The Altoona Memories Of Several Contributors

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Chapter Seven
The Altoona Memories of Several Contributors
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All Things Altoona
By Robert Bredesen
About the Author – presently living at 1935 Schultz Road, Fall Creek, WI 54742
1. Born and raised in Altoona.
2. 904 Bartlett Avenue was my home during my grade school and high school years.
3. Graduated from Altoona High School in 1946.
4. Graduated from University of Wisconsin/Eau Claire (BAS-Science).
5. Graduated from University of Wisconsin/Madison (Masters-Science).
6. Graduated from University of Wisconsin Stout (Masters Counseling and Guidance).
7. Alumna of University of Wisconsin Superior (School Administrator).
8. Employment: Eleva Strum High School teacher 1950-51.
9. United States Marine Corps 1951-1953 (Korean war 1952-1953)
10. 1953-1954 Teacher Elk Mound High School.
11. Altoona Public Schools 1954-1990, Teacher, Coach, Athletic Director, Elementary Principal, High School
Principal, Superintendent of Schools for 15 years.
EMANUELS GROCERY STORE
THE HUB OF DOWNTOWN ALTOONA
In the early 1940’s Bill and Rose Emanuel came to Altoona and established Emanuel’s store on the
Southeast corner of Division Street and Lynn Avenue. At the present time that location is the Altoona Library
parking lot across from the Post Office.
The store building was one story, a concrete block structure with a full basement. A wooden shed was
south of the main building where hay bales and kerosene were stored until delivered to customers. Also there was
one gas pump located in front of the store; it may have been Altoona’s first gas station.
The front door of the store was located on Lynn Avenue where customers entered to the front counter that
ran across the front of the store. A large file stood upright on the counter. In those days, railroaders bought
groceries between paydays on credit with the slips recording the debt being placed in the register file so the
customer’s account could be kept. Railroad payday was at the end of the month and on that day the customers
would come to the store and cash their checks and pay their grocery bills.
Each Friday the Eau Claire paper would run a huge ad listing the weekend grocery specials, those papers
were delivered around town on Saturday morning. At that time the housewives would develop their grocery lists for
the week and call the store to place their orders, usually to Hugh Russell a mainstay at the store who knew all the
answers.
With the arrival of the grocery orders duplicate slips were made, one for the credit file and one to be placed
in a box where the groceries would be prepared for delivery. Putting up orders was a process done by Hugh Russell,
Cecil Walker, Virginia Walters and myself. Once the cardboard box was filled as per the slip, it would be placed in
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an area of the store for the morning delivery and another area for the afternoon delivery.
Cecil Walker was the man in charge of the delivery routes, he was in charge of a ¾ ton Chevy van which
he and his helper loaded with boxes to be delivered first in the morning delivery and then back to the store for the
afternoon delivery. It should be noted that hay bales were sometimes delivered for animal feed as well as five gallon
kerosene cans to customers who had kerosene stoves to cook or heat with.
Every Friday a farmer would bring a truckload of potatoes to the back of the store, place a slide to a bin in
the basement and slide his potatoes into the bin. Every Saturday morning a bagger would fill paper sacks with
potatoes, each sack holding about a peck of spuds. These were for the Saturday deliveries.
One of the rewards of being the bagger was passing through the hall to the basement where there was a big
wooden barrel full of sauerkraut; it had a wooden cover on it which we could lift and sample the kraut which was
sold to the customers.
On some Saturdays Nora Emanuel (Bill’s daughter) would drive the delivery truck. When Nora drove
there was always a package of sweet rolls to eat as we worked. Nora always was in a hurry hence she had a heavy
foot on the gas pedal.
Fresh meat was always available from the meat counter at the back of the store and the large cooler near by
it. Dean Strong was the butcher in charge of the area, he taught me that once around a pound of hamburger was
enough string, it didn’t need three times around and when you make an ice cream cone, roll it into the scoop as it
looks bigger and sets higher on the cone.
Rose Emanuel was the business manager of the store. Her desk was in the back corner of the store; she
checked the invoices, paid the bills and watched the line of credit of the customers.
My first day on the job Bill called Mike Dagleman, a county patrol officer, to get me a drivers license.
Mike came to the store, and in about ten minutes I had my license and was driving the delivery truck the next day.
World was II was underway during the early 40’s – most of the seventeen year olds on up were gone to war
so, as a 15 year old, jobs were easy to find. Harold Russell, Hugh’s son, was a fighter pilot at the time. Every now
and then he would come flying over the water tank and the school, down Division Street, over the store and depot
and off into the sky. He usually was several hundred feet in the air, which created a huge roar. Everybody knew
Harold was in town.
One last reflection is to honor the memory of Bill and Rose Emanuel. As a young man I could not have
found a better group of people to work with. They treated their employees’ right. I’ll always remember they gave
us a bonus every Christmas to reward us for the work we had done throughout the year.
THE ICEHOUSE
In the early 1940’s freight trains passed through Altoona on a regular basis. Many boxcars carried products
that required cooling but the cars had no refrigerator units. The answer to the problem was to insulate boxcars and
build a compartment in each end of the car with a trap door on the ceiling that could be opened so blocks of ice
could be dropped down from the top to fill the compartment. Thus, the boxcar would be cool in its interior and a
variety of fruits and vegetables could be transported from station to station.
This new method developed the need for an Icehouse to supply the ice hence the Altoona Icehouse was
built near the tracks north of the present county shop building. A company called Shipley was formed and ran the
icehouse business for the railroad. The Icehouse itself was about as high as a three story building and several
hundred feet long. It was filled with sawdust, which acted as an insulator to keep the ice from melting. There was a
long deck on the south side of the building high enough so ice could be brought from inside the building to the deck,
slid out to a chute leading to the top of the boxcar door and dumped into the boxcar. When the compartment was
filled, the top door was shut and the boxcar was ready to go to the next station. Fid Sturz was the director of the
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Icehouse operation and he was directly responsible to the Shipley Corporation headquarters in the Twin Cities. Fid
had to assemble a crew of workers during the winter months to harvest ice from some of the nearby lakes. They
would cut ice into blocks and haul them to the Icehouse until it was full. Sawdust was placed over the ice to keep it
from melting. Once it was full, the ice was ready for the warm season. The summer crew was hired by Fid. They
usually consisted of six footers with large shoulders and muscular arms as moving the blocks of ice from the lower
levels of the Icehouse to the top required pushing the blocks on skids by putting an ice pick in the block and
pushing. The chore was not hard on the level, but an uphill angle required strength. Fid was strong as a bull as were
Darrell Sturz (just home from the Army), 6’3” with broad shoulders – I would say a perfect build. Ernie Walker and
Norm and Bernie Sturz made up Fids’ crew. Although he hired me for one summer even though I was 5’6” and 125
pounds – not a heavy duty guy. He knew I would be reliable and knew that was a quality needed at the Icehouse.
Fid was a great boss. He always worked right along with the rest of us and with his easygoing disposition
he made everyone feel at home.
Time passed and boxcars had built in air conditioners – thus the need for the Icehouse disappeared… as did
the jobs that were associated with it.
THE OMAHA RAILROAD
AND ALTOONA
As a young boy back in the early 1940’s I lived about two blocks from the railroad tracks where I could
listen and see the passenger and freight trains coming into and out of the railroad yards. In the late spring and early
summer we saw many unemployed men we called bums or hobos because they had no homes and traveled from the
South, where they had spent the winter, to the West for the summer where they could work some seasonal jobs.
My Grandmother, Clara Johnson, lived in a home near the tracks where the same bums would stop on the
way through Altoona to get a handout. She always gave them something to eat and they usually stopped on the way
to the West and on their return trip to the South where they would spend the winter. The practice continued with my
Mother, Ruth Bredeson, giving them handouts after our family moved into my Grandma’s house. In many cases
they would split wood or other tasks if she had any for them to do. We had a pump in the back yard where fresh
cold water would flow if you had the energy to pump the handle. This pump was an attraction for the bums as they
had been riding the boxcars for a number of hours and were thirsty when they arrived in town. They all knew where
they could get cold water.
Things were tough economically in those days. Depression days were still evident and many a time men
could be seen with a sack on their back coming from the railroad yards carrying it full of coal to keep their homes
warm. The coal came from coal cars passing through town. Men could be seen carrying grain doors from the tracks
to their homes to use in building their homes or their sheds. The grain doors were the size of a normal door and
were used by the railroad to nail across the sliding doors of boxcars. They were laid sideways to cover the open
space and then the boxcar was filled with grain or wheat from the West and hauled to the East where the wheat was
emptied. Hence the return back through Altoona where the boxcars were empty with the main doors open and many
grain doors laying inside. It has been said that many of the smaller houses in East Altoona, along the track, were
partially built with grain doors.
My Grandfather, Albert Johnson, nicknamed “Preacher” because he was a minister in his spare time, but
his main job was in the railroad where he worked as a car tapper. His duties consisted of waiting for a freight train
to come in and then he had to walk the length of the train checking the wheat and axels of the boxcars to see that the
grease around the axels was adequate, if not he carried grease to fill the space provided to take the boxcar to the next
service area in Minneapolis to the West and Marshfield to the East. He also had to haul coal in his wheelbarrow to
the east end of the railroad yard where there was a small shanty with a potbelly stove which he had to keep going in
the wintertime as it was a warming house for section men and switchmen when needed. One of my friends told me
a story about Grandpa that characterized him. It went like this… Grandpa kept a wheelbarrow full of coal by the
warming house so when he was in the area he could put some coal in the potbelly stove. One night he came to the
warming shack to rebuild the fire and the coal and the wheelbarrow were gone. He knew my friend had taken it and
when he saw him he said “Chuck, I don’t care if you steal the coal but do you have to take my wheelbarrow?”
