East Side History Madison’s Blog

By and for the East Side History Club, a project of the Goodman Community Center

East Side History Club Plans “Fall Semester” for 2014

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on August 9, 2014

On Saturday September 20, Maureen Janson Heintz will talk about publishing her book Ghost Signs of Madison, Wisconsin. Heintz was inspired to document Madison’s ghost signs after a trip to her native Chicago, where the old buildings struck her as beautiful. She has referred to her book as a “field guide” to the fading signage that recalls Madison’s past, especially along the East Side rail corridor. Several buildings are featured that will be familiar to East Siders: come see if your favorite “ghost signs” are among them!

ghost sign book cover


On Saturday October 18, Gary Hess will discuss his recently published book of family and business history, Roll Out the Barrels. For over 60 years the Frank J. Hess and Sons Cooperage of Madison, Wisconsin supplied white oak barrels for breweries in over 35 Wisconsin communities and in five states. The company also manufactured and repaired wine and whiskey barrels. The cooperage and family home were located in Schenk’s Corners. Ann Waidelich edited the manuscript, and Sarah White published the book through her company, First Person Productions.

9780984727643-Perfect Roll Out the Barrels-pms285.indd

Both meetings will take place at the Goodman Community Center, 2-4pm.

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Saturday, April 12: Play Ball! Madison’s Baseball Teams and Talent

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on March 30, 2014

Simon Pures “Murderer’s Row,” 1941. George DeVoe, Verne Hackbart, Fred Zeich, Cy Klubertanz. Photo courtesy of Joan Steffen.

Simon Pures “Murderer’s Row,” 1941. George DeVoe, Verne Hackbart, Fred Zeich, Cy Klubertanz. Photo courtesy of Joan Steffen.

Let’s welcome Spring by talking baseball in Madison: Madison Blues, Industrial Baseball League, Home Talent League and MSCR teams, as well as the legendary Breese Stevens Field. If you love local history and sports lore, you’ll love this program. Bring your memorabilia!

Saturday April 12 2–4pm Goodman Comm. Ctr. Bolz A
149 Waubesa St.

$2 suggested donation

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Saturday, March 15: Banking at Schenk’s Corners

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on March 6, 2014

Security State Bank in the 1950s.

Security State Bank in the 1950s.

In 1923 Security State Bank moved to its elegant new Georgian Revival-style building at the corner of Atwood Avenue and Winnebago Street. Several banks later, we welcome Monona State Bank to the neighborhood. Let’s help them identify the employees in the pictures they inherited, and learn more about the original Security State Bank and Evergreen Savings & Loan and their influence on the community.

Saturday, March 15, 2–4pm,  Goodman Community Center, in Evjue D

149 Waubesa St.  

$2 suggested donation

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Wisconsin Foundry History drew generations of owners, workers, neighbors

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on February 28, 2014

Mary Clark of the Dane County Historical Society presented slides about the foundry's history.

Mary Clark of the Dane County Historical Society presented slides about the foundry’s history.

The Wisconsin Foundry was incorporated in 1910. Its plant was located at 613, 617, and/or 623 Main street-accounts differ. It eventually spanned the block and employed 80.

Founders George Washington (G.W.) Botham,  Joseph Eisele, and August Buenzli all lived within a block of each other in the 1300 block of Rutledge (just east of Baldwin). The company claims to have its roots in the  Ball Bro’s Foundry, est. 1860, which made cannon balls for the Union Army.  Three generations of Bothams ran the company: G. W., his son Dorsey L. , and his son Dorsey J. better known as “Tuck”.

Wisconsin Foundry was most known for its road machinery & equipment, and conveyor belts used in rock quarries and canneries.

Wis Foundry

In the 1920s industrial “Road Shows” set up trade-show style around the Capital Square. Wisconsin Foundry displayed large machinery. (Get photo from DCHS?)

