Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Fourth Museum: The Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Yesterday I asked my new friend Elisabeth to accompany me to the Maritime Museum in Manitowoc. This is one of those museums that I drive by about 5 times a week but never take the time to go into, because I was there when I was 6 and therefore I've already "done" that museum. Well, that changed yesterday. I was excited to tour the Cobia submarine and hopefully learn a little more about the huge barges and tankers that I constantly see sailing the lake from my wonderful vantage point at the hospital.

Elisabeth and I started the museum by watching a short movie about submarines that were made in Manitowoc. Did you know that 28 submarines were made for World War II in Manitowoc, and that 24 of them survived the war? I even read that the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company received several awards from the federal government for the quality of the boats and they completed their contract for the subs 15 months early! Then we headed into the submarine, which is permanently moored in the Manitowoc River, right outside the museum. Our tour guide was excellent and incredibly knowledgeable, and had a sense of humor to boot. We got a really good look at the bunks on go off on a tangent, they rent the submarine out for overnight sleepovers and I was really thinking about renting it for my next birthday party. After only 30 minutes on the sub, however, I quickly nixed that idea. The boat was swaying side to side just enough that you had to hold onto something or stand with your legs spread apart for stability. Let me tell you, when I got off the boat and back onto solid land I could still feel the ground moving beneath me, and there was a good solid hour where I seriously thought the contents of my breakfast were going to make a repeat appearance. I never really thought that I was affected by seasickness because I've been on quite a few boats, but evidently yesterday proved that wrong! Anyway, I really enjoyed the sub and it was neat to think that I was literally standing inside a boat that fought in WWII.
The rest of the museum was dedicated to exhibits for boats built in Wisconsin, a steam engine exhibit, the fishing industry in Wisconsin, and a really neat-looking kids place called the Children's Waterways Room where they get to play with water and wear water-proof vests. Elisabeth and I were very jealous we couldn't go in there, and she stood with her nose and hands pressed to the glass, looking into the restricted area for several minutes before we gave up.
Overall, I would say I enjoyed this museum the most so far. The sub tour was the highlight, but the rest of the museum was neat too. There's also a little exhibit dedicated to shipwrecks near Manitowoc/Two Rivers, which I always enjoy reading about. I also picked up a brochure for "Wisconsin's Schooner Coast...Sixty Miles. A Thousand Stories". The cities of Manitowoc, Two Rivers, Kewaunee, Algoma and Sturgeon Bay have joined together in advertising themselves as the Schooner Coast, with discounts at many businesses in those cities and even a trivia scavenger hunt for kids, with a prize at the end if they visit each of those cities and answer trivia questions about them. I just think it's cool that someone finally decided to capitalize on this amazingly rich history of shipping in Lake Michigan and use it to educate a lure tourists to this area. Did you know there's a shipwreck off Rawley Point in Point Beach State Park that's resting in 15 feet of water, with the top portion of the ship only 5 feet below the surface of the water? Supposedly in years where the lake is low the ship actually pokes out of the water! AWESOME!
I really hope you take the time to visit this museum, and that you enjoy it as much as I did!

Address: 75 Maritime Drive, Manitowoc
Hours: roughly 9-5, 7 days a week
Would I recommend? Yes! Definitely!
Awesomeness level: 4
Time required: No less than 2 hours (if you really walk through the exhibits fast)
Cost: $12 adults, $10 kids

Monday, October 10, 2011

Museum #3: The Rogers Street Fishing Village

Today I wrangled my friend Amber into visiting the Rogers Street Fishing Village with me. I've lived in Two Rivers for almost 5 years and haven't been there, and she's lived here for 11 years ( I believe) and not been there, so this was monumental for both of us. The fishing village contains several different buildings, including an old ice house, the Kahlenburg engine museum (Kahlenburg boat engines were made in Two Rivers), the LeClair fishing shed, the old lighthouse from the Coast Guard, the Buddy O fishing vessel, and the Shipwreck Museum.

