A Cat and a Career

Tomorrow morning I’ll sit in the chair looking out over the trees on the street below my bedroom window and think how I used to balance my books on its arms as I read and wrote because our cat would lay in my lap—stretched out, paws crossed, eyes closed and purring to the quiet sound of my prayers.

Rose is a stinker, feisty and free, able to outsmart the den of foxes that used to live next door. Undaunted by them, she’d lie sleekly across the sidewalk, flaunting her bravery. Bunnies, birds and mice her prey, without front claws she’d scale a tree if necessary.

But she didn’t come home this week. She may have been outsmarted.  I’m sure she put up a fight and if she went down it was on her own terms—free to roam, to explore, experience life’s beauty. It’s interesting that she chose this week to depart—the same time of year as my mom and brother. I’m conscious of my heart, its size, its weight. Our pets come in and go out like our accomplishments—a gift so present one day and suddenly gone the next.

Love your pets. Enjoy your accomplishments when they’re there. I’m working hard to replace the hole in my heart.  We’ll be looking at a couple cats this week that need a home.

I know this doesn’t sound related but stay with me. I’ve spent a couple years trying to preserve and document Dad’s life and accomplishments as a way to hold on to him if the time came when he, like Rose, would not be knocking, (or mewing) at the back door. And just when I thought we’d finished those stories, we were outsmarted, so to speak.

We were on Washington Island together recently when he told me this:

“Well, after fifty-five years as an architect, I’ve done some reflection.  When I graduated from college I thought I would design worship spaces that would help bring people to Jesus.  St. Edmund’s congregation has moved on and the building is for sale.  The Chrystal Cathedral in California, perhaps the grandest scale of church architecture stands empty and is also for sale.  Whereas, there are church ministries worshiping in remodeled warehouses all over, and are very effective. The conclusion I’ve reached therefore is, it’s not about architecture.  So what does that mean?  My life as a church architect was a waste?

“My journey as an architect taught me a lot and gave me many opportunities to witness for the Lord.  But did the spaces I create accomplish this?  No.  I believe the answer is no because that which I pursued could never be attained.  And yet perhaps, there were aspects of that journey that were beneficial to the purpose I pursued.  In the end, I realized that it can never be architecture that draws people to Jesus, it’s only the Word.”

I was moved.  I thought that was the end of the story. Then I got a call from Scott Sprout. He oversees missions at Crimson Way which is the new church, he said, inside the old St. Edmond’s which was just recently sold.  Scott didn’t know the architect was still living but found out he was when he came across Sundays with Dad. It looks like St. Edmond’s will once again be filled with music, and children and worship and, most importantly, the Word. You can imagine Dad’s joy when he heard.

They invited Dad to come and share the story of his design at the service tomorrow.  If you’re free, stop by at 10:30, 14625 Watertown Plank Road, Elm Grove. We’d love to see you.

So, just when I thought it was the end, I discovered it was only another new beginning.

God bless you Rosie.

A New Era: Architect’s Memoir

“HELLO, Wenzler ARCHitects!” Leslie Schott answered the phone at my dad’s office the same way for over thirty years. She was a great office manager and kept everyone and everything in order. The conversation that followed was always the same too…

“Hey, Leslie! How you doin’?”

“OH, Hi!! “I’m FINE, how are YOU?” She had a way of really punching her syllables.

“I’m good. Is Dad there?”

“Oh, sure! He’s here. Just a minute, I’ll get him for you.”

Dad always took our calls. He never let on that he was busy—you’d think it would have occurred to me to ask, but it didn’t. There was something about Dad’s office that made me want to work in an office. It was friendly and exciting. I’m sure it had something to do with his secretaries because I started playing office in our attic on the farm before I turned ten.

Wenzler Architects moved from Wilson Drive to Brookfield in the early 1960s when Dad’s secretary, Doris Flugstaf, saw a For Rent sign above a law office on Brookfield Drive on her way home from work one day. Dad had been making the commute from the farm to Milwaukee for years and she was looking out for him. Doris’s husband had died, leaving her with two daughters to raise when Dad hired her part-time. She had a big impact on the office.

