When I asked Doug if we should send a Christmas letter this year, he replied that he’s still the same old boring guy. I’m the same old boring woman, but here’s our letter anyway.
Doug’s 1940 Ford Convertible will be on the road in 2019. It’s actually at a body shop being painted a deep metallic blue. Many hours this past year were spent working on the car.
Doug plays golf in the summer and curls in the winter. He and a friend flew to St. Paul Minnesota to attend the “Back to the Fifties” car show with over 11,000 cars, 1964 and older.
Doug and I spent ten days in Southern California in late January and early February. He attended the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona. We celebrated an early 5th birthday with granddaughter Ella. The weather was unseasonably warm so we had several beach days. Of course, it was back to Legoland with Ella on even faster roller coasters.
In April, Doug and I flew to Chicago and spent a few days in the ‘Windy City.’ That nickname came from the hot air expelled by the politicians, but it could also have referred to the cold wind. We only lasted five innings in the wind and sleet at Wrigley Stadium. The waves were reported to be 16 feet high out on Lake Michigan.
We enjoyed the Museum of Science and Industry. The building was originally built for the 1893 World’s Exposition and then opened as the Science and Industry Museum in 1933 during the Chicago World Fair. Some family history: That year, my father, grandparents and great-grandfather Lohr drove to the Fair from Erskine, Alberta. So, that fact made the museum visit extra special. We also enjoyed the Architectural River Cruise where the guide explained the origins and styles of the downtown buildings while we huddled under plastic rain coats.
From Chicago we drove to Dearborn, Michigan, to the Henry Ford Museum, the largest museum complex in the United States at 254 acres. We only had a day to spend there and didn’t get through all the exhibits. It’s much more than a car museum. The highlight was sitting in the same bus seat that Rosa Parks refused to give up to a white passenger on December 1, 1955.
We enjoyed our time in South Bend, Indiana, although the Studebaker Museum was closed so we toured the Oliver Mansion. The Oliver family was famous for the invention of the chilled plow and the nearby plant produced farm equipment.
Then we went to Mount Carroll, Illinois, where we enjoyed visiting with family members from the Lohr Branch. They are the Great Grandchildren of Solomon Lohr who was my Great-Grandfather George Lohr’s brother.
After a night ‘in jail’ at the Jail House Inn B&B in Galena, Illinois, we drove through part of Wisconsin. I had no idea there were so many varieties of cheese! We returned to Chicago and flew home. Chicago is a great place to visit; maybe just not in April.
Our visit with the Lohr relatives was my only family history work this past year. My volunteer work on the Okotoks Library Board has become like a part-time job. We are advocating and fundraising for a library expansion. I’m certainly learning a lot about libraries.
Cabin life was busy again this summer. Mark, Robin, Hannah, and Grayson spent time at the cabin, and Heather and Ella were there for a few days in August. As we drive that eight hour one way trip, we sometimes wonder why we do it, but, once we’re there, we enjoy the lake and seeing old friends and neighbors.
We had another bumper crop of saskatoons and raspberries, but the pumpkin seeds planted by Hannah and Grayson never did grow pumpkins, just vines spreading throughout the garden. So in October, Doug bought a couple pumpkins and put them in the garden on the vines.
Hannah is enjoying grade one and takes piano lessons. Grayson, three in October, spends Wednesdays with us. He has to be watched as he likes to figure out how everything works. His favorite activity is driving the tractor with Doug. We purchased a ‘Tin Lizzie’—a former Shriner’s car. Hannah and Grayson like to ride along as we go up and down the lane.
Hayley will be 13 years old on December 30th. We thought we were going to lose her this summer as the smoke and heat negatively affected her breathing. However, once winter arrived and with the canine versions of glucosamine and ibuprofen, she is now walking and sometimes trotting down to the highway and back each morning to help us bring home the newspaper.
Doug and I are looking forward to our visits the last week in January and early February 2019 to see Heather, Mike, and Ella. (We are going to ‘take turns’ going to California so that one of us is home with Hayley.) Ella is now in Kindergarten so we probably won’t see her as much as when she could spend every day with us. But, I’m sure there will be roller coaster rides again.
We hope that all is well with you and your families. Merry Christmas and best wishes for health and happiness in the New Year.
In the Calgary Herald (November 29, 2018), there was a photo and article titled “Danger Catastrophic as Wildfires Rage in Northeast [Australia].” The caption under the photo read: “Fires burn north of Bundaberg, Australia, as firefighters battle flames in heat up to 40 C and winds of 40 km/h.”
