Haylofters’ First Major Production Was 80 Years Ago
April 2015 marks the 80th anniversary of the first major production presented by Burlington’s community theater group, The Haylofters. While the group was organized in December 1932, its early activities consisted, not of major productions, but of book reviews, pantomimes, theatre craft reports, one-act plays, working jig saw puzzles, and playing bridge.
In April 1935, however, the group presented a three-act play by Charles S. Brooks called “Wappin’ Wharf” – A Frightful Comedy of Pirates. The play was a gripping one from start to finish, according to one Burlington newspaper, full of action in which pirates bad and bold prowled around in their old and shabby but once glorious attire. Color, gaiety, adventure, and mystery were all combined in the development of an exciting plot.
The play, directed by Catherine Alvord, an English and drama teacher at Burlington High School (BHS), was presented at the high school (now Karcher School) auditorium on April 24 and 25. Admission was 25 cents with reserved seats at 10 cents extra. Members of the cast were Stanley Jung, Elmer Ebert, Francis Meurer, Bill Rewald, Doris Christensen, Harriet Kilroe, Ruth Darling, Sam Martin, Walter Riel, Jr., Cyril Hammiller, and Kenneth Zaspel. The play was put on for the benefit of the Burlington Fire Department.
Those who are credited with starting the theatrical group included Ms. Alvord, and Stanley Jung and Elmer Ebert, who had graduated from BHS in 1929 and 1930, respectively. At the group’s first meeting in December 1932, Jung was elected president of what was then known as The Burlington Drama Club.
In April 1933 the club started fixing up a rehearsal room on the top floor – the hayloft – of Howard Newell’s barn on the corner of Dodge and State streets. In honor of that meeting place, the club changed its name in March 1934 to The Haylofters.
Wow, it seems like winter flew by as we are just about to enter March. Let’s be optimistic and look for the first robin (wishful thinking by me).
The latest news from the board is that we have closed on the sale of the historic “Hammiller House” on W. Jefferson Street. That house, which was donated to our Society a couple years ago, is one of three stone homes built in a row on Jefferson Street about 1850. We originally planned to use it as a showplace of early Burlington home life but, as we have mentioned in the past, the shortage of volunteers left us in a situation of having to concentrate on day-to-day activities at the Museum. We again convey our thanks and appreciation to the Hammiller family for its generous donation.
We are close to that time of the year to prepare the Pioneer Log Cabin in Wehmhoff Square in Downtown Burlington for another season. Please consider yourself or anyone you may know who enjoys the history of our community to spend a few hours a month as a docent for our projects.
Have you found anything historic while “spring cleaning” that may be of interest to others? We are always looking for donations of Burlington area photos (or scans) or local advertising items that may be just sitting around looking for another home. Please call the Museum and leave a message if you have any items to add to our ever-growing inventory. Thanks for your membership and have an enjoyable spring.
Pioneer Log Cabin
The Society’s popular Pioneer Log Cabin in Wehmhoff Square will be opening for the 2015 season sometime in May. It will be open on Thursday evenings starting about 3 p.m during Farmers Market and from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoons – weather and availability of docents permitting.
The cabin, which originally stood on a farm (believed to be the Hinzpeter farm on old Highway 50) south of Burlington, depicts the home of a German farm family in the post-Civil War period. The cabin was moved into Burlington in the early 1900s by Dr. Francis W. Meinhardt and stood on the Meinhardt property until the 1960s, when it was donated to the City and moved to Echo Park. The cabin was taken apart log-by-log in 1997 and rebuilt in Wehmhoff Square, where it re-opened in 1999.
The cabin area also includes a toolshed and a variety of gardens. The toolshed houses a display of farm tools and other artifacts, information on some of the area’s agricultural manufacturers and products, and stories of some of the pioneer families in the Burlington area. The garden areas, which are tended by the Burlington Garden Club and the Racine County Master Gardeners, include a kitchen garden, an herb garden, and a Vintage Garden containing some of the plants, bushes, and small trees that our pioneers would have known.
Jackie Heiligenthal, who leads our cabin volunteers, and her fellow docents provide many hours of service showing and telling visitors what pioneer life was like in the mid-to-late 1800s. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer as a docent, let the Society know. Our regular and e-mail addresses and our telephone number can be found in the masthead on the first page.