While Dad was on his fellowship in Europe, Doris and John Wallerius, a friend from school, kept his office running. Doris also fell in love during that time with an F.W. Dodge Corp. representative named Sam Severson. Sam would stop by the office to get the latest news on Dad’s work. Learning that he would be best man for Doris and Sam’s wedding didn’t make Dad feel any better when he found out that Doris would be leaving the firm not long after they moved into the building she had found for him.

Next came Betty, with the red hair and painted eyebrows. She wasn’t too thrilled that there wasn’t any hot water in the sink under the steps, near the bathroom, next to the law office on the first floor. “Bill, can’t you talk to the landlord about turning on the hot water? I have to go downstairs, out the door of the lawyers’ office, wash my hands in the sink under the steps in cold water and they are so cold I can’t type!”

Dad talked to the landlord, who turned on the hot water and raised his rent. After a while, he moved again to the lower unit of a two family complex several blocks away. It was owned by the same landlord, Fred Gerlach, who was the husband of our third grade teacher at Brookfield Elementary.

The office moved one more time.

“The firm continued to grow,” Dad said. “We were hired by the Kohl family, represented by Bill Orenstein, to design the Northridge Lakes housing on 76th and Brown Deer. One Sunday morning after church, Dolores and I were shopping around for an office space downtown and came across the unfinished second floor in the Steinmeyer building on 3rd and Highland, above Usinger’s. I talked to the Landlord and struck a deal. Early on in the Northridge Lakes planning, Bill Orenstein took me to San Francisco to meet with the landscape architect. I was very impressed with the exposed architecture which the architect had sandblasted and cleaned up and made into a striking office. After we returned, that thought stayed in my head and the Steinmeyer building was a perfect opportunity to create a loft space in Milwaukee. I struck a deal of $1.00 a square foot a year with the landlord.

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“Our office staff and friends came and tore out the two spaces and stripped them down to their structure. I remember Gerry McKinney helped. We had a huge pile of lumber right at the window overlooking Highland Avenue, ready to load into a dumpster. I vividly remember Gerry, who you may remember played fullback for the University of Wisconsin, tackling the pile of lumber. He grabbed a long 4 x 4 out of the pile to throw into the dumpster but didn’t know that the window was closed. It flew right through that window and we were off and running with the renovations.

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“Ed, who was in his early teens, and I did all the sandblasting. It took us a few months and we moved in in the early 60s. When the family moved back to the city in 1970, we finally ended the long commute from home, to our church on 4th and Meineke, and our office.

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“Dolores liked the loft concept and wanted it for our home. After we had bought Shepard we were all down after church looking it over, trying to figure out what to do with it. It was Dolores’ idea to tear down the walls and ceilings and make it into a loft space like the office. We bought it on January 1, 1970 and moved in on April 1, which was important because after that we would have had to pay tuition to the Milwaukee schools. We got the occupancy permit even though the building inspector didn’t think it was finished because everything was exposed.

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Dad ordered pizza from Lisa’s on Oakland this night and we celebrated the new fireplace.

“The outside of the house was four inch cedar siding that had been painted green. Everything was loose so we scraped it off and stained it. All of the original homes of this period, 1890s, were built out of four inch lapped cedar siding. My standard approach to design was to make the exterior and interior out of the same materials. We pulled off the interior plaster, put in new wiring, insulated the stud space and put on 1 x 4 inch lapped siding. The significance of this to me was that, as with an individual, what’s on the outside should reflect what is on the inside.

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“On the third floor we put insulation and drywall over the attic space. We had to do that because if we exposed the structure, there wouldn’t have been any insulation!”

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*****

When Wenzler Architects and Associates closed in 2011, an era ended for our family. But the smell of the inks and paper, cedar walls and exposed wood, the track lights and Leslie’s voice will stay forever with me. The architects at their drafting boards, busy designing and creating beautiful spaces for the rest of us to enjoy was the excitement in the air—to name a few: Mike Johnson, Dave Brandt and Jim McClintock. Then later, Neil Kruger, Brian Spencer, Keith Anderson…and eventually, three generations of Wenzler architects working alongside each other—Dad, my brother Ed and my nephew Chris.

