Downtown 1958

Downtown 1958

Friday, September 28, 2012

Red Bird at High Cliff State Park

June, 1961 articles from the Post-Crescent
Although Red Bird was a great chief of the Winnebagoes, most accounts indicate that he was never in our corner of Wisconsin, having lived and fought in the Prairie du Chien area on the other side of the state and he was imprisoned in Minnesota.  Still, he was memorialized in statue form at High Cliff in 1961 as a symbol for the conservation movement and a source of pride to the Winnebago people. 

High Cliff State Park is the only state-owned recreational area on Lake Winnebago. The park gets its name from the limestone cliff of the Niagara Escarpment, which parallels the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago. Red Bird Trail is the longest trail within the park.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Getting the Brin Ready

This October 31, 1928 article from the Northwestern details the preparations getting the Brin ready for its opening in December of that year.   I'd like to have seen it in its original glory. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Speak Closely Into the Transmitter....

From the 1913 Neenah-Menasha telephone directory

Even as a boy in the '60s, I recall Ma Bell still publishing public service-type ads in the phone book, reminding us how to dial the phone properly by allowing the dial to fully finish rotating before dialing the next number, speaking clearly, looking up the correct number first to avoid misdialing, etc. 

Remember when we had 5 digit phone numbers and that letter prefix?  My phone number was PArkway 2-6579 and we had a party line.  Explain that to your kids today. 

Let's all take the "telephone pledge" now....

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Paved Roads and Wooden Sidewalks

As seen in this 1898 photograph, looking east on Nicolet Boulevard from the top of Walter Brothers Brewing, the old wooden sidewalks are quite evident, a period detail that gives 19th century Menasha a particular charm, though I'm sure the reality was quite different.  I hear people say, oh, isn't it charming, what with the horses and all?  Yet they neglect the practicality of ridding the streets of the obvious waste problem.  And then there's the smell.  Other details of the time would be dirt roads, hitching posts, and gas lights, though electrification was well underway by this time.  1898 saw the streetcars electrified that year.  It's a fact that Main Street wasn't paved in a modern manner until 1910, so I wouldn't be surprised that wooden sidewalks were still found in some parts of the city until the 1920s. 

The map below was published in a 1903 treatise published by the state of Wisconsin regarding paving of roads within the state.  The map shows that essentially, paving in Menasha, for the time, extended from the Neenah border, down Washington Street to Main and then down Racine to Third and on to Old Plank Road where it ended.  And this applied just to the roads, so one can imagine the sidewalks and other lesser travelled streets as an afterthought.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Martin Verhoeven

Old photographs  allow us a glimpse in time of the past inhabitants of our great city.  But to reveal some interesting truths about the subjects, we sometimes need to dig a little deeper. We look at these serious faces and seldom see the real story.  We fail to see the humanity behind their stoic looks. 

Pictured is Martin and Elizabeth Verhoeven with their family. Martin was born in Holland on February 12, 1858 and died on September 1, 1908.  He was working at the R. Brand and Sons Furniture Company in Oshkosh in an elevator shaft when the elevator suddenly descended, killing him.  His spouse sued the company for $5000 in damages.  I've not been able to yet determine if she was successful in her lawsuit.  Using one of the internet's inflation calculators, it tells me that $5,000 in 1910 dollars would have the buying power of about $122,000 today.  No small sum indeed, but more importantly, one wonders how the family fared without their patriarch.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Menasha Mischief Makers

Pondering a stray photo found in the Menasha Library picture files...

Despite these fellows' mode of dress and all it implies, I'm positive they were undoubtedly still capable of some serious disorder in their day.  The expression on the face of the last kid on the right especially just seems to spell trouble.  He insists he ain't no sissy, in spite of being chafed by his Sunday best, which was typical for boys their age at this time.  He looks like he escaped from the Little Rascals.  They say boys will be boys....

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Indian Effigy Mounds Dedication

The mounds were built by what is referred to now as the “Effigy Mound culture.”  Remnants of their villages have been found south and southeast of Smith Park. The mounds once stretched from this location, westward along Lake Winnebago to Fifth Street in Neenah.
More than twenty mounds had been visible on Doty Island at the end of the 19th Century.  These three are all that remain.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Syme's Flour Mill

location of Syme's flour mill on Fox River at #2

from Volume II of P.V. Lawson's  History, Winnebago County, Wisconsin : Its Cities, Towns, Resources, People (1908): 

Flour mills were a part of Menasha from its very beginnings.  Lawson's history states:

"The finest flouring mill ever erected in the Fox River Valley was the Eagle mill, a four-story brick structure, erected on the site of the first grist mill in Menasha, on the north end of the dam. The firm was composed of Mr. Alexander Syme who came to Menasha March 24, 1855; Mr. William P. Rounds, who came in 1850; Mr. Charles May, who came in 1850; Mr. Henry Hewitt, Sr., who came in 1856. The partnership was organized in 1867 under the firm name of W. P. Rounds & Co. The foundation was put in in the fall and the mill completed in 1868. It had a capacity of 400 barrels of flour daily and ran night and day. The mill was originally supplied with six run of stone and all the necessary separating and cleaning machinery. In July, 1877, Mr. Alexander Syme bought the interest of his partners. He soon after erected on the railroad sidetrack as an addition to the mill a three-story brick elevator. The roller mill system had become generally understood and necessary for the equipment of all flour mills by 1880, and Mr. Syme at that time had three sets of patent roller mills set up in his mill and the introduction of new machinery was then made as rapidly as found necessary. The mill was operated with great success and making $20,000 annual profits, when the unheard of high water roused the riparian occupants along the lake and river to appeal to Congress to enlarge the openings in the dam. The officer under the engineer service of the War Department commenced work to remove the solid embankment between the Eagle mill and the Coral mill, both then owned by Mr. Syme. The intention was to open a water spill over the north end of the dam. The lots below the Eagle mill had been built up by railroad track and the Menasha Chair Company's buildings and filling of the lots so far out into the stream that the tail race of the Eagle mill was extended to a line with the Coral mill, and if the water was poured over this solid part of the dam the back water would be so high on the water wheels that ran the mill as to cut down their power to a point where his mill could not run. He was obliged to enjoin further work by the United States engineer and stop the removal of the embankment. Proceedings were then taken by the assistant United States attorney, Mr. M. A. Thomas, to condemn the whole property in both mills, estimated to be worth $70,000. The mills were paid for and removed in 1885 by the engineers of the United States and the dam extended, and afterward in 1886 a new dam built all across the river."
Thus ended the flouring era in Menasha.  The industry lasted a bit longer in Neenah but by the 1890's, the flour industry was all but over, having been topped by the profitability of paper manufacture.  Neenah's last flour mill closed in 1908. 
Of Mr. Syme specifically, Lawson said:
"Mr. Alexander Syme was a handsome man, a splendid fellow and enterprising. He was interested in a stave factory, a pail factory, a bank and a number of other enterprises. As a miller he was regarded as among the best. His flour had a ready sale among the great bakeries and no one could take his customers from him. He had a method of mixing spring and winter wheat or the soft Wisconsin with the hard Dakota wheat, that made a flour unequaled for bakers' bread, as it was not easily dried up and hardened. It would keep in good condition several days longer than other makes of flour. His mill made money fast. When he built his handsome brick residence on Forest Avenue, now owned by Mr. William M. Gilbert, he remarked "that the mill would make the money for the home as fast as required for the building." When his splendid property was torn down by the engineers he lost his courage and did not build another. For several years he traveled abroad and died in France in 1900."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Roland Kampo Bridge

11:00 a.m., November 30, 1975 saw the opening of the Roland Kampo Bridge which linked US 41 to Menasha across Little Lake Butte des Morts.  Otherwise known locally as "The Polish Connection," it was the first link in what became known as the Tri-County Expressway. Originally designated as County Trunk Q, in the mid 1980's, it was redesignated as part of State Hwy 441 with the further development of the expressway project. 

Monday, September 17, 2012


First on the air in 1947, this 5000 watt station was the soundtrack of the '60s in my household.  My parents listened to it all the time, especially my Mom.  I remember it as middle of the road, Lawrence Welk-ish type of stuff, punctuated with Paul Harvey at noon, the local news, and somebody called Earl Nightingale, who did a daily commentary most mornings. (By the way he spoke, I always thought he was some kind of minister but later I learned he was a Dale Carnegie type of motivational speaker.)  Naturally, these were all the things a 12 year old in 1968 would have hated!  I'd much rather have been listening to WOSH in Oshkosh which played Top 40 rock and roll. 
Later known as "Blue 128," WNAM did eventually play the music I craved in the sixties.  However, by then, in the latter part of the '70s, the radio business (and I) had all moved on to FM.  Today, WNAM plays what is known as "America's Best Music," which is adult pop standards, essentially coming full circle back to what I heard growing up in the sixties.  The irony is not lost on me that I can appreciate that kind of music now. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

End of the Week

No story here.  Just a simple street view of Menasha in the 1970s that evokes another time and another place.  (I think that yellow car is a Ford Pinto.) 

I saw this the other day and although I don't usually like these sorts of lists, I thought it fit the mood I'm in. 

You know if you are from a small town if:

School gets canceled for state events.
Your teachers calls you by your older siblings names.
Your teachers remember when they taught your parents.
You were ever in the Homecoming parade.
It was cool to date someone from the neighboring town.
You can’t help but date a friend’s ex-girlfriend.
You had senior skip day.
You can name everyone you graduated with.
The whole school went to the same party after graduation.
You wore your letter jacket after your 19th birthday.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New First National Bank (1964)

pre-1964 First National Bank at right
from the January 9, 1964, Oshkosh Daily Northwestern
from the May 11, 1964 Oshkosh Daily Northwestern
an ad from the 1967 Neenah-Menasha Telephone Directory Yellow Pages

In this, the 125th year of the bank, now known as First National Bank-Fox Valley (FNB-Fox Valley), let's take a moment to see how it evolved in the 1960's, the way a lot of us remember it. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Calder Stadium Dedication

The blog post of August 27th touched upon this event, but in honor of it actually occurring 48 years ago today, here's the whole story as reported by the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of September 14, 1964. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Verbricks Service Station

This former gas station, the old Verbrick's 24 Hour Service, is an example of the Tudor/Elizabethan Revival movement of architecture, distinguished by its fine half-timbering, slate roof, and leaded windows.  Built around 1930, this edifice in the Washington Street Historic District was part of an effort instigated by the Menasha Woodenware to create a business district in the “English style of architecture” to optimize use of the US 41 corridor which at that time was running down Washington Street and into Menasha. The Brin Building completed in 1928 was also part of this initiative, as was the engraving company next door, Northwestern Engraving (see the July 30th blog entry), but the rest of the business district was never realized.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Samuel S. Roby

1880 advertisement

from the Daily Northwestern January 8, 1901:

The funeral of the late S.S. Roby, who died late Saturday afternoon at his home in this city from the effects of a stroke of paralysis, was held this afternoon at two o'clock from Masonic hall.  Bryan lodge, No. 28, had charge of the services and Rev. A. E. Leonard was the officiating clergyman.

