Welcome To My Blog

Weekends are for wandering Wisconsin. That's what Rick, my guy, and I do. Occasionally we wander during the week, too. Sometimes we just drop in on other people's lives.

This blog is my way of sharing where we've been, neat places and things to do that we've found.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Chandelier Ballroom

A few weeks ago a friend of Rick was married. The reception was at the Chandelier Ballroom in Hartford WI. What a beautiful and interesting place. The Ballroom also held a few memories for Rick, but he'll have to tell you about those!

The Chandelier Ballroom opened as the Schwartz Ballroom on October 20, 1928.
Dance halls were popular in the 1920s because of the big bands. Their music was broadcast on the radio and soon the "new urban sound" became a craze of the nation.
The Schwartz Ballroom was designed by Milwaukee architect, Robert Messmer, and funded by local brewer Joseph Schwartz, Jr. The octagonal "Great Hall" rises 36 feet at its center. 
This one-ton wrought iron art deco chandelier hangs from the center of the ballroom.
The unobstructed dance floor can accommodate 1500 dancing couples (or about 350 people seated at tables for a wedding reception). 
From the entrance looking left....
and to the right.

Major performers of the time came to the Schwartz Ballroom and in 1931 local Milwaukee radio station WTMJ broadcast live via CBS, giving the Schwartz coast-to-coast recognition. Guy Lombardo (of New Year's Eve fame) and his Royal Canadians drew a record crowd of 6000 who jammed the Ballroom while several hundred more listened from outside. 
The ballroom was pressed into wartime service from 1944 to 1946, serving as a Prisoner of War camp for 300 or more German POWs. Prisoners provided labor at local factories, making up for labor shortages created by the war. Following the close of the war, the Schwartz went into bankruptcy. Marty Zivko, who had performed at the Schwartz with his "Polka Boys" purchased the building at auction and it became Marty Zivko's Schwartz Ballroom.  

Zivko brought rock 'n' roll bands to the Ballroom in the 1960s and the bands attracted thirsty young people from Milwaukee. The drinking age in Milwaukee County was 21 but only 18 in Washington County were Hartford is located.

The Ballroom had several owners after Marty Zivko until it was bought by the Hartford Rotary in the late 1990s. Rotary members planned to generate revenue from the Ballroom that could be returned to the city. They also wanted to ensure that the building would remain in Hartford for future generations. It was at this time that the Ballroom became the Chandelier Ballroom. The Ballroom was renovated and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The Chandelier Ballroom is now owned by the Hartford Historic Preservation Foundation. 
Lights throughout the Ballroom reflect the design of the main chandelier.
Thanks to the vision of those 50 Rotary members more than a decade ago, the Chandelier Ballroom is a magnificent piece of history that still stands today. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

The End of Camping Season

Once again (third year for us), we were at WillOaks campground in Woodstock IL for a vintage trailer rally October 10-13. Once again, our host, BJ Frantz, did a great job. Once again, we met up with old friends and made a few new ones.

BJ's trailer - a Trotwood that she restored this past year.

A new rally participant with a Trailblazer. The shutters are distinctive features
of this particular make of vintage camping trailer. They were manufactured
in Spencer WI.
An Airstream - definitely an iconic vintage trailer.
Our friends, Julia and Norm from DeKalb, had their entire fleet of vintage trailers at the rally. It's nice to have several to be able to invite trailerless friends and family to join in the fun.

Walter, the "hippy" trailer, is one of three in their fleet.
On that beautiful Friday, Rick and I wandered over to Edwards Apple Orchard. An amazing operation. Lots of customers buying apples and warm apple cider donuts and sampling several varieties of apples from the orchard.
Lots of pumpkins for sale, too.
The food barn was also a museum.
Many old farm implements were displayed.
Vintage tractors, too.
On Saturday, we checked out the Iron Invasion.  Along with the classic cars and trucks, we looked at a number of vintage camping trailers at the McHenry County Fairgrounds. 
Some of the more colorful cars caught my eye.
Red is another favorite color.

I'm finally able to recognize a mid-60s Chevy truck - probably because the front end looks the same as Rick's '64 panel truck. 
The owner of this one made quite a few modifications but the basic look
remained the same - and recognizable.

I've seen many "trailer queens" (cars never driven, only hauled on trailers) at car shows,
so this one brought a smile to my face.

