Wednesday, August 31, 2016

First Day of School

I remember my very first day of school.  Kindergarten.  Fall of 1960.  I was four years old.  You could send a four year old to Kindergarten back then without being charged with abuse.  Ah, heck, he'll be five in January or so.

Lowell Elementary school.  It was an old red brick cube with hardwood floors polished smooth by the feet of four generations of urchins.  My mom took me to class that first day.  I recall going to the back of the room and looking at some cool things on a low, kid height table.  There was one of those little mummified alligators that people used to bring home from Florida vacations.  I thought it was so cool I picked it up and turned around to show my mom.

She was gone.

Oh well, no big deal.  So began my career in the groves of Academe.

And now 55 years later I am reliving the experience.  Its back to school for me.

My wife always used to take "first day of school" pictures of our kids on the front steps so I decided to indulge her a bit.  Since I was first off to machining class I donned safety glasses and hearing protection for the photo op.

I am happy to report that the nerdish glasses did not result in teasing by bullies.  They are standard uniform when machining.  Actually the machining class seems quite promising. A small group and mostly older mature students.  I imagine that instructors love to have a bunch of ex-military guys there to learn.  I came home to report that all the Cool Kids had tattoos and that I was considering getting some to fit in.

The computer modeling (Solidworks) class could be a little tougher.  It is a less "substantial" subject matter.  And a larger class.  My first sesssion there was mostly introductions but I had a moment of panic when I was unable to log onto my school account on the classroom computer. Now what was that damn login again?

Of course this is nothing more than a waking and updated version of that classic are at school and can't remember your locker combination.  But unlike most versions of that dream-horror I was, and remained fully clothed and just called home during a break to have my wife consult scribbled notes I had of course left behind.

I was able to manage a few Solidworks images.  They also looked scribbly and hard to read but we all have to start somewhere. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Hubris on the Inland Sea

Behold the beauty of Lake Michigan.  This is the breakwater at Sheboygan Wisconsin on a perfect late summer day.  The sun shines, the water is sparkling blue, sailboats dance past gaily. 

Of course this is the day after we did a fishing charter out on the lake.

In the real world fishing is an unpredictable business.  Rain, winds, cantankerous behaviour on the part of the fish, you know.  So on the day we went out fishing it was on the heels of some hellacious storms.  The lake was choppy with three and four foot waves that came from all directions.  And the lake was a mysterious foggy place.

The Captain and first mate certainly did their best.  I figure they work much harder under adversity than they do on those idyllic charters in which you have several fish on at once and can hardly find time for a cold beer before you have to leap up and haul in another one.

There was not much beer consumed on our voyage.  For one thing it was cold.  For another we were jostled about in all conceivable directions.  All of us felt at least a bit sea sick.

It was a family trip.  I had my lads and their affiliates aboard for one of our increasingly rare family gatherings.  It just gets harder as time goes by to find a weekend when we can get together for something like this.  

Eventually we did land a few.

We gave it our best shot but I am describing it more as a nautical adventure than as a fishing expedition.  My ancestors have not been big on marine travel.  There were the immigrant members of the family in the 1850s who came over in steerage.  None of them had any inclination to go back.  Oh, then I guess there was my father who made a trip over and back in a troop ship.  But when you wear Uncle Sam's uniform its not like you get much choice in the matter.

Preparing for this trip I knew I was taking a risk.  The guide service says that you should bring a large cooler to pack home your catch.  I knew this was tempting Fate.  It is Hubris, the sin of Pride, that so often brings down those with high ambitions.

We didn't need the big cooler.  Our modest catch fit into our on board beer cooler once we took the beer, cheese curds and beef sticks out.  Gosh, what a great menu for slightly green land lubbers being tossed about on the waves!

We all know what success smells like.  It is a heady, intoxicating scent.  Hubris, the falling short of Ambition has a different smell.  You aimed high, you worked hard,  and while you did not fail entirely you fell short.

I am still glad I brought the big cooler.  Even if it came home empty we were well prepared, and it should be noted that Hubris still smells a lot better than spoiled fish!

Friday, August 26, 2016


Well I have gone and done it.  Again.  Retired from medicine that is.

