Sometimes I get homesick. Not particularly now, when Wisconsin is in the depths of winter. Dealing with the cold and snow is too recent a memory. We lived on a corner lot in Racine with a lot of “snow acreage.” Some years we had nowhere to go with the it anymore: in the winter of 2010/11 we got 60 inches and in 2009/10 we were buried in 100 inches of the white stuff. We’d get out early after a storm and clear paths, only to have the city snowplows push it all back into our driveway and corner crosswalks, which the city required us to keep clear as corner-lot owners. Did it seem the snowplow drivers were always grinning when they came through?
As a kid in Manitowoc, snow meant something completely different. It was easy to like winter when your dad owned a snow-blower and wouldn’t let kids touch it.
We treasured snow days when they came. My sisters and I would get up early and check the radio news – would St. Boniface, and later, Washington Junior High School and Lincoln High School be on the growing list of cancellations? YES!! Then we’d run outside to catch snow flakes on our tongues and frolic. Who uses the word “frolic” anymore? But that’s the best way to describe it. This was our opportunity to change our environment with snowmen, snow angels, making paths in the backyard, and later, breaking through new snow as we flew down the big hill at Silver Creek Park with our sleds.
Then there were the ubiquitous trails that whole packs of kids created in the snowbanks on the way to school. No kid walked on the carefully cleared sidewalks. Instead, we trudged along well-worn paths up on the top of the snowbanks. We just had to be prepared to step aside on these single-file paths when bigger kids wanted to pass us. There was a hierarchy to these things.
No, overall, I don’t miss Wisconsin’s longest season. We get just enough snow on Mauna Kea to satisfy my longing to see snow.
But I do miss other things. Luckily, I can recreate some of that here, on the Big Island. When I get homesick for my dad’s grilling, I head for the Parker School Saturday Farmer’s Market in Waimea. There I can smell real Wisconsin bratwurst sizzling away. Chris, owner of Fresh Island Meats moved here from Milwaukee a couple years ago and saw an opportunity to provide the Big Island with his own particular delicacy – homemade bratwurst and other prepared meats.
Now I can indulge whenever I want – a real Wisconsin-style brat, with real home-made sauerkraut and a real bun – not one of those small squishy white-bread affairs. It takes me right back to a summer day in Manitowoc, though I try to block out the memory of my dad’s questionable grilling attire. Chris even sells the brats frozen so I can make them at home! And it’s always fun to talk Packer football or Badger football with Chris and his buddy, Bob. Actually, I’ll talk to anyone in a Packer T-shirt.
Too bad Chris doesn’t also sell malts. The only place on the Big Island that has malts is Kohala Burger and Taco in Kawaihae. It doesn’t have the old-time parlor atmosphere of Beerntsen‘s Confectionary, our favorite place for malts and hot fudge sundaes in Manitowoc. But they do serve genuine malts.
Lots of places have shakes on the Big Island. But that never satisfies when I need a real malt with real malt powder in it, well worth the 40 minute drive to Kawaihae. This is especially true when you’ve lived in Racine, home to J&W Horlick, the original creators of malted milk powder.
As kids we’d have the chance to beg Dad and Mom into buying us a malt or an ice cream cone every Sunday when we drove past the City Dairy on the way home from Grandma’s house. “Please, please…” Often it worked. And we always stopped at Beerntsen’s when we girls went shopping downtown with Mom and Grandma.
The old City Dairy no longer exists but I can still go to Beerntsen’s when I get back to Manitowoc. Meanwhile, there’s Kohala Burger and Taco when I need a fix.
Of course, malts and ice cream are only part of my cravings from having grown up in the Dairy State. Luckily, cheese is easy to come by on the Big Island. And I’ve become quite fond of our local goat cheese, available at the Hāmākua Harvest Farmer’s Market. I can even get really good non-dairy “cheese,” at the Sea Dandelion Café. It just goes to show that even traditionalist Wisconsin cheese lovers can adapt to new offerings.
But the easiest way for me to be transported back home, is to drive along Highway 19 from Honoka‘a to Hilo. They’ve been working on replacing the Umauma Bridge since 2014. There, on the new section, sit two cranes from Manitowoc Company. At one time, the Manitowoc Ship Building Company, founded in 1902, built ships for use on the Great Lakes – ore haulers and steel ferries. It also built 28 submarines for the WWII. The company expanded into cranes and refrigeration equipment later under the name of the Manitowoc Company. But ships were built into the 1960s; I can still remember my Grandma taking me to the park bluff overlooking the shipyards to watch them launch a ship.
My dad worked at the shipyards for decades as a steel bender for cranes. He’s passed now, but seeing the cranes every time I drive to Hilo and back tugs on my heart. These high-quality cranes last a very long time. So theoretically, my dad could have worked on those cranes sitting on the Umauma Bridge. It’s not likely, but that very slim chance takes me home every time I drive by. This is as it should be. Family memories will trump recollections of food, places and weather every time.
