Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Feb. 11, 2002

Garrison Keillor puts Waverly, Howard Lake on Wobegon map

By Lynda Jensen

A new book by author and radio personality Garrison Keillor puts Waverly and Howard Lake squarely on the map, near Lake Wobegon.

In Search of Lake Wobegon, a follow up to his best selling book Lake Wobegon Days nearly a quarter century ago, is Keillor's answer to many years of fans asking him where his fabled town of Lake Wobegon is located (population 942).

The book offers a stunning photo gallery of small-town life, exhibited in pictures taken by photographer Richard Olsenius.

Three of the book's photographs were taken in Waverly, and one full-page photograph is of Howard Lake.

The very first photo in the book, after the text actually begins, is a shot of Pete's Grocery in Waverly.

Business owner Pete Chmielewski expressed surprise over the picture.

The photo was obviously taken a number of years ago, since the wall mural on the office just east of Pete's is missing.

The next photograph is a full page photo of a Howard Lake fishing dock on Page 26, at the lake's western side. The photographer is facing south toward the Country Store and Wright Way Ag, formerly known as Broll Fertilizer.

Another photo, located on Page 74, is of the Uptown Bar and Grill, which is the modern day Rocky's in Waverly. St. Mary's spires can be clearly seen in the background of the photo.

The final local photo is of Harley Davidson riders during Memorial Day in Waverly, on Page 88.

The photos join a pictorial that depicts rural life ­ children helping on the farm, farmers tending fields, spring rock picking, small town parades, water fights, and rolling, fertile countryside.

No other towns in the immediate area are pictured in the book otherwise.

Towns outside the area with photos include Bowlus, Grey Eagle, Farming, New Munich, St. Rosa, Holdingford, Albany, and Avon, among others.

Keillor admits in the book that Lake Wobegon is a purely fictional place. However, the book gives a tantalizing insight into the source of Keillor's inspiration.

"Twenty five years ago, I invented a small town and started telling stories about it on the radio," Keillor wrote. " Ever since then, people have asked me if it's a real town, and if it is, then were is it?" Keillor wrote.

"I used to tell them it's fiction. But they were disappointed. People want stories to be true. So I started telling people that the town is in Central Minnesota, near Stearns County, up around Holdingford, not far from St. Rosa and Albany and Freeport, which is sort of the truth, I guess," Keillor wrote.

Keillor grew up in Anoka and resides in St. Paul. He has written nine books, including Lake Wobegon Days, Wobegon Boy, and Lake Wobegon Summer 1956.

As a photographer, Olsenius grew up in St. Paul and began his career at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He won more than 100 state and national photography awards as well as the World Press Photo Award for his coverage of Cambodian refugees. Since 1986, Olsenius has been a photographer for National Geographic magazine.

In the book, Olsenius admits to an attraction to the Midwest, where he enjoyed taking long drives through the country.

Olsenius gave a footnote to his contribution toward the book, describing his experience of gathering photos for the book.

"So there I was . . . driving out of Minneapolis in a rental care, my tripod and 4x5 camera in the backseat in search of the mythical Lake Wobegon," Olsenius wrote.

"After full days of photography, I'd spend an hour each night in the bathroom of the small motel in Albany, Minnesota, where in total darkness I'd load sheet film for the next day.

It was during this time my mind traced back across all the forgotten moments of all the pictures I proudly submitted to the newspaper as a younger man. It all came back to me like discovering an old family album, proving once again that some of the best moments in life revolved around what we call home."

The book is $29.95 and available in book stores, or Minnesota's Bookstore at 1-800-657-3757.


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