Friday, March 29, 2013

The Casanova Caves - Maddening Questions!

My visit to the Casanova caves has me asking all sorts of questions.

I had thought that an arrangement of three doors might indicate a central tunnel for ice that would cool side tunnels full of beer kegs. the Casanova caves there is no connection at all between the center and right hand caves.  Were they dug at different times?

The Casanova caves had a round hole in the ceiling.  My photo of it was spoiled by a fluorescent light fixture but I have seen several similar structures and this photo from the Chippewa Falls cave is pretty much identical.  Now, you hear stories that these round holes were used to lower kegs down from above.  But in this case the brewery was clearly on a level with the cave...and the top of the bluff appears to be vacant in the old photos. The owner said that he had heard this was a vent hole.  I guess it makes sense, you want caves to keep cool and warm air rises. Besides, breweries back in the day were pretty much all using kegs too big to fit through a hole this size.  Vents it shall be.  If these are indeed as common as they appear to be they would seem to be great clues in future hunts.

By the way, what exactly were the Casanova brothers doing in these caves?  By the time they bought the place in 1896 caves were obsolete.  Mechanical refrigeration was cheap and probably more sanitary.  Were they a "low budget" outfit that could not afford the machinery? Or did they use the caves for purposes other than ageing lager?  There are interesting hints to be seen in a series of historic photos inside the Casanova liquor store. I apologize for the quality, things under glass just will not photograph cleanly.

This is one of the Casanova brothers, clearly standing in the cave.  But what is he standing in? As best I can tell this is a big pile of hops! (seems to be stuff too big to be barley grains, but see below)   The wall on the right hand side of the photo does not have a clear analog in the visible cave system so it should be in the abandoned branch.  But really, storing hops on a cave floor? Seems damp and a good place for rolly polly bugs!

Another wretched quality photo with a fluorescent light bar across the middle.  But it appears to show a worker actually kegging beer in the cave.  I had always assumed that beer was kegged elsewhere, and with as little transfer as possible.  This is a very sanitation sensitive step in making good beer.  Piping it into a cavern for a guy to hand keg seems pretty crude. The floor looks dark and sticky.  There is some smudge of white powder on his sleeve.  In this instance we can pick out the exact spot the photo was taken.  This mechanism is supported by a big square post projecting out of the wall. That spot today:

I have never heard of anyone kegging or bottling beer inside the cave before.  Here is another picture, probably in the cave but perhaps inside the basement of the brewery:

Why do you need a furnace/boiler inside a cave?  You want it to stay cool!  I am leaning towards a location in the caves because the wall adjacent to the boiler looks to me to be a little bit curved.  Was it at this spot?

If so the boiler has been removed and the archway widened.  That would seem like a lot of work.

Note the smooth floors by the way.  In the category of a lot of work, someone presumably has poured flat cement floors here.

One final mystery.  Across the road is the brew master's house.

Very nice.  Italianate architecture.  Late 1860s to circa 1870.  And it has its own cave down in the basement!


Addendum:  I have happened across a fire map of the brewery and the associated caves. It appears to show the now sealed cave as a cruder excavation labeled as "malt cellar". This fits the above picture and explains why there is not a connection to the two later(?) tunnels.  The tunnels have been altered since this Yoerg era map, with two cross passages and the brick room near the back...

I may have hinted at potential quality issues regarding the beer made by the Casanova brothers.  Gents, my apologies.  I see on the far right of the map that your predecessor Mr. Yoerg kept hogs right next to the ice house!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Hudson, Wisconsin

Let me say from the start that calling this set of brewery caves "forgotten" is a bit of a stretch. They are very much remembered and have apparently been in continuous use for almost 150 years.  But they provide so many clues to otherwise forgotten information that I am going to stretch the point.

Besides, I am a self-proclaimed Expert now, and can do as I please!

