Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Visiting Madison's Forest Hill Cemetery, Part Three: Bagpipes and German immigrants in Madison

Wednesday, May 24, I went back to Forest Hill to photograph graves of people you might not have known were buried there, but whose names you'll probably recognize. They'll be the subject of another post.

During this visit, I met and talked to several people who come the cemetery fairly often, but not to tend to graves. I wasn't really expecting to meet and talk to more people, so I wasn't prepared to take notes. As a result, what you'll find below each photo is not a full profile, but a brief sketch, based on notes scribbled on the back of a cemetery map.

This bagpiper was standing at attention, waiting to received the signal to begin playing for a funeral taking place across the road. He agreed to let me photograph him, but it was clear he didn't have time to answer questions. Fortunately, his wife had accompanied him, so I was able to talk quietly to her for a few minutes before the plaintive bagpipe music filled the air.

Jim Curley is a professional bagpiper who plays at weddings, parties, and funerals. He was scheduled to play at several Madison cemeteries on Memorial Day. I was so excited to discover that Curley's wife had a Central connection, I neglected to make a note of her first name. What I can tell you is her father was Luin Hatleberg. She didn't know what year he graduated from Central, but said he was born in 1922, so he probably graduated around 1940.

If you'd like to hire a bagpiper, I have contact information. Send me an email and I'll be glad to help you make a connection.

When I first saw the man in the above photo, he was looking at gravestones and taking notes. Ever inquistive, and emboldened by my recent success at striking up conversations with strangers, I asked him who he was and what he was doing.

Andrew Chiello is a taxi driver, but he's also a professional genealogist who's undertaking an ambitious project: He intends to write a book about the history of German immigrants in Madison. And, having heard his surname, I had to ask, "Why Germans?" Turns out this Milwaukee native's heritage is Sicilian on his father's side and German on his mother's side.

By looking at groups of gravestones, Andrew is often able to determine relationships between various family members more easily than he might from pouring over printed records. He showed me some gravestones where the relationships were very clear because, in addition to a name, the stone contained additional information such as "son of" or "wife of."

While we were talking, I noticed a nearby gravestone with the name Sigglekow on it and asked Andrew what he knew about that family. I was particularly interested because I'd recently added an obituary for Central almuna Alice Siggelko Better, a fourth-generation Madisonian who worked as an air traffic controller at Truax Field during World War II, to the archives, and had done a bit of research to discover why the "w" had been dropped from her surname. Andrew knew a lot about the family and soon we were talking about when and why other families had emigrated from Germany to Madison.

Andrew told me he'd read and reviewed all available U.S. Census data about his subjects (about 78,000 pages). He also reads Old German and New German (as well as Italian), so he is able to translate documents when necessary. In addition to his own research and his job at Madison Taxi, Andrew undertakes private commissions to research and write family histories. If you're interested in his project or in hiring him to work on your family history, I have contact information for him. Send me an email and I'll help you get in touch.

Reminder: The reason I don't post email contact information is because spammers often try to harvest email addresses from blogs. I don't want to be responsible to subjecting these men -- or anyone mentioned on this blog to an onslaught of electronic junk mail.

Visiting Madison's Forest Hill Cemetery, Part Two: Preparations for Memorial Day

On Saturday, May 20, the Madison Parks Department hoped to have 40-50 volunteers show up at Forest Hill Cemetery to put U.S. flags out on gravestones prior to Memorial Day. Kathy Lange, who works in the the cemetery office, told me "maybe 20" showed up that day.

In addition to these volunteers, Lange told me there are still some VFW posts that put flags out. However, many of the service and fraternal groups that used to help with this task, no longer participate. "Maybe the guys [in charge] died and no one replaced them," she speculates.

When I visited Forest Hill on Tuesday, May 23, I planned to look for the flags, as well as snap some photos of preparations for Memorial Day: I had no plans to talk to people, but things changed.

But let's back up for a minute. As I've learned from interviewing momument makers, preparations for Memorial Day begin in Spring. Wisconsin weather hinders installation of gravemarkers during the winter months, so gravestones must be kept in storage until freezing temperature abate. Then the rush season arrives, as momument companies hurry to install all the gravestones that have been accumulating for many months in time for Memorial Day weekend.

Installation of the backlog of gravestones usually begins in mid-April, says Lange -- "as soon as we can flag [the locations] and it's not wet."