The work inside the plant was dark, hot, sooty, and probably dangerous.

During World War II the foundry supported the war effort in two ways–they serviced equipment for Truax Field and other military instalations, even road building equipment used in Alaska. They also manufactured parts for gun mounts used by the Army and Navy, including an ingenious gizmo that allowed a gun designed for a bomber airplane to be mounted on a vehicle.

During World War II the workforce doubled. One third of Wisconsin Foundry’s employees went to war and had to be replaced.

A sideline was factory supply–which was spun off as the Wisconsin Supply Co. in the 1940s, with offices on West Mifflin St. and later West Main St.

Wisconsin Foundry was a Union shop–Machinists Local 1406.

In the 1950s the company made crane booms for the construction industry.  By the 1980s they were doing custom repair and construction of decorative ironwork.

On March 19, 1993 it closed operations, dismissing the last  8 employees. In 1995 the company papers were donated to the Dane County Historical Society. The collection which ends in the 1970s, consists of sales catalogs, photos, and other documents, many of which are very dirty from the soot in the plant.

Employees Jerry Feisst, Tom Minter, and Edward Denman described it as a good place to work, with Union benefits–health insurance, cost of living raises, and a pension.

Ann Waidelich interviews Tom Minter

Ann Waidelich interviews Tom Minter. In foreground is Jerry Feisst; in background, Edward Denman.

If you see a manhole cover in the greater Dane County area–and even as far as Dodgeville–look closely for a Wisconsin Foundry mark.

Also sharing reminiscences were descendents of the founders, Betty Lou Botham (daughter), and  Eiseles: Helen (daughter) and Tim (grandson).

Betty Lou Botham (in green sweater) speaks with Ann Waidelich and Mary Clark.

Betty Lou Botham (in green sweater) speaks with Ann Waidelich and Mary Clark.

Two generations of Eiseles--Helen, daughter and Tim, grandson of founder Joseph Eisele, share memories.

Two generations of Eiseles–Helen, daughter and Tim, grandson of founder Joseph Eisele, share memories.


It is part of the East Side’s history–and charm–that captains of industry and common working men all lived and raised their families in close proximity.

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Saturday February 15: Wisconsin Foundry & Machine Co.

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on February 1, 2014

Wis Foundry

Wisconsin Foundry & Machine Co. in the 600 block of E. Main Street. Note MG&E smokestacks in background.

The Dane County Historical Society will lead a discussion of the Wisconsin Foundry & Machine Company, located at 613-629 East Main Street from 1910 until 1993.

This meeting will include a roundtable discussion with some of the men who worked there; we invite you to join in if you were one of them! The DCHS’s collection of Wisconsin Foundry photos and company papers will be on display.

Saturday, October 19, 2–4pm
$2 suggested donation
Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St.
Room: Evjue D

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History of Oscar Mayer: a Company and a Community

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on December 28, 2013

The nationally recognized meat products company founded in 1919 was the subject of the East Side History Club’s November 2013 meeting. The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile greeted attendees arriving at the Goodman Center.

Dave Arndt and Sara Preez visit the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

Dave Arndt and Sara Preez visit the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

Inside, a lively program held in the Loft teen dance space took place on November 16, 2013.

image-2 meeting


image-7 meeting-jim aehl

Jim Aehl worked in public relations at Oscar Mayer frm 1970 to 1996. He showed slides and talked about the history of Oscar Mayer. After his presentation (and while Larry Borchert was getting set up) Ann Waidelich drew numbers and Jim gave out several door prizes.

Larry Borchert worked at Oscar Mayer from 1960-1996.  He holds a PhD in food chemistry and became Director of Central Research. He presented a PowerPoint program showing the equipment Oscar Mayer invented to mass produce hot dogs and the efforts they go to, to insure quality and consistency.  He had used this program when he went to Russia several times to teach people there how to mass produce meat products.

