Chaotic Summer Beauty

25 July 2008

Happy Birthday, Joseph!

Since I got back to Wisconsin on Thursday, I suddenly felt like I’d been given most of a day as a gift—a rare and wonderful feeling of “free time.”  Not that I didn’t have things I could be doing, of course.  But, the perfect end to a wonderful few days at home, was a Friday of low self-expectation!  So, I jumped on the opportunity to meet Stephen at the brand new Civil War Museum in downtown Kenosha, and attend a living history performance.  It didn’t hurt that I’ve been hearing about this museum and it’s going to be awesome when it’s fully open.  And it didn’t hurt that I am rather well acquainted with both the talented actress (Mary Kababik, who plays the queen here at Bristol) and the director (Jim Farris, of the Guild of St. George) of this theatrical living history program.  Add to all that, the promise of lunch at the famous Franks Diner, and I was totally “in!”

As the audience for this charming one-woman “show,” we were asked to imagine ourselves to be the Kenosha Ladies’ Aid Society and guests.  The year:  1864, I believe.  We were then addressed by Mrs. Cordelia Harvey, widow of the governor of Wisconsin, and known by many hundreds of soldiers as “The Wisconsin Angel.”  She proceeded to bring us news of the conditions under which our wounded and sick soldiers had been living, and informed us of all the things we could do to help.  She told us of her travels to dozens of army camps and even of her visits with General Grant and President Lincoln.  She told us with tears in her eyes of the hardships being endured, and how very appreciated are small things like blankets and haircuts and news from home.  She told us of the death of her husband and how she was determined to continue the work he had begun and had died doing—showing care and concern and giving aid to our Northern troops.  And she told us of her biggest success—that of convincing the President that the sick and wounded should be brought home to Wisconsin to recover and recuperate—and the establishment of hospitals for them, here in the north where the very air will help to heal them! 

It was a delightful presentation, and I was thoroughly entranced—involved and laughing and crying with this woman from the past.  The presentation ended with a brief question and answer session, and then we were introduced to the actress herself and invited to ask further questions, both regarding her, and regarding the woman she’d portrayed.  The entire event was very informative and enjoyable.  Stephen and I stayed and visited with Mary (the actress) and Jim (the director) for a little while, and then headed to the diner for lunch.  Franks is a Kenosha institution and has even been recently featured on the food channel!  It is the oldest continually operating diner of its type still in the country!  The two lovely women who own it, are also the kind people putting a roof over Stephen’s head this summer.  So, I cannot explain why I’d never been there, but I fixed that!  <grin>  I had the best tuna melt I’ve ever had.  Must be something about the eighty-year-old grill it was cooked on!  After lunch, I got to see the cute little house these wonderful ladies ivie in, and the beautiful, practically lakefront neighbourhood it sits in. 

And directly across the street, is this little house, with its amazing English garden. It is apparently the oldest house in Kenosha, and it is absolutely charming.

Finally, I could put it off no longer, and I had to get back to site and back to work.  I got all my boxes, including the one I sent to myself, checked in all the product, and spent a couple of hours in the workshop before bedtime.  Kelly and I spent the last hour or so of our evening sorting through Victorian reference books in preparation for Dickens projects!

~MB