Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cool Weather Snake

This past Sunday while on a bicycle ride on the "City Trail" near the intersection of Hwy. 16 and Hwy. B (northeast of La Crosse in Medary) I was surprised to find this gartner snake basking on the paved trail. After taking this photo I had to nudge the snake several times with my shoe in order to get him/her to slither off into nearby grass. I would have left him alone to enjoy the warmth of the pavement but some people with dogs were approaching and I didn't want to take the chance they would harm the snake. Anyway, I thought snakes in this area would be in hibernation by early November but that goes to show you what I know. A couple hours later I came across a frog on the same trail . . . maybe the warmer than usual fall day (55 degrees) had something to do with the snake and frog being out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Indian Statue's Skin Tone Change

The other day while digging around in a desk drawer I found an old postcard (left photo) of La Crosse's "Big Indian" statue which has graced the north end of Riverside Park since 1961. The postcard was not dated but it was graced by a 19-cent stamp, which was the postcard rate from early 1991 through 1994. With that in mind, I suspect the card dates to the late 1980s. Anyway, I was surprised by how "dark" the Indian statue was back then compared to today (right photo). I'm not sure if the change was done on purpose but to me the skin tone of the present-day statue looks more Caucasian than Native American. Guess that shouldn't surprise me since Hollywood once used white actors to portray Indians in movies. Is also interesting how the design on the Indian's clothing has changed over time.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Confused "Uncle Joe"

Yesterday a friend and I went to breakfast at the State Road Country Kitchen Restaurant (see photo) located two miles from downtown La Crosse. While we were eating, an older man who reminded me of Uncle Joe (see photo, courtesy of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia) from the 1960s TV sitcom “Petticoat Junction” sat down at the table next to us. When the waitress approached him, he held up the menu and said, “What’s going on? Your menu is totally different from the downtown Country Kitchen.”
To which the waitress replied, “I’m sorry but the downtown Country Kitchen closed some time ago and is now occupied by a different restaurant.”
“Well, I like their menu. Just give me a cup of coffee,” responded Uncle Joe in a grumpy tone.
He drank about two sips of his coffee and then left, presumably to head to the downtown restaurant which he thought was a Country Kitchen.
Today while out and about on my bike I snapped a photo of the old downtown Country Kitchen (which closed in April 2006), now known as King Street Kitchen which opened in May 2006. One would think Uncle Joe would have noticed the name/sign change which took place over a year ago. Guess that proves many people do not pay close attention to their everyday surroundings.
Plus I thought it was also odd that Unlce Joe would fret over a breakfast menu since eggs and hash-browns are pretty much the same everywhere. Go figure.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Old Gage Place Soon To Be Razed

This house at 622 Sumner Street in La Crosse is slated for razing and will soon be a thing of the past, joining a long list of other bygone houses and buildings in the city. This photo shows the house’s original wood lap siding following removal of gray fiber panel siding which had adorned the house in more recent years. The house was located in an industrial section of town and faced a bulk fuel oil yard, hardly an attractive or desirable section of town. Out of curiosity I checked my collection of old city directories to see who lived in the house years ago and discovered that it was home to William and/or Mary Gage and their children from about 1900 to 1950. Using the La Crosse Public Library’s handy obituary index I was able to locate both William’s and Mary’s obits. According to William’s notice in the August 22, 1922, La Crosse Tribune, he died in this house at age 61 following a prolonged illness. He was born in Sauk County, Wisconsin, and settled on La Crosse’s North Side as a young man. He was an engineer in the Davidson Sawmill, was a millwright in the La Crosse Plow Works and also worked as an engineer at the La Crosse Rubber Mills. For many years he was also a fireman in both the volunteer company in North La Crosse and also in the paid department. He is buried in the family lot at the cemetery in Hustler, Wis. Following her husband’s death, Mary continued to live in the house (with some of their five children) until her death there at age 83 on January 28, 1950. Her obituary was very brief and said little about her life, other than that she was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Treasure Hunter

While eating lunch in La Crosse's Copeland Park I noticed this guy working over the playground area with a metal detector. I thought that was a little odd because most kids don't carry change and if they do it's usually only pennies or dimes. So is it worth one's time to search for small change on a playground? I don't think so but to each his own. I watched the guy for 30 minutes while eating my lunch and during that time his metal detector only beeped once . . . in some sand near a swing. The guy got down on his hands and knees with a trowel and dug up something small he put in his pocket. Was probably a penny. Yahoo!

