Milwaukee Memories Page 16

Northside Memories from 1961

I grew up on Milwaukee’s near north side, 7th Street and Vienna Ave, to be exact. Born in 1952, I spent my formative years in the safe cocoon of our surrounding neighborhood, largely untouched by world events or even events in other parts of the city. If I was to pick a specific year to recall, it would probably be 1961. Johnny Tillotson was singing Poetry in Motion, Bobby Vee was pleading Take Good Care of My Baby, and Ben E. King was entertaining us with Stand by Me.” I can’t think of a better soundtrack for growing up.

Our flat was just a block from the massive red-brick Green Bay Avenue School, which in those days was the center of our universe. During the school year we were taught by women who had dedicated their lives to teaching, many of them unmarried by choice; their students were their families, after all. For us children, the school felt just as safe and nurturing as our own homes. I still recall our kindergarten classroom, that actually had a welcoming fireplace, replete with decorative tiles depicting various characters from Mother Goose fairy tales. Our teacher, Miss Robb, was the kindest, most gentle woman I have ever met.

In the summers, the schoolyard became a safe place to play all sorts of games. There was the game of four-square, which we played with a large red ball, hopscotch, bean bag toss, and bottlecap hockey, which we played with a specially constructed wooden box, popsicle sticks and discarded bottle caps. Of course, our activities were supervised by a teenage boy and girl (we called them Coach…), who worked for the city and somehow managed to keep all of us kids constructively engaged. They also taught us how to play chess, which I loved.

In the winter, the same playground transformed into an ice-skating rink. The city would flood the asphalt, creating a huge rink surrounded by mounds of snow. We would skate from morning to night, only taking time out to rest in the comfort of the cozy red-brick warming house. When we weren’t skating, playing hockey or pom-pom pole away, we spent our time in Kern Park, where the parks department had a towering wooden toboggan slide that emptied onto the Milwaukee River. We would tuck ourselves in a single row on the wooden sled and then fly down the slide and into a chute, racing downward, finally screaming with joy as we flew out onto the icy river.

The Milwaukee I remember was much quieter than the one that exists today. There were very few cars in the fifties. The freeways were still in the planning stages and hadn’t yet sliced up our insulated world. We really didn’t need them back then. Most families only had one vehicle, if that. We had the streetcars, buses (many of those were electric, powered by wires above the streets, and even an interurban small-gauge rail system that could take you north and south in the city. Truthfully, even without the public transport, most of what you needed could be reached on foot. Grocery stores were close bywe had the A&P and Halan’s Grocery within just a few blocks of our home. Ketter’s Drug store provided prescriptions, a soda fountain and comic books. Pete’s Bakery provided goodies for only 2 cents apiece, and neighborhood libraries dotted the cityone for each neighborhood, and movie theaters were all close by. I can still remember Saturday afternoons at the Garfield Theater, where we could watch two movies for 25 cents.

Third Street was the precursor to modern shopping malls. Scores of small businesses lined the street. It was here you could find anything you neededfurniture stores, Schuster’s Department Store, and dime stores that always seemed to smell like fresh popcorn. Bowling alleys were just one flight below the street, much like the Pizza Bowl depicted on the old Laverne and Shirley show. Cozy little family eating establishments dotted the street, like Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant, Solly’s and others. A favorite of us kids was Spudnuts Donuts near 3rd street and North Ave. Those donuts were like nectar from the gods.

One of the unique things about living in that time, was that we got to experience some vestiges of past eras that had somehow lingered in Milwaukee just a bit longer than in other places. Who can forget the ragman who led his horse down the street calling out: “Rags! Rags to collect!” Or the milkman making his deliveries in his shiny yellow and white truck. Particularly in the heat of summer when he would generously chip off slivers of ice to us kids as we ran to meet him at the curb.

Well, times have certainly changed. The little neighborhood libraries are gone, replaced by regional facilities that can serve a more mobile population. But, oh how much we lost when we abandoned those cozy little buildings we used to frequent as children. Milwaukee had a bookworm club. Every time we finished a book, we received a little blue stamp in the shape of a bookworm on the back of their library card. What a feeling of accomplishment that was! To supplement the little library was the magical traveling library, the bookmobile. These long, mobile libraries made weekly visits to the schools and the playgrounds. I can still recall looking out the window of the schoolhouse, eagerly anticipating the new adventures that were waiting on for me on its shelves.

