one could hope to retrieve from the earth’s crust.  Dinosaur skulls and a femur, the latter I’m encouraged to touch, adorn a dark corner.  My hand glides over the smooth femur, feeling like light sanded wood.   Unbelievably,  65 million years ago this was propelling a biological machine, totally unaware that one day it would be an interesting artifact.

Also, along with the Dinosaur bones, I’m captivated by a replicated nest with actual dinosaur eggs.  The species has been Identified after  fossilized embryo’s were detected inside the eggs.  That’s simply amazing.

I leave the Dinosaur eggs behind and peruse a brief snippet on mining.  Included in this bit, copper mines Native Americans conceived are mentioned.  Of course, in Wisconsin, one must know the reason for our nick name.  No, I don’t mean ‘America’s Dairy land’,  I mean ‘the Badger State’.

Wisconsin’s Pioneers didn’t happen upon herds of  ill-tempered black, grey and white creatures and label Wisconsin accordingly.  Actually, miners of lead were very prominent in the pioneer days.  These miners were known as badgers and pride in that heritage earned the State’s Identity, which endures today as the nickname of the UW’s flagship school in Madison.

After the mining exhibit, I find a time line, a brief sketch of 2.5 billion years of geological evolution.  The time line begins with the Pre Cambrian era and works its way towards the Ice Age.  There’s the basic layout of the earth at a given time frame, then information specific to Wisconsin.   As evidence of the claims the giant placards are making, Mastodon tusks, fossils and more lie with the appropriate era.  I find it interesting and mindboggling to realize Wisconsin was once underneath a shallow sea, located near the equator.

I end the visit with a discovery of rocks and minerals, cased in glass and begging observation.  Its dark in here, and the geological specimens aren’t dull.  They shimmer and sparkle in the light of the cases.  Amethyst, fluorite, pyrite and more ignites my imagination, guessing what just might lie under my feet.

There are other small exhibits to enjoy, like one on ground water.  As I said, the museum is small and I’m finished in about half an hour.  I enjoyed my time and felt that I was both entertained and informed.  I’ve jostled my memory banks and dusted off that grade school geology class education.  Of course, with the aide of exhibits like actual Dinosaur bones, relearning is simply fun.

The UW-Fox Valley Campus is located in Menasha.  If you’re in the fox cities area and looking for a cheap way to kill time, I would suggest this place.  It screams school boy destination, having cool rocks and dinosaur bones.  Not to mention, a few other unidentified artifacts incited the word ‘Cool’ to be uttered from my own mouth.

Considering the price, which I  believe is actually cheaper than a Big Mac at McDonald’s, you’re really not losing much if you disagree with my sentiments.  However, I think you’ll agree that there are some rather interesting and cool artifacts to see.

Monday-Friday 12pm-3pm

Saturday 10am-5pm

Sunday 1pm-5pm

Adults $3.00  Seniors and teens $2.00 children 3-12 1.00 and under 3 are free.

The Milton House – a symbol of courageous quests for freedom

Courageous battles seem to be a cliché in the media today.  I’m not saying people don’t struggle, many overcoming, or succumbing to, horrible ordeals, and I don’t mean to demean those stories as exaggerations of ones fortitude. As I give this some thought, everyone one has had strife to endure in their life. Some battles are more profound, or maybe simply more public, than others.  I just feel that, these days, the media outlets salivate over the next cancer survivor or harassed transgendered individual.

In museums, places you know I love if you’re a frequent reader of my blog, there are many examples of toil and struggle.  It seems examples of life’s hardships are everywhere.  Yet, a few days ago, I sat in an old root cellar and contemplated the words courage and brave, as I vividly sensed what those men and women, who used the cellar for safe passage, must have felt.

It was there, amongst pioneer period artifacts, that I realized I’m not as benevolent as I would like to believe.  I doubt I would have had the resolve, the courage, the ingenuity or planning to have pulled off what Joseph Goodrich achieved.  Spurred by a religious belief, borne from the Seven Day Baptist faith, he helped many attain their freedom.  I’m not going to say he gave them their freedom, everyone he helped fought equally hard and were genuinely brave for chasing that dream.  However, Joseph Goodrich, blessed with both hearty morals and sound business sense, provided a path of hope for those souls brave enough to follow it.