The only reason Doug and I know about Bundaberg is the chance meeting of John and Avon on a river cruise. The cruise was with Scenic Tours and started in Amsterdam and ended in Budapest. Scenic Cruise Lines is an Australian-based company so the majority of the passengers were from Australia. Also, as those of you who travel know, many Aussies travel the world. Wherever we go, we meet them. I know this is a stereotype, but we often meet them in pubs. (Of course, since that’s where we meet them, that means Doug and I must be in pubs too!)
Anyway, back to the story. Doug and I noticed this couple who was always laughing and appearing to have a very good time. When we introduced ourselves, the man said his name was John and her name was Avon. They were from Bundaberg. Of course, we didn’t have a clue where Bundaberg was so they explained the area with great pride. We also found out that Avon was originally ‘a Kiwi’ [from New Zealand] as John explained.
They owned a farm and ranch supply store and a gardening store in season. Avon also ran a pet store. We began to realize that they were wealthy in an understated way. They told us they were on a three-month extended holiday and had recently been in Africa. After the cruise, they were going to spend time in France. John said he’d been to the Calgary Stampede three times and bought a pair of cowboy boots each time. We also found out that they had been to most countries in the world and flew first class.
Doug and I didn’t understand everything John said as he had what we found out was a regional accent. In other words, many of the other Australians didn’t understand him either.
As we proceeded on the cruise, we often ended up going with John and Avon to pubs after our tours in the various ports. John could drink copious amounts of beer. He explained: “In Bundaberg we drink beer to stay hydrated.”
John was in amazing shape, and Avon told us that he had won a national level bicycle road racing competition. There was a younger fellow on Board who wore sleek fitness clothes and was rumored to also be a champion bicycle road racer. John and this younger fellow were among the people scheduled to ride from one port to the other on bicycles while the rest of us cruised along on the ship. When Doug found out about this, he went around trying to get wagers on who was going to win the race: John or ‘Mr. Dress-Up.’ Our money was on John. Unfortunately, the race didn’t happen because of inclement weather.
Most of the Aussies found the weather quite cool. It was November after all, and they were often decked out in warm coats, scarves, toques and mitts. Some of them marvelled at Doug and me wearing t-shirts while they had on their jumpers [sweaters].
John wore jeans, a shirt and a well-worn brown leather jacket regardless of the weather and whether on the ship or on land in one of the ports. Avon was a free spirit with her flowing clothes and long, curly red hair. On the evening that it was their turn to have dinner in the ‘fancy’ section of the restaurant, John was in his usual place at the ship’s bar waiting for Avon. She joined him in a stunning gown with her hair beautifully tamed. John was in his regular uniform.
John’s response to cooler temperatures was to add a scarf to his ensemble. One day and another port, we were with John and Avon in a couple of pubs. After we got ready to leave the second pub in order to get back before the ship sailed, John told us that he had lost his scarf. So, we hurried back to the first pub. No one had seen it. Then he found the scarf bundled in one sleeve. We realized that the ship was sailing in a few minutes so we ran to the dock, just making it in the nick of time. But, John had his scarf.
Toward the end of the cruise, I asked Avon about the origin of her name. Was she named after the River Avon in England? “No,” she replied. “My name is Yvonne, but John can’t say it right.”
As I read the article in the newspaper this morning, I was suddenly right back with Doug, John and Avon enjoying their laughter and goodwill. I will never see them again; but, I’ll never forget them. I hope their lives aren’t too affected by the terrible fire presently raging in Bundaberg, Queensland.
Our granddaughter is excited about being a cat for Halloween. Our grandson wants the spooky Bubble Guppies show “Haunted House” played over and over. When my email finally started working today, there was a photo of our California granddaughter in a purple and black witch’s costume. (Purple is her favorite color.) Even the women working at the dentist’s office this morning were dressed up as characters, including a very elaborately dressed Little Bo Peep with her staff.
Being a ‘farm kid’, we didn’t go out trick or treating or get a whole lot of candy on Halloween—or any other time of the year for that matter. We once carved a Jack-o’-lantern, put a candle in it and Mom accompanied us to Granny and Grandpa Lohr’s house in the same farmyard. Our plan was to put the Jack-o’-lantern up to their kitchen window to give them a good fright. The only problem was that we forgot to bring matches, so we had to go in and ask them for a match before we could try to frighten them!
I knew the ‘town kids’ went out trick or treating. One year, I thought I should get in on the action so I stayed overnight with a friend of mine in Erskine. Her mom found a couple old sheets so we could be ghosts. We carried pillowcases. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of candy we received as well as apples, popcorn balls and pieces of homemade fudge wrapped individually in waxed paper. No one needed to check to make sure our candy was safe either. What a bounty!
