Monday, May 25, 2015

Whitney's Mike Cartwright dies at age 72

by Larry Miller

Whitney native Mike Cartwright died unexpectedly on Friday (5/22/15) at his home in Whitney, Nebraska.  He was 72.  Services are planned for 2:00 p.m. this Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at the Warring Memorial United Methodist Church in Whitney.

Growing up in Whitney, Nebraska
A long-time college professor and administrator, Mike was born in Crawford and grew up on the Cartwright farm and ranch operation just outside of Whitney, where his grandfather had homesteaded in 1891.  He attended Whitney School through eighth grade, then attended high school in Chadron.  He was a 1960 graduate of Chadron High School.  Mike attended Chadron State College for a couple of years before transferring to the University of Nebraska, where he would earn his bachelor's, master's, and finally a Ph.D. in 1970.

Dr. Michael P. Cartwright then became an English professor at California State University-Bakersfield, where he remained for 13 years.  By 1983, he was serving as Chairman of the English Department and Assistant to the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences when an opportunity opened for a return to his Nebraska roots and a teaching job at Chadron State College.  He remained at CSC for 24 before retiring.

Ten years ago this month — in May of 2005 — Mike was awarded the Chadron State College Teaching Excellence Award.  At that time, CSC Director of Information Con Marshall wrote a comprehensive story about Mike's impressive career:  Award recipient's strategy seeks student interaction.  

Not only was Mike Cartwright an outstanding teacher, he also served three years as Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences while at CSC, and he was instrumental in helping revitalize the struggling Mari Sandoz Heritage Society.

Professor Mike Cartwright
In 2006, Mike served as a director for the Nebraska Festival of the Books, and the organization included a short biographical sketch of him in their newsletter.  In part, they wrote:  "Mike is a bicoastal Nebraskan, splitting his time between Whitney and Lincoln. An eight-hour drive across the state is a normal day for Mike. Having found the route with only two stoplights between Lincoln and Whitney, he is now searching for the one with fewer than three stop signs. One day it's 501s, cowboy boots, and his dad's '59 Ford truck. The next it's tweed jackets, suede shoes, and a briefcase. In a given week, he might help a neighbor drive cattle to the Fort Robinson Wood Reserve, teach world literature to undergraduates at Chadron State College, and lounge at the Coffee House in downtown Lincoln. Now, he may also be found directing the Nebraska Book Festival and reading for the Nebraska Library Commission's Talking Book and Braille Service."  That was quintessential Mike — something of a Renaissance man.

It's fair to say that Mike was also a rancher/farmer, too, albeit part-time.  He retained his parent's property just outside of Whitney, as well as his grandmother's old house in downtown Whitney.

A personal note or two.  I first knew Mike when we were in high school together at Chadron High.  He was an outstanding student, winning honors in English, but also competing effectively as a halfback on the Cardinal football team and was part of the Two-Mile Relay track team that set a new record in 1960.  He was an officer in the "C" Club and was also among those selected for Regents Scholarship honors. Mike had a key role in the 1960 CHS production of  Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Carousel" at Memorial Hall.  Teachers Ron and Jane Becker had spearheaded the production.  Alas, Mike is among several cast members who have since died.

It was after we had both retired that Mike and I rekindled our friendship.  Although he and his wife Jeanetta lived in Lincoln, he loved coming back out to Dawes County and spending time on the place outside Whitney where he had grown up.  We shared an appreciation of our Whitney heritage, and Mike took steps to try to help revive the little village.  He generously offered numerous Whitney photos from his family albums to be used in the "Whitney Yesteryear" video we produced a few years back. 

Whitney proclaimed capitol of Greater Nebraska
Mike Cartwright had a wonderful sense of humor.  Part of it was reflected in his marketing of Whitney as the "Capitol of Greater Nebraska," that part of the state west of Grand Island.  He produced posters, certificates, and even coffee mugs — one of them beckoning folks to "Join Now! Greater Nebraska No-Coast Guard!"  We have featured some of his tongue-in-cheek initiatives, and you can read a bit about them in our Whitney Photo Gallery.

But wait a minute.  The capitol city of the Territory of Greater Nebraska should have a meeting place! But there had been no store or filling station in Whitney for several years — no place to even congregate for a cup of coffee and conversation.  So in 2011, Mike and his wife Jeanetta decided to open "Cora's Place." With able assistance from fellow Whitney resident Budge Cripps, Mike made several improvements to the house once owned by his great-grandmother on Missouri Street and opened the coffee shop.