I’ve come back to Milwaukee many times over the years. I can still hear the echoes of those past times as I drive through the old neighborhood. Oh, for a time machine . . . Jake Kaminski-Author of Beneath the Polish Moon


Went to Jr. High in downtown Waukesha. Couldn't wait for The Attic to open so we could dance. Then we moved to M'waukee. When I graduated from Washington HS on Sherman Blvd. I went on to Madison for college.  When I got back to Milwaukee I was the host of a Saturday teen dancing show called "Twelve to Twenty" on Channel 4.  Does anyone remember the show?  We used to go the Big Boy off Capitol Drive after the show.

Mike Feinstein


What was the name of the sports car tavern...

where the racers and rallye drivers hung out? It was about 1960-65 for sure. I know Augie Pabst went there.

I think it was on Wells street.
Bruce Kebbekus  ex Hales Corners early 1940's.


Love this website so much! 


I attended John Marshall High School graduating in 1970.  That was the year of the BIG dress code change for  girls...we were allowed to wear culottes (or skoorts- SP?) which were  shorts with a panel of fabric covering the front to appear as a skirt.   It was the combination of shorts and skirts.  Also we were allowed to wear slacks

(not jeans!) only on scheduled final exam days. Loved being in the choir, plays, musicals and talent shows – such fun!  We were so proud of our school ... Go Marshall Eagles!


Does anyone remember an afterschool cartoon show (probably on WTMJ) hosted by "Pops" who was dressed in old fashioned theater ticket-taker attire? Milwaukee boy scouts, brownie troops, school clubs etc. made up the audience and Pops would ask everyone their name...on air!  My brownie troop went!  My mom got calls from everyone in our neighborhood, church, friends, relatives, grocery store clerk...just to say they saw me on TV.  I'm so thankful to have experienced Milwaukee's people with their sweet sense of genuine community.  There was another show with Barbara Becker – she covered the weather and had a puppet show with Albert the Alley Cat.  Their theme song was "Tip Toe Through the Alley" ... yes, to the tune of "Tip Toe Through the Tulips." There was husband and wife, Howard and Rosemary Gernette, long-term on-air personalities.  I saw Bob Barry in person once – he was SO handsome.



Capitol Court was wonderful!  There was the Little Farm in the courtyard. Big event when a monkey was born in MONKEYTOWN! Northwest News did a story: The baby monkey at Capitol Court needs a name! There was an actual contest with a prize.  I got the job of handing out contest entry forms which required wearing a clown costume.  I was 14 and got paid more than the 50 cents/hr for babysitting.  It was great!  Years later, I worked part-time at Gimbels. Everyone was so friendly and appreciative.


Christmas storefronts on Wisconsin Avenue were magical.  All the windows were beautifully decorated with animated window displays. I loved that I could take the bus all the way downtown with a actual downtown and be safe!


There is no other city that does Friday Fish Fries like Milwaukee!  Frozen custard so outstanding...Leon's was the inspiration for Happy Days and let's not forget Laverne and Shirley!  I met Henry Winkler (The Fonz) about 10 years ago – I told him I was from Milwaukee and loved the show and his character.  I enjoyed our conversation. Sadly, I had to remind myself that he is an actor and the wonderful Fonz lived in Milwaukee only in a script.

His loss!  Loved the Fonz!


We had backyard carnivals for Muscular Dystrophy every year making as much as $35.00 to proudly donate. What an accomplishment.  We sold lemonade, popcorn, brownies and produced afternoon and evening talent shows.  It was so much fun!  The Northwest News published a group picture with our names.  Only in Milwaukee would there be a community newspaper who made the kids feel so important.


I graduated from UWM where one of my classmates was THE Miss Dutchland Dairy – she was a beautiful blonde, lovely inside and out!


Happy Milwaukee memories to all!


Sewing your own clothes was a very popular thing to do in the 1970s..... Several times a year there was a blowout fabric sale at the Junior House
Warehouse on Howell Avenue. Junior House sold high-quality clothing and the sale was mostly leftover fabric.
The notice for the sale was in the Milwaukee Journal newspaper. You cleared out your day and got there early to get in line with the hundreds of other
people, mostly women. When the doors opened you all descended upon the large space filled with table upon table of bolts of fabric, one sales person
assigned to each bolt to cut to your specifications. The prices were crazy low - like $1/yard - and the atmosphere was one of excitement and thrill! 
Some Junior House clothes were also sold at significantly reduced prices. There were makeshift changing rooms but not enough to keep up with the demand
so women stripped down to bras and panties to try things on, right out in the open. Sometimes there were disagreements over who got what piece of clothing.
It was so much fun and was an experience I'll never forget! Oftentimes I'd go with my mom and older sister, both of whom are long gone. Sweet memories.
The factory itself still stands, however, was converted to apartments in 5th Ward:
Jean Krieg, formerly of Hales Corners, WI





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