This set of caves is owned by, and associated with, the Casanova Liquor Store and the Nova Wine Bar and Restaurant.  To get the most important part of this post front and center I can report that the owner, Tyrell Gaffer, was a very good sport in allowing me a personal tour of the caves.  And he runs a darned good store....I asked about an obscure microbrew I had been looking for and darned if he did not have it in stock.

The Casanova is at 236 Coulee Road, Hudson.  It is just up the hill from the south end of down town.  Here is the Casanova site today:

A historic view from approximately the same angle:

The modern buildings seen in the first view are partly built from remaining walls of outbuildings to the stone brewery.  We think the caves were dug right in from the ground floor of the brewery.

There has been a brewery on this site since the 1860s.  A map of Hudson dated 1870 shows a brewery there.  It is called rather enigmatically R.A. Gridley and WYH.  It was purchased in 1870 by a Louis Yoerg, perhaps a relative of Anton Yoerg who a generation before had become the first brewer in what is now Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The history of the enterprise is the usual sort of tale.  There was a fire in the mid 1870s that destroyed the main building which was promptly rebuilt.  There were years of modest success, then a couple of ownership changes with the place ending up in the hands of the Casanova brothers in 1896.  Their atypical name reflects their Swiss origins.  Presumably they came from the regions of Switzerland far enough south to have an Italian population but far enough north to know their beer.

Prohibition came along and shut off the flowing taps all across America.  The Casanova brothers  adapted better than most by switching over to bottling soda and soft drinks. Later they were also the local Coca Cola franchise.  The current buildings appear to mostly be related to this era, with the restaurant end being the previous loading dock area for the Casanova's fleet of delivery trucks.

Regards the brewery caves, the only local history I have found to date credits Louis Yoerg for digging them and says the Casanova brothers expanded them.  As it is difficult to impossible to run a Civil War era brewery without caves I suspect it was the earlier Gridley and WYH enterprise that first excavated them.  And as I will discuss in a later post it seems unlikely that the Casanova boys would have much need to dig deeper holes by 1896.

Here are the entrances to the caves:

These are the original entrances.  The one on far right connected to a tunnel in very poor repair.  For safety reasons it has been filled in and sealed.  The central door leads to one tunnel, and to the left of this picture there is another door leading to a second one.  This last entrance was re-excavated by the owners of the Casanova when they purchased the property.  It has a spooky, but very safe looking, metal culvert inside it.

Inside we have nice tunnels with lateral connections between them.  Oddly there is no sign of a connection with the very nearby, but now sealed off, tunnel to the west.

The Casanova folks use the tunnels for special events.  Every spring they have a very popular Beer Festival on the site:  Beer Fest Video

They also allow a local service group to put on a "Haunted House" here in October.  I have set up a few of these events back in the day, and can say that this would be the ideal venue for it.  There is also the occasional birthday party (adult) and wedding held underground.

Note this moldy old organ, part of the Haunted House set up:

Tyrell told me that when a couple of rather Gothic types got married at the site they used this as the altar!

I enjoyed my visit to the Casanova caves.  They are bright, well lit and as caves go quite tidy.  And for a student of the subject it was interesting to visit a site where there was a degree of photographic and oral history to help put it all together.  Although as I will discuss shortly, the information on balance made me know less, not more.

I also think it would be a swell place to have a birthday party.

One final picture of the Casanova site.  To have a brewery you of course need a good clean spring.  Across the road there are a series of them.  The Casanova folks have taken to spraying the spring water up into the trees.  Partly for visual effect, partly for people interested in ice climbing.  You can pump your own spring water in season...note the old school red pump right next to the sign announcing the 2013 Beer Festival.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Karma and Caffeine

I am an inveterate walker.  Year round, taking time off only for weather of utter vileness I am up and down the hilly streets of our little town.  It is good exercise, and a good way to organize one's thoughts.

Of course in an automobile oriented society walking places is a kind of alternative life style and pedestrians are regarded as a curious species.

