Pepin/Spring Valley Trip 2007 – Part 1

I had a great trip this last weekend. I only wish it could have been a longer trip, but hopefully next year I’ll be able to stay for Sunday and Kitty Latane’s Pepin in Laura’s time program. I tried a different route up to Pepin this year that I was told was shorter. It ended up being within 15 minutes of the other route. It did take me through some different country.

One new place I stopped was New Hampton, Iowa. They have a great public library. It’s the prettiest new construction library I’ve ever seen and I recommend anyone considering an addition or new construction of a library to visit them.

I stopped along the way at Spring Valley, MN. I had lunch at the A & W there. (It’s a genuine drive-in and I highly recommend it to anyone whose passing through the area.) The Laura Museum was closed and I was in route so I didn’t try to find anyone. I did get some more photos of the Wilder barn while it’s still there. (You’d think they could at least move the boat so you could get some decent photos while it’s still standing.) I also tried for more downtown photos since it was such a lovely day and visited Royal in the cemetery. It is the hardest stone to get a decent photo of I’ve ever seen. I’ve been there at several times of year and at different times of day and it’s always in shadow. I didn’t take time to stop at Historic Forrestville this time, another stop I always recommend, but hope to make it back there again.

I pressed on towards Pepin. I stopped at the Reads Landing museum described in the “Little House Guidebook,” but at present it’s only open on weekend afternoons. I thought I may have made it back over on Saturday, but as you will see another opportunity came up instead. I stopped at Anderson House to check in. Since I was working, I didn’t get one of the cats which you can get with your room. I really enjoy the food there and would encourage anyone heading to Pepin to make a side trip at least to eat there.

Next stop was Pepin. I got some photos of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway sign with the coulees in the background (makes quite a change from the prairie stops) on my way into town and then headed for the museum. The crowd there was surprisingly small, but not many people seem to come down for the Friday. Almost all of the special events don’t start until Saturday, but it’s a good chance to see the museum and the birthplace without a lot of people around and still see all the events the next day. You might want to try it for yourself next year.

There have been a few small changes in the museum, but not much. You should especially look for Anna Barry’s photo and autograph album, the pig bladder balloon, the button string, the records showing Mary and Laura’s enrollment in school, 2 of the 5 variations of china shepherdess replicas, and a quilt made by Laura. Also, be sure to notice the photos (now unavailable) showing the Franklin House of History’s Almanzo exhibits. Not to be missed are the scrapbooks assembled by Fern Mercks in the bedroom. I stayed at the museum with the scrapbooks until they closed. Then I drove out to the birthplace.

I got another shot in the doorway to add to my through the years collection. I had much better luck taking photos with my digital camera than my film inside the cabin. I worked again at trying to take photos to make the cabin look like it’s in the woods and to take photos of other sides of the cabin than the front. Two miles farther on I stopped at the Little House Store in Lund, which always has some unique stuff. I stopped and got some Big Woods photos and some Lake Pepin photos and I’m glad because the sky was much bluer Friday than Saturday.

I met Linda Starbuck, a fellow Laura fan from Iowa City, and her mother. We had supper at the Garden Pub, the restaurant without walls in Pepin and headed back to Wabasha for the night.

Sarah Uthoff

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Hoover Program

We’re nearing 10 years that I’ve been part of the annual Labor Day Program at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Laura Ingalls Wilder Remembered. For those of you unfamiliar with the program, it’s a free addition during their open hours on Labor Day. Each year I do a different program because many people come back more than once. In fact, it’s often my test ground for new programs. What works there I continue to develop into a regular offering. Such will be the case with this year’s program which focused on the landscape of each place Laura lived and her love for trees, nature, and conservation. I want to pull in more quotes from her pre-book writing and talk more about her work with the tree claim and the orchard, but this is a good start, it brought a good reaction and it’s going to be added to my regular line up of programs as soon as I do just a little polishing.

I was very pleased this the Marengo Civil War Band this year. They added Old Dan Tucker to their line-up and have a good introduction tying to Laura each of the songs they play. They paired Old Dan Tucker with Maryland, My Maryland. I suggested they change it to Dakotaland, Sweet Dakotaland, since it’s the same tune.

They also have guided prairie walks and volunteers doing living history around the various places of the birthplace. I was sorry I didn’t get over to the school which they now let you walk into to do living history, a major innovation for the site. (Before even when giving a program you could only go in a couple of feet until you hit a plastic fence you weren’t allowed to go beyond.)

