The animals at Conner Prairie – a scoot and shoot event

Conner Prairie is an Interactive History Park in Fishers, Indiana, about 25 minutes north of Indianapolis.


It is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program. I never realized such a thing existed. Live and learn—which is the idea, I suppose.


Conner Prairie has a welcome center, a nature walk and five main areas: the 1863 Civil War Journey based on the Raid on Indiana, an 1836 Prairietown, the Conner Homestead, the Lenape Indian Camp, and an 1859 Balloon Voyage. It probably goes without saying that this little guy was standing guard in the Civil War Journey. He looked familiar. I wondered if he accompanied Lincoln the day he came to town.


And this handmade canoe was part of the Indian Village. I stopped by there briefly. A young man who couldn’t have been a day over eleven was hefting a tomahawk over his shoulder getting ready to throw it at a target. The target area was roped off, but the spectators were fairly close to the young man’s backside. I didn’t want to be around in the unfortunate event of a backstroke misfire that sent the tomahawk (probably just an axe, really) sailing towards the crowd (or two or three parents and siblings who were watching.)


This little blue wheelbarrow was loaded with hay, just waiting for a small person to come along and interact with it.


The larger blue wagon made a nice lawn ornament.


What would an interactive park be without a petting zoo, or in this case, barn? Isn’t this little girl adorable? I watched her drum up the courage to get close enough to touch the goat, that outsized her by quite a bit. The goat was a patient and tolerant participant, as you can tell by the look on his face.


This little calf was also working at the petting zoo, although I must have caught her at break time.


Even the human animals needed to find a place to rest their back and take a quick break every now and then.


Some of their work was quite challenging.


These pigs were working hard digging a big pit in their pen. I’m not sure why.


And the chicken was standing on the rail keeping an eye on things. Probably a fairly boring job, but somebody had to do it.


It’s more fun to strut around the yard looking important, I imagine.


This blacksmith really was working hard. He spent an awfully long time heating and hammering out a solitary nail. I’m not sure how the pioneers got anything done at this rate.


I really think these guys were just loafing around. I couldn’t see any useful purpose in their activity, unless it was their job to keep the grass trimmed. They were chewing on it quite deliberately.


Isn’t she a doll? I watched her try and try to pick this stick up. She finally got it. Sort of.


This goes without saying. But it illustrates a new and useful purpose for a picket fence.

We had a beautiful day at Conner Prairie. I hope we go back when the trees are in leaf. It will look like a whole new world then, I imagine.


See more Scoot and Shoot posts here.

Springboro, Ohio – on the route to freedom

A Scoot and Shoot event.

Being located on the Ohio River just across the water from Kentucky, Cincinnati in particular, and Ohio in general were heavily engaged in the Underground Railroad and former slaves’ journeys to freedom. A small town just north of Cincinnati called Springboro was founded by a Quaker named Jonathon Wright in  1815. The Quakers abhorred slavery and Springboro became actively involved in the Underground Railroad. Quaker and non-Quaker residents of Springboro risked legal consequences from their illegal activity of aiding slaves on their way to freedom. Many of the homes and businesses of these courageous individuals are still standing on or near Main Street in the small downtown strip of Springboro, Ohio.

28-Springboro-2013-11-21- _42

Unfortunately, even though I had a brochure that described the various buildings, I am not able to match the exact buildings to the descriptions I have. We started the tour somewhere in the middle, later crossed the street, and ducked into the Wooly Bully Yarn Company at one point. Which, by the way, had an awesome selection of yarns. On these Scoot and Shoot events my companions are more interested in taking photographs than in writing journalistic reports. And sometimes I am too.

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At 200 South Main Street the Jonah Thomas House has a documented connection to the Underground Railroad.

17-Springboro-2013-11-21- _23

Jonah was a Quaker and a conductor on the Springboro leg of the Underground Railroad.

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I think this is the Joseph Stanton House at 250 South Main Street. According to the Springboro Chamber of Commerce brochure, “This building was a stop on the Underground Railroad which may have been known as the ‘Quilt House.’ Quilts hung in back of the house told runaway slaves it was safe to enter. The basement hiding space extended westward under what is now the side walk.”

