Sunday, February 05, 2012

Red Wing Water Cooler

A five gallon Red Wing water cooler sat on the edge of the sink at the Chain O’ Lake country school that I attended for eight years. An older student filled it each morning with water carried from the pump house just south of the school building, an every morning task no matter if it was 80 degrees or minus 20. The school building had no indoor plumbing, so carrying water was one of the many daily duties we students helped with.

At home a water pail sat at the edge of the kitchen sink, filled each day in the same manner as at school, except at home we drank from a dipper that hung on the side of the water pail.

The dull gray Red Wing water cooler was much, much fancier than a water pail. A shiny curved metal tube came out of the bottom of the cooler, and ended at a little metal bowl hanging over the sink. By pushing a button, water burst up from the bowl a couple of inches or more, depending on how much water there was in the cooler. As we might say today, how cool it was to be able to drink water this way.

This weekend we visited Red Wing, Minnesota and toured the former manufacturing plant for Red Wing Pottery, an enormous four-story brick building near the Mississippi River. Red Wing Pottery goes back to the 1870s, and some pottery is still made in Red Wing but on a much more limited scale and not in this old historic building. In addition to antique stores, and numerous shops and several restaurants, one can tour the pottery museum on the second floor of the building.

I have never seen so many pottery crocks, water coolers and assorted dinnerware. I couldn’t believe it when I learned that water coolers similar to the one at our country school now sell for between $1,600 and $2,000 dollars on the antique market. “And when one comes in, someone immediately buys it,” the woman at the antique store said.

I can picture that old schoolhouse water cooler in my mind as clearly as the first day I saw it in 1939. My memory is worth at least $2,000 I am telling myself.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Sometimes I don’t see as well as I think I remember.


February 10, Garden Expo, Alliant Center, Madison. 6-8 p.m. Wisconsin Historical Society Press booth, signing copies of Garden Wisdom.

February 11. Janesville, Holiday Inn, noon luncheon speaker, FFA Alumni meeting.

February 12, Garden Expo, Alliant Center, Madison, 1-4 p.m. Wisconsin Historical Society Press booth, signing copies of Garden Wisdom.

March 6, 7:00 p.m. Barnes and Noble-West, Madison. Launch of Garden Wisdom.

March 9-11. Canoecopia, Alliant Center, Madison. (Trade show for all things canoeing) I am speaking at 4:30 on Friday, March 9 and at 2:30 on Saturday, March 10. Steve will share Boundary Waters photos as part of Saturday’s presentation.

March 24. Six p.m. dinner followed by presentation and book signing. at Patterson Memorial Library Wild Rose. Garden Wisdom.

March 31-April 1. Morton Arboretum (Thornhill Education Center), Chicago area. Presentation on vegetable gardening, 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. on March 31. Sunday, April 1, 1:30-3:30 features a vegetable gardening workshop, with tips on planting and caring for a vegetable garden. Additionally, Ruth will discuss preparing vegetables and fruits for canning and freezing.

April 12, 7:00 p.m. Mcmillan Library, Wisconsin Rapids. Garden Wisdom

April 13, 11:00 a.m. Larry Meiller Show, Wisconsin Public Radio. Broadcasting at Fox Cities Book Festival. Garden Wisdom.

April 13, 2:00 p.m. Fox Cities Book Festival, Neenah Public Library. Garden Wisdom

1 comment:

Stacy Wegner said...

Great Story about your Water Cooler and trip to the Red Wing Pottery Museum. If you are looking for more information on Red Wing's rich pottery history, visit the Red Wing Collectors Society Website: