More Milwaukee Memories Page 8
I was born in Milwaukee in 1961....
, and grew up in St. Francis. In 1983 I moved to New York City. Since then, my work has allowed me to travel all over the US and Europe; and while I love the Big Apple, Chicago, Philadelphia, Rome, Paris, Zurich, Milan, Copenhagen, etc., Milwaukee will always be home.
As a child I used to love to go "Downtown" with my grandfather. He lived on the North Side on 27th Place between 1933 and 1975. We'd go to Wisconsin Avenue and go to the department stores like Woolworths and Gimbels. We would also go to the museum. I loved these Saturday excursions.
St. Francis was almost exclusively a residential /suburban area, and didn't have the great number of shopping centers it has now. There was Layton Mart on Layton and Nicholson. A few others. Cudahy had some cool attractions on Packard avenue. The Cudahy Hobby Shop where on Saturdays I would go and buy candy and the latest issue of Mad magazine, or my other hobby supplies (much of which you can't get anymore without being answerable to the FBI). at the time, you could buy some kinds of candy for two or three for a penny. If you had $0.50 or a dollar you were guaranteed a good time. Movies were fifty cents; and you saw not only the movie (sometimes two) but you also got a few Bugs Bunny cartoons and a Three Stooges short.
I lived near the airport. Back then, you used to be able to walk around the perimeters of the airport without being accused of being a terrorist. I would walk the train tracks, sometimes jumping on slow moving trains and riding to the other side of town. Now, some of those old train tracks are highway.
Then there was Belaire Music Store. I took my first guitar lessons there in 1971. That was the beginning of what would eventually be my career. A brand new top of the line Fender Stratocaster was $250. Now? Forget it.
Saturday nights I would be allowed to stay up late and watch Nightmare Theater (or Shock Theater) with the great Dr. Cadaverino. That was so much fun! I loved it! I tell young people these days about that program, and they can't believe it. There just isn't anything like that anymore. Jack DuBlon, RIP, and thanks for all the great entertainment!
Milwaukee television was in its adolescence, and the industry was still relatively new and experimental. Sure, there was a lot of garbage on TV (today, I refuse to watch TV at all). But it had a personality that is lacking now. Especially concerning local programming.
I went to elementary school at Willow Glen Elementary, and to high school at St. Francis High School. I recently had the chance to visit my old Alma Mater after having been away for decades. Things are quite different now.
As I grew up and started exploring the world on my own, I still found a lot in Milwaukee that was interesting. The downtown area and the north side were places that truly had their own personality. Brady Street area was hip when hip was dangerous. The parties we had in Grant Park, and other places were something else.
After high school, I started to move out into the world. I traveled in a number of rock bands. We always loved to play in the local places; the Stone Toad, Teddy's, The Palms, The Electric Ballroom, and places in Cudahy like Scandals and Harlow's. Wild times indeed.
I try to visit Milwaukee whenever I can. Its a special place for me. The changes that happened (not all of them good; many of the woods and fields where I used to play as a child are all ugly apartment buildings and shopping malls now) remind me of how precious those memories are to me.
Thanks for putting up this website! We need this.
Stone Toad Photos Contributed By Steve Dragosz
Retro Matchbooks and Sign Contributed By Steve Dragosz
I grew up in Greendale
(graduated in '69) but the Milwaukee memories ring true for me.
Took piano lessons at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music (on Prospect?)--my instructor was a dazzling strawberry blonde named Karen Mozach who was Miss Milwaukee one year.
I remember my father taking us to our first McDonald's on 76th and Oklahoma and his pronouncement that the chain would never succeed because the burgers had no meat and the fries were too skinny!
Did anyone else take school field trips to the Milwaukee Journal and bring home a souvenir miniature edition?
Was '68 Summerfest's inaugural year? I remember being there that summer when a sudden thunderstorm collapsed the main tent.
My high school boyfriend was one of the Drews boys (of Variety Store fame), and I spent quite a bit of time hanging around those stores, hoping to run into him. He went to Concordia High when it was a boy's boarding school which seemed pretty exotic at the time.
Remember when reserved seats were sold for first-run "big" movies at the downtown theatres (The Towne)? A friend of mine told me that he always bought three seats for these shows--one for his date, one for himself, and one for their coats!
I remember shopping with girlfriends at Mayfair for matching Villager skirts and sweaters in heathery pastels. We loved the Singer store and the 5-7-9 shop--I bought my first prom dress there for a whopping $54.00.
The Marc's Big Boy at 27th and Loomis was a late night hang-out where we'd split chocolate cream pie and onion rings with vanilla Coke chasers.
Later, when I was at UW, I'd take the Badger Bus home from Madison and hop a city bus south to Oklahoma, transferring to another westbound bus to 29th to meet my mom at her job at St. Luke's for a ride to Greendale. I remember being delighted to understand snatches of Polish and Serbian being spoken by other riders on those lines--evidence that the Russian I was taking at UW wasn't as "totally useless" as my parents claimed.
I still crave the Buttercrust rolls from Bomberg's (later Grebe's) bakery, Gimbel's fabulous potato salad, and the bulk cookies from the Johnson factory. And Usinger's gift boxes will always beat Harry and David's on my Christmas shopping list.
Speaking of Christmas, I remember the Holly Days sponsored by the Wisconsin Avenue merchants each Thanksgiving weekend--shoppers were given branches of fresh holly, a festive start to the season.
Does anyone else remember Dutch's Sukiyaki House? Or The Embers? I remember post-dance dates at Salen's, The Timbers, Ray Bussler's, The Leilani, Fox and Hounds. Also the constant debate over whether Gilles or Leon's was the superior purveyor of custard. (We preferred Gilles for cones, Leon's for turtle sundaes--those salted pecans were spectacular!) Time has passed and things have changed, but a Friday fish fry at Serb Hall or Turner's is still a great (and delicious) value. I try to sneak one in every time I visit home (I've been a FIB since '73).
Milwaukee was indeed a great place to grow up--safe, sheltering, and with enough ethnic and economic variety to make it lively and interesting.
What a marvelous site this is!