(I have enough material (and photographs) for at least a dozen posts on various topics. Why have I not written them? Must remedy. Here goes…)
Last weekend I attended the annual meeting for the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. Some others and I are in the process of starting a local chapter, and two others and I thought we could learn a lot by hanging with some established chapters for a couple days.
If you are not familiar with the economic history of northern MN and WI, here is a brief (and probably only vaguely accurate) summary. The heyday of Minnesota's and Upper Michigan's Iron Ranges was during WWII, when the government was building ships and armaments as fast as the miners could dig the ore and the steel mills could refine it and Rosie The Riveter could build them. The boom continued into the 1950s as the booming post-war economy allowed Americans to buy a new car every year or three. The ore had to be shipped from northern Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the steel mills of Gary. Add to this the plentiful wheat harvest of the northern plains also being shipped by train to Lake Superior where it was loaded onto boats bound for Europe and Russia, and, thus, Duluth and Superior were booming ports.
But (as much as the Koch brothers certain WI politicians would like us to forget) any mineral is an exhaustible resource. The rich mineral deposits were soon depleted, the industry turned to taconite — which requires far more ore to be refined in order to get the same amount of iron and is therefore more expensive to produce — and the mines slowed w-a-y down. The ports slowed down, too.
Duluth, MN has rebranded itself as a tourist destination and appears, to me at least, to be much more prosperous than when my family drove through it on our way to vacation on the North Shore of Lake Superior in the 1950s. Superior, across the river in WI, not so much. There are vast empty areas that used to be home to business that served the shipping industry. The city has a slightly abandoned air to it even though there are refurbished buildings here and there.
Ashland, WI, on the south shore of The Lake, has suffered some of the same economic woes, but has managed to do better. Although there are more vacant areas than one sees in a more prosperous city, it has the air of one whose residents are still proud. There are murals everywhere in the downtown area.
I arrived in Ashland about an hour before LWV things were going to start so I hung out at the library for awhile. Fun stuff there, too.
Then it was time for the introductory dinner meeting. Imagine ~80 smart, articulate, and energetic woman in a room. Fabulous, and not something that happens very often where I live.
Anyway, I DID learn a lot to bring back to my fellow LWVers. And I found that Ashland is beautiful place worth visiting again.