A few years back, I connected with a member of my Schumacher cousins, Tracey Schumacher Inglimo, in what would become a quest to get to know all of my Schumacher cousins, and like my Byer cousins, there were lots of them. The journey has been a wonderful trip, as my sisters and I have cultivated friendships with these precious cousins, some of whom we met on our 2014 trip back to our roots in Superior, Wisconsin. Now, four years later, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; her daughter, Liz Masterson; and I have returned to Superior, Wisconsin for a family reunion. We have been so excited for this reunion to happen, and in fact, have looked forward to reuniting with all of our cousins since we first met or found each other on Ancestry and Facebook.
The reunion took place today at Pattison Park, and it definitely lived up to every hope we had for it. These precious cousins were friendly, hospitable, and informative, while also being curious about us too. We all shared tons of stories about our families, and of course, pictures of our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. We hugged on the little ones, most of whom looked at us with a sense of wonder as to who we were, and maybe even wondering if we should be hugging them at all…at least until their parents said it was ok. We moved from group to group, and person to person trying to get to know everyone, all the while knowing that there just wasn’t enough time. We found out who the jokesters were too, because what family would be complete without those wonderful people who keep us laughing. We built bonds that will last a lifetime, and parted ways with expressions of sadness that the time had passed far to quickly. We tried to see how soon we could feasibly do this again, knowing that for most of us Facebook would have to suffice until the next reunion.
The time went by far too quickly indeed, and while we wish we could have had far more time to sit and talk, we all knew in our hearts that we had been given a precious gift…a gift of family, friendship, love, and a sense of belonging, because after all, that is what family reunions are all about. Families grow quickly, and the numbers can quickly grow to a point of losing sight of the ones who started the family in the beginning, but at reunions, those who have left us are remembered and discussed, because everyone is trying to put into context, just exactly where they fit in with all these people. We talked of those who weren’t with us with love and sadness, because they would have really loved that their families have made the effort to keep the closeness going. To all those who made this reunion so very special, we love you and thank you for making our family reunion amazing.
While in Superior, Wisconsin in late August, we drove by a beautiful home, called the Fairlawn Mansion. I have always been intrigued by mansions. It isn’t that I would like to live in one necessarily, but I very much enjoy going through them. We didn’t have time to go through this one, unfortunately, so I have been doing some research on it. My research has helped to tie a couple of things together for me about my hometown. I was born in Superior, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I know a lot about the history there…especially since we moved when I was three years old. I never knew who the mayors were for instance, or why some of the places were named what they are.
I knew about Pattison Park, but never knew how it got it’s name. It was named after Superior’s three time mayor, Martin Pattison. He was a lumber and mining baron, and he built the Fairlawn Mansion as the family home for himself, his wife and their six children. Construction began in 1889 and was completed in 1891. It is known as one of America’s castles, and it definitely looks the part. It is a 42 room mansion with a four story turret complete with a widow’s watch overlooking the bay at the tip of Lake Superior. The cost of building the mansion was $150,000 at that time, which is equivalent to well over $3,000,000 today. The grounds are adorned with several gardens filled with flowers in the summertime.
The family lived in the home until Martin’s passing in 1918, and the home sat vacant until 1920. From 1920 to 1962, this mansion served as a children’s home and house for the less fortunate. To me that seems a bit odd. Not that the house would be used in this manner, but that the people who benefitted from it’s use in those days would be called less fortunate…since they did have an amazing home to live in. Of course, if they were orphaned, they would be less fortunate. Nevertheless, they had an amazing house to live in. I can imagine that if those walls could talk, they would have many stories of the laughter of children to tell, because the mansion housed over 2000 children during it’s 42 years as a children’s home.
There are always a few ghost stories associated with mansions, it seems, and this mansion is no exception. It is said that a former maid, who was later killed by her husband and a little girl who supposedly drowned in the pool both haunt the mansion to this day, but I don’t believe in ghosts, so I say that only in passing, since it is a story connected to this beautiful house. Neither of these accounts can be substantiated, and there is no record of anyone dying there. I’m not sure why it is always the mansions that seem to carry the haunted status, because quite likely every older home and even many of the newer ones have had a resident die in them, and I’m sure quite a few of the deaths involved murder, but you just never hear of ghosts haunting those places. Maybe the story just doesn’t fit in with a dinky little house.