In addition, both the Hoover display (which I highly recommend) and the temporary display (the Hoover library excels in original temporary exhibits) were available. The temporary one this year, American Mysteries, Riddles, and Controversies features displays on the Kennedy and Lincoln Assassinations, Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, and even on the existence of Big Foot. It’s a great display and if you’ll be anywhere near I encourage you to make it over before the end of October. Afterall this is the only place you can see it and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Sarah Uthoff

P.S. Tomorrow morning I’m leaving for Pepin. 😉

Hoover Program

We’re nearing 10 years that I’ve been part of the annual Labor Day Program at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Laura Ingalls Wilder Remembered. For those of you unfamiliar with the program, it’s a free addition during their open hours on Labor Day. Each year I do a different program because many people come back more than once. In fact, it’s often my test ground for new programs. What works there I continue to develop into a regular offering. Such will be the case with this year’s program which focused on the landscape of each place Laura lived and her love for trees, nature, and conservation. I want to pull in more quotes from her pre-book writing and talk more about her work with the tree claim and the orchard, but this is a good start, it brought a good reaction and it’s going to be added to my regular line up of programs as soon as I do just a little polishing.

I was very pleased this the Marengo Civil War Band this year. They added Old Dan Tucker to their line-up and have a good introduction tying to Laura each of the songs they play. They paired Old Dan Tucker with Maryland, My Maryland. I suggested they change it to Dakotaland, Sweet Dakotaland, since it’s the same tune.

They also have guided prairie walks and volunteers doing living history around the various places of the birthplace. I was sorry I didn’t get over to the school which they now let you walk into to do living history, a major innovation for the site. (Before even when giving a program you could only go in a couple of feet until you hit a plastic fence you weren’t allowed to go beyond.)

In addition, both the Hoover display (which I highly recommend) and the temporary display (the Hoover library excels in original temporary exhibits) were available. The temporary one this year, American Mysteries, Riddles, and Controversies features displays on the Kennedy and Lincoln Assassinations, Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, and even on the existence of Big Foot. It’s a great display and if you’ll be anywhere near I encourage you to make it over before the end of October. Afterall this is the only place you can see it and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Sarah Uthoff

P.S. Tomorrow morning I’m leaving for Pepin. 😉

Book – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

(Some Spoilers) Now this is about the fourth time I’ve read this first book in Montgomery’s series about a wonderful orphan named “Anne with an e, if you won’t call me Cordelia.” I remembered it was good, but I had forgotten just how good it was. The description, as with the Wilder books, takes you right to that place and time with real living people, a skill many others writers strive for without achieving. The only thing that marred it for me was that I remembered Matthew died, but I didn’t remember exactly how close to the end it was so the whole second half of the book I was expecting him to die any minute which was a horrible strain. To avoid that yourself, it’s two days after Anne comes home from Queens Normal School having graduated. That aside I would highly recommend this as the best of Montgomery’s writing. When I first heard of it, it was pitched as a cross between “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” and the “Little House” books. I was intrigued and it really is a fairly good description of this book and the entire series. Anyone who likes either of those will like Anne. Second best by Montgomery, I love “The Blue Castle” and except for the big coincidence at the end, it’s a great read. I’ve read it almost as many times as Anne. I should also mention that “Rilla of Ingleside” the last book in the Anne series is also the best depiction of the World War I homefront I’ve ever read and one of the best homefront books of any war. If you read and stopped with Anne, you owe it to yourself to at the very least jump to the end and read Rilla.

There’s a whole Montgomery World now with the original movie from the 1930s (filmed at a historic house, but not in Canada) out on DVD which starred Anne Shirley (the actress legally changed her name and kept it, see her also in the tear jerker “Stella Dallas”), the Sullivan productions (the first movie was near perfect, the second two weren’t, and the Avonlea series (one live action and one cartoon). On top of that there is a regular newsletter (“Kindred Spirits”), a yearly conference, and many publications both scholarly and not about Montgomery and her work. Come and take a look inside Montgomery’s world.

Sarah Uthoff

Get Fuzzy Comic

As Laura read one chapter of the serial at a time to make it last, I read all the comics on the newspaper page whether I like them or not. Usually Get Fuzzy is in the not column, but once in awhile there’s a great one.