Sign Play

I spotted this sign at a mattress store in La Crosse and enjoyed the little guy peeking over the top of the sign. But my first thought was "Shouldn't he be sleeping since the sign notes Quality Sleep?" Plus, the sign gives the impression he is in bed with a sheet or blanket pulled up to his face. So when I got home I used Photoshop to change the eyes on the guy and make it look like he's sleeping. Works for me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ghost Road

This short section of concrete road located between La Crosse and La Crescent, Minnesota, is all that remains of old Hwy. 14-61 which once connected the two towns before being replaced by a modern four-lane highway (out of view and to the left a couple hundred feet) some 40 or 50 years ago. Upon completion of the four-lane road, the old tw0-lane highway was removed except for this short stretch which was left to provide access to a boat landing. I think it's cool that this old piece of the past is still in use and whenever I bicycle down it I almost expect to see large black sedans from the 1940s barreling toward me. Honk!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

$2,700 = $30,000

The other day while going through some old family papers I came across this 1945 salary agreement for my grandfather who was a longtime industrial arts teacher at La Crosse's Logan High School. I was surprised by the low sum of $2,700 but adjusted for inflation that amount would be equal to about $30,000 in present day wages based on the Consumer Price Index. But even $30,000 is low compared to what the average public school teacher makes today, which is about $50,000 according to a Google search. Also, in 1945 my grandfather had six children at home so it's no wonder my mother says he always worked extra jobs to help support the family.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Picture Puzzle 2

Can you spot the seven differences in these two photos of a soda machine at Sixth and Market streets in La Crosse? The original photo is on the left with the changed photo on the right.

The seven differences are:
1. Root has been changed to Reet on the bottom of the large A&W bottle.
2. 1919 has been changed to 1991 on the large A&W bottle
3. The registered trademark symbol has disappeared from beneath the large A&W logo.
4. A strange little man wearing a pickle hat has appeared in the soda output opening at the bottom of the machine.
5. The coin slot has moved to the top of the machine.
6. The coin return slot has moved to where the coin slot was.
7. The Sun Drop and Orange Crush buttons have changed places.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Remodeling Eyesore

I cringe every time I ride by this building on La Crosse's North Side and see the botched-up method of using concrete blocks to fill in old window spaces. I bet the architect and contractors who worked on this building in 1887 are spinning in their graves over this crappy remodeling job. Shameful! Anything would have been better than concrete blocks . . . even painted plywood or leaving the old windows in with painted plywood behind the glass. Another solution would have been to use matching brick to fill the spaces but I suppose that was too costly to consider for the cheapskate/tasteless person who had this work done. And check out that door in the top photo, by its weathered, beat-up appearance it appears to be an interior door used as an exterior door. Crazy! There, I've done my rant for today and feel so much better.

Friday, June 22, 2007


The other day I was on a bike ride when I came upon these "artists" who had decided the best place to repose themselves and all their junk for a sketch session was right in the middle of a biking/hiking path in a La Crosse park . . . making users of the path have to sneak around them. Why they couldn't sit on the grass three feet away was beyond me . . . guess they were dropped on their heads as infants. I had half-a-mind to say something to them but I was polite as I slowly pedaled around them.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Six Blocks From City Hall!

One feature of La Crosse that I really enjoy is the marsh area smack dab in the center of the city, giving residents easy access to nature without having to travel for miles and miles. For example, this scene is located only six blocks from La Crosse's City Hall. I doubt if there is another mid-sized U.S. city (50,000 to 100,000 population) where such a wild scene can be found six blocks from city hall.
If there is, please let me know.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Grasshopper vs. Frog

Today while I rested on a bench in Copeland Park along the Black River two young boys walked by me on their way up from the river bank and I overheard one say to the other, "That was the sound of a grasshopper. A frog sounds completely different! Don't you know anything?"

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Picture Puzzle 1

I enjoy Life Magazine's "Picture Puzzles" so I thought I would start making some of my own picture puzzles using scenes from in and around La Crosse. So here's my first one, a school bus parked in Riverside Park: Can you spot the differences in the bottom photo compared to the top photo? Click on the photo to enlarge it for easier hunting. Hint, there are five differences. Answers listed below.

1. The wing is missing from the bird above the driver's window.
2. The middle light is missing from the top of the bus above the School Bus sign.
3. The little metal latch behind the front wheel is missing.
4. One number is missing from the license plate.
5. The windshield wiper blade on the front passenger window is missing.

