1953-1990 Travel Diary of a Wisconsin Chemistry Professor’s Two Incredible Outdoor Adventures at Ages 15 and 52

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On offer is an interesting journal with entries separated by nearly forty years. It includes a reference to another of the unique historical (and true) legends of the west.

The journal belonged to Dr. Charles Thomas Gnewuch (1938-2020). He was born to parents Charles and Dorothy (Ahern) Gnewuch and graduated from St. Mary Springs Academy in Fond du Lac, WI. He earned a PhD in Chemistry at Georgetown University, and became a university professor, ending his career at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His focus as a university educator and researcher was in the area of medicinal chemistry with an emphasis on anti-cancer agents. Outside of his professional work, he was a gifted musician, being heavily involved with the Green Lake Festival of Music. Gnewuch enjoyed a late-in-life marriage in 1999 to Julie Ann Lickteig. Julie cared for him as he lost partial use of his legs due to transverse myelitis. 

This journal is unique in that it contains details of an outdoors trip with his father, Charles, when he was 15 years old and a second trip in 1990 when he was 52. The diary also contains two photocopies of photographs taken at the “Vagabond Ranch” in Colorado – a wilderness ranch still in operation today. The first trip was taken in 1953 along with his father. Together, they travelled to join a larger group of campers with whom they set off on a cross-country adventure to a ranch in Colorado. He keeps detailed notes of each day and the flavour of the trip shines through:

“Got up at 7-15 and made bed. Ate breakfast. Packed extra socks . And sleeping bag in trailer and back of Chrysler. Started to Cheyenne at 10-30 or 10-40. ... Finally camped near an amusement park not far from the rodeo grounds ... Ate dinner on park bench. Before this we tried to go swimming in a lake nearby, but the lake was closed to swimming (Reason Water was so polluted and stagnant from lack of rain. ...)” [July 21, 1953]. 

He makes reference to both the Shepp and Bemis ranches in Idaho and the legendary history of Polly Benis.

“Got up around 6:00 ... Had the trout for breakfast. ... Pack up and were on our way at 9-45 A.M. We saw some more deserted cabins. ... The homesteads were a product of the Depression. ... The Bemis and Shep Ranch. Bemis was shot during a poker game and a Chinese slave girl nursed him back to health. Benis took her to the ranch near the river. They were married and they [lived] together until they died…” [Aug 10, 1953].

“... We started on the last leg of our journey at 9-00 A.M. We went through some good-sized rapids. At one rapids, Dad and & I got out of the boat and got pictures…” [Aug 11, 1953]. 

Barely a page after the description of this trip as a youth, Gnewuch begins a journal of a trip he took in 1990 from Fond du Lac WI to the southern states. At that time, he was 52 years old and in the middle of a very successful career as a university professor and researcher. Unlike the first trip description, this one does not bring him full-circle to his home but rather ends abruptly in Jackson MS. It is also a much shorter account.

He begins on April 5th, 1990, leaving Fond du Lac WI and driving to Cairo, I. It’s a succinct entry with a descriptive comment about Cairo:

“... Cairo is a poor town at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Down along the levi of the Ohio River” [Apr 5, 1990].

In Memphis, his love of music comes through in his comments:

“...In evening went to Beale Street to listen to blues and jazz. Enjoyed listening to a jazz band at [blank]. All black musicians and a black female vocalist. Walked to the Peabody Hotel to listen to an old Negro pianist at the lounge. He played a boogie woogie number for me and he was very good with the blues…” [Apr 6, 1990].

The record of this trip extends another few days before ending abruptly when he is in Vicksburg, Mississippi. 

This is a fine example of a look at an early formative experience in a successful man’s life as he kept his childhood journal well into his adult life only to use it again to record another similar experience.

The book is a travel journal and measures 6.5 inches by 4.0 inches. It contains 88 pages plus reference pages and is 50% complete. The cover is padded and it and the spine are in good condition. The pages are in good condition and the handwriting is legible.

Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information or to request photos. (Kindly include the SKU, listed on this page above the price, in your e-mail so we can more easily answer your questions.)

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