Samuel Roby was born Sept. 9, 1825, at Harrison, Cumberland county, Maine, where he passed his boyhood days.  His father was a merchant and his grandfather a Congregational minister.  He received a common school education and was employed as a clerk until 1849, when he came to Menasha.  He was employed as sawyer in the Clinton mill, the first mill built in Menasha.  This was a combination grist and saw mill and was erected by the late C. Northrop.  In 1850 he built the three-story frame building which is now occupied by Mrs. Norton's restaurant and H. C. Park's barber shop on the ground floor.  This was occupied in 1852 by the late E.D. Smith, for whom Mr. Roby was employed as a clerk.  In 1856, after Mr. Smith's failure, Mr. Roby opened up a store in the building, which, with the exception of a short interval, he conducted continuously until 1895, when he was succeeded by his daughter, Miss Frankie Roby, who closed out her stock last November to give her time and strength to attend to her father.  For several years prior to 1871 Mr. Roby and the late O.J. Hale were in partnership, both in Menasha and at Forest Junction.  The Menasha business was sold to John Planner and the Forest Junction store to the late Jere Hunt.  During Mr. Roby's half century of residence he had at different times served as town and village treasurer, clerk, trustee and assessor.  From 1858 to 1886 he was treasurer continuously.  Mr. Roby was married Sept. 27, 1854, to Miss Melinda Beedle, who, with one daughter, Miss Frankie Roby survives.  A half brother, Henry Roby, of Lincoln, Neb., and half sister, Mrs. S. Bullard of this city, also survive.  Mrs. C. P. Houghton of Oshkosh is a cousin.  Mr. Roby was a member of Bryan lodge, F. and A. M., and of Island City chapter R. A. M.  He and W. P. Rounds are the two oldest Masons in the city.  He was formerly very active in Masonic work.  Mr. Roby was unable to get life insurance, but used the money such would have cost in collecting curios, and had a collection worth several thousand dollars.  He was not a wealthy man in the usually accepted sense of the word, for his generosity was such that he could not refuse to help any one in distress.  He was charitably inclined in his judgment of his acquaintances and had not a known enemy.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Salute to Menasha's Pioneering Spirit

This scene depicts the partially completed US Government Canal as it appeared in 1856.  The then-Village of Menasha and site of the present day marina are on the left and the Menasha Wooden Ware is at the right.  This print was offered for sale by the Menasha Corporation (successor to the Menasha Wooden Ware) at the opening of the marina, May 16, 1987. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Augustin Block

The top photo dates from 1898 while the one below is obviously from more modern times. This building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.  Gustave Augustin, built this to house his grocery business. 

He came to the area in the 1850’s, settling with his parents in the Town of Harrison.  For many years, he farmed while concurrently handling a milk route.  Selling out to George Wilz in 1890, he moved into Menasha and operated a flour and feed store on Racine Street.  Later, he added groceries and in 1894, built this edifice, the first floor handling his business while the second story became his residence. 

Over the years the building has housed many businesses.  Edmund Liebhauser was a grocer in the building in the 20's and 30's.  The Menasha Record newspaper took up residence in 1939.  In the 1970's, for a time, the building housed a bookstore run by St. Mary Central students.  Currently, an interior design concern resides at 68 Racine Street. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A New St. Mary's?

November 27, 1964
June 20, 1967
January 20, 1969

A few weeks ago, I alluded to plans that were first brought up in the mid 1960s to develop a new Catholic high school to replace St. Mary's.  This new "Catholic Central" would be built on land nearby or bordering Calder Stadium.  I don't know if construction of a new school was partially designed in the first place to get all five parishes involved in running the high school, but the last article in 1969, when the project is shelved, seems to be a compromise, of sorts, where all five parishes will have some share in the administration of the school.  That's how it was when I attended from 1971-75.  As it turned out, it wasn't until the fall of 1997 that a new Catholic high school, the new St. Mary's, finally opened, west of US 41 in Neenah. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dividing Doty Island

Something as fundamental as how Doty Island became divided between Menasha and Neenah is often taken for granted without an explanation in sight as to how and why this occurred.  For all of us in the present day, it was always so.  In preparing this book, I often wondered myself.

The following is excerpted from S. F. Shattuck's 1958 book, A History of Neenah:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Twin City Beverages

Despite the caption copy about getting ready for Christmas, what would summer be without an array of carbonated fun?  During this weekend, the unofficial end of summer, let's celebrate Labor Day with a shout-out to the multi-flavored goodness of that summer staple- the all-American sugary soda. 

Yes, there are still sodas galore to this day, but the era of local bottlers and regional brands, with their own unique brand of local flavor are, sadly, few and far between these days.  A fond memory as a boy was going with Mom to Doering's Super Valu and picking out the flavors to fill a 24 count, heavy cardboard case- black cherry, root beer, orange, grape, lime, cherry, ginger ale, cola, and my favorite, cream soda.  And let's not forget that flavor unique to Wisconsin and the upper Midwest...white soda.  (Seriously...just ask for a white soda in South Carolina, for example, and count on getting some weird stares.)