Dave Arndt worked as a chemist at Oscar Mayer from 1965 to 1996.  He has been collecting Oscar Mayer memorabilia for 42 years and brought a car full of “things.”  The highlight was a uniform worn by one of the Little Oscars.  After the meeting several people showed him their Oscar Mayer items—several of which he hadn’t seen before.

image-6 little oscar display


Judy Fenske worked as a secretary at Oscar Mayer from the Monday after she graduated from East High School in 1960 until 1992.  She talked about the Oscarettes and the Oscar Mayer READI volunteers. The Oscarettes were a club for women office workers who have been employed for two or more years at the Madison plant. Later the rules were changed to require five years’ employment to be eligible.

The Wisconsin State Journal in May 11, 1947 reported on the forming of the “Oscarettes:

The following officers were elected at the first meeting: Nuzzie ‘ Wilhelm, president; Irene Johnson, vice-president; Viola Sprague. treasurer; Kathryn Hustad, secretary;’ and Ruby Allman, program chairman.  Four meetings will be held a year. Former workers, who were employed for two or more years at the company are eligible for membership and are asked to contact the officers.

READI stands for Retired Employees Are Dedicated Individuals. Anyone can join—not just retired Oscar Mayer employees—but the group was formed by and remains popular with O.M. retirees. The READI website (http://readioscarmayer.com) describes the group:

READI was founded in 1993 by retiring employees who wanted to make a difference in the community and still work with and socialize with fellow employees and acquaintances. We currently have over 300 members.  We have contributed over 5,000 hours on approximately 50 projects each year.  There are project opportunities for everyone regardless of physical restraints, age, and sex or work experience. Members are from all levels and areas of the Madison plant and office families and friends of retirees.  Our efforts are devoted solely to READI Board approved non-profit organizations.  Our objectives are to help our Dane County neighbors in need, to help save tax dollars, and to socialize with our fellow volunteers.

Joan Phelan closed the program talking about her experiences working in the Oscar Mayer office from 1950 to 1992.

image-4 o-m store

image-3 o-m building

How the Oscar Mayer Company came to Madison

Harry Backer, OM vice president of public relations, interviewed Oscar G. Mayer Jr. on April 21, 1977 –Oscar retired in 1977 –and this is Oscar’s recollection of how Oscar Mayer acquired the Madison plant in 1919 when Oscar Jr. was 5 years old.

“It happened that my father (Oscar G. Mayer) and mother, with me along too I’m told, were visiting mother’s sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Suhr, Sr. who lived in Madison. They decided to take an automobile ride to the nearby town of Mount Horeb, but got stuck in a muddy road along the way and had to turn around and come home instead. While sitting on the Suhrs’ porch afterward, Fred Suhr, Sr. noticed a small article in the local paper that told of an auction being held at that very moment to sell a small meat packing plant located beyond the edge of town, but not more than two miles from their home in the city. Father told me often since then that he had been aware of this plant, but hadn’t realized that the auction was to be held that particular day. He asked his brother-in-law whether they might go out there to see what was going on and Fred said he would be glad to take Father to the site. Upon arriving, they found the auction under way, but no bids for purchases of the plant had been entered. The proceedings were being held in the plant stockyards with several planks laid across a livestock pen fence to serve as a platform, and an upended wooden box used as a lectern. A distinguished looking man wearing a white meat frock coat was acting as the auctioneer and was calling for bids. Father promptly worked his way right up to the platform, and I can still hear him describing how be reached up and tugged this auctioneer’s white coat and said, “Mr. auctioneer, my name is Oscar Mayer, and I am from Chicago. I notice that you have no bids so far for the sale of this plant. If you can see your way clear to postpone these proceedings for a few days, I may be able to make a bid but will have to return to Chicago to look into the possibility of arranging the necessary financing.” Oscar G. returned to Chicago, talked it over with his father (Oscar F. Mayer, the company’s founder) who said: “Son, if you want the plant, go ahead and buy it.” Oscar G. Mayer Jr. recalled: “Father immediately proceeded to negotiate the necessary financing with his bank, no easy task in those times, then entered his bid with the auctioneer several days later, and the deal was closed to the satisfaction of everyone.”

