Monday, November 24, 2014

Peoples Drug Store, Superior, Wisconsin

Photo: John A. Grimsrud, owner Peoples Drug Store, Superior, Wisconsin, and John M. Grimsrud standing in front of the Upjohn Company exhibit, Disneyland, California, 1967.

My first recollections of Peoples Drug Store – Superior, Wisconsin

1943: I waited in my Dad’s maroon 1940 Oldsmobile fastback across the street from the Peoples Drug Store at the corner of Belknap and Baxter.

Dad and Art Haugen, his partner in the East End Drug Store, were in the process of closing a purchase deal with O. B. Olson, owner and builder of the Peoples Drug.

I don’t know the exact time of year, but there was no snow on the ground. Summers in Superior were so short that we jokingly hoped summer would come on Sunday. 

When I was a child my dad told me a story about Peoples Drug Store in the Roaring Twenties.

Dad was sixteen years old in 1924 while America was riding the speculative economical rollercoaster fueled by post WWI industrial expansion.

Prohibition had the country swilling clandestine boot-leg booze in gangster controlled speak-easies.

Hyper-active 138 pound Dad was self-motivated at an early age. He had three newspaper delivery routes at the same time employing a helper.  He mopped floors and did janitor work before school mornings at Peoples Drug, and repaired bicycles in his spare time.

Early one morning Dad was slipping his key into the door at Peoples Drug Store to begin his janitor job when a big long car screeched up to the curb, stopped, and three machine-gun wielding men scrambled out.

Dad was pushed inside and forcefully ordered to open the safe at gunpoint. He nervously told the menacing gangsters his only duty was to mop the floors and carry out the trash. He didn’t know the combination to the safe.

These Al Capone type gangsters were in a big hurry and luckily only locked Dad in the basement coal room instead of blasting him to bits.

In the pitch-blackness of the coal room Dad’s thoughts quickly turned to the idea of escape. He felt his way around in the blackness and found the coal shoot leading from the coal room to the street.

This would be his escape route.

Dad then stealthily crept up the coal shoot and carefully pried open its little door. As he cautiously peered out he was terrified. He was looking down the barrel of a machinegun.  Dad thought that his heart would explode. He gingerly lowered the little door with a trembling hand.

The gangsters grabbed what they could quickly pick up of value including breaking into the narcotics drawer and sped away with a sack full of Parker fountain pens and lots of drugs.

Dad said that the incident didn’t bother him for about a week and then suddenly flashbacks would startle him out of a sound sleep with sweaty terrifying anxiety.

Dad went on to get his pharmacist license and eventually became the owner of the Peoples Drug Store by the early 1940’s buying it from O. B. Olson, the original owner.

The gangsters were apprehended a few weeks later and one of the things that helped convict them were all of those expensive Parker fountain pens.

Peoples Drug Store had an ornate soda fountain/lunch counter featuring hamburgers that were greases to kill. My favorite soda fountain beverage at the lunch counter was the 5¢ Coca Cola that came in several flavors all made from extracts known as phosphates, the charged water was added. Cherry flavor with a dash of chocolate was sensational.

I started working at Peoples Drug Store when I was fourteen, cleaning shelves, washing bottles, washing windows, shoveling/sweeping the side walk and burning garbage.

At sixteen years old I started waiting on customers, stocking shelves and doing the inventory. When I got my drivers license I did deliveries and got to know a lot of people in the five years I worked there.

The Drug store had three full time pharmacists, Bob Cleary, Bud Dice and my dad. At the time there were fourteen Drug Stores in Superior and none were chain operated. 

