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Three Celebrated Ladies From Altoona

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Chapter Three
Three Celebrated Ladies From Altoona
Laura Semisch-Christy
Grace Sorenson-Eick
“Toots” Clara Becker-Griese
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I (Jack Blackburn) took this photo during my first visit with Laura. She gave me an armload of
treasures from the past. Photos of her and her family (they are included within the pages of this
book), and old newspaper clippings that were of interest to her; and, it turns out, of interest to
me. And Laura talked… Sentences would come to mind and she would give them to me. Then
another thought and another short story. Always in a quiet voice that was clear as a bell. And
she was clear about what she was telling me too – details from a family historian. These were
stories to warm the heart one moment and with gut wrenching agony the next – ‘twas not always
an easy life for Laura and her family.
Laura would notice when I was writing something down in my notebook and she would pause.
When I would look up at her she would start again, just where she left off – sometimes in the
middle of a sentence. Laura noticed many things, including my habit of taking off my glasses
when I want to examine the details of something close up. It prompted her to tell me “I had eye
surgery and now I can thread a needle without glasses.”
What follow is a series of short stories that seemed “noteworthy” at the time – literally so, as I
wrote them down in my note book. I would add details during subsequent visits with Laura or
during our phone calls. Some are simply “one liners” while others are a little longer. Then there
is a series of photographs and I have added comments made by Laura as we looked at them
together.
My mother’s youngest sister (she was about my age)… When my Aunt Esther married Charley
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Christy… I met Donald at their wedding.
At Garfield and 4
th
is a big white house. This building was the St. Mary’s Church Rectory and it
was moved to this location when the church was torn down.
Bernice Wuff (sp?) owned the store in town. Meats, dry goods and school supplies. It was
called Shute’s Store and it was located South of the Post Office – where the present Library
parking lot is.
Laura was born in 1920… June 8
th
. My mother was in the strawberry patch the day I was born
(almost prematurely).
Gust Sund: His daughter, Phyllis Boetcher, is in the Mega Pick n Save picture. Her brother was
killed in the service.
My Grandparents had 7 children (4 boys and 3 girls). They lived in Altoona – a home and a
barn. Lightning struck the house – killed their daughter and burned the house down. They built
another house across the street and moved in there with their family.
Ida (1875 -1905) The lightning did affect her too – she had seizures later in life.
Clara (1876 -1895) was killed when the lightning struck the house – she was sewing her
wedding dress when it happened.
Otto (1878 -1969) worked for the railroad and the county.
Anna (1889 -1967) never married – always stayed home; to feed the men and do the dairy work.
Henry (1881 -1957) was a conductor – got his leg cut off in a railroad accident – a “good uncle.”
In the Milk House he would keep a bunch of Baby Ruth candy bars all lined up on the
windowsill – then he would tell us when we could go in and get one. And he would take us to
confirmation – Wednesday at 3:30 ( and Saturday mornings) he would pick us up at school and
drive us to Eau Claire. He would go to the Pool Hall until we were finished and drive us back
home again. Uncle Henry wasn’t a farmer – he was a railroader and he got his leg cut off below
the knee. He couldn’t work much after that. He did take care of the fish pond at the Rod and
Gun Club east of Altoona – at 6 mile creek. He would get cut up liver and we would go with
him down a bunch of steps to the 6 mile creek and throw the liver in for the fish to eat. Often, he
would go to the Pool Hall in Altoona and play cards with the Railroaders.
Julius (1883 -1961) he farmed.
Edward (1886 -1964) got hurt when the lightning struck – after that he could remember
everything.
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Harriet Ask drowned in Lake Altoona – after that we never went down there again… us kids
were afraid to. We all knew Harriet, she was in school with us [you can see her in some of the
photos]. Before that Aunt Annie would go down there with us and we would get in the water…
we didn’t have any bathtubs back then. [Editor’s note: I believe she drowned in the Eau Claire
River – before there was a lake.]
I worked at Uniroyal for $60 a month… and I saved money too… I did work a lot of overtime
though.
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Laura’s Grandparents – Aguste (Martin) and Julius Semisch
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Anna Semisch
Anna is a sister of Otto. She never married – always stayed home; to feed the men
and do the dairy work.
Otto, Henry, Julius and Edward Semisch
Otto is Laura’s father and the other three never married.
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This is a picture of myself and my
older brother in a rocking chair on my
Grandmother’s front porch.
I am about 1 year old and Harold
about 2.
I only weighed 3 pounds at (a
premature) birth – they always said I
could fit in a shoebox.
Arnold, Harold and Laura Semisch
Laura is 5 or 6 years old –
Harold is one year older and
Arnold 2 years younger.
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Laura’s Father, Otto Semisch
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Laura (Semisch) and Donald Christy
On their Wedding Day
May 27, 1944
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Don and Laura
1975
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1990
Front Row: Ruth Hale – 4
th
& 5
th
grade teacher
Amy Jerome-Eggen – 6
th
& 7
th
grade teacher
Vernon Eggen – Amy’s husband
Second Row Laura Semisch-Christy
Gene Pernot
Back Row Cadwel Boettcher
Forrest Gilbert
Fritz Underwood
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Laura Semisch Christy “Bio.” Poetica Grandma-tica. 2009-2010 *
I was born just east of Altoona, Wisconsin, in 1920, in a place now known as “
Otto’s Acres. ” With Jesse Jensen as my principal, I attended Altoona Public
Schools for twelve years, graduating in 1938 as valedictorian.
After waitressing at the Hillcrest Golf Club, I attended Eau Claire Vocational
School for a year, and then became employed by U.S. Rubber Co. as an
accountant. In 1942, this factory began transitioning from tires to artillery shells
for WW II. For a time, I worked a new plant’s office in the town of Hallie,
halfway between Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls. Upon returning to the Eau Claire
factory, We received a governmental award for the excellence of our war work.
After five years of office work, I resigned to marry Donald Christy, an ambitious
farmer from Fall Creek. He and his father had purchased a 200 acre farm in
Pleasant Valley township south of Eau Claire. In a time before nursing homes
became available, my husband’s parents lived with us for 22 years. We had two
sons, the first dying at birth.
Over the years. I’ve worked hard on the farm and with church groups, kept family
records, did plastic craft and embroidery. I cooked and baked for the many
relatives and friends who visited my husband’s parents and us. I cooked and froze
many vegetables from our large garden. I baked and decorated cakes and cookies
for confirmations, birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, and Christmas.
My husband died after 57 years of marriage. Now, at the age of 89, with the help
of my son, Darrell, and his wife, Lynne, I’m still living in the same farmhouse.
Although I am slowing down a bit, I continue to feed birds and outdoor cats and
send get-well cards to hospitalized members of my church.
God has richly blessed me.
* Printed with permission of the editors of Poetica Grandma-tica -
Nancy Clark-Scobie and Judy Bredeson.
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Laura Semisch Christy -Text- Poetica Grandma-tica 2009-2010 *
My thoughtful, giving, Christian grandmother, Auguste Martin, was born
of German descent in Zachernkow, Russia. She first came to Milwaukee,
Wisconsin; and then moved to a farm northwest of Fall Creek. She was
married in 1873 to a veteran of the Civil War, Julius Semisch, who had
enlisted when he was 18 and incurred gunshot wounds to the face with
the accompanying loss of sight in his right eye.
They had seven children. They homesteaded a farm east of Altoona, part
of which came to be known as “Otto’s Acres.” Their life style was
hardscrabble as they lived off the produce of this farm. In a block
bordered by Garfield Avenue, 3
rd
Street East, and 4
th
Street East, they had
pigs, chickens, cows along with a large vegetable and flower garden –
the latter included vines that provided wine-producing grapes. Milk
production was an important part of their operation. Attached to their
home, a milk house allowed them to separate the cream from the milk.
The cream was picked up every other day by the Washington Creamery.
The family subsisted on un-Pasteurized whole milk. Other Altoona
families would come to my grandparents to get free skim milk. In later
years, people would come forward and acknowledge that they couldn’t
have gotten by without it.
Tragedy struck in 1895. Lightning killed a 19-year-old daughter, Clara,
and started a fire that destroyed the home. The house was re-built away
from the barn and stands today.
Grandma Semisch was devoted to her remaining daughter and three
sons. Only my father, Otto, married.
On our many visits to her, she would read Bible stories in English while
insisting that we learn a bit of German as well. I still repeat my night
time prayers in the German that she taught us.
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An incredibly hard worker, I never knew her to do anything for
enjoyment or entertainment. Occasionally, she would visit a sister in the
vicinity of Fall Creek near the Eau Claire River. On religious holidays,
she would go to church with us in Eau Claire.
I would stop in to visit her when I came home from school. She’d
always be cleaning vegetables, chicken, or something else as she
prepared the meals. Laundry had to be done for her family and the
railroad workers who lived in with them as boarders. They had a water
pump in the yard and a big clothesline where many sheets would often
be blowing in the wind. Some of these sheets were made by sewing flour
sacks together. She would also fashion handkerchiefs from sugar sacks
that, with pennies tied in the corner, would be given to us grandchildren
as presents. She did live to see Donald, the man whom I married. On
that occasion, she remarked “Oh, that’s Laurie’s man.”
Grandma Semisch lived a long, simple, hard life. I never heard her
complain, get sick, or go to the doctor or dentist. She lived for others, for
her family, and for those relatives who continued to reside in Germany.
If these others were content, she was well-satisfied.
* Printed with permission of the editors of Poetica Grandma-tica -
Nancy Clark-Scobie and Judy Bredeson.
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My son Darrell, his wife Lynne and their daughter Kimberly.
Darrell was a good 4H member.
I love to bake – Coffee Cakes, Decorated Cakes and Cookies.
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A cake that my granddaughter Kimberly Nussbaum and I made.
My granddaughter Kimberly and decorated cookies.
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My husband used to be Santa Claus at school and
would also visit some of the homes in the neighborhood.
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Grandma Semisch’s home in Altoona
(3
rd
St East and Garfield – on the West side of the street).
The Milk House is located on the left end of the building.
Laura’s nephew Mark is standing to the left of her brother Harold.
July 1967
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My Brother, Harold
Harold joined the Army Air Corps
and he went to The Air Force
Technical Training School at Ft.
Logan (Denver Colorado). He
trained to be an Administrative Clerk
and he served in World War II in that
capacity (with minimal combat
responsibilities) in New Guinea, The
Philippines and Australia.
After the war he joined U. S. Rubber
Company and worked there for
many years as a Timekeeper.
It becomes clear now how this
background and training so
uniquely equipped him to be the
Altoona High School
Railroaders’ Scorekeeper
football, basketball and baseball
for
more than 55 years.
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One Wondrous Day
John R. Thurston
An event took place on a late Sunday in the summer of 1942.
My partner was Harold Semisch, a brother of Laura (Semisch) Christy.
Before this happening, I had known him primarily as a 1930’s star
athlete at Altoona High School. Later on, when I got around to playing
basketball, he had accompanied our team as a scorekeeper. He never
missed a game.
During WW II, I began to correspond with him after he had joined the
army. When he returned on a leave, we decided to travel out of Lake
Altoona and up the Eau Claire River to Big Falls on a fishing expedition.
We lucked out as we chose what turned out to be a perfectly gorgeous,
warm, and sunny day. Along with his fishing equipment, Harold
brought along a radio and a large basketful of food. With my tiny 1.8 hp
Evinrude motor powering my heavy barge/boat, we started out. It took a
very long time for us to get out of the lake and into the river channel.
This was high adventure. We had never done this before.
But then, sad to relate, after a couple of hours, we began to encounter an
abundance of sand bars. We came to realize that we were never going to
make it to Big Falls. We simply ran out of water. No amount of pushing
and tugging would get my low draft barge/boat over the sandbars of the
increasingly shallow river. We had to give up.
It was then that a truly wondrous journey really began. We simply
floated slowly downstream. Our speed was dictated by the rivers quiet
current. We were completely alone on the river. Deep in our own
thoughts, we didn’t talk. WW II and the world were very far away from
us. An occasional deer would continue to drink as we drifted by. It was
absolutely silent save for the whirr of our reels, the splash of our baits,
and the occasional rippling of the river. We leisurely consumed some
refreshments. We cast endlessly and caught nothing. And that didn’t
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matter. This went on for several hours as we drifted homeward.
Afterwards, as we got closer to civilization, we listened to the end of a
Chicago Cubs game as we finished off the contents of the Semisch
luncheon basket. It had been a very special day.
Harold and I parted company shortly thereafter. I never saw him again.
He eventually ended up fighting in the South Pacific. As a navy
signalman, I landed on the weather deck of a destroyer operating in the
frigid and storm-tossed waters in the Northern Pacific/Aleutian area.
While on that ship, there were many times that I relived in detail the
seemingly innocuous events of that peaceful day on the river. This
memory provided me with a respite and momentary escape from my
own special 24/7 Hell on the wet, slippery, and cold bridge of a wildly-
gyrating destroyer. I kept reminding myself that maybe, just maybe, that
one day I would be as happy and content as I had been that river trip.
That hope both comforted and sustained me for a very long time. John
R. Thurston 04.11.09
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In Dedication to a Friend of Altoona
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1997 Headlight Dedication Page -- Altoona Education Foundation member Dina Sewell
and School Board member Cheri Meyer assist Arnold Semisch and Helen* Laura Christy at
the dedication of the Harold E. Semisch Memorial Track and Field. Note: The original
Headlight page is in error. Helen is Arnold’s wife – she was there that day but does not appear
in these photos. Arnold Semisch and Helen* Laura Christy cut the ribbon at the naming and
dedication of the Harold Semisch Track.
Harold Semisch was a friend to the students,
especially the athletes, of Altoona High School. An
Altoona resident for all of his 77 years, Harold was a
scorekeeper and fan of the Railroaders for more than 60
years. Harold was the scorekeeper for football,
basketball, and baseball for more than 55 years. In fact,
other than during his service in World War II, he only
missed a couple of games.
During his high school athletic career, Harold
participated in track and basketball. He was a four year
letter winner in track, participated in the state track meet
for four years where he placed in two events as a junior
and two events as a senior, and was a member of the
1933-34 state track championship team.
Harold was a three year letter winner in
basketball, captain of the 1936-37 team, leading scorer as
a senior, and scored 22 points in WIAA Regional game
against Boyd to tie the school record for a single game.
Harold graduated in 1937. As a lifelong resident
of Altoona and an high school alumnus, Harold was a
true "Railroader" and will be greatly missed.
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Harold worked at the Rubber Company and he won this car. He had never driven a
car before so he learned and then he drove it.
Harold in a parade – September 24, 1994
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Harold died on April 17, 1996
My brother Harold lived in the Homestead with my mother until she died then he
lived there alone – Laura baked the cake he is holding.
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My Brother, Arnold
Arnie Bundt and Arnold Semisch in a field between Grandma’s place and our place
in Altoona.
Arnold Semisch
Note the stacks of grain in the background (probably oats). They would cut the
grain then stack the bundles. Later they came with a Threshing Machine and
threshed the grain. This means the photo was taken in late summer of that year.
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Bill Thompson and Arnold Semisch
Home on leave in Altoona – 1944
Arnold Semisch
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Grace Sorenson Eick (1909-2008)
Grace Sorenson, a 1929 Altoona High School graduate, was the
daughter of Altoona railroader Howie Sorenson. With Jesse Jensen as
her coach, she truly enjoyed playing basketball. However, her
participation was restricted to her freshman year (1926); the WIAA
banned girls' interscholastic competition in that year. But that brief
experience was so important to her that she kept this team shirt with her
for the rest of her life.
After graduating from cosmetology school in Minneapolis, she
worked briefly in Eau Claire and then moved to Menomonie where she
owned and operated the Vanity Beauty Shop.
She married an established Menomonie barber named William "Bud"
Eick. He was elected and then re-elected many times as the mayor of
that city.
Grace lived in her own home until she was 96. After residing for
several years in Menomonie's "Autumn Village," she died on November
27, 2008 at the age of 99. Her Altoona basketball shirt was in her
possession at the time of her passing. She had kept it with her for more
than 82 years. (John R. Thurston 04.02.09)
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Woman’s special jersey finds place in Altoona
By Christena O'Brien – Leader-Telegram staff – 3/22/09
More than 80 years ago, Grace Sorenson Eick played on the Altoona girls basketball team, which had been started
four years earlier in 1922-23.
The freshman played one season, and then the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association prohibited girls
interscholastic competition, according to the late Gerald Hagen's "A History of Altoona."
While her participation was restricted, that brief experience was an important one for Grace, who for the next eight
decades tucked away her gold-and-black jersey with a hand-cut circled "A" and number sewn on it.
That jersey - soon to be encased in a shadow box, along with brief biography of Grace and a photo of her team -
which was coached by Jesse Jensen - will return to Altoona High School on April 2 during the girls' basketball
banquet.
Unfortunately, Grace - who remained a sports fan throughout her life - won't be there. She died Nov. 27 at the age of
99 at the American Lutheran Home in Menomonie.
Upon her death her treasured basketball jersey found its way into the hands of John Thurston, who included Grace in
his 2008 publication, "The Old Altoona Public School: A Collection of Memories," and alerted Altoona school
officials to the jersey's existence.
"It must have been a prize to her to keep something like that for so long," said Scott Harmon, Altoona's outgoing
Patti Stangel, an Eau Claire photographer, is going to encase in a shadowbox this jersey that the
late Grace Sorenson Eick wore in 1926 during her freshman year at Altoona High School.
Staff photo by Shane Opatz
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girls basketball coach.
Love of the game
Grace Sorenson, the daughter of Alfred and Helen Sorenson, was born in Eau Claire and raised in Altoona, where
she graduated from high school in 1929. Three years earlier, she played on what would be the school's last girls'
basketball team for decades.
After graduating, Grace attended the Brady School of Cosmetology in Minneapolis. She married William "Bud"
Eick, who would go on to become Menomonie's mayor, in 1938 in Eau Claire. That same year, she started a beauty
salon - The Charm Shop - in the Hotel Marion in Menomonie, which she operated until 1945, according to her
obituary.
Throughout her life, Grace was a sports fan, watching Green Bay Packer games and listening to high school
basketball games on the radio, said Mary Lemke, a longtime family friend.
"I think she'd be tickled," Lemke said of the excitement over Grace's old jersey. "She always talked about when she
played basketball for Altoona."
Her obituary, which ran in the Nov. 29 Leader-Telegram, noted that "she herself played on one of the first girls
basketball teams in the state of Wisconsin."
Return to Altoona
Seeing Grace's basketball jersey, Thurston, a 1942 graduate of Altoona High School, decided it was something
worth preserving and sharing.
"It must of have had such a great personal meaning to her," said Thurston, who was surprised that Grace had kept
the jersey all those years and was outraged at the WIAA's prohibition. "Many young ladies missed out on a great
opportunity for fun, recognition and the status of interscholastic competition," he said.
WIAA officials couldn't be reached for comment.
O'Brien can be reached at 830-5838, 800-236-7077 or christena.obrien@ecpc.com.
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Grace lived in her own home until she was 96. She then
moved to Menomonie's “Autumn Village.”
Grace was an avid sports fan, watching the Green Bay
Packers, the Menomonie Indians, and basketball
games.
The 1926 Altoona Girls Basketball
Team Grace Sorenson, far left,
front row Jesse Jensen, Coach
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Presentation Address by Nancy Clark Scobie*
Altoona Girls' Basketball Banquet
April 2, 2009 Altoona (WI) High School
Given as part of the presentation to AHS of Grace Sorenson Eick's 1926 basketball
jersey.
I'm here tonight because a friend of mine, Dr. John Thurston, showed me a very
old picture of a girls' 1926 basketball team. In addition, he handed me a very old
team jersey. Then, he told me a story—a remarkable story— about Grace
Sorenson Eick who had died just last year at the age of 99.1 was spellbound then
and even now as I speak on this special evening, Her story is the stuff from which
legends are made. I know this intuitively.
