Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

February 26, 2003, Page 24

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


Memories of O’Neill Creek Skating Pond


One of the fond recollections of my boyhood, of 60 years ago, is the old skating pond on O’Neill Creek at Neillsville, Wisconsin.  The pond, which was a block wide and three-quarters of a mile long, extended east from the Main Street Bridge for half-a-mile and then turned north for a quarter of a mile.  In those days, hundreds of skaters swarmed over its surface, day and night.


The old pond is still there but there hasn’t been a skater on it for years.  Like many other things, that once formed an important part of our life, it has passed into history.


We always figured the ice would be thick enough for skating by Thanksgiving Day.  If it had not snowed by then we were fortunate. The days it had snowed, we kids shoveled and scraped off an area and made lanes up and down the ice to beyond the bend.


Skates then were not much like the modern version, which come attached to special shoes.  Boys’ skates had clamps, which the skater adjusted to the width of his soles and heels; then a lever was pushed underneath to the center of the skate, which tightened the clamps firmly to the shoe.


The oxford type of shoe was practically unheard of then.  The uppers of both men and women’s shoes extended above the ankles and skaters laced them tightly to give rigidity to the ankles and keep the ankles from turning over.  Many skaters are plagued by weak ankles.


If the soles and heels of your shoes happened to be worn thin or tuned over, you were out of luck, as the skates would likely come loose when you stopped suddenly or put an extra strain on them in sharp turns.


Girl’s and children’s skates were held in place by straps, the back strap passing around the ankle and the front strap over the toe of the shoe.  For small children, skates with two runners were available.


At that time, there were a large number of Scandinavian immigrants who recently arrived at Neillsville and some of them had brought skates from their homelands.  Most of those skates had turned-up runners in front like a sleigh with the bases being made of wood. Some were attached to the shoe with screws and some by straps.  We used to admire the gracefulness and ease with which those Scandinavians cut scrolls and fancy figures on the ice.


There usually was a game of shinny going on among the boys. Almost every boy owned a homemade shinny club, cut from saplings that grew along the edge of the pond.  Often it took a lot of hunting to find just the right kind of a formation for a club, which incidentally did not much resemble present day hockey clubs.  For pucks, we used the wooden bungs that floated down to the pond, a drain from a nearby brewery.


(A bung is the wooden stopper put in the opening hole of a barrel or keg, such as in beer kegs. D. Z.)


There was no attempt to limit the size of a team in a shinny game.  The only requisite was that each side had an equal number of players.  Injuries were numerous.  With a bunch of boys all swinging at the puck at close quarters, one was lucky if he did not get clobbered on the ankle or shins.


Another game often played on the ice was ‘crack the ship (whip)’.  Ten to fifteen skaters would join hands and skate furiously down the ice.  Usually it would be the skater at the right end of the line who would stop suddenly and pivot while the rest whipped around.  The ones on the other end would attain terrific speed.


A problem that plagued skaters at that time was dull skates.  Some skaters would attempt to sharpen their skates with files but only a few succeeded at it. As a consequence, many skaters skidded because of dull skates and often took tumbles as a result.


Nighttime skating was a special drawing card and dew many adults.  It was a pretty sight to see the skaters gliding about in the moonlight and to hear their merry voices carrying over the crisp still air.  A solitary arc lamp on the bridge was the only artificial illumination, but it was enough.


Once in a while on cold nights, there would be a long, loud booming noise as the ice contracted and cracked.  The noise seemed to travel the entire length of the pond and reminded one of an earthquake shock.


There were as many girl skaters as boys in those days.  They, like the boys wore long underwear and heavy woolen stockings so they could withstand the cold.  Young boys wore short pants and long woolen stockings that came above the knees.  Many boys wore a suspender harness affair over their underwear to which garters were attached for holding up the long stockings. Stocking caps were popular with both boys and girls, although boys wore caps with turn-down earflaps lined with wool or fur.  Home-knit woolen mittens were common.


