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Country Echoes


R.D.2, Brandon, Wisconsin

Heigh, heigh ho - and we're away. All the Homemakers have their day, And it's today!

Three Homemaker groups of our neighborhood are on a trip to New Glarus. We have hired a bus and two of the ladies are going down the aisles like street car conductors gathering our fare.

The conversation (can you call it that - or is it cackling?) rises and falls in swelling cadences. It is like an unruly sea whose waves compete with the wail of a banshee. If I were a bus driver I would count as most necessary a pair of ear plugs. Then I would be sure to have them with me when the ladies take a Happy Holiday.

The poor fellow stopped at a phone booth - perhaps he put in his order!

Our first stop was the Pet Milk Plant. This is a branch office with the headquarters being at St. Louis, Missouri. We saw the Babcock test room and then on to the evaporating department. One learns here that when the milk is finished it is only 40% of the bulk which was originally delivered to the plant. Some of the tanks hold one hundred thousand pounds. It evolves with a 7.90 test and is 26.25% solids. Every night four men spend their time cleaning all the pipes. The milk is heated by being surrounded by steam jackets. They have the most efficient little soldering machine one can imagine. 134 cans a minute get soldered and are on their way. Three machines, each of which carry 384 cans a minute, operate ten hours every day. For the filling of the cans, wheels which look like large wagon wheels take the milk to the cans through their small spokes and then our little soldering machines go to work and seal them tightly.

In the next room they are tested under water for possible leaks, thoroughly cooled, and then comes the packing of the cans which have also been labeled in the meantime. We found the part of the plant where they make their own tin cans interesting too. All the scraps of tin are re-melted and reused. When we walked out into the sunshine after this interesting tour a bee, poor misguided fellow, tried to draw nectar out of the flowers on one of the ladies' hats. I thought he looked a bit disturbed about his failure. She bravely stood still and let him try. That is one way of Buffaloing Bees.

As New Glarus is built by the Swiss people we had the new experience of having Swiss food for our noon day meal. Several of us chose a meat called Gordon Bleu. It consists of a slice of ham, a slice of cheese and a veal cutlet flanking each side. This is then dipped in Beaten egg, rolled in crumbs and baked. It is most delicious. How they hold it together I haven't yet decided.

The Swiss Chalet was our next adventure and I was to learn here that the word chalet means 'a type of architecture'. This one was lovely, indeed. The man who originally owned it was a Mr. Barlow. As I follow the story, he was born here in New Glarus but had an inmate curiosity about the home of his forefathers and, when he had opportunity to visit Switzerland as a soldier in World War I, he began to gather his priceless relics. The wood carvings in this chalet are unbelievable in their beauty and craftsmanship. They are carved out of a solid block of wood. The wood, we were told, was something like basswood. Some of them stood about two feet tall. I remember one boy especially. There was a little old couple with the most sweetly whimsical expressions one could ever see their weather beaten faces as real as anything alive. One had the feeling that you could sit down and converse with them - so real they were! If you are ever near New Glarus, Wisconsin, make their acquaintance. They're priceless.

In this interesting place we saw a Grandfather Clock about two hundred and fifty years old. We saw a table and chair here from a Swiss Monastery. They dated back to about 1726 and 1742. There were some earrings from 600 B.C. We learned that every little town in Switzerland has their own crest. You could put three Switzerlands into Wisconsin. We saw a dining room table 300 years old, a green tile porcelain stove with somewhat the shape of an oil heating Heatrola which was used about 200 years ago. There was also an egg boiler with an alcohol lamp for heat.

We learned that in old Switzerland the bride's bed and bedding must be provided by her. Her name was painted on the bed with paints made out of eggs and vegetable dyes. It was dreadfully short and we came to the conclusion that many of our six foot husbands would be quite unhappy in it.

There are also displays of Vaseline glass, Italian pottery and one could just go on and on. For you who are seeing our state, DON'T MISS the Chalet at New Glarus. It is a small town with a rich heritage. The hotel is where you get those Gordon Bleus.

After Mr. Barlow had filled his home with treasures from many parts of the world, he went to Switzerland to live in 1937. At that time he was 65 and he remained there until his death in 1957. This Chalet, in the meantime, had been presented to the people of New Glarus as a showplace and it surely is like stepping into another world to visit it. For you antique lovers there are a pair or two of the fanciest high-button shoes you can imagine.

After we pulled ourselves away from this interesting place we visited the Lace Factory and this brought admiring cries from all of us. Later we were taken to the Swiss Miss Shop where their product is sold. We all had too many wants and not enough money in there. I did come home with material for a pair of the most exquisitely beautiful pillow cases and so far I have only admired them. It isn't as if they are fragile but I am waiting for that very special occasion when I shall feel they are adequately honored to have a head rest on them.

We saw this particular lace edging being made. There were several big looms, each one containing 16,000 working parts, 684 needles, and 684 shuttles. Each loom weighs 16 tons. They were delivered here for $65,000. apiece F.O.B. from Switzerland. The man we talked to recorded all movements of the machine and made little patterns like player piano rolls which he puts on the end of the machines for the pattern desired. These patterns are thirty-eight inches wide but what a work they do. One of these machines take the place of 20,000 women working by hand.

It wasn't long after this interesting experience that we were all back on the bus again, some 30 or 40 of us, and homeward bound. The wave of chatter wasn't quite as pronounced. Some of us, especially the Grandmas, had run down a little, but don't think for a minute that all of us were quiet. You know women too well for that!

We got back to the same town where our bus driver had stopped to telephone and HE STOPPED AGAIN! We could come to only one conclusion - he must have a lady friend in that town. Our interest in romances, of course, led us to this. So we arrived happily home after a most satisfying day.

Now as I write up the column I am sitting in a little park in Markesan where twelve year old Mary is having her hair done. While I am waiting I have enjoyed the river flowing by the picnic table which has served as my desk. If I have misspelled any words remember I forgot to take my dictionary.