Christmas Program Again A Success
Ms. Pennington, who has presented a variety of programs at the past several Christmas get-togethers, used photographs taken by a crew member to tell the inspiring story of Sir Ernest Shackletons Antarctic expedition – all of whose members survived some of the world’s harshest conditions.
Printing Press Article Sparks Memories
One of our members sent the Society the following message after he read about the restored printing press in our December 2014 newsletter:
I saw the story on the restoration of the printing press recently completed by the young Eagle Scout. That is incredible!!!!....will have to stop in sometime and see again. .....I worked at the paper in circulation from about 1988 till off and on in college during breaks in 1992. And wouldn't you believe that I remember still utilizing it the first few years from time to time in that dark old basement.. (1988 89 90).. On occasion we used it to address bags (with the Standard Press return address and "Zimmerman and Sons" name as it still was registered in 1988). We shipped the newspaper in those bags and they were sent to areas far away out of state. ...I can still remember pumping the footpedal...but also thought it could be run by electric too...wow...what a great piece of Burlington history and a great project...absolutely incredible...pass on many congrats and job well done to the young man. See you soon.
“Jessie Likes Flowers”
Jessie Marie Smith, born in New York in 1883, was adopted while still a baby by Leonard and Mary Smith of Burlington. Jessie grew up in Burlington as the little sister of the Smith's daughter, Mary, who became Mrs. Clarence Partee. Jessie graduated from St. Mary’s grade school in Burlington and St. Catherine’s Academy in Racine. The following is an “obituary” written by Mrs. A. G. H. of Racine a few days after Jessie’s death in 1909. It appeared in the August 4, 1909, Free Press
Miss Jessie Smith (shown at left in the circa 1900 photo below), adopted daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L. J. Smith of Burlington, passed away on the 24th of July at the age of 25 after nine weeks of suffering unspeakable. Her patience was marvelous. She never once uttered a word of complaint. On being asked how she felt, the reply would be “all right.” When she was in the pangs of death she said “all right.”
Dear Jessie was all right, too. She was everybody’s friend, especially those in need. She was happy not only in doing for the needy – charity seemed to be her motto.
The church has had its vitals snapped to the core, yes, seriously snapped, by the silent departure of this dear one so trustworthy in that which was given to her. She was the star in all its societies and amusements. She was a kind and dutiful daughter, who received all wants and whims, but with discipline.
She was educated at St. Catherine’s Academy, Racine, and there too they will sadly miss dear Jessie’s annual visits. She was a favorite with all in her midst, rich or poor.
Those foster parents, who took the little lonely baby in, fondled and cared for her equally as they did their own one little daughter, Mrs. C. E. Partee.
Tongue cannot speak words loud enough in regard to the most bountiful and beautiful example set before them with their respect to every person, also the sincere devotion of their God and creed. It can be said by all whom witnessed those many trying hours, yea, years will claim. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have fulfilled that duty which was imposed upon them in the taking of this little motherless baby, Jessie, into their home, drilling such to their way and with a complete success which could be seen at the time of her sickness and death.
Let us call your attention to a little instance which happened at one time right here while the body was lying in state. Just before the floral offerings came, her little niece, Dorothy Partee, four years old, went to the garden and selected a blood-red carnation, concealed it until she reached the casket and then placed it in Jessie’s partly open hand, then left the parlor of death silently. Her mamma entering some time after saw the carnation thus implanted by unseen hands and asked, “who did this?” None knew how it came to be there, but on finding little Dorothy she said “I did do that.” On being asked why she put that carnation there, she said “Jessie likes flowers.” Then there was a renewal of grief by those present. What did this little tot know about death or what was the custom in flower offering at that time? It was certainly an unseen message from Jessie’s heavenly home to her most chosen niece, who heard her last good night farewell.
It is a parable to all, by this little guiding star here below when so small a child tries to lead us.
Mrs. A. G. H., Racine, Wis, July 28, 1909
One Generation to the Next . . .
Contributed by Priscilla Crowley
Here we are at the start of a brand new year. I always view the start of a new year as an opportunity to experience new things, make new friends, enjoy old friends and a chance to change a few things from the previous year. A new adventure so to speak.
It’s sort of like wiping the slate clean with a new beginning for a lot of things. But with new beginnings also come some endings that are not quite so enjoyable but are necessary in the game of life.