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I guess it’s no wonder that when Mom and Dad decided to downsize and leave the house on Shepard I cried for three days. I had never owned a house. It hadn’t been important to me but when Todd looked into my heartbroken eyes and told me we could buy it, I knew that had changed. A new era had begun.

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Little Black Dresses?

Late last fall, Dad and I were in the car on our way to the Sunday service at a church he had designed. He’d been asked to give a talk on it for Doors Open the following week. It was a church designed with a hill around it, a solar tower and grass covered roof—green before too many architects were thinking green.

It probably would have been good to have asked him a question about the church that morning but instead I said, “I’ve been thinking about starting a new blog—one of my own—a place where my stories can live so they aren’t randomly mixed in with yours.”

“I think that would be good,” Dad responded.

“Really….?”

“You certainly are moving in several directions with your writing. Why, I think you’re going to end up with a series of books.”

“Really…? I’ve thought about a title for it, Not According to Plan……reflections on love, life and little black dresses.”

“…..Little black dresses…? I don’t think I like that. That’s what got Clinton into trouble.”

What? “…..I think that was a red dress, Dad….” But who cares?

“No….I don’t think so. I don’t like it.”  I will always be my dad’s daughter.

I turned and looked out the car window. Why that’s my most practical wardrobe staple! It can be worn day or night with boots, tights, jeans, heels, sandals, flats or…. I’ve worn little black dresses my entire adult life. I’ve learned to pack a suitcase with little more than a black dress. I felt accused of having dressed inappropriately for decades. My father’s opinion can do that to me.

“I’ve got my mind on my talk.” He said then. “I can’t think about this right now.” I let the subject drop. For months.

It had become clear not long after we started Sundays with Dad that the path we had started out on had turned into a landscape. I was writing more than Dad’s stories—which didn’t really go with the blog title. I could hear him thinking, why is that story there, stay focused Debbie.

I didn’t know when we started out that I was about to discover I liked writing stories as much as Dad liked telling them. So the space we shared became a little crowded. It amused me that even a cyber-home occupied by parent and child could reach a point when it was time for someone to pack up and move out.

We continued on though, with our shared blog space. I weaved my stories around his. We had fun. We made it work. I recorded the memories that shaped him into the man he is and some about me into who I am.

After writing my last story, My Baby’s Getting Married, I realized it was time for a change…one where I get to be the parent too.

If you want to follow me there, you can do it here Not According to Plan…..reflections on love, life and little black dresses..

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Dad has a new project in mind too, so Sundays will still be here.  I love my Sundays with Dad, and I love sharing them with you.

Disruption to Joy

Students set the gym mats on fire in the school basement and tables and chairs were flung through the windows of the third floor cafeteria. There was obvious tension created by bringing kids of different backgrounds together and it blew up not long after we arrived at Riverside in 1970. I remember the day teachers had to lock the classroom doors from the rowdiness filling the halls.

I sat at my desk and watched the anger on the faces of the mob of kids passing by and looking in the glass window of the door. Our teacher kept teaching. Todd was in French class and some kids smashed his classroom door window and came in. One of the kids danced with Mrs. Lynch, the French teacher. “They ballroom danced,” Todd said as we remembered the day together. “She was really cool about it. They just danced and the kids left.”

I thought to myself, once again, if there was more dancing there would be less fighting.

Dad had heard about the school disruption that day and was coming up the front school steps when he ran into Mr. Kennedy, one of the four assistant principals. The kids causing the disruption were all in the auditorium by this time with a local radio announcer who had shown up because he heard about the school ‘riot’. Dad started to go into the auditorium.

“Don’t go in there, Bill.” Mr. Kennedy said. “You’ll only make it worse. They’re meeting together. Let the kids talk it out.”

“I’m going in Joe. They can’t just take over the school like this.”

“Let it be. You won’t help.”

I’m going in.”

“Bill. I’m asking you. Let them be.”

Dad gave in, “Alright, I won’t go into the auditorium today. But I will never come back to this school and be told where I can and can’t go.”

The days passed and things calmed down. Mom and Dad were at the school a lot, walking the halls. They got to know the administration, teachers and eventually some of the student leaders like Rodney Drew. They went to the SPTA meetings and tried to help the school raise money.

