Letter from Vivian

January 27, 2022 § Leave a comment

My Dad’s family up and moved halfway across the country to La Crosse, Wisconsin from Cedar Grove. I am sure that was a big deal for my Nana, and it probably kept her busy for many months, and being the good correspondent that she was, she needed to let many people know what was going on. I found this in her thing that she put together and sent out dated July 21st, 1950. Now, you will notice in the text that they arrived in February, so 5 months have passed, and I am sure she was itching to get the news out. As you read you will notice the reference to the current events of the world, as Korea was just making the news that summer.

Note that I left everything pretty much as she wrote it. I tend to capitalize the seasons and such, but she did not. She also likes the hyphen to continue a thought but introduce a break. I haven’t seen that much, but you editors out there can enlighten me.

This letter is being written because I have become so far behind in my correspondence that I don’t seem to catch up with it. So many of you have written to us and asked for all the news, and how we like Wisconsin that Elvin and I decided that the best way to solve the problem was to do it en-masse. So, here goes.

First of all, let me assure you that we are enjoying this experience to the fullest. Wisconsin is a beautiful state (so is New Jersey, New York, Colorado, Kansas, and Virginia) and like nothing that either one of has seen before! When we arrived here in February I am sure that everyone around here felt that we had come at the worst possible time to see any beauty. It was cold, snowy and ICE (that should be capitalized) was common. Our trip, as some of you know, from Fort Wayne on to La X was a veritable nightmare. But we felt that the bluffs (which are really big enough to be mountains to most of you) were lively in their bleakness. In the winter, the rock is bare and covered with many, many white birches and aspen.

Elvin and I love to take the little side roads. Most of these just lead into a farmer’s backyard, but at some point along the way one is bound to find a spot where one can look far down into the coulee and see farm nestled at the bottom. What is a coulee? We didn’t know until we had come to stay, but it is a deep valley surrounded by high ridges. Sometimes, the valleys are wide, but most of the time they are rather narrow. But, this valleys are not level as we knew them back east, and so the roads which pass through this section are winding and hilly-dangerous in the winter weather as one could imagine, and that is the reason that most people who are employed in La X live in town.

La X is a river bottom town. Once upon a time, the Mississippi covered the entire area and it left its residue of sand everywhere. There is no water shortage here, and the sprinklers have been going constantly since the last of May. All the water from the heavy snows must be in China by now. Even though the residents complain of this condition, it does have its good point as well. The wonderful drainage makes it possible to grow the biggest, most beautiful delphinium almost as easy as weeds-I’m certainly planning to have loads of them as soon as I am ready to plant my new perennial bed out in Ebner’s Coulee.

Our new home is on its way. It is an Early American farmhouse at last, and we are very excited about it. Kent and Elvin spent Sunday working on the wiring and the plumber is due to start this week. Unless we run into some unpredictable shortage, we should be able to move in by October first, but we aren’t being overanxious. Next summer we’ll be all ready for the guests who we hope will make the effort to come out to see us and let us show them the wonders of Wisconsin.

David Wiggins was out to see Kent and they had a grand time together. Dave flew out and he says that flying is the only decent means of transportation. It was a wonderful experience for him and we had fun while he was here. About the only thing that we didn’t do was to take a trip through one of the Government locks on the river. There just never seemed to be a barge at the right point. But Dave will be somewhat consoled when he hears that they were closed to the public a week before he left – a security measure because of the Korea incident.

One day I was invited to a feminine picnic on the river. We left North La X in a swanky Chris Craft cabin cruiser and went down the Mississippi to below Brownsville, Minnesota. Brownsville used to be an old trappers’ landing and in order to find the pot from the river, they used to erect a dead wildcat on a pole. Times have changed since then, ‘that’s for sure’ (La X saying), but when one is on the riverit is just as though one is in another world altogether. A great portion of the area is flood land during the springtime and so it is uninhabited. This makes the area free of summer homes and shacks and provides a vista of which one never tires. The headlands or bluffs extend as far down the river as the eye can see all the way to Iowa. This spring everything was as clear as a bell, but now there is a haze that gives a bluish cast to the distant scene. Cloe at hand, one passes islands and sloughs that are frequented by the numerous fishermen among whose ranks we can now count Elvin.

Everyone is home for lunch in this town. Oh, I can hear groans from some of you, and I will admit that it does take extra time. But all the men do it, and I must confess that I enjoy seeing Elvin as much as I did in the days when he and Burrill used to present themselves at the door to our apartment at the noon hour. But the repast has changed somewhat from the peanut butter of the old days to the lucious cottage cheese that one gets out here. In fact, David liked it so much that he had the milkman pack him some in an insulated carton to take to Mary on the plane. I haven’t heard if it was still good, but I do hope so.

Over the Fourth of July, we took a housekeeping cabin on Pike1 Lake in the Lac du Flambeau area and in the Chequamegon National Forest. We had hoped that the Gottrys would come up to join us from Kansas, but they couldn’t make it this time. This was our first trip up north-it was approximately 215 miles due north of La X. Our cottage was very attractive, warm and comfortable. But, unfortunately, the weather was cold, and the fishing was not at all good. We did catch a glimpse of how a lake appears in the sunlight, for one morning it was clear and the water was as blue as the sky and the trees stood out like tall, green sentinels. I’m sure you have seen pictures in the travelogues in the movies and have thought ‘well, I don’t know how they do it, but they must have some way of exaggerating the depth of the color’. I did too, but now I can say to all of you that there is no exaggeration and that the coloring is just as it really is. We are going back when we have the chance to see whether the fishing is good or not.