When your 60th birthday looms large you really should take stock of your life, and medicine adds extra dimensions to this introspection.  It is an old, tired story but in my line of work I actually have seen many people work as long as they possibly could....only to have a fatal or life limiting event follow soon thereafter.  

But more than that, in a high stress, high liability profession you really should use common sense.  There is a point at which the experience and wisdom you have added to whatever innate smarts you had initially begin to be counter balanced by other factors.  I don't care how sharp you are or were, staying up all night while making critical decisions gets harder.  Like a once great baseball player you can hang on for quite a while - your batting average gradually declining - but should you?  

In baseball there would eventually come a day when the Manager would take you aside and have a respectful conversation, telling you that you have had a great run but that your contract would not be renewed next season.  In medicine there is no equivalent mechanism, or at least none that is commonly employed.  Doctors just keep soldiering on, maybe decreasing call a little, until something happens.

Too often it is a late career lawsuit.  I saw my dad go through this and for a gentle man who lived to serve his patients it was a lower circle of Hell for him.  

So last December I stopped doing ER work.  After an enjoyable winter and spring that kept me busy with robotics and travel I went back to work the summer, just doing a bit of clinic work. It has been pleasant.

But when it is time, it is......time.  Step to the edge of the cliff, take a deep breath and jump.

And land.

I am now enrolled in Tech College.  I figured if I am going to continue to pretend to have abilities in the field of robotics I had better up my game a bit.  Machining, computer drafting, more to follow.

Registration was interesting.  Hundreds of people in a big room watching a Power Point presentation on financial aid, parking stickers, academic probations and honors.  After a bit those of us who were "first timers" went off separately to get logged into the system.

It was mostly kids.  Some had parents with them.  Even the parents looked younger than me as well they should.  I could be the grandfather of some of these youngsters.  

I sat next to the only age-contemporary new student and we helped each other through the balky computer enrollment system.  At various places there simply was not the proper box to check for a physician-author-archeologist-gadfly to sign up for random classes that he thinks might be interesting.  But there are always work arounds, places where a Picard Directive ("Make it So") can be inserted into cleverly hidden seams in the programming.

When I walked out of the place it was much darker than when I walked in.  The hot, humid morning air was now brooding with malignant storm clouds.  I had parked a couple of blocks away and I could see it was going to be close.

It made for a satisfying metaphor.  I was leaving as warning thunder muttered but before any actual storm had broken out.  And as I made the final sprint to my car a few spatters of rain came down, bringing with them that indescribable smell of freshness and rebirth.

Career advice for the day.  When leaving something always do so before it is too late.  And when starting something, same advice.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Yes, Officer.

I don't think this is the best decal to put on a car that is battered, rusty and quite likely to have a tail light that does not always work.  Perhaps they should pay more attention to the other sticker and Choose more Wisely.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Political Flip Flop

An odd little artifact picked up for two dollars at a yard sale.

One side:

And the other:

It is made of aluminum.  It looks to be a pendant of some sort, perhaps the plain silver hanger had ornamentation on it.  Maybe it was something like a medal that clipped on a lapel?

It is designed to be easily flipped back and forth.  Maybe that would come in handy at parties.

As to date there are no clues.  It is a cheap little thing, probably a locally made novelty product. Since it is rather worn, and the elephant looks happier than the donkey we can assume it is not from the current electoral cycle.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mud Puppy

I had a chance the other day to go along on a fish shocking survey run by the Department of Natural Resource.  Very illuminating.

You slog upstream in waders and use an electrified probe to temporarily stun the aquatic inhabitants of this nice little river.  Some are quite charming.

Others a little less so.

That is a mudpuppy, aka water dog, or more formally Necturus Maculosus.  It is an unlovely but benign amphibian that spends its entire life in lakes and small rivers.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Theology of Rain Outs.

For reasons that frankly even I find puzzling I have been thinking lately about the theological implications of baseball.  

Surprisingly, when you realize that it is a game created by White Christian guys with Muttonchops, baseball has strong themes from Eastern religions.  Buddist mostly, but with a bit of Hindu garnish.

You have the continuous cycle of life, death and re-birth.  Every spring baseball returns, renewed, and with exactly the same life cycle.

You also after a fashion have the concept of re-incarnation, and of going up or down in the karmic universe depending on your actions.  Live an exemplary life as a AAA player and you will ascend to The Show.  But if your ERA soars or your batting average slumps you can expect to be demoted and spend your next phase of existence in a reduced state.

