Monthly Archives: March 2017

Bravo Show Low

It rare that I like a town shortly after arriving in it for the first time, but that happened in Show Low.   Ruth and I went there because we had not explored that part of Arizona and I was used to reading raves about its community museum.

Show Low has an elevation of 6,347 feet, making it a cool getaway for parched desert dwellers.  The White Mountains that cause this altitude contain more than 30 lakes.   Fool Hollow and Show Low lakes are either in or near town and magnets for fishing fans and campers.

Show Low’s setting is superior.   The town spreads out as it grows to showcase its glorious Ponderosa Pines.   Some of its literature boasts that this is the largest stand of these trees in the world, and that was probably true until forest fires altered the landscape.

Show Low is on the eastern edge of the Mogollon Rim, which I had to relearn how to pronounce–mag ee on.   Some say “muggy own”.  A local citizen told me that Mogollon is the lowest level of the Colorado Plateau.   A natural feature of Arizona, Mogollon’s volcanic uplift gives this state some heat-relieving high country in summer and 2 major ski resorts in winter, one of them called Sunrise, which is 42 miles southwest of Show Low.

July is Show Low’s biggest tourist month with about 40,000 outsiders showing up.   July is especially popular because of this town’s huge and often unique 4th of July parade.  Check out its 2016 Freedomfest entry form on and the parade’s YouTube awesomeness.

Show Low has a pleasant appearance.   One of the fastest growing cities in the Southwest, its population has increased 40% since this century began. Mormons were its first settlers in the 19th century.  Although it was established in 1870, it wasn’t incorporated until 1953.  Today it has all the amenities of a much larger town like a Walmart Supercenter and WME Show Low 5, a cineplex that boasts, “All Stadium, All Rocker-Loveseat, All Digital Sound”.   It may be up-to-date, but Show Low’s main street is still Deuce of Clubs.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about its unconventional yet small-town-normal Historical Society Museum where Ruth & I experienced a warm welcome and spent far more time than we planned.    How often does one get to experience a thunder gourd?



The Curious Armstrong Browning

Another 19th century Renaissance Man besides Lew Wallace was Robert Browning.  He wasn’t, however, quite as diverse as Lew.  Reportedly reading by the age of 5, Browning spoke Latin, French, and Greek by the age of 14.  He traveled extensively and lived for many years in Italy, which he called his university.  He was known for his poetry and his witty sayings like “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp”.  He wrote poetry for children, like “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”.  By the time he died in England, he was regarded as a philosopher/poet.  Shortly before his death, he made what is now the oldest surviving recording in Great Britain.

His writing career was overshadowed by his marriage.  When he was 34, Browning married Elizabeth Barrett.  She was 40.  They had one child who was known by the nickname Pen and became an artist. Elizabeth’s father was against their marriage and disinherited her.  The couple moved to Italy and remained there until her death 15 years later.  It was a good marriage. Elizabeth Barrett Browning also became a poet, perhaps the better one.  Her most famous poem was probably “How do I Love Thee”, which continues “let me count the ways”.

You don’t have to go to Italy or England to appreciate this couple.  You have to go to Waco, Texas, where the Armstrong Browning Library and Museum holds, rather surprisingly, the world’s largest collection of Browning material, including a lot of personal items like Robert’s favorite gold ring and paintings Pen made of his father.  It’s there because of Dr. A. Joseph Armstrong, who was head of Baylor University’s English Department for 40 years, a Browning scholar, and a master at fund raising.

The Armstrong Browning Library & Museum’s building on Baylor’s campus is as important as the Browning collection inside.  It looks much older than it is. It wasn’t dedicated until 1952.  On its upper level are several rooms being used by serious students who appreciate its world-defying quietness. The rooms contain Browning displays and 62 windows that celebrate their poetry.  This is the world’s largest collection of secular stained glass.   The windows were created between 1924 and 1951.   Toward the back of this level is the McLean Foyer of Meditation, a huge cube with a dome used for reflection and ceremonies.  It’s even quieter than the library rooms and where Ruth & I met a female Baylor student who visits often.   Sitting in an alcove like she was playing hide and seek, she told Ruth & me that this was her favorite place on the campus.