The auctioneer that day was William Spohn, a prominent attorney in Madison. Some years later, his son, John (Jack) Spohn, joined the company and served as the Madison plant manager for many years.)

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Spring 2014 Meeting Schedule

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on December 28, 2013

While we take a winter pause in East Side History Club meetings, why not go through your attic and closets for memorabilia that brings back memories of Madison’s East Side? You might have treasures worth sharing with your past and current East Side neighbors!

Next meeting:

February 15: Wisconsin Foundry & Machine Co. 

The East Side History Club will team with the Dane County Historical Society to discuss the Wisconsin Foundry & Machine Company, which was located at 613-629 East Main Street from 1910 until 1993. Similar to the Kupfer Ironworks and Madison-Kipp factories further to the east, the foundry designed, built and installed crushing, elevating, screening, conveying and road-building equipment. Other lines included auto repair, custom decorative metalwork and specialty foundry castings. This meeting will include a roundtable discussion with some of the men who were employed there; please contact Sarah White at 608-347-7329 if you or someone you know should be invited to participate. The Dane County Historical Society’s collection of Wisconsin Foundry photos and company papers will be on display.

March 15: TENTATIVE: Banking in Schenk’s Corners

April 12: TENTATIVE: Industrial League Softball

All programs are planned to meet at the Goodman Community Center, 2-4pm.

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Upcoming Events: Garver Plat Update, Dean House Holiday Open House

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on December 1, 2013

Don’t miss these opportunities to see your East Side neighbors, celebrate our past and contribute to how our future unfolds. 

South facade of the Garver Feed Mill  in 2011

South facade of the Garver Feed Mill in 2011

Community Visioning Meeting for the North Plat at Garver 

Who: Hosted by the SASY Neighborhoood Association

When: December 7th, 10am – Noon:

 Where: Lakeview Moravian Community church, 3565 Tulane Avenue

moravian church map

What: Give input on the shaping of the future of this unique piece of East Side history. Parker Jones, a student in the UW Landscape Architecture program, is working with SASY-NA to create community-based plans for the North Plat as his senior thesis. He will facilitate a discussion of three conceptual plans and varieties of possible uses for the North Plat. 

Historic Dean House, 4718 Monona Drive

Historic Dean House, 4718 Monona Drive

Dean House Christmas Open House

Who: Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society

When: December 8th, 1-4 pm

Where: Dean House, 4718 Monona Drive 

What: Enjoy tours of Dean House, refreshments, and sociable conversation. Quinn Leonard and his Solstice Brass musical group will bring “Warm Sounds for a Cold Season” to the Dean House. Santa will be in his cutter (lovingly restored by our own Gary Hess) on the Back Porch to welcome visitors. The House will be decorated and hot cider and cookies will be served.

The Dean House, 4718 Monona Dr., was built in 1856 by Nathaniel & Harriet Dean.  It became the club house for the Monona Golf Course in the 1920s and was going to be torn down when the new clubhouse was built.  The Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society organized in 1973 to save the Dean House and spent many months bringing the house back to the Victorian farmhouse look it originally had.

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Saturday Nov. 16: History of Oscar Mayer Foods

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on November 13, 2013

Seven workers along with Oscar F. Mayer (left), Oscar G. Mayer (middle), Oscar G. Mayer Jr. (right) and Little Oscar (Meinhardt Raabe) hold the “largest sausage in the world.”

Seven workers along with Oscar F. Mayer (left), Oscar G. Mayer (middle), Oscar G. Mayer Jr. (right) and Little Oscar (Meinhardt Raabe) hold the “largest sausage in the world.”

