Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Surprising City of Clinton Iowa

Meaning no disrespect to the folks of Clinton, we had expected our side trip to Clinton during our annual visit to the US of A to be more of a task than a pleasure. We had assumed the community would be just another boring Mississippi River town that time had passed by. The only reason we had for stopping there was to try to locate the grave of my great great grandfather. We found his gravesite and much more.

Bernard Henry Meyer was born in Hanover Germany in 1821. I don’t know when he entered the United States but he was in Clinton (at that time in the village of Lyons, since absorbed by Clinton) in 1853 where he married Anna Maria Schnier, who died in 1863. The 1854 state census shows his occupation as tailor but by 1860 he owned a saloon/restaurant business on 3rd (today McKinley Ave) and Main Street that he would operate until his death.  

The Lyons Iowa that Bernard saw in 1853 was much different than the one we saw as we walked the street where his business was located, though by the time of his death in 1879 the village had grown from a raw frontier town to a modern city. The church where he was married - Saint Irenaeus still stands as do several older buildings that he would have seen.

With the genealogy portion of our trip taken care of we wondered what to do with our remaining one and one-half days in Clinton. As it turned out we filled every minute with something of interest. We started with the historic walking tour, and after that walked on the Riverwalk – a beautiful trail that features parks and other attractions along the Mississippi River, including the Clinton Marina and Showboat Landing, an old riverboat where live theater is staged. By the way, apparently it is obligatory for Clintonians (?) to greet others on the street with a good morning, afternoon or evening. These are friendly and helpful people who never failed to eagerly answer our questions and offer advice.

Also located on the trail is the Candlelight Restaurant. By chance we ate there on a Friday evening when margaritas the size of buckets are offered for $2. We both had the ‘ultimate combo’ which includes sizable portions of chicken George and prime rib smothered with sautéed mushrooms and onions along with the usual trappings. This was the best meal we had during our entire trip to the states. The cooling breeze and view of the river is a bonus.

There is an information kiosk for tourists on the Riverwalk and this is where we learned of The Sawmill Museum. There are interesting displays of aspects of the lumber days gone by. Don’t miss the display featuring a discussion between four animated lumber barons of the late 1890s. It is both entertaining and informative. Their saw mills were in the immediate area of the former location of my grandfather’s saloon/restaurant, and I assume he knew these men.

There isn’t much in the way of shopping. The downtown area is attractive but uninteresting. Commercial growth has relocated to the edge of the city. Adjacent to our hotel was a Walmart and Kohl’s store. There was a Target but apparently it lost to Walmart in the battle of the giants and has recently closed.

Though Clinton turned out to be the highlight of our visit it wasn’t the only activity we enjoyed. In Milwaukee we took in the Wisconsin State Fair, an annual event begun in 1851 that for the last three years has drawn more than one million visitors. There are a variety of exhibitions including arts and crafts (our friend and guide Shannon is standing beneath her prize-winning quilt), farm animals and much more. As at most fairs food is a big deal. Everything imaginable is available with my favorite being a smoked turkey leg. There are games to play, carnival rides and parades. In the evening there is live entertainment. It makes for a long day…and a peaceful sleep at night.

Boulder Junction Wisconsin is where my son and I fished for muskys annually for many years. I hadn’t been there in over twenty years and wanted Maribel to see my favorite northern town, and to see how much it had changed. It isn’t the fishing town it once was. Years ago the streets were lined with truck/boat rigs and the restaurants were crowded with fishermen and their guides eager to wolf down their breakfasts and get out on the water. Today it’s mostly tourists shopping in the many boutiques. The hotel owner told us that he has more business in winter from snowmobilers than from fishermen in summer. I don’t know why that has changed.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the Little Bohemia Lodge and restaurant on Little Star Lake. I first ate there thirty five years ago and the place hasn’t changed. It was eighty one years ago that John Dillinger and his gang escaped from the lodge after a shoot-out with FBI agents. While eating we enjoyed the old-time ambience of the restaurant and the view of the lake but the quality of the food was disappointing, especially after I had bragged about it to Maribel. Her broasted chicken and my prime rib were just so-so, lacking in flavor as was the soup. The margaritas weren’t even close to those of the Candlelight in Clinton.  Still, it was a good experience and we’re both glad we went there.

From Boulder Junction we drove to Crivitz Wisconsin, where I had retired to and lived with Maribel for two years after our marriage. Lots of changes had taken place there but one that was very disappointing and sad was that the restaurant at Shaffer Park Resort had burned down last September shortly after celebrating their 75th year in business. It was our favorite supper club and we had our wedding reception there.  We had many good times at that club with the owner Mark Shaffer and Sue, our friend and favorite waitress. Now there is nothing but a grassy area where the club had been.

We finished our visit with two days of shopping and relaxing in Milwaukee prior to an exhausting twenty six hours of airports and airplanes to return to Chiclayo. But we’re back safe and sound and are looking forward to resuming our Promesa Peru activity. We’ve got uniforms to deliver to Los Reynoza next Monday and have visits to the villages of Las Salinas and Salas scheduled for next week.

1 comment:

  1. My Aunt was married to a Meyer at the turn of the century. Bell Hullinger Meyer from Dewitt iowa moved to Clinton Iowa Bo. 187?