Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 11, 2022

Poupon U?

On a recent journey between Appleton and Madison, Wisconsin, I began noting business names that interested me. Some seemed to fit the type of business, while others left me scratching my head, wondering if someone was trying to be too cute.

It began when I spotted a sign for The Blind Beautician - a hair and nail salon - in Rosendale. I don't know about you, but I want my beautician to be able to see! However, later research revealed that in an area newspaper contest, customers voted it their favorite hair salon several times and her Facebook page had glowing comments.

On the naming flip side, Rosendale also has a coffee shop called Village Grounds. Now that's a name that to me seems inviting and makes me interested in visiting. The shop's website mentioned the tables are made from the floorboards of the old hardware store. Historical photos on the walls offer a glimpse of the town�s past. Now I'm even more interested.

A truck with "GAF Certified. Roofing, guttering, shingles" passed by. GAF? All I could think of was "gaffe!" I certainly don't want roofers making gaffes when they�re working on my house.

Again, things were not what they seemed. GAF stands for General Aniline & Film - a manufacturer of construction waterproofing materials. With roots more than a century old, it historically focused on roofing materials, but even made photographic film, cameras and projectors. For a time, they were the official film of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

A billboard with remainstobeseenmemorials.com appeared. A crematorium?

Sort of. Colleen Ott, a professional artist who works in glass, used some of the cremains from her dog Mulder - Is Colleen an X-Files fan? - in a paperweight. The addition of other materials resulted in a rather beautiful object that is unique to the animal and if you give her two tablespoons of cremains, she'll do the same for you. She added, "While certainly not the same as having them physically, it will be a tangible and beautiful representation of the beauty and love they brought to you every single day. ..."

As we got closer to Madison, I noticed more motel billboards. We've stayed in Super 8 a few times and I've always wondered about the name. It seems the original room rate was $8.88 - hence the numeric brand name. Motel 6 was the same story - $6 per night, cash only.

Since it was getting close to meal time, food signs began to catch my attention. So was Subway named for the shape of the business� signature sandwich. Bingo! "Sub" - short for "submarine sandwich" - was originally called a grinder. The company was founded in 1965 as Pete's Super Submarines in Bridgeport, Connecticut, so named because of the sandwich's resemblance to the submarines in the nearby Groton, Connecticut shipyard.

Near the middle of Madison was a sign for the Quisling Clinic. Say what?! What an unfortunate name choice. Vidkun Quisling was a Norwegian military officer, politician and Nazi collaborator. His policies led to his post-war execution and a name forever associated with being a traitor.

But the clinic was founded before the war in 1933 by the four Quisling brothers - Abraham, Sverre, Rolf and Gunnar - all who were doctors following in their father's footsteps. Gunnar, who served in Europe during World War II, was awarded a Legion of Merit citation by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower for his work in developing a device used to locate pieces of shrapnel in wounded servicemen. I suppose the brothers just had to endure sharing a name with an unsavory character.

Letting my mind travel further afield, I recalled in southwestern Wisconsin, there is Titanic Canoe Rental. Really? So they want a water-based business to be associated with the Titanic so people will feel comfortable riding on the winding Kickapoo River?

In contrast, I was drawn to Lick-A-Dee-Splitz - an ice cream and candy shop in Three Lakes. It sort of combines the idea of moving fast and ice cream. I can move fast to get ice cream!

Close to home, the late Leon Smith owned a septic tank cleaning service in nearby Odgen, Kansas. "Shitty Smitty" was stenciled across the front. One customer was so offended by the name when he arrived she told Smith to get off her property. I thought it was a rather appropriate name as it matched both the business and the quirky personality of the man who owned it.

"Mother's Worry," a bar in the Aggieville section of Manhattan when I was a college student, also seemed to be cleverly named.

Art said when he was at the university in Madison, a club called the Dangle featured scantily-clad women dancers. The drink napkins suggested "happiness is a warm dangle." One year, the city, concerned out-of-town visitors might be put off by the one-block-off-the-capitol-square business, decided not to renew the club's liquor license. That very day, the Dangle switched to sodas and allowed junior high kids in for the shows. The liquor license was restored by the next day!

A place on my to-visit list is the National Mustard Museum on Madison's west side and home to "Poupon U." Billed as home of the world's largest collection of mustards and mustard memorabilia, founder and curator Barry Levenson said he was wandering an all-night supermarket looking for the meaning of life when he passed the mustards and heard a voice: 'If you collect us, they will come." He left his 1992 job as an assistant attorney general for the State of Wisconsin to open what is now one of Wisconsin's most popular attractions. It has more than 6,090 mustards from all 50 states and more than 70 countries.

All this makes me think of the famous Shakespearean question - "What�s in a name?" I guess the answer is, "A LOT!"

Top: image from the Titanic Canoe Rental website; bottom-left: one of Colleen Ott's cremains paperweights from her website; bottom-center: front of the Fromagination store on the Capitol Square in Madision. The business' name manages to combine the French word for cheese - fromage - and either imagination or nation or possibly both. The image is from the company's website because we were too busy sampling cheese to take any photos during our visit; bottom-right: Art, daughter Katie, daughter Mariya and our "German kids" Tim and Nadja below the Lick-A-Dee-Splitz sign in Three Lakes, Wisconsin in 2008.

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