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.

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