Upstairs is a Victorian drawing room, a portrait gallery, and some Boehm porcelain birds. Downstairs is the Dotson Wedgewood (mostly jasper ware) Collection, the largest in the United States.  There is a connection.  Robert corresponded with and met Josiah Wedgwood’s great-granddaughter Julia.

The Armstrong-Browning Library, a decidedly unusual attraction, is an Italian Renaissance building on the campus of the largest Baptist university in the world deep in the heart of Texas.


MHM Has Another Winner


The Missouri History Museum in St Louis is a marvel.  It mounts excellent, free shows that mostly showcase local events.  Because they often have national impact, information about them would appeal to those just visiting this historic city in the American Midwest with the famous Arch. On October 28, 2016, I wrote about one of its shows called “Route 66, Once St. Louis’ Main Street”.   Luckily, it’s still there and will be until July 16, 2017.  You still have time to see it, and on March 11 it added another impressive presentation.

“#1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis” will be up until April 15, 2018.  It’s worth seeing even if you’re a temporary visitor because some of the cases covered were local events that changed history for everyone in our country.

I always benefit from seeing a great attraction like the Missouri History Museum a 2nd, or 3rd, time.  When Ruth and I stopped in to see Route 66 last year, I delighted in its World’s Fair exhibit and others.  However, I completely missed its tribute to national hero Charles Lindbergh.  Although he wasn’t born there, Lindbergh had St. Louis connections.  In 1925 he was a flight instructor there and flying a mail route to Chicago.  The next year he made history by being the first person to fly solo across The Atlantic.  One period newspaper article on display noted that the St. Louis backers of his successful flight asked him to crate his airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, and bring it home by steamship for exhibition at Lambert Field.   It’s now in The Smithsonian.

“#1 in Civil Rights” covers events from the Dred Scott Decision to Ferguson.   It also focuses on lesser known local happenings that sent ripples nationally. It notes, for example, that the 1st Civil Rights demonstration in the country occurred in St. Louis in 1819.   Participants were protesting the entrance of Missouri into the Union as a slave state.  Slaves Dred and Harriet Scott sued Irene Emerson for their freedom 27 years later.  Emerson had taken them to live in free territory, Kansas, so the Scotts felt entitled to be treated as free beings.  It took more than 10 years for their case to be ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court, and its decision led inexorably to the Civil War.  That’s Harriet below.

 A lesser known case that really interested me involved Lloyd Gaines.  In 1936 he applied to the University of Missouri Law School and was denied admission.  Only 2 years later the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the university had to either admit him or establish a separate law school for African-Americans that offered equal training.  This foreshadowed the famous Brown versus the Board of Education decision in 1954 that banned public school segregation.  What subsequently happened to Gaines, the display notes, is not known.  That’s him below.

Cases involving neighborhood segregation, employment, who can use public swimming pools, etc. are thoughtfully covered in this exhibit that notes that the first Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t made by Abraham Lincoln.  It was Major General John C. Frémont who issued that edict more than a year before the 16th President.




Chili in Chilly Cincinnati

In my old hometown, St. Louis, it’s toasted ravioli.  In my new hometown, Vancouver, its wild salmon with unlimited variations.   Some of them include marionberries.  In Philladelphia it’s scrapple.  Local specialties, and they still exist despite the pizza epidemic, make U. S. travel more interesting.  Regionality still rules.  Travelers still eat better on the road if they have steak in Fort Worth and lobster in Bar Harbor.   In Cincinnati, it’s chili.