20140301_192200_resizedBrookfield fundraisers had been ice cream socials where everybody baked things and brought them to sell. When Dad suggested something like it, the kids laughed—‘Ice cream? Why not sell barbecue?!’ And so Riverside had its first barbecue fundraiser.

“Usinger’s was a client at the time,” Dad said. “I talked to them about getting a good price on spare ribs. We had no idea how many people would turn up so Usinger’s agreed to stock Sentry on Oakland Avenue which was a couple blocks from Riverside. We would be able to easily pick up more meat if we needed it and avoid having a bunch of ribs leftover.

We needed a big grill and I remembered a client who had had a barbecue grill made out of a horse water trough. So I found one of those and took it to Riverside Park on the top of our Ford station wagon. The idea of having the barbecue was a risk because there was such tension at the time between the white and African American students. But everybody agreed to try it as a way to bring the Riverside kids together and hopefully raise some money.

We lost $275.00—I should have known you can’t make money on meat—but it went well. A newspaper reporter from the Journal came and wrote a story on it. I could not believe his headline:

Races Stay Separate at Barbecue

I just couldn’t believe that. It was such a great opportunity to make a positive story—from disruption at school to a barbecue picnic…..from disturbance to joy. Of all the things he could have said, that’s what he chose. I did call him but it was such a missed opportunity.”

I reflected on what Dad said about the reporter. I’m sure he just wrote about what he saw that day. He was probably right—friends hung out with friends. The point though, was that we were all there together. Compared to what we had all just been through, it was a hopeful step in the right direction.

I was sitting at my desk this past week scheduling my visits to our Ballroom and Tap classrooms throughout Milwaukee. This is no small task—there are eighty-seven of them in fifty schools this year. Each school, like each student, has a personality and history all its own and deserves special attention. I like to ride my bike to the schools, though many are now out of riding distance. Last year, I got lost around Hadley and 1st Street on one of my trips and asked a lady on the street for directions. She said, “Honey, you have to ride your little fanny right back up that hill you just came down, take a right at the top then go about six blocks.”

One of the public schools in our program is Lloyd Barbee Montessori. Lloyd Barbee was one of the most important figures in the Milwaukee Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. He started his own law firm in 1962 and headed up a number of civil rights organizations including the Madison NAACP. He was a longtime advocate of total school integration and led the struggle to desegregate Milwaukee Public Schools. His daughter Daphne Barbee was in our class at Riverside—she was a cheerleader and in Todd’s AP (Advanced Placement) English class.

In the 1970s, Riverside High School was one of the first MPS schools to bring kids from different neighborhoods together and try to make it work. For the most part, it did, though some may feel differently. Today, Milwaukee teachers and administrators are working hard under difficult circumstances. When I think of Danceworks faculty traveling throughout the city to bring ballroom and tap into the classrooms, I think of Lloyd Barbee’s work in the 60s to bring students together. I wonder what he’d have to say about seeing our students working together today and our schools coming together through a dance program. I think of the Riverside Barbecue.

Maybe it took a little longer than you would have thought Dad, but maybe, just maybe we are moving in the direction from disruption to joy. It takes time to get to know and understand and love and trust each other. You have to give it time.

“Human progress never rolls on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” Martin Luther King Jr.

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Why Move?

Our stories have aligned—my parents’ and mine. I look at my work today and can see how the connecting line is drawn back to our Church on Fourth and Meineke.

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4th Street

Walk with me up the steps of the red parish house next door. Come in and meet Dad’s Senior High class—the Glisper sisters, the Ingram brothers, James Allen and his brother Gregory, the trouble maker. Smell the donuts Mom and Dad would pick up at the bakery down the street. See the big metal coffee pot to heat up water for Swiss Miss Cacao mix. Hear the voices and the laughter. The students in Dad’s class didn’t always show up though…they almost stopped coming at one point. Then Mom and Dad came up with a new approach to teaching Sunday school.

Ask Dad about our move back to Milwaukee and you’ll get a chronology of his church experiences. I kept trying to get him to talk about how he wanted to see Milwaukee schools integrated and stabilized but he kept talking about the churches we attended.  Then I realized the stories were one and the same.