There were no warming huts and the skaters had to depend on the warmth of their clothes to keep them comfortable from the time they left home until they returned.  They sat out in the open on the bank of the pond to put their skates on.


The coming of the scantily clad female seems to have doomed the skating pond.  The girls could not stand the cold in their skimpy clothes, minus long underwear and when the girls quit going to the pond, the boys’ enthusiasm for skating dampened.


Thus the old pond, as a skating attraction, passed quietly out of existence. Then before anyone realized it, the once popular recreation spot had become a thing of the past.


(The above article was written by Jesse A. Leason in 1972.  The Leason Pump & Windmill factory was located in the 1200 block of North Hewett Street, being owned by Jesse’s family.  D. Z.)


The Leason Pump and Windmill factory was located along Neillsville’s 1200 block of North Hewett Street in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  During that time, every area farm had an outdoor pump and windmill that was used for obtaining the family and livestock water supply.  (Photo courtesy of the Bill Roberts’ collection


February 1953


A pine tree, 39 inches in diameter at the stump, has just been cut within four miles of Neillsville.  This is the giant of a lumbering operation, in which but a few pines have been cut approaching that size.  The big tree went straight up into the air with a very gradual taper.  Even at 80 feet up the diameter was 10 inches.


These pine trees are part of a lot of mixed forest on Section 31, Town of Weston, which is being cut by Rudy Volk, son-in-law of Ira Leach of Neillsville.  From 30 acres, they are taking about 300,000 board feet of pine, maple and red oak.   The cutting began the latter part of December.  The job will be done approximately March 1st.  When that cutting has been completed, this area will have to bade farewell to the last important stand of virgin pine.  Leach, who has been buying and cutting for a decade or more, says that he does not know where there is another stand of virgin pine of any importance in southern Clark County.  The two men expect to continue cutting, but they must content themselves with stands in which virgin pine is practically in non-existence.  The total amount of pine in the present cutting is not far from 130,000 board feet.


This cutting operation illustrates the modern way of getting out lumber.  It is exactly the reverse of the method followed in the old lumber days, when the grater part of Clark County was being stripped of its virgin stand.  In the old days, the cutting was done in small permanent mills on the rivers and on the smaller steams emptying into them.  The logs were floated down the stream to these small mills.  The O’Neill mill on O’Neill Creek at Neillsville was one of the first of them.  There were others farther upstream.  Cunningham Creek had them; one belonging to Moses Clark and was on the upstream side of the bridge which now crosses Cunningham Creek on Highways 95 and 73.


But the period of small permanent mills passed.  Lumbermen found that the small mills were not economical and that it was not feasible to cut lumber far upstream and then raft it down to market.  The more efficient and economical method, it was found, was to float the logs down to the Mississippi River.  So Black River became a great canal, with big drives of logs going down to Onalaska and La Crosse.  The large mills were there, beyond the perils of rapids, rocks and shallow stretches.  Lumber cut there could be loaded upon rafts and floated with little hazard to any point down stream on the Mississippi River.


With the big cutting out of the way, the small permanent mill returned and has been used to cut remaining scattered stands.  The logs were hauled to the mills. But now the efficient way, as illustrated by the method used by Leach and Volk, is to take a modern mill right into the woods and to do the milling there.  Thus the waste and debris are left on the ground.  Only the merchantable material is hauled out.


Compiling an average of more than 3,100 points for six nights of play, Harriet Peterson and Frances Brown won first place in the city bridge tournament at the Masonic Temple Thursday night.


Second place was won by the team of Lorena Rude and Alta Allen; third, Verna Mallory and Helen Imig; forth (fourth), Frances Schmidt and Catherine Svetlik; and fifth, Nellie Quicker and Mary Jo Urlaub.


The tournament was the second annual event held under the sponsorship of the Order of the Eastern Star. Seventeen tables played bridge on Tuesday evening.


An immense airplane almost scraped the roofs of Neillsville Monday at about 11:30 a.m.  The plane had six motors and was identified as a bomber, probably a B-36 or a B-50.  The big plane came from the southeast and proceeded northwest.  Its course was close to the High School.  It rattled the timbers of the building and convinced those in the school that calamity threatened.  Some small tots even took the word home that the plane scraped the school roof.