The owners of this vintage Chevy Suburban heard about our vintage rally
and stopped in on Sunday to check out our trailers.
Unfortunately, this was probably our last year at WillOaks since the land is being sold and the campground manager will not continue to run the place. Many Illinois state parks have alcohol bans so the challenge is to find a campground in the general vicinity where we'll be able to continue our tradition of a progressive cocktail party during the next rally. Any ideas?

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

It's Threshing Time

That's right - time to separate the wheat from the chaff. And that was demonstrated at the Richfield Historical Society's 15th Annual Thresheree on September 21 and 22.

The Thresheree takes place at the beautiful Richfield Historical Park. 
The motto for the Village of Richfield is "Forward. Preserving a Country Way of Life." What could be more "country" than a re-creation of life on the land in the late 1800s?

One feature of the Thresheree that I always enjoy is the Tractor Parade. It's more like a fashion show. Owners drive their tractors around the grounds with an announcer giving the details of the particular piece of farm equipment they are driving.
Mostly red and green tractors in the parade...
with an occasional orange one for variety.

Some of the many tractors on display at the Thresheree.
Even the little garden variety tractors get in on the action.
Gehl Company (now a subsidiary of Manitou Americas) from West Bend usually has an exhibit of equipment at the Thresheree.

This year Gehl brought out the Blazer. It was billed as an all-season
fun-mobile. Two people could ride in it. Wheels for summer...with dune-buggy
applications. Skis for winter. Conversion from one to the other in minutes!
The centerpiece of the Richfield Historical Park is the Messer/Mayer Mill that has been standing on its original location for 140 years. It's only one of a few timber frame grist (grain) mills in the Midwest. The Richfield Historical Society is currently in a campaign to raise funds to restore the foundation so that the building won't collapse. Previously Society volunteers replaced the Mill's roof, siding, and windows and succeeded in placing the Mill on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Work has begun on the first phase to restore the Mill foundation.
Right now the soil next to this wall has been removed so the contractor
can repair the limestone mortar that is holding the field stones in the
foundation walls together. It's a big project.
I am always in awe of the dedicated, passionate volunteers who are involved in the Richfield Historical Society. The Society was organized a mere 15 years ago and, in that short time, its members have created a living museum of Richfield’s history at the Historical Park. The Park includes a pioneer homestead featuring log buildings that were moved from other locations in the village, the Messer/Mayer Mill, the miller’s home, and supporting buildings. The time period represented begins with the early settlers of Richfield prior to the Civil War, continues with life on the mill homestead, and carries on to the era of cash cropping and dairy farming. 

The Richfield Thresheree is always the third weekend of September. For a glimpse of our state's past when wheat was king, check out the Thresheree in 2014.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Knock, Knock! Who's there?

Doors Open Milwaukee. 

For the second year in a row Rick and I took a look behind the facades of several buildings in Milwaukee during Historic Milwaukee's most ambitious project, the third annual Doors Open Milwaukee. For 35 years, HMI has been increasing awareness of and commitment to Milwaukee's history, architecture, and the preservation of the city's built environment through education and advocacy.

Our first stop was the Milwaukee Fire Museum. We viewed pictures of major Milwaukee fires and learned more about how the conflagrations were brought under control. A retired fire fighter, who is a docent at the Museum, demonstrated the operation of a fire alarm box that could be found on Milwaukee's street corners in the past. Now those alarms can only be accessed by police.
A 1947 Cadillac ambulance is on exhibit at the Fire Museum.
Our next stop was Forest Home Cemetery. The cemetery takes up nearly 20 city blocks - 200 acres. A beautiful setting in the middle of the city. Of course, when the first person was buried in 1850, the cemetery was well removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. About 110, 000 people are buried in Forest Home. Many of them are the early movers and shakers of Milwaukee, like the brewers whose names we associate with the city. 
Valentin Blatz has the largest monument in Forest Home.
But ostentatiousness doesn't guarantee good beer!
Joseph Schlitz was a little more circumspect.
Still no guarantee of good beer.

One of the neat features at Forest Home is the Hall of History with more than 100 displays that honor the memories and accomplishments of more famous Milwaukeans who chose Forest Home as their final resting place. 