It begins at Grace Reformed Church on Ninth and Chambers then continues to Faith United Church of Christ. Faith Church was one church at two different locations—Seventy-Eighth Street, in a white neighborhood and Fourth Street, in the inner city. We started at one and ended up at the other.

Dad will tell you he could write a book on his church experiences alone. That might upset some—he was always taking on the rabble-rousers. Everybody has their own version of the stories and we all usually think we were in the right which doesn’t create the harmony a church is called to. Nevertheless, if there was a constant throughout our family history, it was the church.

“After graduating from the University of Illinois and moving to Milwaukee, Dolores and I attended Grace Reformed Church on Ninth Street. We were very involved—I was superintendent of the Sunday school, President of the Council and Dolores was in the Music Ministry and played the piano. After we returned from Europe we found out that the council had reached a conclusion it was God’s will that they sell the Ninth Street church to an African American congregation and build on a new piece of ground on Seventy-Eighth and Hope, just north of Capital.

Grace Reformed was the first German reformed church in the city of Milwaukee. The first German evangelical church was located on Fourth and Meineke. After much debate, the two congregations agreed to merge into one and sell the Ninth street location to an African American Methodist church. So the process moved forward— selling the Ninth Street church, constructing a new church on Seventy-Eighth Street, and continuing ministry at the church located on Fourth and Meineke. This is how it happened that there became one congregation with two locations. Personally, Dolores and I did not feel that it was right to leave Ninth Street and spoke out to that affect. We didn’t get any support. We never fully agreed with or understood the decision that was made.

We became very active at Seventy-Eighth Street, singing in the choir and teaching Sunday school but we also felt drawn to the Fourth Street location. This was more than just a passing feeling and we soon became aware of the fact that God was calling us to minister at Fourth Street so we started to get involved there. Before long, we made the change and settled in. Dolores picked up the musical responsibilities—playing piano and the beautiful pipe organ and I taught the Senior High Sunday School class.

It’s strange when I reflect on it, how great everything worked out, originally moving from the city into the edge of the suburbs, having the barn and eventually a bunch of animals. The truth is, I genuinely loved the farm as all the family did. But we spent a lot of time going back and forth from Brookfield to Milwaukee.

On a Sunday in January 1965, I found myself with no Sunday school students showing up for my class. “What have I done wrong?’ I asked the pastor Reverend Gordon Sperry.

“Probably nothing,” he told me. “Maybe the youngsters have some ideas.”

So I called some of the kids together on a weekday and learned they had no objection to me or my teaching. But they needed more activity. I asked them where their hangout was and they said, “What hangout?”

I knew they were telling the truth—they didn’t have one. Some of the kids came from homes with no fathers and had many problems in their lives. They needed a place to talk with people who cared and I knew they had little use for the traditional church activity.

Dolores had been to a coffee shop on Prospect Avenue on Milwaukee’s east side and thought the kids might enjoy something like that. So we took a group of my senior high students to it and they did seem to genuinely enjoy it. We thought the idea of a church coffee house might be the way to go. The basement church school room seemed like an ideal space for us. So my students helped us get it all cleaned up. We painted the walls white and threw out a lot of junk. It got the name the Ash Can because the kids filled eleven ash cans with trash. They also fished out much of the furnishings for it from other ash cans…there’s something about using material thought to be useless. Anyway, we thought it was a good name.

Mike Johnson from my office designed round tables for us. Mark Frank, who did carpentry work for me, built them and Dolores made burlap tablecloths for each table. We used candles and she ended up having to work like crazy to get that wax out of those tablecloths every week.

We got a record player and I bought a bunch of 45s. We thought it would be a nice place for the kids to have conversation. The first Saturday night the kids flocked in. They ignored the records we had and brought their own music. The kids didn’t want to talk, they wanted to dance!  Soda pop replaced coffee and tea on the menu. You found little theological discussion but lots of dancing from a record player that seemed to be bursting its lungs. So after that first session, our plans changed.

