Newsletter - June 2016


Burlington Historian

June 2016


Work on Whitman School Progressing

     A new roof, along with new windows, gutters, and downspouts, have been installed, at Whitman School – the Society’s 1840 one-room school building in Schmaling Park on Beloit Street. Also upgraded are the front porch step and the base for the water pump. The work was done by Zelenski Carpentry of Burlington.
     Remaining work includes cleaning (washing) the brick, tuckpointing, and painting the building, which was moved to Schmaling Park in 1986.


The new roof, windows, gutters and downspouts, and foundation grates are shown on the north and west sides of Whitman School (photo at left) and on the east side (photo at right). The front step and pump base were also replaced.

President’s Message

   As many of you may know, besides serving as Historical Society president, I also serve as president of the Burlington Liars Club. I recently walked into a bar/restaurant near our family’s get-away place in Northern Wisconsin and got into a conversation with a couple of “locals.” Upon being asked where I was from, I said Burlington. One of them asked if I’d ever heard of the Burlington Liars Club. I said, “You won’t believe this, but I’m the president of the Burlington Liars Club.” Laughs and chuckles were heard throughout the establishment. I still have a feeling that they didn’t believe me.

   What a fast spring we are having. Planting and spruce-up can be seen everywhere. The Burlington High School soccer team (as shown in the accompanying photos by Ed Nadolski) got together for some community service recently and cleaned up the “Old Burlington Cemetery,” which is behind the main cemetery and close to Lake Drive. It is the resting place of some members of the area’s original pioneer families, including several Perkins family members.
   Whitman School – our historic one-room school house on Beloit Street – is undergoing some long-needed repairs. A new roof, gutters, and windows have been installed and other work has been or will be done. We would like to get it in shape to start a new round of tours in the future.
   We were very pleased recently to receive a number of memorial donations from friends and family of Mary Brook (Newell) Zahn, who passed away in Pennsylvania in late April. Mary was born in Burlington August 28, 1923, to Howard H. and Edith M. (Brook) Newell, who lived in a large house on the property where the Burlington Post Office is now located. Mary graduated from Burlington High School in 1941. Her family had designated the Society as one of the organizations to which donations in Mary’s memory could be made.
   I hope we all have a safe, healthy and fun summer here in our great State of Wisconsin.

Dennis Tully


Ice Cream Social

   The Society’s annual Ice Cream Social is scheduled to be held on Saturday, July 30, near Pioneer Cabin in Wehmhoff Square. Ice cream cones and sundaes will be available from 10 a.m. until about 2 p.m. Soda and water will be sold as well. The cabin will also be available for visiting.

Mount Hope Cemetery News

   The town of Spring Prairie, which has taken charge of Mount Hope Cemetery on Spring Prairie Road, is constructing an entrance drive straight up from the highway to the cemetery. (See photo at right.) Such a drive is in accord with the original plan for the cemetery, which has existed since pioneer times. There’s still work to do – culvert, leveling, topping, etc. – but the work is progressing. 

Did You Know?

In 1868 an effort was made to start a public library in Burlington. One of the area’s earliest settlers, Palmer Gardner, after whom Gardner Avenue is named, offered to donate $1,000 (about $17,000 in today’s money) if only books on history and science were purchased and all novels were excluded.

Memorable 1951 Doll Buggy Parade

     The opening event of Burlington's 1951 four-day July Jamboree was a children’s doll buggy parade on Sunday, July 1. A large group of children decorated doll buggies for the event, which took place in Echo Park. A total of $30 in cash prizes was given out. All entrants received free tickets to the rides at the Jamboree.
     One of the entrants was Burlington native Bill Bieneman who with his wife, the former Marilynn Koenen, now lives in Racine. Bill recently wrote of his experience as a participant in the 1951 doll buggy parade.
    Bill Bieneman, in dark dress and bonnet, and his friend, Chuck Weis, who rode in the buggy, are shown 2nd from right in the group picture at the left below. Bill, pointing at the cameraman (who was Chuck's brother Jim Weis), and Chuck taking a drink from his "baby bottle" are shown at right below.










