Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

July 18, 2001, Page 24

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 

The Good Old Days

Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


July 1931


Record heat has been hitting Clark County.  This community, like the rest of the country, has been blistering in the intense heat during the past week.  The temperatures have surpassed all June records for the more than 25 years that Carl Stange, the local observer, has held the appointment.


Temperatures about the city have been ranging from highs of 94 to 105 degrees, each day.


Farming has been particularly hard hit by the heat.  Many instances of horses being overcome and falling in the harness have been reported.  Mowing in the hayfields by moonlight has been resorted to and men, women and children have worked in the fields all night to escape the searing rays of the sun shining down from cloudless skies.


A large amount of milk, brought into the dairy plants of this area, has been returned to the farmers because of being sour.  It was pointed out that unless milk is cooled to 60 degrees as soon as possible after milking, it is likely to sour in a short time due to the extreme heat.


A number of persons have been forced to quit work to avoid being overcome by the high temperatures.  Others, whose leisure permitted, have taken time off to crowd the swimming holes of O’Neill Creek, Black River and Lake Arbutus. Evening motoring parties, clad in pajamas, have become a common sight.  Sleeping has been difficult and some residents have spread blankets out on their lawns and done their slumbering in the open.


The heat wave has been general throughout the United States and more than 500 deaths have been attributed to the high temperatures during the past 10 days.


A short time ago, Mrs. Anthony Kraft and her little son were working in the garden back of Miss Irene Maxwell’s house.  There, she found an old coin encrusted with dirt and corrosion. On scouring up the coin, it was found to be a half dollar and is dated 1822.


Mr. Kraft, while searching in the garden, found a silver ring near where the half dollar coin was found.  The ring was also corroded, but was easily scoured to becoming quite clean.


The coin and ring were found not far from the site of the old O’Neill House barn.  The site is also close to the original dwelling erected by James O’Neill, Sr., Neillsville’s founder, who came here in 1844.  He then built a saw mill and established a town, thus it is quite possible that this coin and ring were lost by some early settler of that time.


MR. Kraft also has a nickel dated 1868, having found it in his wood shed, near where the half-dollar was located.


The State Board of Control has taken over the Vesper tile manufacturing plant and will operate it with the use of 12 prisoners. After a year’s trial, the plant may be enlarged and more prison labor will be used to operate it.


Officials of the State Board of Control were in Vesper last week Tuesday and made all the arrangements for the operation of the plant and housing of the men. The plant has only one kiln at the present time, but after the year’s test, three more may be added.


A financial leader of New York and former Neillsville resident visited his home town folk this past week.


A little more than 25 years ago, one Halloween night, a small group of husky young Neillsville boys took possession of a lumber wagon.  Then, in the laborious manner in which the ancients built pyramids and obelisks by the sweat of their brows, they managed to get the vehicle on top of what was then Rabenstein’s overall factory.  Still having a surplus of energy, they hunted up another wagon and planted in on the roof of a box car next to the depot.


When morning came, the early risers looked up, saw the wagons, blinked their eyes and said, “What the….?” or words similar to that effect.


Sometimes Harry Benedict, sitting at his desk in the heart of the Wall Street district in New York forgets the din of a high rising city. As he looks out across the man-made ranges of masonry, he dreams of barefoot days and paths leading to fishing holes along the Cunningham Creek in the Town of Grant.  On those easels of the fancy high risers, he saw pictures of days when he was a kid on the farm, days when he was a student in the Neillsville High School and the times he helped with the chores at Ed Gates’ home for his room and board.  Perhaps if his gaze lingers long enough, he may envision the Halloween moon of years ago, the crisp October air and the shadowy figures of Ernest Snyder, Byron Selves, Herb Brown, Carl Rabenstein and Bill Stockwell as they toiled with him in raising wagons to points of spectacular altitude in a city where altitudes are more or less modest.


Memory will bring to him days at the University of Wisconsin where he worked his way through the banking and commerce department.  He will recall his job as page in the Assembly at Madison, the job he obtained through Assembly-man William Irvine, father of John Irvine, Clark County Clerk.  Benedict was a worker whether he was engaged in a Halloween prank or digging out an education.  He became an honor student at the University.