There are a lot of other philosophical and religious questions to ponder in baseball.  It tends for instance to come down heavily in favor of Free Will.  The batter can always decide to either swing at a pitch or let it go past.  But in the pecuilar concept that is the Infield Fly Rule, there can be times when the batter is Predestined to be out no matter what the defending infielders do. They could drop the pop up and start kicking it around like a soccer ball.  No matter. Batter's Out.

But I actually got going on this kick by contemplating another of baseball's unique features: The Rain Out.

For my non-American friends I should explain that while a baseball game should go nine innings there are times when weather conditions do not cooperate.  

If a game cannot go on because of rain (or snow, or in one marvelous instance, bees!) and five innings have been completed, the team that was ahead has won what then becomes an "official game".  But if play cannot continue and it has been less than five innings the head umpire declares "No Game".  It never happened.  All the actions of the players both the good and the bad......never happened.

It is passing strange.

I am - sigh - a Minnesota Twins fan.  We are having a most wretched season.  But for a few weeks they had been playing well, had been winning most of their games.

The other day they were beating the Houston Astros 5-0 in the third inning.  The skies opened and torrential rains poured down for hours on end.  Brian Dozier's magnificent home run? Never happened.  The two Houston errors in one inning?  Never happened.  Statistics revert to where they were before the first pitch was thrown.  The game is stricken from history, the sins and heroics, gone.  

But not entirely.

The laboring pitchers still have sore arms.  I assume that if their contracts have a bonus for attaining a certain number of innngs pitched they or their agents will count these.

Serious misdeeds on the field are not common but do happen.  If a player for instance got caught using a corked bat, or threw a punch at an umpire I am sure they would still face sanctions and suspension, their argument that "none of that every happened" falling flat.

The only comparable situation I can think of is the concept of having a marriage anulled - made as if it never were - that still recognizes the legitimacy of any children who somewhat inexplicably happened.

I guess a Rain Out results in the washing away of Venial Sins but not Mortal ones....

The game was rescheduled for the next day as part of a double header.  The Twins were smitten down in a very Old Testament fashion in both games.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Port Washington Wisconsin

Today Port Washington Wisconsin is a cute, somewhat touristy small town.  But as a Lake Michigan port it was once a very busy place.  With all the immigrants coming through in the pre-Civil War era some thought it might become the next Chicago.  It's probably better off being small and quaint.

Of course it had early breweries.

In a centennial history of Port Washington it is claimed that the first brewer there was an Englishman named Arnet who sold his product for 3 cents a pint.  There is a Henry Arnet (1825-1913) buried in town so there might be some truth behind this.

The first well documented brewery in town was begun in 1847 by a Jacob Moritz.  It had a great location next to a hill side cave and along a small creek that ran into the harbor.  This proved to be a long running enterprise, staying in business a round century before it went out in 1947.  The breweries later offices are extant and make up part of the American Legion Hall at 419 Lake Street.

In 1955 crews digging a sewer pipe near the former Milwaukee Northern interurban train line ran into something unexpected.  

The crashed into a brewery cave that went over 100 feet back into the hillside.  The newspaper article of the day described stone and brick rooms, cyprus aging vats and brick lined vents that went up to the hillside above.

It sounds like quite a sight.  East of the railroad tracks under eight feet of ground was a large brick and stone room with overhead iron cross bars for lifting kegs.  West of the tracks and under 30 feet of heavy clay there was a long aging cellar containing four oval vats each six feet high and fifteen feet long.  In 1955 the brick air vents were still visible and a few old timers could recall sneaking into the brewery in their youth and having a great look out over Lake Michigan from high atop St. Mary's Hill.

The cave complex was sealed up after the utility work was completed and there is no longer any access to it.

So, what's left in 2016?

The brewery office.

The creek is still where it has always been.  Old accounts say it was sometimes dammed up in the winter to make ice for the beer cave. 

My brother is often along on these trips.  He collects bricks.  Creeks, especially creeks near ruined breweries, are a great place to find them. 

Behind the brewery runs a bike path.  Clearly this was the line of the old Interurban Rail Road.  