Rather than the supposed ghosts a mansion might have, I prefer to think of the happy times the mansion got to see over the years. These days the house is a museum, and hosts many weddings. I can imagine that the ballroom would be fabulous, and such a romantic place to have a wedding party. If the couple planned it right, theirs could be a replica of a traditional high society wedding of days gone by. I would imaging that if these walls could talk, we could hear stories of beautiful gowns, elegant people, and beautiful music. This mansion has such a unique history, that I would really love to sit and hear all it one day, because the stories would have to be simply amazing.
I found a picture among my Uncle Bill’s family history books, of my dad, Allen Spencer in a water fight with a friend named Ordie at Pattison Park, in Wisconsin, which is just 15 miles east of Holyoke, Minnesota, where the family was living at the time. I could just hear my dad’s laugh as he pummeled his friend with water. Dad had such a great laugh, and he took great pleasure in getting the best of people…in a friendly way, of course. I remember, as a kid, my dad and I used to have sparring matches. Somehow I had it in my head that I could beat him, if I really tried. Our sparring matches weren’t real, of course, but rather a matter of blocking the other persons attempts to pat their opponents face. Dad always won, and he always laughed all the way through our match. I was like a kid with an adult holding onto my head, while I tried to swing and couldn’t hit anything. Dad never held my head, but he almost always blocked my attempts to pat his face. It wasn’t really the sparring matches that drew me back into them, but rather my dad’s laugh. It amused him so much, he laughed in pure delight.
Some memories are so vivid that it’s almost as if you can hear the person. Dad’s voice, the way he teased his girls, his laugh, dancing with him on New Year’s Eve, the swatting game he always played with the grandkids from his chair in the kitchen as they tried in vain to run past him before he could swat them, and the whisker rubs he used to give us…laughing all the while. So many great memories of the wonderful dad that God blessed me with. He could even turn a moment when we were really angry or had been fighting with one of our sisters, into a laughing matter, because it was really hard to keep from laughing when he was laughing. I remember really trying a few times though. We would come to him tattling on whichever sister had so wrongly offended us, and he would imitate our whining…while we tried to keep a straight face. Before you knew it, we were both laughing, and the sister incident was forgotten. That was my dad…always the peacemaker.
When a loved one has gone to Heaven, you just never know what things will bring a memory of them that engulfs you. Sometimes, the sadness is overwhelming, and sometimes the memory brings a smile to your face. Either way, it is always unexpected and you are completely unprepared for it. My dad passed away 6 years ago today, and the memories continue to bring both tears and smiles. My mind shows me video clips of those moments in time, and the happiness we all shared with our dad. I see his smile. I remember his teasing. I hear his words of wisdom. And yes, I hear Dad’s laugh. These memories keep him in my heart until we see each other again in Heaven. I love you Dad!!
During World War II, while my dad was serving in the Army Air Force at Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England, my Uncle Bill, who was passed over for military service due to his flat feet, worked at the Globe Shipbuilding Co in Superior, Wisconsin. My family was made up of patriots from way back. My aunts, Laura and Ruth worked in the shipyards as well, as riveters on the ships. Times were tough, and the war was expensive, but necessary. They all worked hard, sometimes seven days a week, twelve hours a day, and they were glad to do it. They were doing their part, it was something they were all very proud of…as were many people in those days. It was a time, when people put others first and themselves last. They saw what needed to be done and they did it. They didn’t sit back and expect others to take care of them. The got out there and they worked hard.
Still, as with any occupation, especially one that is grueling physical labor, you have to have some down time is order to rejuvenate yourself for the future tasks that you will encounter. With the gas rationing that was normal for that time in history, they couldn’t travel very far for their rest and relaxation, so the members of my dad’s family who were “holding down the fort” at home, took to the local parks and recreation areas for a little bit of picnic fun.
Places like Pattison Park and a friend’s cabin at Lake Minnesuing became places of refuge. They provided the war weary workers a place to get away from all the worry and fear for those in harm’s way…a little bit of a distraction from all that was going on in a world that had gone crazy. Gas rationing limited the plaes they could go, so they had to stay close to home, and they had to limit the outings. We don’t understand gas rationig in this day and age. We know about rising gas prices, but not rationing, where you only get so much a week or a month…where you learn to walk places or ride a bicycle places, but they did. It was a way of life during World War II. Sacrifices had to be made to ensure that evil did not take over this world, and the people of that time, military and civilian did what they had to do to see to it that evil did not take over. They were real patriots, the kind who would never gave up until the war was won. There are still a few of those people today, but I have to wonder if they are a dying breed.