This article was written by Eric
Fritz and was
first published in the Daily Jefferson County Union in 1994. Eric was
in Fond du Lac, grew up in Mauston (and Oconto) and currently resides
Atlanta, GA. Please E-mail Eric Fritz by clicking HERE.
To Grandmother's House, We All Go
By: Eric Fritz
"How in the world can you stay at your grandparent's house for so long?" my friends would ask when I returned home from my annual summer pilgrimage to Oconto, Wis.
Their concept of "Grandma's House" was probably a bit different than what I experienced. I guess they imagined laced dollies and a lot of cheek pinching.
And while their concern for my happiness was appreciated, I couldn't think of a better place to spend my summers while growing up than with my grandparents in that small, sleepy town on the shores of Green Bay.
Oconto was home.
It's home to almost every branch of my family tree: Grandparents, uncles, cousins, second cousins, great aunts, great uncles, etc. it's where both my grandparents raised their families. It's where my parents grew up, went to high school met, dated and eventually got married. It's where Grandpa Fritz was the fire chief and where Grandpa Riewe sang in the First Bethany Lutheran Church's choir - right next to the house where he raised my mother and her two brothers. And it's where both of them are now buried, in Evergreen Cemetery, just north of town.
It's where Grandma Fritz used to take me to the fire station to see Grandpa, play pool and drink 7-Up in a bottle for a dime. Afterward, we'd go to the snack shack for a cheeseburger and a milkshake. It's where, every Christmas, Grandma Riewe used to make the best butter cookies, the best turkey dinner and the best fudge (without nuts for her oldest grandson).
Oconto is where I learned to drive a car, a minibike and a four-wheeler. It's where I learned to play Crazy Eights, and when I got older, euchre and Smear. (I could never really master pinochle, but for that, I'd just sit on Grandpa's lap and he'd point to a card and I'd throw it on the table.)
It's where Grandpa Fritz taught my sister and me how to fish for perch AND stay in the same boat without fighting with each other for nearly five consecutive hours. (That, by the way, stood as a family record for years.) It's where Grandpa Riewe helped me build my first and only tree house at his cottage on the bay.
Oconto is where I caught my first real fish. Although I can't remember the exact date, I do remember having to reel in what I thought was a snag on a boulder just off the breakwater. But it wasn't a boulder; it was an eight-pound, 10-ounce lake trout. Grandpa Fritz and I must have driven that fish around the entire county showing it off and bragging about the fight it gave me before we got it home and into the freezer so it could be stuffed and mounted. It still hangs on the wall in my bedroom at my parents' house in Mauston, Wis.
Oconto was also home to Queeny, Pepper, Shadow, Toby and Tigger. Each was, at one time or another, the family dog. Currently, Schwager makes his home at Grandma Fritz's house where he, like every dog before him, is spoiled rotten.
I spent 17
summers in Oconto. Mom
and Dad used to tell me that I was spoiled room for getting to spend so
much time there. And you know what? I was.
The above is
dedicated to my grandparents
- Gaylerd and Lorraine Fritz and Victor and Elizabeth Riewe.