A good long trek today, upwards of an hour.  As I made my way back across a bridge I encountered another pedestrian.  He was just standing there, looking out over the briskly swirling waters.  He had the look of someone who has lived for about 60 hard years.  His face was weathered, what I could see of his dentition suggested errant teeth, not a few having gone AWOL entirely.  He was dressed in multiple layers.  This is often the Street Person strategy for coping simultaneously with chill and lack of storage space.  But to be fair, in this dreary endless winter we are all looking a bit quilted and padded in our apparel.

He had an odd expression on his face.  It was in fact an absence of expression.  That phrase is easy to say, but in truth we seldom see faces that are entirely devoid of readable emotions.  He was looking not  down at the water, or even out towards the rapids upstream.  He had that "Thousand Mile Stare" that focuses on things the rest of us do not see.

As I approached I realized that our usual social conventions don't cover this situation. Sure, if a guy does not want to make eye contact with you there is no particular obligation to exchange pleasantries.  But when you walk past a guy and wonder "Is he going to jump off that bridge?" what exactly are you supposed to do?

He had certainly not done anything that would warrant calling the police.  I might for instance have done that if he had been visibly intoxicated.

He had given no indication that he was looking for anyone to come up and ask him how he was doing. In fact there was some subtle defensive shield that discouraged such inquiries, not that this would have deterred any number of good people of my acquaintence.

So I just walked on, stopping a few hundred yards away to look back and see if he was still standing there.  He was.

I wondered if I had missed a chance to do some small good deed.  But as is so often the case, such deeds are not always evident.

But sometimes they are.

My route home cut through a supermarket parking lot.  Walking ahead of me was a kid, maybe 7 or 8 years old.  He was toting a white plastic grocery bag that suddenly gave way, releasing a dozen cans of Mountain Dew that went rolling here and there.  There was traffic moving through this spot so I had to help him out.

The bag was shot so I suggested he tuck a couple of cans into his coat pockets, a couple more into his pants pockets, see if he could hold onto the rest.  He looked a little distressed and indicated that he had to walk "way up the hill" to a yellow house that he pointed out.

We have come to a sad state of affairs where you hesitate to help out a person in need.  But I figured this might look a little odd, a strange old guy who walks the streets alone, carrying a bunch of sugary soda pop and heading for the house of a young kid.

Ah, heck, it was only a hundred yards or so.

I carried 5 or 6 cans, the kid had the rest.  When I got to where his house was I set my cans - one hissing gently from a pinhole leak - on the steps going upwards and told him to come and retrieve them.  I walked on with purposeful stride not wanting to look as if I were lurking or anything.

Having done my small karmic good deed for the day I set my eyes forward again.

And saw the old homeless guy, the potential suicide, ambling down a side street.  He still had that inscrutable look on his face, his eyes still gazing far into whatever future or past it is that he sees.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Patent Medicine Almanacs-Politically Incorrect Humor

If you are an honest lover of times past you have to admit that there was also a lot of bad stuff back then.  Cholera.  Itchy wool clothing.  Outdoor plumbing arrangements.

And our sires grand, great grand and farther back left a lot to be desired in other ways.  They were often possesed of opinions with repect to other races, religions, even towards women, that would be unacceptable today.

We have changed for the better in these regards.  And since change is a slow process it is not fair to damn our predecessors for their imperfections.  Here are a few samples from patent medicine almanacs of the day.  Sorry if anyone is offended, I find these items quaint and illustrative, not humorous per se.

This from an almanac for Greens August Flower.  Notice the plug for their product?

Here is another offering from a Hostetters Bitters almanac around the turn of the century:
This sort of "humor" is not so long extinct.  The supposed interest of young black boys in watermelons was still being used in the "Little Rascals" shorts of the 1930's, which were still in common replay on the television of my 1950s/60s youth.

Another bit of cultural common knowlege back then related to Jews and money.  So probably everyone knew what this was all about:

 But just in case somebody needed a little less subtle version:

Cartoon noses, Mr. Loanstein and his son Iky.  

