By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 28, 2021 at 2:32 PM

When the pandemic shut down the Milwaukee Public Library, the activities of the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society – whose archives are located in the Central Library – shifted online and some new activities were created.

One of them was a book/movie club that has led to a fun new event.

The book club is reading Holling Clancy Holling’s “Paddle-to-the-Sea,” which was selected after a model boat was found on a sand beach up in Ashland, says WMHS President Carl Eisenberg.

The boat was 27 years old and had been made by second graders at a school near Duluth, Minnesota.

“Paddle-to-the-Sea,” published in 1941, is the story of a boy who carves a canoe and adds the message “Please put me back in the water. I am Paddle-to-the-Sea" before setting it into the Great Lakes hoping it will reach the Atlantic Ocean.

“Our Executive Director, Suzette Lopez, saw a Facebook post about this discovery and suggested that the WMHS might want to build a boat,” says Eisenberg. “That started the WMHS’s Little Toot project.”

Little TootX

Board member Joe Grygny built and decorated three Little Toot boats.

“One will eventually be displayed in the library, Little Toot #1 will be launched into Lake Michigan, and Little Toot #2 was launched into Lake Superior from the Kaye E. Barker on June 9 by a member.”

It was discovered after eight days on the water, says Eisenberg.

Kaye E. BarkerX

“Little Toot #2 was launched from the Kaye E. Barker by WMHS member Craig Olson, who lives in Fox Point and who works aboard the Barker as a wheelsman,” he says. “On June 17, Little Toot #2 was found floating upside down by the log slide by a family while fishing off of Grand Marais (Michigan).

“Lauren and John Shuman were in Curtis, Michigan, on Big Manistique Lake and are from Canal Fulton, Ohio. Their 2-year-old son, John Andrew Shuman (pictured below with his dad), loves all boats, cars and tractors.”


Weather hasn’t played well with plans to launch Little Toot #1, though it was christened on June 9 by Mequon’s Duke Gordon and Wauwatosa’s Ryerson Winters, whose grandparents and parents, respectively, are WMHS board members.

Little Toot #1
The christening crew.

Now the plan is to launch it on Wednesday, June 30, at 10 a.m. at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center, which is providing motor boats for the launch.

Bon voyage, Little Toot #1!

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.