The grand opening of Peoples Drug Store was on May 17, 1924.  Ralph Carter was the general contractor of the building and all the brick was supplied by Northern Supply & Fuel Company and the lumber by Campbell Lumber Company. Peoples had 
an "up-to-the-minute" soda fountain and on opening day gave away souvenirs to everyone visiting the store - candy for the ladies, a puzzle toy for the children and cigars for the men. The drug store is still in business in the same building at 1124 Belknap Street.[i]

[i] Superior Public Library Facebook post, Nov. 20, 2014.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

PORK – MMM…MMM…mmmm – Good! Chicharrón

Just too good to hurry through!
A visit to Yucatan is a culinary sojourn down memory lane to a place from by-gone years before prepackaged foods embalmed with corporate chemicals and barcodes.
This is fun food worthy of the search.
You can enjoy it even if it is nutritious.
These pork delights are fondly enjoyed throughout Latin America, North America to Canada…even Europe and Asia.
Regional seasonings and presentations are uniquely area specific.
The good news is that one of Yucatan’s classic delights can still be found here in Mérida.
We invite you to come and meet smiling Don Herberto the purveyor of these succulent treats and find out for yourself.

Enterprising  Herberto Chán is located at the corner of C. 28 and 37 in Emiliano Zapata Norte, two blocks east off Paseo de Montejo. Find him there daily from mid morning to mid afternoon.

This is smiling Don Herberto Chán who we have been happily patronizing for more than thirty years. He has been in this neighborhood business for thirty-seven years and his excellent quality has remained unchanged. Sample an authentic morsel of Yucatan from years gone by.
He has tortillas, limes, habanero chilies, and pre-cut taco stuffing and veggies bagged. 
His gastronomic delights will make you into a repeat customer.

Pork Rinds or chicharrones:
Mexico is one of the world's largest producers of pork rinds, known as chicharrón or cuerito. The very best is fresh from street vendors, eaten as snacks or antojitos.
Packaged store bought pork rinds are adulterated with preservatives and flavor enhancers such as MSG. Remember no bar-coded foods from Don Herberto!
A 1-ounce serving of chicharrones contains zero carbohydrates, 17 grams (g) of protein, and 9 g of fat which is 43% unsaturated. Consider this; chicharrón has nine times as much protein as potato chips.
I still love them even if they are healthy.

In the Yucatan these tasty delights of yesteryear are cooked to absolute finger-licking perfection.
No place in Mexico does pork better than Yucatan. Regional subtleties are the standard. 
Exquisitely cooked and ready to take home to devour. Buy chicharrón by the kilo, gram, or as custom made tacos. .
We like to buy a chunk of pierna or leg and slice it very thin and serve it warm or cold.  Building tacos makes ingestion a pleasurable occurrence.
I still haven’t learned how to build a little taco.  
No product code and 100% natural food from tropical Yucatan
In the above photo starting at the top: glasses of pineapple liquefied in the blender and flavored with slow steeped jamaica tea, chicharrón and bacon bits, lower left, a all meat pork taco with chicharrón and lower right a salad featuring home made sauerkraut, shredded onion, carrot, chopped sweet peppers, tomato, chives, and radishes with a hard boiled egg. The dressing is key lime juice and olive oil.
My creative wife who happens to have won the Betty Crocker Homemaker award quickly made our salad into fusion food. She suggested dumping the contents of our pork taco onto the salad and it was terrific!
Come savor this authentic slice of genuine paradise before it is gone! You will have only one regret…you didn’t find it sooner.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Water is Wetter

Pictured is one of the many fishing trawlers built in St. Augustine, Florida, that we delivered to various ports in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Water is Wetter

In preparation for our escape voyage aboard our home built and designed 46-foot sailboat Dursmirg my wife and I spent five years in night classes learning seamanship and navigation

We launched Dursmirg, sailed away and spent the next fifteen glorious years living aboard, cruising where the wind blew and when the spirit moved us.

St. Augustine, Florida became our port of call.

Our maritime knowledge led us to a number of boat delivery jobs.  These took us to a variety of distant ports such as Trinidad, Panama, Baja California, Texas, and Yucatan, Mexico, to name a few. This was not a get rich quick business but we loved the sea, strange new ports, and we were treated well.