Fast forward several years: I was teaching young children. We had Halloween parties so the teachers had to dress up too. One year the woman I was team teaching with and I dressed up as babies. We put our hair in pigtails, wore huge diapers over our slacks, t-shirts, scarves as bibs, slippers (booties) and carried around baby bottles filled with water. We reached up and squeezed the bottle liners and got people thoroughly wet. Our students thought it was great fun.
Then I started teaching ‘big kids’ at the University of Saskatchewan. On Halloween 1987, a colleague and I dressed up as characters from the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She was teaching that novel in her introductory English class. I was Miss Ratched—the head nurse who ruled with an iron fist. I borrowed a nurse’s uniform from a ‘real nurse’ neighbor, and carried my children’s toy doctor’s kit and a muffin tray filled with pills—multi-colored jelly beans. She wore green scrubs borrowed from a friend in Veterinary Medicine. With latex gloves on her hands, she was ready to do some serious examining. We ‘targeted’ instructors we knew, got their schedules and burst into classrooms shouting, “It’s Miss Ratched and The Doctor.” The instructors were asked to get up on the table at the front of the room, and The Doctor listened to their hearts with a toy stethoscope. The Doctor also made some comments—which won’t be repeated here—about examining as she snapped the tops of her latex gloves. I gave injections with the toy needle and passed out “pills” to the students. Most people—but not all—thought it was funny.
Before I knew it, I was the mother trying to find or devise Halloween costumes. Fortunately, we inherited some great home sewn costumes from extended family when the kids were young. Once the kids outgrew those, the ‘store bought’ costumes were made of flimsy paper that didn’t survive what was usually a cold Saskatoon night. I remember one of our neighbors insisted the kids sing before giving them candy. Doug usually took the kids out while I stayed home and answered the door.
Now that we’re on the acreage, we rarely get any children coming to the door. Doug buys one box of Halloween candy each year, just in case. As of today, about a third of that bag is gone although no children have come to the door yet—enough said!
Happy Halloween Everyone.
I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. I once asked my mom when I learned to read. She replied that I followed her around asking what words said until I was about five so she assumed I knew how to read by then.
I was fortunate to come from a long line of readers. Granny and Grandpa Lohr’s house contained a treasure trove of reading material. I spent hours there reading National Geographic. There was a bookcase upstairs with such treasures as an illustrated Smith Family Robinson.
Everyone in my family read the local newspaper, the Stettler Independent, and Mom and Dad had subscriptions to The Western Producer, Western Horseman and other magazines. Dad had copies of books on his interests such as birding, horses, nature, and the history of Western Canada. Dad read us bedtime stories—usually his books. Often he nodded off during the reading, and I recall jumping on the bed while he slept, until Mom came in and stopped ‘the bedtime reading.’
Dick and Jane readers comprised the reading curriculum in grade one. I surreptitiously read ahead, my finger tucked in the page where the class was taking turns oral reading in case I was called on.
Erskine got a new school the fall I entered grade two. Sixty years later, I can close my eyes, see that library and feel the awe—an entire room full of books just waiting for me. It was my mission to try to read as many of those books as possible.
When I entered high school, the William E. Hay Composite School Library had even more books. I moved in with Grandma Collins in Stettler and walked to the public library—at that time in the basement of the Town Hall Building on Main Street. My favorite authors were John Steinbeck and Leon Uris. I added some large print books for Grandma to my stack of books and carted them all home.
I read everywhere and anywhere. I recall going to a regatta on the Red Deer River with Dad when I was fifteen. We took the truck and camper and, of course, our lunch so we’d have a place to get out of the sun and eat. I spent the entire day in the camper absolutely glued to Gone with the Wind. Dad came into the camper for his bologna sandwich and asked if I was going to come out and see what was happening. There was no time for that—Scarlett and Rhett were my focus!
I don’t have many positive memories of my year in nursing at the University of Alberta, but my favorite time was spent in the library where I had a part-time job. I recall sitting at the check-out desk surrounded by the dusty smell of books combined with the ancient nurses’ residence building, basking in the relative quietness. The library was my escape from the chaos of dorm life, plus working there provided me with some much-needed spending money.
On one of our early dates, Doug took me to the Alix Auto Wreckers where he searched for car parts. I started carrying a book in my purse or bag, and I never go to a car event now without at least one good book. Last year, a stranger passing by at a car event in Pomona, California, asked why I would want to read a book when I could be looking at all the old men on their way to the next building filled with cars. I chuckled and kept on reading.
The Library in the Education Building at the University of Saskatchewan was my second home during my years there as a student and then as an instructor. I knew all the staff and who to ask what question. Saskatoon also had amazing public libraries, and I was a regular patron over the twenty-three years we lived there. I took our children to the libraries. They particularly enjoyed ‘Pooh Bear’ story time in the evenings.
