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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Visiting William S. Burroughs - I, II and III

The place to be buried in St. Louis has long been Bellefontaine Cemetery.  Naturally, I scheduled a stop there on our way out of town.

Bellefontaine is more of a tourist attraction than I expected.  At the office, there are brochures for self-guided tours of famous folks, beautiful trees and Civil War veterans.

Most people looking for William S. Burroughs are probably looking for the novelist and author of The Naked Lunch.  He has his own modest stone on the family plot.

The monument for his grandfather is a bit more prominent.  It was placed here by grateful employees of American Arithmometer following the company's first sales convention in 1902.  The company name would not be changed to Burroughs Adding Machine Company until three years later.  From the company records:

At a convention of the Sales Agents, Office and Factory forces of the American Arithmometer Company, held at the Planter’s Hotel on December 27th, 1902, it was the unanimous opinion of all present that a suitable memorial should be erected to the memory of


the inventor of the Burroughs Adding Machine, as a tribute to his genius as shown in this most wonderful invention, out of which has grown one of the large business institutions of the Country, of which we are justly proud, and by which so many have been benefitted.

We believe the machine he invented will prove to be his most lasting monument, but as evidence of our appreciation we subscribe the amounts set opposite our names for the purpose of erecting a monument over his grave in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Mo.

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I photographed all four sides of the monument:
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You may notice some short lifespans on those engravings.  The Burroughs family history is filled with tragedy, never very well documented.  Literary biographer Simon Johnson is hard at work producing what may be the definitive biography of the novelist Burroughs.  You can get a flavor for his effort from an article in the Lowell (Michigan) Ledger at this link

We drove the full tour of the cemetery and found the memorial to Capt William Clark of Lewis and Clark to be one of the most notable.  It stands at the very top of the hill, overlooking the Mississippi River.
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A Short Visit to East St. Louis

The area around the Gateway Arch is undergoing a major upgrade making the arch itself difficult to visit.  Looking for a good place to take more pictures, I decided to try the east side of the river.  If you are familiar with East St. Louis, you might have some concern with this idea.  If you are not -- well, let's go to Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities:
... for a first-time visitor suddenly deposited on its eerily empty streets, East St. Louis might suggest another world.
... It is, according to a teacher at the University of Southern Illinois, "a repository for a nonwhite population that is now regarded as expendable." The Post-Dispatch describes it as "America's Soweto."
But, there must be a great view of the arch.  And, there were signs indicating a riverside casino that might offer a good view from the parking lot.  Of course, I made a wrong turn and ended up driving though several blocks of abandoned properties before getting back to the river's edge.  It was reminiscent of driving through Detroit and Buffalo last year.

We were soon back at the river, a bit downstream from the casino and discovered a wonderful large park with a viewing platform.  This is adjacent to a major Cargill grain facility on the river.

Welcome to Malcom W. Martin Memorial Park, home of the Gateway Geyser.

There was only one group of visitors up on the platform and we soon joined them.  There is a live webcam on the EarthCam network and 24 hours of storage of all visitors.  I handed my camera to a member of the other group that was just leaving and we were fortunate enough to have a very good photographer who captured us with the arch.

I picked up the Earthcam pictures back at our hotel.  And that other fellow sitting on the bench?  That's Malcom.
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Monday, December 28, 2015

A Visit to St. Louis - Part II - An Historic Neighborhood.

Besides seeing the modern city of St. Louis on our recent trip, I wanted to explore a bit of the remaining old St. Louis related to William S. Burroughs and his adding machine.  The area of my interest was located within plate 19 of the Compton and Dry Pictorial St. Louis.  Fortunately, an enterprising blogger has identified all remaining buildings from the Compton and Dry drawings and posted the results at Bygone St. Louis.  The anonymous author identifies only two buildings from this drawing that are still standing.

The area of my interest is near the corner of Broadway and Bates. (Bates was renamed Dickson many years ago.)

There is a lot of history associated with this area.  This is a picture from the National Park Service showing the area along the riverfront cleared in 1942 to build the Gateway Arch.  (The arch was not completed until 1965 - but that's another story.)  The arrow points to Broadway and Bates.

Here is the scene as depicted on Compton and Dry's plate 19.

