Jack’s Cabinet of Curiosities – A scenic drive – Tales of a road – Highway 61
Jack’s Cabinet of Curiosities – A scenic drive – Tales of a road – Highway 61. As I watched the above unfold on PBS TV recently, memories returned of growing up near the entry point in Minnesota, Winona. Highway 61 made its way through the residential area.
However, the highway begins on the northeastern side of Minnesota, where the Pidgeon River divides Canada and the U.S. In 1938, the WPA road guide began the tour at this point and continues 400 miles to Minnesota’s southeastern border.
The highway was not paved originally in the 1920s. Americans were eager to travel as they acquired more automobiles, paying 18 cents a gallon for gasoline.
Highway 61 follows the shoreline of Lake Superior making it a very scenic drive. This new road brought tourists, thus restaurants, hotels, and attractions, both natural and manmade.
Many of you have used this highway to visit Duluth and the scenic Split Rock lighthouse. There are so many sights on the northern part of the road an entire weeks’ vacation could easily be used.
The southern part along the Mississippi River is most familiar to me. Red Wing is a quaint river town as its footprint is at the bottom of “Barn Bluff”. The old steamboats and today the modern towboats made their way around a sharp curve in the river.
Further south Reed’s Landing, an active business town in the past, where steamboats waited for the ice to break-up in Lake Pepin.
Before you reach Winona, a small community of Minnesota City was famous for The Oaks Supper Club. In its “hay day” it provided fine dining for up to 600 guests, at the same time The Big Bands for dancing the night away, and nationally known stage productions.
Since 1868, Watkins products have provided office and factory workers jobs in Winona. The Watkins products were known internationally, and they still provide over 300 products. A tour at this facility is worth your time.
At one time a stop in Homer, to see Emil Lier’s trained otters was highly entertaining. Like so many tourist attractions faded away as the interstate highway diverted tourist traffic.
If you continued down south on Highway 61, through many states you would end up in New Orleans where music would fill your ears.