As all parents of young children know, there isn’t much time for private moments spent reading or otherwise. Sometimes, I would lock the bathroom door and spend as much time as I could in there reading. I recall our daughter on the floor peeking under the bathroom door saying, “I know you’re in there!” Her statement would bring me back to reality from wherever the book had taken me, and I would sigh and come out to continue my mother role.
When Doug was out of town on business and the kids were settled for the night, I would go on reading jags. I’d look at the clock on the nightstand and realize that it was 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. I knew I had to get up in a few hours, get the kids to daycare or, later, to school and be at work. Still, I would read on, just to find out what happened.
The years went by with many changes, but reading was always a constant. When we moved to Calgary in 1995, the neighborhood library seemed like a cold, unfeeling space although I still checked out books. I never did bond with it the way I had with the Saskatoon libraries.
In October of 2005, we moved into our home on the acreage in Foothills. One of the first things I did was go to the Okotoks Public Library and purchase a membership. I remember walking through the doors and feeling the warmth and busyness of a well-managed library. Staff members were friendly and helpful. I attended a few programs and started to volunteer one morning a week. I knew that I had found my new ‘second’ home.
In October 2017, I joined the Library Board and have since spent numerous hours at Board meetings and promoting the library in the community. Now we are beginning to write a fundraising plan to help with the future expansion of the library.
Today, when I enter the Okotoks Public Library, I still feel the awe I felt as a seven-year old child, amazed at all the wide variety of resources and programs waiting for me. But, the books are still my favorite.
It has been a smoky summer with bouts of abnormally high temperatures in the high 20s and low to mid 30 degrees Celsius in our area. Calgary set a record high temperature of 36.7 Celsius (98 Fahrenheit) on August 10, 2018. This summer was the smokiest on record as reported by Environment Canada on August 20th. There have been additional smoky days since then. It seems like much of the world is enduring abnormally high temperatures, and some places are literally burning-up.
The total number of fires in British Columbia to date is 2,026—fiscal year starting in April 2018 (BC Wildlife Service). I can’t imagine the challenges for the firefighting crews. I have great sympathy for people who are coping in close proximity to the fires, but I do wish we didn’t get so many winds from the West.
Since it’s been so dry, the smoke just lingers. Strong rains would have not only improved the crops but would have washed some of the smoke from the air. Instead much of the land is parched and there’s not enough pasture or hay crops. Some ranchers are selling off part of their cattle herds because there isn’t enough hay to feed them all through the winter. What hay there is will be high-priced and is being trucked from areas where they received more rain.
Since I detest smoke and don’t like heat, I’ve been welcoming these plus 4 degrees Celsius mornings and highs around 20 degrees. I’m so glad to see the approaching signs of autumn. Yesterday I started cutting back perennials, beginning with the delphiniums and ending with many of their small black seeds in my hair and clothes.
We had an abundant saskatoon crop with about 60 containers of the berries in 750-gram containers in the freezer. Our raspberry bushes in the garden were very productive, and I am continuing to pick. The saskatoon and raspberry bushes are on the edge of the vegetable garden so benefitted from the watering. The smaller raspberry patch by the garage doesn’t get watered and so there were very few berries in that area.
The grandchildren enjoy picking and eating the saskatoons and raspberries. Some of the raspberries are very large, and the kids like to put them on the ends of their fingers for “raspberry fingers” and then eat them--the raspberries, not their fingers! Apparently the wasps like raspberries too as some of my neighbors told me they had very few raspberries because the wasps got to them. A few of our raspberries were partially eaten and very sticky, but, fortunately, we were able to rescue most of them. Those ‘fake’ wasp nests purchased at a hardware store definitely worked to cut down on the wasps building real nests and loitering in our immediate area.
Doug has been busy with a weekly golf game and, of course, with cars and events this summer in between yard work. The tractor not only covers our acreage, but Doug also mows along the avenue. (Yes, we do pay taxes to have that done, but once a year in the late summer doesn’t quite do the job!)
Hayley dog is definitely slowing down. She had an incident about two weeks ago where she went out for her morning walk and collapsed on the grass. We took turns staying with her for a couple hours and then had to help her up. At times, her legs splay out beneath her, but most of the time she is able to get up and walk to the highway to help pick up the morning newspaper. She loves it outside so spends most of her day relaxing on the grass in the sun and then moving to the shade when it gets too warm. We know it is a matter of time so she gets lots of belly rubs, a few more treats than before and is even allowed to be a ‘house dog’ and wonder the main floor at times. It's hard to watch her health failing, but she is 12.5 years old. She perks up when the grandchildren are here and tries to trot along with them.