That reminds me, I should call my sisters. How about you? What takes you back home?
Postscript: Chatting with my sisters, I found out that it snowed like crazy in Wisconsin this week. They had a snow day! Lucky them.
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Once again you’ve enchanted me with your post! I get more ideas of what to do and where to explore next in Hawaii Island from your blog than from tour books. Yep. You are the real deal. Bratwurst and malts (I too grew up drinking malts and miss them.)
And your pictures? Fun, adorable and the perfect illustration. Love your Dad’s matching socks and shirt. Perfect attire to BBQ in on the front driveway!
You write the best fan mail! I appreciate you. We should go to Kawaihae and drink malts one day – get to know each other better. Much Aloha, Diane
Oh Diane….you’ve made me lonesome for the “old” Manitowoc of our youth….especially the walking on the snowbanks part! I may even have to go to Beerntsen’s and have a malt for you. Have to call my sister!
Where is your sister? I hope you had a nice chat. It has been years since I thought about those snowbank paths. Once it rose up in my consciousness, I just had to write about it. Enjoy your malt! Aloha, Diane
My sister is right in town and I am blessed to see her often. She and her husband include me in many of their outings…you know, the widow thing. I don’t ever feel like a third wheel with them. I meant I would call her to go to Beerntsen’s with me!
City Dairy?! Haven’t thought of that place in a long, long time. I loved seeing your Mtwc Crane pics too…..it’s like Mirro was, everyone worked there at some time or knew someone who did. If you talk about Lates BBQ or Bud Wilman’s, can you just ‘taste’ them in your mind? You know the Penguin was torn down to make room for a Hardee’s – everyone was upset when that happened.
Enjoy snow on your mountain tops – I still like the change of seasons even IF one of them is 6 months long!! :
Late’s is also a favorite of mine. Yes I can taste the perch plate even now. But there’s no way to recreate the perch plate (which is my favorite) here. Unfortunately, we have no fresh-water lakes with perch. Sigh.
Much Aloha, Diane
P.S. I had to laugh at your dad’s coordinated ‘ensemb’ – he was missing the white belt though!
Those socks and shirt fluoresced in the daylight! Yikes!
OMG.. You mentioned that town where Steven Avery lives (or did when not in prison).. what is YOUR take? See ya tomorrow? hugs, Sherri
Yes, Manitowoc is now famous for far more than just my memories.
You have the same homesick feelings for Racine that I have for Pittsburgh, PA. When I go back all I want to do is eat my way through the city. While I can’t imagine living through the winters there again, there are many things I miss which become more precious to me as the years pass. I enjoyed reading about your joys of living in Wisconsin. You are so lucky to have found the Brats and kindred spirits in Hawaii.
Best to you,
What a great idea for a tour – eat your way through (fill in the blank city). Yes, these memories are quite precious, especially those that I can no longer recreate. How often do you get back to Philly? I am going with my daughter to visit UPenn in March. (She still hasn’t made up her mind.) I wonder if I will look back fondly at all the college visits we will have made over the years? Aloha, Diane
This pretty much describes my childhood in Manitowoc! We would walk or bike to City Dairy. Take the bus downtown and Beernsten’s was always a stop. It was such a great place to grow up. Thanks Diane for the walk down memory lane.
Glad you liked it. Yes, those were the days when kids could walk and bike all around town. My friends and I would walk downtown to the Sears store to watch our favorite TV program in color in their TV department. I’m not sure modern-day kids would consider walking those several miles, nor would their parents allow it. We had so much freedom back then.
This brought back many “I remembers”. I lived up near the fairgrounds – now Citizen Park – and my mother would give me bus fare to go to the library. 20 cents. 10 cents each way. I’d take the bus to the library, walk to Beernstein’s to spend the other 10 and then walk home. Carrying my library books! Must be a mile and a half. And I was happy. And safe. Life in a small town. Thanks for the memory.
Dear Jeanne, I think the safety of small town living may be one of the best things. I also walked or biked everywhere – to the old library (I guess that’s now the old old library ;)), to Beerntsens, to junior and high school. My kids weren’t allowed to walk around the block by themselves. Now I’m enjoying that feeling of safety again in a town of 2000 people. Thank you for the note. Aloha, Diane
I did enjoy your thoughts of Manitowoc, but I wonder. Do they have deep fried wisconsin cheese curds, or fresh squeaky cheese curds? If not, keep Hawaii, I’ll stay home. 😉
Sorry Renee, I have not seen cheese curds at all, either squeaky or deep fried. But given the typical diet here, I think the deep fried would fit right in. It just needs some entrepreneur to introduce them. Meanwhile, I eat them when I get back to Manty every year. Thanks for commenting. Aloha, Diane
Another good essay from a while back.