W.O.W. is 30
By Arthur Cola
You’ve probably heard about the Red Hat Club. Their jewelry, note cards, and attire have flooded fine gift shops across the nation. But long before they were the notable group so loved today, a small but energetic and feisty group had begun in western Kenosha County in Wisconsin some thirty years ago. They called themselves the Wild Women of Wisconsin or WOW for short. Of course one of their mothers referred to them as the Church ladies, but that’s another story. In reality they were all mothers or women involved in the school where I was Principal. Each month on the 2nd Saturday they come together to share stories, laugh and plan one of their adventures (a Casino trip, Mall of America, Disney World) or their annual gathering up near the Wisconsin Dells which they called Tamasha. It’s a charming little cottage on the lake in Adams/Friendship. With only one bathroom and a couple of bedrooms, sun porch, sleep sofa and cots they went on “retreat” as they referred to their mad cap adventure away from work, husbands, kids and now grandkids. Eventually husbands were invited to the 2nd Saturday gatherings but never to the “retreat.”
Now it’s September and the relatively new Ashling on the Lough Irish Pub once again was treated to the laughter and often complicated planning of the latest adventure. The husbands relegated to the far end of the table exchanged their own stories as the women plotted. Only this time their sights were set on a far reaching goal. With the last two soon to retire it was time for the BIG TRIP. After all, collectively they have raised 31 children and now were involved in the lives of 56 grandchildren. With this in mind Marilyn brought out the map of Ireland. Cheers resounded as the Emerald Isle was declared to be the trip of a lifetime. Fingers began to point to those sites which definitely had to be placed on the itinerary. Places like Blarney Castle headed the list. After all who didn’t want to kiss the Blarney Stone? Donna remembered a tiny Island off the west coast of Ireland called Inishboffin which she visited with her husband, who happens to be me, and friends. On that Columbus Day we had set sail on a mail boat (Yes you’ve read correctly. It was a tiny blue wooden craft carrying coal and mail) across a calm sea which would later become a bit choppy and threatened our return. None the less, like Columbus, we persevered in our explorations of the Island’s tiny farms, ancient ruins and lovely little Church.
As the drinks are refilled, Anita says that the Ring of Kerry should definitely be a part of the itinerary. The Ring of Kerry is actually a breathtaking road around County Kerry which introduces one to the charm of Ireland as seen in movies like “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. The itinerary was constructed. It was then that all eyes focused on the male end of the table. “Arthur,” they called out in unison. “We’re done, now work your magic.” They passed down their list. The husbands’ eyes gave a quick glance. They were told on this adventure they would be welcome to participate.
Dollar signs seemed to float before their eyes as they began to stare into the harbor area and watched the boats bob up and down at the docks.
“Don’t worry, Arthur knows how to make it reasonable,” counseled Nancy.
By that she meant that thanks to CIE Tours, Sceptre Tours and Bon Voyage Cruise Vacations three tours based on my books had been created. The Leprechaun King Tour of Ireland would probably fit their requests.
Having agreed to place the refinement of the trip in the hands of professionals, the women’s attention also switched to the Kenosha Harbor Area. There nestled along the end of the long channel leading into Lake Michigan were two small sailing vessels. But they were not sail boats. By their weathered look, multiple masts for the sails and names painted on their bows it was quite apparent that these were replicas of the sailing ships of Christopher Columbus. Indeed the Nina and the Pinta were docked in Kenosha as part of their New World tour and a stone’s throw from the newly finished plaza commemorating the explorer’s accomplishments in October of 1492.
In short order, well hardly a short time as we had enjoyed the authentic Irish pub environment of Ashling on the Lough for 2 ½ hours. It almost gives one the feeling of actually being in Ireland. But the W.O.W. ladies were on a mission. Columbus Day is around the corner, what better way to remember the day than visit his ships. Thus we crossed the Kenosha Public Museum parking lot and followed the path to the Nina and Pinta. For a modest fee we boarded the Pinta said to be the most accurately created replica of the Columbus ships of Nina, Pinta and the Santa Maria. It’s a bit larger than the original to allow for more visitors but one still gets the sense of the close quarters the crew of Columbus had to endure while crossing the entire Atlantic Ocean over 500 years ago. We decided to return the next day with our grandkids as the ships were scheduled to leave. “How often would they get to see history come alive?” we asked.
Thus as the sun began to lower in the western sky a new adventure had been planned on a day which brought us from an Irish Pub, to Spanish ships then to a plaza dedicated to an Italian explorer and we never left Kenosha.
(The ships are at their next Great Lakes Port visit but plan a visit for next year. Perhaps you too have a group of friends who have been together for a long time. Share your experiences with Arthur Cola and appear in his column. You may also join one of his tours of Ireland, Britain or Italy by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or order his books at http://www.amazon.com/arthurcola ).