I've had a busy summer with advocacy work for the library along with the usual weed-pulling at home. With some other board members and staff, we supplied, set up and worked the library booth at four events in Okotoks in just over a month. Now our advocacy and fundraising plans are being developed for the fall and winter. The library board work has become like a part-time job—all volunteer of course—but I’m learning a great deal and, for the most part, enjoying it. Working the booth definitely reminded me of my couple years with Scholastic Publishing. I had forgotten how much effort it takes to set up and work a booth for 5-7 hours in total each time!
The Library Board also conducted a survey this summer with 237 respondents to date which will give us direction for the work of the Okotoks Public Library. If anyone reading this lives in Okotoks or the MD of Foothills and uses the library, the survey is still online for a few more weeks at http://okotokslibrary.ca
While I’m on the topic, we need more books donated for the Little Libraries. I look after the one in the Cimarron area of Okotoks. I replenish it once every 10 days or so. As most of my readers will know because they are readers, the intent of the Little Libraries is that if you take a book, you leave a book; however, there is much more taking than leaving. The good part is that at least the books are being taken so hopefully they are being read. We particularly need children’s books, but all donations are welcome so please contact me if you have some books to donate, and if you live close enough so that I can pick them up.
Doug, Hayley and I enjoyed several trips to the cabin at Wakaw Lake. Our 'adult children' and grandchildren were able to spend time with us at the lake this summer, and we enjoyed catching-up with several neighbors. Thanks to everyone who visited us this summer at home or at the cabin and those who took the time to continue our friendships. I valued our times together and look forward to meeting again soon.
Enjoy September—it’s my favorite month of the year. It brings back many happy memories of crisp cool air, gorgeous fall colors, childhood memories of harvesting on the farm and going back to school. It will probably not surprise most of you that I just enrolled in an advocacy course—online this time—but I’m still going back to school in the fall!
My great-grandfather G.W. Lohr, my grandparents Lester & Beula Lohr, and my father Lloyd Lohr (12 years old at the time) drove from Erskine, Alberta, to Chicago to attend A Century of Progress: Chicago’s World Fair held in 1933-1934. The Fair was to celebrate Chicago’s centennial, and the theme was technological innovation.
While they were in Illinois, they visited my Great-Grandfather’s brother, Solomon (Sol) Lohr, and his family in Mount Carroll. This was George’s first trip back to where he was raised. My great-grandparents came to what was then the Northwest Territories, Canada, in the fall of 1900. So, we assume that George and Sol had not seen each other for 33 years.
Although Doug and I flew to Chicago in April and then rented a car rather than driving the entire trip, we visited Sol’s descendants who live in Mount Carroll. They gave me a copy of the letter which follows:
August 3, 1933
Mr. Sol Lohr,
I will endeavor to write you a few lines to let you know that we got home on July 31, sound in life and limb but very tired in body. Our trip from Chicago to Winnipeg was a veritable feast for the eye and banquet for the soul. We left the city on Sunday afternoon and passed through Janesville, Madison, and several small places that afternoon. From the time we left the suburbs of Chicago till we camped that evening, we passed through the best agricultural country we saw on our whole trip. Splendid farms with good houses and big barns, large cornfields and hayfields, pastures with dairy herds of different breeds too. To us it looked like a real prosperous country.
The next day the country kept getting rougher and dryer until we reached the Mississippi River at LaCrosse, where we crossed on a free bridge to the Minnesota side of the river. We camped at a small town 30 miles south of St. Paul on Monday night and then drove into South St. Paul the next morning. We saw the big stockyards and the big packing plants of Swift and Armour there. This is one of the largest stockyards in the U.S., and we saw hundreds of cattle, hogs and sheep unloaded from trains and trucks.
In the afternoon we got to Minneapolis and located some friends. [Note that part of the letter is missing at this point.]
The crops around Regina were good but after we passed Moose Jaw, we came through a very rough, dry country and very poor crops. But when we reached the irrigation district in Alberta, crops were fairly good. There is no timber in that country so when we got home the country around here looked like an oasis in a desert to us, for there seems to be more moisture than we had on the whole trip, except in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Now, in regard to the World’s Fair at Chicago, I can say we were there six days, and it would take more than six days to tell about it. All I can say here is, it was a wonderful display of “A Century of Progress” in the arts and sciences of the present civilization, and I am very glad that I was fortunate enough to see as much of it as I did. We also went through some of the big stores in the city and the Grain Exchange or Board of Trade Building, and saw the pit where they buy and sell wheat.
Before I close I must give you and the folks a tribute of appreciation for your kindness and comfort extended to us during our stay at Mt. Carroll. It will always be the outstanding landmark of our trip as every moment was a joy and pleasure that we can never forget.
