Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff



I get lots of compliments and questions about how I successfully keep my many pots of geraniums over winter.  It’s so easy!!!  When it begins to freeze I move them to a dark, cool basement room. The only light comes through a small east facing window.  We do nothing with them.  When they begin to show signs of green (usually March) we move them in front of a large south-facing main floor window.  As they grow I fertilize and prune tall stalks.  In May, or earlier if  is warm enough, we move the outside!   I continue fertilizing and pruning as needed, using pruned stalks to fill in any gaps.  Some of the larger plants are six or seven years old!





WMS_entrance“It’s been such a good thing for the school!” The comment from Julie, a parent involved in planning a new high school media center implemented a decade ago, summed it up well. Yes, it was and still is a good thing. And for me, it was one of several media-center-planning experiences. But what would I do now? Are the media centers we were proud of that many years ago still adequate and functional?

Planning was once relatively prescriptive. We considered the number of square feet needed per student; shelving for books and magazines; designated spots for circulation, reference, conference rooms, storage, and perhaps for some, a video production studio; a teaching classroom; soft seating; and, by the early 1980s, computer labs. Within a few years, school-wide internet access and wireless technology added further complexity to the decision making. The challenge of making good decisions about facilities continues to evolve.

Perennial design questions, Internet@Schools, Sept/Oct 2015)

Facilities: Designing School Media Centers, A collection of article

New article of interest:  From Library Media Center to MEDIAPLEX, School Library Connection, October 2015.  The article by Diane Rupertand Michael McCullough describes on an interesting approach to a remoded, some new concepts and challenges two to high school media specialists.

This crew was like a band of brothers” Husky Crew Foundation photo: University of Washington

The Boys in the Boat  (Penguin, 2013) is the newest addition to my “memorable books” list. Daniel Brown’s nonfiction account of the University of Washington’s competition at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is almost as exciting as listening to a broadcast of a tie-breaker basketball ball game. While Washington the team was victorious, winning and getting there was not easy.  Brown describes life in Seattle and America during the Great Depression, the life-long struggles of Joe Rantz (the team member most highlighted) team training, competition with a rival California team, competing against prestigious Ivy League teams, and the art and physics of rowing.

Hitler’s emerging power and the conniving put into creating a positive impression for visiting teams are woven throughout the narrative. The work of Leni Riefenstahl, a producer of Nazi propaganda films, and the massive work dedicated to building the Olympic stadium are especially intriguing. I was also interested in the depictions of East vs West (reminded me of The Great Gatsby) and lt a “younger” and yet unknown Seattle.  The art, woodworking skills, and influence of George Pocock who built the shells are another fascinating part of the story.

As with other non-fiction, I was curious about the author’s resources. They are extensive, including interviews with surviving family members and friends, letters, diaries, photographs, Universal Newsreels, other films, newspapers, log books, and unpublished manuscripts. The end notes provide exhausting insight into just how much research goes into researching and writing a book like this. A few of these many primary resources are:

Read the book about this band to brothers to learn just how hard the team worked and how close the Olympic competition race was!  You will learn some new vocabulary and gain an appreciation on rowing along the way.

I never imagined a book about rowing could be so informative, interesting, and exciting!

The Polish Cultural Institute and Museum celebrates Winona’s Kashubian heritage and the prominent role Kashubian Poles and their descendants have played in Winona’s history and culture since the mid 1800’s.

The museum is located in the original headquarters of the Laird-Norton Lumber Company, a large lumber mill that operated during Winona’s heyday as a lumber milling town. Many immigrants were employed in the lumber industry.

Notable exhibits include wedding dresses and photos, household tools, lumber and farming tools, household objects,musical instruments, photos, religious artifacts and contemporary history artifacts.

fabric_artifactsGrants and other funding have provided opportunities  to translate, digitize and archive archives and documents.  A portion of the web site is in Polish Language translation services are provided by a young man who immigrated to Winona from Poland as a nine year-old.

The museum’s web site has biographical information on many deceased and living Winonans of Polish, links to genealogy sites, a list of pictures and stories related to Winona landmarks with Polish and Kashubian connections. The original (Washington) Kosciuszko School, the Hot Fish Shop and the Basilica of Saint Stanislaus Kostka are examples of significant local structures represented.

wordsThe Heritage and Community center has a large pictorial timeline display reflecting significant events and people (including contemporaries.)  A large sign showing language differences in English, Polish and Kashubian spellings caught my eye. The adjacent heritage house is furnished with artifacts representing Polish culture and used as a guest house.

