Tag Archives: history

Older Than Dirt: A Photo Challenge Part 2


Hi there!

This is my 2nd entry to Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge:  Older Than 50 Years.  As usual, my photos are more about the stories that go with them, and less about the photographic composition.   I’ll have to make this short and sweet though, because I seem to have gotten tendonitis in both of my elbows and my right arm is flaring up right now.  And if you really believe that will keep me from writing a long dissertation then I have some swamp land under the Leo Frigo Bridge I would like to sell you.

Last post (you can read it here if you missed it) I told you about a mini family reunion we had and the stalking finding of our 3rd cousin Randy, still living on the original Conard family farm.

Our jolly caravan’s next stop was to visit my grandparents cottage on the bay, where we spent many a spider-filled day.  The original plan was to park on the road and peer thru the leaves at it while trying not to be noticed (or arrested), and then mosey on to my house for lunch.  However we were spotted by the current owner, Callista, who graciously invited us in and let us run amok on her property while we ooohed and aaaahed over our collective memories.

Callista was as thrilled to hear our stories as we were to hear hers.  While the interior is completely different, much of the exterior has the same feel, mainly because they kept the original stonework of the outside walls and fireplace – built with bay rock picked from the shore by the original owner (not my grandparents).

The door is gone, but you can see the space where it was.  That door survived a lot of grandchildren banging in and out of it all summer.  My sister and I got a little teary eyed walking across the cement steps.  Lots of memories there.

The door is gone, but you can see the space where it was. That door survived a lot of grandchildren banging in and out of it all summer. My sister and I got a little teary eyed walking across the cement steps. Lots of memories there.

The same wet cement steps that our young feet ran across when we banged thru the wooden screen door into the cottage to play crazy eights and drink bug juice. The same stoney corridor along the outside back of the house where chips of blue china were cemented in the grout and waves of bright green moss spilled across the top.  The same slab stone steps leading to the same rocky beach with the same boat house, although the front portion was gone.  They even had a hammock where my grandparents used to have one.

New, steel supported steps were built over the top of the old stone slab steps leading down to the beach.  Much safer, but I am glad they left the old ones underneath.

New, steel supported steps were built over the top of the old stone slab steps leading down to the beach. Much safer, but I am glad they left the old ones underneath.

What was missing?  Besides the front section of the boat house, I spotted only a few spiders – most of them quite small.  I swear when we were kids the spiders were the size of quarters and had huge bulbous abdomens and they hung on EVERYTHING.  I remember calling for grandpa to beat webby paths thru them in order to get the bamboo fishing poles or the black inner tubes we used for swimming.  Before going to bed my cousins and I would call for grandma to spider proof the bedrooms and make sure we didn’t have any in our sheets.

A note about the boathouse:  As kids, we spent very little time in it (spider haven – the really really big ones lived inside the boat house) but a lot of time on top of it, as it served as a beach deck.  A web and spider covered beach deck which I recall being a bit freaked out about.  Are you picking up what I’m putting down here?  I hated spiders.  Still actually not a fan.

Anyway, my grandfather got a really good deal on some irregular cinder block – which couldn’t have been too bad seeing as the boat house is still standing.  He sent my Uncle Jim and my dad and some guy who had access to a milk truck to go pick it up.  Now remember, this was the early 40’s so you need to get that image out of your head of the giant tanker trucks you see running around today.  This was probably more like a 1935 panel truck or something.

My uncle, my dad, and the driver were hauling the load of cinder blocks to the cottage when the transmission broke.  My uncle said they “broke gear box” just as they were about to go down the escarpment to the cottage.  I’m not sure what that hill looked like in the 40’s but I can barely ride my bike up it now without needing oxygen, so I’m sure it wasn’t any better.  It was, needless to say, a harrowing descent, well remembered by two mid-80 old farts.

They laughed when they told this story, but fewer smiles appeared when they described how they had to haul that cinder block down to the beach two at a time in a wheelbarrow.  Which leads me to the next tidbit – there was a family of girls in the next cottage down – one of whom still lives there and happened to come talk to us while we were visiting.  I am sure there were many girlish eyes stealing glances at the sweaty teenage boys building muscles while hauling cinder blocks….

Obviously we had to take our picture on top of that iconic building and I was a little worried about the actual structural integrity left in those old block walls.  All that boyish hard work paid off however, because the boat house still supported the weight of a bunch of older than dirt cousins.  I was impressed.