Ruth & I asked the friendly lady at the main desk in the venerable Cincinnati Art Museum where we should eat and she said, “Camp Washington”.    Then she tried to describe real Cincinnati chili and shuddered.  “It has cinnamon in it,” she gasped.  “You may not like it.”  We did.   Especially Ruth.

It’s true, however, that Cincinnati chili is different from any other I have tasted. It’s far more like Mediterranean meat sauce atop spaghetti than the St. Louis chili mac I grew up on.   The Nati chili was developed by Greek and Macedonian restaurant owners who emigrated to Ohio in the 1920s.  Today there are reportedly 250 chili parlors in the Cincinnati area.   Camp Washington, Skyline, and Empress are the 3 main ones.

We walked into Camp Washington, noted what others were eating, and ordered the same combo.  What came out were plates of meat sauce covered with cheese. Underneath it was a lot of slightly overcooked spaghetti.   To me it was good but not great.  It was spicy hot.  The walls of Camp Washington were covered with magazine and newspaper raves, book reviews, and photos of TV cooking shows.  There were many testimonials to the wonders of Camp Washington chili.   As I was taking photos, Ruth disappeared.  I found her copying the chili recipe from one avid article, and I learned that cinnamon was just one of the spices in what we had just devoured like starving Macedonian immigrants.

Camp Washington got its name from a historic neighborhood west of downtown.  In 1846 when the United States was at war with Mexico, the plains north of this Ohio River port were where the Ohio regiments mustered. Horses and cattle were plentiful in this area.

Johnny Johnson has become a Port Washington legend.  He emigrated from Greece in 1951 and is still making Cincinnati chili.  Camp Washington’s 75th anniversary celebration in 2015 honored him by adding Johnny Johnson Way to the intersection, Colerain, and Hopple, where Johnny’s chili is served.   I suspect he is one of the reasons why CW chili is rated among the top 3.


ps   Even though it was March, we must have been in Cincinnati on its coldest 2017 day.

The Lew Wallace Legend

Lew Wallace really comes into focus at the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana.   He was one of the most important celebrities of the 19th century and a true Renaissance Man.  He won’t be forgotten.   Among his accomplishments was the indisputable fact that he wrote the best selling book of his time.  Translated into more than 40 languages, Ben-Hur was the most published book worldwide until a kid named Harry Potter came along.

Like a lot of restless geniuses, Lew gave his father trouble.  The film about him at his study and museum calls him a “frontier dreamer”.  He disliked school but became fascinated by military life.  After studying law he entered the infantry and became a Civil War participant with an uneven career.   Probably the most famous battle he fought in was Shiloh.  Over time he did well enough to steadily rise in the Union Army.  Abraham Lincoln promoted him, and Wallace became the youngest man to hold the rank of Major General in that war. He presided over the trials of Lincoln’s conspirators. He returned to Crawfordsville, ran for Congress, and wrote his first of 7 books.  Over the next several years he was Governor of the New Mexico Territory and served his country as Ambassador to what is now Turkey, bonding with its Sultan. He became a painter, played the violin, was responsible for 8 patents, etc.

His 2nd book was his blockbuster.  Ben-Hur, which he partially wrote under a beech tree on his Indiana property, has been made into a film 5 times–1907, 1915, 1925, 1959 and 2016.  The 1959 version directed by William Wyler won 11 Academy Awards.  Its chariot race is still considered a marvel of movie-making and is reportedly the best thing about the 2016 version.

Lew Wallace built his unusual, basically one-room study as a retreat from the world and a place to display his considerable and beloved belongings.  It once had a moat.  After his death, his family opened it to the public so that they could see “the Home of Ben-Hur”.  Lew’s lair has changed little since then, and is definitely worth the trip to Crawfordsville.

Opened seasonally, generally April to October, the Wallace Study & Museum was setting up a new display when Ruth and I were there.  In it will be Judah Ben-Hur’s racing costume from the 2016 film.  It was not out yet, but I thoroughly enjoyed looking at a 1st edition of one of the most successful book ever written.