Friday, June 22, 2018

More LHS Band Memories

Starting in the summer of 1962 and continuing through that fall, the La Farge High School band became road warriors as they marched in 17 different parades throughout western Wisconsin. Part of the abundance of marching was to show off the new LHS band uniforms that had been acquired at the end of the previous school year.  Purchased through a fund raising campaign by the LHS Band Parents, the new uniforms were gray in color, trimmed in purple with a white LF on the front coat panel. For marching in parades, the band members doffed gray hats adorned with a white plume reaching skyward.
            Mr. Marlin Pendleton, the LHS band teacher, wanted to show off the new uniforms and the band’s talents, so every marching invitation was accepted.  The LHS Band marched at the Horse & Colt Show Parade in Viola, the Labor Day Parade in Hillsboro and for Cashton’s Fall Festival.  Besides the schools own homecoming parade, the LHS Band traveled to Barneveld and Ithaca to march in those school’s Homecoming festivities.  
            In August, the band marched in the Rockton Homecoming Parade, or at least tried to.  The parade was part of the Rockton Centennial Celebration that year and lots of floats were entered – too many perhaps.  The band unloaded from the school buses and formed into their marching lines on Lisney Road on the northwest side of the little hamlet.  The LHS Band marched down to Highway 131 and headed south.  When the band was about in front of the old Rockton schoolhouse, it stopped.  And there it stayed, as nothing in the parade was moving.  While the band waited in that spot for some time, Mr. Pendleton decided to have the band play several of the marching musical numbers that it played as it marched.  After a half hour or so, the band began to inch ahead in the route until stopping again before reaching the Rockton Store.  The band played some more numbers as it waited there for some time in front of the store and then the band broke ranks and walked back to the bus.  We learned later that there were so many people in Rockton that day watching the parade that the parade units could not reach the end of the route.  (Wouldn’t you know it; only Rockton could put together a parade that was bigger than the town.)
            Besides the snazzy new uniforms, the LHS Band stood out in other ways as they marched in parades.  Most high school bands of that era played musical marches, many composed by John Phillip Sousa, as they performed in parades.  The LHS Band had played Sousa marches previously as well and continued to do so, but Mr. Pendleton introduced Broadway show tunes set to march music for the band to play.  Using the show tunes for the marching music was new and no other high school bands in the area were doing that.  When the LHS Band belted out “Give My Regards To Broadway” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” as they marched along the many parade routes, many a head and ear were turned by the modern show tunes.
            Mr. Pendleton also booked the LHS Band into college homecoming parades that fall.  The LHS Band played in the LaCrosse State Homecoming Parade that year, marching along some of the same route used for the Music Festival held later in the spring.  The band also played in the Platteville State Homecoming Parade, a real source of pride for Mr. Pendleton, as it was his college alma mater.  After we marched in the parade in the morning we went to the football game in the afternoon.  One of the captains of Platteville’s football team was Danny Rabata, a graduate of LHS. As a matter of fact, Dan Rabata led the Pioneers to victory that day with his punishing running from his fullback position.  Just like the old days when Danny played for La Farge!
            The LHS Band’s marching season culminated when they marched for the Music Festival held in LaCrosse in the spring.  The Wildcat band garnered a first-place in the marching competition as well as another first in the concert competition.
            During the 1963-64 school year, the LHS Band continued to expand in size and performances.  To get a sense of that school year, I am going to use the write-up for the 1964 “Memories” yearbook.  It went like this:
            The fifty-one members of the La Farge High School Band had a whirlwind year during 1963 and 64.  During the summer of 1963 the band marched at La Farge for the 4thof July Parade and later that month at Farm Progress Days in Viroqua.
            In September the band marched in the annual Horse and Colt Show Parade at Viola. In Octoberthey again went to Viola to play during half of the Viola-La Farge football game.  Later in October they had the opportunity to march in the Homecoming Parade at Platteville and the Apple Festival in Gays Mills.
            Here at our own Homecoming, the band presented a show during the halftime of our game.  They used a variety of new drills and formations, which were devised by Mr. Pendleton.
            The first appearance on stage was the Mid-Winter Concert on February 13, which took place in our new gymnasium.
            In May the band will enter the Concert and Marching competitions at the Music Festival in LaCrosse
            They will conclude the school year by taking part in the Commencement and Memorial Day exercises.
            All in all this year has been quite an experience for the members of the band.
            It was quite a year for the LHS Band, but it did not end all that well at the Music Festival competitions held in LaCrosse. Mr. Pendleton was always looking to improve the band’s performance by playing in more demanding competitions. For that spring Music Festival held in LaCrosse, the band, for the first time, competed in the Sight-Reading Competition.  In that competition, the band was given two musical numbers to play that they had never seen before.
            Mr. Pendleton talked the band through the first number as we saw the music for the first time.  I remember the piece being some sort of minuet and when the band started playing the number, it was immediate confusion.  Finally after a minute or so of pure musical mayhem, Mr. Pendleton stopped the band and had us start over.  It went a little better after that.  
            The second selection for the Sight Reading Competition was a march and it looked easier than the first number.  The band quickly picked up the march’s tempo and was playing the number pretty well.  However, a certain cornet player sitting in the third section fell behind in the number and struggled to catch up.  When the band reached the final note, all finished together in glorious unison except the struggling cornet player.  Yours truly had one more note to blatt out of his silver cornet, putting a nice closing button onto the tune, when one wasn’t needed.  If looks could kill, Mr. Pendleton’s glare towards me regarding my concluding blunder would have been fatal. 
            Of course, we did not get a first in Sight Reading that morning.  To make matters worse, the judge for the LHS band’s dismal showing was one of Mr. Pendleton’s music professors from Platteville College.  He dutifully laid out our woes in the new musical field of competition and mercifully gave us a second place ranking.  To make matters worse, it wasn’t the last of the second places for the band that day.  To everyone’s shock, the band also received a second in the concert competition.
            The band played more challenging musical numbers than in years past for the Spring Festival Concert competition, but hard and constant practice throughout the year had left everyone in the band feeling that a first place could be achieved.  Perhaps it was the holdover from the earlier Sight Reading Competition that day, but the band did not perform well and had to settle for a second place in Concert competition.  Well, the LHS Band could always be counted on for a first place in the Marching Competition, but there was a little catch to that as well.
            Because Mr. Pendleton had concentrated all of the band’s practices on preparing for Sight Reading and Concert competitions, we had never marched once that spring – no practice whatsoever.  When we assembled on the LaCrosse streets on that May afternoon, it was the first time for some of the band’s newer members to march or play the music for marching.  We had to assemble quickly into our newly formed marching lines and then head down Main Street towards the LaCrosse downtown.  Our odds did not look good, but by the time we had gone a few blocks the percussion section had us strutting our stuff.  When we neared the judge’s stand the LHS Band belted out one of their new show tunes, which brought shouts and applause from the big crowd.  Some things are not easily forgotten and the Wildcat band could march and play anywhere at anytime.
            We did not know our rating when we left LaCrosse that day, but we were not surprised when the band received another first place for the Marching Competition.
            During my senior year at LHS, the band continued to grow with 60 students making up the concert and marching band.  I was elevated to the second chairs section of the cornets.  Dean Steinmetz, Carlyle Stoleson and Brent Waddell comprised the first chair cornets while I joined Nathan Larson and Kevin Alderson in the 2ndchairs and Phil Muller, April Melvin and Rhonda Jacobson played in the third chairs. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the band and can’t seem to remember any major screw-ups that I committed that year. I remember that the 2ndsection had a dynamite counter-melody part in one of our marching numbers that we really enjoyed belting out.  That is if we all had a horn to play.
            It seems that when we marched in the Horse & Colt Show Parade that year, I forgot my horn at home.  When I told Mr. Pendleton about it, I thought that I wouldn’t be allowed to march.  But he would have none of that since I was a row leader in the band formation.  So, I marched without a horn as the La Farge Band marched down Viola’s Main Street.  At one point, the band stopped and played a number.  As everyone in the LHS Band played the marching selection to its best ability, I stood mute at the end of my row.  I stood there in dumbness right next to the crowd on the sidewalk, and I seem to remember when the musical number ended someone in the crowd (with a voice that sounded very similar to my brother, Kent) yelled out, “Where’s your horn, Bradley?”
            I might not have been much of a musician, who was prone to occasional mistakes, but I really did enjoy my time in the La Farge High School Band.  My memories of the experience fondly live on to the present.

LHS Band Memories

Fifty years ago mention was made that LHS band members Dean Steinmetz, Monte Muller, Jim Looker, and Phil Gudgeon had all won gold medals for their cornet and trombone playing at the 1968 state music festival.  That accomplishment, the first for brass instrument performances at LHS, brought back many memories for me of my time playing in the La Farge High school Band.
            Miss Jeanette (Jan) Stinzi ignited my interest to play an instrument in the school band.  Miss Stinzi, who hailed from Bangor, came to La Farge to teach music at the school during the 1959-60 school year.  It would be a rebuilding effort for the dynamic young teacher as the LHS band had fallen on hard times.  
            At the 1959 4thof July parade in La Farge, the school band had not marched.  I remember that many adults were very upset with the LHS band’s no-show that day and complained to Al Oaklief, La Farge Superintendent of Schools about it.  Mr. Oaklief was in the process of hiring a new band teacher to replace Hubert Groves, who was leaving the district. During the 1958-59 school year, there were only 15 students in the LHS band.   Mr. Oaklief soon hired Miss Stinzi to resurrect the program.
            When school began that fall, Stinzi set out to create interest in the music program.  She brought a representative from a LaCrosse music company (I think it was Leithold’s) to demonstrate instruments to the students in grade school.  I was in 7thgrade at the time and was thrilled to hear the instruments being played.  The students even got their turn at blowing the horns and I remember tooting on a trumpet and making a clarinet squeal.  I seem to remember that the music man stayed around that evening for a meeting with parents to arrange the purchase or rental of an instrument for their children.
            I was living with my grandmother, Isa Campbell, at the time and raced home to announce that I wanted to play in the school band.  My father wasn’t against the idea, but he did not attend the parent’s meeting to buy or lease me an instrument to play either.  When I went to school the next day, several of my classmates already had their rented instruments to begin practicing on.  Others had purchased new instruments that were on their way.  When I went home that afternoon, I let my grandmother know about my disappointment in not having an instrument.  But she had a big surprise for me.
            She had been up in the attic that day and brought down a fancy and beautiful instrument case.  Inside was a classic silver C cornet that had been my uncle’s – Berlie Campbell – which he played in the LHS school band back in the 1930’s.  He had graduated in 1937 and died in a farm accident less than two months later.  Apparently the cornet had not been played for over two decades.  It had some mechanical problems and one valve did not open properly. But I did have a horn to play!
            I took the cornet to school and Miss Stinzi marveled at the instrument.  She sent it up to LaCrosse to be repaired.  In a few weeks it came back ready to go – I remember the man from LaCrosse telling me what a beautiful instrument it was.  I was soon taking a weekly lesson from Miss Stinzi and learning to play my cornet.  
            Others in my class were learning to play as well. In her first year at La Farge, the band under Miss Stinzi’s guidance had grown to 36 members.  From my class, Ben Rastall was playing the trombone and Carlyle Stoleson was playing trumpet in the Senior Band that year.  Carlyle had started playing the cornet about the same time as me, but caught on much quicker than I did.  Both of Carlyle’s parents, Floyd and Charlotte Stoleson, were accomplished musicians and even had their own band – The Kickapoo Sweethearts. The Stoleson family’s musical talent had carried on well to Carlyle.  The LHS Band marched proudly in the hometown 4thof July Parade that summer!
            By the next year, when I was in the 8thgrade, I had made the LHS Senior Band!  (There were 34 in the Senior Band that year with another 22 students in the Junior Band.) I was the last chair in the cornet section that included Butch Donaldson, Roger Steinmetz, Carlyle Stoleson, Greg Ferries and Vera Beth Looker. The band expanded its marching performances by playing in the Horse & Colt Show Parade in Viola in September and marching in the La Farge Homecoming Parade in October.  Under the capable direction of Miss Stinzi, the La Farge High School Band was proudly returning to form.
            Alas, it was learned that Miss Stinzi would be leaving La Farge after her second year there.  She was getting married and returning to her hometown of Bangor to teach. Mr. Oaklief was busy looking for a capable replacement when he became aware of a man graduating from the music program at UW-Platteville, who also happened to be from Mr. Oaklief’s hometown of Lancaster, Wisconsin.  Marlin Pendleton was soon hired as the new bandleader at LHS.
            Mr. Pendleton began in that summer of 1961 by continuing the summer instrument lessons that Miss Stinzi had arranged. My first lesson with the new band teacher did not go well nor did my next.  My cornet playing underwhelmed Mr. Pendleton and I was soon demoted to a kind of standby position in the band.  I remember on one warm evening that summer when Butch Donaldson and Greg Ferries, who both lived about a block from my grandmother’s house, were practicing their cornets by playing outside.  Soon Butch and Greg were playing songs together from each of their houses and the neighborhood was filled with music.  So I decided to join them.  When I started to blatt out the song they were skillfully playing, the impromptu concert came to a grinding halt.  That should have been a hint as to Mr. Pendleton’s concern about my playing ability.
            When the school year began that fall, my cornet lessons with Mr. Pendleton were increased to several times a week, almost daily.  My playing improved and I was soon back playing my cornet in the Senior Band. The LHS band increased to 40 members during the year.  The cornet section increased to nine members that 1961-62 school year.  Butch Donaldson, Carlyle Stoleson and Greg Ferries occupied the first chairs.  Then Vera Beth Looker, Dennis Martin and Brent Waddell comprised the second chairs, with Roberta Putt, John Sullivan and myself playing in the third chairs.  Other members in my class in school who were in the band that year included Ann Steinmetz, Berthanna Betts, Judy Kirking, and Ben Rastall.

Monday, May 7, 2018

1968 - PART II

As mentioned previously, nothing had a greater impact on America in 1968 than the escalating war in Vietnam.  When the North Vietnamese launched what became known as the Tet Offensive in late January of that year, everything changed for the American military forces already in the Southeast Asian country.  
            In an issue of the La Farge Enterprise from December of 1967, Rudy Hamilton, LHS Class of 1965, had written home from Vietnam thanking everyone for writing him letters and to keep them coming.  After the Tet Offensive began a month later, it was learned that Rudy was in Khe Sanh, where some of the heaviest fighting was occurring.   In early February, Larry Booher, with many connections to La Farge, was listed as wounded in the fighting in Vietnam.  Todd Muller, Gary Climer and Danny Thayer all sent messages home about also being in the thick of the fighting.
            In the March 14th issue of the Enterprise, publisher/editor Arnie Widstrand, a World War II veteran, wrote an anti-war editorial, specifically aimed at the way that the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson was handling the war effort.  A week later, word was received that Dean Dalberg, aged 19, had been killed in Vietnam.  Dalberg grew up on a farm on South Bear Creek and was a 1966 graduate from Kickapoo High School.  He was the first soldier from Richland County to die in the Vietnam War.
            La Farge received more shocking news that year when Dr. Connie Lee, La Farge’s only doctor, announced that she was leaving La Farge and the last day of her practice would be August 3rd. Village leaders scrambled to replace Dr. Lee and Bernice Schroeder was named to head up a doctor procurement committee.  Later, it was learned that the La Farge Medical Clinic Corporation was broke and people were asked to pay off their pledges for the clinic as soon as possible. 
            Good things were happening at the school in La Farge in 1968.  The high school’s enrollment was 145 students for the 1967-68 school year.  The school also was undergoing several changes in programs during the year.  Albert Oaklief continued to be a dynamic superintendent for La Farge Schools.  Mr. Oaklief volunteered to coach grade-school basketball on Saturday mornings as he had done for years.  He also was moving the school towards new programs and in March hosted a meeting for those interested in becoming Para-educators at the school.  After months of negotiations with federal and state officials, Mr. Oaklief announced in late November that the school at La Farge would soon have the first Talking Typewriter in the state of Wisconsin.  The new state-of-the-art machine would offer a variety of programs to improve student’s reading skills.     
            At La Farge High School, several awards were handed out in February when Peggy Gabrielson was named the winner of the DAR Award and Peggy Steinmetz received the LHS Homemaker Award.  On the basketball court, the LHS boys were knocked out of the Kickapoo Valley Conference title chase with a loss to eventual champion Barneveld.  (Yes, I know that Barneveld is a long way from the Kickapoo Valley, but that’s the way it was back then.  The conference, on its last legs, consisted of Seneca, Wauzeka, Ithaca, Barneveld, Hollandale and La Farge.)  The Wildcats finished with a 7-3 mark in KVC play, good for second place and John Smith and Dick Campbell led the team in scoring.  In wrestling, Frank Meseberg’s 12-4 mark led the Wildcat team.  The LHS Wrestling team’s highlight was a 29-28 victory over archrival Kickapoo during the season.
            After the winter sports season concluded, LHS students Lahna Kellogg and Jane Wenzel wrote a history of La Farge’s participation in the Kickapoo Valley Conference, listing the top LHS championship teams over the years.  La Farge Wildcat teams would be moving to the Scenic Central Conference after the 1967-68 school year.  In March, the LHS Forensics Team won the KVC Championship, defeating teams from Seneca and Wauzeka.  Later, six from the LHS forensics team would qualify for state competition.
            The French Fair was held at LHS on April 5thwith proceeds from the event used to pay for students taking a trip to Washington D.C.  Later in the month, twenty-seven LHS students in the French Club and FHS made the trip to the nation’s capital.
            The LHS Junior Prom with a theme of “Summer Rain” was held in late April.  Sarah Widstrand and Phil Gudgeon were named royalty for the prom.  After the dance, the parents of Junior Class students hosted a post-prom party in the school lunchroom.
            LHS Senior Simon Widstrand was named a National Merit Scholar in April, one of only 400 students so honored in the country. Accompanying the prestigious honor for Simon was a 4-year scholarship to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. 
            The LHS band, under the direction of Marlin Pendleton took a first in Class B concert competition at the music festival held in LaCrosse in April.  Later, LHS musicians Dean Steinmetz with a cornet solo and the trombone trio of Phil Gudgeon, Jim Looker and Monte Muller won gold medal firsts at the State Music Festival held in Eau Claire. 
            The La Farge track team repeated as KVC champs at the meet held at Kickapoo High School in May of 1968.  The LHS baseball team did not play in the spring season, also for the second year in a row, instead playing their games during the WIAA’s new summer season.
            The end of the school year was highlighted by the graduation of the 32 members of the LHS Class of 1968.  Simon Widstrand was valedictorian of the class and Sherri Nemec was salutatorian.
            As was usual then, the last day of school was held on Memorial Day so students could participate in the parade.  The parade went from the schoolhouse down to Main Street and then west to the IGA grocery store.  School buses waited there to transfer everyone out to the Bear Creek Cemetery for the VFW & Auxiliary Memorial Day services.  The services included a roll call of veterans buried in the cemetery and the placing of flags on wooden crosses bearing their names. The LHS band played for the service, which concluded with the playing of “Taps”. 
            Some developments with the La Farge Dam & Lake Project would soon have a lasting impact on the school district as well as the rest of the community.  In July, the Army Corps of Engineers sought bids for a title firm to handle the purchases of property for the La Farge project.  A month later, a title company from Wichita, Kansas was chosen for the job. Later the Corps sent out letters to landowners in the project area with a notification of a meeting about the land acquisition process.  That meeting was held in November with over 300 people in attendance in the LHS gymnasium. At the meeting, the Corps officials explained the process for the land acquisitions and said that negotiations for the first land purchases (those properties at the dam site located just north of La Farge) would begin before the end of the year.  Many people left the meeting that night with worried expressions on their faces. 
            A few weeks later, one of the first properties affected by the Corps’ dam project purchases, the Gale Huston mink ranch, suffered a devastating financial blow when a utility building burned down on the farm and 7,000 mink pelts were lost in the fire.
            As 1968 came to a close in La Farge, Santa Claus visited the village on Saturday, December 21st to hand out bags of candy and nuts to youngsters eagerly waiting in the village parking lot.  The La Farge Post Office was open the next day, a Sunday, to handle late Christmas mailings.  As usual, the old year was rung out with style in the little village on the Kickapoo River and happy shouts heralded in the New Year of 1969.   


1968 was a tumultuous year in America’s history.  It is now the 50thanniversary of that chaotic year and many of the events from that year are being retold in newspaper articles and television broadcasts. The Reverend Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy were both assassinated that year.  Reverend King’s death led to race riots in many American cities and Senator Kennedy’s loss profoundly affected the presidential election of that year.  
            The war in Vietnam continued to escalate in 1968 (the Tet Offensive was launched by North Vietnam at the end of January that year) and the resistance to the American involvement in that conflict also grew. Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy won the New Hampshire presidential primary election in March as an anti-war candidate and soon after and just days before the Wisconsin primary (also won by McCarthy) President Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not seek another term for the office.
            I thought it would be interesting to look at what was happening locally in La Farge during 1968.  In this installment and the next, we will look at some of the happenings of that year in this little Kickapoo Valley town.  Much of the information for this local history was gleaned from the 1968 copies of the La Farge Enterprise newspaper.  The La Farge Enterprise began its 70thyear of continual publication in January of 1968 and Arnie Widstrand was the editor of the paper.
            As the year began, some major changes were occurring in the businesses along La Farge’s Main Street.  After 27 years in business, Jennie Adams sold her variety store to Muriel Burnard in December of 1967.  The first Enterprise issue of 1968 featured a farewell advertisement from Jennie Adams, thanking all of her customers for their patronage over the years.  Muriel’s Variety Store continued to sell the same popular lines of merchandise as the previous owner.  
            In the next week’s newspaper, there was an announcement that Carson Lawrence was leaving his Sinclair gas station on the corner across Mill Street from the cheese factory and relocating to the Texaco station on the other end of La Farge’s Main Street.  Carson had been operating a gas station at the “Nuzum’s Corner” since 1937 and for many years had also sold sporting goods and guns from the station. Virgil Nixon owned and had previously operated the Texaco gas station where Carson moved his business and also ran a bulk oil and gas truck for farm deliveries out of the same location.
            Two weeks after Carson Lawrence’s move, an ad ran in the Enterprise announcing the Grand Opening of “Glenn’s Pure Oil & Used Cars” at the former Sinclair gas station kitty-corner from Nuzum’s.  Glenn Alderman was the new owner of the business there.  In early March, Virgil Nixon completed his retirement moves when he sold his bulk oil/gas truck business to Teddy Olson.  By the end of the year, the Texaco brand had switched places in town and another grand opening ad appeared in the mid-December issue of the Enterprise for “Glenn’s Texaco & Used Cars”.  
            In July, Harvey’s Market & Locker Plant (one of four grocery stores in La Farge at the time) changed hands when Bill and Irma Gilman bought the south State Street business from Harvey and Evelyn Ernst, who had operated the locker plant business for nearly eighteen years.  “Harvey’s Bologna”, produced at the store, was a regional favorite and sold all over western Wisconsin.  Bill Gilman had worked at the Ernst locker plant/store for over seven years before buying the business and continued to make the famous “Harvey’s Bologna”.
            A longtime business in La Farge ceased operations in the fall of 1968 under tragic circumstances.  In October Orville Casey Sanford had a stroke while working in his men’s clothing store on a Saturday night and died a few days later at age 77. Casey Sanford had been selling men’s and boy’s clothing and shoes in LF for fifty years.  He had worked for Charles DeJean in his men’s clothing store at the location for years before buying the business in 1929.  With Casey’s passing, Sanford’s Clothing Store, which was the last men’s clothing store in La Farge, closed.  A dispersal sale of all merchandise and fixtures was held.  Delos Glick bought all of the shoes and boots from Casey’s store to sell in his shoe shop located on south State Street.  The store that had housed Casey’s Clothing Store was torn down in the fall of 1972 and the lot has sat empty to this day.
            Several other deaths affected the business community in La Farge in 1968.  In August, Ben Rastall, the manager of La Farge’s Nuzum’s Lumber Yard, died suddenly of a heart attack at his home of a heart attack.  The popular lumberyard manager was 56 years old.  Three weeks after the death, Orville Jensen was named the new manager of the La Farge Nuzum’s.
            In March, Ed Muller, former leader of the Muller Construction Company based in La Farge had died at the age of 81.  Ed Muller, a former La Farge village president, had been a formidable leader in making the family ‘s La Farge construction company one of the largest in western Wisconsin.  After he retired and turned over the company to other family members, Ed Muller tinkered around in the company shop on west Main Street and built a steam engine.  He would fire up the steam engine on occasions to give his grandchildren and other kids in the village a ride up and down Main Street.
            In September, Dick Ekern, another former businessman in La Farge and owner of a large mink ranch in the Town of Webster, passed away.  Ekern was a former tavern owner in La Farge, where three drinking establishments operated successfully in 1968.  The newest of the taverns, the Raven Bar was located in the old theater building and featured area bands on stage every Saturday night.  Otis Williams & Country Caravan was one of the area’s favorite musical groups to play the Raven.  Another local group was Mel Williams & The Stranger that played at Ray Merwin’s Bar in February.  La Farge’s other bar was Boot’s & Ina’s, also known as Kellogg’s Bar, owned and operated by John and Ina Kellogg.
            At the end of each year during the time of the 1960s, most La Farge businesses would place an ad in the Enterprise during the Christmas – New Year issues that wished everyone happy holidays and thanked people for their patronage during the year. Looking at a list of those ads gives one a sense of what the business community was like in 1968.
            There were late December ads for Mick’s IGA, the Cash Store, Dick’s Grocery and Gilman’s Harvey’s Market – La Farge’s four grocery stores at that time.  The La Farge Barber Shop featured the names of barbers Eston Major and Everett Parr. On the women’s side of hair care, there were holiday ads for Jan’s Beauty Salon and Lois’ Beauty Shop.
            Mac’s Pool Hall, which had been closed for part of 1968, had an ad placed by manager Theron Phillips.  Bob & Maxine Kennedy had an ad for the Band Box Café, while La Farge’s newest restaurant venture, Kathy’s Rec & Luncheon that had opened in November, also had a Yule time ad.
            Other end of year ads in the 1968 issues of the Enterprise included Johnson’s Funeral Home, Jeffers Truck Sales, Rockton Tavern, Glick’s Shoe Shop, Wheeler Feed Store, Muriel’s Variety, Glenn’s Texaco & Used Cars, Raven Bar, La Farge Creamery, C&S Motors, Carson Lawrence Station, Vosen Insurance, Sandmire’s Mobil Station, H&D Lumber Co., Caucutt Plumbing & Electric, Rose Hardware Store, Muller’s Radio & TV, La Farge State Bank, Nuzum’s, La Farge Co-op Oil, Lounsbury Drug Store, Miller’s Store, Ray’s Bar, Kellogg’s Bar, Major’s TV & Appliance, Qwik Sales & Service and Markee Soft Water.
            Next time, we will continue this “golden anniversary” look back at La Farge.  We will view the local impact of the war in Vietnam and on a happier note; look at the successes of the students attending La Farge’s school. If you would like to share some memories of this time in La Farge’s history, contact me at bcstein@mwt.netor send me a note at P.O. Box 202, La Farge, WI 54639.
            Working together, we can tell the stories of this little Kickapoo River town.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Future Speaking Engagements

I did not make it over to Badger Ordnance on January 11th to give my dam talk – icy roads caused a cancellation of that endeavor.  We are going to try and reschedule.  
Speaking of rescheduling, the culmination of my “Last Dam Talk*” at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve has been set for Wednesday, March 21st.  The talk is scheduled for 7 pm, with socializing and smoozing & refreshments at 6:30.  Check out the KVR webpage for more information on my Last Dam Talk*.
I am going to give a local history talk focusing on Volume II of my La Farge history at the Lawton Library on Tuesday, February 20th beginning at 6:30 pm.  Check out the library's webpage for more information on that talk.

            Don’t forget that copies of all three of my books are for sale at the KVR Gift Shop, the La Farge bank and the office of the Episcope.  If you would like me to send you a copy of the recently published Volume II of my La Farge history, please send me $25 along with your address to P.O. Box 202, La Farge, WI 54639.

            Recently via Face Book, I heard from Guillaume Caudebec, who lives near Paris, France.  Guillaume was a foreign exchange student at La Farge High School during the 1988-89 school year.  He was interested in purchasing a copy of Volume II and wanted to know what it would cost.  The cheapest mailing fee to “Gay Paree” is a tad over $36, so I’m not sure if he will be interested.  He wasn't!
            I recently mailed out a copy of Volume II to a former classmate (LHS Class of 1965 – a great class!) Carlyle Stoleson in Mazomanie.  In his letter, Carlyle mentioned that he had read my column on Badger Ordnance and that he drove a tram at the ammo plant in 1969.  Fellow classmate Rudy Hamilton also mentioned to me that he worked at Badger that year as well.
            Working together, we can tell the story of this little Kickapoo River town.     

Badger Army Ammunition Plant

I was going to be giving a history talk in Baraboo on January 11th at the Badger Ammo Plant Museum.  (Because of bad weather and wintry roads, my talk was postponed.  Hopefully it will be rescheduled in the spring of 2018.  I will be talking about the La Farge dam project history with an audience interested in comparisons of the Kickapoo Valley project with the current conversion of the old ammo plant grounds at Merrimac over to public lands.  The Badger History Group, an organization that is preserving the history of the former U.S. Army ordnance facility, is sponsoring my talk.
            As I prepare my presentation, I have been thinking about the connections between the Badger Ammo Plant and the community of La Farge.  Over the years, lots of people from the La Farge area worked at Badger Ordnance and the effects of those paychecks and jobs were significant.
            The Badger Army Ammunition Plant was built during World War II and became the largest munitions factory in the world at that time.  Besides the factory that was located on nearly 10,000 acres of prairie south of Baraboo at a place called Merrimac, the operation also included a village where workers and their families could live.  “Badger Village” included a school, recreation center, child-care facility, cafeterias, and a transportation system.  The village housed up to 8,000 workers and their families during the war.  By 1948, all munitions production had stopped at the plant and the Badger Ordnance Plant was deactivated.
            In 1951, when the war in Korea spread to include American troops, Badger Ordnance was reactivated and the Olin Corporation took over the operation of the plant.  During the Korean Conflict, the Badger plant produced ball powder, rocket propellants, smokeless powder, acid and oleum that were used in a variety of weapons.  Olin continued to create munitions at Badger on a limited basis after the war in Korea ended, finally going on stand-by status for the plant in 1957.
            When the United States became involved in the war in Vietnam in the 1960s, Badger Ordinance was once again put into full production.  Beginning in 1966, Olin operated Badger at full capacity again and continued producing munitions at the Wisconsin facility through the middle of 1975.  In 1997, the U.S. Defense Department declared that Badger Ordnance was “in excess of its needs” and plans were made to return the facility to state and local control.
            At the heights of production during the various war years, Badger Ordnance employed as many as 12,000 people.  The need for employees at the Badger plant reached out to all of the communities of southern Wisconsin, including those in the Kickapoo Valley.  Many workers and their families relocated to Badger during the various war years of peak production.  Here is what I wrote in Volume I of my history of La Farge when the Badger munitions plant began during World War II,
            The construction of the government powder plant at Merrimac, south of Baraboo, in 1942 and 1943 had an immediate impact on employment for La Farge men and women.  Bob Kennedy was one of the first from the village to work at the munitions plant, called Badger Ordnance.  His brother-in-law, Merton Calhoon soon joined him when he resigned his positions at the bank and as village clerk in La Farge and started work at Badger in April of 1943.  Merton moved his family to Pardeeville to be closer to his new job at the powder plant.  Others car-pooled to work at the new plant.  By the spring of 1944, there were seventeen from La Farge working at Badger Ordnance and Harry Lounsbury; village board member sought a bus to stop at La Farge to carry the workers.  A bus wasn’t available at that time, but the La Farge workers at the munitions plant were given extra gasoline rations to make the drive, while others caught the bus to Badger at Hillsboro.  Eventually the bus line to Badger Ordinance was extended to La Farge to carry the workers to and from work.  A village with temporary housing was set up across from the Merrimac munitions plant and some from La Farge moved there.  The “Badger Village” started its own school and Clarence Krumm, former school principal in La Farge, was the first principal at the new school.  Many women from La Farge worked at the Merrimac plant, some working away from home for the first time. (From page 136)
            I remember one lady from La Farge telling me that her first good-paying job was at the Badger Ammo plant during WWII.  After the war was over and her job at Badger was eliminated, she was determined to find another job.  She did not want to return to her home to become a “housewife” – a term she used with derision.
            Later in Volume I, I wrote this about the connection between La Farge and Badger Ordnance during the Korean War,
            Another impact that the Korean conflict had on the village was the revival of operations at the Badger Ordnance powder plant in Baraboo.  Once again thousands of people were needed to work at the munitions plant and many would come from the La Farge area.  Daily bus service was begun from the village to the war plant, carrying workers from La Farge and the surrounding area.  The good paying jobs at Badger
Ordnance further increased the bustling economy of the village.
(From page 154 – there is also a photo of the Badger Ordnance Works in 1942)
            When Badger Ordnance was cranked back up to full production during the Vietnam War, many from La Farge once again worked at the munitions plant.  A daily bus line once again ran from La Farge to Merrimac to carry workers back and forth, stopping in Hillsboro and Union Center along the way.  In 1969, I occasionally rode on that bus as I worked at Badger that summer.  Bob Kennedy, who was back working at Badger Ordnance for a third time – this time as a production line foreman, got me the job.  Although I was still planning to return to LaCrosse that fall to finish up my college education, the ammo plant needed workers badly that summer.  Bob told me to not mention about returning to college in my Badger Ammo job interview – that way I would get a job.  It never came up and I was soon working on the “Air Dry Line” at Badger Ordnance along with David Mick, another college student from La Farge who had started work there a couple of weeks before me.
            We worked a “swing shift” that summer – one week we would work days, then the next week it was the 2nd shift, followed by the graveyard shift the week after that.  Since the bus lines did not operate for the night shifts, we had to drive a lot of the time.  I think back now that some of my classmates from LHS – Rudy Hamilton, Ben Rastall, and Danny Thayer to name a few – had served in Vietnam before I even started working at Badger Ordnance.
            The summer of 1969 was also when the Army Corps of Engineers, in an entirely non-war related enterprise, began purchasing property north of La Farge for the dam & lake project. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017


