Category Archives: Nostalgia

Assignment 13: A Baby Named Annetta (Part 2)



From trying to remember my grandmother’s story and researching about a historical event which took place in 1911, I’ve attempted to piece together the story of my grandmother’s birth. At best, this would be a piece of historical fiction based on a true story and not a true biography because I am not 100% sure of all of the details. This story of a true disastrous event occurring so close to my grandmother’s birth is a part of my family’s history.

Timeframe: October 1911. Place: a small farm in Oakridge rural area south of Black River Falls, Wisconsin. My great grandfather Albert watched the hard rain pound the house and ground around him. It has been raining for weeks and flooding was a mounting concern. He had another worry, Bessie, his wife and my great grandmother, was pregnant with their first child; very pregnant. The rising Black River perhaps already cut him off of the main town of Black River Falls as he possibly wouldn’t consider traveling across that long iron canopied bridge stretching across the swollen waters. He devised a plan to head south; perhaps all the way to LaCrosse roughly 50 miles away. His mode of transportation was a horse drawn vehicle so it may have taken several days of hard driving in the rain across wet and slippery roads.  In the drenching rain, Albert hitched his team to and helped Bessie to safely climb inside. They endured a dangerous and harrowing journey as they traveled southward to trying to stay ahead of the rushing river.  Little did they realize at the time, they would be traveling along the crest of the Great Flood of 1911.

In the meantime the Black River was swelling; it originated in Taylor County and passed in a southwest direction through Clark, Jackson, and LaCrosse counties emptying into the Mississippi River.  According to a New York Times article, it was believed that the concrete dams in place could hold back any amount of flooding water. On October 6th, at 4am, the first dam north of Hatfield gave way and racing water flowed around the dam and then continued along the river’s path. By 10:45am, the second dam closer to Hatfield broke sending even more rushing water towards Black River Falls. Word of warning was sent the residents of the doomed town that a raging flood raced in their direction. At first the villagers and business owners did not believe they were in  immediate danger but much to everyone’s shock and dismay in about an hour’s time, the unimaginable wave of torrential water arrived with disastrous results.

The water came in great torrents and the Black River Falls power plant was first to be struck and damaged leaving everyone in darkness by nightfall. The huge wall of water took out the iron canopied bridge, businesses, and houses carrying them downstream as seen in photos posted by The Merchant General of Black River Falls. The flooding water cut through the banks carving out the ground and destroying three blocks worth of downtown business and residential buildings all along the river’s edge. According to a news report from Clark County, A number of lumber and sawmill businesses were swept away along with a shoe store, a jewelry retail store, an iron works business, a hotel, a sash factory, and hardware store. Also destroyed was the county poor house along with many homes.  Barely enough warning was given for Black River residents to evacuate although without their possessions. They just kept backing away from the rushing water and climbing to higher ground.  Black River Falls had become nearly an island cut off from the surrounding countryside. The raging flood also destroyed many farms in its wake and families were stranded on rooftops (New York Times, 1911). Although the loss of animals and property were enormous, no resident lost his or her live that fateful day (Rupnow, 2011). After nearly wiping out Black River Falls, the torrential river raced towards more communities down the river and LaCrosse was in its path.

Albert, my great grandfather and Bessie, my great grandmother, must have been terrified of the pounding, rushing water as they continued their harrowing journey. While Albert held the reigns and drove the horses, I can imagine my great grandmother praying for their safe arrival in LaCrosse.  I’m sure she cried out in pain, knowing she was close to giving birth.

As predicted, the flooding, raging river propelled its way into LaCrosse damaging the city’s power plant. Somehow, through fear and determination and by God’s loving grace and protection, great grandfather Albert and my great grandmother Bessie reached Luther Hospital of LaCrosse. No doubt, a huge sense of relief showered over my great grandparents as caring doctors and nurses aided them.

On October 7,, 1911, one day after the Great Flood of 1911 struck and devastated Black River Falls, Wisconsin , a baby girl was born, a baby named Annetta; my grandmother. While she grew up on a small farm in Oakridge, the city of Black River Falls was rebuilt as residents determined to remain and rebuild their lives (Rupnow, 2011).

Many years later she moved to Black River Falls as a teenager to attend high school. She married and raised a family. She worked as a school bus driver and later as a store clerk. She may had other jobs that I am not aware of. Today Black River Falls continues to be thriving small town in rural Jackson County Wisconsin; it is also near where I lived and grew up years later. I spent many Sundays visiting my grandmother in her tiny apartment not far from the banks of the usually gentle flowing Black River.