Cora's Place offered not only coffee and conversation, but antiques and artwork, too.  The front room was outfitted with a stereo system and some great music, too. The shop was named in honor of his grandmother Cora (Cripps) Cartwright.  They created a small lending library, and books were checked out on the honor system.  We understand Mike was planning to open "Cora's Place" today  — Memorial Day— just as he had done the last few years.  While it was no threat to Starbucks — for the local and area folks who stopped in for coffee and conversation, Cora's Place was a very special place, indeed. We shall miss it.  

And we'll certainly miss Mike Cartwright.  

Our condolences to Mike's wife, Jeanetta, and his two sisters, Nancy Hamer and family of Mankato, Minnesota, and Evelyn Geu and family of Sidney, Nebraska.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Baldwin Ironworks building revisited

"Like a proud woman, this old building retains a certain sense of romance even as she ages.  She was built in the late 1920's by T. L. Holding and in the 1940's Curtis Baldwin successfully manufactured grain augers here.  Over the years the rambling structure found her purpose in Whitney as a lumberyard and as a supply center for grain, feed, salt and coal." 
Artist Kit Watson of Chadron sketched this excellent likeness of the old Baldwin Ironworks building in Whitney.  It's one of the 300 or so images of area historical sites that she created over the years for calendars distributed to customers  of the First National Bank.  This sketch is among the more than 150 images in her latest book, Pine Ridge Sketches.  Our thanks to Kit Watson for her generosity in allowing us to use some of her great work on this site. 

The story of Curtis Baldwin and his brothers is a fascinating one, which we hope to tell in the future.  Their impact on agricultural harvesting equipment was significant, and Curtis Baldwin held several patents on a range of devices.  The Baldwin "Gleaner" survives even today, although it has been much revised since he introduced his version in 1923.  He also dabbled in aviation and other pursuits.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A sharper image of the Whitney Depot

Thanks to Mike Cartwright for sharing this sharper image of the photo that was posted earlier (see below).  Notes on the photograph indicate that folks were waiting for a special Chicago & Northwestern train to take them to the Dawes County Fair in Chadron.  Believed to have been taken in 1912.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A bit of frivolity in the country...

This is another photo that Jeannie Pope has shared with us.  It reflects a bit of tomfoolery enjoyed by a group of folks "in front of Huntley's log house" in 1909.  Notice the cellar at the far left.  Persons marked with an "X" left-to-right include:  
Elmer Huntley, Thora Mayfield Huntley, and Lura Mayfield (Caswell).  What a fun photo!  See more in our Whitney Gallery.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

More of old Whitney revealed

We've been so deeply immersed in another project that we've not had to time to adequately review and share some great new photos of old Whitney shared by Beverly Jean (Hansen) Pope of Ontario, California.

Jeannie is the granddaughter of Lura Mayfield -- a family name well-known around Dawes County in days gone by.

This undated photo shows the Whitney school in the left background, and a part of the Woodmen Hall building at the far left.  This is one of the few images we've seen of Woodmen Hall, which was an all-purpose gathering place and also -- we've been told -- the location of the movie theatre.

We believe the house shown here is the same structure in which Scottie and Naomi Rankin lived for many years.  On a personal note, just beyond the barn behind the house -- and barely visible -- is the roof of another house.  We recognize that as the house occupied for many years by Bill and Marie (Miller) Derrick. 

To get a closer look at this photo, we invite you to go to our Whitney Reflections Gallery, where we'll be sharing additional photographs in the coming weeks.  A tip of the hat and a big "Thank You" to Jeannie Pope for sharing these photos.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Arkansas artist had early ties to Whitney

A few weeks ago, we received an e-mail from Donald Roller Wilson, providing us with a correction to a caption in one of our Whitney School photo galleries -- and providing us with a few new photographs.

Wilson and parents at Whitney Lake - ca 1946
Wilson and his parents lived in Whitney in the 1940’s, and his father was associated with Baldwin Ironworks.  This undated photo shows young Donald Wilson with his mother and father on an outing at Whitney Lake.

He inquired about his second grade classmates from 1946, and we exchanged several missives as I directed him to a few folks still residing in the Whitney area.

