Bean Soup at the Capitol in 1955

In 1955, Ed was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Belvoir near Washington DC.  He and I did not meet until four years later, in 1959, when I was a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ed was a civilian again, working on his doctorate in horticulture.

In January 1955, Ed and an Army buddy spent a day in downtown Washington DC, visiting Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Davis in the U.S. House of Representatives. The image below is a photo taken that day on the steps of the capitol — Congressman Davis in the middle, Ed on the left and buddy Bob on the right.


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The picture is the front side of a photo post card, a souvenir of the visit to the congressman.  Ed sent the postcard to his parents back on their farm here in Wisconsin:  Mr. & Mrs. Theo. Hasselkus, R.R.1, Dousman Wis..  The message he wrote on the back offers a glimpse of his military life during that time.

“Dear Folks, Everyone is excited about orders now.  I am going to Europe, but don’t know what country yet. . . “

The House of Representatives had a restaurant and Congressman Davis took Ed and Bob to lunch that day.  On the souvenir menu was House of Representatives Bean Soup, complete with recipe.  Ed cut the recipe out and it’s been tucked in the soup section of my recipe box for the past 56 years.  We always make it several times during the cold months. The aromas are divine as the kettle of soup cooks slowly for an entire afternoon. We just finished a batch the other day, and there is plenty left over in the freezer.  Here is the recipe — it couldn’t be simpler.  Enjoy!

Recipe for Bean Soup

Served in U.S. House of Representatives Restaurant

2 LB. white Great Northern Michigan beans.

Cover with cold water and soak overnight.
Drain and re-cover with water.
Add a smoked ham hock or shank [has more meat] and simmer slowly for about 4 hours until beans are cooked tender.  Then add salt and pepper to suit taste.
Just before serving, bruise beans with large spoon or ladle, enough to cloud.
(Serves about six persons.)

P.S. Ed ended up being sent to England — working to convert air bases to handle take-off and landing of jets.

The Woman at the Stoplight

I did something a few weeks ago that I have never done before.

We have a phenomenon in Madison that the city officials are trying to disallow.  There are certain intersections in the city that are often frequented by people who are asking for money.  The panhandling occurs as cars are stopped for a red light.

The person who is doing the panhandling — man or woman — usually looks rather “rough.”  A few belongings are seen nearby.  He or she is holding up a hand printed cardboard sign asking for money and perhaps indicating something about their difficult circumstances (e.g., lost a job, can’t find work, homeless).

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I have never seen a panhandler being aggressive toward a driver.  They seem to stand silently in place in the median, letting their personal appearance and handmade sign speak for them.

One time, at one such intersection, I saw the driver in the car ahead of me roll down his window, stick his arm out, and hand the man a bill.  That was the first time I had actually seen a driver do that — hand money over to the person in the median.

So what I did a few weeks ago was exactly that.  I was stopped at a red light, and a woman was standing in the median right next to my car — belongings located at her feet, looking rough, holding her sign.  I scrambled to get a $5 bill out of my wallet, rolled down the window, and called out to her.  She took the money, looked me in the eye and said “God bless you, God bless you.”

Now, I don’t know what she’ll use the money for, I don’t know what her circumstances are, I don’t know if she ekes out a few dollars a day from her panhandling or (as some claim) hundreds of dollars a day.  But it’s hard for me to imagine anyone standing out there, with their downtrodden and impoverished circumstances for everyone to see, unless they are genuinely desperate.  In the moment, it felt like the right thing to do. Other thoughts?






A Beaded Collar as Autobiography**

John Lean, mustered into the military service of the United States on the 30th of August, 1862 (Civil War).

  • Treated for a wound at Fort Worth, Virginia, October 23-27, 1863.
  • Treated at Battery Rogers next Alexandria, Virginia several times during the period January 1864 and October 1864.

John Lean, mustered out of the military service of the United States on the 26th of June, 1865.  

John Lean was Ed’s great grandfather.  He was born on Bradford Farm,1839, in Blisland, Cornwall, on the edge of Bodmin Moor.  We have visited Blisland and the farm a number of times. John came to the United States as a 9-year-old in June 1848 via Quebec on the vessel Clio.

We have in our possession the beaded collar he made during those wartime hospital stays — for his bride-to-be, Hannah Hooper Burton.  John and Hannah were married on November 13, 1866.






A very early example of occupational therapy!   











**Title borrowed from an article in a recent New York Times Magazine, written by Alice Gregory, titled “Objects as Autobiography.”