Along about the time Benedict was due to receive his degree, Frank A. Vanderlip, New York financier, was out looking over the crop of prospective graduates throughout the country with an idea of giving one of them a job.  After Vanderlip concluded his search and studied his list, Benedict was the young man that got the post.  Vanderlip’s judgment of men was vindicated and the young man he ‘hired’ as a secretary is now his partner in a business running into millions of dollars in various investment enterprises and international in scope.  In 1929, the little brokerage house run by Vanderlip and Benedict borrowed $59,000,000 to carry on some of their business.  This year, their borrowings have been considerably smaller, but they are still in the million dollar row.


The first day of the stock crash in 1929, Benedict dropped $1,000,000 in the month that followed. But Benedict is pessimistic over the outlook for America.  He is confident this depression will disappear as the past depressions have.


The kid, who fished for stone rollers in the Cunningham Creek, now has a large estate on the historic Hudson River and another big home in Los Angeles.  It is also the kid who used to watch Dick Welsh, then a rural mail carrier, go by the old farm and wonder if he would ever get much mail from the outside world.  He now gets a cablegram from Europe every half-hour informing him of the financial and political situation abroad which may have an important bearing on their investments.


Vanderlip and Benedict are the largest private owners of Auburn and Cord automobile stock.  They are building a city on the Pacific Coast.  As far back as 1918, Benedict was hitting his stride and was among those present at the Peace Conference in Paris.


Benedict enjoys coming back to Neillsville and meeting his former friends, recalling incidents of his youth and visiting his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Julius Benedict.


Whether Benedict looked up at the old overall factory as he drove down the depot street Monday and thought of the night he “hitched his first wagon to a star” on Halloween night a quarter of a century ago was not revealed.


John Trogner injured his right thumb seriously Monday when a box car door which he was attempting to close suddenly started and caught his thumb.  A tramp near the depot came to the rescue and opened the door for Trogner to release his finger.  Dr. H. W. Housley treated the injury.


The milk prices have gone down below a dollar for the first time in 20 years.  Information from the crop correspondents indicates that the average milk price for the state of Wisconsin was 99 cents per hundred-weight during June.


A new bakery law has hit the dealers. The returning of bread, rolls, cakes and other bakery products is in violation of the state law. The statement was made by Harry Klueter, chief of the dairy and food division of the department of agriculture and markets.  Bakery products must be sold by the retail dealer or discarded.  Fines of $10 and costs were recently levied against two Milwaukee dealers for returning goods to a wholesaler’s agent.


Many of the streams in this vicinity have dried up as a result of the drought and the country is in serious need of rain.  The East Fork, a few miles north of the river’s mouth, is now about eight feet wide and not more than three inches deep.  Rock Creek is bone dry and Cunningham Creek has ceased to flow, only a pocket of water here and there marking its course.  O’Neill Creek is but a thread of water and Black River has dwindled away to a small stream.  The present dry period is the most severe within the memory of old residents.  The lack of snow last winter and the light rainfall this summer have left the ground parched for many feet down.  A large number of wells in the city and country are near exhaustion.


Fires are beginning to break out again south of the city in the marshes and damage from flames to wild land is expected unless rain is received soon.


Mr. and Mrs. Walter Zbinden have returned from a trip to Switzerland after spending more than two years at their old home in Hilterfingen on the Lake of Thum. They have related to the differences in farming methods of Switzerland in comparison to here.  “Farmers work a good deal harder in Switzerland than they do in America,” said Mr. Zbinden.  “They get up at 4 a.m. and drive to their fields of grass where they cut enough with a scythe to feed their cattle for the day. The grass is hauled back and fed to the livestock.  Grass is too valuable there to allow the cattle to tramp over the land as they do here.  The cows give nearly twice as much milk because; they are not wasting energy in roaming around.  The average Swiss farmer will make almost twice as much from an acre of ground as the American farmer.”