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The Ash Can with Dad and kids from his class. Journal article ’65

There were a lot of kids showing up and we started to have discipline problems. We got friends and peers to help out as chaperones. I discovered quickly that the only way I could communicate with the kids was to know their families. I had everyone sign up, so I could get their addresses then I went around to all the homes and visited with the families. The trouble makers changed their attitudes once I knew their families. Lester Ingram, one of my senior highs, was a great help—he was a natural leader and had a big influence on the kids who came. We had seven hundred names on our sign-up sheet.

All we were interested in was applying the Christian Gospel as we understood it.

The city was getting rough with rioting at the time and before long the church council voted to close Fourth Street—they wanted to tear down the building. I met with them and told them they couldn’t do that. I asked what the expense was to keep it open and they told me $1000 a year. I found $1000 and got them to keep it open for a year.  I took Ed, Deb, John, Joan and their friends down to clean the building on Saturdays and get it fixed up.

Around this time, our family was returning from a summer camping trip and when we got to the city line, the National Guard wouldn’t let us go in. Our country was in a racial uproar. This was the point we felt it was time we move back. We believed we had a very clear calling from the Lord to put our kids in public schools and we responded.

Faith Church did close down the Fourth Street location and sold it. When we finally moved into our house on Shepard Avenue, we began attending Plymouth United Church of Christ several blocks from our house.”

As I finish typing this story, I am quieted by my unexpected tears. So many memories…I can see Mom and Dad’s faces, hear their voices, remember the burlap and 45s. I think of visiting some of the families with Dad. I remember joining in to play double Dutch jump rope with the girls in front of the houses. I remember the smell of the church, the winding basement hallways, the big kitchen in the fellowship hall where we’d eat plates of scrambled eggs after the Easter Sunrise service. I remember Dad putting a raw colored egg in with the hard boiled ones and pulling a prank on someone. I remember vacuuming the stairs that led up to the balcony and sneaking up into the bell tower to ring the church bell.

I think of that enormous bell now and realize that was exactly what the city needed—the joyous sound of the bell ringing. Ringing so loudly that it quieted the sounds of fighting and gun shots. ‘Let the children dance,’ Mom and Dad said.

Yes, let the children dance.

Back to the City

On Sunday nights, Todd and I often walk to Boswell bookstore on Downer Avenue, have a latte and buy a book—the final stretch of our weekend. Then it’s back home for popcorn and we open a bottle of wine. Growing up, my family would always have Sunday dinner after church, so Sunday nights Mom made popcorn. She would hide pieces of homemade fudge in it.

On a Sunday night in January 1970, we were all out snowmobiling, stretching the weekend out as long we could. I got thrown off the back of Ed’s snowmobile, and landed face first in a snow bank. I felt the crunch of the ice and got up feeling like I had a face full of needles. The next morning was our first day at new schools in Milwaukee. Mom and Dad had made the decision to move from the farm back into town. This was the period of time that families were leaving the city for the suburbs but Mom and Dad felt it was time for our family to leave the suburbs for the city. I looked like I had the measles. Dad told me no one would notice.

Like the farm ten years earlier, Mom and Dad found a great bargain on a house on Milwaukee’s east side; the purchase price was seventeen thousand dollars. It needed some work but the neighborhood was close to our schools, there was a park and Lake Michigan nearby.

We traveled into town that next morning—Ed, John, Joan and I—all squeezed into Dad’s Carmen Ghia, along with our backpacks and John’s trombone. Ed got the front-seat. I had the center back because I have claustrophobia and there was more leg room. John and Joan were squished in on what was left of the seat on either side of me. I didn’t mind the trombone in my lap as long as I didn’t have a seat in front of my face like they did.  Somehow we fit and survived the thirty minute drives each way without too much trouble—for the next four months while the house got renovated. We moved in on the first day of April…Fools Day.

Ed was a sophomore and I was a freshman and would be attending Riverside High School, Dad’s Alma Mater. John was in eighth grade and Joan in third, both at Hartford Avenue Elementary. Every day after school we would go to the Wenzler Architect demolition project on Shepard Avenue—walls came down and beams were exposed and sandblasted. Dad was opening up the first floor and building a central fireplace that created a loft in a house feel long before lofts were cool. Ed and John helped. Joanie made friends in the neighborhood. I camped out in the old Victorian bathtub with feet and did my homework.

Go Riverside Tigers!

