Friday, September 23, 2016

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Horicon Wisconsin

The best way to get information on local historical sites is to just stroll up and start asking questions.  So weekends when folks are out doing yard work and such are ideal.

We were passing through Horicon Wisconsin on a very warm Saturday afternoon.  So when I went up to 518 South Hubbard Street I found a couple of guys doing renovation work on it. The young man who is the owner of the house was happy to talk about it and when I said I had heard it had been a brewery he immediately took me to the back yard to show off the cave.

The house may not look much like the grand fantasy castle buildings that housed later and more successful brewing enterprises but that just makes it more special.  It recalls an era when anybody with a substantial house, a few outbuildings and a hillside for a storage cave could set themselves up in business.  Most of course only lasted a few years.  There is no way to tell how many of these small enterprises actually existed in odd little corners of the Midwest, lets just say "lots".

The above is the Paul Deierlein brewery.  The house/brewery was built in 1859 and was Horicon's first such enterprise.  It managed to stay in business until 1891 after apparently being owned in succession by Charles and then John Deierlein.  As usual the picture is muddied by family ownership.  Perhaps Father and Sons, perhaps Brothers.  

The storage cave is at the back of the lot on the hillside running down to the river.  It appears to have been reinforced with cement at one point.  It is on private property and should not be visited without permission.  But as I said the owner is happy to share the history of his historic property so asking is not unreasonable.

Supposedly there was at least one other small brewery on Hubbard Street that presumably took advantage of the same hillside.  There is a dam on the river today and I suspect it is an old mill pond. That would make getting ice for the storage caves fairly easy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Franklin Wisconsin

Franklin Wisconsin probably had big dreams once.  It was an early settlement in the western part of Sheboygan County and the hard working citizens perhaps hoped their little village would become a bustling metropolis.  They had a mill, stores, churches, a hotel, heck even a brewery. But the world passed it by and today it is a drowsy hamlet.  Just a dozen or so houses, a former tavern that is now a consignment store, a swell fire station and nothing more.

Traces of its former industry and its unrealized hopes are hard to find, but are there if you know where to look.

The brewery in Franklin was established in 1853 by a man named Menke.  A few years later it was owned by a Gustav Seidleman.  In 1858 it was damaged by fire, and a workman down in the basement was killed when 2000 bushels of barley crashed through a weakened floor and crushed him.

A new brewery was put up and the cave was said to have been excavated at that time.  This of course begs the question of how beer was being aged in the early years of the enterprise.  It was still in operation into the 1870s, but when the brewery went under the cave was sealed.  Later it was opened up again and used for social gatherings of a "Bachelor's Club".  As this was during Prohibition I think that one might reasonably assume that the members were evading both the authority of The Fair Sex and of the Federal Government.

The cave is described as being 60 feet long, 30 feet wide and ten feet high with a 25 foot entry passage leading to a seven foot wide door and the main chamber beyond.  A stove in the back was there to provide a bit of warmth to the Bachelors.

And what is there today?

An entrance among the underbrush.

The passage way, now partially collapsed.

Here is a great schematic of how an arched brewery cave was constructed.  A trench was excavated and a stone foundation laid down.  The extra row of darker stone is a nice touch but the reasons for it are obscure.  Then an archway of brick was laid, probably over a wooden form.  Here, rather unusually, the roof is flat instead of being a nicely formed arch.

That is actually not very good construction technique.  Notice how the ceiling is starting to fold in at the center line?  This cave is nearing a state of collapse and is NOT SAFE to enter.  I took a few pictures from the entrance and am quite happy to trust the published details as to what lies beyond.

I will say this again, do not enter this cave or any that look like it.  The ghost of that 1858 workman is probably haunting the place and he does not need any company.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Minnesota Twins - Decimation or Annihilation?

On my desk I keep a box of unopened Minnesota Twins "Premium Facial Tissues".  Kleenex if you will.

I have left it unopened not for lack of opportunities to weep in this most horrid of baseball seasons.  I am simply not sure how many of these are out there and this might have considerable collectors value one day.  Such matters are always about scarcity and I must assume that most Twins fans in the face of epic disappointment will have popped the box open and quickly gone through them. I am made of sterner stuff.