And next door to the Legion Hall is what must be the sealed off entrance to the cave.  It looks pretty sturdy and the workers back in the 1950s filled in their excavation with dirt and cement blocks.  But most of what was seen then is no doubt still there.  I spent a lot of time clambering up and down the hillside looking for traces of the air vents but they too seem to have been demolished.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Safe Cracker Wanted !

The Brewery Pottery in Mineral Point has an antique safe they can't open.  It seems that when the brewery went out of business somebody spitefully broke off the handle and the dial.

It is unlikely to contain stacks of cash; as this was after all a business that failed.  But it may contain items of interest to the current owners.

I actually know somebody who was able to open a safe of similar vintage using a stethescope and a lot of patience.  But for a safe missing the dial it would clearly be some sort of cutting and drilling.  No flames allowed for several extremely cogent reasons.

If being a safe cracker would fulfill an unusual life long dream for you, and you are somewhere in range of South West Wisconsin, well, get in touch....

The Brewery Pottery

Monday, August 15, 2016

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Mineral Point Wisconsin

Long post today with lots of pictures.  It is rare to get an opportunity to study a brewery cave complex in this detail.  But at Mineral Point we had a very well preserved historic brewery and a very gracious hostess.

This is "The Brewery Pottery" run by Tom and Diana Johnston.  They have done a fabulous job renovating a brewery built in 1850.  It is now their home, shop and pottery studio.  I am a bit biased but consider their artistic handiwork to be very nice stuff, well suited for gifts on any occasion when your spousal account might be drifting into the debit range.

This picture was taken while standing on top of a (covered) cistern.  It is continuously filled by natural springs on the site.  When a previous owner was curious about how much water it held he had the Mineral Point Fire Department come and hook up a pumper truck.  After an hour of continuous pumping the water level had gone down by two inches.

The springs in fact allow for streams of cold water to run right through the basement and associated storage caves.  We visited on a blistering hot July day but the inside of the brewery was nice and cool with only the assistance of a single window mounted air conditioner.  Great engineering from before the Civil War.

This is where the brew kettles once stood.  Now it is the main display gallery.

Their kiln is now set up in what was the boiler room back in the day.  Only very small and very early breweries could do things all by hand and horse power.  Most would have some sort of steam powered pumps.

Before we start exploring below ground a bit of history.

The brewery was built in 1850 at a cost of $4,000.  Until the end of the 19th Century it was run by a family called Gillman and was called The Wisconsin Brewery.  In 1878 after being damaged by a tornado the brewery was extensively repaired and also renamed: The Tornado Brewery.

It changed hands a couple of times near the turn of the century and suffered severe damage again in a 1902 fire.  Fortunately the beer stored down below was saved.  

The business was rebuilt and continued to be run competently, surviving Prohibition and finally brewing its last batch in 1961.

Later uses have been eclectic. It was a weaver's studio and weaving museum for a time.  A winery leased it for a while.  The Johnstons have been there since 1991.

Ok, now for the cellars.  Here's the doorway from the world of Art to the catacombs below.

Various calamaties aside the basic structure of the brewery is unchanged by time.  Here in the basement is the door to the Racking Room.  My photos of the inside were defeated by stark flourescent lighting.  But this was simply a large brick room where beer was put into kegs after it finished fermenting on the floor above.

From the back of the Racking Room you go into the aging cellars.  Here is the first one.  It has cool water running through it.  Another chamber lies beyond but there was no light back there.  

Here is a side passage leading to a smaller Cellar.  The sign is left over from when the Johnstons did Haunted House events in the caves!

This side cellar is designated "B".  It has another entrance outside the Racking Room door.

Oddly the Stock Cellar, or "E" is on the same floor as the brewing area.  This is still sort of underground as it is partially built into the hillside. So it is not as cold as down below but is just right for secondary fermentation, the stage between initial brewing and the long term "lagering" or aging.

The great thing about this brewery is that so much of the original design is still there.  In the Stock Cellar there is thick cork insulation on the walls to help control the temperature.

One last stop in the area once used for bottling.  This "Bottling Cellar" only held a keg or two at a time.  This was the beer that had been pulled out of the cellars to get it ready for bottling. The area is not accessable now.  Something about bats if I recall correctly.