Go Riverside Tigers!

When Dad was a kid, Milwaukee Public Schools taught music lessons at Roosevelt Junior High. At the time, this was the center of the African American community in Milwaukee. Dad wanted to take trumpet lessons and they were offered at Roosevelt on Saturdays so he went. When his dad and brother found out what he was doing, they had a fit and told him it was too dangerous. Dad told them that that was ridiculous and continued on with his lessons. That’s how he raised us—to not be afraid. For example, after September 11, Joan was flying home a lot because of Mom’s cancer. The attack had made her nervous about flying. Dad said, “Joan, do not be intimidated. Get a seat on the aisle. If you see anything suspicious, take them down!”

That empowered her and she flew without fear from then on.

Riverside was one of the first schools at the time in Milwaukee that brought different neighborhoods of kids together to keep the city schools from becoming segregated. There was racial tension. When Todd, who also attended Riverside, was on his way to his first day of class, he got punched in the face by two guys—one on either side of him, in front of the Ben Franklin on Oakland Avenue. He went to the auditorium for orientation that day feeling a little sniffley at age thirteen, standing five feet four inches with red hair. We would have done well to have had a Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap program back then.

What I remember about my first day of school was the color of the Bobbie Brooks skirt and sweater I wore—lime green. It wouldn’t be long before I would be wearing the same pair of bell bottom blue jeans day after day. I also remember seeing Todd walk down the hallway—as I hid my measle spots behind my hair—and thinking he was cute.

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Homeroom. Todd second row, second from right. Facebook friend Doug Hoyt top row first on left.

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Homeroom. Deb second row center. Facebook friend Dawn (Silas) Dunkelberger, second row third from left.

So we moved into Milwaukee at the height of the civil rights movement. ‘Crazy,’ people said about what my parents were doing. They were right—crazy about equal rights. Mom and Dad wanted to expose us to diversity—to life.

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20140219_175111_resizedPictures from the 1971 Riverside Mercury Yearbook. The dedication reads:

We wish to dedicate the 1971 Mercury to all those who cannot laugh with us because sadness, poverty, sickness or loneliness have touched their lives. It is our hope that the changes we so desperately need will come about within our own lives. It is on the expression of this hope that we close this book.

What a Wife!

I flew into Tucson for my Dad’s birthday on a Friday, two days before his celebration and just in time for a fish fry. I couldn’t wait to give him his gift—a Kinko’s copy of our blog stories assembled and spiral bound—but I did.

I hadn’t finished documenting his Fellowship which was my goal for his birthday so we spent most of Saturday working on it. We didn’t finish. He had to take time explaining the four zones of the allied occupation of Berlin and I kept confusing West Germany with West Berlin so he had to get the World Atlas out. We finally made it through Berlin but still had Denmark and Scandinavia left to cover.

Map of trip

Total territory covered on Dad’s fellowship

I woke up Sunday morning and waited to see the light go on under Dad’s bedroom door. His “No Birthday gifts!” rule didn’t apply to me because the 172 pages I was planning to give him—with or without the final fellowship segment—were as much a gift to me as they were to him. And it wasn’t wrapped.

He really liked it.

IMG_20140211_180156His birthday was great. We went to church with my sister Joan and her family, and that evening they gave him a big party. My brother-in-law Arthur grilled 26 steaks! We had two kinds of double-baked potatoes, salad, cheesecake and a custard pie. Dad had been asking for that pie for years and Joanie and I couldn’t find Mom’s recipe. I found a recipe called My Grandmother’s Custard Pie on a Google search, sent it to my sister and gave us both computer viruses. But the recipe was spot on and the pie was perfect—thanks to Joanie. I told her I would make it but got busy editing Dad’s story on Berlin. I started the pie and then she took over. Good thing for that. I had added 1/2 tablespoon of salt instead of 1/2 teaspoon.

Joan's family in Tucson

Joan’s family in Tucson

On Monday, Dad and I had the day to complete the Fellowship so here, my friends, is the final section!

“It’s very evident to me, that none of our trip throughout Europe would have been possible without the attitude and ability of Dolores.” I could tell Dad knew exactly how he wanted to summarize his experience. “I believe, having been raised on a farm, without electricity until she was thirteen, really prepared her to manage all of the challenging conditions of our trip from day to day.