These deliveries were primarily of brand new DESCO or St. Augustine trawlers, all were well over 100 tons in displacement. The passages were more than five days and some as much as a month. They were followed by the logistics of return flights back to our home port of St. Augustine.

This was an especially fun and interesting interlude in our lives.

The major company we delivered for was DESCO (Diesel Engine Sales Company), a division of Whitaker Corporation.  At the time it was the world’s number one producer of trawlers with a motto “The Sun Never Sets on a DESCO Boat.”

DESCO was actively looking for new markets for expanding their sales.

As a promotion they built the “super trawler” using their 128 ton displacement fiberglass hull, then the world’s largest production line fiberglass trawler.  This was an ultra luxury vessel loaded with all the latest state of the art amenities and gadgets. It was made to impress. The DESCO dreamboat was paraded at all the commercial boat shows and fisherman’s fairs, including Miami, Annapolis, New York City, and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, and many more.  Its uniqueness warranted a second look that made other boats appear shoddy by comparison.

The super trawler trip to Lunenburg, Canada, for exhibition at the fishermen’s fair was captained by our friend Eddie Long, a long time employee of DESCO.

There was only one problem; the trip didn’t generate any new orders.

Jane and I, having made numerous boat deliveries for DESCO, were actively involved in the industry with our own commercial shrimp trawler, Secotan.  

While we were making an autumn sojourn into Nova Scotia, Canada, we were lucky enough to attend the last of the fisherman’s fair at Lunenburg. This North Atlantic seaport town was made famous in the sailing industry for their foundry that set a world standard for marine hardware…especially their coal and wood fired galley stoves.

The show catered to all aspects of the fishing industry from fish hooks and nets to canned, cured and frozen seafood. It was educational and fun.

We were anxious to find out the reaction of maritime Canada’s fishing industry to the new DESCO trawler.  

The response of all the fishermen queried about the new DESCO trawler was the same, negative head shakes.  “Why?” we asked.  The reply was with the simple explanation, “The water is wetter up here.”

We didn’t quite grasp the significance of that statement until later when we visited family in Norway and witnessed the horrific sea conditions that northern latitude fishermen, like the Norwegians, New Englanders, and Canadians, were actually fishing in.

We had assumed that ocean fishing was the same worldwide. In the raging North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans the fishermen fitted out their vessels to cope with storm ravaged conditions, dressed accordingly, and, of course, possessed a genetic predisposition to their rugged seafaring Viking ancestors.

Back in Florida, where we had learned and done our commercial fishing, ports would be closed to boat traffic when weather deteriorated to conditions those northern latitude fishermen worked in every day.

DESCO had assumed fishing worldwide was all the same…wrong! Administrative decisions were made by men who had no conception of the brutal reality that Mother Nature dished out. Glitter and glitz appealed to them, not no-frills functional ability.  Their concerns leaned toward plush carpet, sumptuous easy chairs, and a well stocked liquor cabinet with a push button galley and butler. The management must have wanted to sell dazzling pleasure yachts instead of functional work boats.  They wrongly assumed when they should have been thinking. The executives were out of touch with reality and their assumption cost them a lot of money, in fact it was not long and the sun set on DESCO.

This taught Jane and me a good lesson. We should never assume anything. Think, and always remember that you will never know it all.

Our old fishing partner Captain George Tappin was found of saying about the commercial fishing industry: “You are not going to learn it all in just one day.”

Now we understand the meaning of “the water is wetter.”

We have made numerous autumn excursion trips by VW camper van to the Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. The Maritime Provinces of Canada are one of our all-time favorite places in North America. 

Recommended reading on the subject of "the water is wetter."

For further reading about our boat delivery and VW campervan adventures, read:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ecologically Friendly Germany 2014

If the world would follow the German ecological model,  the world would be a better place to live.

Four years ago I wrote a two part essay entitled Germany Green and Clean.

At that time Germany had a goal of becoming fifty percent reliant on wind and solar power. They are on their way to achieving that goal, and have set even higher goals. In renewable energy German is the world leader.  

