Ahoy! June 2009

May 28, 2009

A few days ago this nation commemorated Memorial Day. In small towns across Wisconsin, Legionnaires-veterans of war and service representing three, or sometimes four generations, still march in parades on Main Street. Afterwards, locals and family members, who drove back to their old hometown for the day, gather at a cemetery to honor those who served in the military. Some of the graves of those who died in service are marked with a special medallion. Some with a patriotic wreath. All are marked with a miniature version of the Stars and Stripes. Sometimes a band plays. Someone gives a speech. There are prayers, there are tears. Taps is played. Then the peaceful solemnity is shattered by the terrifying sound of the gun salute that marks the conclusion. Afterwards, people walk to the graves of family members to tell youngsters about their forebears. Others tend a gravesite by planting cheerful annuals, or putting fresh flowers in vases.

On the maternal side of my family, I am told, four boys, brothers, from one Wisconsin farm family, served in the Civil War. One was a drummer boy, and in his early teens when he left home. Three survived, including the drummer.

On my dad’s side, two of his older first cousins were World War II aviators in the Pacific. Both survived, neither wounded nor shot down. Other family members served-both grandfathers, my dad, brother, three of five uncles, and several cousins, but were all spared combat. However, my grandfather was in France in WWI and although he didn’t directly participate in combat, my grandmother told me he was never the same after the war. He suffered clinical depression for decades; he lived into his 80s. I have a photograph that was taken of him in his military uniform not long before he shipped out. He was so young and possessed highly sensitive eyes and a gentle looking demeanor, a contrast to the angry, critical man who chastised the grandchildren who were forced to whisper and tiptoe around his house to avoid his aggravation and rebuke. I wish I could have known the creative, funny, sociable man that people tell me he was, those who knew him in his youth. We grandchildren cannot fathom that those traits and that sunny personality were once those of the dark, troubled man we knew.

Compared to millions of other American families, ours is fortunate. We lost only one member, generations ago, in the Civil War. No limbs or lives were lost beyond that one life. There are no MIAs in our family. I am glad for that, and grateful that I spent childhood days in those solemn ceremonies among the dead. They teach history. They allow participants to directly learn about the sacrifice and loss sustained and suffered by military personnel, their families, neighbors, and community.

That connection to history, as I often note in this column, is one of the distinctions of Bay View. And although we didn’t set out to make this a history issue, a significant amount of this content is about Bay View’s history, or capturing and preserving it. A photo from the 2009 commemoration of the 1896 Rolling Mill Massacre is featured on page 5. This month’s Meet Our Writer profiles Anna Passante, who enriches our publication and her community with her thoughtful, well-researched contributions to our Historic Bay View column. This month she writes about Lenck’s Hardware store, located in the building now occupied by Delaware House on the northwest corner of Russell and Delaware. The building will receive historic landmark status on June 27 in a ceremony and presentation by members of the Bay View Historical Society. About six inches below this sentence, our Q10 column features BVHS, organized 30 years ago in the fall of 1979. It is rare for a city neighborhood to have its own historical society as Bay View does. Support it! Use the archives. Learn about the remarkable Beulah Brinton, whose home is now the site of the society and its archives. (You can support them by attending their wine and beer tasting benefit July 25.) Matt Sliker profiles Cream City Real Estate’s new digs in the little red brick building on Pennsylvania at Morgan and KK. His aunt, Joan Sliker, who owns the building and the business, is a longtime collector of antiques, including artifacts of Bay View’s history, some of which will be on display in the offices. The grand opening celebration is June 18 and open to the public.

The other theme that characterizes this issue is the greening of Bay View. At a more general level, we’re delighted to be able to report that the county buses will finally sport bike racks. Jill Rothenbueler Maher’s report details the cost and issues associated with implementing the racks, and shows how late Milwaukee was to adopt the racks. Better late than never.

Also on page one is Michael Timm’s news feature about the innovative rooftop garden installed on top of Lisa and Swee Sim’s building, where their business Future Green resides. We note that St. Thomas Aquinas Academy received a grant for its fourth grade environmental improvement project. There’s a photo of the new trees that were planted in holes dug into Sven’s parking lot’s pavement. We spotlight the greening project at Clement Avenue School. On page 11, Jay Bullock notes MPS green initiatives and focuses on the significant projects at Humboldt Park School, including transforming some of the pavement to grass. They also installed a rain garden that will serve as an outdoor classroom, in addition to reducing runoff and providing habitat for beneficial insects and other creatures. Michael Timm covers the dissent about the proposed Eco-Bay development for Bay Street. The net-zero project would be an innovation for Milwaukee and should establish a precedent for alternative energy sources and conservation.

We finally brought back our intermittent feature, Mystery Building, that’s on page 2. We received some of the most robust, postive responses to the first installment in this promised-to-be-ongoing-vignette, when it debuted in October 2008. Please, if you love something about the Compass, don’t tell us. Apparently we have a lot of Lake Woebegon in us and were so ashamed of ourselves for drawing positive attention to our work that it took us eight months to recover and to follow up. I wonder how many of you have seen the building that we ‘de-mysterytize’ this month.

Three more stories that I want to draw your attention to are Matt Sliker’s feature about a few of Bay View’s most winning dogs, page 1; the proposed dog park for Bay View Park, page 6, and the funding cuts that drove a stake in the heart of a long July 4th talent contest tradition that will no longer take place in city parks, page 12.

I look forward to seeing Bay View gather very soon at the glorious South Shore Farmers Market and all the other events that grace summer and fall here along Milwaukee’s stunning South Shore.

Happy long days of sunlight and bird-song garlanded mornings,

Katherine Keller

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