“The state protects the Swiss farmer,” stated Mrs. Zbinden.  “The price of milk is fixed twice a year by a government board.  In May the price for the summer is established and in November the winter price is fixed.  Thus a farmer knows ahead of time exactly what he will receive.  If foreign competition gets too strong the government pays the farmers the difference between the price of milk products outside Switzerland and the price fixed by the government.  America is making a great mistake.  It should see that its farmers make money.  There can be no prosperity without prosperous farmers.”


“Milk is hauled to the dairy plants of Switzerland with horses,” said Mr. Zbinden.  “Distances are shorter and trucks are scarce.  The license fee on tractors and trucks is so high that few can afford them.  The license for one year on our automobile was $110 with $40 additional compulsory liability insurance.”


“A farm of 30 to 40 acres is considered large over there and will support 20 cows although the average herds are about 10 to 12 cows.”


“The people of Switzerland are more thrifty than Americans,” Mrs. Zbinden asserted.  “They don’t run cars and spend so much time in traveling around or attending parties.  They seem to look ahead more and want something laid away for their future.  They spend most of their time working and devote little time to diversion.  Haying starts in May and the second crop is cut in August.  No corn is planted there and although there are a few silos, they fill them with grass instead of corn.  Potatoes and mangle roots are also fed to the cattle.  Their large gardens require a great deal of attention.”


“Farmers there consume more of their own milk products than here.  Much cheese is eaten and the coffee is usually half milk.  The Swiss cook their coffee and milk separately and make it a half and half mixture.  The Swiss farmer starts the day out with a breakfast of fried potatoes, bread and coffee, lunch at 9 a.m., dinner at 12 noon, lunch at 4 p.m. and supper in the evening.”


“General conditions are good in Switzerland,” said Mrs. Zbinden, “the only exceptions being the watch factories and hotels have lacked business, due to few tourists visiting the country this past year.  Switzerland has all of its war debts paid.

Germany was asked to pay too much by the other nations.  Unless Hoover had stepped in when he did with his moratorium plan, Germany would have crashed and possibly a revolution would have upset the rest of Europe.”


Some Indians living in this area are killing deer in the Tioga country.  The venison is being offered for sale at 20 cents a pound and can (be) purchased in Neillsville.


A new baseball team had their opener against the Pleasant Ridge team last Sunday.  Adopting as their slogan, “Athletics for all,” the newly organized Neillsville Collegians made their debut.  They dropped a loosely played contest, 14-6, to the fast Pleasant Ridge nine.


Wade Lepke started in the pitcher’s box for the locals but wildness and poor support on the part of his teammates forced his retirement in the sixth inning.  He was replaced by Bernard Little George, fifteen-year old Indian phenom, who pitched beautiful ball the remaining three innings, limiting the opponent to one hit.


Manager Marvin Eide juggled the lineup considerably in an effort to find the best combination.  He finally decided on the following: Skroch, catcher; Little George, pitcher; Dick Hemp, first Base; Eide, Second base; Walter Hemp, shortstop; Gluck, third base; Rowe, left field; Lepke, center field; Schroeder, right field.  Cooke and Spaete also broke into the lineup for a few innings.

The first travel trailer, of the Neillsville area, appeared in 1935.  It was a custom designed model built by “Tubby” Lowe and an employee, Bill Bryan, put together in Lowe’s garage on North Hewett Street.   The trailer’s interior was finished in mahogany and had four single wall bunks with inner spring mattresses.  The upper bunks were designed to fold down against the wall, meeting the lower bunks, converting into sofas for seating.  The comfortable travel trailer had one flaw – it was often too heavy for the light-weight single axle under it, resulting in tire blow-outs or broken axles.  Despite its flaw, the Lowe family rode in their 1934 Ford sedan that pulled their travel trailer, being able to enjoy touring the western states on their vacation.  They viewed the beautiful scenery and sites such as the Custer Memorial in South Dakota, visible in the photo with their travel trailer and car.  (Photo courtesy of Bill Lowe)



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