Wish You Were Here

Northport postcard from the early 1940s. Submitted photo.

Paging through photographs from family albums gives us that sense of connection to people and places that existed before us. Memories turn into our stories. Not so many years ago it was commonplace to send postcards back to family and friends sharing a place, a memory, a thought.

Former Door County resident Richard Lauder has a passion for the photo images and messages on postcards and has collected thousands of Door County over the past 40 years. In his most recent project he has taken more than 300 vintage Washington Island and Gills Rock postcards and messages and transformed them into a 50-minute narrated history of the Island’s past, complete with the sounds from the natural environment.

“It’s a rich, visual tour of Washington Island, tracing the many ferries of the Washington Island Ferry Lines, scenes at Gills Rock and Northport, Detroit Harbor, Jackson Harbor, Washington Harbor and its steamship and West Harbor and the early island’s resorts,” he tells me.

Also included are a good number of one-of-a-kind images of other significant Island locales such as an old icehouse shown on a postcard from Washington Harbor from a 1906 excursion.

Lauder seamlessly uses a variety of readers to recreate the timeless messages penned so long ago and expertly pairs the voices and images with the sound effects of the place. Watching and listening to the DVD with family and friends who have memories of Door County and Washington Island effortlessly generates an oral history, a sentiment Lauder echoes as he says he realized the images and messages from postcards hold some real history.

Lauder grew up in Sturgeon Bay and as a Door County watercolorist, briefly operated the Summer Solstice Art Gallery in Fish Creek in the early 1960s. The Washington Island DVD is not Lauder’s first. He has also produced similar DVDs featuring the early postcards of Sturgeon Bay, Fish Creek, Ephraim, Sister Bay, Baileys Harbor/Jacksonport, and Clark Lake.

On Friday, Oct. 10, from 1 to 4 pm, Lauder will be at Islandtimes Bookstore on Washington Island to answer questions, discuss his research of the Island, and to sign copies of his latest DVD titled Yesteryear’s Washington Island. The DVD is $20 and available at locations throughout Door County.