Oof, what a season.  I am jotting this down on 18 September with about two weeks to go in the dismal 2016 season.  My beloved Twins are currently the worst team in baseball with a record of 55 wins and 94 losses.

Mostly it has been the pitching staff that got them there.  Injuries, incompetence, trades that did not turn out as planned.  

Sometimes you speak of a pitching staff being "decimated".  But in the case of the Minnesota Twins it is far worse than that.  

The Twins began the 2016 season with 12 pitchers.  Four of those guys are still on the staff.  And the team had tried fairly hard to unload at least one of them in trade but had no takers.

Decimation means the loss of one in ten.  But the Twins pitching staff has been cut down not by 10% but by 75%.  That gets us very close not to decimation but to annihilation.

Decimation was a seldom used practise in the Roman army.  When a unit had exhibited cowardice in the face of the enemy they would have to draw lots.  One soldier in ten was then randomly put to death by his fellows.  Somewhat less unjustly all the officers would also be executed. As this practise was clearly very bad for morale it was done rarely.  Until I looked it up I had not known that this was done more often in the Republic than in the Empire. If you buy my theory that Star Wars basically ripped off the history of Rome, then you have to imagine Yoda and the Jedi Council being less merciful than Darth Vader and the Emperor.

In later days this sort of thing has been done less and less.  Perhaps the most recent example lies barely within the life span of a few very old folks.  In 1917 elements of the French Army refused orders to advance and mutinied.  Some details of the punitive actions that followed are still said to be sealed.

Decimation comes from the Latin decima, meaning ten.  Annihilation comes from nihil meaning nothing.  Hence nihilism, the absence of all belief.  Things did not get quite that bad this year for the Twins pitching staff.  Santana, Gibson, Pressley and Tonkin are still suiting up and throwing with variable levels of competence.  Perhaps with a little time left in the season one or two more will go down with injuries but at this point it hardly matters.

Of course nihilism does not infect True Fans.  We have belief.  In the off season shoulders will heal.  Management will make some savvy trades.  Winter will surely come, but so also comes the warmth of spring and with it "The hope that springs eternal...".

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Many Vices of a Novice Machinist

I am of course aware that puns are the lowest form of humor, although how they got demoted below Adam Sandler movies is a mystery to me. But bear with me, I am learning a whole new language.  So many interesting words in the machine shop.  Knurling, ferrules, wheel dressing...

It's a whole new world really.  So many many big toys...

And puns, so many puns.

The steel post on the end of the lathe is called a "knockout bar".  

Makes me think of a seedy establishment where on Saturday night you might hear "Three Jawed Chuck and the Lathe Dogs" play.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Because I spent enough time in ERs, Thank you very much.

When you work in the machine shop there are a lot of safety considerations.  These are not of the often fatuous "Health and Safety" edicts that my UK friends have to tolerate.  No, big powerful machines will hurt you if you are cavalier in their immediate proximity.

I certainly am not going to let my hair grow into a dangling pony tail.  I have seen enough in the ER to be a believer in eye protection.  I readily acknowledge my degree of ignorance and will often be asking for help with unfamiliar tasks.  Since Junior High shop class back in the early 1970s I have been assured constantly that oily rags left unattended for even a few seconds will surely burst into flames from spontaneous combustion. 

So most of the safety discussion was straightforward.

But I did have to stop and think about The Ring.

In my earlier career I would of course have to take my wedding ring off regularly.  Any time I would scrub in to assist in surgery or do a delivery off it would come.  The easy thing there was to just loop it into the little string ties on the scrub suit pants.

Once or twice after a particularly long and tiring night I did forget I had done this and toss the scrubs into the laundry basket.  In each instance I remembered soon after and recovered it.

But in the machine shop I won't be wearing scrubs, so where does the wedding ring go?