      Marilynn thought there should be an explanation of said pictures. I was in 8th grade and Chuck Weis was in 7th. Mrs. Weis had an old buggy in the garage and figured that Chuck and I should be in the 4th of July doll buggy parade. After some hemming and hawing, we agreed to do it.

      Chuck had on only a diaper with a BROWN MUSTARD stripe across the bottom. He had a bottle of water and milk with a nipple on it. Yours truly (Bill Bieneman) had on a long dress, bonnet, heels, gloves, a corsage, and make-up. The little girls were scared to death of us as we walked along with them. As we passed the judges, Chuck leaned over the side of the buggy to display his diaper. The "CROWD" and judges went nuts. We each won 3 dollars as winners of the comedy division – if there was such a thing.

      When it was over, we walked across the street to the ballpark bathroom. I took my dress, heels, etc. off and cleaned off the make-up. Chuck removed his diaper etc. We then put on our baseball uniforms to play a junior legion ball game. I hit 2 for 4 and drove in a couple runs that day. When the paper came out [I think] on Wednesday, the pictures were in it with names etc. in the middle of the paper. On the back page was a picture of the junior legion team with the caption, "Kerkhoff & Bieneman lead junior team to victory."
      Burlington, being what it was at the time, had a ball with it. You can't imagine the kidding that Chuck and I took. But we had 3 bucks and a heck of a memory. I've showed our kids the pics and explained it to them and they said "Ya, that’s dad."

The parade winners, reported in the July 6, 1951, Standard Democrat, were as follows:
Most Comic Buggy – Bill Bieneman and Chuck Weis
Oldest Buggy – Patty Kruckman
Most Original Buggy – 1. Sandra Wilson; 2. Judith Wortman
Prettiest Buggy – 1. Diane Corbett; 2. Sharon Corbett; 3. Mary Rubach; 4. Diane Wolf;
                            5. Sherry Birchler; 6. Cathy Kessler; 7. Jean Trimberger and Jim Mehring

A Life-Long Love Affair

By Priscilla Crowley

     It’s true – I have carried on a life-long love affair – how scandalous! Who would have thought? I can see the raised eyebrows and hear the whispers now. It’s not as exciting as you might think – my love affair isn’t with a person, it is with schools and education. I added up the years, did the math and I find that I have spent a little over three-quarters of my life in schools. If that’s not a love affair with education and learning, I don’t know what is.
     The really ironic thing about this whole situation is that I started out in kindergarten in Lincoln School and here I am, 64 years later, working in the same building and in the same room I started out in. (Lincoln School shown in 1961 photo at right. 1953 kindergarten class shown below; author is 6th from left in 3rd row.) Who would have thought that my path would cross and re-cross the same building and that all these years later I would still be in love with teachers, books, the smell of chalk and paper, wet galoshes, damp wool, and the bright and shiny faces of eager students and the glum looks from students who are not quite so eager. I love it all.

     My family and I lived on Perkins Boulevard when I was old enough to enter kindergarten. Our house was on the other end of Perkins from Lincoln School, down near Market Street. Our old house and a couple of others were torn down to make room for the Vocational Building that stands there now. I have told my children the old story – you know which one I mean, all about how when I was young, I had to walk to school – up hill both ways! That is really not so far from wrong and looking back that really was quite a hike for a 5 year old. There were other children in the neighborhood so I didn’t have to walk it alone all the time but there were days when I did. I don’t want to say that I dawdled on the way home but some days the trip took longer than others. It just depended on what was happening along the way – there was always something interesting to look at as I trudged along. Who could resist watching someone mow their lawn or raking their leaves or working in their garden or a friendly dog or cat to play with or anyone of a dozen other exciting things that could be happening?
    The classrooms at Lincoln School were huge – if I close my eyes I can see the sun shining brightly throughout the room, sunbeams poking into every corner. I have vague memories of gathering around our teacher for story time, the quiet that surrounded us during our "nap time" and the big trip we all took on the train to Sturtevant, my very first field trip.

