Join Waukesha resident Brien Lee and his blog, Sir Fido, as they explore the city and report on the interesting things they find.
Email Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sad to see Laurel Walker's last column today. We first met a few years back when I suggested she do a story on the area near my boyhood home. Pebble Creek, a cold water trout stream, ran through it. Now, Meadowbrook Road runs through it. Though the area has changed considerably and is no longer farmed, much of the creek and floodplain is protected from development and still in a natural state.
I have drawn inspiration from Laurel's writing and it's as much thanks to her as to anyone I got started writing here. I'd mentioned to her around the time I started blogging that the future of paid columnists didn't look too secure when bloggers like me were willing to write stories for free. It was just after another round of staff downsizing when we "talked" by email. Now she's taking early retirement rather than risk the layoff. What will be left when all the good columnists are gone is what I'd like to know.
Like Pebble Creek, newspapers have changed considerably over the years and will continue to change. I've recently had to give lots of thought to whether to renew my Journal Sentinel subscription. I love the paper and look forward to it and share it, but it's over $120.00 for 6 months of daily and Sunday. That comes to about $5.00 a week. . . but we already subscribe to the Freeman.
Annie is our Journal Sentinel carrier. I knew her when I delivered weekend papers. She's been delivering for probably longer than Laurel's had a column. It's rare when the paper isn't here by 5:30, delivered to the door. If Annie can deliver the quality product I've enjoyed and look forward to seven days a week for less than $5.00 a week. . . then I can renew.
Laurel, congratulations, and thanks for years of good reading and inspiration.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Development stirs memories, but pond remains placid
Published: June 15, 1999
What do you suppose you'd find if you went back to your childhood haunt, to the place where you caught frogs, built an awesome tree fort, escaped for a while from the watchful eyes of adults? Brien Lee went back to his. He was pleasantly surprised at what he found. He had expected far worse. The 38-year-old Waukesha father of two boys, 6 and 8, saw what a lot of us see springing up around Waukesha County -- development. What especially caught his attention was the shopping center under construction by developer Bryce Styza at the corner of Highway 18 and the new stretch of Highway TT and the increasing number of big homes going up in Tall Grass, the Siepmann Realty Corp.'s upscale subdivision off Northview Road that includes nature trails. Just to the north, houses already are up on the rolling hills of Styza's Rolling Ridge subdivision. Not even in the picture yet, other than in the planning stages, are Siepmann's condominiums and Styza's single-family homes along the south side of Northview Road, and Styza's proposed 400 apartments and more commercial development along Highway TT. Lee wondered and, frankly, he worried how his old frog-hunting pond along Pebble Creek between Northview Road and Highway 18 was holding up. First, he checked it out on a sneak peek with his sons earlier this spring. "I brought 'em to show them my childhood," he said. "They liked it." Then he checked it out again Saturday, before the rains, with me tagging along (and with the owner's permission). Lee grew up on Highway 18, in a Lannon stone house built in the 1840s that once served as an inn. His parents made it a home for eight children -- Lee, his two siblings and his five cousins adopted when their parents died in a plane crash. Back then, this house was surrounded by a new subdivision on the western outskirts of Waukesha. Now, the city's creeping up -- no, barging in -- from all sides. For at least the time being, this little stretch of woods and creek and limestone formations is holding its own. But for how long, I wonder? We traipsed through mosquito-infested, waist-high undergrowth. When Lee was a kid, the cattle pastured there used to keep it trimmed. I suppose those cattle were polluters, but the kids and the creek survived. And there were trails, too, along this stream so enjoyed by the farm owners, country neighbors, horse riders and other visitors. Lee looked for his old tree fort, but the best we could spot was a deer stand. Plenty of deer tracks still around. The brook babbled in spots. A nice sound. "We just used our imagination a little bit," Lee said, remembering. "When you're 12 years old, on someone else's land, and the cows are nearby. . . . We climbed around on the rocks, discovered things." I could just imagine, all right, as I thought back to my own childhood haunts -- the pond with turtles and polliwogs, the woodsy back 40 acres with its hickory and black walnut trees, or even down the road in that amazing glen. Lee was delighted to come across an old stone house foundation, dressed in a mossy overcoat, and its stone hearth. It was never really a house, said Delores Emslie, who with her husband owned about 100 acres of farmland there. The Emslie family traces its roots on an adjacent 150 acres back to the 1840s. Dolores Emslie said the Girl Scouts used to use the area for a camp decades ago, and the "house" was probably a lodge or shelter. Like Lee, Emslie has some fond memories of the creek. Her husband created a pond for the kids to swim in, big enough to support a raft. That was the same pond in which Lee remembers catching frogs. But now, it's small and shallow. While she picked black raspberries down by the creek, her two boys would be content with coloring books under a tree. Now those boys, all grown, are farmers -- but in Jefferson and Dodge counties where the development pressure is less. Although the creek has changed there -- most noticeably, a line of manhole covers to the sanitary sewer line running nearby -- Lee was happy to find that "it wasn't wrecked," thanks to its designation as an environmental corridor. "I dragged the kids through a lot of brambles to find some of these old things," he said. "They thanked me for showing them my childhood."
Copyright 1999 Journal Sentinel Inc.
I've posted this video before, but this is the area I played in as a kid and Laurel and I walked through after I took my own kids there to show them around. Bryce Styza's The Lodge apartments is now a reality and have been around for years. I'm glad a lot of thought and planning went into building The Lodge. The rustic-looking logs used seem to fit the environment pretty well. I'm thrilled many ancient oaks still line the creek and bluffs to the north.