Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mule Train, Part the Fourth

And one more (hopefully final) Mule Train Postcard update!*

Regular readers of this infrequently updated blog may remember these posts and discussions about the postcard depicting a Mule Train headed down Monroe Street in Waterloo, Wisconsin: 
In the third blog regarding the Mule Train postcard, I had declared the photo to be a fake, in the absence of any evidence to prove otherwise. Well, I am happy to report that I now have that evidence, and can declare the postcard TRUE!

Just to jog your memory, here is the postcard in question:

And now for the proof that a mule train did, indeed, wander through little downtown Waterloo, Wisconsin *cue fanfair*:

From the Waterloo Journal, dated October 5, 1905, Page 1.

* Edited to add:

Oh, but wait! There's more!

According to local newspapers at the time, the reason the Borax 20-Mule Team was in the area, was because it was making a rare appearance at the Dodge County Fair of 1905. They had appeared at the World's Fair in St Louis the year before, and at the Wisconsin State Fair earlier in the month, but this was THE first county fair to secure them.

From the Waterloo Democrat, October 6, 1905, Page 6.
From the Beaver Dam Argus, September 15, 1905, Page 4.

From the Dodge County Citizen, September 27, 1905, Page 1 (continued below).

From the Dodge County Citizen, September 27, 1905, Page 1 (continued from above).

From the Dodge County Citizen, September 13, 1905, Page 1.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mule Train, part the third

Mule Train Postcard update! 

Regular readers of this blog may remember the posts and/or discussions about the Mule Train postcard HERE and HERE, in which it was speculated that this postcard may have been "Photoshopped." (Using whatever magical technology that was available nearly 100 years ago, in the early 1900s!) 

As anyone who has ever sent or received a postcard can tell you, "fake" or embellished scenes are quite common in postcards, even today. It adds an extra bit of whimsey, and who doesn't like that?

Well, this particular subject rears its horsey head again because in this week's issue of The Waterloo Courier (or just "Courier," as they like to call it, so the Marshall folks won't feel left out), they published a set of old-timey postcards, one of which was the infamous "20 Mule Team Borax" postcard:

As you can see, the blurb accompanying the photo discusses the history of the Borax 20-mule teams, but does not even question the authenticity of this scenario. The blurb also says the mule teams were used until 1989. Wait... What?? Surely that's a typographical error. I can't imagine that it would have been efficient (much less "politically correct") to employ the services of several teams of 20 live mules, rather than a fleet of big old trucks, in 1989.

I do wish someone could come up with a date when this supposed visit from the mule team occurred. Something this unusual would surely have made the papers! Would be nice to have some corroborating evidence to declare this photo authentic. Perhaps some bored intern at The Courier or a volunteer at the Waterloo Historical Society could use their resources to look into this. Until that happens, though, I'm declaring this photo a fake.

That's right. It's been declared. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

Teeming, I tells ya!

Previously, your humble correspondent wrote about attending Waterloo's 49th Annual Wiener and Kraut Day festivities in 2008. In that post, I mentioned that the streets used to be TEEMING with people, back in the day. One might go so far as to say that there were more people than you could shake a stick at! I now have photographic evidence of some of that teeming. The below (very poorly scanned) images are from the 28-Sept-1978 issue of the Waterloo Courier.

In this first scan, you see a couple of nice ladies pouring drinks on the left. On the right is a view of the HOARDS of people lined up to watch a marching band down at the "four corners." (I can't quite make out what's playing at The Mode theatre, but gasoline is selling for about 59 cents/gallon.) Look! Look at them teem!

Here's a scan of a nice nun -- Is that Sister Rose? -- and a young person shopping at a bears and puppets table. On the right is Dean with his Giant Wiener. You can't see it very well, because this is a really inferior quality scan, but just behind the nun's head, there are dozens of other tables and booths set up, all of them with people buzzing around, shopping for deals.

This final scan shows some of the nice folks selling wiener and kraut sandwiches. On the right is a lady -- not sure what she's up to -- and below that is a man driving a very very small semi-truck.

Okay, so this last scan doesn't really show any teeming crowd activity, but that's okay, because the first two are chock full of people! I hope that Waterloo can bring back these kinds of crowds of people for their big Sesquicentennial Celebration this fall.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dig those wieners and kraut!

Speaking of Wiener and Kraut Day...

Your sporadically posting humble correspondent attended the 49th Annual Wiener & Kraut Day last September 13, 2008, and was greatly disappointed at the turnout of both people and vendors.

