Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roadtrip October 2011 Part 3 Home Bound: Mount Rushmore, Mitchell Corn Palace, Yellowstone Park

My friend Marylea and I decided to travel home to Idaho via I-90 instead of I-80 and to stop whenever we had the urge.  We took 3 days instead of just 2 and when we got home the odometer clocked in at 3,356 miles. When we arrived in Minnesota the odometer read 1,453 miles.  I had checked the meter before we headed back to Idaho and we started the return stretch with 1,903 miles, 450 of which were traveling around the state catching up with family etc.  So the most AMAZING part of this story is...the return trip calculated out to be EXACTLY the same as the first stretch to Minnesota...1,453 miles!!!  The first 2 gas tank refills BOTH WAYS were $51 and $60!  I don't know what that all means, but I sure was surprised:)

Here are some highlights of our trip...enjoy!

Mitchell, South Dakota  Mitchell Corn Palace  The last time I was there was in 2007 when I was with the Fire Chief on the roof photographing him tossing Rookie Bear over the side for the Hero To Hero Passport Tour.  This is the first time I have been there when they are changing out the designs.



                                    Wyoming scenery



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Roadtrip October 2011 Part 2 Adventures in Iowa

My sister Nancy was excited to show me and my friend around and learning Marylea was also of Czech descent told us of Spillville, Iowa.    This small town in Northeast Iowa is a community that has a large concentration of Bohemians, and museums to tell of their great talents and history.

The Bily Clock Museum is an amazing place, with an amazing story.  I highly recommend it to anyone headed to NE Iowa!  The Bily brothers were master wood carvers that made several INCREDIBLE clocks from various types of wood.  We were not allowed to take photos so all photos here are from the website, as is the following story.
The Bily Brothers
The history of the Bily Brothers, Frank and Joseph, began on the farm where they were born and raised. Located between Ridgeway and Spillville,Iowa, the farm is where the two brothers started their carvings. These uniquely designed clocks have attracted people from all areas of the United States, Canada and from many foreign countries as well.

Beginning in 1913, the brothers employed the idle hours of long winter days and evenings with their skills of woodcarving. Being farmers and carpenters, they carved only as a hobby while still doing their regular chores and maintaining a well kept farm. In 1915 and 1916, they built the Apostle Clock from which the Twelve Apostles appear on the hour. During the period of 1923-1927, the Bily Brothers added their masterpiece to the collection, The American Pioneer History Clock. A memorial clock to Charles Lindbergh was carved in 1928 commemorating his historic flight. In these beautiful artistically carved clocks the brothers have used woods from a number of foreign countries as well as numerous pieces of walnut, butternut, maple and oaks from North America.

The Bily Brothers moved their collection to Spillville in 1946. They bequeathed the clocks to the town of Spillville with an agreement that they would never be sold or moved from their present location.The second floor of the building was the home of the famous Czech composer, Antonin Dvorak, and his family during the summer of 1893.

We were told on the tour that the brothers were bachelors that never traveled farther than 35 miles from home.  They had no living relatives and had burned all plans for the clocks and planned to burn the clocks as well.  A neighbor convinced them to donate them to the city and they agreed as long as they were promised that they would keep with their wishes and never sell any of the clocks just as they had never done...even when offered $1 million dollars by Henry Ford!  What a couple of humble, talented men.

Our next stop was the local church, St. Wenceslaus.  Here is some info about it from the website 

St. Wenceslaus is the oldest Czech Catholic Church in the United States. It was built with the hard work and generosity of Czech settlers that imigrated to the area. The original church was completed in 1860. A bell tower was added in 1869 and the sanctuary and transept were completed in 1873. The original pipe organ installed in 1876 still remains and was played by Antonin Dvorak during his stay in Spillville.

These crosses were made by a local man named Charles Andera.  See website info below.


The Unique Cemetery Art of a Czech Immigrant

"Dust you are and to dust you shall return."22 Sep 2005 updated 04 Sep 2010

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When Charles Andera died in 1929, he left behind a unique legacy: hundreds of ornate distinctive cast metal crosses which mark the final resting place of Roman Catholic Czech Americans in no less than twelve states. His beautiful grave markers have been found in cemeteries from Prague, Oklahoma to Bohemia, New York and from Pisek, North Dakota to Halletsville, Texas. Almost exclusively these monuments are in Czech Catholic graveyards. Loren N. Horton, Chief Historian for the Iowa State Historical Society, now retired, calls Andera's cemetery art a "Czech-American treasure."