Wind and solar fluctuate continuously as does demand ebb and peak, therefore the production/consumption rates are always in a state of flux.

In this day of computer coupled grid networks voltage levels are maintained by shifts that are far reaching, extending across international boundaries.

Neighboring Denmark has picked up the ball and is running with it Wind is their number one natural resource. They are taking advantage of their North Sea location and positively feeding into the grid.

Petroleum exporting Norway is a net exporter of electric power with their abundant hydro plants. [To the best of my knowledge Norway is the only major oil exporter that traps, liquefies, and pumps all the CO2 back into the ground from their oil wells…exemplary!] They are also part of the European grid network

Germany is a tough act to follow. This is a commendable achievement that the rest of the world needs to emulate.

I invite you to view Germany Green and Clean and also tour our ecologically friendly home, which we designed and built twenty three years ago, by clicking these links.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Coconut Rice, Cracked Conch and Key Limes

“We ate so much conch that we got all conked out!”

Pleasant memories are made of memorable eating experiences.

Today was one of those precious trips down memory lane.

When savoring exotic foods we recall some of the best times of our lives.

Jane has made her exceptional culinary delights from our sailing years even better.

Her recipe for cracked conch, which can be found in our book Sailing the Sea Islands: Travels of Dursmirg is now smothered in toasted garlic and accompanied by coconut rice. When conch isn’t available, Jane substitutes slices of giant squid.

Key limes add the crowning glory…no salt or other condiments required.   

Sunday, January 26, 2014


On this planet earth that reportedly has supported life for 3.6 billion years humans have been here for 200,000 of them. That turns out to be 0.004% of earth’s existence.
By the year 1804 humanoids multiplied their numbers to one billion.
One hundred and twenty-three years later these persistent persons doubled their presence to two billion in 1927.
Being real relentless momentum builders it would only take the Homo sapiens 99 years to increase their global presence to eight billion with an expansion rate of one billion every eleven years thereafter.
That’s a lot of toilets to flush!
Read the book Ten Billion by Stephen Emmott for a scientifically documented determination of our planets prospects and leave all hope behind…it is already too late.
Population summation: For all those out there who choose to disbelieve or pooh-pooh this scientific data; consider this; the human species has been on earth for 200,000 years. In that time his tail has atrophied…but not completely. Look at the present day man, and observe the tail-bone to discover the monkeys uncle…us.
Is there any dispute? 
Numerical statistics came from: BBC, Universe Today, and Wikipedia;

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hip Surgery in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

John (Bing) and Dr. Santiago Basto.
On Jan. 6, 2014,  John had the staples removed from the surgical incision of his hip surgery. On Dec. 19, 2013, John accidentally broke the top of his right femur. He had hip replacement surgery to repair the damage. After two nights in the hospital Centro Médico de las Américas, he came home and was off all pain medicine. Fourteen days later, the staples were removed in the emergency room of the hospital by Dr. Basto. John is now off all medications, doing massage and exercise therapy, walking with a walker, and making progress. Full recovery in on the horizon.