We are all over 50, and the boathouse is over 75, so we all qualify.  The railing is new, thank goodness....

We are all over 50, and the boathouse is over 75, so we all qualify. The railing is new, thank goodness….

Old fartedly yours,

Sue

PS.  Besides frightening long lost relatives and imposing on complete strangers, we also visited the cemetery to say howdy to our Belgian immigrant ancestors.  great-great-great grandparents Gillian and  Marie Francoise Nihoul Conard and our great-great grandparents Louis and Marie Flore Laurent Conard and our other great-great grandparents Joseph and Mary T Boulet VanCaster (whose daughter Pelagie Blanche married Louis and Marie’s son Julian (my great grandfather), in turn having my grandfather Cliff Conard who then had my father – Thomas W. Conard).  I have pictures below for my family members who were not able to make the reunion, and of course for any weirdos of my followers who happen to have a bit of a morbid streak like me and love looking at old grave markers.  I also included a few bonus pics.  ENJOY!

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Older Than Dirt: A Photo Challenge – Part 1


Okay, so the theme isn’t really “Older Than Dirt”.  It’s Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge:  Older Than 50 Years.  

Technically, I could include photos of myself, as I am over 50, but I haven’t quite reached “dirt” status and hope not to for a while yet.  I thought about adding my parents but that could cause me to fall in ranking from “Favorite” to “Disowned”.

Last June we had a mini family reunion on my dad’s side.  Some of my cousins flew in and we went to visit my grandparent’s home, their cottage, the cemetery in Champion where our ancestors are buried, etc.  It was a lot of fun to catch up and see everyone.  Some of us haven’t seen each other in 30 years or more!

I have a lot of photos and stories to go with them, and had been wondering how to tell it without boring everyone to tears.  I mean, it’s interesting to me, but how to make it interesting to you?

Then Cee announced that this particular challenge would last until August 6th, and I realized it was the perfect venue to share my favorite photos and stories, and hopefully not make anyone want to poke a sharp stick in their eye.

My first photo is of the barn built by my ancestors, who came over in 1856, or thereabouts, from Grand Leez, Namur Province, Belgium.  This is the Walloon Belgian ancestory, and for some reason the vast majority of these immigrants chose NE Wisconsin.  My dad claims they all got the same set of bad directions.

This is actually almost true.  From what I have read, most were under the impression they were coming to rich farmland, only to arrive and find the entire area covered in a vast, dense forest.  I’m pretty sure they were not jumping up and down for joy upon their arrival in the New World, but they had just traveled 10 billion miles by crappy boat and crappy roads, so their choices were travel back 10 billion miles or clear the land.  They cleared the land.

So, we have this caravan of 5 cars or so, driving down Conard Road (my maiden name and yes, named after our family.  We are obviously kind of a big deal).  I’m in the lead with my parents and my Uncle Jim – all well into their 80’s but the only ones who have any inkling where on this road the original homestead would be.  I was beginning to wonder if we were on a wild goose chase when my dad and my uncle both said “This is it right here.  This is Harold’s old farm.”

ConardBarn

In case you are interested, Harold was my grandfather’s cousin.  Harold’s father, John, and my great grandfather Julian, were brothers.  You can read more about Julian here: Walking With Grandpas.

The house was newer – probably about 30-ish years old, but the barn was obviously old – possibly original.  Anywho, we all piled out of the cars and milled about on the road talking excitedly, pointing at the barn, wondering what the little doors were for (all of our guesses were wildly incorrect), and snapping pictures.  This went on for about 15 minutes when a man cautiously came out of the house and slowly walked toward us.  Being of non-confrontational Belgian descent, I’m sure he was wondering if he should come over and interrupt us to find out what was going on or meander aimlessly around outside until we all regained our senses and left.

We made it easy for him, and walked over and introduced ourselves.  Turns out, he was Harold’s grandson, our third cousin!  We bombarded the poor guy  with a million questions:  “How old is the barn?”  “What are the little doors for?”  “Are you still farming?”  “Boxers or briefs?”

We found out he had no idea how old the barn was – just that it was “really old”.  The little doors were for pigs (who knew?) which he did not keep but apparently our ancestors did – he only kept a few steers, but his uncles had a larger farm on the adjacent road (also our relatives – I told you we were a big deal!).  We held him captive for another 15 minutes or so, and closed the deal by making him take photos with us out in the road, times about 20 smartphones.  We were all happier than pigs going thru little doors.  He, on the other hand, was probably scarred for life.

