East Side History Madison’s Blog

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

Archive for February, 2011

At February 2011 meeting, the Circus was in town!

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on February 26, 2011

This photo taken July 29, 1933, shows Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus “tall man” Jack Earl and one of the circus midgets with an airplane manufactured by Orland Corben at the Madison Airport. Photo WHi-10860 courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.


The second topic covered at February’s meeting was the circuses that came to the Madison Airport at the end of North Street from 1923 through 1946.

The pilots at the airport would sell airplane rides to the circus workers and performers as well as to people coming out to see the circus.

Joan Phalen and Ann Waidelich prepared a chart of what circuses came when and where they set up, based on research done in the Madison newspapers.  (see below.)

Ann read from a newspaper article published in the Wis State Journal on July 27, 1927 about the Ringling Circus coming to town, and several audience members contributed their memories of arriving early as kids to help set up the circus tents and then being almost too tired to enjoy the show with their “pay”, a free ticket to the show.

Fred Leidel was the featured speaker at February’s meeting, relating memories of being an “airport kid” hanging around the Madison Airport. The short memoir he wrote about that [see related post] contained the following circus memory:

The circus train unloaded near East Washington Ave. where the tracks cross at Gisholt Machine Co.

They hauled all of the equipment from there to the end of the Madison Airport near Oscar Meyer.  The route they chose included Upham Street where we lived.  At the end of our block they watered the animals such as elephants and horses from a fire hydrant.  I followed them to he airport, where I helped to put op the Big Top and bleachers.  Salary — one free ticket to the evening performance.  After the tent and bleachers were put up and I go my ticket, I started selling airplane ride tickets.  I sold the most tickets for which I got a small bonus, but at a nickel a ticket plus the bonus I earned $16 that day.  We  had quite a few airplanes flying — the Travelaires, probably 2 Corbens, a Waco, a Fairchild, a Cessna and a Taylorcraft.  We flew even during the afternoon circus performance and the Big Top canvas would flap as the planes swooped overhead.

Thanks for the memories, Fred, and to Ann Waidelich and Joan Phelan–thanks for your research work. Great meeting–over 60 people attended!

-Sarah White

Date Eken Plat, Madison Airport Elsewhere on East Side
Aug. 7, 1916 Ringling Brothers – Nelson’s Corners
July 5, 1920 John Robinson’s Circus – Rutledge, Helena & Russell Streets
Aug. 15, 1921 Ringling Barnum & Bailey – Carey Plat, E. Wash & 2nd St
Aug. 13, 1923 Morris & Castle Shows
Aug. 27, 1923 Sparks Circus – Carey Plat – E. Wash & 2nd St.
Aug. 13, 1924 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
July 29, 1926 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
July 5, 1927 Hagenback Wallace Circus – N. Patterson & E. Mifflin
July 27, 1927 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
July 30, 1928 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
Aug. 1, 1929 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
Aug 5, 1929 Morris Castle Shows – Commercial Ave. Circus Lot
Aug. 12, 1930 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
Aug. 17, 1931 Hagenbeck Wallace Circus
Aug 19, 1932 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
July 29, 1933 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
June 14, 1934 Tom Mix Circus  (where ?)
Aug. 6, 1934 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
July 1, 1935 Russell Brothers Circus
Aug. 13, 1935 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
July 21, 1936 Russell Brothers Circus
Aug. 4, 1936 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
July 8-12, 1937 Sheesley Midway – Weber’s Show Grounds, Commercial Ave.
July 30, 1937 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
May 28, 1938 Sells-Sterling Circus
July 3, 1938 Tom Mix Circus – E. Mifflin & N.Livingstoin
Aug. 2, 1938 Barnes-Sells-Floto Ringling
Aug. 1, 1939 Ringlling Barnum & Bailey
June 11, 1940 Rubin & Cherry Exposition – Show Grounds, Commercial Ave.
July 30 1940 Ringlling Barnum & Bailey
June 2-8, 1941 Goodman Wonder Shows – Show Grounds, Commercial Ave.
July 26, 1941 Johnny Jones Clyde Peatty – Show Grounds, Commercial Ave.
Aug 13, 1941 Ringlling Barnum & Bailey
Sept 11, 1942 Ringlling Barnum & Bailey
Aug. 17-22, 1943 Rubin Cherry Exposition – Hartmeyer Show Grounds
Sept. 8, 1943 Ringlling Barnum & Bailey
June 29, 1944 Cole Brothers Circus
Aug 1-5, 1944 Royal American Shows – Show Grounds, Commercial Ave.,
July 20, 1945 Cole Brothers Circus
Aug 21 -22, 1946 Ringling Barnum & Bailey
July 11, 1947 Cole Brothers Circus – E. Wash, Hwy 19 & 51,at Wright St.
Aug. 13, 1947 Ringling Barnum & Bailey – E. Washington New Show Grounds

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Fred Liedel Remembers the Madison Airport

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on February 26, 2011



Fred Liedel addressing the East Side History Club's meeting at the Goodman Center on February 19, 2011.

Fred Leidel was the featured speaker at the Feb. 19th meeting. He told us many wonderful stories of helping out at the Madison Airport in the 1930s in order to get rides and learn to fly.

Fred  was born in Milwaukee. The family moved around Wisconsin when he was  young but returned to Madison in time for him to graduate from East High School.  They lived on Upham Street and he spent most of his free time while attending high school and UW at the Madison Airport.  After he graduated with a degree in Engineering he moved to the east but returned to Madison in 1945 and has been here ever since. He has written about his experiences at the Madison Airport and an excerpt is included below.