Now for the story. Amazing as it may sound, Grace played interscholastic high
school basketball on a team representing Altoona in 1926. This team had been
established in 1922 near the beginning of "the Roaring Twenties. At that time, your
school colors were black and gold. It was her freshman year. Sad to relate, it was
also her last year as a player. But that experience was so important to her that for
82 years, she kept the team jersey that she had worn.
You may wonder a bit about the significance of this.
First of all, the jersey survived. It is a symbol of her individual significance
and her skill as an athlete, this piece of fabric with its hand-cut letter "A" and
number "8." Grace preserved it. She kept it safe with her until she died.
I don't know about you, but I haven’t been able to do this with things that I
have held special. Things that I have loved and cherished disappear over the
years. They may have been mislaid or tossed out. In my world, the survival of
Grace's Jersey for over eighty years is a miracle.
Secondly, it seems clear that Grace saved this precious piece of her
personal identity in remembrance of the BEST of TIMES for her. She was
young; she was talented; she was poised on the threshold of her life. Part of
this was her love of basketball. In the picture of her 1926 team, one can
observe her seated in the lower left as she poses with her coach and team.
There are 7 other girls and Jesse Jensen, her coach and a man destined to
become an Altoona icon. She is blonde with sparkling blue eyes. Her hair is
cut in the fashionable "bob" of the time. She appears happy; the slight smile
on her face tells us so. She is a member of a group of confident, talented,
intelligent, dedicated, passionate, powerful, competitive varsity basketball
players who existed way back then and in the comparable group I see before me
tonight. How wonderful!
While it was the best of times for Grace, it also became the worst of times for
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her. In 1926, with three years of eligibility remaining for her, the WIAA chose to
ban interscholastic competition for women. Unfair and unforgivable. It takes my
breath away. Couldn't you just cry? Me, too. And it stayed that way throughout
Wisconsin for nearly 40 years. Altoona didn't resume interscholastic competition
until 1970, some 44 years later. It's enough to make you stomp your feet and throw
a hissy fit.
One can only surmise the sadness experienced by Grace and her teammates.
She very probably had dreamed of 3 more years of varsity play. I'm sure that many
hot tears were shed. However, Grace did what she could. She saved her team jersey
as a symbol and reminder of that one great year. She saved it for herself, and as it
turns out, she saved it for us.
The jersey now reminds that 83 years ago, a group of women from a small
school in Wisconsin played varsity basketball. And they played it well. They were
deeply connected to one another and to their coach. Together, they experienced the
court, the ball, the whistle, a basket made, the tears associated with thrill of victory
and the agony of defeat. They were together—running, hot, sweating, jumping,
dribbling, passing, tossing, catching, colliding. There was rhythm in their
movements and the staccato bouncing of the ball. They had dreams that will never
be known to us. Only those who have played the game at this level will understand
these truths that I have just revealed. The game—always reaching beyond to catch
and hold my heart.
In conclusion, it gives me great pleasure on behalf of Grace to present this
framed gift of memorabilia to Altoona High School and especially to the
women's varsity basketball team.
Grace and I present you with a legend and a legacy. Take good care of them
for us and for yourselves.
*Ms. Scobie. A graduate of Augusta (WI) High School, was one of the thousands
upon thousands of Wisconsin young women who were prohibited by the WIAA
from enjoying the experience of interscholastic competition between 1926 and
1964.
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April 2, 2009 -- Altoona (WI) High School
Dr. John R. Thurston, Monica Rasmussen,
Brittany Gregorich, Nancy Clark-Scobie
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Woman's Basketball Jersey "Retired"
83 Years After the WIAA Said Girls Couldn't Play
Posted: 10:27 PM Apr 2, 2009
Reporter: Mary Rinzel WEAU 13
As they celebrated their season, one girl's basketball team also celebrated the simple fact that
they get to play ball with a little history of the "girls" game.
In 1926 girls varsity basketball was only in its fourth year in Altoona. That's when the Wisconsin
Interscholastic Athletics Association, or WIAA, refused to sponsor women's athletics for more
than four decades until the early 70's. Thursday night, the Lady Rails received a very special gift
from a very varsity lady.