The chapel on the cemetery grounds along with the cemetery itself are both on the National Register of Historic Places as well as being Milwaukee landmarks. The 1896 crematory in the lower level of the chapel was the first in Wisconsin. 
An elevator would carry the casket from the chapel's sanctuary to the crematory
in the basement. It is no longer used today.
Bryant's Cocktail Lounge is one of the best preserved cocktail lounges in the country. Originally a Miller Brewing tied house, Bryant’s is now recognized for specialty cocktails. Velvet walls and dim lighting are its characteristics. 
A booth wall at Bryant's
And a ceiling light

Tied houses, in the past, were required to sell only the products of the brewery to which they were "tied."

But, Mike Brenner, an up and coming brewer, won't be limited when he distributes his beer. Mike opened his building, a cinder block parking garage built in 1980, to the public. He is converting the building into the Brenner Brewing Company and it will be Milwaukee's newest craft brewery when it opens in about four months. 
Mike has been a home brewer since the 1990s. Now he's
going commercial. Armed with an MBA, a diploma as a
Master Brewer from Chicago's Siebel Institute of Technology,
and past experience running his own businesses, Mike plans to open
a tasting room and art gallery next door to the brewery.
Mike told us the total project will have $1.6 million invested when
everything is up and running.
Mike will brew a specialty beer, more like a liqueur, that will be aged for 6 months in these barrels.
The Old South Side Settlement Museum is interpreted well. Several different ethnic groups settled on Milwaukee's south side over the years. Each room of this house museum shows how the furnishings changed with the occupancy of each group. 
The upside down Christmas tree is in the Polish living
room. Because homes were small, a tree hanging from the
ceiling didn't take up any floor space!
Children played in a room under the stairs that led to the upstairs. 
The Mexican family who moved into the house in the early 1950s was the first Hispanic family in the neighborhood. They were Milwaukee Braves fans as evidenced by Braves' banners displayed in one of the cabinets. Now Milwaukee's south side is predominantly Hispanic.
The kitchen is bright and cheery.
We're looking forward to next year's Doors Open Milwaukee when we will have an opportunity to knock on a door in the city and have it open for us.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Midwest Vintage Trailer Rally III

This past weekend was the third time we attended the rally. It was the 12th annual event hosted by Kimberly Steiner at the Buffalo Lake Camping Resort in Montello, WI. Once again - a fun time, good weather (except for rain on Sunday, but that was the last day), and best of all...terrific friends!
One of the visitors to our trailer during the Open House on
Saturday was sporting this t-shirt. Our motto!
This year Rick brought an new vintage trailer (well, almost, if you can call a 35-year-old trailer vintage) to the rally - a 1978 Argosy.
An Argosy is essentially a painted Airstream. Rick showed his Scotch
collection again this year.
About 20% of the 45+ participants this year were first timers. Some have been coming for 7 or 8 years. Kimberly told me that 8 participated in her first rally. Hearing that, I was delighted that we had 9 for our first "Birds & Bovines" vintage rally last June. 
Kimberly's 1950s Owosso trailer is on a permanent site with a big deck and plenty
of space on the site for participants to bring chairs to enjoy the programs she puts together.
This year we delighted in a presentation from Al Hesselbart, who has led the growth and development of the RV/Motorhome Hall of Fame museum and library in Elkhart, IN. Al talked about his address in 2010 to RV industry leaders in China. We saw pictures of RVs manufactured by Chinese companies and viewed the budding RV parks in that country. Two years later Al presented to the 1st national China RV Rally in Beijing. Rallies in China are much more formal than ours in the United States. We looked at pictures of opening ceremonies. Our opening ceremony? Usually a progressive cocktail party! 
(Rick says that sometime this winter we're going to have to make a pilgrimage to the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart. Many different brands of trailers were manufactured in Elkhart back in the day.)

Some of the trailers at this year's rally included these.
Our friends, BJ and Norm and Julia from Illinois, shared a site. You'd never
be able to fit two of today's big box trailers on one site.
Even with two vintage trailers on a site, there's still plenty of room.
It's easy to spot a Shasta trailer - look for the wings.
A new trailer with a vintage design.
It always amazes me how roomy even the little trailers are.
This panel truck is even rarer than Rick's 1964 Chevy. What a perfect vehicle
to pull a vintage trailer.
One can't help but chuckle at some of the decor we see in the vintage trailers.

Or outside of the trailers as well.

We've definitely been bitten by the vintage trailer rally bug. We reserved our spot for next year's rally the day we left. And now we're looking forward to the last vintage rally of the season in Woodstock, IL in four weeks.