Thursday, August 2, 2012

Vintage Green Bay

I've been thinking a lot about my hometown lately - I know a lot of that has to do with the fact that today would've been my Grammie's 88th birthday!  She was the matriarch of my mom's side of the family, and she wore that title proudly. Our family in Green Bay revolved around her, for certain.

What's interesting is that none of my family is originally from the Green Bay area. My mom's parents were from Illinois and Michigan, respectively; my dad's family is originally from Minneapolis but they all migrated to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1939 (hey, when you get a good-paying job during the Depression, you go where the job is!).  All of my family moved to the Green Bay area at various times because of employment and it seemed like a good place to raise kids, so they stayed.  :D  Even though I lived in Green Bay for the first 28 years of my life, I wasn't born there, either.  I was actually born in Reno, NV and my parents moved us back when I was 4 months old.

It's funny how you remember your hometown when you leave it.  I have mostly fond memories of my time there, but because I've been gone for nearly 16 years already the memories are fading around the edges.  I have far more knowledge of the city of Fond du Lac and its doings than I ever did in Green Bay, mainly because I'm more civic-minded now.  I think that happens as you get older; you start to really care about making your city a nicer place to live.  That's why I love being a part of the burgeoning arts scene here in Fondy and helping other artists realize that there is a market here for their art (hooray for Tour the Town!).

One thing I really enjoyed during my tenure in Green Bay, though, was my time with the Brown County Historical Society.  I've always been fascinated with what came before, and I learned a lot when I was a part of that group (up until writing this paragraph, I had all but forgotten about this chapter in my life.  See what I mean about fading memories?).  My membership was most certainly a kernel of involvement that laid the groundwork for what was to come in Fond du Lac.

The Main St. Bridge, shown here, was renamed the
 Ray Nitchke Memorial Bridge shortly before his death in 1998.
 Ray was a famous Green Bay Packer who played in the Ice Bowl of '67.

Here's some ephemera that the BCHS would probably enjoy - this pack of vintage postcards showcasing Green Bay landmarks!  It's from 1947, which is right around the time my dad moved to town with his family (he moved to Green Bay after WWII because his uncle Vin Hendrie, who was married to his dad's sister Grace, offered him a job at the Green Bay Savings and Loan, of which he was the president).

I LOVE this packet of postcards, which I bought at one of the Gibson Girls estate sales.  What's so interesting about it is that some of the landmarks are virtually unchanged from the outside, like the Reformatory...

and the Brown County Courthouse...

both impressive stone buildings that will likely remain long after I'm gone.  There are buildings that still exist but are vastly different, like Bellin, St. Vincent and St. Mary Hospitals...

and West High (where's East, my mom and two of my uncles' alma mater?).

On the front of the pack is the Kellogg Public Library and Neville Museum; my mom remembers that library (she used to study there!) but it's now office buildings and the "new" library, built in 1972, is far larger.  The Neville Public Museum is also much more impressive now and sits on the southwest bank of the Fox River, just over the Walnut Street bridge...

which also looks far different than this "bascule lift" now, which was replaced in the mid-Nineties (but oh, how I loved that old bridge)!

Sadly, some of these buildings are now gone.  The beautiful Oddfellows home was razed in 1995; I remember this because I was actually at the closing auction.  I have no recollection of this City Hall whatsoever; by the time I saw it, this is what it looked like (and does still).  Quite a change from the old (and in my opinion, far cooler) building, but ah, such was the middle 20th century.

Every time I return to Green Bay I am astounded by how spread out it has become.  The areas with the most  growth are the far east and the far west sides; what once took 16 minutes from one side of town to the other now takes about 40 (more if you're going through town).

A couple of my cousins, my two remaining uncles and my two brothers and most of their kids remain in the Green Bay area, but the rest of us live elsewhere.  My entire immediate family (mom, sister Jen and her family) are in the Madison area.  But at one point we were all here, in Green Bay, and I will treasure those familial memories forever.

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