Stay tuned for more picture puzzles.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

La Crosse's Ugliest Tavern

I may be wrong since La Crosse has about 70 taverns and bars but I can't recall seeing a more hideous local tavern exterior than Nighthawks Tap shown here at Third and King streets in downtown La Crosse. Oh, let me count the ways: (1) The stucco front. Good looking stucco buildings are rare as snow in July but this mess is really bad, especially with the two dark gray patch jobs. And to think someone at one time decided to use stucco here to cover up old bricks. Sad! (2) The remnants of old signs which can be seen on the stucco behind existing signs. Guess the owner has never heard of paint. (3) The use of crappy signs (with poor letter spacing) plastered everywhere. And what's with the pink lettering on the sidewalk signboard? Now that's easy to read. (4) The small, bunker-like windows. Ah, but who wants sunlight when sitting in a smoky old bar? You could not pay me to walk into a bar that looks this bad as it almost shouts out "C'mon in and get beat up by some toughs!" I will keep my eyes peeled for more ugly buildings in La Crosse. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Ghost Track

This old section of Milwaukee Railroad track is located just north of downtown La Crosse. Hard to imagine now but this railway was the main route used by Milwaukee Railroad passenger trains in and out of downtown La Crosse for 53 years, from 1874 to 1927. I find it interesting to think of all the passengers who once traveled over this spot on their way to or from Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Paul, etc., and the big steam powered, smoke belching locomotives leading the way. Fifty-three years of daily trains over this spot is a lot of trains. Now long gone but, wait, is that a lonesome whistle I hear?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Now & Then Side-by-Side

Yesterday while attending the re-dedication of a veterans memorial in La Crosse's Campbell Cemetery I spotted this 1860s photographer impersonator using a small digital camera between shots with his large view camera. Watching him use the two cameras was a real lesson in how photography technology has changed in 140 years. We have it easy as pie today. American Civil War photographers like Matthew Brady could not have imagined today's digital cameras in their wildest dreams. And just think of the photos Brady could have captured had he had a digital camera or regular film camera of today. Those old view cameras as shown here needed lots of light and long exposures so action photography was nearly impossible with them. No wonder there are no Civil War action photographs.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Rain Rider

Yesterday it was pouring rain so instead of riding my bicycle to work as I normally do I took the city bus. Along the way I was shamed when I noticed this poncho wrapped bike rider tooling along in a heavy downpour (photo taken through rain covered window of the bus). In my defense, I have tried riding in the rain wearing a rain suit but it caused me to get drenched with sweat which wasn't much better than getting rained on. Would a poncho keep me cooler and drier than a rain suit? Do I even want to try a poncho? On the plus side, I do have fenders on my bike (Mr. Poncho did not) which come in handy when the pavement gets wet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mad Mom Land

On Saturday, May 19, 2007, while on a bike ride I came upon this basketball fest (for youngsters and teens) taking place on the parking lot of the La Crosse YMCA. While stopping to take a few pics for the local history record I was annoyed to hear a mother on the sidelines screaming her head off at her son who looked to be about 10-years-old. Shouts of "Jason (name changed to protect the innocent), get your act together!!!" and "Jason, guard the ball, what are you doing?!!!" filled the air. Needless to say, Jason did not look like he was enjoying the attention from his mother. Gee, Mom, lighten up and let your kid have some fun. After all, this was practice basketball, not the NBA Finals.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bike to Work Week

The week of May 14, 2007, was "Bike to Work Week" in La Crosse but I think it was a bust as I did not see more bicyclists than normal (which is few) on city streets. A good example is this bike rack with three bikes at La Crosse's Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center . . . a large complex that employs thousands of people. Beyond the bike rack can be seen a small section of a huge parking lot for medical center employees and visitors. I would say the ratio of cars to bikes here is like 300 to 1 which is par for the course in car crazy America. For most adults in and around La Crosse, "Bike to Work Week" might as well been "Nude to Work Week" . . . something they would never-ever take part in.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Old-Fashioned Phone Booth

Snapped this photo the other day of my young great-nephew pretending to make a phone call from a pay phone booth in La Crosse's Myrick Park. With so many people now carrying and using personal cell phones I wonder how much longer old-fashioned phone booths like this one will remain in service? This glass booth with accordion doors is the last of its kind in the La Crosse area as far as I know. A real relic . . . the kind Superman used to use to change into his super hero outfit.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Boathouses such as this metal structure are quite common along the Mississippi River and its backwaters in La Crosse. Originally used to store small fishing boats, many of these boathouses are now used as floating cabins for get-aways during summer evenings and weekends.

Old Shoemaker's House

This old brick house at 830 S. Second St. is located on the edge of La Crosse's downtown area in what is mostly a commercial business area with very few houses. Just out of curiosity I checked a La Crosse city directory from 1907 to see who lived here 100 years ago and it listed a "Mary Leisgang, widow of John." Further research found that John Leisgang was a shoemaker who lived at this location as early as 1873. He died in the 1880s and Mary died on Jan. 16, 1914, at age 79.
Postnote: I was disappointed in the fall of 2007 to discover this house had recently been razed but at least I have a photo record of the place.