Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday, 29 July

Settled in at cousin Juanita's place in Baraboo. She was working in the morning, so we took a walk downtown. Gene was born here, and lived in town off and on until he was 12, so he knew a bit about the town; or at least what it was like 65 years ago.

Baraboo was founded in 1847. The most famous citizens of the town were the Ringling family.  There are late 19th Century connections everywhere. Like all old, small towns, there are some interesting old houses. Some are big and fancy, probably former Ringling properties; others are more modest but in an interesting style. You can see houses from just about any period after the mid-19th Century until today.

Gene pointed out the church he went to and one of the houses he lived in near downtown. The later was a modest home, half a block from one of the fanciest Ringling mansions (long since become an Elks lodge). From there he would walk a couple of blocks on a Saturday to spend the whole  afternoon at the movies. This was in a real movie palace where he saw a feature, a western, a newsreel, one or more shorts, and cartoons for the princely sum of 7 cents.

The Al. Ringling theater was built in 1915 and is considered (at least locally) to be the first of the great movie palaces. It featured extensive classical decor, with lots of fancy work. It had, for its day, a large stage and the largest screen in the state. There is an orchestra pit, and a large theater organ that rises up from the pit. There are individual boxes with chairs instead of a balcony. They presented plays as well as movies and it was fully-equipped for live theater. Not that any of this meant anything to little Gene. It continues to present plays and movies and has since it was opened in 1915. We hope to get a tour of the inside in the next couple of days.

After walking around downtown for a while, we stopped for a delicious lunch at one of the few places that was open on a Sunday. By the time we got back to the motorhome, we were tired and lay down for a short rest. Juanita came home from work about that time and said she was going to lay down, too. A couple of hours later she woke us and asked if we wanted to see Devil's Lake. This is a state park three miles outside Baraboo. She took us on a tour of both the north shore (where Gene got a bottle of sand for his collection of beach sand) and the south shore, where Gene had never actually been.

Devil's Lake from the south shore
The whole  park covers a lot of ground and is quite beautiful. It is the most popular of Wisconsin's state parks. Then she took us on a longer tour of the area outside Baraboo, ending with a visit with her daughter and son-in-law.

Finally, Juanita said she wasn't hungry so we stopped at a grocery and picked up a few things for a light supper in the motorhome. Juanita went in to turn in early (she actually hadn't taken a nap after all) and we looked over some information about local attractions she had given us. We had our light supper at about sunset and were ready to turn in ourselves. There still is a lot to see in the few days we have here in Baraboo, so keep tuned.

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