Reference Links about the Great Flood of 1911 which struck Black River Falls Wisconsin:

From New York Times, 1911:

From Leader Telegram, 2011

Clark County History Bluff:

Writing 101 Assignment 4: A Lady Named Annetta (Part 1)



I realize that I am doing some of the assignments out of order but I wanted to share a special piece about my grandmother whom I miss very much:

I have special memories of my grandmother, Annetta . I and all of the grandchildren affectionately knew her as Grandma Hart.  She often signed birthdays and letters with “Grandma” and then drew a heart. My grandmother was a kind, soft spoken woman who had a large family and many friends. Her brunette hair had turned gray, she was tall with hazel-green eyes magnified by her glasses which twinkled with delight at picnics and holiday events while visiting with friends and family. I distinctively remember her gentle, musical laughter. She was a quiet lady who loved her family very much and enjoyed doing quiet activities which included reading, writing, crocheting, and attending a Bible Study.

Another favorite pastime she enjoyed was watching the Green Bay Packers. Grandma was not pleased when the Packers did not play well.  When I was older and had my own car, I would visit Grandma in her small apartment in Black River Falls.  Her apartment building was situated near the banks of Black River and her first floor apartment faced the Black River Falls Memorial Bridge She and I relaxed and visited on many Sundays in her tiny living room and she sometimes told me stories about her younger self. She showed me a hint of her adventurous side but truly, I had no idea until years later.

My grandmother, Annette Marie, was born in October of 1911 to parents Albert and Bessie. She arrived in this world one day after a great flood struck Black River Falls, Wisconsin. The flood was so severe that  some did not think the town of Black River would survive However, determined residents resolved to rebuild the small town which blossoms today. My grandmother used to say, “I was born on the crest of the Great Flood”.   She grew up in a rural area south of Black River Falls known as Oak Grove.  As you may guess, the area was full of oak trees except for one lone, tall pine tree. When great grandpa Albert was clearing the land, he reached this pine tree with his ax ready; he hesitated and my great grandmother yelled to him, “If you chop down that pine tree I’m moving back to LaCrosse.” My grandmother remembered that lone tree years later and wrote a story entitled, The Lonesome Pine.  Annetta, my grandmother, and her younger sister, Lela attended the Oak Ridge country schoolhouse.

Later my grandmother and her best friend, Irene, lived in a boarding house in Black River Falls to attend high school there. As a young teenager, Annetta was a bit mischievous and she loved to run. She once told me that she and her friend at lunchtime would run a considerable distance back to their boarding house, eat lunch, and then run back to school without being late.  I tried to study and determine the route she and her friend took. My first calculations were not accurate; my brother pointed this out by explaining that the bridge she ran across was a different structure than the bridge which existed today; also it was in a different location. Additionally, the high school which she attended was not the same school that I attended; again, a very different location.

From what I could determine in studying her route, she and her friend needed to race along a road south of town, cross the sprawling bridge which stretched across Black River, dash across perhaps a busy intersection near downtown, and finally scamper up a set of double hills before arriving at the three story school building. I had asked her why she didn’t just pack a lunch and take it with her and she laughingly replied, “But we liked to do it that way!”

She was silent for a few minutes while I thought about this and finally responded, “You mean you liked the challenge of it.”

“Yes!” she answered and laughed.

“Grandma, you and your friend invented your own physical education class.”

Again, grandma’s musical laughter filled her tiny living room.

At age 17, Annetta was married. She raised a family of eight children and became one of the first female bus driver for the Black River Falls school district.  She perceived her job as an adventure but also took her work very seriously.  She had commented in a newspaper article, “I had to get my little charges home safely.” She had felt a heavy sense of responsibility as she drove the children home through a blinding snowstorm; the journey was slow and treacherous. She worried that she’d run out of gas and wondered how she would keep the children warm.

My grandmother saw her children grow to adulthood, marry, and have families of their own.  Some had very large families giving her many grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren. She passed away in 1995.  Annetta lived all of her life in or near Black River Falls, Wisconsin. She was a well-liked lady known for her adventurous spirit, her large family, her writings, her quiet, caring nature, and her faith in God.  She had a very gentle way of sharing about her faith and trust in Jesus. Almost 20 years have come and gone, and I still miss her. There is a special place in my heart where I go to remember her; I recall her stories, the sound of her soft voice, and her sweet, melodious laughter. Most of all, I remember her deep and never ending love for her family.