I’m patting myself on the back that I was able to bring you two buildings that were involved in the Underground Railroad, but instead of trying to read illegible house numbers, or match my photos to small black and white thumbnails on the brochure, I’m just going to throw in a slide show of some of the buildings and details I saw along Main Street in Springboro. Perhaps you’ll take the walking tour someday if you find yourself in the area.

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I don’t know about you, but I have always been enthralled by the idea of an Underground Railroad. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center stands on the riverfront in downtown Cincinnati and teaches about not only the path to freedom through this area, but also about current locations where freedom is still out of reach. It’s worth a visit if you are in town. Maybe I’ll visit there with my camera, and a notebook, sometime soon and share my identified pictures with you.

Do you live where an interesting part of history took place?

Lincoln comes to town

This post is dedicated to two of my ancestors who served in the Union Army during the Civil War:

John W. Lemmon (ancestor on my mother’s side), from Champaign County, Ohio, served three years in the Civil War from August 11, 1862 until August 14, 1865.  He participated in battles at Richmond, the Siege of Vicksburg, and Nashville, among others. He received an Honorable discharge in August of 1865 at the age of 23.

Thomas Bryant (ancestor on my father’s side), from Washington County, Kentucky, served as a Union soldier during the Civil War. In May of 1864, his son and my ancestor, Ulysses Grant Bryant was born. Thomas enrolled in Company D of the 54th Regiment of the Kentucky Mounted Infantry Volunteers in September of the same year. He was honorably discharged in September of 1865. The 54th Kentucky was doing provost duty (policing activities) in the country around Lexington, Ky and operating against guerillas in Henry Co., Ky. Thomas received a pension from the government for the loss of sight in his right eye caused by cold and exposure during his service. The pension started at $6.00 per month in 1883 and was incrementally increased with time to $20.00 per month. He received it until his death in 1910.

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Mark has a conversation with the president.
Lincoln is portrayed by Stan Wernz who has made the 16th president come to life for more than thirty years.

On a beautiful, and perhaps one of the last temperate, autumn Saturday we traveled to Governor Bebb Metropark in Butler County, Ohio to shoot photos of the living history program celebrating the life of Abraham Lincoln. I’ve never been to one of these, although I have always been fascinated by some of the Civil War reenactments that occur around the country. I found “Lincoln comes to town” to be a fun and engaging day that sparked my imagination.


Governor Bebb Park has a pioneer village that members of the sponsoring organizations moved into and took over for the weekend.

03-bugler-2013-11-09Buglers played their plaintain notes,

06-soldiers-2013-11-09a band of soldiers, the young and the old,

05-soldiers-2013-11-09performed their military drills.


A  blacksmith set out his wares.


Ladies took a morning stroll with coffee in a metal cup.


And Abe Lincoln visited the soldier’s camp, sometimes speaking with others,

10-Lincoln-2013-11-09sometimes lost in pensive thoughts.


I had chicken pot pie in the tavern for lunch.


I have no idea what a couple of these tools are for.


Governor Bebb Pioneer village was the perfect venue for the event,

14-flag-2013-11-09and was suitably decorated for the celebration.

19-stage-2013-11-09A stage was set up in the cemetery for Lincoln to give his Gettysburg Address, (but unfortunately we did not stay long enough to hear it. We did, however hear his speech upon leaving Springfield.)

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The ladies made use of the stage to have a fashion show where they explained the specifics of their dress.

18-young_soldier-2013-11-09This young man watched with a detached interest. Some things never change.


Sponsoring organizations include:

Metroparks of Butler County
6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Company A
Ladies Living History Society of Greater Cincinnati
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Sister Anthony O’Connell Auxilliary Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

The perils of the sun


You might wonder by the time you finish reading this post, why I still like, in fact insist on, going on beach vacations.

“I can’t remember ever going to the beach and not having a problem with my skin,” I told Mark just this morning.

I have always burned fairly easily in the sun, and although sunscreen has been a fact of life for me as long as I can remember, I still inevitably end up with a burn somewhere on my body, often on my chest, upper back, and almost always on my face.

I stopped using sun lotion on my face several years ago after I was unable to find one that didn’t make my face feel like someone had sprayed gasoline on it and lit a match.