But lest you think the Hostetter Company (and others, my collection contains worse) only slurred blacks and Jews, here they make fun of:

And of women:

 New brides were a sub type in the genre:
Another little vignette from the 1890s, played for pathos not humor.  Here is the noble explorer helping the primitive African.  Never mind that the pith helmeted chap likely had far less resistance to tropical ailments than the native.  Perhaps the dusky fellow was only constipated.

Can we poke fun at homeless people?  Sure, why not.

Drather Sitdown is actually a somewhat clever turn of phrase.

I will finish up this little rogue's gallery with a diptych from an 1880 patent medicine almanac.  If you examine it closely you will see all sorts of shenanigans going on!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Happy First Day of Spring.

(Note:  I am bumping the last installment of Patent Medicine Almanacs to Monday.  I am just that appalled by what appears below.)

The official first day of Spring dawned with cold wind out of the north.  The only slightly good news was that you were largely sheltered from it, as the last couple of late season blizzards have heaped up big snow mounds along our streets and sidewalks.  We have become tunnel dwellers.

I had to walk over to the next door neighbors house on an errand.  As I returned I noticed that cars on our street were slowing down and swinging wide around something in the road.

It is a huge hunk of ice.  From the flat surfaces I can only assume it was part of a block of frozen crud on the under side of a passing truck.  We have some whoppin' pot holes in the street, quite sufficient to knock off ice and sometimes up to the challenge of taking off a few pieces of original equipment as well.

I sent this photo to a couple of my archeology pals saying that I was not sure whether to laugh, cry or check the flat surfaces for an inscription proving that this is an altar to a vengeful weather god.

To be on the safe side I did all three before tossing this forty pound block of misery up onto the roadside drifts.

Just in case you were wondering why we have been unable to do that Robot Dragster speed trial yet.....

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Patent Medicine Almanacs-Really Bad Ideas

Before the Pure Food and Drug Act came along in 1906 you could pretty much put anything you wanted to into a bottle, and make any kinds of claims for its efficacy.  And you were under no obligation to divulge what was in it.

This was a recipe for trouble, and many of the nostrums advertised in these almanacs contained liberal amounts of alcohol.  Or of narcotics.  Good marketing I suppose, it encouraged repeat customers.

The result was a fair amount of genteel tippling.  Folks in "dry" counties would purchase bitters and elixirs by the case.  Women who would not be caught dead in a saloon would have their daily dose of "Vegetable Compound".

Most of this was glossed over by the almanac makers, but a few hints peek through....

This is from a 1908 Ayers Almanac.  By this time the company was forthcoming about the ingredients in their nostrums, either from a sense of openess or from the mandates of the new law.  It's really great that they can advertise that they are "NON-ALCOHOLIC".  But lets just zoom in a little closer on that first ingredient, shall we?
Yup, its heroin.  Well, that's much better.  Of course it was a fairly new compound at that time, so it had perhaps not acquired a, shall we say, reputation by then.

Here's another flavor of bad idea:

Sure, if you think you have appendicitis just start taking a concoction called Tubbs Bilious Man's Friend.  That will go well.

And yet another gem:

The print is a bit small here, but the Fumigator Cigarette was a treatment for asthma as well as for the ambiguous condition "Minister's Sore Throat".  The ad says absolutely nothing about what is in these little stogies, but it is hard to see how inhaling any kind of smoke will help.  Oh, and the leperous looking horse in the bottom half of the page has nothing to do with the Fumigator, just an unhappy juxtaposition.

Given the potential for mood alteration inherent in many nostrums from the Golden Age of patent medicines it is entirely possible that the chap below had not been to a party, but to a drug store:
This is from a "Green's August Flower" almanac, one of the worst offenders with respect to inappropriate humor at the expense of, well, most everybody.  More on this in my next post.  Brace yourself.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Patent Medicine Almanacs, a window into the past

The 19th century began in an era of local commerce.  Most everything you purchased came from your farm or from local manufacturers.  But the century ended as an era of national commerce, where well recognized "brand names" were sold coast to coast.