Sometime during the months of March and April, cemetery staff begin removing decorations from all graves "in order to tackle out biannual cleanups." Since there always seems to be a staff shortage, families are encourage to remove decorations themselves.

Two weeks ago, when I visited Forest Hill, the grass was high and dandelions were threatening a takeover, This week, it was clear that that, unlike last year, there were plenty of Park Department employees hard at work to make certain the cemetery would be decked out in its best bib and tucker for the Memorial Day weekend, when, if there's nice weather, Lange says thousands of people will visit.

Tuesday afternoon, I entered Forest Hill via a path near Glenway Golf Course. I was going to take a solitary walk up to visit family graves in Section 35 (the Veterans Section), where I expected to see flags. Then, I planned to walk around to see how many other sections were sporting flags, and see what types of plantings and other decorations were adorning grave sites.

What I soon discovered was that Parks Department employees weren't the only people getting ready for Memorial Day. There were a sizeable number of people at Forest Hill decorating, planting, and watering family gravesites. I didn't want to play pesky paparazzi and invade their privacy by using my zoom, so I summoned some courage to initiate some conversations ask people for permission to photograph them.

Mr. Guernsey was decorating his wife's grave with artifical flowers, which he expects to survive for the summer. Forest Hill asks families to remove decorations in September or October in preparation for its other biannual cleanup. Mr. Guernsey grew up in Platteville and attended university there, but moved to Madison in the early 1950s. There wasn't a direct Central connection here, but there was a bit of one. His home is in the same neighborhood as the one Mr. Colucci lived in when he taught at Madison Central High School.

Once Mary Ann Coffman and I started talking, it was difficult to stop because, as is often the case with Madison natives of a certain age, we soon discovered we had a lot in common -- and lots of Central conenctions. Mary Ann's mother, Marie, graduated from Central and so did other relatives. Mary Ann graduated from West, as did her partner -- but they didn't get together as a couple until their 40th class reunion. His father graduated from Madison High School (Central's name until East was built) in 1917.

Mary Ann also told me about "dog cards," a subject to which we shall return in a later post. And since we didn't have time to talk all afternoon, in part because she had 10 family graves to attend to, I'm planning to talk to her when again, when I can take notes -- and then she'll be the subject of another post.

Alice Benn was planting flowers near some family graves and she'd come well-prepared for this task. In addition to flowers, she'd brought tools, gardening gloves, paper towels, and extra soil. She graduated from Madison East in 1952, but we couldn't establish any Central connections. However, she told me some wonderful stories she'd heard from her grandfather about what Madison was like back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A busy Memorial Day weekend

Sometimes good intentions aren't sufficient. It's been a too-short holiday weekend, full of surprises and unexpected company. Many of the things I planned to post here have had to be postponed. Perhaps Monday evening I'll find some time to finish up my Forest Hill series. It would have been wonderful to have those posts up by now, but I suspect many of you probably have been too busy to check in and see what's new.

In the meantime, you may want to check out the first post in my [eventually] multi-part series on Madison's Forest Hill Cemetery, scroll down this page a bit, or click HERE. If you haven't already read it, you may also want to take a look at "Seniors in Service," a post about some of the members of the Madison Central High School Class of 1946 who served in World War II.

Note: The photo on the left was taken earlier this week. It shows some of the graves in Section 35 (the Veterans Section) at Forest Hill.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Visiting Madison's Forest Hill Cemetery, Part One: Graduating to the oldest generation

For most of my life, I avoided cemeteries. I had parents and grandparents, great aunts and cousins who assumed responsibility for taking care of family graves. They were the people who spent Memorial Day weekend planting, pruning, and decorating, often logging hundreds of miles as they journeyed to visit cemeteries scattered throughout Iowa and Wisconsin. Other, more distant relatives, cousins I'd never met, tended graves in New York and Massachusetts.

Even when I had opportunities to visit cemeteries that were the final resting places of famous people -- Père Lachaise in Paris, or Highgate in London, for instance -- I demurred. I wasn't interested.

But if you live long enough, eventually you find yourself slowly moving up in the ranks, eventually becoming a member of the oldest generation in one branch of your family tree, and then another. That's when you are confronted with making a decision about whether or not you will assume responsibility for family graves.

That time arrived for me in 1998, when my father died. Suddenly, I had four graves in Madison's Forest Hill Cemetery to attend to, including that of my uncle, Wallace E. Goff, the first Madison man killed in action during the Korean War. So I began to visit and to learn more about caring for gravestones and what kinds of plantings were acceptable. Two years ago, just before Memorial Day, The Capital Times published two articles I'd written and researched on caring for gravestones and how local cemeteries regulated flowers and plantings on gravesites.