The three-story building indicated by the red arrow was the Hotel Noble back in 1875.  Only the first floor remains today.  Across Broadway from the Noble was Joseph Murphy's Wagon Factory where, reportedly, 200,000 "Murphy Wagons" were built to supply the Santa Fe Trail trade.  Across Bates from the Noble, Joseph Boyer built his small machine shop.

It was in Boyer's shop that two significant inventions were nurtured to life.  Boyer invented the pneumatic hammer which would drive countless rivets in the early twentieth century and in a small second-floor room, William S. Burroughs created the first practical printing adding machine.  When Burroughs stopped by the Boyer shop about 1883 and asked if he could hire a room and a man for his project, Boyer didn't have a man available - but he did have a talented boy - Al Doughty, who had attended the Bates elementary school across the street (blue arrow.) Doughty would retire from the presidency of Burroughs Adding Machine Company some 60+ years later.

Most of the buildings in this neighborhood disappeared about 1895 as the railroads built freight terminal facilities in the area.  A part of the block to the south became The Wedge automotive service station.  That enterprise was held up in 1950 by Sonny Liston who subsequently was imprisoned for the armed robbery and there learned the useful art of boxing.

The Hotel Noble serves only as a landmark in this story, but I took a picture to anchor us to Plate 19.  And Linda got a nice picture of one of the railway freight terminals from 1895.  As she says, "We certainly visit some unusual parts of cities because of your research."


A Visit to St. Louis - Part I

November seemed like a nice time of year for a drive to the south.  St Louis, the city with the arch, is only about six hundred miles from the Twin Cities but we have seldom passed through the area.  We headed out for a long weekend about November 7th.

St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch and there may not be a hotel room in the area that doesn't include some view of the arch.  Here are two.
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I took several pictures of the arch myself.  This one is my favorite.

My personal interest in St. Louis arises from the fact that William S. Burroughs developed his adding machine here in the years 1880-1898.  As I have researched the St. Louis of the late nineteenth century, nothing has impressed me as much as the collection of pictorial maps drawn and published by  Compton and Dry in 1875.  There were over 100 pages of detailed drawings such as this example of plate 19.

The Missouri History Museum has assembled a large exhibit built around these drawings.  It is open through February 14, 2016 and is well worth a long drive to see.
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The museum has assembled the Compton and Dry plates into a single composite image hanging just inside the exhibit entrance.  Whether you might have an interest in St. Louis, history or photography, I think you'll find the image "awesome" in contemporary parlance.

Other parts of the exhibit illustrate many facets of St. Louis life in 1875 from wages to school buildings.
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If the Compton and Dry plates are of interest to you, they are all available free from the Library of Congress website in stunning detail.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Swedish History Museum in Swedesburg, Iowa

Cruising down highway 218 in the southeast corner of Iowa, you could be forgiven for not noticing the blue and yellow sign just south of 140th street.


We had probably gone a half-mile beyond the sign before we decided to loop around and come back to see what it was all about.

The museum was open, there were a couple of cars parked outside and there was the familiar Dala horse standing watch on the corner.

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Inside there was an interesting story of the numerous Swedish settlers who had come to this section of Iowa.

There is a small general store, a cobblers shop and a large number of artifacts from the 1870-1900 era.  They have the only Huckster Wagon that I have ever seen.

This little museum must be well-known in Sweden.  They have a map where Swedish visitors have placed a pin marking their own towns at home.
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Whether you are Swedish or just Minnesotan, this makes for an interesting stop.  Our only disappointment was that there was no Herring to be had along with the friendly cup of Swedish coffee. - but there is a shipment on the way.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Do You Remember the Portland Earthquake?

If you are my age, a full "three score and ten," you likely responded, "which one?"

There is an article in The New Yorker for July 20 that describes "The Really Big One." - Coming soon to a beach near Seaside:
By the time the shaking has ceased and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable. Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”
The article focuses on the lack of preparation and awareness in the Pacific Northwest.
You can spend a lifetime in many parts of the Northwest—several, in fact, if you had them to spend—and not feel so much as a quiver.
Obviously, the author, Kathryn Schulz, didn't grow up in the Northwest - certainly not in the 1940s, 50s or 60s.

Consider this headline from an Illinois newspaper of April 14, 1949.

 It accompanies a wire-photo from Portland.

I spent a bit of time looking for a list of significant Oregon Earthquakes, and found a list in a 1995 Oregon Geology.  Here is a lightly edited extract of the list with quakes from 1941 through 1993:

 But, wait a second - where is 1949?