Now I trust only my faithful Oil of Olay daily lotion with broad spectrum SPF for my face. It only has a rating of 15, but I reapply it obsessively.

This year on our beach trip to the southern North Carolina shore I came well-armed. I bought Coppertone Sport high performance, broad spectrum, 30spf that “stays on when you sweat” lotion and spray.  And I used both liberally in the first two days.

The third day I began to develop a red, bumpy, itchy rash. At first I blamed it on sun poising which I had self-diagnosed several years back.

If it hadn’t been for Mark, who liberally applied the lotion to my back at my request, I might not have figured it out yet. But Mark took his job seriously and put that lotion all over my entire back, most of which never saw the light of day under my suit.

The rash eventually covered all my exposed body except my face, thanks to the Oil of Olay. It also developed on my back.

The rash, I believe, is from the lotion I was using to protect myself. I revised my self-diagnosis.

Now I’m on a quest for sun lotion that I can tolerate, perhaps a combination of zinc oxide and titanium oxide that work to reflect the sun off of the skin. The other lotions somehow modify the rays to render them harmless.

I came to the beach also well-armed with light-weight long-sleeved shirts, and other various cover-ups.

Yesterday, I wore long sleeves, my hat and sunglasses and went to the beach sans lotion except for the Oil of Olay on my face. I sat under our umbrella the entire time, covering the bottom of my legs with a second cover-up, and taking an indoor break during peak sun hours.

At the end of the day I had a sunburn from mid-thigh to mid-calf where my legs had remained bare under the umbrella.

“What’s your next act?” Mark asked me this morning.

Today I look like a spy out of a low-budget movie—broad hat, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirt, and capris. A second cover-up protects the bottom of my legs and feet once I’m seated in the shade. Only my hands are exposed.

I still love the beach.

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Tips, advice, and general commiseration are all welcome.

A quick stop in Columbia, S.C.

I hadn’t really thought about it when we made the plans to go to the beach. And I was never very good at geography anyway. So when Mark found a place to go to in Ocean Isle, North Carolina, I was all in.

It wasn’t until the days before the trip when I read the information about our accommodations that I realized we were going to be quite close to Myrtle Beach.


Myrtle Beach 1953 – Dad

When I was young, Myrtle Beach was for me “the ocean.” Recently while sorting through my parents’ old photos and contemplating parts of their life that I just never took the time to think about before, I realized Myrtle Beach was where my dad first experienced the ocean, when he was in the army.

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Myrtle Beach 1971 – Mom, Dad, and Annie

If memory serves, I think it may be the first beach we ever went to as a family and one we returned to on several trips.

I contemplated this more as I was driving through the hills of Tennessee and noticed the lack of giant billboard signs for Ruby Falls. It’s funny the things that stick in your mind as a child riding in the back of a packed station wagon, playing alphabet word-scavenger hunts with my sisters as we rode along, my dad driving every mile of the way, using the open window as an arm rest while his bent elbow got redder by the minute.

Wade Hampton Hotel post card - 1953

Wade Hampton Hotel post card – 1953

On this trip I realized we would be passing somewhere close to Ft. Jackson, where my dad went to basic training in the early 50′s, and to Columbia where my parents stayed in the Wade Hampton Hotel when my mom flew down to visit him. But Mark is a get-to-your-destination, no-funny-business-side-trips allowed, kind of traveler, so I didn’t mention it at first.

03-04-Mom at capital bldg

Mom at the Columbia capital building in 1953

But as I was taking a shift at driving, and Mark was explaining the route for me, he said, “Take route 26 to Columbia where you get on route 20.”

“I wonder if we could try to find the Wade Hampton Hotel in Columbia for a quick stop?” I asked.

Mark googled it and started laughing. The first hit he got was about the implosion of the famed hotel.

“When?” I asked, wondering if it happened years ago and my parents knew about it. “April, 2013,” Mark said. (He obviously hadn’t looked at the video when he said this.)

Columbia state house

Columbia state house – 2013

We decided to go anyway, because the hotel had been across the street from the statehouse and I wanted pictures.