Last year, I began this blog and developed an interest in the history of Madison Central High School. The more I learned about the school's history, the more I realized Forest Hill Cemetery was the final resting place of many of the men and women who had been students, teachers, and administrators (as well as their spouses, children, and other relatives) during the school's 100+ years in Madison. I made some visits to Forest Hill to look for some alumni graves and discovered it could be, weather permitting, a wonderful place to visit and stroll -- a serene sanctuary in the midst of a sometimes noisy city. A placed filled with history. A home to majestic trees, effigy mounds, noisy birds, thousands of hosta plants, and the occasional racoon.

But although I've written about the Wisconsin Veterans Museum's annual "Talking Spirits" guided walking tour of Forest Hill, and am aware that Historic Madison, Inc., the organization responsible for the creation of "A Biographical Guide to Forest Hill Cemetery" (and "Bishops to Bootleggers: A Biographical Guide to Resurrection Cemetery"), also hosts tours, my visits to Forest Hill have always been solitary. That changed this week. What was supposed to be a brief trip to write a post about preparations for Memorial Day weekend (with, of course, some sort of Central connection) became a very different adventure, one that provided me with a very different look at Forest Hill.

Note: Full-size (8½" x 11") maps of Forest Hill Cemetery, such as the one shown above, are available from the cemetery office, located near the entrance near the intersection of Speedway Road and Regent Street.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"We will certainly host the All-Central Reunion..."

Less than two hours after I posted the news about the bar closing at VFW Post 1318 on Lakeside Street, in which I wondered aloud how this might affect next year's All-Central reunion, Post Commander Roger Boeker sent me an email with the following message: "We will certainly host the All-Central Reunion on Sunday before Valentines Day 2007."

He also told me he'd be at the VFW at 6 p.m. tonight, not tomorrow -- so I hurried over to the South Side with my digital camera to take some photos of him for an upcoming series on Memorial Day. I'd met Roger, who works for the State Department of Veterans Affairs, for the first time this morning in the cemetery office at Forest Hill. He'd stopped by to leave some copies of the printed Memorial Day programs, detailing the order of events (see image at the end of this post) at Forest Hill and the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Since I thought it would be useful to have a copy of the program, I introduced myself and asked for one. And that's when we established the Central connection. Roger, as I mentioned in my previous post, is a member of the Madison Central High School Class of 1960 -- and he told me he'd been reading this blog. Maybe that's why I was willing to endure rush hour traffic to accommodate his revised schedule. Sometimes flattering a blogger will keep her from adding your senior class photo to a post -- at least for awhile.

Double click on the above image to enlarge it in your browser window

Changes ahead for the annual All-Central reunion?

The bar at the VWF Post 1318 on Lakeside Street has closed, according an article by Lee Sensenbrenner, published in today's edition of The Capital Times. The lengthy, well-written, and well-balanced story suggests the bar's demise may have been a result of Madison's smoking ban. However, in the following excerpt from the article, the post's commander reminds us that the VFW's primary functions have little to do with alcohol and tobacco:

Post 1318 Commander Roger Boeker, also a Vietnam veteran, said that VFW is a service organization that fights the perception that it is "an old man's drinking and smoking club."

"We aren't that," he said. "Our motto is 'To remember the dead by serving the living.'"

Central alumni, no doubt, will wonder if these changes at the VFW will affect next February's All-Central reunion, since this annual event has always been held at the VFW on Lakeside Street.

Rich Bennett, the man who organizes the All-Central reunions isn't easy to reach, but maybe someone who reads this and sees him will tell him to give me a call to let me know what's happening. I expect to be talking to Roger Boeker, a member of the Class of 1960, in the next few days, so I'll also ask him what effect he thinks the closing may have on All-Central reunions.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sunday afternoon was just ducky

Sometimes instead of getting all your ducks in a row and hunkering down to tackle all the things on your "to do" list, it's necessary to take a break.

I had two books to return to Memorial Library -- both written by alumni who graduated late in the 19th century. More about them some other day.

I drove to campus and parked on Langdon Street. The University is on break, so things are very quite and public spaces uncrowded. After I returned the books, I wandered over to the Wisconsin Union Terrace. Thus it was that, instead of blogging on a Sunday afternoon, I spent time watching a couple of ducks paddle around in Lake Mendota.