We are all well and hope you are all enjoying the best of health. With best wishes and love to all, I remain,
As ever your brother,
On April 17th, we left Ann Arbor after an early breakfast because we wanted to get to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan, when it opened at 9 a.m. Even with the early start and staying until it closed, we didn’t see all of it. The Museum was opened on October 21, 1929, and was originally called The Edison Institute in honour of Thomas Edison whom Ford greatly admired. It’s now the largest combined indoor-outdoor museum complex in the United States at 254 acres and has approximately 1.7 Million visitors each year. The Ford Plant that manufactures F150 trucks is also located onsite.
Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was raised on a farm near Dearborn, Michigan, now part of the Detroit Metropolitan area. As a young man, Ford worked as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. He began to collect Edison memorabilia and then just kept collecting all types of objects related to innovation and history. Ford was himself an inventor and held 161 U.S. patents. Of course, he’s best known for establishing the Ford Motor Company in 1903, making the first Model T in 1908, and then because of demand introducing mass production including the first motor assembly line. If you’re interested in an overview of the museum or more details of his life, here’s the site: https://www.thehenryford.org/
Some highlights on display: The Kennedy Car, the 1961 Lincoln in which President Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963; several artifacts from Chicago’s Century of Progress held in 1933-1934 which my Grandparents Lohr, Great-Grandfather George Lohr, and my Father attended; a diner hauled in from Hudson, Massachusetts where Doug and I enjoyed ‘real’ milkshakes; a history section on Women’s Rights, actually the lack of them; and, of course, more cars and contraptions than anyone could imagine and not just Ford vehicles. The highlight for me was the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery Alabama. Doug and I sat in Rosa’s seat on the bus as a guide talked about that event.
Then we went outside to Greenfield Village. It was a cool windy day so we had the area almost to ourselves. The guides stationed in the buildings were so glad to see someone that they told us numerous stories. The original Ford Home is there, along with the Wright Cycle Shop from Dayton, Ohio, where Wilbur and Orville Wright performed much of their research, design and construction of the first successful airplane, the Wright Flyer; the Heinz House (actually horseradish was their first item produced and ketchup came later) built in 1854 in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania; and, a reconstructed/replica building originally in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where Edison performed many of his inventions—1,093 U.S. patents plus more worldwide— including developing the light bulb and first phonograph. A guide demonstrated one of those first phonographs from 1878. Ford was very wealthy and quite eccentric: He actually had a crew collect as many of the boards from the original research lab as could be located, moved those to Dearborn along with dirt from around the original building because Edison and his workers threw failed experiments out the windows. The dirt was sifted through to get the broken treasures and put them back together. (Well, that was the story anyway!)
After the day at the museum, our plan was to drive to Toledo, Ohio, and stay in a historic bed and breakfast there. Well, we drove to Toledo but ended up at the best-rated hotel at 3-stars in Toledo, a new Renaissance. As the voice on the GPS took us into a very rundown area of Toledo, Doug wondered where I was taking him. We located the bed and breakfast which was historic all right, but not in a positive way. The innkeeper met us there and gave us a tour of the first two floors—the upper floors are still being redone and the place is for sale. We decided to pay for the room but stay elsewhere as we didn’t think it was a safe area. Skip Toledo if you’re in the region although we did have a good seafood meal at a restaurant along the Maumee River.
The next day, we drove to South Bend, Indiana. Our plan was to go the Studebaker Museum. When I planned the itinerary, there was no notice on the website that the museum closed for a few days every year in April so that the vehicles could be moved for a charity function. Today was one of those days. Here’s the website if you’re interested in what we didn’t see: https://studebakermuseum.org/
Doug was disappointed, but the receptionist told us that we could tour the Oliver House as the head guide was still at work. The Oliver family was famous for the invention of the chilled plow and the nearby plant produced farm equipment. Oliver solved the problem of soil sticking to a plow because the metal was cooled rapidly—chilled—so that the blade had a hard smooth surface. By 1900, the manufacturing plant was producing about 300,000 plows a year.
Built in 1895-1896, the Oliver Mansion is quite unique because the family left the house and almost all the furnishings to the museum. Apparently that was the easiest way to eliminate family inheritance arguments! The plus for the museum and tourists is that the 38-room mansion looks like it did when the last family member lived there. The family also left funds for the maintenance of the home and garden. If you want to see and read more details: https://historymuseumsb.org/see-do/historic-house/
After the tour, we got back into the rental car, set the GPS for our bed and breakfast and proceeded to drive almost one block to The Oliver House. This beautiful b&b with accommodating owners, Alice and Tom, was originally the home of one of the Oliver daughters—Josephine Oliver Ford and her husband George Ford. If you’re interested in the b&b or the history, please check https://www.oliverinn.com/
Next door to the Oliver House is a restaurant in the original 24,000 square foot home of the Studebaker family built between 1886-1889. The building is now called Tippecanoe Place: http://www.tippe.com/ We just walked across the lawn and up the short driveway next door for our dinner.