I’ll write a short background, before recalling my tour.  Like I mentioned, Joseph Goodrich was a Seven Day Baptist, arriving in Milton before Wisconsin reached statehood.  The Seven Day Baptist faith is a very strict religion, frowning upon Alcohol, Tobacco and, most importantly to my visit, slavery.  As a matter of fact, Seven Day Baptists were abolitionists before it was a popular movement in the Northern States.

Also important to note, while Wisconsin was not a slave state, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 prohibited the aide of runaway slaves.  This was enforced with severe financial penalties, and Jail time.  Not to mention, slaves were often maimed, or worse, when returned to their masters.

Today I visit a structure that ignored those laws, putting a higher value on God’s will and Freedom.

When I begin the tour, It has nothing to do with the underground railroad.  Instead, there is another plight for freedom and the American dream being aided.  I stand in a lobby, where many pioneers chasing a fresh start at life, once stood in search of a comfortable bed.  The building’s shape and material is of great interest, being that of a hexagon and constructed of limestone mortar, said to be the first in the country of such material.

I delight at an authentic registry book as signatures with great penmanship, despite the use of a quill, gives a glimpse at the men and women who spent the night.  We climb the winding staircase that adheres to the six walls of the building.

As we reach the top, we find small rooms that would have provided much needed rest.   The building does have a sense of classiness.  It was definitely not designed for the well to do, yet, not a crude rudimentary boarding house either.  There is a dignified and refined aura that anyone traveling by wagon, and later by train, would have felt.

Attached to the hexagonal hotel is what the tour guides call a ‘frontier strip mall’.  Businesses enjoyed prominence in the city of Milton inside this rectangular building.  Today, the museum lobby and an old ‘General Store’ among a few other things are housed in the structure, which was refaced due to a fault with the limestone mortar.

Set apart from these structures are old cabins, which Joseph Goodrich and his family once lived in before the newer buildings were built.  That becomes important later.

We approach the civil war portion of the tour.  Here, in an upstairs room, we learn of the city of Milton’s involvement in the war.  What I find cool, besides the rifles and a bugle from the period, is a photo of the survivors of the conflict.  Every single man in the photo told of life foreign, yet, somehow familiar to my upbringing. Their well manicured mustache’s and Union Uniforms seem evidence of a past that my Grandparents brought to life, by tales of their own Grandparents.

We descend into the root cellar, where folding chairs wait a sober audience. The disparity of the rooms of the hotel and the grit of the cellar are glaring. Here, the evidence of Joseph Goodrich’s involvement in the under ground railroad is on display.   We are shown a written account of a freed slave talking of the Milton House as a safe haven.  However, the coolest evidence is waiting just around a corner.

Before I get to that, I’d like to explain the route that is believed these slaves followed.  It is believed they were from the Western part of the south, coming from states like Arkansas.  They followed the Mississippi River, branching off to the rock river,  and then cut across southern Wisconsin.  They reached the shore of lake Michigan, in Racine, and were ferried to Canada.  There is written account of about 100 slaves gaining freedom from the boat in Lake Michigan.

The coolest part of the tour is the underground tunnel, which brought the slaves from a log cabin to the root cellar.  The tunnel can’t be more than two feet wide, but is quite tall.  When we arrive at the cabin, which now is graced with a staircase instead of the original hole in the floor, I’m stunned at how authentic and well preserved the structure is.  I imagine being on the run, hurried into the most simplistic of log cabins, dropped into a tunnel and hiding in a root cellar, which was directly under the hotel dining table.

I’ve never experienced a museum quite like this.  It’s pioneer hotel meets local history and first and foremost, an authentically preserved piece of the underground railroad.

This place brings to light the most turbulent time of the United States past, giving credit to some of its heroes.

I apologize for no photos of the tour.  It was requested that I didn’t take any, of course I obliged.

Unfortunately the museum hours are rather minimal.  10-4 Monday-thursday