The Alley Chicks bowled on Wednesdays

It was an intramural sport, but apparently Central did have girls' bowling teams 40 years ago. And on Valentine's Day 1964, The Madison Mirror ran photos of two of the top teams, including the "Alley Chicks." This winning team's members included Rachel Hefty, Judy Elsing, Nancy Ellis, and Bev Burmeister.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Some of the boys were struttin' their stuff

My quarries were endangered animals, but I was too late to pounce on them. The new carousel at the Henry Vilas Zoo closes at 4 p.m. So two weeks ago, when I made an impromptu visit to the zoo, I missed an opportunity to sit astride a tiger or bear because it was already 4:15 p.m. when I pushed open a tall metal entrance gate near Drake Street.

Sadly, the carousel is not the only part of the zoo with an early closing time. Although it's open seven days a week, Henry Vilas Zoo only permits people to visit from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. The rest of the time, the only thing on tap is a boring virtual tour.

Henry Vilas Zoo was something we took for granted when I was growing up in Madison back in the days when Ike was president, Checkers was still alive, and there were only 48 states. You went there to see Winkie the elephant; ride the Zor Shrine camels on Sunday mornings; visit monkey island; and peer at the slothful crocodiles, wondering if they were dead or just sleeping. You rode the miniature train and climbed aboard a painted horse on the merry-go-round. You pleaded with your parents to buy you a popsicle, and wondered exactly what your aunt meant when she claimed the chimps were making rude gestures at her. Lots people who grew up in Madison back then also have fond memories of the zoo.

It was free because the Vilas family stipulated it should always be free. But it was also open. Sure, the bird house and the reptile house closed at night, but no one prohibited you from entering the zoo at sunrise, or escorted you to an exit long before the sun set in the summer months. The animals were in cages, or houses, or behind fences, or across moats. Now they're in cages within a cage. High fences surround the zoo and keep visitors out most of the time. Perhaps it's because, as a young security guard told me, this current generation isn't as well-behaved as ours was: they don't pay attention to what their parents and teachers tell them.

So, anyway, there I was with a mere 45 minutes to visit, and at first it seemed as if the animals were doing their best to be almost as boring as those crocodiles of yore.

The black swans from Australia were unmoving, curled into snug packages.

The pelican was paddling around pretending to be a swan.

Then suddenly I heard a thrilling noise. Unique and unforgettable, it's a heady combination that starts out with the crisp sound of a sandalwood fan snapping open. A prolonged rustling follows: layers of starched crinolines briskly moving from timid susurration to a bold, sustained whirring.

And yes, indeed, there it was, the sight you yearned to see every time you visited the zoo. The sight you rarely were fortunate to behold: a peacock strutting his stuff, showing off his magnificent train. Oh yes! It was definitely spring. But the girls weren't very interested. The peahens ambled over to take a look, then departed, unimpressed.

The kangaroos didn't say a word, but they stopped hopping around, pausing to stare. Maybe they were hoping to catch a glimpse of some exotic hanky-panky.

Undeterred by the peacock's failure to impress the ladies, the turkey who lives in the same enclosure decided to do struff his stuff. Up went his tail, over came the ladies. Not interested. Rebuffed so quickly, the turkey went limp before I could capture his display of feathers on film.

Turning around, I saw the pelican, out of the water and spreading his wings, looking much fiercer and more impressive than he had a few minutes earlier.

Then a cardinal attracted my attention and began to flirt with my camera, flitting from one location to another everytime I raised that small device to my eye.

Finally, wearying of the game, he stopped in a picture-perfect location. He waited for me to record his vibrant beauty, then flew away because, unlike the bigger birds, he could.

It was almost time to leave and it was evident this visit belonged to the birds. The marsupials had been voyeurs. The bears, perhaps, were just too tired to perform. Time to leave. Next time maybe I'll be able to ride a carousel bear -- or maybe the polar bears will decide it's time to take the plunge and put on a show between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Another visit to the Italian Village

Here's another look at the interior of the old Italian Village restaurant on State Street. The image is a scan of a postcard in Ann Waidelich's collection.

Looking at it closely, I'm reminded of the many intimate spaces within the Italian Village. Combine that with the memories that were stirred up by Marlene's comments about Casa da Pizza, and I'm in the midst of reconsidering where/how the Italian Village fit into the social scheme. Were you more likely to go there if you had a date? Were you more likely to go there if you were an upperclassman? Would junior high students even dare to enter its doors?

Should bowling become an official WIAA sport?

Back in the days when our girls' gym class would troop down the State Street a couple of blocks to the Plaza Alleys (above the Plaza Tavern on Henry Street) to go bowling, it never occured to me that bowling might become an official WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association) sport. After all, how many schools had a bowling alley right in their neighborhood?

But times have changed. Yesterday, Dennis Semrau reported in The Capital Times on the efforts of some Madison high school students to make bowling a WIAA sponsored sport, joining 18 other states that already have interscholastic bowling teams for boys and girls. The students have been unsuccessful thus far. Already facing budget cuts that may force the elimination of extracurricular activities, school officials aren't eager to consider a new sport.

Semrau quotes WIAA executive director Doug Chickering's challenge to the students: "As a staff, as a board, we're ready to begin that kind of sponsorship if the schools ask for it. Bowling is in your hands."

But wait! There's an interesting coda to this story -- a Central connection. While searching for some links, I discovered that, in 1930, history was made in the Plaza bowling alley. On February 12, 1930 Jennie Hoverson Kelleher became the first women to bowl 300 in sanctioned competition. According to a 2002 Doug Moe column about this historic first, Kelleher's daughter, Beverly Kelleher Fortune, graduated from Madison Central High School in 1951. Moe's column may have been prompted by a 2002 Wisconsin Public Television "Wisconsin Stories" episode titled "Let's Go Bowl!" which featured a segment about Kelleher's accomplishment. You can watch that segment on your computer if you have RealPlayer (which can be downloaded from the WPT site).

"The flowers do fade" -- Visiting the lilacs at the UW Arboretum

Spring isn't just about green. It's about showy displays of white, delicate shades of pink, pale mauve, violet, and purple. It's about dogwood, flowering crab trees, cherry blossoms, and wisteria. But above all it's about lilacs: the scent, the color, the gaudy profusion of beautiful clusters of flowers that bloom and die within a very short time.

Growing up in Madison back when you could buy an ice cream soda at Rennebohm's for 25 cents and only a few of your neighbors had a televison set, the month of May was a time for my family to celebrate three events, all of which seemed to arrive within a few days of one another (and sometimes all on the same day): Mothers' Day, my father's birthday, and the arrival of the lilac flowers in the UW Arboretum.

My maternal grandmother loved lilac flowers, but believed their beauty was too ethereal to merit all the attention she would have to lavish on the bushes that bore them if she planted them near her house. So every spring, for many years, we visited the lilacs at the Arboretum. Back then, it was possible to drive through the Arboretum, from Mills Street to Seminole Highway. My recollections of those visits include being part of a long line of automobiles winding slowly toward the fragrant blooms, inhaling the scented air, then watching through the rear window as their delicate purple beauty disappeared into the distance. I can't recall being able to stop, get out of the car, and linger a bit longer.

Although I paid many visits to the Arboretum in the decades that followed, I gradually forgot about the lilacs. In the past several weeks, as I watched spring's flowery arrival, something made me remember the lilacs. Then, the long rainy period we've been experiencing made me despair. This was one journey into the past that might have to be taken next year.

Monday, a little after 4 p.m., the sun began to play peekaboo, so I altered my course and drove to visit the Arboretum's Longenecker Gardens to see if there were any lilacs still in flower. And I was not the only person in Madison exploring the gardens late on that rainy afternoon.

And yes, dear reader, there were lilacs, battered by the rain, but still alive with vibrant color. At least I though they were lilacs. Quelle horreur! Had I forgotten what they looked like? Was I seeing cousins by the dozens? Or were all these gorgeous purple flowers really lilacs? I tried thrusting my nose into some blooms, but the delicate scent of the flowers was masked by dampness. So I roamed about, shooting some photos, but trying not to alienate myself from these evanescent beauties by always interposing a lens between myself and them.

I think these next three photos are all of lilacs. But if they're not, I'm sure the usual suspects will send me emails to correct my errors.

Had I but world enough, and time, I would visit the Arboretum again today at 7 p.m. to accept its invitation to "Inhale the fragrance and enjoy the beauty and diversity of the Garden’s fine collection of lilacs." It would be comforting to have a horticulture professional assure me that what I've seen and photographed and identified as lilacs were indeed lilacs.