We first entered the Buddy O, which was a fishing boat that actually sank and sat at the bottom of the lake for several years, only to be raised back up to the surface and turned into an exhibit. It was kinda cool to walk through because the ceiling was very short, necessitating a very short crew! We then walked through a couple of the other buildings and climbed the lighthouse only to find it locked :( A gentleman who was working there then took us down to the Shipwreck Museum, which is about 3 buildings down the block from the fishing village. Once there, he stood and talked politics, how to save the economy, bragged about having 7 Masters Degrees and having written 7 books. Then he bragged about how he came up with a plan to save Wisconsin's economy and how he gave it to his banker who just so happens to be best friends with Governor Scott Walker. So when the economy turns around, it will be 100% this man's doing. He told us that he knows lots of important people, and his exact words were, "I'm a very important person too, which you'd know if you knew me." Amber and I were just completed flabbergasted by this pompous man. I have never ever heard anyone brag about themselves so much in my entire life. He then (finally) took us into the Shipwreck Museum, which you have all seen if you've ever walked/driven down Rogers Street. It's right next to the abandoned motel. I honestly thought it was another abandoned building, too! I had no idea it was still in operation. It wasn't much, though. It had quite a few objects from 3 local shipwrecks- the Vernon, the Rouse Simmons and the Frances Hinton. They were neat, but I feel like once you've seen items rescued from a shipwreck they all pretty much look the same. I might also not be impressed with these because I've seen items recovered from the Titanic so this seems like small peanuts to me.

Overall, I don't want to discourage you from going to this museum just because of the terrible experience I had with the tour guide. He told us this is his last week of volunteering there (he's been working there for 143 days to be exact, he said). Just to give you a heads up, though, he's the man with the cankles (calf-ankles, ie no ankles), lots of gold jewelry and really bad breath. I hope God forgives me for all the terrible things I've said about this man, because I'm sure his mother really loved him (that's what I always think to myself when I meet someone I consider to be really unloveable). I think kids will enjoy this museum because you get to actually go inside the Buddy O, and it's a small enough group of buildings that about the time kids lose interest you'll be done.

The pictures are: me in front of the coast guard lighthouse at the fishing village, me studying the tools used for processing fish inside the Buddy O, me standing outside the Museum, and me standing outside the Shipwreck Museum after being bored silly listening to the guy tell his ridiculous stupid stories.

Address: 2010 Rogers Street
Hours: Mon-Fri 10-4, Sat-Sun 12-4 Open until mid-October, then closed till Memorial Day
Would I recommend: Eh. Maybe, just so you can say you've been there
Awesomeness level: 2
Time required 30-45 minutes
Cost: $4 adults, $2 kids

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The second museum: Two Rivers History Museum

Yesterday on the way home from the Wood Type Museum, I walked past the Two Rivers History Museum. I don't see it open very often, so I decided I had better strike while the iron is hot. I got a personal guided tour from a very nice older lady there, and it was pretty interesting.

The museum is located in what used to be the convent for St. Luke's church. It is now a collection of many different things. Each room in the convent is dedicated to something different, including dolls, music, aprons, glass/crystal baskets, genealogy, local churches, Boy/Girl Scouts, local football teams/Green Bay Packers, and items from different nationalities. Basically, it's a hodgepodge of items that are old that were donated when someone died. Does that sound harsh? Yes, but it's actually exactly what the woman who gave me the tour said. She was really kinda cute the way she kept almost apologizing for the seemingly random collection of items they have. I found it kind of interesting to talk with her about what Two Rivers used to be like. She showed me a bunch of old pictures of St. Luke's church, which is where my gym is now located. It's amazing how different it looked 50 years ago! I also got to see some neat pictures of the old high school in Two Rivers. It certainly was a beautiful building.

I had a nice time talking with the woman volunteering there, although I will say it wasn't necessarily the best museum I've ever been to. If you're just sitting around doing nothing some afternoon, I would recommend you check it out. Two Rivers natives will probably really appreciate a lot of the items that they have from back in the day, although I found them interesting even though I'm an outsider.

Address: 1810 Jefferson St
Hours: Mon-Fri 10-4, Sat 10-3 and Sun 1-4
Would I recommend? If you don't have anything else to do
Awesomeness level(1=sucky, 5=CAN'T MISS): 2
Website: none
Time required: 30 minutes if you have a guided tour, less if you go at it alone

Friday, October 7, 2011

The first museum of the month: Hamilton Wood Type

The first museum I attended as part of my October challenge was the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum at 1619 Jefferson St in Two Rivers. I had visited this museum shortly after I moved to town with my parents about 5 years ago, and I wasn't too impressed. However, I watched a program about the wood type museum on PBS last week and it made me want to give it a second chance.

For those of you who don't know what wood type is (and I didn't before I went to the museum), it's the wooden blocks with letters carved onto them that were used to print newspapers, posters and billboards in the early 1900s before they came up with more modern methods. They have, I would guess, several thousand different types of fonts at the museum, with maybe 50 or so displayed. They also have a lot of the machines that they used to make the type displayed. Since I've been there last, they have made quite a few improvements. For one thing, it was warm in there. Last time I went it was during the winter and it was about 45 degrees in the building (I'm probably exaggerating). They have a lot more type displayed in neat cases that were made by volunteers. There's a nice young woman working there, who told me she had been hired 2 months ago as the assistant curator. She enjoyed that I was trying to visit every museum in the county and even asked for my blog address (believe it or not, I don't think I told her the right address). Also, the museum is a lot hipper than I remember. While I was there, a young couple about my age walked in and started taking pictures, and then a family. I'll be honest that I don't understand how people even see the museum- it's not on a main street, and it kind of just fades into the rest of the Hamilton factory. My best advice is they not only need to advertise a little, but they need a bigger sign so people know they are there and are OPEN!

