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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

Highway 32/57 revisited

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Spent part of the weekend in Green Bay with the future son-in-law and some of his buds, a little ritual called "The Bachelor Party."

All were had by a good time.

Sunday dawned and it was time for the drive home. Leaving a part of Green Bay I didn't really know all that well, I was hard pressed to find I-43. I spotted a sign for Highway 32/57 and figured that would eventually lead me to the interstate. Hit the ramp and started heading south.

A quick perusal of a Wisconsin highway map shows just how flawed my assumption was.


I was right in assuming they'd eventually intersect. I was wrong in thinking it would happen in the immediate future. Resigned to my fate, I drove on as my son slept off the after-effects of the previous evening from the passenger seat and took in a slice of Wisconsin, all by my lonesome.

32/57 meanders away from the Fox River through towns I had only heard of via Green Bay TV ads while growing up in Sheboygan, places like Greenleaf (home of the D & G restaurant), Hilbert (I think their fire department is having a brat fry later this month), New Holstein (where you'll find the M T Glass Bar and Grill), and Kiel where the Dairy Queen looked to be one of the tiny ones I remember from my childhood, a restaurant that would close up each winter and re-open every spring. You want a Dilly bar in December? You'd better stock the freezer in July.

Each town had its own personality. There were churches burgeoning with Sunday services, and lots of full driveways (it was Mother's Day). What passed for the main drag was dead quiet although a few taverns were open for business (maybe for those who didn't have a mom around to honor). It reminded me of what a drive through Wisconsin used to be like, when state highways connected towns, not four-lane highways. You actually had to drive through a few places to get to where you were headed, and it broke the monotony of the journey.

32 and 57 diverge just outside of Millhome (and the Milhome Supper Club). 57 heads south toward Plymouth, while 32 takes you to Howards Grove which always will have a special spot in my heart: home of my late Uncle George Harms and his wife Helen. I drove past the former Starlite Lanes where George taught me the basics of bowling, and the building that used to be "The Store", a mom-and-dad grocery store. Nearby stood the bar that used to sponsor the bowling team my mom and Helen were members of.

The Harms' lived in a small ranch home right between Howards Grove (to the east) and Millersville (to the west). It was nothing but wide-open farm land in between, a small river winding through both villages that I would skate on each winter. There was a huge backyard garden, right off the rear garage door where George would grill brats and hamburgers for us on Sundays. Nights were jet black, minus the bright lights of the big city. It's where we'd gather on the 4th of July to shoot off fireworks. It's where relatives spent countless weekend nights playing sheephead (we didn't use the second "s" in Sheboygan) with me serving as bartender.

And now it's gone. Oh, the house is there, but Helen and George passed years ago and lots of people decided to build around them. The farm across the street is a Piggly Wiggly and the road between what used to be two distinct villages is a seamless residential stretch of houses. That river? I couldn't find it amid the subdivision that stretches from what used to be my uncle's garden over to the highway where the new-to-me high school now sits. My kid woke up at that point, just in time to see a tear roll down my cheek as childhood memories gave way to the reality in front of my bloodshot eyes.

We'd link up with 43 in Sheboygan and be home an hour later with Bob Uecker coming along for the ride. We could've been home sooner had I taken the time back in DePere, but I didn't regret for a minute taking what some would call the long way home. There's the ride that happens in front of your windshield, and then there's the trip that can happen simultaneously between your ears. The sights, the sounds, the smells of "the scenic route" brought back some very vivid and occasionally melancholy memories. It also drove home the point: you can always go home again, but you should never expect it to be the way you left it. And, you shouldn't cry because something is over.

You should smile because it happened.

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