Now I realize that it was a rainy kind of day, and that may have kept some of the wimpier people from venturing out, but still... there were maybe fifty people total hovering about the Wiener and Beer Tents, with random groups of two to three people walking the streets. These streets should have been TEEMING with people, milling about the shops, snapping up bargains and enjoying a fresh hot dog or two.

At least... that's how it USED to be, back in the day. You know, back when W/K Day used to fall on the FOURTH Saturday of the month where it rightfully belongs (Even if it might get a little hot every tenth year!) instead of on the 2nd Saturday of the month. Back in the day, all of the shops along Monroe and Madison streets had fantastic sales, and there were fun contests like "Guess the Weight of Dean's Big Wiener," and a mind-boggling mix of goodies in the drug store grab bags. Bargains galore at The Toggery! Back in the day, you had to fight your way through the crowds just to get in line for a hot dog. Back in the day, you could spend hours just slowly traversing your way from Monroe Street to Madison Street, north and south, east and west, and back around again, just checking out all of the interesting vendor tables that lined every square inch of the downtown area.

Back in the day, the various extra-curricular groups at the high school all had their own spot on the street. The Spanish Club selling tacos! The Track Team selling candy! The Senior Class selling t-shirts! Back in the day, the entire town turned out to celebrate! But apparently, that is no longer the case, as the total number of vendors lining the streets could be counted on one hand. The most popular appeared to be this white wagon on the corner, selling things like bubble-gum flavored slushies and fried cheesecake on a stick:

Perhaps this was just a fluke of a year. I didn't attend too many of the W/K Days once they moved it earlier in the month, so I don't know if they were all as much of a flop, or if it was a more gradual decline in attendance. But honestly? This was the most pathetic of all Wiener and Kraut Days that I have ever set eyes upon. Legend says that back in the day, one brave new shop-keep in town had the audacity to suggest that Waterloo advertise their Wiener and Kraut Day activities in towns all over the state, in order to attract a profitably large crowd. This idea was shot right out of the air because, as Legend says, they didn't want the doings to get too big. Too. Big. Well... I think they finally got their wish. Don't you?

I seriously hope that the turnout on W/K Day is not indicative of what to expect at this year's big Sesquicentennial Celebration on September 12-13, 2009. That would be really embarrassing... But hey -- that's several months away from now. Maybe Waterloo will decide to, oh, I don't know... ADVERTISE their celebration -- early and often! -- so that people know about it and can plan their schedules accordingly.

Also, Waterloo? You might want to give your shops a washing and a fresh coat of paint or something. The new roadwork looks all purty and everything, but the storefronts are still pretty shabby looking. I mean, geez... there's still an outline of the old Courier Building right out in the open.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Waterloo is old, y'all!

Speaking of Waterloo's Sesquicentennial coming up (that's 150 years, by the way)...

Waterloo-Area Historical Society is now selling an 18-month Sesquicentennial calendar, with lots of photos of historical interest. (As of this posting, they don't have any information about it on their website, but I'm sure they will eventually.)

The calendars currently cost $10, and proceeds go toward adding restrooms and making the museum handicap-accessible.

Below is my brief review the calendar:

Overall, the calendar is very nicely put together. There are a lot of interesting photos included, that are placed well, according to the month. (For instance, a Big Wiener & Kraut Sandwich* and other Wiener and Kraut day photos appear on the September page, which is fitting, because that's when W&K Day occurs.) And the calendars are priced reasonably.

However, only the front and back cover pages are in full color (or full black and white, depending on the photo). The rest of the pages are more of an ivory or sepia-toned linen textured paper, which gives it a nice old-timey appeal, but my personal preference would have been to have all of the pages done in the full color glossy paper. Sure, the price would have been higher, but I think it would have been worth it.

Here is a sample photo of the Big Wiener and Kraut Sandwich, as seen in the new calendar:

Here is the photo, as seen on the front page of the Waterloo Courier, Volume 109, No 44, September 20, 1979:

*Speaking of Dean's Big Wiener, there is a typographical error in the caption of that photo. The caption in the calendar reads:
Jerry VanHolten, Merle Virchow (Chair), and Dan Blau at the 1979 Wiener and Kraut Day
The caption *should* read:
Jerry VanHolten, Merle Virchow (Chair), and Dean Blau at the 1979 Wiener and Kraut Day
So if you happen to purchase the calendar (Which you should! That place needs a bathroom and a lift!), be sure to note the correction.