White jerseys streak up and down the hardwood, ponytails flying behind them, shooting and
scoring on their minds. But, once upon a time in Altoona the game wasn't so simple; back when
the jerseys were yellow. "Grace Sorenson Eick was a student at Altoona High School and
played varsity girls basketball, it was called interscholastic, in 1925 and 1926," Nancy Clark
Scobie tells us. Grace only got to play one season before girls were sent to the sidelines for the
next 40 years. "With just that one year of participation in the sport, Grace decided to and made
the effort to save her jersey which she saved for over 80 years," Clark Scobie says.
Clark Scobie never got to meet the woman she speaks so kindly of. Grace was 99 years old
when she died last year. She also never got to play basketball outside of gym class and weekly
scrimmages with the other girls in her school.
"There are as many important stories out there as there are people," says John Thurston.
Thurston has been chronicling the stories of Altoona students for years. He knew Grace's was
special and he knew just where her jersey belonged. So, Thursday, with the younger versions of
herself looking on, Grace's jersey was handed over to her adopted team—a team with a new
found gratitude for the game.
"Knowing someone didn't get the chance to play makes you be very grateful and appreciate
what you have and what we can do nowadays with basketball," says Brittany Gregorich who
played basketball all four years at Altoona. "It kind of makes me sad that just because she's a
girl, she couldn't play,” adds her teammate, Bethany Reyzer. “With how things were back then,
I’m very fortunate to be living now."
"I'm just hoping they can walk for a little while in her tennis shoes,” Clark Scobie says. "She
saved this jersey not only for herself because it was something she wanted to cherish, but she
saved it as it turns out for all of us.”
We called the WIAA to find out exactly why girls sports were banned for all those years. A
spokesman says it's hard to say—just that it was a different time back then. But, he says we're
all fortunate that decision was reversed and everyone is now able to play.
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An image sent in by an Eau Claire woman helped the Christian
Science Monitor celebrate the century of the automobile.
By Susan Barber
Leader-Telegram staff
t the close of the century, the Christian Science Monitor is taking a walk — or in this
case a drive — down memory lane.
And Cecelia Loken of Eau Claire gave the newspaper a little help. Loken submitted
this photograph, which was featured in the Monitor's July 12 addition.
The Monitor's "Snapshots of the Century" series salutes the camera, which took
visual legacies out of the hands of the wealthy and made everyone his or her own
historian. The Monitor asked for photo submissions from readers and now is
publishing them in themes. Cecelia's was included with other automobile pictures.
In this photo from about 1928, Hugh Raymond is spanking Rudy Botsford in fun for
his 21st birthday. The women, left to right, are Ruth Muenchow, Frances Larson and
Grace Sorenson. Barely visible inside the Studebaker is Bud Loken, Cecelia's
husband.
"They were a fun bunch," Cecelia Loken said. "We used to go to dances
together."The photo was taken at Frances' home in Altoona. She later married Hugh.
Both are deceased now, as are Ruth and Bud.
Rudy, a retired teacher, lives in Wausau. Grace lives in Menomonie.
Interestingly, the Monitor auto package also included a 1914 photo from Merrill
that showed two farmers getting into their new Fords being delivered by horse-drawn
sleds — the only way possible in a Wisconsin winter on Highway 107.
Other photos featured 18 Towson State College students from Baltimore crammed
into a Volkswagen Beetle convertible. The year? You guessed it, 1972.
Another was a 1915 portrait of a Coney Island, N.Y., family in a car, which was a
prop. Soon thereafter the family bought a Ford, and one of the daughters remembered
her father being stopped by a police officer on a horse for driving too slowly.
Progress?
While the Monitor might have been looking at Cecelia's submission for the car,
Cecelia and Grace enjoyed seeing the fashions. Grace liked the hat she's wearing;
Cecelia noted the women aren't wearing stockings.
A
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And for those of you who don't remember the '20s, Cecelia said stockings usually
weren't silk but cotton, kept up with garter belts.
Nylon hosiery wouldn't come on the market until 1939.