While I was there a volunteer was using a press to print on the paper bags they use for any souvenirs bought at the museum. I watched her for a little while, which was pretty interesting. What I found neat was that they still allow people to come in and use the wood type to make things. It's mostly the artsy type of people who get into it, but they have samples of some of the things they made hanging on the walls and it's very old-school. My new friend the assistant curator said they have some sort of get together for people who love wood type called Wayzgoose 2 2011 in November at the museum and they are expecting over 100 people to come from all over the country.

My overall impression: I would recommend everyone go there just once to envision what work used to go into the making of a simple newspaper or banner. I can honestly say I had never even thought about wood type before ever in my life before visiting this museum, but now I do have an appreciation for it as an art form. A lot of the fonts are beautiful and decorative.

Also, and most exciting in my opinion, is that Target recently visited the museum and selected many different types of wood type for their new fall line of clothing. They had some of it for sale at the museum, but of course Target has even more. When I saw one of my friends post the link on Facebook to the Target commercial for it, I was like, "NO WAY! THAT'S IN MY TOWN!" This is the link to see all the goods at Target. com The commercial is towards the bottom of the page so you can watch that too.

Would I recommend? Yes
Awesomeness level (1=sucky, 5=CAN'T MISS): 3
Hours: Mon-Sat 9-5
Time required: less than 30 minutes

Thursday, October 6, 2011

No more dietary challenges for me!

I am so, so, so glad September is over. I have to say that I think this was my most difficult challenge- almost as bad as when I gave up chocolate for Lent. To refresh your memory, my goal for September was to eat vegetarian. I started off the month going to the Shawano County Fair with my parents, where I had to endure my dad's withering looks as we searched the entire fair looking for something for me to eat that didn't have meat in it and wasn't a deep fried appetizer. I eventually found a grilled cheese, but now I remember why none of the Smith family are's just something we DON'T DO, according to my dad. He says it's something people do just for attention. I have come to my own conclusions, though. I think it's a way of life for people who feel very, very passionately about animals. Vegetarianism is not for the weak at heart, and the reason I say that is because the world is stacked against you! American culture is geared toward meat eaters. Every restaurant, festival, EVERYTHING features meat! Have you ever seen a brat fry serving an option for vegetarians? Not if you want to eat more than a plain bun and a bag of chips.

I went to Applebees last week, expecting that since they are a nationwide franchise they would have SOMETHING for me to eat. Every one of their salads came with meat on them, and unless I wanted to order an appetizer, there were no meat-free options. I ended up asking the waitress to just leave the chicken off my salad. I will also say that unless if you go to a restaurant that actually does "meat-free" on purpose (I mean actually offers vegetarian options), I often left feeling not full. My dad would argue it's cause I'm not eating enough protein, but honestly even if I got a sub at Subway with every type of veggie they offered, my brain still knew there was no meat on it and I felt like I missed out on the best part of the sandwich. It's just psychological.

We went to Fazoli's last Friday and I asked the girl at the counter if their baked spaghetti had meat sauce on it. She said no, so I ordered it. Then she asked if I wanted to add meatballs to it, and I said no. She laughed and said, "Oh yeah, you said no meat. You must be a vegetarian like me, huh?" And I just kinda chuckled and said, "Sort of."

After this challenge I am officially declaring that there will be no more dietary challenges for me. No more adding or subtracting things that I stuff in my face. It's just too much a part of my daily existence and I really feel like I am missing out on life. I will admit that I let myself eat meat at Jason and Natalie Schamper's wedding, at the Employee Luncheon at work and at Octoberfest, so at least I had 3 opportunities to remind myself of what I was missing.

Now, on to this month's challenge. After much discussion with Laura and Kyle Lobner, who gave me many excellent ideas which I didn't use, I have decided to try to visit every museum in Manitowoc County this month. Vicki Franko gave me this idea, and although I've been to several of them, I look forward to visiting them again and giving you all the feedback. Maybe I'll stumble across something really cool that I can recommend to everyone...I'm going to try to write a separate post for each museum I visit, plus rate them on things like coolness factor. Stay tuned!!!