A recent strip explored the fact that rennet is in cheese. It came as quite a shock, so I guess he never read Little House in the Big Woods.

http://www.gocomics.com/getfuzzy/2005/06/03

My favorite all time strip from them was when Satchel, the dog, sets up an information center about his favorite author and Bucky, the cat, tells him that this is what it’s come down to he’s making shrines to people now. I have to remember that, “It’s NOT a shrine, its a media information center.” 😉 Because that doesn’t sound familiar at all.

UPDATED August 12 2017: I still love this comic to death. In fact when the link was dead I spent quite a bit digging for a current link. I did a couple of edits, turned the paraphrase into a quote and added my current signature block.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook,  Twitter,  Google+,   LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Iowa State Fair

UPDATED August 6, 2017: This is my trip report from 2007. If you’re planning on going, find a link to my podcast with my travel plan.

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Iowa State Fair

Yesterday my family hit the Iowa State Fair. It’s one of the best state fairs in the country with some of the best examples of Exposition style architecture. Normally I feel that it is too crowded and if attendance keeps increasing they will either have to length the days or the buy more ground because they are running out of room. This year was a little better than usual because we were able to go on a weekday and it rained. It was still pretty busy before we left.

We have some places we hit every year and then we try to do a few new things. We usually start out in Agriculture Building. Besides the display of crops and the Master Gardeners Display, they have lots of booths and interesting things to see. I really liked the weed identification display. I picked up some more Morgan horse information, almost bought an ostrich egg, and saw their new giant agriculture coloring board, an idea I hope some of the Laura sites copy. I also saw the butter cow. Usually the first few days of the fair they are still working on it, but it’s done now. Iowa was one of the first places to have a butter cow. It’s different every year and built  on a chicken wire frame. They reuse the butter several years. For at least the last 10 years they’ve done something else besides the cow. This year it was Harry Potter, Hedwig, the Fat Lady’s portrait, and a broom. It was a big display.

Next stop is Pioneer Hall to check out the antiques for sale and on display. Last year we got a great piece of red glass, but nothing this year. The old time music is very pleasant when you look around and I love to look at the lithograph machine. Next stop was our something new of the year, the fairly new State Fair Museum. I was rather disappointed it looked like a traveling exhibit, filled with things that I’m sure looked really good on paper and not so good in real life. The old museum where they left 99 percent of the objects in the collection is much better. I did enjoy the looping video that featured the car-airplane race, the airplane hits the house, and the two trains crashing in the 1930s (the 1920s one had been disappointing so this time they put gasoline and dynamite behind the engines). I admit it, I love it when the trains crash.

Then we stopped at the Buckskinners Rendevous. It has been shunted aside by a new stage and was partially closed up due to the rain, but I like to look in their sutler shops. I don’t know what happened to the model train exhibit, it was supposed to be getting a new building, but I couldn’t find it and bathrooms and the previously mentioned stage were in its old location.

Lunch was a REALLY big, Green River Phosphate in the Soda Fountain. No trip to the fair is complete without stopping at the Soda Fountain in Pioneer Village. Be sure to make a special trip, it’s worth it. Then we went to the Varied Industries Building. The booths from the Iowa Travel building have been squeezed in the former craft addition. I preferred it where it was, but the Travel was the only section we had a chance to get through. I stopped at several of the building places to get quotes for a building to hold my Laura collection and research equipment. Finally, I made a very quick run through the 4-H building and then it was time to go home. It was a great time as usual. My family has been going every year since they went in the Model T when my grandmother was just a little girl and it’s a different experience every year.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook,  Twitter,  Google+,   LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

A Friend Has Passed Away

Bob Brimacomb, husband of Ferneva Brimacomb, the former director of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Burr Oak, Iowa, passed away very suddenly recently. He was often around the museum giving a hand, keeping the Laura Days running smoothly, and building several things for the museum. Bob was in short, a great guy and a fellow Laura person. He was supposed to come on the museum trip to Malone next month and he will surely be missed then and ever after. Leave your consoldences here:

www.fjelstul.com

Read his obituary here:

http://www.austindailyherald.com/articles/2007/08/10/obituaries/156obits.txt

The obituary doesn’t indicate where the memorial money should be sent, but I sent a donation to the Burr Oak Museum in memory of Bob, and I urge you do the same.

 Sarah Uthoff