Columbia was a larger city than I had imagined, and the statehouse was massive and impressive. I was looking for an empty lot across the street that might have held the ill-fated Wade Hampton and found only modern high-rise buildings. So we went in a coffee shop where neither the young man working behind the counter, or the woman maintaining the automatic teller, knew anything about the Wade Hampton Hotel.

“Are you sure it imploded this April?” I asked Mark who got back on his phone. “1985,” he said, “It happened in 1985.” No wonder the young man behind the counter hadn’t heard of it. He might not even have been born yet. I wondered if my parents had heard about the implosion. For some reason I have a shadow of memory at the back of my mind about it. Maybe they told me when it happened, and like so many other things I just didn’t give it due attention. Or maybe it is my imagination re-creating history.

Site of the old Wade Hampton Hotel - 2013

Site of the old Wade Hampton Hotel – 2013

I listened to the implosion video and found out which corner the old hotel had occupied. I took a photo of the shiny high-rise standing there now and several of the statehouse. Mark bought a drink at the coffee shop. And we were on our way.

Fifteen minutes tops.

Where the waters of Buffalo met

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We finally made it to Canalside in Buffalo after our little detour through the Outer Harbor on our recent trip there.


According to park signage, the recently restored Commercial Slip was originally the western terminus of the Erie Canal that helped to make Buffalo one of the world’s greatest transportation centers in the early 1800s.


Today a boardwalk crosses the small restored section of the canal and leads to a park where many events are held. Our son participated in an art day there earlier this year. He sat at an easel and painted.


Even in the absence of an event, Canalside remains inviting.


We ate lunch on the patio of a restaurant overlooking the water.


A big draw of the area is the Military and Naval Park where three WWII-era ships are on display: the U.S.S. Sullivans, the U.S.S. Little Rock and the U.S.S. Croaker.

The U.S.S. Sullivans is a destroyer named to honor five brothers from Waterloo, Iowa who served together on the USS JUNEAU during World War II. The Sullivan brothers: George, 28; Francis, 27; Joseph, 24; Madison, 23; and Albert, 20; lost their lives during the Battle of Guadalcanal on November 13, 1942. They were adamant about serving together in spite of the Navy wartime policy to separate family members. (From where a photo of the brothers is posted.)


The  U.S.S. Little Rock is a light cruiser.

10-ships-2013-08-09And the U.S.S. Croaker is a Gato submarine. For some reason I find the ships to be a frightening sight. For a fee you can tour them. But as we were short on time, we decided to  save that for another visit.


On the military park side of the canal, before you cross over, a curving sidewalk takes you past a series of military monuments.


I noticed the Korean War monument right away because that war was being fought when my father was drafted into the army in 1953. He considered himself fortunate that he was assigned to Germany and not the Far East.

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The other monuments commemorate the contributions made by select groups of people during various wars.

22-waterfront-2013-08-09Across the canal the lighter side of life is celebrated. Even though the war ships are in sight,

19-waterfront-2013-08-09and boats for business wait off shore,

20-waterfront-2013-08-09many boats for leisure are in evidence.


All mark the place where the waters met and a city grew up.


You can read more posts about Buffalo, New York here.

Buffalo Outer Harbor and Main Lighthouse

We were driving to Canalside in downtown Buffalo to kill some time on the Friday before our son’s wedding. The signs we were following pointed left, but there were two possibilities. We took the closer left and went shooting off over a high-speed elevated bridge (the Buffalo Skyway I found out later) that curved out over the water. Clearly having no idea where we were, or any sense of direction, I said, “I hope we don’t end up in Canada.” Followed quickly by, “Do you have my passport in your backpack?”

I’m glad it was a calm day. The wind can get pretty strong up on that bridge, I hear.

Map of Buffalo Harbor Area. We were aiming for the red balloon.

Map of Buffalo Harbor Area. We were aiming for the red balloon.

Here is a picture of the Buffalo Harbor area. If you want to zoom in or out you can visit the link to this Google map. Buffalo is on the east side of Lake Erie, just south of the entrance to the Niagara River. The Buffalo Creek snakes through to the east. The geography was important in Buffalo’s early growth and affluence. The Erie Canal opened in 1825 and Buffalo was the western end of the line. But more on that next time.