This happened for several reasons.  First of all, in 1800 America did not extend from coast to coast.  By 1900 it did, and with the entire nation linked together by an efficient rail system.  Of course there was also that Industrial Revolution thing going on that encouraged large scale manufacturing.  But another factor was the birth of mass advertising.  In 1800 you might nail up a broadside poster on the village green.  In 1900 you could buy advertising in newspapers across the nation.

One industry which really led the way in this regard was the patent medicine business.  These products-often extravagantly named hootch-were among the first to be marketed on a nation wide scale.

A typical advertising gimmick for these companies was the annual almanac.  These were given out free each year, with a handy little hook or loop to hang them up in a convenient spot.  They actually had a lot of useful information in them; calenders, horoscopes, crop planting advice, first aid measures.  Of course these were liberally sprinkled with testimonials, cartoons, and flat out advertisements for the sundry elixers, bitters, cures and syrups made by the company.

I have a few of these sitting around.  They can be purchased on the cheap, and provide some interesting glimpses of life in the 19th (and very early 20th) century.

Our great grandparents enjoyed puns just as we do.  Seven Barks was a concoction of various vegetable stuff, I suspect Peruvian Bark-the source of quinine for malaria treatment-was the original inspiration.

A slightly later almanac, one that seems to appeal to motherhood.  At least it looks to me as if she is cradling those bottles as if they were her beloved children.  Ironic, as this is almost the exact point in history when the patent medicine industry was under fire for including narcotics and alcohol in medicines for children, with frequently tragic results.
Although many almanacs tried to invoke some long ago golden age, others tried to look new and modern.  I imagine that most folks getting their Green's August Flower almanac in late 1904 had never seen a real automobile.  Two observations.  Note the stamped on name of the drug store which gave out this almanac.  Each store had its own stamp, with the larger firms getting a special page printed on the back.  Also notice that the frightened little dog is about to be run over, as nobody is watching the road at all.  This seems rather dark.

Patent medicine almanacs sometimes made tangential reference to current events.  This Hamlin's Wizard Oil songbook is about the right time period to allude to Jumbo the famous elephant owned by P.T. Barnum.  Jumbo was hit by a train in 1885.

This does not strike an immediate bell with us in 2013, but in 1893 it was of course recognized as referencing the upcoming Columbian Exhibition in Chicago.  Note the hanging loop in the upper left corner, and the printed name of the wholesale drug company on the left margain.

In the 19th century America had a very large foreign born population.  It was the era of mass immigration from Europe.  The patent medicine companies were very quick to tap into this market, and produced almanacs specially for them.  This is the Swedish version of the Ayers almanac.  In addition to translating it into Swedish, they printed a special cover.  Note the thematic similarities to the Swedish national seal:

You can glimpse all sorts of little details of 19th century life in the pages of these almanacs.  Good advertisers know their customers, and from the ad pitches we can know them as well.  We can see what made them laugh (a subject of an upcoming, rather uncomfortable posting).  We can see what clothes they wore, or at least what an idealized version of the population wore.  In the heartfelt, and often genuine, testimonials we can feel the fear of a parent with a sick child, or the hypochondriac beset on all sides with perils.

But sometimes the pages of the almanacs yield only mystery.  Here is a page from a Swedish language almanac.
Clearly it is in the song book sub genre.  And the song is the classic childrens ditty B-I-N-G-O.  It appears to include as well some directions for a dance routine.  But what on earth is the school marm with the riot baton doing in the middle of things!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Death Walks the Stanegate Road

Spring is trying to sneak into Wisconsin these days.  It is doing a rather poor job of it just now, a late winter storm dumped six inches of heavy wet snow on me.  In the ER we call this "cardiac snow' as it usually brings in a few middle aged guys with heart attacks incurred while shoveling.

I am fortunately made of sterner stuff, and simply got a needed tune up of my digging muscles.  But it put my thoughts  to my upcoming trip to the archeology digs of Northern England.  And to my "digging friends".