     Right after I graduated from kindergarten, we moved to Lyons and I started at St. Joseph’s Elementary School that fall. This was quite different from Lincoln School – this one-story school was only a block from where we lived. No more long, drawn out trips to and from school, no more excuses about what took so long to get home. In this school all the teachers were nuns – also a new experience for me. I learned rather quickly that nuns were not ones to mess with, they pretty much always expected better than your best and were pretty much no nonsense about things like homework, paying attention in class (which meant no reading your library book when you were supposed to be working on school work), and behavior. The most important thing I learned was that nuns have eyes in the back of their heads, they could see everything that went on in their classroom and they could instantly tell if you were telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – they could spot a fib a mile away.

    Gone were the carefree days of kindergarten. Now with 1st grade the real work began, you were expected to buckle down and learn how to read and how to write and how to do math problems and you were supposed to do everything correctly, no mistakes. Life was getting tough and little did I realize that as you advanced through the grades, they expected more and still more and pretty soon they were talking about what you would do with your life, and more things to study were added to the list – things like geography (you mean Africa isn’t part of the United States?), and science (what’s a fulcrum again?), and history (Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1400 and what? and Who was Paul Revere again?) and more complicated math – word problems. You know – “Susie went to the story to buy 2 apples at 25 cents each – a gallon of milk for $1.00, a pound of butter for 75 cents, a loaf of bread for $2.00. Susie had $5.00 to spend – how much change did she get?” Then they introduced fractions – what can you do with a fraction – what’s the matter with whole numbers?

     I eventually meandered through all eight grades and came out on the other side ready, willing, and able to move on to high school. Wow! Coming from little Lyons, Burlington High School was a huge change – now there were even more things to learn and gym class, who’s idea was gym class? Who wants to walk on a beam only 6 inches wide and four feet off the ground anyway? Tumbling was a lot of fun, like I couldn’t figure out how to fall down all on my own? In spite of everything, chemistry (I never want to see a test tube or a Bunsen burner again), geometry (I promise to never, ever take another math class), biology (I hate the smell of formaldehyde), home economics (tell me, are scrambled eggs supposed to roll around on the plate?), I graduated and entered the “adult world.” In spite of all the trials and tribulations, learning was a great adventure and I really enjoyed my school days. I am still enjoying my school days.

     In spite of the fact that I am no longer 10 years old or even 18 years old, I think there is no more exciting place than a school. It’s true that Lincoln School is no longer being used as a school building but just think of the number of children who have passed through these doors, storing up memories and soaking up knowledge that stayed with them through their whole lives and helped provide them with a base to build on. When I started working for the Burlington schools, I started as a teacher aide and I traveled to the smaller schools in our District – Lincoln School was one of them. Every school was different, full of different students all with their own individual personalities and teachers who were there to guide their first footsteps along the road of life.

     The doors that knowledge opens up for us are timeless – where would we be without knowledge? It’s no wonder this love affair has lasted so long, it has all the right ingredients – knowledge gives you a sense of curiosity, solves mysteries, expands your horizons, gives you the ability to grow in mind and spirit, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and encourages you to be the best person you can be and shows you the way to live a full and rich life. It makes you cognizant of life around you and teaches you to interact with others. Every day of our lives we learn something, we just have to remember to leave ourselves open to learning – there is nothing we can’t do if we put our minds to it. All knowledge doesn’t come from a book, much knowledge comes from life experiences. How you learn doesn’t matter, what does matter is that you are willing to open yourself up to learn. Some love affairs are just meant to be and learning has been one of mine. Keep an open mind and open heart and you can’t go wrong.

50 Years Ago . . .

    Floyd “Mac” and Florence McCormack sold their popcorn wagon in July 1966 and it was moved to Chicago 2 months later.

     The 1921 Model T Ford wagon, which the McCormacks bought from Fred Oberg in 1924, was a familiar downtown sight for over 40 years, first at the Badger Hotel corner and then – for 24 years – beside Kessler's variety store at Chestnut and Pine streets. The McCormacks also took the popcorn wagon to fairs, baseball games, and other community and area activities.

Floyd McCormack shown at window of popcorn wagon in this 1958 photo