In addition to his wonderful work, Andera left us with a number of questions: Where did he learn his many skills, where did he have his intricate crosses cast, how did he market them, and how many more are there that we don't know about? Those questions are all begging for answers. An effort is now underway to resolve them and to locate and catalog all of his wonderful grave marker crosses.

Andera came to this country with his parents and several siblings in the early 1860’s from Hrobska Zahradka (Garden of the Graves), a small village near Tabor, Bohemia. It’s name derived from the ancient burial grounds near which it was located. After a short stay in Toronto, Canada, the family settled on a farm near Spillville in Winneshiek County, Iowa. There in 1875 Charles married Barbara Dostal, the daughter of a wagon maker. Where he lived in the interim is unknown. Was it perhaps with an older half-brother near Charles City, Iowa who had trained in Vienna, Austria as a furniture maker? When the question came up, long after his death, no one had an answer.

Now a skilled carpenter and cabinet maker, Charles Andera opened a furniture store next to his small house in Spillville. His work included the construction of the communion rail and other wooden appointments in Spillville’s St. Wenceslaus Church. Bells of the clock he installed in the steeple sounded on the quarter hour and could be heard for miles. Commuting by bicycle, he crafted the altars in the Catholic churches in nearby Fort Atkinson and Protivin. He also made burial caskets.

The earliest crosses still in existence in the Spillville cemetery were made from wagon maker’s strap iron and may have been the product of John Dostal, Andera’s father-in-law. Was this connection perhaps what gave Charles Andera his cross-making start? There would have been wooden crosses of Oak, a common practice which in his native land, went back several centuries.

Charles Andera sculpted his crosses from wood and Plaster of Paris, then sent this pattern to a foundry to have them cast. The corpora, of which there were several sizes, as well as the small statues which adorn two of his designs, he carved from wood. The inscription plates he may have cast himself. The foundry was probable in Wisconsin but to date no solid evidence has been found.

Most puzzling is the question: how did this craftsman locate buyers scattered throughout such a wide region? Spillville was a village of less than 400 souls, Tremont less than a quarter that size. The sole Andera ad that has been found was a 25th anniversary history of the Catholic Workman, a Czech Catholic fraternal union, the Spillville chapter of which Charles Andera was the founding member. He was a also a charter member of the Western Czech Catholic Union which was incorporated in Spillville on 1 January 1899.

Branches of both organizations had formerly belonged to the Bohemian Catholic First Central Union which had formed in St. Louis, MO in 1877 and which used the newspaper HLAS as it organ. The paper’s readership extended throughout the country’s Czech Catholic community and was one of its prime means of communication. Was it somehow through this union that Andera learned of potential buyers?

The Andera grave marker crosses are rich in symbolism. His #1 was adorned with a skull and crossbones. (This did not indicate that the deceased had died from poison as one school child surmised, but was an image commonly displayed by Czech Catholics in centuries past as a reminder of man’s mortality.) This style was also available with an abstract design. Other symbols and decorations that the cross maker utilized included angels, cherubs, crucifixes, the Lamb of God, statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, the crown of thorns, quatrefoils, and trefoils.

States in which Andera crosses have been found are Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas.

Shown below are examples of the Charles Anderas crosses. Andera’s photos of the crosses he sold show eight different basic designs which, through markings, can be identified as his work. Each cross could be obtained with a variety of stone or metal bases. Strangely, there appears to be no pattern in the manner in which Andera marked his crosses. Some simply have his intials, “C.A.”; others include his intials or name, the words “Spillville. IA” or “Tremont, MO” and may include the date of manufacture. Some, on the back of the heart shaped inscription plate, are marked “No. 5” or carry the outline of a cross. Many monuments, otherwise indentical to the marked crosses, are unmarked.