After a lovely breakfast on April 19th at Oliver House, we set out on the interstate on our way to Mount Carroll, Illinois. As we drove, we were surrounded by semis, the most we’ve ever seen on any highway. The traffic was heavy, but we arrived in Mount Carroll in time to meet extended family on the Lohr side for lunch.
My Great-Grandfather, George W. Lohr, was born in Centre County, Pennsylvania, and moved to Mount Carroll, Illinois, with his family when he was three years old. One of his older brothers, Solomon (Sol) Lohr, remained in Mount Carroll. The people we met for lunch and a visit are descendants of Sol.
Two of my Great-Grandfather’s brothers were killed in the Civil War. The photo on my home page shows a monument to the soldiers from the Mount Carroll area including Israel Lohr (May 6, 1841 - May 5, 1862), buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri, and Jeremiah Lohr (1839 - August 1, 1862), buried at Columbus, Hickman, Kentucky.
My Great-Great Grandparents, Jacob Lohr (June 10, 1819 – July 3, 1904) and Margaret Anna Emerich Lohr (October 26, 1817 – August 25, 1905) are buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Mount Carroll. We visited their graves as well as those of several other extended family members.
Then we went to the home of one of my Mount Carroll relatives where we looked through photo albums and family history documents. They made copies of several obituaries, letters, and other print materials. As well, they gave me two photos that I had never seen before: one of my Grandfather Lester Lohr in his christening gown and one of my Great-Grandparents and their young family, including my Grandfather, before they left Illinois for South Dakota and then Canada in 1900.
In the late afternoon, Doug and I drove to Galena, about 45 miles northwest of Mount Carroll where we checked in at the Jail House Inn: https://jailhillgalena.com/ This luxury bed and breakfast has been totally renovated and is owned and operated by a cousin's son of my relatives in Mount Carroll, only on the other side of the family. Anyway, this building was used as a jail for 100 years, and the room we stayed in had initials of some of the prisoners still carved in the beams. We’ve stayed in many bed and breakfasts around the world during our travels, but that was our first time in jail! And, what a luxurious jail it was with every detail considered.
Galena is a resort town and although it was quiet because it was April and the weather was cool, we were told it gets very busy on weekends and holidays. We spent some time walking around the town the next morning after a three-course breakfast in jail and then drove to O’Hare Airport for our trip home.
Thanks for reading this travelogue.
Doug and I were travelling on a slushy Deerfoot Trail at 3:45 a.m. to catch the 6:20 a.m. departure on United Airlines to Chicago. It was the cheapest flight option that day, and we liked the idea of getting in early enough to gain another half day of sightseeing. Or, at least, we liked it until the alarm went off so early!
We arrived in Chicago at 10:45 a.m. (Central Time). After a lengthy line-up at the car rental, we set out to Lang Bed & Breakfast located in East Rogers Park in one of the northern parts of Chicago. There we met Bruce and Wayde who own and manage a charming bed and breakfast in a beautifully appointed house built in 1919. We stayed in the Stencil Room so named because of the hand-painted stencil patterns on the fine leather walls coverings. Check out the classy rooms: www.langhousechicago.com and a lively video of Chicago highlights: http://www.langhousechicago.com/page/gallery
The City of Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States at 2.8 million; however, the metro area is 10 million. Winter continued to be with us: wind, rain, with occasional sleet and snow throughout our three day stay. With the temperature hovering just above the freezing point, we walked along Lake Michigan where the waves—up to 16 feet in height—looked like we were experiencing a major storm on an ocean. We quickly learned why Chicago is called ‘The Windy City.’ Refuge, good food, and drink were found at the Public House, a pub near the Red Line L train stop at Jarvis Station, a couple blocks from the b&b.
Bruce and Wayde have transit cards which resemble a credit card that they give to visitors when they check-in at the b&b. Visitors are asked to leave approximately $20 on the card so that the next tourists can use it on the buses or trains until they become familiar with the system. This is a great idea, and we filled up the card at a station once we understood how to do that.
