How Do You Tell the Story of a City?

This weekend I was part of a book release for the new The Milwaukee Anthology by Belt Publishing. The Milwaukee Anthology includes non-fiction stories about the Milwaukee-area. I’m excited to have an essay in the book about my hometown, Port Washington, which is titled “Living Like Kings.”

I grew up outside of Milwaukee in a place that was always described as “20 minutes north of Milwaukee.” Port Washing sits on Lake Michigan and my story talks about how salmon stocked in the Great Lakes in the 1960s changed communities like mine, the lake, and families in the region.

Salmon were put into the lake to hunt alewife, a type of fish which had nearly caused trout and whitefish to become extinct. Doing turned out to be boon to the city, which transformed into a place known for its marina and fishing. It was also a windfall to my family of 11.

My six brothers fished nearly every day. We stockpiled canned salmon in our root cellar and ate it in an endless loop of recipes. I have eaten so much salmon, I am pretty sure I am made of it. A line from my bio, “she ate so much salmon as a child, if you cut into her you would find flaky flesh that you could easily lift away with a salad fork” comes from this essay.

The essay follows our odyssey as my family and our community grows and salmon popularity and population rises and falls with economic and environmental changes. In honor of the essay, and my town, I’ve included some pictures below of Port Washington and my family during this time.

About The Milwaukee Anthology

The book is just the latest in Belt Publishing’s City Anthology series. They are a small, independent press founded in Cleveland in 2013 as a platform for new and influential voices from the Rust Belt and Midwest.

The Milwaukee Anthology includes the work of more than 50 contributors telling the stories of the communities and people of Milwaukee. The book is available at Belt Publishing’s website.


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  1. Sherry

    Congratulations on your contribution to the Milwaukee Anthology! I had never heard of alewife before. I find it so interesting that introducing one species to an ecosystem can have such an incredible effect.

  2. Kate

    Love that tidbit about salmon hunting alewife and that it benefited the city. Unexpected surprises! Wonderful post–congratulations on your contribution to the anthology!

  3. Michelle

    That is very interesting! I didn’t know Salmon hunted the other fish and it turned out great for your town and for the city. That is amazing to learn these histories of other cities in the U.S. #MMBC

    • Catherine Lanser

      Thanks, Jayne.I’m glad they took the picture. I probably wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t have proof.

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