By the way, the Waterloo-Area Historical Society is also selling a new book about the Waterloo Homecomings from 1905-1935, so be sure to check that out, as well!

One more thought to ponder... didn't Waterloo call their 125th celebration a Sesquicentennial? Hmm... will have to research that. I know those doings started on July 20, 1984, but I don't find any newspaper articles about it on hand.

North Monroe Street

Below is a before/after photo of North Monroe Street, in Waterloo, Wisconsin. The photo on top was taken on April 21, 2006. The photo on the bottom was taken on July 4, 2008. Road construction on this southern portion of the road was completed in the early summer of 2008. (The road is still being worked on, further to the north.)

So what's new?
  • Light fixtures!
  • Crosswalk and parkway are pink!
  • Fresh new sidewalk!
  • New pavement!
  • New bumpy "ramp" on sidewalk!
  • In the Veteran's Park on the corner, the large evergreen has been removed, and the plantings have been prettied up!
What's old?
  • The "Voelker Building" (built in 1908) at 120 North Monroe Street, which currently houses the Cut and Curl beauty salon, still has an outline of the old Courier building, which wasn torn down in early 2006!
  • The disgusting phone booth is still there!
  • The rest of the buildings still look run down!

One wonders if Waterloo will go on a beautification frenzy, to get the downtown area looking nice again, in time for the big Sesquicentennial celebration in April 2009.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

History of Utility Poles. Where? WHERE??

Will someone please create a website already that has a history of utility poles (or telephone poles, or light poles, or telegraph poles, or electric poles, or whatever else people might call them), with photographs or drawings to illustrate?

I ask, because in the comments to my Mule Train, part the second post, there was some discussion on dating the Mule Train photograph by the telephone poles. While I did find one website that had some historical information on utility poles (Dating Old Photographs from Light Poles), it was for poles in Australia! Are poles the same throughout the world? I have no idea. Do you?

Here's another website about utility poles: The Unofficial Utility Pole Page (aka While this site does have a lot of information about poles, it doesn't go back in history as far as I'd like.

Surely there's some genealogy-minded lineman out there somewhere that will take on this task. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Monday, September 04, 2006

East Madison Street, Then and Now

Here are some comparison photos of the south side of East Madison Street in Waterloo, Wisconsin.

This first photo is a postcard (der) and it was mailed in November 1910, so using my brilliant powers of deduction, this shows how East Madison Street looked in about 1910! Dirt roads, what looks like a brand new cement sidewalk (replacing those dangerous wooden sidewalks that always had people breaking legs left and right), and some horse and wagon. (Horse and wagons? Horses and wagons?)

The building labeled "Drugs" was built in 1874. Don't quote me on it, but I believe that this building includes that storefront plus the two storefronts left of it plus the section to the right of it, on the corner -- I could not find any other dates on the rest of that building, anyway, to prove otherwise.

The small section of building to the right of the white-ish building (it looks like it belongs with the large section previously mentioned, but it has slightly different brickwork) was built in 1880-something (either 1883, 1886, 1888, or 1889 -- the date is quite worn down, and I was unable to determine the last digit).

The white-ish building was built in 1896.

The next buildings beyond the gap on the left are part of the "Becken Block," which was built in 1897 by Chas. F. Becken.


Now, here is that same view (or close enough!), as seen in April 2006:

Much better roads and lighting, but the buildings are looking pretty dreary. Don't miss that storefront in the center... I know you're all thinking it, so say it with me: OMG, that shade of green! The dark green paint isn't so bad, but that bright green? Honestly! What were they thinking? And the rounded section of building at the corner is in dire need of a new paint-job. I think that sometimes, when you live and work in the town, you tend to not even notice how run-down it's starting to look.

But wait! There's more!

What follows are a series of pictures of these same buildings... from the back-side! First, a long-shot:

Now some closer-up shots:

It looks like whoever runs this red building is at least trying, so kudos to them!


This one isn't SO bad, but it still needs work.

Holy rusted metal, Batman! Does anyone even use this anymore? Does anyone even know who owns it? Has anyone looked inside of it ONCE in the past fifty years? I doubt it! Probably everyone in the 'hood just assumes that someone else on the block owns this pile of junk and wonders to themselves every day why nobody cleans it up. Gross.

I've heard it said that when Waterloo hosted their big Homecoming celebrations back in the early half of the 1900's, that the entire town got together to make everything look spiffy and clean. I'm thinking that another Homecoming is just what this town needs!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mule Train, part the second.