Writing 101 Assignment 11: My Childhood Home on a Sandy Prairie



For assignment 11 in our Writing 101 class, we were directed to write about the home we lived in at age 12. We were also instructed to vary our sentence lengths in an effort to make the story interesting. So I will attempt this:

I grew up on a small farm on a sandy prairie in west central Wisconsin in rural Jackson County. I lived in the same house from about age four until I graduated from high school and left for college. I resided there with my parents, two sisters, and one brother. The house was a large, two story home built around 1910; a typical American foursquare with a pyramid shaped roof coming to a peak, a full basement, and a large corner porch extending along two sides of the home. Interestingly, about 1/4th of the basement is built of stone with a closet sized space attached. Perhaps, that was a food pantry in earlier days but I am not sure. The rest is built of cement and appears newer. When we moved in, the house was covered in old gray tiles but later, dad had the tiles replaced with white aluminum siding.

Continuing in the foursquare theme, each of the main rooms is nearly a perfect square or at least a rectangle, and each sits in a corner with an old chimney rising through the center of the house. Additionally, the stairwell arose through the center near the chimney. The main rooms on the first floor included the kitchen, dining room, and a family room. Perhaps this room was known as the family parlor in earlier times? The fourth room, when we moved in, was a laundry/utility room which mom and dad converted into an extra bedroom. The second level consisted of four bedrooms and small bathroom squeezed between two of the corner bedrooms. A hallway extended around the stairwell connects to all the rooms. No doubt, the house was renovated over time to accommodate electrical wiring and indoor plumbing. Old style heat registers still remain in each of the upstairs bedrooms but were no longer used. We used a wood stove for years as our main source of heat. According to an old story, this present house is not the original on our farm; a previous house was destroyed by fire.

I have no idea how old the red barn is but I can tell you it is huge. The first floor, of course is where the farm animals lived. Over the years while I lived there, it housed cows, pigs, horses, and even goats at one point. We’ve also had chickens and turkeys on the farm.  We had a number of dogs over the years but two of our favorite canine pets were Boots and Bambi. Boots was a small mixed breed dog who was terrified of thunderstorms. When a thunderstorm struck, he dived beneath the couch or a blanket with his small, brown body quivering from head to toe.

The second level of the barn was the hay mow where the cats liked to live and this space alone seemed to increase the structure by nearly 2/3. Every summer, hay was harvested and stored in the hay mow which served as food for the animals during the harsh winter months. When there aren’t stacks and stacks of hay up there, I and my siblings would play in the hay mow; we invented our own version of racquetball playing against the back barn wall.  A small feed room, an old stone silo, and a white brick milk house were all attached to the sidewalls of the barn. Other buildings on the farm included a granary, garage, and a corn crib. Over the years, dad added other buildings to the farms including a large pole shed which we  used for storage of farm equipment and for outdoor parties with the extended family.

We lived on roughly 65 acres of land which is actually a very small farm. My dad also worked as an electrician at the Jackson County Iron Mine which no longer exists. Since the soil was sandy and we sometimes had very hot and dry summers, the crops and the garden did not always produce well. We had our share of hard years. As children, we biked, rode horses, and roamed all over, trekking through patches of woods, along the field road, and circling the crop fields. Summertime was especially enjoyable as we could spend all day under the warm sun shining and brightening the marine blue sky. When the fields were empty of crops, my siblings and I sometimes played our own version of softball. There were only four of us so instead of a baseball diamond, we made a triangle. Therefore, One could pitch, one  could bat, and two were guarding the bases. Obviously we couldn’t play the full version of softball and I was never very good at it. All of my classmates in grade school could attest to that.

We had our share of chores to do which included caring for the animals and helping in the garden. Mom planted a very large vegetable garden which then led to harvesting and canning for the winter. We also helped to plant and harvest strawberries and cucumbers. We had very large strawberry and cucumber patches. Pints of strawberries were sold to customers stopping by and the cucumbers were sold to a local pickling/canning factory.

Life on the farm was usually very enjoyable. I don’t get to visit it as much as I would like. There is sadness there too, as both my parents have passed away. My mom and dad poured their hearts into our little farm. They both worked hard to make that old foursquare house on a sandy prairie a home of love and a place of many cherished memories.