On the morning of April 14th we took bus number 147 which stopped just across the street from Lang House. The bus route runs along the lakeshore. The waves weren’t quite as high as yesterday, but it remained foggy and rainy with a moderate wind. We got off downtown and then walked to Navy Pier. Navy Pier is a 3,300 foot-long-pier, and we walked every foot of that pier from one end to another and back again. It was almost deserted outside with some families inside entering and leaving the Chicago Children’s Museum and a few people in the food court area. We didn’t go on the Centennial Wheel because of the weather. To see what Navy Pier is like in good weather, I checked the following link: https://navypier.org/support/about-us
We took the bus back from Navy Pier to the Red Line Train. Wrigley Field was a short walk from the train stop at Addison. I had purchased great infield seats for the afternoon Cubs baseball game. We lasted five innings and left when the Braves were up 10-2. Later, the Cubs came back and won the game 15-10. We wanted to see Wrigley Field—which we did—but that’s probably the coldest I’ve ever been. Not even the purchased Cubs blanket which I later had to add to the already full luggage helped. The locals were dressed in full winter gear.
We had decided to park the rental car in the b&b garage and use public transit so the trip to the museum on April 15th took about 90 minutes; however, we did get to see a great deal of the city. That morning we also saw the weirdness or uniqueness of a large city—depending on how you view a stoned young man doing his own rap version with all the jerky dance moves and vulgar words anyone could possibly know for about 15 minutes on the train. An announcement repeatedly said: “No gambling or soliciting on the train.” I felt like adding: “No more bizarre entertainment either!” Most people ignored him so Doug and I tried to do the same although his performance was more extreme than anything I had seen on my C-train trips when I worked in downtown Calgary. Doug and I were glad to get away from the racket when we disembarked to catch a bus.
There are so many museums in Chicago that we knew we couldn’t possibly tour all of them. So we selected the Museum of Science and Industry in south Chicago. We were told that is not a neighborhood to walk around in but we were surrounded on the bus and at the museum by people of all ages. This museum is almost beyond description with its diverse and detailed displays. A few notables: the Pioneer Zephyr Silver Streak (a diesel-electric streamlined train from the 1930s), a replica of the Wrights Brother’s airplane, a U-505 German Submarine captured off the West African coast in 1944, and on and on. If you’re interested in a preview of this amazing museum, here’s the link: https://www.msichicago.org/
We could have spent one, perhaps two days there. But, we had to leave because we had booked an Architectural Tour on the Chicago River. Before I leave the subject of the museum though, I want to mention a family history link. The building was originally built for the 1893 World’s Exposition and then opened as the Science and Industry Museum in 1933 during the Century of Progress Exposition. In 1933, Lloyd (my father, aged 12 at the time), my Grandparents Lester and Beula Lohr, and my Great-Grandfather G.W. (George) Lohr drove from Erskine, Alberta, to the Chicago World Fair. They also visited my Great-Grandfather’s brother, Solomon Lohr, and family in Mt Carroll, Illinois. Doug and I would visit descendants of that family later on this trip.
My grandfather was intensely interested in trains and had an elaborate model train set complete with a painted wall, tunnel, and other landscape features in the basement of their farm home. When I walked into the model train area at the Chicago museum, I was instantly a child back in my grandparents’ basement watching in fascination as the model train ran. I wonder if Grandpa Lohr got his ideas for his model train set from that visit to the exposition in 1933.
We took a taxi to the Navy Pier because of time limits. By this time, it was raining quite steadily so when we boarded the open boat, we were handed rain ponchos. Doug and I had rain coats so we actually sat on our ponchos. The tour was a chilly ninety minutes long, and a well-informed guide talked about all the buildings along the Chicago River including Willis (Sears) Tower (the top of which was totally shrouded in clouds), Old Post Office, 360 Chicago Observation Deck, Wrigley Building and others. My favorite was the Wrigley Building built 1921-1924, the Wrigley corporate headquarters until 2012. The website is informative with photos: http://www.thewrigleybuilding.com/
We left Chicago the next morning and drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Our goal was to visit the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn; however, there were no appropriate bed and breakfast locations in Dearborn. Ann Arbor is a pretty city, population 121,000 which may/may not include the total University of Michigan student population of about 45,000. We checked in at the charming Avalyn Garden b&b: http://avalyngarden.com/ Lee greeted us, showed us around, and then Doug and I walked through part of the campus and had dinner at a restaurant that Lee recommended.
On the walk back to Avalyn Garden, a man asked us for directions. He had recently moved from Beijing to attend university. Usually he took the bus but had decided to walk and was lost. His phone battery was depleted so with the maps on my iPhone and after a call to Lee at the b&b for assistance, we hope the fellow went in the correct direction. By then, Doug and I were on the wrong side of a ravine so we needed to call Lee back for directions as there didn’t seem to be a way across the ravine. When we got back to Avalyn Garden, Lee and Doug each had a Guinness and we visited until after 11 p.m. The interesting part about b&b owners and innkeepers is that they go the extra mile at all hours of the day and night for their customers.
There’s much more to this road trip story, but I’ll finish and post it another time. Thanks for reading.
Hello everyone. I will be posting an entry at the end of each month. Please feel free to respond.