Friday, August 2, 2013

Yes, Thomas Wolfe, I went home again ...

One of the things I thought I'd be doing a lot more of after leaving my longtime job at The Indianapolis Star 15 months ago was travel. It hasn't quite worked out that way.

Last weekend, however, I made a modest dent into that goal. I drove to Milwaukee, Wis., where I spent most of the first 22 years of my life. I jammed a lot of visiting with school classmates, friends and family into the long weekend. I also did a little bit of leisure photography while there. So, Thomas Wolfe, I did go home again, although I concur with the premise of your 1940 novel: It just isn't the same.

My high school class scheduled reunion outings on Friday and Saturday nights, and on Saturday afternoon, I got to see one of my classmates play in a baseball league devoted to players his age. The facility where he played, a development at 76th Street and Rawson Avenue in Franklin, Wis., is not far from where I grew up in the neighboring suburb of Greendale. I did not take photographs while I was at The Rock Sports Complex, however.

After watching baseball, I drove to St. Francis, still another suburb, to visit the grounds that had served as our high school campus. The school, known as DeSales Preparatory Seminary, was built on 45 acres overlooking Lake Michigan in the early 1960s (this link is to a 1963 Milwaukee Journal newspaper article about the school's imminent opening). Its sprawling campus had beautiful facilities and was adjacent to St. Francis Major Seminary. Separated by 15 acres of woods, it also sat behind another private Catholic high school, then known as Pio Nono but since 1972 it has been St. Thomas More High School.

The DeSales buildings are still there, but it closed as a school in 1979, and for most of the period since then, the property had been home and headquarters of the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The priest sex scandals of the 1990s and early 2000s bankrupted the archdiocese, which had to start selling off assets to pay legal settlements. Sadly, the campus is caught in the middle of the assets-shedding process. Some photos of the campus during my visit appear here.

After taking pictures there, I walked across Lake Drive into Bayview Park, which I'd never set foot in during my days in high school. It had always been there, but for reasons I can't really fathom myself, I never made it there way back then. From the cliffs of Bayview Park, I grabbed some photos of the lake, the break wall, a sailboat, some gulls and ducks and a portion of the Milwaukee skyline. Photos from that shoot can be found in this post, beginning with the one leading off the post.

On Sunday afternoon, after lunching with a friend near Southridge Mall in Greendale, I drove to and through Whitnall Park, which I'd often visited on my bicycle in my youth. I came across Boerner Botanical Gardens there and remembered my late mother remarking, a long time ago, how much she enjoyed going there. So I stopped there and strolled the perimeter of the grounds, taking pictures with my iPhone5. On my departure, I came across some park landscapes that caught my eye, including the uphill access drive, where a lone walker made the ascent ... and where I saw a red barn I thought was picture-worthy. I photographed those with my Canon 7D. Some shots from there appear in this post, too.

The photos in today's montage conclude with a series of images I'd taken, also Saturday, of my childhood home in Greendale. We moved into the home in 1956, and my brother bought it from my father's estate after Dad died in 1989, where my brother then lived until moving out six or seven years ago. The property currently reflects the care of its current owners, who I do not know.

Above: One view of the divided-road entrance to my former high school, most recently the Cousins Center, home of the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese. The portion you're looking at is the exit side. 

Above and below: Close and closer views of the former front entrance of the school. The multi-level section on the left was the start of the faculty quarters; the tall section on the right the start of the very beautiful 800-seat Mater Christi Chapel. The archdiocese would eschew this access for its main entrance and instead use others to the side and back of the complex.

Above: This point on the entrace side of the divided access was where the city bus system would drop off and pick up students who commuted to the school and used city transportation. I was one of those students. I don't recall this bus sign being there when I was attending, however.

Above: This perspective shot along the entrance side of the main access shows the school's front and main access, the full Mater Christi Chapel (to the right of the main entrance), the area where bus commuter students entered the complex (in a door just to the right of the chapel and, in this photo, largely obscured by the trees) and the start of the high school dormitory (far right), where boarding students lived. Commuting students who drove in cars would turn right past the trees and turn left behind the dormitory and park in the lot you see in the next three pictures below.   

Above and below: The multi-level library (center) looked out at the woods (behind where I was standing in the parking lot when I took this shot). The library connected the two dormitories -- the start of the taller structure on the left is the high school dorm, the taller structure on the right ... and the one you see in its entirety in the first photo below ... was where college students boarded. The doors adjacent to the high school dorm is where commuter students who drove and parked in this lot accessed the school. Later, it served as one of the main entrances to the archdiocese headquarters.  

Above: The full high school dorm.

Above: A path from the side parking lot that leads to the 15-acre woods separating DeSales from Pio Nono/St. Thomas Moore. The green area you see in the right foreground extended all the way to Lake Drive and once had a track used by school cross-country and track teams and for intersholastic sports such as softball, soccer and tag football.

Above: The first in a series of shots taken from Bayview Park.

Above: The first in a series of shots taken outside Boerner Botanical Gardens in Whitnall Park.

Above: The walker, mentioned in the text above, ascending the access to Boerner Botanical Gardens.

Above: Just off the hilly access road to Boerner Botanical Gardens is this barn.
Above and below: The first of several shots of my childhood home in Greendale. Two changes I immediately noticed -- the newly revamped and widened driveway and the main window in the front, which used to extend all the way to ground level. Not sure who reduced it ... or why. Also, the tree in the front and on the side did not exist when I lived there. We had a crab apple tree in the front, but it was situated more toward the center of the yard, not to the far right and near the curb where this street is located. We did have a large evergreen tree in the side yard for quite a while, but it was situated closer to the front than where this side yard tree is situated.

Above and below: Neither of those trees on the right existed when I lived there. The crab apple tree on the far left, behind the utility pole, however, was there. At one point when I lived here, my dad planted a row of lilac bushes along the curb and along the back property line (which you don't see) to serve as a kind of natural privacy fence. But the bushes grew so large and difficult to maintain that he eventually had them removed.

Above: We never cluttered our backyard in all the years I was there. We had a cement walk connecting the back door to a patio approximately where the structure on the far left you see here. We rarely used that patio, though, although it was roughly "first base" for ballgames my brother and I used to play in the yard. The row of bushes in the background didn't exist either. My brother told me his neighbor installed those while my brother still lived there, and apparently after several heated discussions between them about where the line existed between their properties. My brother felt it was a way the neighbor decided to affirm where the neighbor felt the line existed.

No comments:

Post a Comment