It only took five years or so, but Volume II of my little history of La Farge is finally finished.  The book is printed and is available to the public.  After completing the book at the beginning of October, I gave the text to my publishing guru, Chuck Hatfield, who formatted the book, made a really spiffy cover and added all the photos, maps and other inserts.  Chuck also contacted printing companies that he has used in the past and took bids to print my book.  We settled on TPS Printing for the job and Chuck e-mailed them a copy of my book.  TPS ran a quick proof copy of the book and sent it back to me for a look over.
            At this point in the process, I was a little ambivalent about the process as I kept remembering things I should have included in the history.  I realized that everything cannot be included in such a history, but leaving parts of the story out of the telling is difficult.  As I looked over the proof copy, I also felt there were lots of places that the story could have been better written.  Regardless of my ambivalence, the proof was approved and the printing process initiated.
            Volume II is over 420-pages in length.  It covers the goings-on in La Farge from the 1960’s until the present.  The longest chapter in the book focuses on the 1970’s - a period that I title “Dynamic Times”.  The 1980’s and ‘90’s also are covered in some depth as I tried to focus on a couple of developments that make La Farge rather different than most small towns in western Wisconsin.  Those, of course, were CROPP coming to town in 1989 and the creation of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve about a decade later.
            I tried a different format with my “Chapter Notes” in Volume II.  In the earlier book on La Farge’s history that I wrote, I put the “Chapter Notes” in a separate section at the end of the book.  I had “borrowed” this technique from author Lynne Heasley, when I read her book about the Kickapoo Valley, A Thousand Pieces of Paradise.  Lynne had used the chapter notes in her book to flesh out the story even more and to add some personal comments as well outside of the main text.
            As the length of Volume II became greater and the number of “Chapter Notes” stretched into the dozens for some chapters, I thought I should put the notes at the end of each chapter instead of all being placed at the end of the text.  I felt the notes and the personal asides contained within them would be easier to access if they were at the end of each chapter.  As a reader of Volume II, you’ll have to let me know how you like the change.  I’m sure Lynne Heasley will be OK with it and even might copy my style in return.
            In another similarity with my first La Farge history book, I have also included a number of “Local History Notebook” columns in Volume II.  Since I write about a lot of divisiveness in the community in Volume II, I tried to pick out some of my columns that show how the people of La Farge came together during that time as well.  Successful athletic teams at LHS were often a source of that coming together, so I copied a few of my columns about some of those teams and included them as part of the story.  In addition, I included “Notebooks” on the building of the first medical clinic in La Farge, the history of Calhoon Park, “The People Remember” oral history project on the dam project, gas station memories, pool hall memories, and several more.  By the time that we added those twenty-five “Notebooks” with photos, the book had stretched out to over 420 pages.
            The editing of Volume II was a bittersweet process for me.  My good friend, Paula Muller Howard had edited the first volume of the La Farge history for me.  As I completed each chapter of that book, I would send Paula the finished product.  She would read through it, making edits and providing comments for me to look at along the way.  That process worked really well as Paula had a real talent for editing.  We had started the process again for Volume II and Paula had edited the first three chapters for me.  Several other chapters were written, but I had been tardy in passing them onto her to look at.  With Paula’s passing, the editing process at which she excelled was lost.  I’m sure her absence shows in the latter part of Volume II.
            I conclude Volume II of my La Farge history with another of my little “Walks Down Main Street” that I often use to close out the year when writing my newspaper column.  There are actually several Main Street walks in Volume II as I like using the devise to show what was happening in the village at a particular time in history.
            The last walk was actually first written in 2013-2014 as that was when I had hoped to finish up Volume II.  But for a variety of reasons (that I chronicle in the beginning of the new book), that last little walk kept getting extended, first into 2015, then 2016, and finally 2017.  Even though the walk ends up chronicling about a half of a decade in La Farge’s most recent history, it also shows some of the dynamics that show how the changes occurred.  This is how I introduce that last walk down Main Street at the end of Volume II.

            So as we arrive at the end of our story about this little Kickapoo River town, we might ask the question – what position is La Farge in?  If we climbed up to the top of Fort Wales or Spring Mountain with our camera phones and took a snapshot or a panorama scan – what would we see?  Or if we climbed into an airplane and departed one of the air strips in Hillsboro or Viroqua, and then swooped down over the village and photographed it from above  (Which has been done so many times as the Kickapoo floods ravished the town from 1935 right up through the devastating 2008 flood.  Does anyone fly above La Farge and photograph it when there isn’t a flood?  Of course they do, but we don’t tend to see those photos.), what would we see now?  How would the La Farge of 2017 compare to that view of La Farge in the early 20th century taken from Fort Wales?  (By the way, that photo was the cover of the Volume I book.)  Would you recognize the La Farge of 2017 in a photo taken from an airplane if you compared it to the 1935 aerial photo of the flooded village that was the front page of the Milwaukee Sentinel?

And sometimes, even now,
When I’m lonely and beat.
I drift back in time and I find my feet
Down on Mainstreet.

Verse from the song “Mainstreet”

By Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band (1977)

If you would like me to send you a copy of the new Volume II, send me a $25 check (covers all packaging and postage) to P.O. Box 202, La Farge, WI 54639.  Make sure to include your address if it is different than what is on your check.