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My classmate, Bob Klingbeils’, dad was the section foreman in Altoona yards and every Summer the
railroad had extra help to work on the section so Bob and I were lucky enough to get a job there when we were 16
years old. There was a section house that we reported to every morning about 8 a.m. We did various jobs, from
using big sickles for cutting grass to replacing worn out creosote ties. Replacing the ties required removing steel
plates by pulling out spikes on each side of the rail then removing the old tie from under the rail, dropping large
gravel stones in the hole around the new tie and using a spade to tamp rocks under the tie to ensure that it was tight
against the rail then driving the spikes through the steel plates to hold the rail in place. We usually worked in hot,
sunny weather in groups of men, many who chewed snuff requiring spitting often. We had one water jug to drink
out of, the non-chewers and the snuff chewers. I vowed I would not drink out of the same jug as the chewers but the
heat got to me and I did.
Al Klingbeil was our boss (a great guy) and one of the old time workers was Bill Hempelman…who
smoked a pipe that was always in his mouth and after some years of use it made flat groves in his lips. The Fall
Creek section crew came up to Altoona one hot July day to remove the corn from a boxcar that had broken down
and we were pressed into service to help do the job. The door to the broken down car was open with grain doors
nailed across the door to about six feet high. A metal chute was placed from the broken down car to the open door
of the good boxcar door across several grain doors about three feet high. The foreman from Fall Creek, named
Wilhelm, gave us scoop shovels and we climbed into the cars with the corn and started shoveling corn out and down
the chute. Of course our foreman, knowing we were young and inexperienced informed us that the speed record for
a boxcar transfer was four hours, hence we had something to shoot for even though it was 90degrees in the top of the
corn loaded car. We got the job done, but no record.
THE ROUNDHOUSE
In the late 1940’s I was able to gain employment at the Roundhouse, which was a huge round building
located between the Depot and Lake Road on the north side of the tracks. The main purpose of the building was to
house steam engines that came from Minneapolis in the West through Spooner or Superior or from Marshfield,
Adams or Elroy in the East. Once they arrived in Altoona, they left the main rail yard and came down a spur track,
first coming to a cinder pit area where the hot coals and clinkers were removed from the firebox area of the engine.
Rheinhold Schlewitz was in charge of the area and I had the privilege to help him on many occasions. When the
engine was stopped with the firebox over the cinder pit we used a huge lever to fit on a rod that shook the grates so
the fire and clinkers fell out into the cinder pit below the firebox. There was always an engineer on duty called a
“hostler” and his job was to run the engine back to a round table located like the hub of a wheel in the center space
of the Roundhouse. The hostler helper lined up the round table tracks with the tracks the engine was on and the
hostler backed the engine onto the round table where it was balanced on a pivot point in the middle. The helper then
moved the round table around to the spur where the engine would go to be serviced before ordering it back out on a
run again. The table was run by an electric motor and worked nicely when the engine was balanced. When lined up
the engine was moved into the spur and stopped when the smoke stack was lined up with the smoke stack in the
Roundhouse roof so any smoke from the engine would rise or be blown out of the round house into the air.
On several occasions the engine was not stopped in time and hit the back of the Roundhouse wall causing
the brick wall to collapse.
The day hostler for years was Mayor Fred Gloede the Altoona Mayor for many years and as nice a
gentleman as you could ever meet.
MACHINIST AND BOILERMAKER
The engine’s boiler was now inspected to see that no leaks were in the boiler walls. Al Boetcher worked
the night shift for years, going inside the boiler through the firebox door to check for leaks and then to the pit under
the engine to look up and inspect the underside of the firebox and boiler for leaks. Once he was satisfied, he gave
the okay for its release to go on the road again.
At the same time the boiler was being inspected, the mechanics were greasing and adjusting moving parts
of the wheels and power rods from the steam cylinders to the wheels. When all appeared to meet inspection, the
engine was off for service again. Newell Peltier, Ernie Steuding and others worked the 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift for
many years at the mechanics job. Any abnormalities noticed by the engine crew that brought the engine in off its
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run were always reported to the Roundhouse foreman.
Steam engines were easy to fire up again after the boiler had been inspected and released for service. I say
easy if the engine still had steam pressure in the boiler. So that the fire up jack could run the stoker, a wormlike
device running from the coal car to the firebox of the engine. When turned on the worm (auger) turned in a spiral
manner bringing ground coal to the firebox spraying it all over the grates of the boiler. Because of the heat from the
boiler area the coal quickly dried and would ignite easily when the fire up jack brought his cart (which was filled
with fuel oil). Next to the engine a long hose from the tank was placed in the firebox. The tank was hooked up to
an air pressure system and that pressure sprayed a film of fuel oil over the coal. The engine’s blower was turned on
to blow air across the bed of coal and up the smoke stack. The fire up jack lit a piece of waste and threw it into the
firebox setting the coal ablaze very quickly. The smoke would move out the smoke stack of the engine and through
the chimney of the Roundhouse where the engine had been spotted. The engine quickly built steam pressure in the
boiler. The pressure could be read on the gauge in the engine. The engine had a water tank attached to it and a
pump that pumped water into the boiler around the firebox heating it up. When the engine had enough steam the
blower was shut down to slow down the burning of coal hence lowering the amount of heat to convert water in the
boiler into steam. Sometimes the steam gauge rose too high so, to prevent damage to the boiler, a blow off valve
was opened to blow off steam from the engine’s boiler.
A small office was located in the Roundhouse it was called the “bull pen” because that was the place where
the engine crews (fireman and engineer) reported for work at the beginning of the run or at the end of their run.
Many stories were told here, hence the name “bull pen”. There was a large chalkboard on the south wall. This
board listed all of the outgoing trains and incoming trains. Some were on regular schedules and some were extras
ordered because there were enough boxcars in the yard to send to cities such as Elroy, Marshfield, Adams, Spooner
or Minneapolis.
There were passenger trains, freight trains and switch engines for the Altoona yard. The dispatcher at the
Altoona depot would be notified if crews were needed and he in turn called the “bull pen” where the Roundhouse
foreman on duty would mark the needed train on the board. The callboy on duty would then notify the crew who
was on line to work the train. Many of the crew’s members lived in hotels in town or private homes in town. The
callboy had to go to these rooms and wake them up and advise them when they had to be at work. They usually
stopped at the restaurant to get coffee and a bite to eat. The waitress was Dolly Cedarberg who was on the night
shift at the restaurant for years.
The train crews came to the Roundhouse spur track to the main yard. Here they picked up their engine and
started on their way, stopping at the water tank and filling up the water tank in their engine tender (car hooked onto
the engine containing water and coal.) Next stop was at the sand house operated by Rink Henning who had burners
in the sand house which dried sand to be blown out pipes to a sand compartment at the top of the engine, about even
with the front wheels. In slippery weather the engineer could open a valve and release sand to land in front of the
power wheels of his engine providing traction so the engine could pull its load without the wheels slipping.
The engine is now ready to go to the alt yard to hook up to its train and once hooked up, blasts its whistle
and proceeds out of town.
ROUNDHOUSE FOREMAN
BILL LANEYAR
When the word Altoona Roundhouse comes up you have to think of one man in
particular, his name was Bill Laneyar and he was an Irishman through and through with a no
nonsense approach to his job. He was the headman in charge of everyone who worked in the
Roundhouse. I think of his work ethic to this day and respect the tremendous job that he did.
The beginning of the end of the Roundhouse era came with the invention of the diesel engine for
rail transportation. The steam engine gradually disappeared along with the many jobs that it
created – hence the Roundhouses around the country vanished along with the steam engine.
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Dolly McKeith
A Jewel in Altoona's Crown!
By Ralph Ely
About the Author – Ralph Ely was born in Manitowoc, Wisconsin
on July 8, 1921 to Bill and May Ely. After moving to Alma Center in
1922, the family settled in Altoona in 1925. Bill had purchased a soft
drink parlor where "The 400 Bar" stands today. For years, he
operated a tavern on the site of the now-destroyed Railhaven on
Division Street.
Ralph lays claim to the distinction of being "one of a kind" as
captain of the basketball team that won the State Class C
Championship in 1939. He graduated in that same year. All of his
four children and four of his grandchildren have gone through the
Altoona Public Schools.
He operated a furniture store on the site of the current VFW
building. He has been active in the VFW and in community affairs.
He was on the Altoona City Council from 1992-2002.
olly McKeith was a jewel in Altoona's crown! She was a long-
time cook and waitress in Altoona's big restaurant across the
street from the railroad depot, known as the "beanery". She drew
fans from all over the railroad line and especially from the citizens
of Altoona itself.
Her husband worked on the railroad, but wasn't with her very
much. This didn't bother Dolly, and she made a name for herself
with her "potty-mouth"! She could swear like a pirate whenever
she wanted to, and could be very lady-like when called for.
Railroad men knew her and loved her for the icon that she was.
Railroad big-shots came to Altoona to check on the operations,
but they never left before going to the "Beanery" for a sample of
Dolly's cooking, and her colorful language!
Dolly worked for a series of restaurant owners. In the 1920s
and '30s she worked for Mae Ely, and Mrs. Flyte. Years later, she
D
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had a house built on the corner of First Street West and Spooner
Avenue. She would get all dressed up in nice clothes and a fur
collared coat and high heels, grab the bus, and go shopping in
Eau Claire.
After Dolly retired, she went over to the depot every day for
coffee and conversation with her buddies working in the office.
She may have had a "potty-mouth" at times, but she had a heart
as big as the sky, and would do anything for any body. When she
died, she was dearly missed by all who ever knew her!
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MEMORIES OF ALTOONA
By Esther Gilbert-Metcalf
Born 9-5-1914
WE MOVED FROM CORNELL TO ALTOONA AFTER SCHOOL WAS OUT 1924. WE
MOVED IN A HOUSE OF PLANERT’S OUT BY THE OVER HEAD BRIDGE. A SHY LITTLE BOY,
DAVID PLANERT, HANDED ME A SACK FULL OF RADISHES THEY HAD JUST GOT OUT OF
THEIR GARDEN. THEY SHARED THEIR GARDEN ALL SUMMER. AGNES PLANERT WAS A
HARD WORKER AND A WONDERFUL PERSON.
