Bascom Clarke’s Great-Grandchildren Visit Madison

On Monday the great-grandchildren of Bascom Clarke came to Madison to walk through the house that he had once lived in, and enjoy the beach and park that is named in his honor.   Under sunny skies, and with a refreshing summer breeze, the past came alive as the Clarkes talked and smiled about the famous Madisonian that is a proud part of their family tree.   Even though Bascom Clarke was a man they had only seen in pictures, they spoke of him fondly, as if he might have been among those at a recent family reunion. 

Bascom Clarke’s Spaight Street Home

Helena Clarke Froidevaux and her husband Pascal from France, along with Peg and Liz Glynn of Minnesota walked up the steps of the historic house on Spaight Street where Bascom Clarke once lived.   Bascom had the Queen Anne Victorian with Arts and Crafts elements built in 1899.   As we stood on the porch Helena told of how one of the upstairs windows had been once used by Bascom in an attempt to keep the police and doctors away.  Bascom was dealing with a contagious disease that doctors at the time felt should be quarantined.   The elderly but determined Bascom felt differently.  So with a rifle aimed out the window he let it be known that he was staying in his home.

The Three Great Grand-Children Hold Hands On Bascom Clarke’s Front Porch.  From left to right, Pascal Froidevaux, Liz Glynn, Helen Froidevaux, And Peg Glynn

Those were the types of stories that James and myself were treated to as we walked with Bascom’s relatives along the isthmus.  Helena had contacted me after finding a story about her great-grandfather on my blog.  When discovering they were coming to Madison for a reunion, we were more than happy to make sure they were able to see the old house, and make sure Madison was a wonderful memory for them.  Since they all speak French, and Helena has lived in France for decades, James and I put the French flag up at our home to welcome them.   I must say that small act did provide warm smiles as they pulled up in the cars. It allowed for us all to feel like we knew each other, though we had only conversed on the internet.

Bascom Clarke’s life was truly one huge adventure.  Though there were plenty of pitfalls and pain, his grit and determination paved the way for much success.  After the Civil War and deadly malaria Clarke was left orphaned at the age of twelve.  He became a man in Indiana, and later moved to Madison.  His business ventures  included organizing the Union Transfer and Storage Company, helping establish the Dane County Telephone Company, and starting “The American Thresherman”.

Perhaps the best thing that Bascom ever did was marry Mahettie Belle Watkins.  She was known to all as Belle.  The most wonderful of all the stories I heard from the Clarkes centered on Belle, and her most gracious character. 

 Mahettie Belle Watkins Clarke

The Clarkes had a cook named Augusta, though she was fondly referred to as ‘Gustie’.  Each evening she would serve the meal prepared for Bascom and Belle.  But later in the evening when it came time for ‘Gustie’ to eat it was Belle who would serve the cook, and then often sit alongside her at the family table and chat about the events of the day.  It made for a perfect story as we all gathered in the dining room of the old Clarke home.  “Gustie’ would go to work for Belle La Follette in later years, as the La Follette’s and Clarkes were close friends.

The Clarkes strolled the B.B. Clarke Beach and park.  The new park benches were a pleasant place to spend some time after all the walking.  As children frolicked in the lake, and a small family shared lunch on a blanket, the Clarke stories and memories kept being told and smiled about.  As I looked at them I knew they would share this day over and over as the years rolled along.    That is the great part about such days.  They really never end.

It is hard to say if the Clarkes will again find their way back to the places in Madison that Bascom once roamed.  I doubt it will happen.  But for one afternoon the great grand-children had a chance to look about the place Bascom called home.  They are now more able to reflect on his face and attach more of a story to him and the time he lived.   For families and lovers of history that is priceless.

A family reunion is a time to remember that although you may feel close to your neighbors and friends, there is nothing quite like family.

Madison’s Willy Street Co-Op Has A Communication/PR Problem

There is real anger and sadness in the Marquette Neighborhood over a proposed driveway that Willy Street Co-op plans to construct onto Jenifer Street.  The fact that the whole area has tried to create policies over the years to limit traffic congestion on the small streets of the isthmus and the near-east side seems to not have registered with those who now make the decisions for the Co-op.  That the final decision for the driveway was kept under wraps and not openly discussed is one of the nasty issues of this truly botched operation.

On a listserve for the neighborhood someone commented that “the other residents of the neighborhood were probably unaware of the issue and the meeting”.

And therein lies one of the problems and major complaints with the Willy Street Co-op.

In this day and age of effective means of communication how can a small area like the Marquette Neighborhood not be made aware of the issue that many feel very strongly about? Is it not the role of the Co-op to share information as broadly, and in a timely fashion as possible, given that they are the ones at the center of the controversy? Or was the lack of informing people part of the game plan to get the driveway they wanted?

If Channel 27 has the means to alert folks in the whole region of southern
Wisconsin with a phone call when severe weather threatens, should not the Co-op be able to get messages over the small area of the Marquette Neighborhood about a matter everyone cares about. Perhaps instead of using money for a driveway the Co-op might invest in a computer, and also learn to Twitter.

This was a major PR disaster for the Willy Street Co-op, and also one that has real consequences for those who live on Jenifer Street and in the neighborhood.

Ron Johnson, Ronald Reagan And Science

I have not thought of the famous Ronald Reagan quote about pollution for some time. 

“Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.” 

Reagan made the statement during a campaign when, like many a politician, the mouth is engaged before the mind has had time to think things over carefully.  His statement is one of those that now lives on to amuse other generations.

What made me think of Ronald Reagan was the interview and quotes from Ron Johnson, candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, who opined on global warming.  After reading the article I thought that some one needs to tell Ron Johnson he should stick to trying to sell himself as a politician.  His attempt to play scientist has only made him a comedian.  I suspect that Johnson would have have opposed Nixon’s clean air and water initiatives, too, as that was not good for the economy.

A global warming skeptic, Johnson said extreme weather phenomena were better explained by sunspots than an overload of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as many scientists believe.

“I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change,” Johnson said. “It’s not proven by any stretch of the imagination.”

Johnson, in an interview last month, described believers in manmade causes of climate change as “crazy” and the theory as “lunacy.”

“It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time,” he said.

Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere “gets sucked down by trees and helps the trees grow,” said Johnson.

I realize that Johnson wants to win the Senate race, and leave Wisconsin for Washington.  But to make statements that are so ‘out there’ makes me think that Johnson is perhaps competing with Sharon Angle, Senate candidate from Nevada, for the winner of the craziest off-the-cuff comments.

Over and over, those who actually study climate change, and have actual degrees in science, have viewed the weather problems we now experience as a man-made problem that demands attention.  Just this past Sunday on the front page of the New York Times this was the story that demanded attention.

The floods battered New England, then Nashville, then Arkansas, then Oklahoma — and were followed by a deluge in Pakistan that has upended the lives of 20 million people.

The summer’s heat waves baked the eastern United States, parts of Africa and eastern Asia, and above all Russia, which lost millions of acres of wheat and thousands of lives in a drought worse than any other in the historical record.

Seemingly disconnected, these far-flung disasters are reviving the question of whether global warming is causing more weather extremes.

The collective answer of the scientific community can be boiled down to a single word: probably.

“The climate is changing,” said Jay Lawrimore, chief of climate analysis at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. “Extreme events are occurring with greater frequency, and in many cases with greater intensity.”