Recently I attended the funeral of my Dad’s youngest sister. As I got to thinking about family I realized that of all Dad’s brothers and sisters, we now only have three of them left and from Mom’s family we only have two. I had to ask myself how and when did this happen? It seems like just yesterday when the family got together they were all there – all of them individuals, no two alike but all so very endearing in their own way. Now it comes to us – the kids – the ones who tumbled from one escapade to another – the ones the adults talked about and shook their heads sadly about because of our behavior and wondered what would ever become of us? We are now to be the older, wiser heads, the ones who dispense all that wonderful advice to the young ones – the ones we now stand around and talk about and wonder what is ever to become of them? I tell you I’m really not ready for this wise old lady role I have been slotted for. What are they thinking? This is the girl who rode her tricycle into the bushes because she wanted to see what it was like to race down the hill with no hands on the handle bars and no feet on the pedals of the bike – the one who had to have stitches in her head because she found out what happens when you shoot down the hill without holding on to the handle bars or keeping your feet on the pedals. Dad always thought there was brain leakage from that – that couldn’t happen, could it? It might explain some things if it’s true. Heaven help the ones we are dispensing advice to.
Mom’s family and Dad’s family were very different – one was a city family and one was a country family. Their ways and outlook on life were a little different but what was the same was the shared laughter and love between the individuals. They all had memories of growing up times, hard times and easy times, times when it seemed as if the heavens had opened up and dumped an impossible burden for the family to bear and wonderful times when things just couldn’t have been any better and life was good and filled with laughter and love.
I have such happy memories of my aunts and uncles – all of them such interesting and diverse individuals. I know I loved being around them when they were here and I know that I miss seeing them now that so many of them are no longer with us. I loved the laughter and shared memories, the stories and just listening to them interact with each other was something you didn’t want to miss. When they were interacting with each other it put them in a whole new light. Now you didn’t see them as “aunt” and “uncle” – you saw them as brothers and sisters. No matter how old they got – they were still siblings and they still acted towards each other as they did when they were all at home together. Shared escapades, old disagreements, shared secrets, family memories – things that only they knew about all came to the forefront when they were together. Absolutely fascinating!! You could sit and watch them interact and listen to their stories and you could see yourself and your own brothers and sisters in the things they said and stories they shared with each other. I will always be grateful that they all were the type to share their stories and growing up lives with all of us – it has made all of our lives richer and fuller and has, I hope, taught us a great lesson – share your memories with each other and those who come behind – give your children the gift of family memories and history. It is a gift beyond price.
If you don’t share these stories how are the kids going to know that their grandfather and great aunts and uncles used to take a horse drawn farm wagon to school every day or that they were all jumping for joy when the school burned down and so very unhappy when Great Grandma found another school within driving distance that they could go to? How are they going to know that their father and their aunt got mad because Grandma told some people that they were free to pick all the cherries they wanted from the cherry tree when the two of them wanted the cherries for themselves so they could sell them for a few pennies for their spending money? To get even they went into the machine shed and found the grease bucket and they spread the grease all over the windshield of these poor people’s car to get even. Or how are they going to know that when their Grandma was little she decided that tar balls were a fun thing to play with and she and her sister made several of them out of fresh tar from the street and stuck them in the pockets of their brand new sweaters or that they appeared in the living room when Great Grandma had the ladies over to play cards and announced to anyone who would listen that they had head lice, did they want to see one? Great Grandma never really recovered from the humiliation of that one. How are they ever going to know that their grandmother led a whole tavern full of people in the Bunny Hop out the front door of the local tavern and up and down the block and back in the door again? (You remember the Bunny Hop, don’t you? What a sight that must have been – I understand they were all having a really great time!) And tell me how are they ever going to know that their grandfather was very fond of a pair of tennis shoes that were the brightest color purple anyone has ever seen and that to go with these beautiful shoes he wore Hawaiian swimming trunks in shades of orange, purple and green? Now it’s true these were his “up North vacation clothes” but nevertheless he was a sight to behold and I am sure that there are still people who go to that particular lake who have not forgotten the picture he presented with his “vacation attire.” I think he has become a legend. I like to think that during the summer, if the moon is bright and full and you look really hard you can still see him off in the distance with those bright purple tennis shoes flashing in the moonlight as he walks along the shore. Ah, the good old days!!!
If you are wondering if these stories are true or not, believe me – no one could possibly make this stuff up – it’s just too weird. My point is – share – lighten someone’s day – give them a good laugh and a great memory.