MY GRANDMA GILBERT CAME TO SEE US AND THOUGHT THAT WAS TOO FAR FOR
US TO WALK TO SCHOOL. SHE GAVE MY MOTHER $500 TO GET A PLACE IN TOWN. MY
DAD WAS A CARPENTER SO SOON HAD THE PLACE COMFORTABLE. LATER A KITCHEN
WAS ADDED.
THE CITY STILL DIDN'T HAVE WATER AND ELECTRICITY IN THAT END OF TOWN.
THERE WAS AT OUTSIDE TOILET, WAS COLD TO RUN OUT THERE IN THE WINTER. EVERY
ONE DUG A HOLE AND MADE A COVER FOR IT TO PUT OUR GARBAGE IN. WHEN IT GOT
NEAR THE TOP THEY FILLED IT WITH DIRT AND DUG ANOTHER ONE. WE ALWAYS HAD A
LOT OF FLIES. I REMEMBER THEY USED TO CUT PAPER IN STRIPS AND TACK ACROSS
THE TOP OF THE SCREEN DOOR TO SHOO THE FLIES AWAY WHEN WE WENT IN AND
OUT.
AARONS LIVED IN THE NEXT BLOCK AND THEY HAD A GOOD WELL AND PUMP. MY
BROTHER
,
ELMER, AND I HAD THE JOB OF PACKING WATER FOR HOUSE USE, WASHING AND
BATHS. WE TOOK OUR BATHS IN THE BEDROOM IN A LAUNDRY TUB. THE PUMP HANDLE WAS
HOT IN THE SUMMER AND MIGHTY COLD IN THE WINTER. MY MOTHER WOULD SIT AND SHAVE
UP BARS OF FELS NAPTHA SOAP TO WASH CLOTHES. THE WATER WOULD HEAT IN A BOILER
ON THE WOOD STOVE. THEN IT WAS PUT IN A WASHER THAT US KIDS HAD TO PULL A
HANDLE BACK AND FORTH TO TURN THE DASHER. THE CLOTHES ALWAYS GOT CLEAN. THEN
THE CLOTHES WERE WRUNG OUT INTO RINSE WATER, WRUNG OUT AGAIN AND THEN HUNG
OUTSIDE ON LINE TO DRY. THEN THEY WERE IRIONED WITH IRONS HEATED ON THE STOVE.
MANY A SQUABBLE WE HAD OVER WHO DID THE MOST.
IN THE SUMMER WE DID A LOT OF SWIMMING. WE ALWAYS HAD TO FIND AN OLDER
PERSON TO GO WITH US. WE HAD TO WALK ACROSS THE RAIL ROAD TRACKS AND THEN
DOWN A HILL. WE HAD A CERTAIN PLACE TO SWIM. WE HAD A LOT OF SOFT BALL
GAMES AND A LOT OF OTHER GAMES WE PLAYED.
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THERE WAS A LOT OF KIDS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. MY MOTHER WAS EITHER
AUNT STELL OR GRANDMA STELL TO ALL OF THEM. SHE ALWAYS HAD SUGAR COOKIES
FOR THEM.
SOMEWHERE IN THERE THE CITY GOT ELECTRICITY AND WATER IN OUR END OF TOWN.
AS SOON AS IT FROZE THEY FLOODED THE VACANT LOT ACROSS THE ROAD FROM OUR
PLACE -- IT MAY HAVE BEEN ON OTTO SEMIISCH’S LAND. THEY HAD A STREET LIGHT ON THE
CORNER SO WE COULD SKATE AT NIGHT. MY MOTHER COULD SIT BY THE WINDOW AND
WATCH US SO I GOT TO SKATE EVERY NIGHT. LOTS OF NIGHTS SHE HAD HOT CHOCALATE
AND COOKIES FOR US. SOMETIMES WE HAD A BON FIRE AND HOT DOGS AND
MARSHMELLOWS.
THE CITY BLOCKED OFF THE STREET FROM THE WATER TOWER DOWN TOWN AND
ICED IT. IT WAS A GREAT RIDE GOING DOWN, BUT QUITE A WALK GOING BACK UP.
I DID A LOT OF BABY SITTINGS WE USUALLY GOT TEN CENTS NO MATTER HOW LONG
IT WAS.
IF THEY HAD DIRTY DISHES THEY EXPECTED US TO DO THEM TOO.
DURING THE DEPRESSION THERE WAS A LOT OF HOBOS, SINCE ALTOONA WAS A
RAIL-ROAD TOWN THERE WAS ALWAYS SOME ONE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO EAT.
I REMEMBER ONE IN PARTICULAR. A BIG BLACK MAN CAME TO THE DOOR AND ASKED
FOR SOMETHING TO EAT, JUST ANYTHING AS I'M SO HUNGRY. MOM HAD JUST TAKEN
BREAD OUT OF THE OVEN SO SHE GAVE HIM SOME BAKED FISH AND BREAD. WHEN HE
GOT THROUGH HE GOT UP AND RUBBED HIS BELLY AND SAID, LAWSY MAM THAT’S THE
BEST FOOD I EVER TASTED.
ANOTHER SIDE OF BEAULAH TURNEY.
EVERY FALL WHEN SCHOOL STARTED SHE WOULD ASK US TO TELL WHERE WE
WENT ON OUR SUMMER VACATION. SOME HAD WENT TO THE COAST, MOST TO VISIT
RELATIVES. SHE KEPT THREE OF US AFTER SCHOOL. WE JUST KNEW WE WERE IN
TROUBLE, BUT SHE NOTICED WE NEVER SEEMED TO GET TO DO MUCH AND WOULD WE
LIKE TO GO TO THE FAIR IF OUR FOLKS WOULD LET US. SHE AND HER FRIEND TOOK
EAUHICE PLANERT
,
BEAULAH SCHILLING AND I AND SPENT THE DAY.SHE SHOWED US A
FUN DAY.
LEONARD HASS AND I ALWAYS COMPETED FOR GRADES. WE GOT CHOSEN TO GO
TO EAU CLAIRE COUNTY SPELLING BEE. WE BOTH PLACED AND THEY HAD A PICNIC
AFTERWARDS.
WE WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO THROW SNOW BALLS TO AND FROM SCHOOL. BILLY
CONNEL KEPT TRYING TO WASH MY FACE IN SNOW. I GOT MAD AND TOOK HIM DOWN
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AND WAS REALLY SCRUBBING HIS FACE WHEN I NOTICED THESE TWO BIG FEET. MR.
JENSEN JUST SAID,"GOOD JOB" ESTHER, NOW BOTH OF YOU GET UP AND GO HOME. WE
DIDN'T DO THAT AGAIN BECAUSE IT WOULDN'T BE THAT EASY ANOTHER TIME.
SINCE THE GIRLS COULD NO LONGER PLAY INTERSCHOLASTIC COMPETITION BASKET
BALL MR. JENSEN PICKED TWO TEAMS AND THE GIRLS PLAYED A GAME BEFORE THE BOY'S
HOME GAME. I PLAYED BETTER THAN USUAL ONE NIGHT AND THE GIRLS GAVE ME A BAD
TIME, SAYING IT WAS BECAUSE MY BOY FRIEND WAS THERE. WHEN MR. JENSEN GAVE US
OUR LETTERS AND MY CAPTAIN STAR HE SAID HE WISHED HE COULD PUT ME ON THE BOY'S
TEAM. INSTEAD OF BEING' PROUD I WAS EMBARASSED. WHEN I WAS BACK TO WISCONSIN
FOR A CLASS REUNION IN 1975 ELAINE DELMORE CAME ACROSS THE FLOOR,THERE IS
ESTHER GILBERT, I NEVER COULD BEAT HER THROWING FREE SHOTS.”
IN THE SUMMER OF 1931 THEY BLACK TOPPED THE ROAD FROM ALTOONA TO FALL
CREEK. I GOT A JOB HELPING THE COOK TO COOK FOR THE CREW. I THINK IT WAS IN THE
SMITH HOUSE.
WHEN THEY GOT ABOUT HALF WAY THE BOSS COOKED FOR SOME AT FALL CREEK
AND SHE LEFT ME TO COOK PART OF THEM. SCHOOL STARTED AND MR. JENSEN SAID I
COULD FINISH THE JOB AND I COULD MAKE UP MY WORK AND HE WOULD TALK TO OTHER
TEACHERS. AT THAT TIME THERE WAS SCHUTTES STORE, BERGS DRUG STORE, LOOBIE'S
AND WHITWAMS MEAT MARKET ON MAIN STREET.
I QUIT SCHOOL AND GOT MARRIED TO HOWARD METCALF. HE WORKED IN THE ICE
HOUSE. PEOPLE HAD ICE BOXES THEN. THE ICE MAN BROUGHT BLOCKS OF ICE AND PUT IN
TOP. WHEN IT MELTED THE WATER RAN DOWN IN A PAN. IF YOU DIDN'T WATCH AND EMPTY
IT YOU HAD TO MOP THE FLOOR.
WHEN HOWARD AND I GOT MARRIED THE LITTLE KIDS SHIVAREED US AND WE GAVE
THEM CANDY BARS. THE OLDER PEOPLE GAVE US A SHOWER. THE SHOWERS WERE A LOT
DIFFERENT THEN. PEOPLE COULD ONLY GIVE TEN AND TWENTY CENT GIFTS. WE GOT A LOT
OF PINK DEPRESSION DISHES. WE GOT TWO EIGHT BY TEN PICTURES. ONE WAS A COLLIE
WATCHING OVER A LAMB THE OTHER A LITTLE GIRL SITTING ON A BENCH WATCHING A
ROBIN. MY DAUGHTER HAS THESE UP IN HER FRONT ROOM.