A fascinating visit.  Kudos to the Johnstons for keeping this historic building in such great shape.  As always I forget to ask enough questions and never take quite enough pictures.  I am for instance trying to puzzle out the lettering system for the Cellars.  It does not quite follow the route of the beer from vat to bottle.

Let's see.  Racking Room is A.  The side cellar is B.  That should make the main cellar C.  Is the area beyond and out of sight D?  The Stock Cellar is E.  The Bottling Cellar I guess does not get a letter.

More things to learn.  Always more things to learn.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Amazing Rock of Frank Kuhn

Sometimes when you are strolling through a cemetery looking for interesting "tree shaped tombstones" your eye is grabbed by something very, very odd.

Like this:

What the heck?  This monument in a cemetery near Sheboygan Falls appears to have a large, colorful boulder on it.  Hmmmm...

The front view, much weathered and stained, just tells us that it is in memory of John F. Kuhn, who died November 23rd, 1884 in his fifty sixth year.  Lets go around to the side and look for more...

"The surmounting specimen was selected by Mr. Kuhn, and is placed here in compliance with his request."

By this point I had concocted a theory.  I imagined Mr. Kuhn to be a keen amateur geologist, possibly one who had traveled the world in search of interesting specimens.  But....why Mr. and not Doctor?  Graduate degrees were handed out pretty willy nilly back then.  And isn't that a rather awkward souvenier to haul back from, well, from anywhere really?

So here is the truth of it.

This is said to be a meteorite that fell on the nearby Kuhn family farm.  Mr. Kuhn hauled it to the cemetery with teams of horses and had it placed on the family plot.  It still gets occasional visitors who are interested in meteors.

Despite consulting a variety of local sources that is basically all I can find out about Mr. John F. Kuhn.  He had a meteor fall on his farm and thought that was so darned cool he wanted it as a grave marker!

Yep, looks meteoric to me.  The rusty iron star by the way is a G.A.R. marker.  It is broken off and probably came from a different grave as I find no listing of John Kuhn in any of the local Civil War units.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Casualty of a Forgotten War

Our relationship with Russia is "complicated".  For the first 140 years or so America thought of Russia as a far distant moderately backwards sort of place.  Oh, and thanks for the great deal on Alaska.

With our entry into World War I Russia briefly became our valued ally.  Of course in the cold equation of mass slaughter the Western Allies mostly appreciated the Eastern front for the number of casualities that happened on their end versus ours, nobody really liked the Czar and his policies that much.

Including as it turns out, most of the Russian populace who rose up in revolt and tossed the Czar out.  It was a complicated situation.

The Western Allies had parked a large amount of military supplies at the northern port of Archangel.  We did not want the new Bolsheviks to lay hands on them and start creating Communist mischeif.  In fact we really would have preferred to have the loyalist "White" factions defeat the Reds in the Russian Civil War that overlapped the end of World War I.  

It is hopelessly complicated - I suggest you just watch Dr. Zhivago - but the United States, Britain, France and Japan all meddled a bit, supporting rebel factions and sending in now surplus war materiel.  We even sent combat troops, albeit with limited and ambiguous assignments. 

For the US it was mostly a mission to protect the supplies up in frigid Archangel, a soon irrelevant task that morphed into sporadic combat with the ascendent Red Army.

In a quiet cemetery in Mayville Wisconsin I found a rare memorial to this forgotten war.

Carl Herman Berger was born in Oshkosh Wisconsin.  He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in the summer of 1917.  This was only weeks after President Wilson had declared war on Germany and her allied powers.  So instead of a career in education it was off to the military for Carl. 

He went through Officer's Training at Fort Sheridan and shipped overseas in July of 1918.  

By then Russia had capitulated and was felt to be a tacit ally of the Kaiser.  

Berger was assigned to Company E, 339th Infantry, 85th Division.  They were sent not to the Western Front but to a lonely far northern place.  He fell in battle near Archangel on the last day of 1918, at a time when over the rest of the world all guns had fallen silent.

Before he went overseas he married.  Unless there was a serious variation from social norms it is unlikely that Lt. Berger ever met his son, Carl Herman Jr.   I wonder what young Carl thought of his father's grave as over the years we went from antagonism towards Russia, to Depression era fascination with Communism, then into the turbulent Stalin era with disgust at his Purges and with his alliance with Hitler, then on to a brief "wartime romance" where every Red Army soldier that fell likely spared an American GI's life.  And finally into the post hostlities Cold War.