Jim Aehl, Judy Fenske and Joan Phelan, retired employees of Oscar Mayer Foods, will discuss the nationally recognized brand founded in 1919 when Oscar G. Mayer purchased the bankrupt Farmers’ Co-operative Meat Packing Co. David Arndt, another retired employee, will display some of his vast collection of Oscar Mayer memorabilia. And there’s a rumor the WEINERMOBILE will pay us a visit!

October 19, 2–4pm
$2 suggested donation
Goodman Community Center
149 Waubesa St.
find us in THE LOFT!

Additional parking is available off Cory Street at the rear of St. Bernard’s Church and in the small lot across from Madison Kipp on Waubesa.

Dave Arndt's collection of Oscar Mayer memorabilia was featured in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Dave Arndt’s collection of Oscar Mayer memorabilia was featured in the Wisconsin State Journal.

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Wastewater treatment: a tale of responsible civic growth

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on October 21, 2013

Michael Mucha presenting

Michael Mucha presenting.

Paul Nehm presenting.

Paul Nehm presenting.

Michael Mucha and Paul Nehm, employees of the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSW), brought attendees of our October meeting a detailed look at the history of area wastewater treatment–a story intertwined with  urban growth in the watershed stretching from Waunakee to Lake Kegonsa.

The story of wastewater management begins 100 years ago as people moved to cities; its impact becomes clear when you consider the “watershed” year 2008, when half the Earth’s population was living in urban areas.

Building Madison’s sewers was heavy labor conducted with block and tackle, shovels, and human labor assisted with horses.

The East Side, like surrounding north Monona and Blooming Grove and other communities growing up at the turn of the 20th century, relied on sewer districts  in conjunction with real estate development. On the east side, developers simply piped untreated sludge to Lake Monona from the houses they built for sale. Homes built outside these developments had a septic tank, if not an old-fashioned “back house.” Many of the houses built in the 1900s-1910s were constructed with the expectation of plumbing to be added later, when the homeowner could afford it.

Middleton, Shorewood, and the mental hospital campus on the north shore of Lake Mendota all disposed of their waste in Lake Mendota.

In the 1920s the conditions of Madison-area lakes became so bad that the city of Madison began looking at forming a sewerage district, but it took years for the details to be hammered out. The MMSD was formed in 1931. During the Depression lines were expanded and plants constructed using WPA labor, which required hiring of local men, at a minimum wage of 50 cents per hour.

Paul and Michael brought a collection of 16 detailed scrapbooks showing construction of area pumping stations, construction and expansions at the Nine Springs plant, and other details of Madison’s sewer history.

pumping station 1 under constr

Pumping station 1 under construction on North First Street between East Washington and Johnson.

As Madison grew to the east, the Burke plant was built near Oscar Mayer on the site of the former Madison Airport. That plant reached capacity and was abandoned in 1936 after the Nine Springs plant opened. The Burke plant  was reopened during World War II when a radio school opened at Truax Field expecting 16,000 students. Oscar Mayer took over operation of that plant after World War II ended.

During the 1950s as Madison expanded, a five mile long pipe was built to carry the treated effluent from Nine Spring to release into the Badfish Creek south of Lake Kegonsa. That is the system that today keeps area lakes clean and Madison residents sitting pretty.

Paul Nehm described clouds of foam floating from the Nine Springs settling ponds over the South Beltline when non-biodegradable detergent was still in use. Once the environmentalism movement began to make headway, that disturbing  sight disappeared.

The MMSD has worked closely with the University of Wisconsin’s Engineering  School to research and apply the latest technology in sewage treatment over the years, and that collaboration continues.

Bus and walking tours are offered at the MMSD’s Nine Springs Plant. Over 2000 children visit each year.

Among Nehm’s memorabilia was this excerpt from the Capital Times, June 13, 1931, in which local journalist Alexius Bass parodied a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem written about Madison in 1876.

longfellow poem parody

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