The sail boat may be one of the Spirit of Buffalo cruises.

The bridge we were on landed us at the outer harbor and looking, through docked and sailing boats, across the water to downtown Buffalo, and Canalside, our original destination. We decided to look around the outer harbor area since we were already there.

06-to the lighthouse-2013-08-10So we walked out to see the Buffalo Main Lighthouse at the LIghthouse Point Park beside the Coast Guard facility. The park is billed as “One of the most historic places in Buffalo—the place where villagers built a harbor, that in turn built a city,” (Park signage). Sometimes you can bumble into some pretty interesting things.


What is it about lighthouses that make them so captivating? Is it the idea of a light in the night, a safe harbor, a history of rescues, the far point out to the sea?


Or maybe it’s simply the shape that rises up to the sky.

I’m not really sure what the purpose is of the white bottle structure or the black item. If you know what they are, please share. I didn’t read the signs. I was too busy snapping photos and loving the beautiful weather.

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The Edward M. Cotter is the world’s oldest working fireboat. (Buffalo Place)

We were thrilled to see the Edward M. Cotter pull into the harbor. (If you look closely or click on the picture you can see two of the water nozzles on the front deck. )

Matts Cotter mural

Images of the Edward M. Cotter mural by Matthew Grote from Savarino Properties

The Edward M. Cotter was the inspiration for the mural Savarino Cos. commissioned for the lobby of 26 Mississippi Street by our son Matthew Grote, (Buffalo Rising). Matt said the circular wall posed a unique challenge.

15-boat and city-2013-08-10We watched the Cotter move on into the harbor with the Buffalo skyline as a backdrop.

05-city hall-2013-08-10Here’s a zoomed-in shot, from our position across the water, of the top of City Hall. The building is considered an art deco masterpiece.

16-Back to Canalside-2013-08-10Looking back up the sidewalk to where we parked, we could see one of the large docked ships from the military park beside Canalside. Our destination was in sight. But since we had no water vehicle, we returned to our car and muddled our way there through streets and across a small bridge. Pictures will follow.

See more posts about Buffalo.

Allentown and the bubble man

Our son was married last weekend in an intimate and lovely ceremony in Buffalo, New York. Mark and I arrived there on Thursday and spent time on Friday touring the harbor area of this riverfront town. I’m going to do a series of three posts for this trip so as not to inundate you.


On Thursday we just walked through Allentown where our son lives. With a little help from Wikipedia I’ll briefly acquaint you with Allentown.


“Allentown is the first neighborhood north of the Downtown Buffalo core. It borders the downtown theater and entertainment district to its south, and runs north to North Street at its northern edge, Plymouth Avenue on the west, and Main street on the east. The neighborhood is generally centered around Allen Street and Elmwood Avenue.”

“Allentown is known for its community of artists, for its embrace of bohemian, hipster and gay culture, and for the civic commitment of residents to the historic and aesthetic sensibilities of the neighborhood.”

The Allentown Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Wikipedia


“Allentown is one of Buffalo’s premier areas for nightlife, dining, and antique shopping.”  Wikipedia


And on a street corner, the bubble man sends out bubbles to passers-by, showing the true spirit of Allentown.

Next up—the Lighthouse on the Outer Harbor.

See more posts about Buffalo.

Harnessing the flame – a look at hot air balloons


I’ve always been fascinated with hot air balloons. How about you?


On the ground they’re such big bulky things that just grow and grow.


They move around as if alive, like some kind of gigantic amoeba,


until they fill with enough warm air to stand upright.  There’s something kind of awesome, maybe a bit scary even about it. The size. The potential.


