Monday, June 30, 2008

Ah, Appleton!

Last week my sister and her family moved to Appleton, Wisconsin. Personally, I knew nothing of Appleton other than that my friend Ken Anselment and his family live there.

Here Ken is, right, waiting to welcome Jen and Chad and the kids to Appleton. (Ken works at Lawrence University as the director of admissions. This photo, and other fabulous shots of Ken in action, can be found here.)

Anyway, in anticipation of their move, I did some research about Appleton online, and came up with some very interesting facts and stories for this week.

The town of Appleton, located on the Fox River at the north end of Lake Winnebago and not too far from Lake Michigan, began its history as a Yankee town as a little community called Grand Chute, so called because of the rapid falls of the Fox. The Fox was itself first explored by Europeans in the early 1670s. The length of the river was actually canoed, as part of the trip that led to the European "discovery" of the Mississippi, by Louis Nicolet and a Jesuit, believe it or not, Father Jacques Marquette, S.J. You know what they say, join the Jesuits, see the world.

"So I take a right at the big tree, then on through the maize...and how do I make my way out?"

Anyway, Grand Chute: The main business of the town was ladder-making; ladders from all over the country, in fact, were made in Grand Chute, and a number of presidents had their pictures taken standing on a Grand Chute ladder.

The ladder-making business also led to the local creation of a board game that would seize the imagination of the young people of both America and Bolivia, known as Chutes and Ladders. As we know, that game remains popular among children in the United States; but it's nothing like the popularity it has in Bolivia. The country has local, regional and national matches, and a championship series (going back now over a hundred years) whose media attention is on a par with Americans' attention to the Super Bowl. Matches are televised, strategies are discussed around dinner tables and barrooms, and excessive amounts of money are bet on the events. The state flag, in fact, includes a ladder, as a representation of the country's national pastime.

Can You Name this Famous Appletonian?


trip said...

Harry Houdini. Also, Willem Dafoe is from Appleton. Plenty of great things come from Appleton--mostly paper now!

trip said...

The last comment was from Katie.

Ken said...

Harry Houdini--not born in A-town, but did call it home. Much like Joe McCarthy, but we don't talk much about him.

Thanks for making me famous, Seamus.

Jen Pontow said...

You know they have the Houdini Museum in Appleton, or I think they changed the name to a History Museum but it has the Houdini stuff on it. Can't wait to check it out when we are back from the Smoky Mountains. :) Love, Jen