WE HAD TWO CHILDREN IN ALTOONA, A BOY AND A GIRL AND ANOTHER GIRL IN
OREGON.
ONE OF MY TRIPS BACK TO ALTOONA I SPENT TIME WITH MY DAD AT THE PHEASANT
FARM. HE EXPLAINED THE WHOLE PROCESS TO ME. HE REALLY LOVED THAT JOB
,
BUT SAID
HE HATED TO TURN THEM OUT TO GET SHOT.
I FORGOT TO MENTION HOW WE GOT OUR MILK THEN. WE HAD A MILK MAN
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DELIVER IT, WHICH WAS HERMAN KLINGBIEL AT THAT TIME. WE WOULD SET EMPTY
MILK BOTTLES OUT FOR WHAT WE WANTED AND HE WOULD LEAVE FULL ONES.
LAST TIME I WAS BACK TO ALTOONA I WALKED TO THE HOUSE WHERE I GREW UP.
PEOPLE ARE STILL LIVING IN IT.
I WON'T BE GOING BACK AGAIN AS I WILL SOON BE NINETY FIVE
,
BUT I
LL STILL
HAVE MEMORIES.
Comments by Marvel(Schilling) Newton – July 2009
Esther Mae Gilbert was born in Cornell, WI in 1914, daughter of Walter & Estella Gilbert. She grew up in Altoona.
They lived a block north (toward the Railroad tracks) of the Semisch home. She didn't graduate from Altoona, quitting
school to marry Howard Metcalf.
She stated in my letter that the school colors changed to Red & Black between 1927 and 1931 (I wonder when it was
first called the Scarlet & the Black). Aunt Esther specified the years 1927-1931, so I assume that was the time period she
was active in school activities.
I could not find any record of the date of her wedding.
She was in school the fall of 1931- per her cooking stint for the road crews blacktopping the Altoona to Fall Creek road
(see page 2 of her writing).
That about takes care of any useful thing I can tell you at this point.
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LeVon Hazelton-Walker
Background: I was born LeVon Hazelton in Lewiston,
Minnesota in 1936. My Dad was an engineer for a CCC
(Civilian Conservation Corps), one of Franklin Delano
Roosevelt's efforts to deal with the Great Depression of the
1930's) project. My mother was a great cook. I was the youngest
child. My oldest brother, Jim, now deceased, became a Captain
for American Airlines out of Chicago. My sister Shirley, born in
1928, also deceased, had six children. Brother Dick, now 77,
still plays trumpet in various bands and plays taps for the
American Legion.
I have loved music all my life. At the age of 4, my mother
started me playing the piano. I played by ear until college where
I learned to read music. One summer, when I was only 12, Eau
Claire's Meyer Music had a bidding sale. I was able to win a
clarinet for $100. But I hadn't told my Dad. When the clarinet
arrived I assembled it and proceeded to play "Put Another
Nickel in, in the Nickelodeon." Upon questioning by Mr. Meyer,
I told him that I had never played a clarinet before. He was
impressed. So was my father: he paid for it right then and there.
I played clarinet throughout my Altoona school experience and
for 4 years in college. I enjoyed singing, acting, and school
generally; there were no drugs and excessive drinking in those
days.
In 1958,1 married Loren Walker, another graduate of Altoona
High School. We had two children, Carol and Dan, and three
grandchildren. We lived in Kenosha for 30 years and came back
to Altoona to retire.
**************************
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I remember my first day at the Altoona Public School as I
had entered the sixth grade in 1947.1 can't remember the
teacher's name, but she was strict. I had great need to go to the
restroom, but she denied me that opportunity. I was holding on
reasonably well until she selected me to give a report up front. I
then proceeded to answer Nature's call in front of God and
everybody. That was dreadfully humiliating. Obviously too late,
the teacher then allowed me to go to the restroom. I spent the
rest or the day contending with wet underwear. I'll never forget
the humiliation. When my mother found out about it, she was
furious. She went to the school and taught that teacher a lesson
she'd not soon forget.
As I've mentioned in a previous book, the 1951 fire was
devastating to me. It is still vivid to me. I stood there crying with
the other girls as we watched the fire consume our school,
reducing it to a shell. I especially remember the destruction of
the trophy case as it fell from the top floor into the basement.
While I had had a perfect attendance record for many years,
on one occasion I and some others decided to take a morning off.
My companions included Mary Ann Upthall, Dorothy Heike, Art
Fenner, and Chuck Olson. After a great morning in the sun down
by the lake, we decided to return to school for the afternoon. Our
history teacher, Mary Martin spotted us and alerted Einar
Pedersen. As he greeted us, he said to me "Well, LeVon, I could
expect this of everyone else, but not you." I was devastated.
With the exception of Art, we had to stand in front of our lockers
all afternoon. He had been in a terrible car accident the previous
year and was confined to a wheelchair. Our 1954 Annual was
dedicated to Lamoine Anderson who had been killed in that
crash. I experienced a bit of guilt when I was awarded a perfect
attendance certificate that year. I knew that I didn't deserve it.
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I maintain contact with my old buddies. Faye Reiter, Judy
Hendrickson, Patsy Werlein, Mary Ann Upthall, Dorothy Heike,
and Carol Larson are still going strong. We meet once a month at
the Altoona Restaurant to reminisce about our lives at school
and the fun we had.
Now, 55 years later, our grandson will be graduating from
Altoona High School, just as we did.
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One Hundred and Twenty-five Years in Altoona
The Lenz Family History
By Judy Lenz-Adams
In 1856, Conrad and Heinricha Lenz emigrated with
their family of nine children to American from Baden,
Germany. They settled in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Their fifth
child, Michael Lenz (1849-1903) was working in the Otter
Creek Brick Yard south of Altoona when a large brick order
came in for the construction of buildings in the Altoona
railroad yard. Believing a saloon located across the street
from those railroad yards would be a good business that
would comfortably provide for his wife Rosa (1852-1937) and
their family, he moved to Altoona in 1883. He built the first
saloon in Altoona. Mike Lenz's Saloon opened in 1884 and
was located where the "400 Club" stands today.
Michael and Rosa Lenz reared five children in Altoona:
Nellie (1875-1963); Edward (1879-1946); Ida (1883-1963);
Otto (1887-1966); and Hazel (1891-1972). Nellie married
Joseph Farrel and moved to Spooner, Wisconsin, in 1898.
Ida married Samuel Menzies and moved to Spooner,
Wisconsin, in 1901. Hazel married Maurice Johnson in 1921.
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All three sisters married railroad employees. Hazel and
Maurice remained in Altoona where they reared two sons,
David and Robert Johnson. Hazel lived in Altoona until her
death in 1972.
Edward Lenz was a rail car inspector and lived in
Altoona with his wife Emma and their three daughters,
Rosemarie, Dorothy, and Shirley. Edward was an Altoona
resident until his death in 1946. Otto Lenz married Blanche
Brown in 1913. They reared five children in Altoona: Irene
Lenz Zimmerman (1915-2006); Erwin F. Lenz (1916); Lloyd
G. Lenz 1918-1991); Lucille Lenz Adams (1920); and
Beatrice Lenz Cooper (1922). Otto Lenz was employed by
the railroad in Altoona from 1908 until 1957.
Irene, Erwin, Lucille, and Beatrice were graduated from
Altoona High School. Irene, Lucille and Beatrice obtained
college degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
and pursued teaching careers outside of Altoona. Erwin was
graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In
1943, he entered the United States Navy as an Ensign and
served in the African and South European Theaters and later
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in the Pacific Theater as a Lieutenant Senior Grade until
1947. Erwin married Wanda Witt; they currently reside in
Egg Harbor, Wisconsin, and Sun City, Arizona. Lucille lives
in Houston, Texas, and Beatrice is a resident of Sun City,
Arizona.
Lloyd remained in Altoona with the exception of his
military service with the United States Army Air Force from
1941 to 1945. He married Kathryn Miller in 1945 and they
reared four children in Altoona: Judith Lenz Adams;
Michael P. Lenz; William H. Lenz; and Paul J. Lenz. Judy
and Mike are currently Altoona residents. Bill remained a
life-long resident of Altoona until his death in 2003. Paul
lives in Eau Claire and is an Eau Claire County Circuit
Court Judge.
The descendants of Michael and Rosa Lenz represent
three generations of railroad engineers in Altoona. Their son,
Otto Lenz, was hired as a roundhouse employee in 1908. He
became a fireman in
1911 and an engineer in 1920. After working for forty-nine
years, he retired from the Chicago Northwestern Railroad in
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1957.
Lloyd Lenz, Otto's son, hired out as a roundhouse
employee in 1937. He became a fireman for the Chicago
Northwestern in 1946 and an engineer in 1948. After forty-
four years of service, he retired in 1981.
Michael P. Lenz, Lloyd's son, worked for the Chicago
Northwestern/Union Pacific Railroad for thirty years. He
became a fireman in 1966 and an engineer in 1968. Due to
health problems, he discontinued working for the railroad in
1996.
From my home I can hear the train cars switching in the
yards. To me it is the most comforting sound in the whole
world!
Judy (Lenz) Adams 2009
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Michael Lenz 1889
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Rosa Lenz 1889
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Mike Lenz’s Saloon – 1884
Located on the same foundation as the present 400 Club
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Locomotive Engine - Lloyd G. Lenz -- 1939
Photo Courtesy of the Chippewa Valley Museum
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Front Center: Blanche and Otto Lenz
Back Row: Their Family
Beatrice Lenz Cooper
Irene Lenz Zimmerman
Erwin Lenz
Lloyd Lenz
Lucille Lenz Adams
Autumn 1943
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Harvest Time
By Marvel Schilling-Newton
ltoona has long been known for its sandy soil and abundance of sand burrs or
cockle burrs. The burrs were often referred to as porcupine eggs. To avoid
briars in your fingers, it was well to wet your finger tips thoroughly before trying
to pull off the burrs clinging to your shoe strings. Ouch! My Grandpa’s farm had
plenty of them.