For the survival of mankind it was good that the war stayed Cold.  Actual American casualties at the hands of the Russians remain rarities, to be found only in a handful of peaceful small town cemeteries.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Royalty in Sheboygan Wisconsin?

Early morning.  Sheboygan Wisconsin.  A good time for a cemetery visit as traditionally graves are oriented towards the east.  This was done to face towards Jerusalem or perhaps to be ready to greet The New Dawning.  

This particular marker has suffered more than the usual amount of age wear but in the bright morning sunshine I still spied a very unusual dedication:


The weird mixture of a British title, a French middle name and a Teutonic last name just cried out for a bit of research!

Fortunately a family member has done it  A.F. St. Sure Lindsfelt  The family goes by the name "St. Sure" now but seems to have a genuine affection for their forebear, a Swedish army officer who left the Old Country precipitously to become a farmer on the Wisconsin frontier.  

But there are so many questions!

Was he really "involved" with the French "July Revolution" of  1830?

Does Sweden even have an equivalent to knighthood?  It sure seems as if his claim to being an aristocrat was a complete fabrication.

Did his adoption of the middle name St. Sure (initially spelled St. Cyr) really hint at his being the illegitimate son of the French Marshal of the same name?  Or was it just part of his "disinformation" campaign when he left his native Sweden?

And on that topic, was it financial irregularities that caused his downfall as a court official? Or was there something to that rumor of an inappropriate caress on the Queen, whom he had mistaken for a chambermaid!

Rogue, Revolutionary, Civil War Surgeon, Pioneer. A remarkable man and one well worthy of my infreqently employed tag "Larger than Life".

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Carpe Circadium Revisited.

It's been about eight months since I stopped doing ER shifts.  And I find that the change has had some interesting effects.

I usually sleep through the night now.  Previously I would toss and turn, getting a few hours rest at a time.  Evidently I had gotten used to brief cat naps on night shifts always hovering on the edge of REM sleep but ready to spring into sentient action -or something close to it - at a moment's notice.  Blegh.

Perhaps on a related note I am drinking less coffee.  The change has been gradual.  For the first few months I still needed to slam down several cups of what I still call "The Hammer of Rationality" first thing in the morning.  Failure to do so lead to a nagging headache and a general sense of mild impairment.

But last week I actually had a day where I woke up at 6am and said "I don't feel like making coffee".  This concerns me for reasons I can't quite articulate.

Over these summer months I have been doing some clinic work. Mostly same day, acute care problems.  A little like ER but without the drama, sleep deprivation and potential death.

Summer winds down.

Written on a morning when I have in my closet all the neatly ironed work shirts that I will ever need.....

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Sheboygan Breweries - Part Three

OK, this is more of a footnote than a whole new post.  But Sheboygan had such a rich brewery history that I thought a few other companies deserved a flicker of historical recognition.

The first brewery in Sheboygan is generally listed as that of the Gutsch Brothers, starting in 1847 and continuing in one form or another until 1974.  It was located at New York Avenue and Water Street.  Nothing remains of it today.

But, I have also found reference to a brewery run by a man named Heberg in "the early 40's" on River Street between 4th and 5th Avenues. This is a nice hillside overlooking the Sheboygan river and would be a perfect site for such an enterprise.

As discussed in my last installment, Jacob Muth started brewing in 1848, in some sort of business arrangement with the Brothers Bintz.

There are a couple of 1850s breweries of which very little is known.  An August Rentz is a complete cypher.  A man named Charles Osthelder is listed as being in Sheboygan but I think this is a misattribution.  A man named Ostholder was in business in this era in nearby Sheboygan Falls.

The Schlicht and Schreier Brewery started in a modest way in 1854.  It was, and is, on New Jersey Avenue and 15th.  A few remains of the brewery can still be seen peeking out from under the modern Conagra plant that took over when brewing stopped in 1934.

