Monday, August 1, 2011

My Kinda Town . . .

After almost fifteen years of living in Fennimore, I've realized that this, in truth, is my home. Today I took a little time out of my hectic schedule to look around and see where I'm really at. I won't try to compare Fennimore with Chicago (although it may be necessary to make note of some similarities and some unsimilarities). As you approach Fennimore you won't mistake the looming skyline for a looming skyline. As a matter of fact it's pretty much the same as thousands of other small rural communities around the country. After a while of living "out this way" one can determine where he's at by the size, shape and color of the closest water tower.

The industry in town is anchored by a Rayovac plant on the East side. Significantly this plant came very close to closing due to offshore sourcing to China. Most employees were let go and production was nearly nil. Turned out that those Chinese producers couldn't come close to the quality that Rayovac was known for. Voila! The work and the workers all returned to the Fennimore facility and now all my clocks, tools and numerous other battery powered gizmos are purring away on good old dependable Rayovacs. Like most other Wisconsin towns, we have our own award winning cheese factory.

Unlike most other Wisconsin towns our factory is guarded by Igor, a giant cheese loving mouse (he is sometimes referred to as a rat but, I think mouse is more cheese friendly) If you look real close, squint your eyes and, maybe have a few glasses of wine to go with your cheese, you will see the similarity between Fennimore's Igor and Chicago's Picasso.
Unlike most other Wisconsin towns Fennimore sports ONLY three taverns. (If you count the bowling alley, golf course and a sports bar a couple miles out of town, we almost come up to Wisconsin standards) For example, about five miles down the road, there's a town of twenty homes and one tavern. Now that's how Wisconsin is meant to be. (Ironically the bar is named Cheers II, and everybody in there DOES know everyone else's name)
Main street in town, Lincoln Avenue, which is a State route, is fairly unexciting with most of the traffic just passing through. The businesses are the usual standard drug store, insurance agency, newspaper office and a lawyer or two. If dining out is on the agenda, going South to North there's a Chinese restaurant with better cooks than battery makers. A block or so up the street you'll find the atypical small town restaurant, Fruit Cakes (I don't understand the name but what do I know about fine dining. It was previously named "Our Little Restaurant and Bakery" that made a little more sense to me) At the top of Lincoln is Friedericks Family Restaurant which is housed in a building that resembles a train station. This will mean more after you learn about "Dinky". The dining scene is rounded out with a more commercial flair. We have BOTH a Subway and a Hardees. Interestingly like most small towns (and large town neighborhoods) the older citizens (mainly male) have a morning meeting place. In Fennimore there are two such places. Fruitcakes attracts the rural crowd who swarm in after morning chores are done. And, the "townies" gravitate to Hardees where most of them have their own ceramic coffee mug.
On the corner of Eleventh Street and Lincoln Avenue stands the "Old Opera House" a lovely two story building which formerly housed the nicest restaurant in the area as well as the nicest bar in the area with the nicest hotel rooms in the area upstairs. It also contained (you guessed it) the nicest banquet hall in the area and around the corner, downstairs was a fairly nice bar/pizza place. Unfortunately tough financial times and a summer of Lincoln Avenue construction took its toll on the place so it sits empty waiting for the next entrepreneur to hit town with a sack of money. In its heyday the restaurant was named "The Silent Woman". Kinda catchy but the logo caught the eye of many a woman's rights groups.

We have a fine butcher shop which brags about having 36 varieties of Bratwursts and, each Fall, its parking lot is lined with hunters bringing in their antlered (and unanterlered) kill for processing. We have two lumber companies. Not unusual for a town our size but, how many towns have a lumber company owned by Bill Wood? Fennimore is home to Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. I don't really know much about the college except that it keeps growing and building more buildings. I guess they specialize in Nursing, Mechanics and citizen safety (police and fireman stuff)
And!!! Would you believe? We have no less than FIVE bakeries. (and you wonder why I keep gaining weight) Each bakery sorta does its own thing. One only does baked goods. Another cakes and pastries. I'm not sure what the other three specialize in. I usually pass out after hitting the first two. You can add in our Kwik-Trip and Caseys for doughnuts etc. and you're never more than a few steps away from temptation.
Historically, Fennimore like Chicago was a railroad hub. Of course Fennimore only had one train (a narrow gauge one at that) while Chicago had a few more. The railroad era is well documented in our very own "Railway Museum" which features an actual narrow gauge engine and tender named the "Dinky".
There's a small replica of a Chicago & Northwestern train. For a buck your kid or grandkid or childish cousin Kenny can ride in the little passenger cars while a old guy dressed in an engineer hat toots the whistle for all of the town to hear. For a quick, easy lesson on Fennimore's past, a local artist has painted a mural depicting the whole thing on the side of some buildings adjoining the RR park. If you cross the street and wander on behind the Subway you'll find one of the real treasures of Fennimore. Almost as great as Dinky and Igor is the Fennimore Doll and Toy Museum. This truly a "Must" stop. The museum is now located in an old Red Schoolhouse and presents some of the best collections of toys and dolls available. Many important collectors lend their "collections" for exhibit there.
To round out our little (long winded) tour, we pass the town supermarket, four gas stations (what we lack in taverns we make up in gas stations) some doctors and a dentist who's also a Brigadier General in the Army Reserves and even the "The Place With Your Friendly Hardware Man".
Appropriately last on my list is the place across the street from our home, The Larson Family Funeral Home. How convenient can it be?
That pretty well wraps up our little tour of what has become my hometown. I'm sure I've missed some really important stuff. What the hell come see for yourself!
Oh yeah! the mosquito at the top of the page. We have NO mosquitoes in Fennimore. Honest to God, maybe one or two will wander into town on occasion but normally we are Mosquito Free! This sorta makes up for the lack of great restaurants.....NOT!