Wilson’s e-mail signature also contained other contact information, including a web site.  Curiosity got the better of me, and I went exploring.

It seems that Wilson (one of his classmates that I contacted called him “Donny” -- but he now signs as "Roller") is quite an established artist and his paintings hang among the collections of celebrities such as Steve Martin, Meryl Streep, Elizabeth Taylor and Jack Nicholson.  We’ll not recite the very long list of museums where his work is exhibited!

We found a 10-year-old web site promoting the 25th Annual Old Dominion University Literary Festival in 2002.  It noted that Wilson’s paintings “tell stories with pictures and he tells the stories through the innocence of images created from a seemingly pointless combination of various dressed up animals, objects – even vegetables – assembled for just one last family portrait.  The surface effect is whimsy.

When we did a web search, we came up with a menagerie of Wilson animals and objects, decked out in a wide variety of attire and in most unusual circumstances.  Unusual for the subjects in the painting, that is.

When Wilson’s work was exhibited at the Wright Gallery in New York City back in 1999, reviewer Ken Johnson wrote this for the New York Times:

...on a mythical quest?
"Donald Roller Wilson's goofy, hallucinogenic, Old Master-style painting of monkeys, dogs and cats dressed up in antique costumes may be kitsch, but it's high-quality kitsch, like good beach reading. This longtime Arkansas resident's glossy surfaces, jewel-like colors and meticulous rendering of texture and detail -- from satin and velvet to fur and teeth -- give his bizarre visions a striking illusory presence. There is tender psychology in some of his animal portraits, like that of a cat formally posed in a red, puffy-shouldered dress, but the trend is more toward a wacky, down-home surrealism of flying pickles, mystic auras and coatings of crystalline water droplets.

As this small survey of works from the late 1960's to the present demonstrates, the interest is not only in individual pictures. Mr. Wilson's oeuvre constitutes a vast graphic novel, a continuously unfolding Southern Gothic allegory (advanced by neatly painted texts and long titles as well). In ''Jimmy in the Woods'' a chimp wearing a white ruff collar sits at a table with a big coffee cup surrounded by stamped-out cigarette butts; in the background a castle rises from the misty forest. It seems our badly behaving simian hero has lost his way in the course of some mythic quest."

It’s always a pleasant experience when we come across information and old photos that help to tell the story of Whitney………and the people who have lived there over the years.  It’s doubly delightful when someone happens across the Whitney Reflections web site – discovers a bit of their own past – and then contacts us.

Thanks to Donald Roller Wilson of Fayettville, Arkansas for sharing some of his family photos with us, which we’ve posted in our Whitney Reflections Gallery.

And we certainly encourage others with stories and/or photos to share them.  Simply send us an e-mail at Whitney Reflections.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Warring UMC celebrates 125 years

Just over 100 people filled the Warring Memorial United Methodist Church in Whitney last Sunday (3/25/2012) to help celebrate the 125th anniversary of the church.

While it fell a bit short of the crowd the 150 or so folks who showed up for the 75th anniversary back in 1962, it was a terrific gathering and featured an excellent sermon entitled “Transformed and Transforming” delivered by Bishop Ann Brookshire Sherer-Simpson.

The children did an outstanding job performing some of the  great
music on the program for the 125th Anniversary of Warring UMC.
There were only a few people on hand last weekend who were also here to help celebrate back in 1962.  Among them was Budge Cripps.  A story in the June 29, 1962 Crawford Tribune noted that “the service closed with ‘Our 75th Anniversary’ sung by Bernard Cripps.  The words were written by Mabel Kendrick.”

Youngster always seem to upstage the adults, and it was no different last weekend when the children of the church assembled at the front of the sanctuary for some stirring musical performances – including some creative music with bells!

The 10:00 a.m. worship service welcomed Methodist congregations from Harrison and Crawford, Nebraska -- along with several other out-of-town guests.  Following the service, a carry-in meal was held in the church basement, which was brimming with fellowship and celebration. 

We did manage to capture a few candid moments of fellowship in the church basement during and following the meal.  And while we weren’t able to include everyone in the photos, they do include a variety of folks you probably know.  You’ll find them in our Warring UMC Gallery.

For those of us who were guests, "Thank You" to the members of the Whitney congregation who hosted this wonderful event.