The impressive museum is maintained by people who are passionate about preserving their heritage. Notable exhibits include wedding dresses, wedding photos, household tools, lumber and farming tools, vehicles, musical instruments, photos, religious artifacts and contemporary history artifacts.  Many Winonans and residents of Western Wisconsin where Kashubians also settled maintain ties with Winona’s sister city Bytow.  What’s in your backyard?

Polish Museum of Winona
Laird Norton Company & Family Foundation

studentdiscoverysetsExciting news!  The Library of Congress has released 3 new Student Discovery Sets. The titles and topics are:

  • Japanese American Internment
  • Political Cartoons and The American Debate
  • Women’s Suffrage

The new ebooks and the 9 previously published ebooks support commonly taught curriculum topics; they will be helpful for teachers supporting learning with primary sources in a 1:1classroom or for whole group inquiry and engaged learning. Library of Congress Teachers Page sets complement the primary source sets on the same topics.


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Winona Republican Herald Ad, October 26, 1915

Winona’s Municipal Band is celebrating it’s centennial!   The celebration began with a showing of Antony and Cleopatra, a silent film produced in 1913 and first shown in Winona in 1915.   What’s the connection?

The big production a score composed by George Colburn, the band’s original director who later worked for the Chicago symphony. The composition is one of America’s “first feature length” original scores.”

 Antony and Cleopatra was filmed on location in Egypt and Italy, part of a trilogy produced by Enrico Guazzoni that included Qua Vadis and The Last Day of Pompeii

This was my first full-length silent movie; I was surprised by the huge cast, elaborate costumes, big epic scenes, barges, and animals – wild cats, a camel and alligators. Title cards helped the audience understood the love story and war between Egypt and Rome. My favorite scene was “The long silent march” depicting Roman soldiers landing in Egypt. They kept landing and marching forever.  (I thought of D-Day.  Wonderful, non-stop music played on a Steinway Grand  by Professor James Doering from Randolph-Macon College in Virginia added to film’s mood and the evening’s fun.

Winonans first viewed Antony and Cleopatra in 1915 at the Winona Opera House. Composer Colburn conducted a 15-piece orchestra. Admission was 15 cents. We saw the movie at the Winona County History Center. Part of the museum is housed in the former Winona Armory, also celebrating its 100th birthday!


Winona Municipal Band Website
Antony and Cleopatra: cast and references
Winona Newspaper Archive
Winona Republican Herald, October 26, 1915   Advertisement
Winona Republican Herald October 27, 1915 Movie Review

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Don’t commit crimes in St. Paul!  Rule #1 defined the cozy relationship between the St. Paul Police Department and notable gangsters residing there in the early 1930’s.

“St. Paul Police Chief” Tom Brown entertained us with tales of John Dillinger, Ma Barker and sons, Creepy Karpis and other notables during an entertaining bus-tour of St. Paul’s gangster locations.

We drove by a home once inhabited by the “nice neighbor” Ma Barker and the apartment once home to John Dillinger and site of a shoot-out.  We visited the site of a payroll robbery and shootout in SOUTH St. Paul and enjoyed entertaining stories of “Madam” Nina Clifford’s” brothel with its tunnel connecting it to a men’s club.


“Chief Brown” at Swede Hollow Park, the former site of the Hamm Mansion.

We stopped at the site of the former Hamm mansion (home of the brewing  family) in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood to see where William Hamm Jr. was kidnapped and taken away from the Land of Sky Blue Waters to Chicago.
Historic Photo: Reporters and onlookers at the Hamm residence following the kidnapping.

The Gangster tour is a fun and an interesting way to learn about a seamier side of St. Paul’s history. The tour includes a bit of literary history with glimpses of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Summit Avenue home and Garrison Keillor’s current residence. The mansion of railroad builder James J. Hill is nearby.

The tour begins at the man-made Wabasha Street Caves, known as a gangster hideout but originally used to raise mushrooms. The Caves are open for tours and for weekly swing dance parties. A fun spring day in the Saintly City!


Wabasha Street Caves

Wabasha St. Caves bar

Lib Guide Minn. Historical Society
Gangsters in St. Paul
Gangster images and artifacts

What’s in your back yard?

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