Actually, Randy (his name, btw.  I somehow managed to forget that detail in my narration) was a very good sport and actually seemed to enjoy himself once he realized we weren’t serial killers or zombies.

Below is a color picture of us minus my parents and Uncle Jim – who were in the car waiting for us because 80+ year old bones aren’t very cooperative when it comes to standing around in the middle of the road for ages.

RUN RANDY!  SAVE YOURSELF!

RUN RANDY! SAVE YOURSELF!

And that’s how we met our 3rd cousin, Randy, and got to see the old Conard homestead.

Sue

PS:  Part of the reason for this mini reunion was for my cousins to see Uncle Jim.  He is a Catholic priest with the Maryknoll Fathers and has lived as a missionary in Africa for almost 60 years.  He comes home to visit about every three years.  That’s another story all by itself!  Interestingly enough, he had visited Harold back in the sixties to learn artificial insemination, so he could improve the stock of cattle in Africa.  Neither he or my father had been to the farm in over 50 years, but they both remembered once they got there.  Thank goodness for that or we would still be driving around.

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: The Number One. Oh Yeah, And I’m BAAAAAACK.


I’m back…sort of. I have a very full agenda yet for the month of June – a mini family reunion, a wedding shower, Father’s Day, a funeral, a wedding, and the MRC Bike Ride. But, I miss my blog family and I miss entertaining my tiny masses with weird and funny stories.

I decided the best way to come back is to participate in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, and let my photos do the talking. Because, you know, I never have anything to say.

One picture of me holding One bottle of Sam Adams while on my work trip to Boston.

That's MR. Adams to you!

Sam Adams is a LIE!

My last day I was able to take part of the Freedom Trail tour, and learned from the tour guide that Samuel Adams probably never let anyone call him “Sam” (That’s Mr. Adams to you!), wasn’t likely a big beer drinker, and apparently ran his father’s brewery into the ground. I found that a delightful twist of ironic history.

One patient husband, waiting for his wife to come off the delicious drugs ala colonoscopy. I have no idea why I took his picture.

My wife is wasted.

My wife is wasted.

One Grandma Conard white iris.

Good morning, Grandma!

Good morning, Grandma!

Last year, my Cuz-in-Law kindly sent me a package of day lilly and iris bulbs, some of which were descended from irises originally in my grandparents garden (whites and purples). Last spring I planted them down by the pond because we weren’t ready to put anything by the house yet, so we transplanted them this spring next to the house. I didn’t think any of them would even bloom this year so these were a happy surprise.

When my grandmother was a young woman, she became very ill and lost all the pigment in her skin and color in her hair from the trauma. Her pale skin was soft and delicate, very much like the petal of an iris. Despite her complexion, my grandmother was a big, beautiful, strong woman who loved to travel and swim and garden and taught me how to fish with a bamboo fishing pole and she squashed all the spiders in the cottage. Yeah. She was badass. Ironically, if she read that, she would yell at me for swearing.

One very wet bike after one very wet bike ride called the Birky Challenge 67, a ride honoring a fallen police officer whose badge number was 67.

At least it's clean now.

At least it’s clean now.

We were signed up to do the 67 miles, but it was pouring rain that morning so we wussed out and only did 40. That was the longest, wettest, windiest, hilliest 40 miles ever created in the entire history of mankind. In the entire history of the world. The universe, even. At one point, my riding partner asked me “Why didn’t we just do 20?” and I said, “Apparently because we are stupid.”

One pissed off anti-social turtle who just wants to be left alone so she can lay her eggs and read a trashy novel on the beach. This is in no way a reference to me or my current work load because I have a brilliant sun-shiney attitude and love love love the busy season at work.

LOOK AWAY!

LOOK AWAY!

One memorial tree planting of one dwarf blue spruce, in honor of my sister in law Jen who passes away in March, 2014 (the weekend we moved).

It's the Jen-Tree

It’s the Jen-Tree

We were unable to plant anything last summer, so this was a bit over due. A tough, hardy tree that should adapt well to wherever it’s planted, with soft, kind needles that will offer sanctuary to birds and critters – very much like our Jen.

For more Fun Fotos, all centered on the theme of “One”, head on over to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Freakishly Busy Sue