My Dad — Bloomington Days

Bernard H. Lincks — August 8, 1907-July 18, 1997

Dad liked the CCC’s. It provided work, food, a place to stay and reintroduced him back into society. But the CCC’s only allowed a one year term. Dad was searching for something meaningful after he was mustered out. The long depression years were slowly passing away. The New Deal was working and industry was picking up again. Follow Dad as life develops and improves…

VI. Bloomington Days

During the year of Dad’s CCC term, he continued to grow and develop in many ways. He located an older Harley Davidson which no longer would run. He bought it at scrap price and searched for replacement parts, nursing it back to health. This provided him with basic transportation and a measure of freedom. He had planned and now began building telescopes. Each successive model was an improvement on the previous scope.

Dad on his Harley

In Crandon and now in Bloomington, he read everything that he could find about other telescopes, many of them located in Arizona and California. Arizona had very dry temperatures, conducive of clear skies, free of debris and California had mountain peaks upon which to mount scopes. Dad was particularly interested in the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, which he had seen during his western travels. He was also engrossed in the Mount Wilson Observatory near Los Angeles which housed a 100-inch telescope, the largest in the world when completed in 1908. He especially learned all he could about the pouring and grinding of large lenses.

Over the years and beginning at Bloomington in the CCC’s Dad built a series of telescopes. They were all reflecting telescopes, where the observer looked into an image projected upon a lens on which light was reflected from a ground mirror through a prism, all of optical quality. The largest of these was built at Dad’s repair shop and in our basement in Milford, WI. It featured a barrel of 12.5” diameter interior dimension and was 14 feet long. He spent an entire winter and spring grinding a 12-inch lens to have a 12-foot focal length. Then he sent it off to be silvered. When assembled, he erected it in our back yard.

To look through the lens, which was located near the open end of the barrel, he built a 15 foot high ladder. He trained the scope on local landmarks and found that he could count nails on the side of a barn a nearly mile away. Of course, the image in the lens was upside-down. At highest magnification, about 1/3rd of the moon filled the lens. The scope had high light gathering power and provided excellent definition of the moon’s craters.

Dad with one of his Telescopes — CCC Camp, Bloomington, WI — 1936

The brightness of the moon was such that following a viewing session the observer needed to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness. When that person closed his eyes, he could still “see” the moon for about five minutes. The relative motions of the Earth and moon allowed only a few minutes of viewing before the object had moved out of the field of view, resulting in the need to adjust the scope’s direction. Dad built at least two telescopes while stationed in Bloomington. One of them is shown here on an old grainy photograph.

In addition to his reading and telescope building, Dad visited the established people living in Bloomington. They were interested in the young whippersnapper who resurrected the old Harley. They also liked that he took time to visit with them and to play cards in the evenings. This helped the “oldsters” to overlook some of the shenanigans of the younger CCC boys. By and by, the talk always turned to telescopes. Soon, some of the townspeople began showing up evenings to look at the stars and planets through Dad’s scopes at the CCC camp. Of course, this didn’t hurt Bloomington — CCC relationships either.

Dad also became interested in a certain young lady whose family had recently moved to Bloomington from Sabula, Iowa, along the Mississippi River. Fern Lawrence was her name. She worked as a maid at the local hotel. She was the oldest of seven children. Coming from large families gave them something in common. On the Harley, they visited many beautiful natural sites along the river and within the park. They also attended local events. They became serious about each other and discussed their hopes and dreams for a future life after CCC days and the depression’s easing. Bloomington didn’t hold much of interest for a young person wanting to develop a career. Fern was attracted to Bud. He was 10 years her senior and had seen a lot of life; the good and the not so good. He was energetic and strong for his diminutive size. And he had big dreams.

Dad (29) and Mom (19) in Bloomington, WI

Fern’s family had moved to find opportunities which Sabula couldn’t afford during the depression. Bloomington was a little more prosperous, but not much. Her father was not a person to be settled and happy. He was a man who would take unfair advantage of others. His get-rich-schemes did not improve the family fortunes and irked those persons who had business dealings with him in his repair shop. Fern could see the writing on the wall and was ready to leave Bloomington.

Dad had a few months left in his one year term with the CCC’s. But, he was not to serve it out in Bloomington. Soon he received another transfer; this time to Milwaukee, where his masonry skills were suited to the developing of Estabrook Park. It is located along the Milwaukee River and was started in 1916. Significant development was done in the 1930’s by the CCC, including dam building, channel deepening and other flood control measures for the river. Many of the buildings constructed by the CCC still stand and are in popular usage.

VII. Milwaukee Days

Upon Dad’s mustering out from the CCC, travel arrangements were made for Fern to join him in Milwaukee. Dad arranged lodging in the home of his brother and his family. This is the same brother to whom Dad had his $25 sent each month. There was room enough for a single person to room; however this was not a satisfactory arrangement for a couple to dwell in.

To be continued…