A partnership of Walldorfer and Buchel in the late 1850s started a brewery on the edge of town, out on the Calumet plank road.  They had the usual bad luck with fires but I do find an 1870s reference to the same site having a brewery run by the Kroos family.  As they were local grain merchants I wonder if they took over a defunct enterprise on the basis of monies owed to them. This was near Calumet Road and 24th Street.  Although the remains of a beer vault were still to be seen in the 1920s I was not able to see anything on a recent visit.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Breweries of Sheboygan - Part Two

Researching 19th century brewery history is not easy going.  Partnerships come and go, breweries and fortunes regularly go up in smoke, smaller operations go entirely unnoticed.  

A good case in point is the brewery located between 14th and 15th Streets in Sheboygan Wisconsin.

The standard history has a gentleman named Jacob Muth starting a brewery here in 1848, then selling it to the Bintz (or sometimes Binz) brothers in 1852.  They later sold it to a Thomas Schlacter who ran it from 1868 to 1885.  Schlacter was the last man to brew beer on the site.

But very problematically we learned in the last installment of Forgotten Brewery Caves that August Bintz actually came from Chicago in 1856 and started his first brewery on 12th and Ontario.  That information came from an account of early breweries that appeared in the Sheboygan Press on 17 February, 1921.  No doubt it was colored a bit by thirsty nostalgia in the first dry years of Prohibition but it contains a great deal of specific information not found elsewhere.

Another source, albeit one prone to a bit of exaggeration, is found in a collection of biographical sketches from 1894.  In this version Jacob Muth does start a brewery in 1848 but almost immediately brings in Joseph and August Bintz as partners.  

It is a bit frustrating but I suppose the narrative is not greatly altered by whether the brewery on this site started in 1848 or a few years later, or whether the Bintz brothers were active or silent partners.  Lets take a look around.

This is a lithograph showing Sheboygan in 1885.  I have circled the brewery proper but should point out that with outbuildings it took up the entire block.  

This shows the brewery in its final form, as a three story brick building.  It was rebuilt as such in 1872 after a fire.  Remarkably it survived until fairly recently.  Here it is before its destruction in 1988 by, you guessed it, another fire.

The correlation between the upper 1885 view and the (?) 1970s view below is pretty good.  But it does look as if perhaps the lithographer has the building rotated 90 degrees from its true orientation.

Here is the site -same view- in the summer of 2016.

If you study the three perspectives closely something odd appears.  In the 1885 view it is actually a four story structure with a lower level opening out into a deep ravine.  This was no doubt a deep storage cave.  Beer would have been run down from the upper levels into the basement and then taken out by wagon for delivery through the doorway.

In 2016 there is no ravine.  It has all been filled in and is now a street.  

Circa 1885 the Schlacter brewery went under.  About all that remains of their work is a single example of a very attractive 1870s pottery beer bottle marked T. SCHLACTER.

After the last beer was brewed here the property was acquired by a man named Charles Born. He was also referred to as "Captain" Born, not on the basis of Civil War service but because he was an organizer of a post Civil War militia company.  Born converted the block into a sort of amusement park/spa.  There was a hall you could rent for occasions, gardens and a sanitarium. Health giving mineral water was later "discovered" on the site.  There is a series of postcards from Born's park that you can see HERE but as they appear to be copyrighted I won't reproduce them directly.

Born's Park even served as an emergency hospital during the 1918 influenza pandemic but the enterprise closed two years later and was subdivided up into building lots in 1927.

Captain Born actually was a Colonel at the time of the Spanish American War.  He became a brevet Brigadier General; a rather impressive addition to his curriculum vitae that also included service as a Sheboygan Alderman, Police Chief and four terms as Mayor....three as a Republican and one as a Socialist!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Sheboygan Wisconsin

Sheboygan Wisconsin would at first glance appear to be a fabulous place for "Forgotten Brewery Caves".  It was a quite early community and the population was and is heavily German and Dutch.  There were numerous early breweries.  

But there are other factors to consider.  Yes, breweries needed to keep the product cool for ageing and storage.  But in this community they had not much for solid rock structures to tunnel into.  And they had all of Lake Michigan for ice.  I think the breweries switched over rather early to above ground ice houses.  But there is still the hope of finding some of the early storage caves from the larger brewers.  And the fascinating smaller operators perhaps never got beyond the cave storage phase.  Today lets visit one of them.

Sheboygan Wisconsin. The corner of 12th and Ontario.  Here we have a modernish looking house going the long way on the lot.  Your eye will not doubt jump to the cave back behind it but notice also the peculiar cement slab in the front yard.  On to the cave.

