The Fun Club hosted a one-day tour last week which focused on our pioneer heritage. The first stop was the Milady Coffeehouse in Fremont where the travelers were spellbound by a storyteller’s account of an Irish immigrant in pioneer days. An Irish lunch at the Brazen Head Pub in Omaha was followed by a tour of historic Omaha. The highlight of that tour was viewing the sculptures in Pioneer Courage Park. The final stop was the Belvedere Polish Center in Papillion where the Fun Club was treated to the music, the crafts and the foods of the Polish people.
Cherrie Beam-Callaway captivated her Fun Club audience as she personified Mariah Monahan, an Irish immigrant to Nebraska in the mid 1800s. With her Irish brogue and period dress, the storyteller transported her audience back in time.
As Mariah, she told about the potato famine in Ireland and the mistreatment of the Irish people by their English landlords. She spoke about the hardships sailing across the ocean in what were often called coffin ships or death ships because so many people died along the way.
She talked about life in the New World and the reality of learning the streets were not paved in gold as they had been told. Her stories were based on actual pioneer accounts such as walking barefoot beside their wagon in the wagon train and having to leave behind treasures that made the wagons too heavy for the oxen to pull.
She shared stories that were true of so many immigrants: living in a dugout, fighting prairie fires and losing a child to diphtheria. She told about the hard work, the loneliness and the grasshopper plague. And she also spoke of the occasional get-togethers with neighbors and other joys of living on the Nebraska prairie.
The Sculpture Park
The Fun Club enjoyed the stop at the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha as part of a tour of the historic areas of the city. The sculptures are larger than life and, along with the Wilderness Exhibit, they encompass a seven-block area in downtown Omaha.
The sculpture park was a 10-year project for two Utah artists who were responsible for the massive wagons, horses, oxen and pioneers depicted in the wagon train. A third artist, who is a native of Sweden and is now an American citizen, was responsible for the wildlife sculptures in the Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness Park. That exhibit includes nine bison stampeding down 15th Street after being disrupted by the wagon train. It also includes 58 geese who take flight around the intersection of 16th and Dodge after being startled by the bison. Some of the geese even fly into and through the First National Tower Atrium.
The sculpture project was funded by the First National Bank of Omaha. To say it’s impressive is an understatement. These sculptures compose the largest installation of bronze and stainless steel works of art in the world.
The Fun Club concluded their day at the Belvedere Polish Center in Papillion where they were greeted by Tom Jodlowski who served as master of ceremonies. The travelers viewed heritage artwork and crafts of the Polish people and they learned a few Polish words.
Jodlowski sang and played several Polish tunes on his accordion and the Fun Club sang back to him in English. And he taught the group the steps to a Polish folk dance. The travelers enjoyed a Polish meal including potato soup, cabbage roll, Polish sausage, two varieties of pierogi (which are filled dumplings) and the best poppy seed cake ever.
Interested in the Fun Club?
Those interested in Fun Club activities may stop by our office at the News-Times building any weekday morning. Or call the Fun Club at 402-745-6477 or email us at email@example.com and ask for a current schedule.