As part of my winter research, I interviewed Louise Eggers Prondzinski who was born and grew up in a boathouse in Winona MN. She volunteers at the Polish Museum in Winona and I interviewed her there. When I told her that I was planning to return for summer fieldwork, she insisted that I would have to take her on an outing.
We made good on my promise the other day. Jeremiah and I met Louise at the public docks. While we waited, we passed the time taking cheesecake shots for the Shantyboat Calendar.
Louise joined us (with snacks!) and we took off across the backwaters of Winona.
First off we headed downriver to check out a community of houseboats I discovered south of town. Lousie said, “It’s nice down there, if you don’t mind the east enders.” I asked if she wasn’t an east ender herself, growing up in a boathouse on that side of town. She smiled and said, “Yep.”
Then we went back up and toured the boathouses on the east side of Latsch Island. Louise had a boathouse there for a while decades ago near the old wagon bridge. Louise told us about her history and the history of the area.
Then we went to visit a little tucked in boathouse community on Latsch Island. It looked like an adorable little Western village. Jeremiah said the only thing missing was a saloon. Going in we immediately fouled our prop in the weeds. With a little effort, we were able to push ourselves back out into the river.
Then we discovered another little inlet on the Wisconsin side. This was the beautiful little marina in which Ed Hoffman (interviewed last summer) kept the Shangri La. We’d been here before, but never via the water. I was driving with Jeremiah filming and so he was able to record as I crashed into someone boathouse trying to turn around. Louise was completely unfazed by my driving.
Exploring the past with Louise was a real treat. If you are ever in Winona, stop by the Polish Museum (free entry!) and tell her we said Hi.