With $20 million in damage, (that was real money back in the day) shouldn't that make the list?  Maybe it didn't tip the Richter Scale adequately.

I was only four years old at the time, and was sitting on the living room floor near the couch when the quake hit.  My mother and an aunt were sitting on the couch.  My aunt thought our dog was trying to squeeze behind the couch and was moving it.

I e-mailed a grade-school friend of the same age this morning and he remembered exactly where he was, also.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dinner at a Wisconsin Supper Club

We celebrated our wedding anniversary this past Sunday and tradition called for dinner out.  Since we were at the cabin, I thought it might be time to try a new Supper Club.

For the uninitiated, the "Supper Club" is an upper-Midwest tradition centered on Wisconsin.  If you are a serious student of American culture, you will want to add this to your fact-file.  Here is an article in the New York Times, a book and even a movie on the subject.

There are certain standard menu items on a supper-club menu.  Steak, of course, but always AYCE Walleye on Fridays and prime rib on Saturday.  We were looking for something a little more special and found it here.

The Chippewa Inn can be found fifteen miles east of Hayward.  The location is easy to remember, it's at the corner of A and B, and offers a Bavarian page besides the usual fare.
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Am I sure this is a supper club?  O yes, you can tell by the fish and other animals hanging in the bar watching you sip your cocktail.  (I couldn't get the bearskin into the same frame - sorry!)

Keeping with the Bavarian tradition, you will find a couple of dollhouses and a case of Hummel figurines in the back room.

How was the food?  Very good.  Here is the Bavarian Pork Shank (Eisbein, if you are German) and the prime rib.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

More Small Critters - Gordon, Wisconsin

I suppose that when most fishermen think back to their visits to Pagac's Pines Resort near Gordon in the '50s and '60s, they recall the battle with a Northern Pike or a stringer of Bass and the pleasant outings on the lake.  But I wonder if those thoughts might have pushed other, less pleasant memories to the back of their minds?

The evenings can be remarkably pleasant on the Gordon Flowage - provided you are behind adequate screens!  Mosquitoes, gnats, and tiny creatures so small that they are known locally as "no-see-ums" abound beginning at dusk.

I was taking a picture to illustrate a Facebook Post that Linda wrote on Monday:
Cabin Life Today.......

It's so much fun sitting on our porch having dinner. Our entertainment has been a hummingbird that likes to sit on the wind direction indicator, a song sparrow singing his little heart out, king birds catching their dinner mid-flight, the squeaky gate song of the blue jay, squirrels chattering as they chase each other thru the trees, a chipmunk sneaking up to the cabin and fish jumping in the lake.

It's totally calm so the lake is like a mirror, reflecting the trees of the island. The sky is totally overcast thru which the sun is a huge bright orange orb slowly descending. Warm temps and the windows are open to all the sounds. We wished a couple deer would saunter past but our deer are too shy for that. Very relaxing.

I finally settle on this picture.

But along the way, I noticed this fluffy cotton that had piled up on the windowsill.

Wait a minute - that's not cotton.  It is a big pile of small bugs!

They weren't here last night.  Let's take a closer look.
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How big are they?  Well, about the size of a dragonfly's eye. 

This dragonfly seemed too overfed to try eating any of these.  Besides, they prefer to harvest the bugs while on the wing.  These were all dead and not going anywhere.

I was perplexed about what the little critters were when suddenly this fellow stopped by to look, also.

What is that?  And what it is carrying on its back?  Babies?  Some kind of parasite?
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How could I identify these things?  If I lived in Washington D.C., I could take them down to the Smithsonian.  Or in Manhattan, I could go to the NYC Public Library and ask.  In California, someone is probably building an "app" for that.

Since I am in the Northwoods, I just went next door to Tom and Barb.  "Mayflies," said Tom.  "A Pine Borer," said Barb.

Among the thousands of varieties of mayfly, some are very small.  The double white tail is the key to identification.  There is a remarkable YouTube video that show one variety laying eggs that hatch a few seconds later.

And that Pine Borer?   Apparently they like fresh logs more than seasoned.  So maybe they won't eat the cabin.

Click on the Pagac's Pines link below to see other Northwoods critters from the neighborhood.

By late afternoon, a gentle breeze had blown away all evidence of the Mayflies.