Barber can be reached at 833-9213, (800) 236-7077 or susan. barber @ ecpc. com
In 1928 running boards could serve as a seat for a group of friends having fun in
the Chippewa Valley. From left are Hugh Raymond, spanking Rudy Botsford
for his 21st birthday, Ruth Muenchow, Frances Larson and Grace Sorenson. Bud
Loken is in the car.
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Bud Griese and his brothers
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Early on, what little I knew about her was gained through my talks with
Bud. She and her husband Lloyd regularly enjoyed nights on the town,
usual in the company of the Roy Taylors, nearby Altoona neighbors.
"Toots" had a richly-deserved reputation as a person who could enter a
room and light it up immediately. It was said that if there were a piano
around, she would pounce on it, play it with the greatest of vigor, and the
place would rock.
In 1942-43, when I began to visit bars, I would occasionally encounter
her briefly at Stanley's. This bar may have become the "400 Bar" about
then or shortly thereafter. Initially, it was a bit uncomfortable to be
drinking in the company of Bud's parents. Any such uneasiness soon
vanished and I looked forward to these meetings. She would listen to me
and my companions as we rambled on endlessly about our activities,
problems, fears, and plans for the future. Such listeners, both then and
now, are hard to come by.
In the summer of 1946, as I recuperated from my years of wartime service
in the navy, Bud and I would encounter "Toots" and Lloyd frequently as
we made the rounds of local bars. We thoroughly enjoyed each other's
company. We talked with them about the same things that I mentioned
previously. But I was an adult now and I listened and learned from them
as they talked about their dealings with such matters.
In one of these conversations, I must have expressed a need to develop
some typing skills. I was about to go to college and thought that I should
know how to type. She had a beat-up typewriter and offered to loan it to
me. I accepted and spent day after day learning how to type. I subjected
myself to a rigorous, boring, 4-5 hour training schedule every day
including Sundays. I learned to type. While I didn't end up with the skills
of an accomplished typist, I could type well enough to get the job done. I
can't tell you how important this capacity was for me throughout my
education and ever since. I think of "Toots" now as I type this paragraph.
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While I was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1947-50, I was
well on my way to becoming a clinical psychologist. As part of my
training, I was required to learn how to administer the basic intelligence
test of the day, the Wechlser-Bellevue.
To accomplish this, I had to give the Wechsler-Bellevue to twenty-five
adults. And, on my occasional visits to Altoona, I turned to my friends and
asked them to volunteer to take this test. At the time, I wasn't fully aware
of how much of an imposition and invasion of their privacy this was.
But my friends were friends and they complied with my requests. "Toots"
was among them. And although I was not yet a professional clinical
psychologist, I believe that the results of this testing were valid.
Subsequently, during the course of my career, I have given thousands of
these tests as part of my regular psychological/psychiatric examination.
Of these, only one other person scored as high on this test as "Toots."
That is truly remarkable. She was a very, very intelligent woman. Such a
statement would probably come as no surprise to anyone who knew her.
They may just not have known how exceptionally smart she really was. In
her later years, she turned to writing poetry for her own pleasure or to
commemorate special events.
As time went on, she and Bud went their ways: I went mine. I ran into
her occasionally during my increasingly rare visits home from Iowa
University in the early 1950's. But what had been a strong relationship
remained broken when I returned to live in Eau Claire in the late 1950's. I
had only minimal contact with her during the rest of her life. I would
occasionally hear something about her, e.g. that she was instrumental in
founding Cinder City Day, and may even have been named Centennial
Queen.
"Toots" had been Altoona High School's first cheerleader in 1922. One of
the following pictures shows the cheerleader uniform that she wore at
that time. (It is hoped that one day, it might join Grace Sorenson Eick's
1926 basketball jersey currently on display in the Commons of AHS).
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"Toots" represented Altoona High School on the basketball court as well.
The other picture shows her, along with Jesse Jensen and her teammates,
on the 1924-25 AHS basketball team. She, then Clara Becker, is standing
on the far right in the back row next to "Jess."
Altoona High School Cheerleader Uniform
Worn by Toots in 1922
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“Toots”
With Stomp Fiddle
Christmas Party 1979
At Golden Spike
Altoona, Wisconsin
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