GrandPapa's Letter
Franklin B. Van Valkenburgh

Favorite Dissipations

Sleigh riding was not the only amusement we had on the river in those days, as many a man, whom Tim O'Brien or Jobst H. Buening, or some other of the Fire Marshalls (who assumed a great deal of dignity and autocratic power with the white coats and fire helmets they wore as badges of authority,) forced to take his hands out of his pockets and work on the brakes of a fire engine; could testify.

It was considered all right, and a good joke, to entice some of the dudes on to the ice when a fire was raging, near the river, and then to get TIM who was always ready to do his share, to call upon them for assistance. Tim never cared for any better fun than to compel one of them to help the firemen, and his encouraging commands to "Jump her up boys. Jump her up", never sounded half as sweet as when we knew he had impressed unwilling hands into the service; And then the skating we had; It was no unusual thing, of a pleasant afternoon, to see the river alive with skaters, from the Dam to Walker's Point Bridge, and the streets and River-side windows full of lookers on; Rides to the Layton House, or the Abbey, at Cold Springs, or other hotels farther away, with the accompanying suppers and dances, are not to be forgotten, any more than the Lectures and Exhibitions at Young's Hall, or the Concerts of the Musical Society.

Among the favorite dissipations of the day, were the Lecture courses, then maintained by the YOUNG MENS ASSOCIATION, whereunto we all went of winter evenings to listen to the great literary lights of the country; and it was not an uncommon sight to see Young's Hall, or Albany Hall crowded to hear Bayard Taylor tell of his travels in foreign lands, or to listen to the jokes of Artemus Ward or John G. Saxe; or to look upon Horace Greely, Wendell Philips or Ralph Waldo Emerson, and wonder that one human could compass all they knew.

And there was a chance for letting off the surplus energy of the boys, as well as for cultivating their intellects? That "boys will be boys," was made apparent to one of the stately Professors of an Eastern College on a well remembered evening, when he, after learnedly discoursing of the wonders of nature and of att; alluded to the "star fish, " as being all stomach and to the instrument on his table as "this air pump, " asked for observations or questions from the audience. Thereupon one of his audience asked if it would not be more gramatical to say THAT are pump; asserting that where HE was raised, they always said "THIS HERE PUMP, and THAT ARE PUMP. and who ended his remarks with declaring that he "Didn't care so much about the grammer, but he would like to be a star fish."

Milwaukee was then, as she has been, well supplied with educational facilities; There were six or seven public schools, and almost innumerable parochical and private schools, and the MILWAUKEE FEMALE COLLEGE, now the Milwaukee Downer College; was presided over by Miss Mary Mortimer, assisted by the Misses Chapin, and Miss Huntington; and no institution in this world ever had a more efficient, accomplished, conscientious or devoted corps of teachers than they.

The Convent School for Girls was also in full blast, and the German and English Academy; Larige's Academy, and the University of Milwaukee furnished troubles and tribulation for the older boys. The last named institution was located where the Central Fire Station now stands, on Broadway, (then Main Street, ) and was presided over by Rev. Charles Wiley, assisted by "G. S. LORD STARKS. A. M Professor of Ancient Languages, " and Theodore B. Elliott, both of whom were, later on full fledged members of the Bar of this county.

Speaking of Professor Starks reminds me of a passage at arms which I had with him about that time; He was a very pompous individual, whom we all thought fair game, coming into my office one morning after having listened to Bayard Taylor's account of his first journey through Greenland, in the course of which he aUude to the fact that the Reindeer subsisted during the winter months on a kind of moss which they found under the snow; Starks expressed a strong desire to have some of that moss, and suggested that as I was on the lecture committee, and was entertaining Mr. Taylor, I might obtain some for him. This I thought quite improbable, but agreed to try; some days after, having allowed Professor Goines, the tonsorial artist, to clip my beard (then of a beautiful RED tint,) it occurred to me that I might gratify my friend, and gathering up a small portion of the beard so recently a portion of my facial adornment, I folded it carefully in a bit of tissue paper, and presented it to the Professor, assuring him that it was a veritable specimen of RAIN DEER MOSS.

He demurred at first, on account of the color, but being assured that Taylor said it always turned red, when exposed to the atmosphere, after a winter under the snow, he put aside his unjust suspicions, and carefully rolled it in his hands, smelled of it, and then tasting it, remarked that it was rather sweet, and very WIRY, and took it away for further examination.

Some weeks thereafter, while passing through the Library of the Female College, I was horrified by finding a small bunch of this MOSS carefully labelled with a long Latin name, and showing that it had been presented to the college with the Compliments of Bayard Taylor, AND Professor G. S. LORD STARKS.

When the Professor learned where his specimen actually grew, he was very indignant, and his anger was not appeased until he had affixed to the forms a pair of Holland Geese, which I had some time before presented to the College with my compliments; a card, adding to the information MY card bore, the assertion that they were presented "by one of their lineal descendants/" One of my early trips to the then NEW Forest Home Cemetery, then two miles out side of the City, and approached over a corduroy road cut through an almost Impenetrable tamarack swamp, was in attendance upon the funeral of Mr. Stark who was buried by the Bar Association.


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