The Red Caboose Page vii
WWII Prisoner of War Camps."
"Originally planned for Mt. Simon, Camp Eau Claire was moved to the Altoona fairgrounds after an
outcry of protest: from (Mt.) Simon area residents.
"While some local residents were fearful of these captured Nazis, most were unaware of who they
were. Other folks walked or drove to the fairgrounds in the evening to watch these men bounce
balls off their heads in an unfamiliar soccer game or listen to their harmonious music or visit across
the fence with the POWs seeking information about German relatives or communities."
Laura Semisch-Christy is one of three celebrated ladies from Altoona featured in Chapter
Three. The others are Grace Sorenson- Eick, who played on the Altoona girls basketball
team, and Clara "Toots" Becker-Griese, Altoona's first cheerleader in 1922.
Semisch-Christy's mother was in the strawberry patch the day she was born in 1920. Eighteen
years later, Semisch-Christy graduated from high school as valedictorian.
Her father, Otto Semisch, one of seven children, lost a sister, Clara, when lightning struck
their home in Altoona in 1895. One of his brothers, Henry, who Semisch-Christy called a "good
uncle" was a conductor on the railroad, but lost a leg in an accident.
The late Harold Semisch, Semisch-Christy's brother, served in World War II, worked as a
timekeeper at the U.S. Rubber Co. and became Altoona's everlasting scorekeeper at sporting
events until he died in 1996.
The Altoona Equity Cooperative Livestock Auction Market, established in 1945, was located on four
acres north of the Eau Claire County shops, adjacent to the railroad tracks. Harold "Hank" Harris,
who had been brought up in Altoona, managed the market.
On a hot Aug. 12, 1971, a fire broke out at the market during a cattle sale, according to a Leader-
Telegram article included in the publication. About 100 head of cattle and 300 head of calves were
lost in the fire, and the only building saved was a structure housing the cafeteria. Four firemen
were treated for smoke inhalation and minor injuries.
The market later was rebuilt at a different location.
While "The Red Caboose" is different than traditional books on history that consist of dated deeds,
Thurston believes its contents has value.
"Common folk traditionally leave few, if any, footprints in the 'sands of time,'" Thurston wrote. "We
find this ... a situation in need of remedy."
O'Brien can be reached at 830-5838, 800-236-7077 or christena.obrien@ecpc. com.