Hot air balloons have been around for a long time. The first “manned” flight was in 1783. French pilatre DeRozier, a scientist, launched the hot air balloon containing three passengers: a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. They survived the 15-minute flight and crash, clearing the way for truly manned balloon flight. (


The basic idea for balloon flight has been around even longer and dates back to the day of Archemedes in Ancient Greece who figured out the principle of buoyancy. “In the 13th century, the English scientist Roger Bacon and the German philosopher Albertus Magnus both proposed hypothetical flying machines based on the principle,” (


By the 1800s, the hot air balloon was more or less displaced by the gas dirigible balloon which was seen as superior in several ways. It had a longer flight time and could be steered. (A big advantage if you ask me.) Since the 1960s hot air balloons have come back in popularity as a sport or hobby. (


Balloonists today use propane gas to heat the air inside the balloon. The hot air rises. We all know that, right? But the reason the hot air rises is that hot air is less dense than cold air. When the air molecules are all heated up they move faster and farther away from each other. This less dense, or lighter air, held inside the balloon wants to rise above the outside air which is cooler and more dense. Liftoff.

When you see these flames that the balloonists use to heat the air, it can look a little scary though.


We were at the annual Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon and Sky Diving Festival to see the balloon glow event on Saturday night. We came to this last year as well, but it was so windy that very few balloons participated.


This year was much better.

The announcer directed the balloonists to burn their fires together and it really was a spectacular show.

Then the balloons somehow burned in succession. I’m not sure how this was facilitated, but it reminded me of a calliope for some reason. It seemed musical.

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This slide show of four shots doesn’t really do it justice, but you get the idea.


And finally, as we were walking away the scarecrow rose above the balloons. Earlier we had seen something lying on the ground that looked like a giant spice worm from the sci-fi world of Dune. At last it was able to rise. We didn’t stay around long enough to see if it glowed.


My mother purchased a ride in a hot balloon for my father ten or more years ago. I think he loved it. They say a ride in a hot air balloon is a lovely and serene way to travel. (If you don’t care too much about where you are going or when you get there, I suppose. ) I’ll never know, myself. Will you?

WWII and New Orleans


When we were told not to miss the WWII museum when we visited New Orleans earlier this year, I was surprised. First, I didn’t know that there was such a museum in New Orleans. And second, I was surprised that someone would choose New Orleans as a location for such a museum. What possible significance could New Orleans have had with the second world war?

One person — Andrew Higgins.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower called Higgins, “the man who won the war for us.”

I’m not a WWII afficionado, but even I know that the allied invasion of Normandy was the event that turned the tide of the war. And when you think about that invasion, what comes to mind? —


A model of the Higgins boat at the WWII Museum in New Orleans.

boats pulling up to the beaches, lowering a ramp, and soldiers marching off into the water towards the beach, many to their deaths. I think that must have been one of the most horrifying experiences ever.

Although you might not want to have been a soldier on one of those boats, those HIggins landing crafts were what made the invasion not only possible, but successful. Without the ability to land forces directly onto beaches, the allies would have had to try to bust their way into well-guarded ports in German-occupied France.

“Higgins’ contribution was to design and mass-produce boats that could ferry soldiers, jeeps, and even tanks from a ship at sea directly onto beaches,” (WWII Museum signage).


The Normandy landing craft actually evolved from a vessel designed by Higgins called the Eureka. It was a rugged, shallow-bottomed craft Higgins designed to navigate the swamps of Louisiana. It was used by trappers and oil companies.

Initially focused on the invasion of Normandy, the D-Day Museum opened June 6, 2000, the 56th anniversary of D-Day. According to local lore, over time collectors of WWII artifacts gave items to the museum. It expanded its focus and became known as the WWII Museum.

The museum has a large atrium where they WWII aircraft on display, hanging from the ceiling.


It is a cavernous room about three stories high.


A few ground vehicles are displayed on the entry level.


There are many things in life that pictures just cannot do justice to. And this museum space is one. There is no way to show you how impressive this display was.


A stairway or elevator will transport you to upper level walkways where you can view the planes up close. You can see the walkways stretching across the room in this photo.


And in this one. I am a bit acrophobic, and I’ll admit that I had some trouble once I got to the top level. I was in good company. A young woman was waiting beside the elevator there with the same problem. You can tell by looking at the people on the ground level just how high up you are.

I did manage to get a couple of pictures of My Gal Sal from above.

My dad couldn’t get enough of WWII stories, movies, books, airplane models . . .I now have a large percentage of his collection of WWII books. Whether you are a WWII fan, or not, if you make it to New Orleans allow time to spend several hours here. You’ll be glad you did.

See more posts about our February trip to New Orleans.


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