Grandpa Schilling’s “Sand Burr Acres” was the last place on the left side of
Spooner Ave. when heading to Eau Claire. Gus Sund’s home was the last place on
the right-hand side of the road, and Rockwood’s farm abutted Grandpa’s land and
extended out to highway 12. The two farms were mainly worked in corn and string
beans.
The two landlords of the sand burr patches sometimes contracted to raise either
corn or green or wax beans for the canning factory. One year the beans didn’t
ripen at the time the cannery needed them. I don’t know the financial
repercussions of the event but the beans did not go to the cannery. There was a
huge amount of beans canned in Altoona that year. My brother Bob and I peddled
beans all over Altoona to help pay for the cost of the seeds. We ate a lot of beans
that fall and believe it or not, string beans are still my favorite vegetable.
Mrs. Rockwood had a very big kitchen and come harvest time, a group of about six
women arrived early in the day ready for lots of canning. Most had copper boilers
filled with empty fruit jars to fill and all the necessary items to make it a
productive venture. Everybody had a job, and did they ever bustle about their
chores. The kids old enough to be helpers accompanied their moms. We washed
jars, snipped beans or husked the corn, and were an able group of “gofers”. You
know, go for this and go for that. At day’s end, everyone was extremely tired from
the August heat and the kitchen heat, but pleased with the results of jars full of
good food for the winter.
On a much smaller scale, Mom had the canners going at our house, canning
produce from her garden, Cousin Fritz’s farm, and the local berry patches. My
brother Bob and I always had to hull and wash the strawberries. No matter how
hard I tried, I never could get enough fill of those luscious berries while cleaning
them to last me through the winter. To me, canning strawberries and having them
in a cooked state from the canning process was the ruination of good fruit.
A
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Aunt Emma and Uncle Will Horton had a small farm where Uncle Will raised
some beef cattle, and each fall, he would butcher meat for the winter. Aunt Emma
would brown down hunks of beef and pack them tightly in Mason jars with a piece
of suet in each jar. She then put them in the kitchen range oven and processed
them. All I know about the procedure was that it took a long time before they were
done.
A visit to their home almost always ended up with a meal of her most delicious
canned beef and homemade bread – I don’t recall what else was on the table.
Having fresh bread and the delicious beef was a meal fit for a king.
Today’s canning instructions put out by the County Extension and others are very
different from the methods used during my youth. It makes me wonder how well
the old canning methods worked. However, I don’t know anybody who ever got
sick from eating home canned food. In fact, we all thrived on it.
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War Time
By Marvel Schilling-Newton
nother group of soldiers are leaving this area to train for a year at war in Iraq.
The group that will gather to send them on their journey will be friends, family,
and some veterans.
When the Red Arrow Division left Eau Claire to fight in World War II, nearly the
whole town turned out to wish them well.
Patriotism was at a high pitch. We were fed propaganda through radio, posters,
and whatever means the media could find to use.
Every able bodied man had to register for the draft. This was to find the future men
to make our fighting men. When their draft number was called, it required reporting
and having a physical exam and doing paperwork that would decide if they would
pass and go to camp for training. The ratings given were based from A-F. Al being
the best of the able bodied men, and 4F meant not being fit for military service.
Future evaluation took into consideration the size of family, occupation, and value to
keeping the home front going.
In Altoona, our High School Graduation class of 1945 had eight graduates. All the
young men had enlisted to serve their country.
Most farmers stayed home to produce the countries food.
Most of the men in Altoona stayed home to run the railroad. The rails were a vital
part of moving men and equipment across the country.
The women made little victory gardens out of any little plot of land. My
Mother's little plot along the side of the house produced a surprising amount of
vegetables.
Our home was about a city block away from the railroad depot in Altoona. Sleep
regulations of the working railroader were basically thrown out the window. When a
train load of equipment or men pulled into the Altoona station, crews were changed,
water was taken on, car tappers checked all the train's wheels for hot boxes and
repacked those that needed it. This happened perhaps within an hour. My Dad spent
very little time at home during those days. He was close and could be ready to go in a
few minutes. As a result, it was sometimes weeks that I didn't see him. He would
come home, sleep awhile, and be called when the next train came through, always
unannounced. This affected nearly all the railroad men in town.
A
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Ordnance Plants that made shells were running in Presto Industries and Uniroyal
buildings and many women who had never worked away from home worked shifts
at this employment during the war years.
High school girls did a lot of babysitting for these mothers. Sometimes we worked at
babysitting for just a couple of hours when the man of the house changed shifts. He
maybe worked the 7a.m. to 3p.m. shift and his wife went in on the 3p.m. to 11p.m.
shift, so we filled the gap while they were traveling to and from work. Some places
we covered full shifts.
It was certainly a busy time in everyone's life.
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A Steam Contraption and a Woolen Snowsuit
By Marvel Schilling-Newton
ne winter in the mid 1930s stands out in my memory. It was bitterly cold with
an abundance of snow. The city workers were out in the road working with a
steam genny trying to thaw out the city water mains. It was being done close to
our house, the corner of Lynn Avenue and First Street East. My Dad was on the
crew trying to get enough steam to do the job.
All I remember about the steam genny contraption was that it had a boiler, fired
somehow, that produced steam. The steam pushed through a long steel-pipe affair
that probed the ground to thaw the water main. How effective it was, I don’t know,
but it most likely was the only solution on hand.
Atop a snow bank that came half way up a telephone pole were the neighbor kids,
fascinated by this big deal. Many warnings were shouted at us to stay back. All
went well until we became bored and started playing King of the Mountain. This
was push, climb, and shove to the very top of the pile of snow. The king then had
to push everyone down so he could stay on top and remain king. We were kicked
out of the area shortly thereafter and went elsewhere to play as long as we could.
For my November birthday, I had received a new, all-wool, brown snowsuit and a
brown and orange stocking hat. In the 1930s, this was especially wonderful. My
Grandmother Schilling had knitted me a pair of brown and orange mittens. She
double knitted very tightly so they were very stiff when new. I think that was the
warmest outfit a little girl could have, so I would play outside until my feet were
numb from the cold. After I went in to thaw my feet and take off my snowsuit, it
was the end of outdoor play until my snowsuit dried. Being made of wool, it was
totally saturated when it warmed up. It was hung on a little clothes rack close to the
kitchen range with a tub underneath to catch the drips. If the covering for tender
feet could have been nearly as efficient as my snowsuit, I probably would have
stayed outdoors most of the time.
O
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When Johnny Comes Marching Home
By Marvel Schilling-Newton
he song, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," was written during the Civil
War. It expressed the feelings of everybody to bring the men home safely. It was
revived in 1943 by Morton Gould's classical arrangement, "American Salute". It was
one of the many songs that became favorites during the World War II era.
At the end of the war, the feeling of jubilation filled our hearts as the soldiers began
arriving home. Even though broken hearts filled many who had lost a soldier, they still
helped spread the joy of the end of the war.
The railroad men of Altoona did not find their work days much different when the
boys came home. The trains taking soldiers to Fort Snelling (near Minneapolis) made
their last stop in Altoona before going to Fort Snelling to muster the men out of Uncle
Sam's Army.
These trains, following the same rules for transporting soldiers as going to war,
arrived unannounced any time of the day or night. In an hour or so, crews were
changed and railroad cars were checked and the GI’s were one stop closer to getting
home.
The logistics of feeding a train load of hungry men still boggles my mind. The cooks
had cooked their last meal for the train full of men and we were told that whatever
food they had left when they reached Fort Snelling had to be checked in. This, of
course meant a delay in their checking out of the service. The solution to that was to
disperse it to the local Altoona kids who always met the trains.
I recall a huge carton of individual Rice Krispies, pancake mix, cans of roast beef in
tins the shape of a 2# box of soda crackers, fresh fruit, mainly red delicious apples,
canned tomatoes and potatoes. To my surprise, My Mom made delicious doughnuts
out of the pancake mix that needed only water added. There were many other things
in the list of food we enjoyed but these stand out in my mind.
The restrictions to the soldiers were relaxed somewhat so they could get permission to
run to the close by tavern (I think Ely ran it at that time) to get cigarettes in a 15 minute
jaunt. I don't know, but with mustering out right on schedule, it probably made getting
liquor not a wise choice.
The Navy issued Pea Coats for winter, made out of tightly woven wool. They were
the best thing for warding off the cold and wind of our Wisconsin winters. They could
not be purchased for any money, they were strictly G.I. issue. Every kid that had a
brother in the Navy begged for him to get them a Pea Coat. It was not a task easily
done. We were told that only one Pea Coat was issued per sailor and that was that.
My cousin, Art Jones, was in the Merchant Marines. It was run much differently than
the US Navy. At best I had an all wool shirt that I wore as a jacket until it nearly fell
T
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apart. I don't think they were even issued Pea Coats or I would have begged for one
from Art. My two youngest brothers, Gary & Vic, 9 and 12 years younger than I was,
took it upon themselves to get me a Pea Coat. They came home and got me and led me
to one of the train cars and told this nice sailor that I was their sister, the one who
wanted a Pea Coat. They had bargained with the sailor that he would give me his Pea
Coat if I would give him a kiss. What do you do with two imps like that? ?
Yes, I gave the sailor his kiss....
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Altoona
Altoona, the smallest city in the great USA
Tis always in the limelight, tho it has no great white way, Just a busy railroad center,
showing progress and enterprise.
And handles far more currency, than cities twice its size,
The railroad company's deluxe trains, are elegant indeed,
And known throughout the country For their tremendous
rate of speed.
When Altoona folk a journey take, Whether Paris or Rome,
They're always glad to wonder back
To their Altoona home.
Altoona churches are sublime, And all the services
divine,
Altoona schools are the very best, They put their scholars to
the test.
To gain credentials and the rest
It is here they teach the golden rule,
To fit each pupil for life's great school.