Housewives all along the route were quite sure that the plane would ram their homes. That assumption was true even for those people quite obviously not in the same direct course of the plane’s flight.


Many eyes were fastened on the plane as it moved slowly over the city.  Some were sure the landing gear was down and the bomb bay was open.  Others were equally sure that a small plane was suspended from the large one.


If local persons were disturbed, it seems quite clear that the pilot was not troubled at all.  His plane’s six motors were purring beautifully and it was seen that he sufficiently raised the plane up to clear the Neillsville Mounds, northwest of the city.


More than 350,000 boys in the 48 states, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are now celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Future Farmers of America.  “Kick-off time” for the celebration came this week; February 21-28, which is National FFA week.  Of the 350,000 Future Farmers of the nation, more than 600 students are enrolled in vocational agriculture classes in Clark County.  These boys may safely be called the future farmers of Clark County.  These farm boys, not our forests or fields, are our richest resources.


Fire did several thousand dollars of damage to the interior of the Humbird hotel early Friday morning.  Men on their way to work about 6:45 a.m. discovered smoke coming from under the hotel’s roof.  They aroused the owner, Edwin Kleinsasser and a roomer sleeping in a downstairs bedroom.  The fire had been smoldering in the walls for some time and flames broke through into the upstairs bedrooms when volunteer firemen entered.


A few fire extinguishers, fortunately on hand, held the fire down until the fire department arrived from Alma Center.


Heaviest damage was done to one interior wall and stairway as well as the ceiling in the back of the bar room.  Fireman Dale Neal, from Alma Center, escaped injury when he dropped through the floor of a second floor bedroom into the back of the bar room below.  Fire-charred rafters had given way under the weight of his body.  Neal managed to hang onto the rafters until firemen underneath him could help him down.  Faulty wiring was thought to be the cause of the fire.


Leo Meyer, a resident of Loyal and formerly of Neillsville, is carrying with him the memory of unusual tributes recently paid him at a testimonial dinner given him by the Loyal Rotary club. At this dinner, Meyer as given a large bouquet of American Beauty Roses and was honored for securing Loyal Industries for his city.


Tribute was also paid him for his work as secretary of the National League of Postmasters.  Anton Umhoefer, postmaster at Colby, said that if it were not for the illness, which struck Meyer, he would have become the next president of that organization.  (Meyer had been Postmaster at Loyal.  D. Z.)


Harland Carl, ace football star of Greenwood, possesses a plaque as a remembrance of the big tribute which his home folks paid to him last Saturday.  Dr. William A. Olson presented the plaque to Carl and recounted Hy Carl’s exploits as a foot-ball player in Greenwood High School, where he had rolled up 114 points in six games.


Hy Carl, in responding, said that his biggest thrill did not come from a football game, gut from a telephone message from Paul Thompson, his old high school coach.  That message was to the effect that the Greenwood people were giving his parents an expense-paid trip to the Rose Bowl, to watch their son play in the football game.


With Hy Carl were Jerry Witt of Marshfield and Mark Hoegh of Kaukauna, who said that Carl is “one of the greatest half-backs in the country and a player who has the respect of his team mates.”


Paul Thompson told about Carl’s high school career as an athlete.  Bill Kavanaugh was master of ceremonies.


Shopping Specials of the week in Neillsville are:


Red Owl Store will have California oranges at 49c per dozen; Thuringer summer sausage, lb. 59c; Center cut beef roast, lb. 49c; Skinless wieners, lb. 39c; Lutefisk, lb. 25c; whole or cream style corn, 8 cans $1.00.


Kearn’s Rexall Drug Store will have a Thursday, Friday and Saturday Soda Fountain Special – Chocolate Nut Sundae 19c.


Russell’s Furniture has a sale item of the month – 3-piece bedroom set for only $199.95, which includes a bed, dresser and chest-of-drawers.




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