Since Stamppy had so many interesting questions regarding the Mule Train photo I posted earlier, I thought I would make a whole new post for my answers, and include a modern-day photograph of that same section of town. Here is the "modern" photo and the mule photo again, followed by question and answer, yay!

Why isn't the lady on the right even looking at the horsies as they pass thru town? Oh, probably because she's seen mule trains before. Did you notice the horses aren't moving? They're just standing there for the photo.
Maybe lady on right was looking at them, but just happened to turn to speak to a friend at the moment the photo was taken. The mules appear to be waiting for something (I hope they're not Waiting for Godot, because, as I recall, he never shows up) -- maybe they're waiting for the bumper-to-bumper-to-buuuuuuumper traffic to ease up. There's a man walking in the back by the wagon -- maybe it's the driver, and perhaps he's stopped to pick up some sausages at the local locker plant.
The shadow of that tree looks a little suspicious, too. The angle of the shadow doesn't match with the angle of the man's shadow on the left.
The shadows all look to me like the sun is coming from the front and left. Note the mule in front with his head turned -- his shadow sticks out more, but because his head is stuck out more.
Have you identified any of the buildings? Would this photo be taken from the 4 corners, or looking in the direction of the 4 corners?
The view is looking up N Monroe, on the west/left side. The two buildings on the left are no longer there -- they are where the Wendt building (The Diner) and the something else building are now. The next long building with the pointies on top is where Raaaaaaay's Tog and Video are. The next building with the upward swoop and a diamond shape near the top is where Minuteman is now. And the next building with three windows is where Audrey has her Place. And that's as far as my "modern" picture goes to.
Why are there 2 different heights of electric poles? And they're so close to each other!
I don't know about the poles... maybe they had one set for telephone/telegraph, and one for electricity?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mule Train

Here's a postcard showing a mule train going through Waterloo, Wisconsin. Judging by the buildings, clothing, and style of postcard (divided back, printed in Germany), it must have been printed sometime between 1907 and 1915. The only problem is, I can't seem to find any evidence of a 20-mule team traveling through this part of the country during those specific years.

I thought it might be the Boraxo Company's famous "20 Mule Team Borax" mule team on a tour (from what I've read, the mules were no longer working as borax haulers during that time, having been replaced by narrow-gauge railway in the 1890's), but the Boron Chamber of Commerce people tell me that they toured in the 1950's, going to parades. Clearly, this picture is from a much earlier time.

There is, however, some talk in this story by Joe Zentner of a mule team going to the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World's Fair) in St. Louis as part of an advertising campaign, and then touring the East Coast for the next few years, but the story also says that, in late 1906, "the mules were sold and the wagons returned to California," so that wouldn't quite fit, either. Unless the photo was taken previous to the "divided-back era" of postcards, and just postcarded up at a later time. Hmmmm...


2008-July-15 Edited to add:
Another copy of this postcard was recently seen for sale on eBay, with a 1907 postmark.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Truck question answered!

Thanks to Billy and Ernie over at the Yesterday's Trucks forum, we have an answer to the "What kind of truck is this" question, yay!

Billy answered with: "[S]ure looks like a model A to me... somewhere between 1928 to 1931."

Ernie verified that and narrowed it down more with: "It's a 28-29 Ford AA. The pickups were model A's but the big trucks were AA. The 30-31 Fords don't 'scoop' in at the cowl like a 28-29 does."

Ernie also provided some other fascinating tidbits thusly:
"It's also interesting that 28-29 trucks share doors with Model T's, I guess Henry had some left over."

And when asked when they stopped making Model A's, he responded with:

"The last year for A's was 1931. The classic 1932 Ford came next. They came in 4 cylinder versions - the model B - and V8 versions, the famous Flathead! They are a little more rounded, and use the "French Curve" design extensively in body lines, dash, headlight bar, etc...If you happen to have one out behind the barn it's worth some money, it's the holy grail of early Fords. The 33 and 34 trucks were very similar to 32 but the cars got a thinner, laid back grill and smoother body lines."

Great answers, guys! Thanks a bunch!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

What kind of truck is this?

If anybody knows what kind of truck this is, let me know!! Photo was taken in 1948.

Edited to add this photo, showing the front of the truck!

04-08-2006: ETA: Truck question has been answered, yay!


Anton's horsies:

Smaller version of same: