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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: February 24, 2021

The World is Smaller

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,




**********

This past Thursday, 2/18, I woke up and as usual, scanned my phone for anything needing immediate attention. What caught my eye was an e-mail from someone I don't know. As I read the first few lines, I was surprised and intrigued. The writer was a resident of"..Poland. And the content of the e-mail was about the Peshtigo Times column I wrote for last week about our frigid weather"..which was just published on 2/17, less than 24 hours previously.

Most Times readers get their paper in the mail, meaning a majority of readers get it no sooner than the day after publication. But the Times is available in an electronic version, facilitating his quick access. The fact that a person in Poland read the column, apparently during the night of publication, and had already sent me an e-mail about it, which I had already read less than 24 hours later, is an example of just how computers have revolutionized communications.

The e-mail was charming. The writer, Dr. John Kowalski, is originally from the town of Wagner and attended both the McAllister School and the Wausaukee Schools. After a 34 year career in Chicago as a pediatrician he and his wife retired in Lodz, Poland near her family. I asked for and received permission to share his name and some of the content of the communication.

He included childhood memories of days when school was cancelled because the busses wouldn't start at 25 below zero. (Not because it was too cold to send the kids, apparently.) He also said that even on days that the weather was "just" warm enough for busses to start, the kids at McAllister would still bundle up and be sent out for a brief recess because "the Mrs. Otto, Wickman and Williams needed five minutes to decompress."

That made me laugh. I remember being sent out at Garfield School in rural Peshtigo on terribly cold days and most of us clustering around the air exhaust for the building where it would be marginally warmer. If we were lucky, one side of the building sheltered from the wind would be in the legal "recess area" boundaries and we'd all stand there, teeth chattering. Girls had to wear skirts or dresses then, and going out required putting on snow pants to protect our skinny bare legs besides the hats, gloves, coats, boots and scarves. It amounted to ten minutes of getting dressed, ten miserable minutes outside, and ten minutes of getting undressed.

He also mentioned waiting impatiently for 6:30 a.m. when the Marinette radio station, WMAM would start reading school cancellations on nasty days. This is also part of my memory banks, since I don't recall any TV stations scrolling that information when I was young.

But besides my enjoyment of, and identification with his memories, I was gobsmacked* at the entire chain of communication. The Peshtigo Times has followers scattered across the United States. I know that because I get e-mail from readers fairly frequently, which I greatly enjoy. But Poland?

There is nothing like truly local news " the family names, locations and history you are familiar with if you grew up in Marinette County. In a large county of small communities like Marinette County, you won't get any local news in bigger papers, on TV news or in an organized fashion from Facebook or other on-line sites. In fact, local news is getting harder and harder to come by, especially accurate news, which is hit or miss on Facebook and other similar on-line forums. That is why the Peshtigo Times still exists, and the entire Times staff should feel honored that some people across the Atlantic Ocean still find the publication of interest.

The other striking thought I had is just how small the world is now. People in far-flung countries, even on opposite sides of the globe, can make contact to do business, fall in love, make friends, get access to information, organize, learn, teach, and do good.

They can also lie, cheat, harass, discriminate, mislead, inflame, incite, and bilk.

As in all things, the good is either demonstrated by humans, or sometimes unfortunately, it is not. People either act responsibly, or they do not.

Dr. Kowalski: thank you so much for making my day, and giving me a lot to think about. Your kindness and your shared memories are appreciated.

*Gobsmacked: slang for experiencing a feeling of intense surprise.

Book I am reading: "Lords of the Fly," by Monte Burke. Non-fiction. A story about people obsessed with fly rod Tarpon fishing. The book is fascinating and at times, hilarious. A nice change of pace from the heavy stuff I have been reading and if you love to fly fish, I bet you'd enjoy it. I am enjoying it because it is fun to learn about people with obsessions.



You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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