Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

 September 16, 1993, Page 28

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Good Old Days" Articles 



Good Old Days  


By Dee Zimmerman


A glimpse of the past…photos of business during a span of years denote some of the changes on the corner of Hewett and 6th and at the turn of the century, Denis Tourigny had a thriving hardware and tin shop on the northwest corner of that intersection.  The main building – accommodated the hardware business while the small wood frame structure next to it was for the tin shop.  Tourigny’s turn-over of wares necessitated a large warehouse located on the corner of Hewett & 10th.


The corner of Hewett and Sixth Street, Neillsville, as it appeared in 1905


After Tourigny curtailed the businesses, changes were made on that corner.  After the wood structure was razed, William Tragsdorf built a brick building to be used as an opera house theatre.  That was the time of the silent movies era.  The theater was later owned by the Adler Company of Marshfield, followed by William Meier and family of Neillsville.


A night time view of the Neillsville theatre marquee, brightly illuminating the name of the featured film; The title “Salute to the Marines” with Wallace Perry, and the War Bond effort, depicts the era that the photograph was taken.  (Photo contributed by Mrs. William (Dorothy) Meier.)


The marquee with its many light bulbs was an attractive display to view, when coming up Hewett Street during the evenings.  The name of the movie, being shown was well exhibited amongst the lit-up bulbs. 


Meier very conscientiously and promptly replaced the burnt-out bulbs, keeping the movie listings alluring.


The corner building served as a restaurant business for several years.  Mr. and Mrs. Art Wagner owned and operated the restaurant in the late 30’s – early 40’s.  A small bar, accessible from the restaurant, as well as a door on the 6th Street side was also run by the Wagner’s.


The Wagner Café interior as it appeared in 1942-1943, standing behind the counter, (left to right): Art Wagner, Mrs. De Cremer, Marie Keller, Ruby (Wedekind) Walters, Betty (Wagner) Blescasek, and Mrs. Wagner.  Seated at the counter, (left to right), Henry Becker, Henry’s brother and Brian “Tinker” Becker with a puppy.  In the back of the room, the bar entrance is also visible.  A poster advertising the movie “Son of Fury” featuring Tyrone Power as main actor and Gene Tierney as actress to appear at the next door theatre is tacked to (the) wall behind the counter.  Also, a photo of General MacArthur reminds us that the photograph was taken during World War II, as Mac Arthur was leader of the Allied troops in the Pacific Conflict.  The enclosed glass showcase displayed the many brands of cigars, La Palina, El Producto, Dutch Masters, White Owl, harvester, etc.  Cigars were very popular amongst the “smokers” of tat time, evident by the large display.  (Photo courtesy of Doris Simonson whose mother, Marie Keller, is in this picture)


After selling the restaurant to the Becker’s, Wagner’s had the bowling alley business on east Sixth Street, for a short time.  They left Neillsville, started Wagner Lanes of Eau Claire, a business later taken over by their sons; Chet, Kenneth and Robert.  They also had one daughter, Betty Blescasek.


Many people of surrounding communities, as well as the local area, remember the “open-24 hours-restaurant” on 6th and Hewett.  Traveling out of town, we have had people ask us if Beckers Café is still in business when they learn we are from Neillsville.  They then reminisce about stopping there after dancing at the Silver Dome Ballroom.  Most dances were from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., and after four hours of dancing exercise, the dancers were ready for a hearty meal.  Often, that food consisted of toast, bacon or ham, eggs and country-fried potatoes, accompanied with cups of coffee.  Also, they remember the friendly Becker family, asking about any living relatives, where they may be, etc.


The Wagners, Beckers, Tragsdorfs and Meiers are remembered by those who they served while in the restaurant and theatre businesses.


First Financial is now on the corner and the theatre building is a video outlet.






Compiled by Lori Liddell


Mark Thomsen, 19-year-old grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Thomsen of Neillsville has arrived in Yosemite in northern California following a 2,191 mile bicycle trip which started 15 ½ days earlier in Neillsville.


He covered the ground with only one bit of mechanical trouble.  A spring, presumably in the gear shift box of his 10 speed bike, broke.  He replaced it at a cost of less than a dollar, according to Mark’s grandfather.


Along the way, Mark found shelter and meals with pastors, in exchange for which he offered to donate an hours’ labor.  Mark did not quite have it figured right.  He had thought that few would take him up on the work end of the bargain, but more than half of them did.  In some cases, as a matter of fact, he said he worked more than the agreed hour.


But in at least two instances, Mark got more than the bed and breakfast he bargained for.  In Spearfish, S. D., his host took him on a half-day’s tour of the Black Hills.  And in Utah his host took him to see a canyon of area renown.


In Yosemite, Mark was joining members of his mother’s family who have an annual outing in the national park area.



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