Pocket of the jeans would be easy and logical, but I don't think ideal.  Other stuff goes in these pockets.  My phone, car keys, change.  All mechanically inclined guys have a pocket knife.  I could see the ring ending up on the floor when I pulled something else out.  Or worse yet, my wife has a decades long career of dredging stuff up from the bottom of the washing machine. She used to keep a collection, roughly fifty Boy-Years of pennies, paper clips, fishing tackle, nuts and bolts.  It would not be a proud spousal moment to have my wedding ring end up in the Detritus of Housework collection.

So I'm going the full Frodo Baggins when working in the shop.

I guess the photo suggests that The One Ring is not doing such a bang up job at preserving me unchanged over many decades of long life. But who knows, without it things might be much worse!

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Last Running of the Llamas

Many small communities here in Wisconsin, heck probably everywhere, put on festivals of one sort or another.  Just a way to have a little fun, display civic pride, perhaps put a bit of coin into local cash registers.

Some of these events are conceived by sober minded burghers in the offices of the Chamber of Commerce.  Others are thought up by less sober people in saloons.  The Running of the Llamas in Hammond Wisconsin appears to be of the second variety.

The 20th Annual Running of the Llamas has just concluded.  It was the Grand Finale, The Last Call, the final Camelid Roundup.  For reasons not quite specified the event is coming to an end.

The first Running apparently was a stunt by The Hammond Hotel, a vintage drinking establishment on the main street of town.  Back in 1997 in a "customer appreciation event" three llamas dashed around the building several times....and then in the back door and out the front.  I have never been in a bar where galloping llamas went charging through.  But on reflection I have to say that I would be appreciative.  In any event the idea caught on and evolved into an annual festival.  The races are now down Main Street.

Some scenes - ne'er to be seen again - from The Running of the Llamas.

Most llamas are just darned cute.

A few are harder to love.  This guy has peculiar, piercing Hypnotoad eyes.  I found myself being subtly influenced to do the bidding of Llamakind.....

I might have been too impressed with his owner's hat.  This is Kahia, my pick to Win.  Despite two prior championships she finished last in her qualifying heat.  Check out the underbite. Orthodontists must dream of llamas.

Prior to the actual race there was a little parade.  Unicycles, belly dancers, a guy dressed as Uncle Sam.  And of course there was:

A bag piper followed by the parade's Master of Ceremonies traveling in rather Imperial fashion in his llama pulled chariot.

But on to the racing.  Some llamas and their handlers were really bookin' it.

Others rather less so.  But in the interest of journalistic accuracy I must report that this very reluctant llama saw the finish line just in time and sprinting forward won his heat!

It all went off without a hitch.  I credit Llama Security.

The winning llama did not get a victor's laurel.  No, he would have eaten it.  Instead there was a colorful basket of garden produce.

It was a sunny afternoon of light hearted fun but I felt just a twinge of sadness that this was "it".  But twenty years is a nice round number and I guess it makes sense to go out on a high note.  Certainly the crowd was appreciative, I don't think you could jam many more people into the downtown of this little hamlet with a population under 2000.  

Many were wearing llama themed headgear fancy or simple

Farewell to the Running of the Llamas.  Hammond Wisconsin will now be a quieter and less weird place.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Guard duty in Dubuque

Here's a charming little item from the Dubuque Daily Herald, September 22nd, 1885.

--"Punch" is dead and buried.  Punch was the dog the Glab Bros. had twelve years to guard their premises at night.  He slept aside the safe and was more formidable than a combination lock.  The dog was valuable to his owners.  He was worth $50, which sum has frequently been refused. The animal was buried yesterday aside the beer cave in the rear of the house, with all the respect his owners could give him.

Dubuque is an exception to the usual tedious story of brewing in Iowa, always on the verge of being voted "dry" by narrow minded officials.  It might help that elsewhere in the same edition of this paper is the news that Mayor Glab has just returned home from Chicago!

This photo of the entrance to the Glab Brewery cave is not mine, it was borrowed from elsewhere.  The cave is behind Holy Ghost Catholic Church and School on Central and West 30th Street.

The cave entrance is sealed and is partially behind a storage building.  The turqoise color is nice, I suspect it is a decorative touch from a previous incarnation as a "grotto".

The whereabouts of Punch are not certain but I prefer to think he is still resting nearby and that he enjoys hearing the sounds of children playing.