Saturday, May 19, 2012

Grandma Marshall, Tavis Smiley, & vacationing in Duluth

Yesterday I heard part of the Tavis Smiley show on National Public Radio. In the segment that I heard Tavis was interviewing a man who encouraged families to take their children into the wilderness in order to help teach the children the importance of wilderness in all of our lives. Part of his reasoning was that when children grow up knowing the value of wilderness we will be less inclined to agree to the removal of the natural resources, especially energy reserves, stored in the few remaining wilderness areas so that the those wilderness areas can be preserved in their natural state for the generations to come.

Tavis asked the man he was interviewing how poor families from the inner city could achieve that goal of having their children experience wilderness life.

I have an answer for Tavis. To my mind it fits with Tavis’ ongoing encouragement of each of us to live up to our potential. We can each do it if we put our minds to it and commit to it.

This is a family story that I been told by Dad about his life as a child, living in Duluth MN.

My paternal grandmother, Mary Richardson Marshall, was a petite woman no taller than 5’ 2”. She and her husband, always referred to as The Duke, lived in Duluth MN in the early 1900s where The Duke worked for the Northern Pacific Railway Company. For railroad workers at that time vacations were not included as part of their employment.

The Duluth Marshalls did not own a car and generally had no need of one. Here is the tale of how each summer Grandma Marshall took the family children, and sometimes their friends, on vacation.

After preparing for the vacation Grandma Marshall would hire a taxi to pick them up at their home. The canoe would be loaded on top of the cab and all of the stuff they needed for a week’s vacation was stuffed inside along with the kids and Grandma. The taxi would deliver them to the train station. Grandma loaded the kids and their stuff on the passenger train, canoe included. An hour or so outside of Duluth the train stopped and the entourage’ was unloaded from the train.

The canoe was filled with all their gear. Then everyone pitched in to carry the canoe about one mile down a path to the lake. Grandma Marshall and the tribe of kids camped at the lake for a week. They caught fish for dinner. They swam, played, and camped out.

At the end of the week they reversed the process. They carried the loaded canoe back to the train stop where they flagged down the passenger train. Everything was loaded on the train, and then transferred to a taxicab for the ride home.

My father said that Grandma Marshall organized this vacation every summer for several years.

Monday, May 7, 2012