If anyone has knowledge about Andera crosses, contact
Cyril M. Klimesh, Sebastopol, CA
or Loren E. Horton, 3367 Hanover Court, Iowa City, IA 52245

Grave monument of Vojtech Krall in Sec 46 of the St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery in Newport Township Johnson County, Iowa

Information for this article was provided by Pat Krall Skay, a member of the Iowa City Genealogical Society.
The web page was created by Harvey W. Henry, Webmaster and a member of the ICGS

This is a link of the names of those buried in the cemetery. 

Our next stop was Burr Oak, Iowa and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum!

I was going to post my photos, but this is an AWESOME link that gives you the same tour I and all!


Roadtrip October 2011 Part 1 Idaho to Minnesota

My friend Marylea and I set off on a week long trip to Minnesota and back.  I took 20 years of teaching supplies to my nephew Pat's wife Diana.  She is in her second year teaching kindergarten and my stuff was just sitting in the basement calling out to be used!   For the return trip we would load up my SUV with dining chairs and architectural salvage from my brother Tom's supply, as well as some salvage yards in Minneapolis.  More on that later!

We drove to MN on I-80 through Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa.  It went by pretty quickly and we only made one short stop at Cabela's in Nebraska, then spent the night in North Platte.  After covering much of Iowa, we were just 8 miles from my sister Sally so we stopped in Mason City to see her. My niece Natalie showed up as well which was a pleasant surprise.  Upon arriving in Grand Meadow, Minnesota the odometer read 1,453 miles.  We had spent 23 hours on the road.

In Minnesota we were able to spend a little time with all but one of my siblings...sorry Becky...and Marylea met Jerry, Nancy, Sally, Tommy, Larry, Penny, and Sherry as well as my mom, nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews.  (Don't worry Marylea there will NOT be a test on names!)  We had a great time and want to thank my sister Nancy for letting us camp out at her house and for feeding us and playing chauffer.

Since Marylea had never been to Wisconsin we planned a trip to Winona, Minnesota where we could cross the bridge into Wisconsin.  We took the scenic route and exited I-90 at St. Charles to check out the Amish shop off the interstate.  Talk about skilled workers.  We went through St. Charles as I hoped we would find a favorite spot of mine, an old house full of antiques that I had visited years ago.
I almost missed it when Marylea found a sign...whew!  Here are some photos of that awesome place.
                                     This is an 1865 Italiante Victorian owned by an 85 year old woman.  (I believe the roof has been altered)  She had been here 40 years and built an apartment on back to live in.  Her family is NOT interested in the home and she fears it will be TORN DOWN!

This set of stairs is immediately inside the door to the left.  It is a floating spiral staircase that has been painted and antiqued.  The gold rope is really a rope that was dipped in plaster and nailed to the wall to cover the gap. 
 The photo to the right is the parlor, the first room you enter.  Every room is this packed with antiques and salvaged items given new uses...such as old watches turned into brooches, cigar boxes made into purses,  spoons make into necklaces.  WATCH for my adaptation on her ideas in a later blog.
I didn't see it at first but this room is has a wainscot around it.  I had to move some bags to reveal it.  It is actually tooled leather coated with varnish.       


The back staircase was lined with pages from magazines as a form of wallpaper.

   This family tree wrapped around a corner and extended up onto the ceiling. The oak leaves were cut from burlap and had a black and white photo pasted to each.

Another room was wallpapered with a QUILT!!!!  It was glued right to the wall and looked fabulous.

  With a little adjusting, I think an afgan would make a wonderful valance don't you?

 I had a wonderful visit with the owner of the home and we exchanged info.  I hope to keep in touch and share some of her creative ideas.

  We continued on to Winona and first stopped at Garvin Heights to overlook the city below. The wind was whipping so we took a couple photos and hit the road. You can see the bluffs of Wisconsin in the background. They are on the other side of the Mississippi River.  While we were there I took Marylea to see some local sights, showed her where I went to college and where I hung out. The scenery and architecure are AMAZING in Winona and I would really love to live there again someday but for now I just have to snap photos to help me remember.

I used to study in this cemetery during college days in Winona, and often walked and admired the architecture.


 We later crossed the bridge and headed to Fountain City to buy some lefse...YUM and snap some photos! 

Our last adventure in Minnesota ended at my brother's stables checking out his horses.

Stay tuned for more of our adventures.