The lilacs won't last much longer, so if you have the time, hie on over to the Arboretum tonight to see them. You may not be able to gather them, but as Robert Herrick reminds us:

Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Let me introduce you to Ann Waidelich, a woman who knows a great deal about Madison history

No, you probably don't know the woman in the photo on the left, but she's someone you should get to know.

Ann Waidelich is a retired librarian who spends an extraordinary amount of time preserving and promulgating Madison history -- even though she's not a native.

She moved to Madison in 1964 -- because her husband had been accepted into the graduate school at the University of Wisconsin -- and went to work at the Madison Public Library. In the early 1970s, she started the Municipal Reference Service, a small, specialized branch of the MPL that was housed in the City-County Building on Monona Avenue. That's where I first met her. I don't recall the exact circumstances of our first meeting, but it undoubtedly had something to do with my need for information about one of the causes I was working for -- perhaps something to do with women's rights; probably something related to convincing the Madison Police Department to hire women on an equal basis with men, rather than merely relegating them to dealing with female offenders and juveniles. I remember her as professional and helpful, but that's about all I knew about her.
My father, as some of you know, was the first sheriff to be in charge of the new jail in the new City-County Building, which was built in the late 1950s, so we had lots of postcards of the building.

What I learned several decades later was that, after she moved here, Ann began collecting postcards of Madison, and, as she told me last week, she wanted to learn the stories behind the images.

As a result of her quest to learn more about Madison, Ann became active in organizations such as Historic, Madison (she's a past president) and the Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society. Currently, one of her main activities is volunteering at the Wisconsin Historical Society, where she is helping to index the McVicar-Stein and Vinje photo collections. That's where she first saw the photo of Rose Lynch (Class of 1944), the young woman who's the subject of a post on the Central history blog.

As an offshoot of her postcard hobby and her interest in Madison history, Ann began giving talks and slide presentations about Madison history to local organizations.You may have read a recent article in a local newspaper about the presentation on historic Madison restaurants and bars Ann gave at the annual meeting of the Dane County Historical Society on May 7th. The reporter's name was spelled correctly, but Ann's surname was not. Neither was that of her assistant, Joanne Jensen (Class of 1956), longtime owner of Josie's on the corner of Park and Regent streets. In addition, there were many other inaccuracies in the article. If you want to know the real scoop, you may have to wait for an opportunity to hear Ann's presentation on that subject for yourself.

Ann also gives a talk and slide show about Downtown Madison in the 1930s and 1940s, using photographs from the McVicar collection and her own postcards. Angus McVicar, by the way, took many photographs for the Tychoberahn. I believe Angus is a Central alumnus, although I haven't yet tracked down his class year (probably between 1919-1921). His son, Richard, was a member of the Class of 1944; it's likely his other son, Malcolm, attended Central too. George Stein, who acquired McVicar's Photo Service in 1941, is also a Central alumnus.

There's an opportunity to see and hear Ann's talk about Downtown Madison in the 1930s and 1940s at 12:15 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, May 16th) at the Wisconsin Historical Museum (the former Wolf, Kubly, and Hirsig Building) on the Capitol Square. It's part of the museum's "History Sandwiched In" brown bag lunch series.

UPDATE (Monday, May 15, 2006 - 10:05 p.m.): Ann just emailed me to let me know Angus McVicar also had a daughter: Charlotte McVicar Larsen. Ann sent a copy of the email to Charlotte, asking her to fill me in on the family. I hope she'll respond -- and if and when she does, I'll post another update.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Gerri and Ginny and all that jazz

There's no cover charge to hear Gerri DiMaggio sing at the Isthmus Jazz Festival on the Wisconsin Union Terrace in June. Her itinerary also shows she'll be singing at other Madison locations in the weeks preceding the jazz festival.

But we've known about Gerri's successful career for a long time because she's a member of the Class of 1965.

Just today, however, I learned that there's another graduate of Madison Central High School who's also been singing and performing jazz in the Madison area for many years. Ginny O'Brien (Class of 1944) is the subject of Doug Moe's column today. You can read a bit more about Ginny, as well as check out her senior class photo, if you read my post about her on the Central history blog.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What her obituary didn't tell us

Miss Nina Fredrickson's obituary, it seems to me, is notable for what it doesn't tell us about her.

Her name is mentioned in the story about aspiring aviatrix Rose Lynch (Class of 1944), that I recently posted on the Madison Central High School history blog. Miss Frederickson was one of the three faculty members who were supervising Lynch's "preflight course."

Mention of Miss Fredrickson generated an email from one of the usual suspects, who noted that Fredrickson had still been on the Central faculty in 1965.

I'd recently located Nina Fredrickson's obituary, but hadn't had time to post it. The email prompted me to do so: there's a link to it in the column on the right under the heading "Teacher and Principal Obituaries - A Work in Progress." I've also added a link to the Rose Lynch article.

Perhaps it's because I've been reading a book about obituaries ("The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries" by Marilyn Johnson), but while transcribing Miss Fredrickson's obituary (and the follow-up memorial service notice), I was keenly aware of all the things it didn't say: for instance, When was she born? What were her parents' names? When did she retire from Central? Who was Roger Burkhahn and what was her connection to him? Where is she buried?

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) had her date of birth, but the other questions remain unanswered. I don't know if we'll be able to find answers to all those questions, but I do hope that some people who read the obituary will share some memories or add some more information. As more people discover this blog (and its relatives), some are beginning to leave comments that help us learn more about some of our fellow alumni.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

History Mystery and Local Legend

You'll have to check out the Madison Central High School history blog to find out what I've been up to lately. I just posted a two-part feature on Rose Lynch (Class of 1944) there. It includes a transcription of a newspaper article about Rose's flying lessons and a post about how I became interested in following up this story about the aspiring aviatrix.

The second post contains some links to information about legendary Wisconsin State Journal police reporter June Dieckmann. I hope you'll take the time to click through and read more about June. No one has written a biography of this remarkable reporter, or made her the subject of a feature film, but WSJ reporter Marv Balousek did write a novel -- "Honey, This is Trudy" -- featuring a heroine based on Dieckmann.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Strolling Around Lakeside Street Part 4: The South Side State Bank

The South Side Bank Building has been at 330 W. Lakeside Street, across the street from Franklin School, for a long time, but exactly how long isn't clear. Recent reports and newspaper articles about the building note that the bank closed during the Great Depression, but fail to indicate when the bank opened or the building was built.

The building's strong Central connections begin in 1939. That's when Sam Loniello -- father of Sam, Jr., George, Gary, and Nick (Class of 1967) -- began using it to house his wholesale candy business: Bob White Candy Company. "My dad named it Bob White Candy Co. for two reasons," Nick Loniello told a Wisconsin State Journal reporter in 1999. "One, he thought no one would buy Sam Loniello Candy and two, he named it after his dog who was covered like a bobwhite bird."

The Bob White Candy Company moved its operations to 208 E. Olin Avenue in 1964. I haven't found much information about who or what occupied the bank building for the more than three decades afterwards, although it reportedly housed a bait shop and a bakery during that period.

In 1997, Mark Ulrich bought the building and began restoring it. In 2003, Madison Trust for Historic Preservation bestowed a preservation award on Ulrich and building conservator Jim Erickson. At that time, the building housed the Sheer Elegance hair salon and Ulrich's ecological consulting business.

When I photographed the exterior of the building on February 8, 2006, it appeared to be empty. There wasn't much to see when I peered through the front windows. A few days later, on February 12, 2006, I drove by the building on my way to attend the annual All-Central reunion at the VFW and noticed the windows were covered by what appeared to be sheets of fabric, mounted inside. Something was afoot.

By the time I stopped by 330 W. Lakeside Street on March 22, the building had been transformed into an art gallery. SlingShot Gallery wasn't open, but there were fresh flowers in the windows and some artworks hanging on the walls. A few days later, on March 24, Isthmus writer Tom Laskin had a short feature about Slingshot Gallery in his "Arts Beat" column. Reading it, I learned that the bank's old vault had been outfitted to accomodate video pieces and the rest of the storefront space would be devoted to prints, "two-dimensional works on paper by local artists and artists from around the country."

I wasn't the only person peering into the gallery windows on that sunny Wednesday in March when I took the two close-up photos on this page. Several couples walked by and peered in the windows, too. One couple, who perhaps lived in the neighborhood and were out for a stroll, wondered aloud how long this latest tenant would occupy the historic South Side State Bank Building.

SlingShot Gallery is still there, but its opening hours are somewhat limited. If you're interested in more than a peek through a window, you may want to hie on over to Madison's South Side on Friday, May 12 to attend an opening reception for a new exhibit at the gallery (and perhaps take a peek into the old bank vault.). The exhibit features the work of David Beck called "Self-Portrait of Myself at 50 in the Corporate World." According to information in the Isthmus listings, the opening reception will run from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Friday.

