Husband remembers community life in the 1950s

My hubby, Don, the son of Clarence and Irene Marquardt, grew up on the south side of Shawano. He lived at the end of Washington Street.

A large part of what is now Kuckuk Park was the city dump when he was a boy. Charles Langhoff was the caretaker, and he was also in charge of the dog pound located in the area.

The dump was a busy place. Money was tight, and the dump was visited frequently by pickers with large metal hooks. They scratched through the debris looking for iron, copper or other objects of value.

Caretaker Langhoff also picked items out of the dump and used them to make interesting displays. One of the most memorable things he made was a train. He put the train cars on a nearby hill, giving the appearance of the train circling the hill. My hubby said it was very unique and as a young boy, he enjoyed sitting on his bike watching Langhoff build it.

When the sun set, my hubby would borrow his grandpa Herbert Marquardt’s .22 rifle. He was about 11 or 12 at the time. The rats would come out to eat, hundreds of them. He said he was a pretty good shot, and he often got five or six a night. He took them home and strung their heads on a wire and took them to the Belle Plaine Town Hall where he was paid 10 cents a head. (They would only accept heads, not the entire rat.) That was a lot of money back in the early 1950s.

My hubby’s dad was a hardworking man. He was a cop, a conservation warden and a deputy sheriff. However, he had to have back surgery and was off work for nearly a year. There were no birthday parties or Christmas gifts during that difficult time. Hubby’s colorful description was, “we scratched (expletive deleted) with the sparrows that year.”

When dad returned to work, Karl Lueke, a fellow police officer, sold him a used American Flyer train. It was a belated Christmas/birthday present and one my husband treasured. In fact, he still has it.

One of my hubby’s favorite memories was when the M4 Sherman Tank was delivered to Shawano. It was back in July 1953; hubby was 10 years old at the time. Like many other young boys, he was so excited. None of them had ever seen an Army tank. He learned the tank would be brought to the park, and he joined a caravan of young boys who rode their bikes to the area to wait for its arrival.

The tank was first taken to the county shop. It was then brought to its current location (corner of Lieg and Main) on a flatbed trailer. My hubby recalls it being backed off the trailer and driven onto the concrete slab. The engine was removed once the tank was in place. Then Rupert Braatz came and welded all the openings shut, securing it so no one could get trapped inside. It was exciting for Shawano, particularly to all the youngsters who watched with amazement. Many had played with army toys, but this was the real thing.

Shawano was one of the communities that requested a surplus tank for display as a memorial to World War II. It was requested by the VFW Post 2723. I can remember when Judy Judd, her grandson Jake and I met with Reuben Schaetzel a few years ago. Reuben shared with us his memories of driving Sherman tanks during the war. Tragically, one of his tanks was hit; Reuben survived, but his crew did not.

Hubby spent a lot of time in his boyhood fishing. He learned at an early age how to dig worms, bait a hook and clean his catch. He said he spent a great deal of time fishing on the river. Once in a while, his neighbor Emma Jeske would take her son Larry and him to Cloverleaf Lakes for the day. They fished on a public dock, and often filled their pail with panfish.

The boys were proud to provide a few meals for their family. Hubby said his mother floured the fish and fried them in a cast-iron frying pan. She’d make a big bowl of potato salad and some cole slaw. Sometimes she baked bread. Often, OK Johnson and other wardens would happen by around suppertime. Guess the word got around what a good cook she was. It was a good thing fish were plentiful.

My hubby said, although living in the 1950s wasn’t always easy, family bonds were strong. After church on Sunday, relatives went to one another’s homes for Sunday dinner. In the afternoon when the adults played cards, sometimes the kids were given 25 cents to attend a matinee. Ma and Pa Kettle and Roy Rogers were his favorites.

Question: Why did church bells ring and factory whistles blow from 8:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Jan. 27, 1973?

Clothesline Conversation Answer: To acknowledge the end of 12 years of confrontation in Vietnam.

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.