July 21, 2014

Gertie

July 21, 2014 Photo (202/365):  "Just Ducky!"

This little family reminded me of one of my favorite children's books. No, not  Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (although that is a great book too).  Gertie the Duck is a Milwaukee legend. In April 1945, Milwaukee Journal outdoor writer Gordon MacQuarrie reported that a mallard duck was nesting under the Wisconsin Avenue bridge downtown. She laid nine eggs and then carefully guarded them while curious Milwaukee pedestrians watched the nest for her babies to be born. Apparently, Gertie even received Mother's Day cards, and the Boy Scouts and Wisconsin Humane Society volunteers stood watch to protect her as six of the nine eggs hatched. Gertie and her babies were photographed by the Journal and Sentinel, were featured in Life Magazine and the UK's Daily Express. Readers Digest even ran a story about Gertie: "The Duck That Made Milwaukee Famous".

Later that spring, storms caused flooding and even a fire on nearby pilings, but Gertie and her family survived. After they were rescued, a habitat was built for them in Gimbels department store windows where enamored Milwaukeeans could continue to watch the ducklings grow. Eventually they were released into the Juneau Park lagoon on Milwaukee's lakefront.   

Today, Gertie the Duck is immortalized as a 4-foot bronze sculpture on the northwest side of the Wisconsin Avenue bridge over the Milwaukee River, but I'm sure I spotted her and her family in the River yesterday :)

Gertie the Duck watching over her eggs in 1945
Gertie the Duck statue on the Milwaukee Riverwalk
Well hello there, Gertie!