Digging friends are an interesting species.  They are somewhat more real than "imaginary friends".  They in fact have material forms and I do see them on rare occasions.  But most people do not get to see them at all, so I suppose to you they are rather like Harvey.

Take for instance, Sunny.  Not at all a giant rabbit, she is in fact more of a shortish catwoman.  She always dresses in black.  On my morning walk in to the site she is sometimes following me.

This is actually a little disturbing.  When you get to my age you do not want to see a figure all in black coming after you down a mist shrouded is just a little too much "Seventh Seal".

Anyway, here is a photo of Sunny and another of our digging pals from last season...

I told Sunny that this creeped me out a little.  She just laughed.  And while Sunny is a very, very nice person, her laugh does have a bit of an Ingmar Bergman film quality to it....

Another shot of Sunny and I.  Note please that while Sunny is shrouded in dark mystery I, right next to her, stand in what passes for high noon in Northumberland!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Strangest Baseball Team in History-Part Two

Team Name:

The Globe Trotters (a reference to the Globe Theater of Shakespeare)

alternate names: 

The Stratfords

Glen's Men
(this was a double entendre.  On one level it was a reference to Glen Byam Shaw, the manager of the company.  Glen's Men as a team name recalls the King's Men of Shakespeare's day.  As Shaw was fairly openly gay I assume it was also a bit of a play on that fact.  Several actors in the company were rumored to be "switch hitters")

If you are coming in late, the full story of baseball as played by the 1959 Royal Shakespeare Company can be found HERE

The Team

Roy Dotrice.  Knighted:  Yes, OBE.  Oscars:  No.  IMDB link:  Dotrice
Recent work: Game of Thrones

Albert Finney.  Knighted:  No, they offered and he declined.  Oscars:  Five nominations, no wins.
IMDB link:  Finney  Recent work:  Skyfall.

Paul Robeson.  Knighted:  Of course not, he is American.  Oscars: No.  Does have a star in the Walk of   Fame.  IMDB link:  Robeson  Recent work:  deceased, but widely remembered for his social activism and the blacklisting that ensued.

Sam Wannamaker.  Knighted:  No, another blacklisted American.  Oscars:  No.
Recent work:  died in 1993.  Shown above hamming a bit in Private Benjamin.

Laurence Olivier.  Knighted:  Oh, yeah.  Knight Batchelor, Life Peer, and the first actor to ever be named a Baron.  Oscars: Three.  IMDB:  Olivier  Shown above not hamming but as Hamlet.

Peter O'Toole.  Knighted:  Oddly no, said to have declined for political reasons.  Oscars:  8 nominations, no wins unless you count an honorary one.  IMDB:  O'Toole

Ian Holm.  Knighted:  yes.  CBE.  Oscars:  no, one nomination.  IMDB:  Holm.  Special note:  As Bilbo Baggins and the notorious android "Ash" Mr Holm appears in two of my top ten all time favorite movies.  Who needs an Oscar.

Julian Glover.  Knighted:  No.  Oscars:  No.  Familiar to Star Wars nerds:  Yes.  IMDB:  Glover

Oh, lets not leave out some non-players of note:

Charles Laughton.  Knighted:  No, becoming an American citizen in 1950 probably hurt his chances.  Oscars: Best Actor 1933.  Two other nominations.  How he failed to win in 1936 with the definitive Captain Bligh defies logic. IMDB: Laughton

Elsa Lanchester,   Knighted: no. Oscars: a couple of nominations.  Married to Charles Laughton.  Her iconic role portrayed on her fan card!

Dianna Rigg.  Knighted:  Yes.  She is a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  Oscars:  no.  Iconic role:  Emma Peel from the original Avengers!  IMDB  Rigg

For my UK audience.  Yes, I understand that technically The Order of the British Empire has five separate rank levels.  The lower three, MBE, OBE, and CBE do not actually qualify for knighthood.  So if you want to be stinky about it, Dianna Rigg, and Baron Olivier were knighted.  Holm and Dotrice were made members of an order of chivalry.  We OK on this?  I could have just plead Colonial dumb you know....