While I pitched the tent, the three kids would play around—often with other kids from the campsite. Dolores would take the car and go into town, going from store to store to find our supplies and groceries.  Most of the time, she wasn’t able to speak the language but that didn’t seem to bother her.

Through all of this we stayed healthy. There were times when tension in the tent rose. For example, Dolores would bathe the kids each night in one of the green tubs we had bought along the way. I remember in Spain, she had finished getting the kids ready for bed when one of them stepped on the edge of the tub and spilled the water all over the inside of the tent, including underneath the sleeping bags. But through it all, I do not recall one time when there was a harsh word between us. Everything was seen as an adventure and enjoyed—even that spilled water. We would somehow find a way to see the humor in a situation. Instead of hollering at each other, we’d sort of laugh.

So there was no illness, no tension, never anger and really only one answer…the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout the entire trip.

From West Germany, we drove on up to Denmark which was beautiful. We found an open space along the road and set up camp—it was warm and sunny and there were no bugs that I can recall.

20140105_182749_resizedHowever, the second day in Denmark it started to rain.

20140105_182802_resizedThe following morning, we got up early and did the routine—taking down the tent, and packing it up. We took the ferry and traveled on to Oslo, Norway. You could camp at any appropriate place you wanted along the road. The scenery was beautiful there too.

20140105_182628_resizedOne of the most important things I learned on the fellowship was about Scandinavian planning. I reflected on what I had learned from the city planner I had met with when we were in Amsterdam. He explained to me the reasoning behind the significant planning in their cities. In order to develop the land for their country, they had to plan years in advance because they were below sea level. In America, we expand into farmland surrounding the city.

When Norway and Sweden planned to expand a city, they would extend the transportation routes and subways beyond the existing city to create a new town. There, they would build a station for the subway and develop the town around it. This way, every one of their expanded towns had a means of transportation back into the central city. Individuals could buy a yearly pass for transportation and this could reduce the number of cars used. Many Scandinavians had cars but they would only use them on weekends and for vacations. They could use their mass transit for everything else.

It rained and rained all throughout Norway and Sweden. Fortunately, I had learned how to put up the outer section of the tent first when it rained, followed by the inner tent, so that it would be dry. This worked well for four or five days but after that, the continuous rain got everything soaked.

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Wet little Debbie

We found a hotel to stay at in Sweden so we could get the tent along with everything else dried out. I remember well, stretching the tent across the room and out to the balcony.

So to recap, after England, we went to Rotterdam and Amsterdam, Holland; across northern Germany to Berlin; north through Denmark and across to Oslo, Norway; east to Stockholm, Sweden; south to Copenhagen, Denmark; and back to Bremerhaven, Germany. We traveled a total of 12,000 miles and camped up until the night preceding sailing home—we probably would have camped the last night too, but we had to deliver the car for loading of the ship by 4:00 p.m. preceding day of departure.

20140105_183601_resizedThere is one rather amusing side light here. When we realized that we would have to spend one night in a hotel, we began to look forward to the prospect of a bath. Our last bath had been when we spent a night with friends in Heidelberg, Germany a month earlier. It turned out that the hotel we stayed at only offered baths in winter when the central heating system heated the water. We recovered from this disappointment and began talking of ‘taking a steaming bath every day on the ship.’ About five minutes after we boarded, we made arrangements with our cabin steward for baths the next morning.

20140105_183736_resizedThe tub was really full and the water very hot, but we were a little disappointed. It was filled with salt water which we found far from satisfactory for bathing purposes. ‘Oh well,’ we thought, one more week and we would be back home.

Reflecting on this whole experience, it’s interesting to recognize the responsibilities and roles that Dolores and I shared. I had studied and prepared for the trip and my part was seeing all the architecture, following through on the itinerary and details of the fellowship. Dolores’ responsibility was feeding us, keeping us healthy, washing all our clothes by hand, and making sure the kids were clean. This really was a much greater challenge than mine. She kept us all calm and happy. Except for setting up and taking down that double enclosure, two-room tent, my part was easy. What a wife!”

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On the ship headed home.