My Mother’s Beautiful Hands

With Mother’s Day approaching, I wanted to publish this poem in memory of my own mom who passed away in 2010 just a short time after her 65th birthday. Her passing happened very unexpectedly leaving many of us in deep sorrow and with a painfully empty void in our lives. In her own quiet and special way she had touched many lives.  She loved being hospitable and she enjoyed being creative with her hands; sewing, crocheting, and needlepoint are just a hint of her creativeness.  For me she was a mother and a close friend and she remains in a special place in my heart. i very much miss visiting home and sitting by my mother’s side. In the old farmhouse where I grew up and on a quiet evening that was my favorite place to be. I know that many others will be deeply missing their mothers this weekend too.


I always remember many cold and wintry nights

when in a house warm with love, a scene of beauty met my sight;

My mother sitting so content and so quietly working with her hands.

An object was forming, a colorful thing which at first I do not understand.

As her mysterious creation grew and took shape, I knew what it was to be.

Sometimes a blanket, quilt or doll; perhaps slippers or ornaments for the Christmas tree.

When finished she gently wraps the gift with care and at the chosen time,

the treasured gift is given and her deep love brightly shines, warm and genuine.

Where else could I find such a tender love? Where else would I go?

Except to my mother’s side, whose warm love could melt a mountain of snow.

So over the years I kept going home to see my  mom and a gift I did not understand

being created by her with love and with her warm, gentle, and beautiful hands.

My Albums and Cassette Tapes Have Gone Obsolete!!



Continuing in my Blogging 101 class, I am trying something new today by responding to a daily or a writing prompt. Here is a recent daily prompt question from The Daily Post I found at:

Going Obsolete: Of all the technologies that have gone obsolete which one do you miss the most?

Advances in technology can be very exciting and inspiring; the technological advances made in computers are incredible and they keep evolving and improving. I work with individuals who have various types of developmental disabilities and I have seen how advancement in technology has helped them to lead fuller and more meaningful lives. Technologies have aided to improve hearing aids, motorized wheelchairs, Hoyer lifts, communication aids, medication dispensers, and other assistive devices.

Some individuals that I work with desire to learn and improve their computer skills. They often are eager to learn and computer accessories can be adapted to their needs. They have learned to email or Skype their families and stay in closer contact with them. Some have learned to use computer finance applications to manage their checkbooks, budget, and compile their own finance reports. Still others have learned digital photography and design their own greeting cards on computer. I am currently working with one individual interested in learning to conduct family history research on her computer.

However, sometimes I do become nostalgic for some of the old technologies.  I have seen a number of things go obsolete and sometimes very unexpectedly. As one example of this, I will never forget the day that I realized that record albums were obsolete. I was in the habit of visiting a certain favorite music store to look at music tapes and records. While visiting there, I did notice a change taking place in that these things called CDs (short for compact discs) were coming out. I had no idea what was so great about these new CDs and so I continued to purchase cassette tapes or record albums.

Then one day during my college years,  I unsuspectingly rode the city bus to the mall and visited my favorite music store.  I was in for a surprise for as I entered the store I saw that ALL of the record albums were gone; totally and completely gone. And in their place were all these new-fangled CDs. I was astonished, “What? You’re kidding, right?”That was a complete shock. I didn’t even have a cd player. However, they still sold the music cassette tapes so I continued to purchase those for quite some time. As a teenager, that was how I collected music from my favorite artists.  All my teenage friends collected their music in these same analog formats. Collecting records and cassette tapes was a part of the teenage experience. I fondly remember receiving my black phonograph player as a Christmas gift and I played records on it all the time; I played the big 33 records and the small 45’s.  That phonograph was one of my favorite gifts and I still have it. It just doesn’t work anymore. I also purchased a cassette tape player and that still works.

The cassette tapes also eventually went obsolete. I learned to like the CDs out of necessity but I can tell you I was reluctant to adjust to that change. It also became apparent to me that the digital quality of the CDs is superior to the analog quality of the cassette tapes and records. Even so, collecting those tapes and records was a memorable experience during my teenage and early college years. Although I have hesitantly become modern and up to date in adjusting to digital formats, I still kept my cassette tape collection and more recently, I found my old cassette tape player. I have it in the kitchen to play my favorite tapes again  I use it the most around Christmas time. Now, about that video tape collection…

What are your thoughts? Do you have a favorite type of nostalgic technology device which you were reluctant to part with?