Second Fifty offers socialization, entertainment for seniors

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Fourth generation commercial fisherman Mike Valley, of Valley Fish and Cheese, Prairie du Chien, was the presenter at March’s Second Fifty senior social gathering. He debuted his locally-produced documentary, “Beneath the Ice,” which showcases his own ice fishing operations of building, setting and raising nets. He talked about commercial fishing history in the area and described his personal daily escapades. He said he typically catches between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds of fish a week. About 800 pounds of live fish equates to 225 smoked. Though carp is his business’ top smoked seller, he said he hasn’t caught one carp all year. Rather, he’s bringing in others such as catfish, buffalo, crappies and perch. He shared his belief that the river is very different today than it used to be and that it is constantly changing, due to the increased number of fishermen and their approach to fishing as well as other factors such as climate and weather patterns, sediment, etc. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

If you’re over the age of 55 and you aren’t a part of the Second Fifty social group in Prairie du Chien, you are missing out.

Second Fifty started over three years ago as a free social activity for area seniors. It branched off from a partnership from Faith In Action, which has since disbanded. Participants themselves voted on the catchy name.

The essence of this casual group is that it gathers the last Tuesday of every month from 1 to 3 p.m. in the basement of St. Peter Lutheran Church, 201 S. Michigan St., Prairie du Chien. Light snacks and beverages are always provided. Aside from this being an opportunity to socialize with other seniors, the basis of the Second Fifty activities involves informational and delightful local speakers, presentations, musical entertainment, games and potlucks, story sharing and more. Participants need not sign up or pay dues to join in the fun, they don’t need to be a member of St. Peter, they can live in any area community and they can attend whenever the time fits into their schedule. It’s that simple. If you’re 55 and older—or close to it—you’re welcome to come, bring a friend and enjoy.

According to Alice Kirschbaum, one of the group’s committee members, attendance at each gathering varies, from as few as a dozen to as many as 70. “We average about 20,” she said. “It really depends on the subject matter and the time of year/what other events are happening in the area. We get people from all over: Bagley, Seneca, Gays Mills. We’re open to anyone.”

A list of some of the presenters has included: Michael Douglass and Mary Antoine, local history; Dennis Kirshbaum, birding; Merle Frommelt, Effigy Mounds; Mike Valley, commercial fishing; Lynn Rider, estate planning; Mike Garrity, end-of-life planning. Second Fifty has also listened to the music of the Larry Busch orchestra, created homemade greeting cards for veterans overseas, played cards and other games, and more. They have also taken a couple Mississippi River Explorer cruises and held summer activities in Prairie du Chien’s parks.

“We’ve had people wonder about attending productions at the Elkader Opera House. But we don’t want to travel too far, because of convenience, transportation needs and cost,” Kirschbaum explained. “We try to keep it simple for folks, though we are open to trying new things if that’s what the group wants to do. We’re accepting ideas for new topics because we try not to repeat them.”

For the April Second Fifty gathering, on April 28, the focus will be the food of 1965. “It’ll be more of a conversation where people can talk about their experiences from wherever they lived, look at pictures and just share memories,” Kirschbaum said. As always, the committee will provide snacks and beverages. All are welcome to bring family and friends who remember the historic flood and might be interested in sharing their own stories.

Second Fifty’s monthly gatherings are announced in the St. Peter church bulletin, the Courier Press’ calendar of events and on Prairie du Chien’s local cable channel 6.

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