Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Appleton: The Finale

In 1850, two years after Appleton officially closed all its ladder shops and became Appleton, the population was 619.

Today, the city has a population of 77,000. Manufacturing is a big part of the region's business. And the city has many interesting little facets. For instance, the Fox River, around which the town was built, actually flows north its entire course. Very unusual.

In 1925, the city had its first Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Edna Ferber, for her book So Big, the story of a man whose life was so scarred by the death of his mother when he was a baby, that his entire life the only words he ever spoke were the ones she used to say to him when they were playing: "So Big." His family had to learn to understand how he was feeling by the way he said the words -- "SO BIG" for angry, "so big" for tired or blue, "So big?" to indicate a question. Apparently it's based on a true story -- and the man not only learned to survive, but became Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of Defense, Commander James von Stumpenheisel. It's really an unbelievable piece of work.

Edna Ferber and her hair.

Speaking of writers, Mike Lowe, editor of the great parodic magazine The Onion, is from Appleton. Check out these great bits.

Other famous Appletonians include Senator Joseph McCarthy, who supposedly called his pursuit of communists "the Red Scare" as a reference to his own background -- he was a kid from Appleton (apples, red) bent on scaring communists away. The whole notion of Communists as "reds" comes from McCarthy and this bit of wordplay of his.

Appleton boasts the nation's first hydroelectric station, which opened as far back as 1882, providing 12.5 kilowatts to light two paper mills and a home, known as the Hearthstone, which is now one of Wisconsin's major tourist destination (along with "The Wonder Spot", near the Dells, where gravity goes crazy!).

How is this possible???

It also boasts the 3-15 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a minor league baseball team associated with the Seattle Mariners, and a diocesan secondary school called Xavier High School, named after Jesuit saint Francis Xavier. The library in Appleton was the first in Wisconsin to have a webpage, and in 2004 the city was rated one of the top 10 most secure cities in the country. The city in fact still has a 10pm curfew for all residents, 11pm on weekends. And in 1986, Sports Illustrated put Appleton on its cover and declared it to be "Sports City USA."

The coldest it's ever been in Appleton is 32 degrees below zero; the hottest, 107 degrees above zero. Weirder still, the two events happened on the same day -- Monday.

So that's Appleton! May it be a great great place for my sister and her family to call their home.


It's late Tuesday night here. I am working with a group of young people from the US, Australia and India who have come to Melbourne to volunteer for a week while on the road to World Youth Day in Sydney. A fantastic group of people -- I will send photos later!

The rest of the week, I'm going to post some good Aussie poetry. Hope you enjoy it!


Rusty said...

love all your entries, Jim

ddunbar said...

Interesting and educational, Jim. It's nice to learn new things about the homeland.