Strolling Around Lakeside Street Part 3: The Microcosm Book Store

On February 8, I drove to E. Lakeside Street to take a photo of the VFW building where the 2006 All-Central reunion would be held a few days later. Then, I strolled down Lakeside Street, camera in hand, to explore a bit of the neighborhood around Franklin School. Two days later, I posted a few of the photos I took during that stroll, accompanied by some explanatory text. But after those posts about Lakeside Fibers (housed in the former South Side Grocery Market ) and the Washington Island Hotel Coffee Room, other projects muscled their way to the top of my good intentions list and the rest of that stroll was deferred. Now, three months later, I'm revisiting it.

The Microcosm Book Store has been at 306 W. Lakeside Street, across from Franklin School, for more than 35 years. It's owned by astrologer Richard Koepsel.

Friday, May 05, 2006

More Midwinter Dance Madness

I'm tired and you're probably hungry. So here's a snack to keep you happy until I have time to cook up a longer, more creative post -- which may or may not involve a trip to the zoo.

The image below is the second page of Midwinter Dance photos from the 1965 Tychoberahn. As before, start counting with the photo on the top left. Then go down to the next row, continue counting across. Then down to the next row. You get the idea, don't you? There are 18 photos on the page. Jack Wake is in number two (2). Number four (4) features Michael Fullwod and Joanne Klein. Sue Seifert and Jim Kinder are in number twelve (12). Using this numbering system, let's try to identify all these couples. I don't know all the answers, but I do know a bit more than I've revealed thus far. Let the commenting begin! I'm headed for bed.

Double click on the above image to enlarge it in your browser window

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Seniors in cyberspace

For many of us who entered Central Junior High School as seventh graders in 1959, they were the fascinating and mysterious Seniors -- people we rarely saw on the ground floor near our homerooms. People old enough to drive. People we saw at football games (on and off the field) or as actors or musicians performing on the stage of the auditorium. Possible role models. For some of us they were more quotidian: older brothers and sisters we saw every day.

Now the members of the Class of 1960 have their own website, created by Bruce Dietrich. You can read more about it in a post on the Madison Central High School history blog (and see a photo of Bruce and his fellow first string football team members) by clicking HERE. I've also added a permanent link to the Class of 1960 website. It's on the right side of this page under the heading "Class Reunion Notices."

Monday, May 01, 2006

You Can't Possibly Have a Conference titled "Greenbush: Past, Present, and Future" without inviting at least a couple of Central alumni to participate

When I saw Bill McDonald (Class of 1950) at the Barnes and Noble on Mineral Point Road last week, he told me he'd be making his presentation at 9:30 a.m. But I wanted to know about the schedule for the whole day, and he didn't have that information. So I kept waiting for an email with the detailed schedule for the "Greenbush: Past, Present, and Future" conference that several people had promised to forward to me. I'm still waiting.

This afternoon, Doug Moe's column in The Capital Times opened with a few paragraphs about the conference, which is being held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow at the Italian Workmen's Club at 914 Regent Street. Moe told his readers what he'd be talking about and when, but didn't mention the rest of the schedule. Fortunately, the online edition of Moe's column has a link to a website sponsored by the University of Wisconsin's Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures (CSUMC) that does have a detailed schedule of conference presentations. That's where I discovered that Joe "Buffo" Cerniglia (Class of 1953) would also be making a presentation. From 2:55 p.m. until 3:35 p.m., Cerniglia and "other former members of the Greenbush community" will participate in a presentation called "Keeping in Touch."

The website, which is scheduled to make its official debut tomorrow, is also a treasure trove of information about Greenbush history and the people who lived there. It features some interesting photos, such as the one of Cerniglia in 1943, when he had his first communion. There are also links to pages about other Greenbush families whose names are familiar to alumni of Madison Central High School, including Gervasi, Tortorice, and DiSalvo.

The Madison Central High School class of 1965 has more than a few teachers and principals in its ranks, and I think they'll be very interested to know that this conference and website are the result of a year-long collaboration between members of a fifth grade class at Randall School and a variety of community organizations, including the CSUMC, the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, and the Chadbourne Residential College.

Note: For those who don't recognize the familiar Madison faces in the above photos, that's Bill McDonald in the orange and black shirt listing the members of the class of 1950, and Joe "Buffo" Cerniglia with the black leather jacket and fedora.