According to a newspaper article the homeowner was doing renovations when he came upon a 24 foot section of brewery cave.  It has been retrofitted with a tasteful wooden front and now serves as a storage shed.  Looking at the configuration of things I do wonder how the existence of the cave would not have been known all along.  It is close to the surface and as you can see from the below image actually came pretty close to the back of the house.

It is the standard "barrel vault" brick style that is usually employed when you lack decent rock structure.  But where does it go?  Up above it on the rise we find this odd structure.  It seem too narrow for a proper house.

I have looked over various plat maps from the area.  The really early ones don't show individual structures but from the 1880s to this 1903 example the layout looks like this:

12th and Ontario is the lower left corner of this block.  The odd "house" in the photo just above is designated 1015.  The cave runs roughly from the back of the structure designated 1007.  This does not appear to be the house now on this lot.  Note also the peculiar outbuildings in front of 1007.  This is an unusual alignment of such, you generally did not want the outhouse and wood shed up front.

So what to make of all this?

In 1856 a fellow named August Bintz moved to Sheboygan from Chicago.  He built a brewery on the corner of 12th and Ontario.  The place had not been in business too long before the usual fate befell it, a fire.  Tragically in the chaos of the moment one of the volunteer firemen was run over by the horse drawn fire engine and killed.

Bintz rebuilt about a half mile away.   The story of the Bintz brothers, August and Joe, is rather complex and I will take a swing at it next installment. 

Circa 1875 the old brewery site on Ontario was acquired by another guy named August, August Thamer.  He seems to have been born in Germany either in 1845 or 1850.  He came to Sheboygan in 1854.  Most young men of that era joined the colors for the Civil War but Thamer rather unusually was not in a local regiment but served in the Regular Army.  Specifically he was in the Sixth US Infantry Regiment and in fact stayed in from 1862 clear through to 1868.

Thamer was not the kind of fellow who got written up in local history books.  About all I can tell you is that he was married in 1874 and had a son in 1879 who he named, delightfully, Alaska Thamer!  The brewery went out of business at some point circa 1880 but I find August Thamer in the 1910 census still living a couple of blocks away.  His occupation is listed as "sewing".

Monday, August 1, 2016

The World Chub Fishing Tournament

Chubs don't get much respect.  They are not exactly game fish.  In fact they are basically minnows.  But they are particularly feisty minnows and you can catch them on on hook and line.  And so on a sunny July Saturday that was the order of the day.  Catch chubs.

As to calling it the "World Championship", well there do seem to be other organized events that included Chubs but none that did so exclusively.  So we will call ourselves the World Championship until somebody comes along says otherwise.

It was a fine day for fishing.  You might notice that in the below photo I am standing on the shoulder of an asphalt road instead of alongside a picturesqe and pristine brook.  The best place for tournament quality Chubs proved to be the culverts along rural roads.

If you are thinking that this seems a bit "redneck" you are quite correct.  Some of our half dozen tournament teams played this up a little more than others.  Team Ten Inch played it up a lot more....

But they are after all a team made up of Game Wardens so they were pretty sure nobody would come along and ask them what the hell they were doing.

Here we have the 2016 Chub Masters.  Was their success due to their combined and complimentary skill sets? ( A retired Fisheries Biologist and a car salesman ).  Or was it the custom Chub tournament fishing shirt?

The above photo was taken in Tournament Headquarters, which in keeping with the redneck theme was a garage.  On the floor a line up of Chubs awaits their turn on the scale.  A nice thing about this kind of event is you can toss your ten weigh in fish into a dust pan for convenient weighing.

When weigh in was complete our team turned out to be in second place.  We also had the second largest Chub in the event which is still, alas, way smaller than the state record.  Tactics for the 2017 event are already being pondered...

And what better way to ponder them than an evening of grilled food, lawn games and conversation in the back yard; kids, dogs and chickens dashing about frantically.  Beer of course was necessary.  Those wishing to continue in redneck, road fishin' mode were welcome to various bargain brand suds.  I personally made the decision to go a more tasteful route - in several respects - and commemorated a day of hunting pugnacious minnows with a few glasses of this:

The harvested Chubs were donated to the local raptor center.  Eagles and ospreys consider them most tasty snacks.