A Mishap:
In mid-November when Jane and I were boarding the bus to Progreso Beach
I went to put our folding bicycles in the storage compartment, it was nearly full. I had to sling my bicycle in to make it fit; it hit a coil of wire, and bounced back, pitching me out and onto the pavement.
The impact was tremendous!
I was able to move.
When I entered the bus I told Jane I had broken something. I must have had a light fracture.
December 19th Jane and I were departing our home for a bike/bus getaway.
We were loaded with heavy packs on our bikes and backs. My back pack was too big and too heavy. I never got under way, but went sprawling. I was not going anywhere without assistance.
Two passing gentlemen offered to get me off the street. I had them carry me into our house and seat me in a chair. I needed time to evaluate the situation. Jane and I discussed and appraised the options.  We decided to go to the very best clinical facility in Yucatan, CMA (Centro Medicos de las Americas). We had been customers there for 35 years.
We needed a ride to the hospital. Our neighborhood friends had all gone to work so we called our friend Ken Scott, our usual Thursday morning breakfast companion.
I was having painful violent upper leg muscle spasms which were triggered by the slightest movement.
The hospital x-ray confirmed a fracture. Even without my glasses I could easily see a clean break. It was between the ball joint at the top of the femur and the thick place where the femur becomes the thighbone.
Trauma specialist, Dr. Basto scheduled surgery for nine that evening. He said that this type of break would be causing internal bleeding and needed prompt attention.
The next order of business would be pre-op tests starting at once. The anesthesiologist, Dr. Patricia, interviewed me and said I would receive a spinal.
My last meal would be Jell-o.
I had ample time to think of the complications of my surgery. Friends in the U. S. that underwent joint replacement surgery wound up pidgin toed, club footed and even requiring elevated shoes. This past fall two friends our age went in for minor surgery, contacted staff infection and died.
My options: 10 to 20 years earlier this surgical procedure was not even available and a broken hip was a death sentence in traction.
Promptly at nine that evening I was transported to surgery. Jane’s friend Rosario came to sit with her during my operation.
Four doctors, my anesthesiologist Dr. Patricia and nursing assistants were suited up and arranging lots of stainless steel cutting tools.
Dr. Patricia rolled me over and inserted my spinal needle. A friend of ours who had a spinal injection at the Social Security Hospital said that it was the most painful thing she had ever experienced. I didn’t feel a thing.
The most memorable part of the operation came when I heard the power saw whirr into action, chatter into my leg bone, slow under the load, pick up speed and persist.
At 11:45 the surgical team was winding up and departing. The anesthesiologist had told me that normally post-op patients were held in a recovery room for an hour for evaluation. Dr. Patricia said that in spite of nearly a unit of blood loss my blood count was still good, my skin color rosy, and my vital signs good-to-go. She accompanied me to my room and tucked me in. She was wonderful!
That was midnight. Jane slept in my room with me.
The next morning I woke up ravenously hungry, extra rations were provided and I ate every crumb…the same for lunch and dinner.
Amazingly the surgical wound was not very painful in comparison to my upper leg muscle damage caused by at least 20 violent spasms.
I began massage therapy immediately and every opportunity thereafter.
My two night stay in the hospital was made pleasant by the helpful, friendly, congenial, and good humored nursing staff.
I went home by ambulance and with no further pain medicines.    
All the time I was in the hospital Jane was commuting home to move my bedroom downstairs and elevate the bed, set up our kitchen there, extract cash from cash machines for the team of doctors, and hundreds of other tasks to make my transition home. All of the other medical payments could be handled by credit card.
She was past exhausted.
The day after I got home she discovered that she had an abscessed tooth. Then we were both on antibiotics.
Return to normalcy:
So, how do you measure a good surgery?
The treatment, attention to detail, expedience, pain and suffering, before, during and after the surgery, quality of the outcome and does everything still work?
Are there any lingering aftereffects? Are you improved?
Recovery time and the surgical scar are measures of quality.
The very best indicator of professional and caring workmanship is a scar that is smooth and nearly invisible.  The other end of the scale is an ugly disfiguring wound, the mark of a slovenly uncaring butcher which reflects a slipshod job.
So, what did I get at Mérida’s CMA?
Fast competent attention, efficient, friendly, supportive treatment was expeditious from all doctors, the anesthesiologist, nurses and staff. My two night stay was amazingly short considering this was major surgery.
The fact that I was off pain medicines in a day and a half speaks volumes about the quality and precision of my treatment. 
If I don’t do anything foolish like straining myself before healing has had a chance to mend me my road to recovery will progress at a measured rate.
I am feeling good, continue to have a ravenous appetite, and with Jane setting the guidelines for my physical activities my progress has been astonishing.
Muscle damage from pre-operation spasms must heal completely to have a full recovery. My nurse and care giver, Jane is working wonders.