It is trying to attend to all the many little details of the house that is taking so much of my time just now. Elvin and I try to go out to the coulee at noon every day to check on the progress, and I am sure to lose an hour there too. Have I told you that the name of the place where we are building is called Ebner’s Coulee? I’m sure that sounds like an unusual name to most of you, but these coulees are named after the first inhabitant and it was Mr. Ebner who had his farm in ours at one time almost 100 years ago. So our address after October will be Route 2, Ebner’s Coulee, La X, Wisconsin. We really aren’t far from the town and Elvin will only be about 5 minutes at the most from his office. But the little area in which our coulee is situated is not in La X proper but in a little town called Shelby. It is a rural area and we have already had to build our own well – the clearest, best-tasting water around. So all in all, we are going to have our rural setting and still have the city advantages with a nice road coming to town. In Ebner’s Coulee there are four doctors (about a dozen families) and so the town sees that the roads are free from the snow by 7:30 in the morning!

There is a State Teachers College in La X. They have a summer school for children for the large sum of $1.00. This lasts for six weeks and includes regular schooling plus swimming in the school pool with instruction. Lynn has been attending and has just loved it-so have I for it has kept her busy. I have hopes that she will be able to go there this coming year, but the demand is far greater than the number that they are able to take so we will not know until after August 1st. Yes, I’ll have to tote her, and I know I said that my toting days were over, but all the children in the coulee go there. I know from past experience at Kimberley and Montclair Academy that children in the same neighborhood must attend the same school if they are to be friends. There are several children out there who are Lynn’s age, I am glad to say, and there are also two brothers Kent’s age who enjoy making models and trains as Kent does.

Mother and Father were also out to see us and I think that they had a good time. Father was intrigued by the rolling farmland and the healthy, clean Guernsey, Jersey and Brown Swiss cattle. I’m sure that they were most impressed with the whole vicinity, but they did not like the terrifying thunderstorms that we have. Both of them sat up in the hotel one night feeling sure that the hotel was doomed. Elvin and I usually sleep right through them, but poor Treff2 crawls under the bed and suffers with each one.

They did have a flash flood down at Prairie du Chien Saturday night and the Zephyr was marooned. One of the Trane men was on the train and he said that the track was washed out in the front of and in back of the train-250 feet of it! Fortunately, La X escaped the ravages of this flood, but it destroyed crops in the surrounding area and reached tornado proportions in some spots leveling barns and outbuildings. La X is free of tornadoes, thank goodness. I don’t know if it is true or not, but there is an old Indian legend that at the confluence of three rivers one will find an area free from tornadoes and cyclones. Here, the La Crosse, Black and Mississippi Rivers meet.

The Zephyr that I mentioned is the Burlington Zephyr4-that crack train that runs between the Twin Cities and Chicago. Because of it we are 2 1/2 hours from Minneapolis and Saint Paul and 4 hours from Chicago. The station is just a half mile from our new home in the coulee, and it is one of the handsomest stations that I have seen. The La X citizens did not want the Burlington to erect its station out in that district, because it is in a very nice country-club section with fine homes. However, they relented but insisted that the railroad purchase additional property and landscape it. This the did, and the result is a beautiful Lannon Stone building with large picture windows in the waiting room so that the travelers might get a vista of Grandad Bluff3, one of the highest points this side of the Twin Cities. There is a huge fireplace in the waiting room that is most enjoyed on some of our bitter cold winter nights, and this room is also decorated tastefully with murals depicting some of the outstanding views in and around La X. Now the residents are so proud of their “depot” that they often drive out just to see the silver Zephyr go through. And, go through it does, because the run from here down to Prairie du Chien is the fastest one in the entire country. I’m sure of that, because when Elvin and I were here in December the train went so fast that I was rooted to my seat and one of the porters couldn’t even walk through the car without holding on.

La Cross’s story would not be complete if I did not mention its good food and the hospitality of its citizens. Elvin and I have had a constant battle to keep our weight within bounds. They say the some of the best cooks in the world live in La X, and I am sure of it. No church function is complete without coffee and a “little” lunch. A little lunch consists of sandwiches, salad, hot rolls, and at least two kinds of cake! We already feel quite at home and everyone has been very kind to us doing all one could to make us feel that we were welcome in La X. It is true that people out in the middle-west are friendlier to newcomers than those in the east–I know that I, too, was guilty of ignoring new families who moved into our neighborhood in West Caldwell just as much as anyone else. But I do think that I can appreciate how those families must have felt since our move into a new state so far away from Jersey, and I intend to see that I will not by guilty of such inaction again. La X ha been nice to us and we just love it out here.

Love from the 4-H’s,

1 I believe she means Pine Lake as Pike Lake is East of Madison, and no where near Lac du Flambaeu.

2 Treff was the family German Short Haired Pointer. From what I understand they hate thunderstorms.

3 I see no evidence of this station any longer. There is a double rail cross down the street from where they were building, and Grandad Bluff is right there, so I am guessing such a structure was moved, or torn down. Today there is a station downtown La X, which may or may not be related. I don’t see any Lannon Stone, so I think not. My friend Deniz found this which has a series of plates relating to those descriptions from Vivian. Judging by the first plate, the station was out there right beneath Grandad Bluff, and does not stand there today. This view from State Street would appear to be about the same perspective as the first plate. Across the tracks is a large park and Golf Course now. Found it on this map, so it was at the end of State Street in 1963. And of course if you search long enough, wiki.

4 Was actually the Twin Cities Zephyr.

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