On Altoona sports-you have had good reports,
How they play their game with vim and snap, Back other teams right
off the map!
Altoona has a juvenile band,
Which will soon be heard throughout the land.
Altoona social set-good and fine,
Cards, dinners and dancers are their line.
The ladies Aids are busy as bees,
And their many patrons they always please.
The Women's Club is up to date,
This study club has not a moment to waste,
And shows good literary taste.
In a Community Drive or Charity Ball
Altoona is generous to all. Altoona has two great
essentials
Not often found elsewhere, One hundred percent pure
water
And good fresh country air! Altoona is a natural park,
Where sings the robin and meadow lark, And on the north side of
the hill,
Bloom the sweet arbutus and daffodil. The streams are filled with
speckled trout,
Pheasants and partridge fly about
Now if there is anything our city is without,
You will know this fact without a doubt:
We are loyal to Altoona! Altoona we salute thee!
Mrs. Joan M. Shute cir. 1926-30
(Continued next page)
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Comment by Roger Rasmussen – July 2009
I took care of Mrs. Shute's yard and sidewalks from age 12-15. I didn't know her as Joan, but as
Mrs. Shute. By then her husband had been long gone -- they owned one of the first stores in
town. I last worked for her about 1948-49. I was 12-13. She was very kind, small and gentle.
She was tight with money. I got 10-25 cents for cutting grass with a reel-type push lawn mower.
I believe they were involved with the Methodist Church.
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Altoona, the way it used to be in the 1940’s
By Patricia Steuding-Kiefus
was born to Walter & Marie Steuding in 1936. Attended Altoona grade school, St. Benedicts Catholic
school for 7th & 8th grade as a day student of course, (it was actually a BOYS Catholic boarding school,
run by the Benedictine nuns! But, the local priest ordered them to accept day student girls, so we could
have a good Catholic education…ha ha), then I attended Altoona High School 1950-1954. After high
school I worked at the old Co-op as a payroll clerk, then I worked at Eau Claire Sand & Gravel as an
accounts receivable clerk till about 1958. In 1958 I moved to Chicago and worked for a branch of the
Federal Government. Although I returned home to Altoona frequently, (the trains ran regularly from
Chicago right into Altoona). I haven’t actually LIVED in Altoona since about 1958. I married my husband,
Jack, in Chicago in 1962, had one son in 1963, and moved to Florida in 1966. So I’ve been in Florida for
about 42 years. I am in contact with all my brothers and sister in Wisconsin constantly.
Just in case no one else reminds you of the way Altoona used to be in the 1940’s…I thought I would just
mention to you a few of my own memories.
Altoona had 2 stores Emanuel’s grocery, and Lubee’s meat market. (check spelling?)
Altoona had 3 taverns, and two restaurants. I think two restaurants were necessary to
accommodate the railroad workers who came in on trains.
Altoona had at least one rooming house called “The Smith House” that accommodated mostly out
of town rail road men.
Altoona had one gas station (a favorite hang out for the young men).
Altoona had one small post office, a pool hall, and a barbershop.
Altoona was a Railroad “hub” in those days. There was the depot where several trains stopped
on a regular basis.
There was the large Roundhouse where many of the men from town worked. This was where the
repairs were made to engines and rail road cars.
A great many Troop trains passed thru town during the war, and sometimes had to stop for some
type of repairs.
There was a whistle that sort of ruled our lives. I believe it blew to indicate the changes of shifts
and lunch time on the railroad. It blew at 6am, 12 noon, and 6 pm, I think.
And, of course the mighty 400 zoomed thru town each day, like clock work.
Few people owned cars, and few had telephones. The railroad had an employee called a “Call
Boy”. This guy was responsible for going to the homes of men to call them into work. I don’t
know if these men were brakemen, engineers, yards workers or what, I only know the “call boy”
let them know they were due at work.
During the war years many of Altoona’s railroad workers were called to work in other states
building railroads. My Dad worked in Mississippi, New Mexico and Arizona at different times.
Altoona had a beautiful beach area. We had to (carefully) cross the railroad yards and go down
thru the woods to the beach in the summer. But nearly everybody’s father worked on the railroad
in some capacity and we’d all been taught at an early age, HOW to cross those railroad tracks
safely.
Maybe you can glean a few things from my own memories?
I
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Bob Thompson
Class of 1952
Background: While attending the Altoona Public School for twelve
years I was active in music, school plays, and of course, basketball.
I was on the yearbook staff and vice-president of my senior class.
My wife and I will celebrate our 55th anniversary in January 2010.
We have a son, daughter, and three grandchildren. I spent nearly 40
years in the printing industry. We're spending our retirement years
enjoying our family, traveling, reading, listening to music, and
golfing. Sometimes I fix breakfast.
DOGS IN ALTOONA
read a book about a place where everyone knew the name of
their neighbor's dog. 1 thought, "that's exactly like Altoona
used to be at one time". We knew all of the neighbors, their kids’
names, and all of the dogs names.
Most of the dogs were not tied up. They ran through the
neighborhoods, chased the cars, went swimming in Otter creek,
chased the sleds down the hills in the winter, and played endless
games with the kids until the street lights came on; that's when all
of the kids had to head for home. Of course, the dogs didn't and
very few of them were of one pedigree.
The Babbitts did have a pedigree boxer though (Duchess). They
were very proud of her pedigree. It was a beautiful dog with
cropped ears, bobbed tail, and a wonderful disposition. The plan
was to breed her to another pedigree boxer. Good plan.
I
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One day everyone went shopping and Grandpa was in charge.
Duchess wanted to go out so rather than follow her around the
yard, until she did her thing, Grandpa just tied her to the clothes
line so she wouldn't run away. She was in heat. Very convenient
for Zorro – A black lab mixture from a few blocks away.
Duchess gave birth to a litter of mixed black lab and boxer pups.
We got one of the pups for my Mother in law and it was a
wonderful dog.
Lenzs had a dog named Spike. Spike fathered an untold number
of dogs. I always remember Spike as the dog that would just lie
down and go to sleep, right in the middle of the street, regardless
of the traffic. I guess fathering all of those dogs just made him
tired.
The Hennings used to own the Golden Spike bar. They had a dog
named Benjii. He would lay on the back step of the Golden
Spike bar and refuse to go home until the bar closed. If someone
took him home early, he would sneak out and go back to the bar,
until it closed for the night.
One of the more famous dogs, Oscar, was "Tiger" Daly's
companion. When "Tiger" traveled, Oscar traveled with him.
One night "Tiger's" car was driven right through the front
window of a restaurant, located next to a bar, across the street
from the depot. Luckily, no one was injured and until his dying day
"Tiger" insisted that Oscar was driving the car.
Nearly every family had a dog and so did we at that time. Our dog
was Toby. The best way to describe him would be as an energetic,
undisciplined, free spirit. When we first got him he chewed a hole
in our new davenport – which meant that he would spend the rest
of his life out side in a dog house.
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He just refused to stay in the yard or to come when I called him.
When I would go to work he would chase the car until I would
finally stop and bring him back home. One night we were playing
cards at some friends and when we left to go home it was just
pouring rain. There sat Toby; soaking wet, waiting for us to go
home.
His worst habit was following the kids to the A&B Superette. He
would cause complete havoc. Running up and down the aisles as
fast as he could and before they could get him out the door he
would leave his mark – as dogs like to do. As you can imagine he
spent a good deal of time tied up by his dog house. But he had an
uncanny ability to slip out of his collar, break ropes, and actually
break some chains. If only he had been a little more restrained, we
both would have had a much easier time.
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NELS LEROM TAKES HIS OWN LIFE AT ALTOONA
IS FOUND HANGING BY HIS NECK
Submitted by Bob Thompson
els Lerum, aged 30 years, a tobacco grower, formerly of Madison, and for a year past a
resident of Altoona, left his home about 7 o'clock yesterday morning, after eating a hearty
breakfast.
About 10 o'clock a man named Fisher was passing an old building on land owned by
Thompson, the barber. He opened the door and was horrified to see the body of a man hanging
by a clothes line from a rafter. He at once notified Mr. Thompson and then sent word to the
authorities. A jury was at once summoned and an inquest was held.
The evidence showed that the deceased breakfasted at Mr. Thompson's and had gone to the
barn to attend to the chores. This was last seen of him alive. He had fastened a clothes line to a
rafter and after adjusting it to his neck launched himself into eternity, casting himself out into
space by jumping from the feed box in the manger. No cause can be assigned for the rash act.
He seemed to have no cares, nor did he exhibit any signs of despondency. He had , however,
been drinking considerably and this may have led him to destroy himself. He was 30 years of
age and was single. He was formerly a resident of Madison and came to Altoona to help put in
a large field of tobacco for Mr. Thompson, the barber. The crop was a good one. Every one who
saw it, said there could be no better. Several of the leaves were sent to the Leader office and
were put on exhibition. He had recently made a trip to Madison near which city his parents
reside, and appeared quite cheerful, so that no cause can be assigned for the fatal step unless it
be liquor, as stated. The jury brought in a verdict in accordance with the facts.
It is not certain what disposition will be made of the body. His parents have been communicated
with, and it is likely that it will be sent to Madison for burial.
Some further particulars have come to light in regards to the tragedy at Altoona. It seems that the
deceased communicated to a friend that he was much worried and that troubles had driven him to drink.
Of course, this excuse is often given by those who indulge in intoxicants, and it may have been so in this
case. But no matter what his troubles were, nothing would warrant his violating that command of the
Almighty which inhibits self-slaughter. A man is forbidden to take his own life as well as the lives of
others. The language is to the point. "Thou shalt not kill". He lived when at Altoona with his aunt, Mrs.
Thompson and both worked on the tobacco crop. Mrs. Thompson being a most industrious woman.