Joan Phelan and Ann Waidelich researched the Madison Airport and brought in many articles they had found in the local newspapers. Ann visited the EAA Museum in Oshkosh in order to see and make photocopies of Madison Airport photos from the scrapbooks that Fred Leidel had donated to the museum.  These were on the tables for people to view.

Fred is 94 years old now and a retired UW Professor.  Doug Moe wrote a nice article about him in the Wis State Journal on March 21, 2010.

Remembing the Madison Airport

By Fred Liedel

Much of my time was spent at the Madison Airport, especially weekends and vacations, from the time my family moved back to Madison in 1934 until I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1940.  When I first went there O.G. “Ace” Corben was the manager (until he left in 1936 to go barnstorming) but for most of those years it was managed by Walter Blake.  Blake was very generous with me and the other “airport kids.”  He would take us up just for the fun of it or as passengers when he was teaching a student cross-country flying.  One time we went up on a moonlit Saturday night without field lights. We circled the Capitol Square at low elevation and watched the shoppers around the Square.

The summer of 1939 was the last summer vacation of my college career.  I made a deal with Walter Blake that I would work at the airport without pay, running the office (I knew typing and shorthand) or whatever they could use me for in exchange for flight lessons.  Some weeks after I soloed, I went to Doc Pippen in Richland Center with a group of other recently soloed pilots for the physical leading to our student pilot permits.  He gave us an eye test and it was then I learned that I have monocular vision — no depth perception.  Blake let me accumulate perhaps 5 house of solo time to get it out out my system but that was the end of my flying career.

The airport had a TravelAire 3 person biplane.  Usually I went up in it with Fritz Horstmeyer as pilot.  We had a siren that we could mount on a wing strut.  It was powered by a small propeller, and had a clutch that would release by pulling a cord from the front seat.  It was a quiet day and we wanted to drum up some passenger business.  We flew to the Square and did tailspins over the Capitol.  As we did, I pulled the cord and the siren howled.  When we got back to the airport there was a policeman waiting for us.  He took the siren and told us that if we wanted it back, it would be at the police station.  I have no idea what the final outcome was.

Airplane ride tickets were $1 and my commission was 5 cents.  I got to be their best ticket salesman.  One of my happy memories was Ringling Brothers circus day, probably in 1935. [See related post.]

My friends at the airport included Walter Dockstator whose full time job was as a hog splitter at Oscar Meyer.  He claimed that he could split a hog with one blow of his ax.  Later he became the corporate pilot for Oscar Meyer.  Another was Archie DeRemer whose parents owned a farm near Brooklyn, WI.  He would fly home and his mother would send him back with treats for us “airport kids.”   Carole Seals was a petty young girl who just liked to hang around airplanes and pilots.  She really had a crush on Archie DeRemer and I expected on day they would marry but she married Walter Dockstator instead.  Clarence Weber was a part-time pilot and full time bus driver.

The buses back then were Buick “Crackerboxes”.  The driver would pull a lever when a passenger got on and it registered “fare”.  When I got on his bus he would rotate the lever and it registered “free”.  He became an airline pilot but was killed in a airplane crash.  Howard Sechrest was a pilot and successful businessman.  He owned the Howard Welding Co. on East Wilson St.  His first plane was a Fairchild 22 and his second plane was a beautiful silver Waco bi-plane.  He died in a plane crash in 1953.  Billy Blom had a single-seat Aero Sport bi-plane.  We had small air shows at the Madison Airport and his part was to unroll a roll of toilet paper and then cut it with his propeller as many times as he could before it fell to the ground.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Merrillyn Leigh Hartridge, deceased Feb. 9, 2011

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on February 18, 2011

Merrillyn Leigh Hartridge, who graciously shared many of her memories and photographs with the East Side History Club, passed away February 9, 2011, at age 88.

Lynn (as we knew her) lived at 2146 Lakeland Avenue in the 1930s and 1940s. She attended Lowell Elementary School and spoke frequently about the beauty of the school and its influence on her artistic nature.

Her grandfather, Louis Hess, owned the Hess Store at 2901 Atwood Avenue. Lynn remembered that he sold books, paint boxes, and other supplies to students who would visit the store from the nearby school. “I recall reading the new editions of Elson’s Readers when they first came into the store. By the time school started each year, I had already read the required book,” Lynn said. Several more of Lynn’s recollections were published in An East Side Album.

Lynn’s obituary appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal recently. Read obituary….

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Strand Bakery says, “Give him heart-shaped Sweetheart Cake”

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on February 14, 2011

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with memories sparked by this heart-themed little promotional item contributed by Sean Nashold and Denise McKay, who found several like it in a storage space in the building at 2007 Atwood Avenue that once was home to the Strand Baking Company.

Thank you, Sean Nashold and Denise McKay, for contributing these little gems to the East Side History Club’s collection.

-Sarah White for the East Side History Club


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Join us at Goodman Center for February 19 meeting

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on February 1, 2011

What do airplanes and circuses have in common?

They both occupied land at the north end of North Street. The Madison Airport was there in the 1920s and 1930s and the area was Madison’s circus grounds from the 1920s through the 1940s.

Joan Phelan and Ann Waidelich will lead the discussion with special guest Fred Leidel, who worked for Orland Corbin building airplanes there in the 1930s.

We’ll meet from 2-4pm on February 19 at the Goodman Community Center. Bring you memories and memorabilia for a “high flying” discussion.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »