Sometimes you can go home again - at least, that is, if your home is Oconomowoc.
Writer Mary Kane is an Oconomowoc native whose new book depicting the city’s early days is part of Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History Series. The series is an intriguing format wherein a city, town or region is explored through hundreds of vintage postcard images, accompanied by well-informed commentary.
Kane brings exceptional experience to her role as virtual tour guide. She began her journalistic career as three-time yearbook editor while still at Oconomowoc High School, then spent a decade working full-time for weekly and daily newspapers after graduating from Ripon College in 1974.
"A book is something I think many journalists over time want to do," Kane says. "In my case, it was a happy convergence of influences that brought this project about. While I was living in Williams Bay, I wrote a freelance article about two women who did a book about Lake Geneva for this same series from Arcadia. Then, within a matter of six months, I had moved back to my hometown of Oconomowoc."
That’s when it occurred to Kane that Oconomowoc would lend itself well to the Arcadia format. A few inquires led her to Rae Kinn, who generously offered her extensive postcard collection for the project. She was able to finish the book, the royalties for which Kane is donating to the Oconomowoc Area Foundation, in about six months.
"Oconomowoc" tells a picturesque tale of millionaires’ mansions (beer barons and department store tycoons built 50-room "cottages" on the lakeshore) and brushes with history (both President Garfield’s assassin and Prince Henry of Prussia once stayed at Draper Hall).
Of many discoveries made while assembling the book, unearthing one treasure in particular had Kane "tickled pink." A picture on page 102 shows victorious soldiers marching down Wisconsin Avenue following World War I. In the first full row, farthest to the right, proudly strides Kane’s father.