Published in the Eau Claire Leader. Wed. May 6, 1903
N
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My Grandma Thurston
By Amy E. Thurston
rom the time I was a baby until I was in my mid-twenties, I made regular visits to Altoona to
see my paternal grandmother, Mary Ann Daley McCluskey Thurston. In the opinion of my
father, I was clearly the apple of her eye.
In the summer, we would spend a lot of time together on her front porch at 328 W. 6
th
Street.
We also watched the television while devouring endless numbers of vanilla wafers and Fritos.
Occasionally, I would play outside in an empty lot or by the garage, but never far from her view.
I remember that a dog had dug a deep hole in a neighbor’s yard and that its head would be barely
visible as it lay in it to escape the sweltering summer heat. There was no air-conditioning.
In the late 1960s, there was an ice cream truck that would drive up and down the Altoona streets
while playing a lively tune. It was a special treat when Grandma would buy a cone for me. It
cost a nickel.
Milk was delivered in glass bottles in those days. Grandma would put some money in an empty
bottle and place it on the front step. Lo and behold, a full bottle would appear. I thought it was
magical at the time.
In the winter, we would occupy ourselves with card games. Wahoo was a favorite. These were
quiet times; we’d rarely venture outside. Early on, I would watch cartoons. Viewing American
Bandstand would come later. She occupied a great deal of her time with daily newspaper
crossword puzzles.
Each homeowner had a special identifying ring on the telephone party line, e.g. two longs and a
short. I often listened in on other people’s conversations. The talk was usually dull, often about
such mundane matters as warts and health issues.
When she moved to a retirement home in Golden Acres (Altoona), my father, his dogs, and I
would visit her every Saturday. We would have lunch which consisted of hamburgers from
Wendy’s, Strawberry Revel ice cream, and Twinkies. I often did her grocery shopping.
As I entered my twenties, our conversations deepened. I was very comfortable speaking with my
grandmother. In fact, there were few subjects that we avoided. I would call her every day and
we would speak for at least a half an hour.
One day in 1984, she didn’t answer. I lost not only a grandmother that day, but a valued friend
as well.
F
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Amy Thurston and Grandmother Mary Thurston
Golden Acres – Altoona, WI
1983
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We’d Never Heard of Altoona
By Ed Wegwerth
The way I found out about the train being hopped there – I used to go to Hazel Park Jr.
High School [on St. Paul’s east side, in Minnesota]. We had to walk to school and we
had to cross the railroad tracks by the Jr. High School there. I saw somebody hop a
train there one day which gave me the idea, and I was only in the 9
th
grade. But then
later, when we were Seniors in High School, we started doing it ourselves. We had
another buddy that lived in the area and he told us about a trip that he and another guy
took. So he had been jumping it too, but not with us. So there were a few of us jumping
it – from time to time hopping the train down to Hudson. Or some of them would even
catch it down by Johnson Parkway and take it from there up to the Hazel Park School
area – a mile or two, or what ever. So there were some guys doing that. So it wasn’t as
though as we were the only ones. So, nothing doing on a Friday or Saturday night and
we would hop a train.
I would go with a couple of other guys I hung around with. And we would hop it and
take it through Lake Elmo and down into the north of Hudson [Wisconsin]. We wouldn’t
get off in Hudson – we’d get off on the Minnesota side just before the Swing Bridge.
And I don’t know what our thinking was – well one thing was there was a big yard over
there where the train slowed down… we thought there might be some railroad police or
workers – that would get us. But what we did was jump off just before the Swing Bridge
and then we would walk across the Swing Bridge – except there was one problem.
There was a guy that controlled the Swing Bridge, whose job it was to keep it open
when the boat traffic had to go. And he wouldn’t let us pass through; so he kicked us
off. But we had to get to the other side because our buddies were waiting for us to pick
us up. Up by Black’s market (up there at the Clark’s Station, actually) – up on highway
12.
So we’d have to wait for him to go back and have his coffee, read a paper or whatever
he was doing. Then we would run like hell across the bridge and get over to the small
railroad yard over there and make it through from North Hudson, and down through
Hudson, across the Highway 12 bridge over the St. Croix and on up to the Clark Station
on the hill across from Black’s Market. And there our friends would be waiting for us
and give us a ride back home again. I don’t know why we had our buddies wait way the
heck up on Highway 12. I mean that was miles and miles of walking – from North
Hudson where the railroad tracks are.
So we did that three or four times. When a couple of other guys heard about it they
wanted to go. They wanted to go on a longer trip because one of our other buddies had
been on a long trip – down to Eau Claire. “It’s easy,” he said, “the train slows down by
the Rubber Company and you can jump off there.” And the thing is, he got caught by
the police – him and another guy. And they got hauled in for vagrancy – they had no
money and no ID on them and… Anyway, they told us about their trip so we wanted to
try it even though they got caught.
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And so, I believe it was a Friday night in August, in 1959. We had planned to catch the
train – 10:30 at night was the usual time it went by. Earlier that evening we were at a
Teen Dance at the Hazel Park Commercial Club on the east side of St. Paul. And the
railroad tracks where we were to catch it were only half a mile away, or something like
that. So we were down there at 10:30. Two of the guys that were supposed to go were
pretty danged drunk. One of the guys was so drunk that he passed out and didn’t make
the train. The other guy was drunk and it was a wonder how he ever got on it because
you have to run pretty fast and pull yourself up on these trains – the guy eventually got
on. And, as far as I know, it might have been the first train ride for these two guys.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. The train was supposed to be there at 10:30 and
our buddies were supposed to pick us up in Eau Claire at the Bus Depot – we figured
we’d be there at Midnight. And so they left at 10:30 to drive down there, assuming we
were going to get on the train at 10:30. And it turned out that the train didn’t come till
Midnight. We waited and waited, and we had the choice of hopping the train or driving
down there and telling them we weren’t coming. So we hopped the train anyway, at
Midnight.
There were three of us (me and Kurt and Gordy). Usually we would hop it on a Boxcar
and climb up to the top of the Boxcar and get on the narrow catwalk up there – not more
than a foot and a half wide. We’d get up there just in time for the train to get rolling.
The reason it was a good place to catch it was it was a straight shot but it was kind of a
steep grade for a train coming out of St. Paul. It climbed up to the higher side of the
east side of St. Paul – so the trains were kind of struggling there so they were easy to
jump on. But once they got going we were rolling pretty good – we were going through
Lake Elmo, laying on the catwalk. The trains are swaying back and forth and seams in
the track are bumping kind of hard and your hip is getting pounded laying up there. We
hung on up there until we got down to like the Bayport area where it goes down a steep
hill to cross the river and it slows way down because it’s going to go into the train yard
on the other side of the river. As we were going across the Swing Bridge the train was
going real slow and that’s when we started to get down from the top of the boxcar. We
were going over a bridge that crosses over Wisconsin Highway 35 and this guy named
Gordy was drunk (half snapped, yet) he walked off the side of the catwalk instead of
walking straight ahead to where we were going. He veered off to the side – half drunk
and if Kurt hadn’t grabbed him by the belt he would have walked right off the side of the
boxcar. He could have wound up down there on Highway 35; at least he would have
wound up down there on the tracks. So we got him back on track and then we got
down into this Gondola [like a boxcar with no top on it], a car that they would put
telephone poles or scrap iron and the like into.
And it starts picking up speed going up through the country and every once in a while
the sky would be lit up a bit and we would pop our head up and we’d see a sign for
Roberts and Hammond and Baldwin. All the little towns along the way there. Woodville
Knapp… and we were watching to see – watching for Eau Claire. So we’re ready to
jump off when we get to Eau Claire – before it slows down because we didn’t want to
get caught by any cops so we wanted to be ready. It was warm enough, we didn’t have
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much more on than a short sleeved shirt (maybe a tee shirt on underneath it) – we
didn’t have jackets or anything. And it was comfortable – the stars were out all night.
So it was a nice ride other than it was pretty rough though. And we didn’t think much
about dirt back then, but probably we got pretty dirty sitting in the gondolas and lying on
the top of those things. When we figured we were getting close to Eau Claire we
climbed back up on top of a Boxcar. And we each had our own little railing (one on
each end of the car and one on the next car). And we were all ready to jump off when it
slowed down. Well, the dang thing slowed down half speed but it was still chugging
along way too fast. Here we’re going by, I think it was U. S. Royal at the time. The tire
company, the rubber company – the people were sitting out on the loading dock (it must
have been a train siding for them) but we were pretty close to them. They were sitting
there with their lunch buckets and eating lunch or having a break. We could see all of
them sitting there and it said “Eau Claire branch of U. S. Royal” or something like that.
The U. S. Rubber Plant in Eau Claire, WI – 1944 (Photo source: Chippewa Valley
Museum)
We knew we were in Eau Claire, but…
The train started picking up speed… and we said Whoa! We get back into the gondola
again and we said Wow! We figured we were going to Milwaukee or Chicago, one of
the two. And that’s the time we figured… well, how are we going to let anybody know
where we’re at – how are we going to get home? And how much money? And Kurt
didn’t have any money and Gordy didn’t have any and I had a nickel and a dime. That
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was it – 15 cents for the three of us. Probably a phone call was only a dime back then,
but not long distance.
So anyway, we settled down – figured we were going to Milwaukee or Chicago. And a
few minutes later… you know you hear it slowing down; how they clunk together.
Clunk, clunk, clunk slowing down. And we scampered up and got on the railing and we
looked up and we see a sign – Altoona. Big yards – you could see all kinds of… it was
dark but our night eyes were kind of accustomed, and you could see a lot of railroad
tracks and everything there. And we said “That’s alright, we’re getting off here –
anyway.” And so it slowed down enough, and we jumped off.
And, uh, now… we didn’t know where the hell we were. We’d never heard of Altoona.
All we knew was that we were east of Eau Claire and we were heading east, so the side
we jumped off on would’ve been south – the south side of the tracks. So we were
walking, first to get away from the yard and any railroad cops. And we could hear a little
din in the distance – some highway noise (the Semi’s on Highway 12 heading for
Chicago, or back and forth). And we could see the lighting, like there was a city…kind
of southwesterly. And so we started walking over that way, figuring we’d hitchhike into
Eau Claire from where we were. Well, as it turned out, we must have not been too far
from the outskirts of Eau Claire because (I don’t know how far we walked) but we got
into some neighborhood and we kept heading westerly toward what we thought was the
center of town. And we found this kids bike lying in this person’s yard. So we could see
the city, a downtown type area ahead of us – not that far. I grabbed the bicycle and had
one guy sit on the handlebars and one guy on the crossbar. And the three of us… I
pedaled a little ways, but most of it was down hill. Then there was this steep hill and we
just coasted down that thing at a pretty dang good clip and got down to the bottom of it.
And we were in the business district, or the fringes of it anyway. And there were
buildings, not houses now. And we left the bike there at the bottom of the hill (I hope
the kid got his bike back).
So anyway, we made our way over to the bus depot – and I don’t know how we knew
where to go, if we saw somebody and asked… ’cause it had to be 2 or 3 in the morning.
I walked everywhere back then, before I had a car; so 3, 4 or 5 miles from Altoona to
Eau Claire wasn’t a big deal. But we found the Bus Depot – and there was a Cop Car
sitting across the street. We saw our buddy’s car was still there on the other side of the
street. So we went in, got them guys and they told us that the Cops had been watching
them the whole time they’d been there… since midnight – and it was now pushing 3
o’clock. The Cops had been watching them pretty much the whole time, but they didn’t
say anything to them. And we hopped in our buddy’s car and headed back home – to
our cars. And so I don’t know what time it was that we got home then – Eau Claire was
more than an hour away.
I do not remember taking another train after that. Nuff said – Ed.
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Over the River and Through the Woods
Memories of Hazel Harris
Written by Barbara J. Ziegenweide, youngest granddaughter of
Henry and Hazel Harris, now residing in Park City, Illinois
hen our family would make our frequent weekend visits
to our Grandparents, Henry and Hazel Harris, in Altoona,
Wisconsin, in the mid-sixties, my siblings and I had a
choice whether we wanted to drive the “old” or the “new” way
over to Altoona from our home in Loyal (Clark County). Many
times we would squeal that we wanted to go the “old” way. The
old route exited Loyal on Hwy. 98, connecting with Hwy. 73
going into Greenwood and then by way of several county trunks,
travelling around Mead Lake and going through the Town of
Butler to wind our way over to Altoona (Eau Claire County) on
a most scenic route. This route of travel through the Clark
County Forest brought us over a one-lane metal bridge over a
small creek and on gravel roads for a portion of the trip. How
could a child’s mind not travel back to times gone past, either
real or imagined, on a route such as this? The “new” way, or our
alternate choice, exited Loyal on Hwy. 98, connecting with
Hwy. 73 going into Neillsville and then connected with Hwy.
10/12, ending up in Altoona via Hwy. 12.
This choice of the old-fashioned route over to Altoona always
resulted in old-fashioned family goodness at the end of the route
at 304 Sixth Street West, Altoona, Wisconsin – the home of
Henry and Hazel Harris. The Harris home was always a warm
place of profound family enjoyment in the simple things of life:
Visiting, picnicking, playing cards, fishing together, hunting
W
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together, or telling great stories of the latter two.
Hazel, the great Matriarch, was responsible for getting the
family together, usually every summer, for the annual Harris
family picnic. This picnic was either held at Irvine Park in
Chippewa Falls or at Lake Altoona County Park. Either setting
was a great location for these family get-togethers. Irvine Park
boasted, not only its incredible beauty but also a band shell and
zoo exhibits which included animals native to Wisconsin, exotic
birds, barnyard animals, and a bear den. Lake Altoona had its
beautiful lake setting with a nice, sandy swimming beach.
Hazel is also greatly remembered for the birthday parties that
she threw in the Great Depression for her four children:
Kenneth, Fern, Harold, and Joyce. The parties always consisted
of group snapshots of many relatives, friends, and neighbors;
homemade bread; presents; and a big birthday cake and ice
cream, both homemade.
Hazel took a keen interest in everyone she knew and made
everyone in the family feel special. When we visited at their
home, she was always willing to play the “Kings Corners” card
game or help with homework. We will always remember the
homespun goodness at the Harris home and Grandma Hazel’s
memory will live on in our hearts and minds forever.
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Pictured are Henry and Hazel Harris with their youngest
grandchild, Barbara Ziegenweide. The picture was taken in
Loyal, Wisconsin, in December, 1958, when Barbara was one
month old. Barbara is the youngest child of Charles and Joyce
(Harris) Ziegeweid. (Please note that Barbara’s last name
spelling reflects the German vernacular of the paternal
surname.)
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Requiem to Popple Lake
Written by Barbara J. Ziegenweide,
youngest granddaughter of Henry and Hazel Harris,
now residing in Park City, Illinois
Imagine a small, hand-built cabin on a small, serene lake – the
lake so small, in fact, that it encompasses a mere 90 acres and
has a maximum depth of 27 ft. Now imagine going back and
trying to find that cabin 67 years later.
Joyce (Harris) McKenna and daughter, Barbara Ziegenweide, did
just that over Memorial Day weekend, 2009. My Mother had
talked for many years about the cabin that my Grandfather, Henry
Harris, had built with help from his friend, Burl Ray. We were both
anxious to see if the cabin, in fact, still existed.
The Harris cabin and the neighboring cabin owned by Burl and
Rita Ray were born by a labor of love between good friends,
Henry and Burl. As many good friends do, Henry and Burl
constructed their cabins together as buddies, working side by
side. As you will see in the pictures that follow, the Ray cabin,
coincidentally, resembles the Harris home at 304 6
th
Street West
in Altoona in the gray exterior color, as well as the style of
construction. As they say now in the 21
st
Century, go figure.
As my mother, Joyce, and I turned onto County Y off Hwy. 124 in
Chippewa County to drive over to Popple Lake near Jim Falls, it
became suddenly very apparent to Joyce that the surroundings
looked familiar. This cognizant recognition of the surrounding
countryside continued until we were in the vicinity of Popple Lake.
It was great to see this reawakening in my Mother as she was
reacquainted with the surroundings of days gone by.
Joyce remembered that the location of the Harris cottage was
directly across the street from the Popple Lake School. There is
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no longer a school in existence on the site; so I had to stop and
ask questions from some of the present-day neighbors. The
adjacent neighbor to what we believed was the old cottage
confirmed, indeed, that the Popple Lake School had sat across
the road on property in between what is now occupied by one
home and one mobile home. This realization of the former
landmark location of Popple Lake School and the still ever-
present large stone foundation of the Harris cottage were the
dead giveaways that we had, in fact, located the Harris cottage.
Although I am told that there is a sign that designates Popple
Lake to local travelers, we did not see any signage. I, therefore,
came to the conclusion that Popple Lake is a very well-kept secret
in Chippewa County and in the State of Wisconsin – and seeing
this wonderful little lake with my own eyes, I can fully understand
why.
I was awestruck by the fact that I could peer in any direction and
see the other side of the lake. The small size of the lake makes it
very quaint and gives the impression of a hideaway location.
Today, Popple Lake is known for the northern pike and bluegill
that can be caught by a hopeful angler. Walleye, crappie, and
largemouth bass are also plentiful in its waters.
The search for the Harris cottage at Popple Lake was a
reacquaintance for my mother, Joyce, as well as a discovery of
family roots for myself. I am so glad that we took the time to go
on this search – this oral tradition can now be passed on to
present and future generations of the Harris Family.
The following pictures will compare the original cottage structure
to the present cottage.
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Harris cottage at Popple Lake – photo take in 1942.
Notice the large, vertical stone foundation.
Harris cottage as it looks in 2009.
That unique stone foundation gave its location away!
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Side view of Harris cottage – taken between Harris and Ray cottages
Photo taken in 2009.
View of Harris cottage to the right and Ray cottage to the left – photo taken in 2009.
Notice the resemblance of the style and gray color of the Ray cottage (above, left) to the
Harris home at 304 6
th
Street West in Altoona (See photo below.). Both the cottages
have, subsequently, changed hands through the years with various buyers.
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Harris home at 304 6
th
Street West in Altoona. Harold (Hank) Harris, youngest son of
Henry and Hazel Harris, related that Henry constructed their home at this location, using
scrap lumber from the rail yards in Altoona.
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Photo of Joyce Harris taken in 1942 when she was 12 years old. Joyce is seen here
enjoying the neighbor’s puppies.
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The back of this photo states that these two were thought to be sisters. Actually,
pictured here are Hazel (Wilbur) Harris and daughter, Joyce Elaine Harris, at age 12.
The photo was taken in 1942.
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Last, but surely not least, pictured here is Henry Harris cleaning a catch of fish at
Popple Lake in 1942. It was Henry’s vision, thriftiness, and hard work that made the
construction of the cottage at Popple Lake a reality for the enjoyment of their family and
friends. The cottage was, undoubtedly, a calm respite from the daily cares of post-
Depression Era living.
Personal enjoyment of life in the 1940’s was usually of the
homemade kind: Visiting with family and friends, fishing, hunting,
playing cards and/or board games, singing and/or playing musical
instruments, etc. Time spent at the cottage was pretty much the
same. Joyce relayed that many times the family would play bingo
at the Steinmetz’ cottage to the east or do much the same at the
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cottage of Burl and Rita Ray to the west.
Henry and Hazel Harris and Burl and Rita Ray had it right in the
1940’s – family and friends are still the greatest blessing we have
in our lives, thereby passing on to the ensuing generations of
family great chords of harmony with which to live by.
Crescendo complete.
Barbara Ziegenweide (left) and Joyce (Harris) McKenna (right) pictured at the new bear
exhibit in Irvine Park in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin – Memorial Day weekend, 2009.
The school bell from the old Popple Lake School is on display in Irvine Park.