West Bend Company reunion/ open house is Saturday, April 23
If you live in West Bend or Washington County chances are you have a family member or two that worked for the West Bend Company.
It was one of the largest employers in the community as entire families would be on the lines manufacturing aluminum cookware or electrical appliances. The West Bend Company was a place where men met their wives, where their children worked and their children.
In 2010 the West Bend Co./Regal Ware Museum held an open house as part of a year-long celebration. Mixed in with the pots and pans were murals that traced the timeline and marketing of the cookware along with the changing roles of women.
‘In the 1950s the wife was depicted as the queen of the house but with limited independence. Women were to be devoted to house, husband and family.’
Pictured beneath the short description was a woman, sitting on the floor amidst pots and pans wearing a simple teal blue dress with white piping and pearl earrings.
That woman was Nancy Mehring, a volunteer at the open house wearing the same outfit from when the photo was taken in 1958.
“It was 53 years ago and I was like a girl sitting there dreaming about getting married,” said Mehring recalling her inspiration.
Mehring started work at the West Bend Company when she was 17, in high school and her last name was Furger.
“I was in the wholesale and premium division. I worked for Harold Ziegler, Bernie Ziegler, Allan Kieckhafer, Bob Claus and Harry Haugen as a stenographer and office gal or secretary until I earned enough money to go to college,” she said.
Back in the day the West Bend Company was in its prime; 1,100 people worked in the factory and police were needed to direct traffic at the intersection along Hwy 33 when shift changes occurred at 3:30 p.m.
Families were the bedrock of the workforce at the West Bend Company. Mehring’s father Ed Furger worked at the company as did her Aunt Ann Rossman, Aunt Loretta Furger Paasch, and Aunt Rita Schwinn.
Mehring’s brief modeling career started at the West Bend Company as industry leaders were trying to toe the bottom line.
“West Bend Company tried to keep prices down and they used staff for the photos and booklets,” said Mehring. The photos were taken in the company’s test kitchen. Mehring made about $1 an hour and said there were no fringe benefits and her dress was simply what she wore to work. “I think I got this at J.C. Penny’s,” she said, the dress now faded a bit to a soft, powder blue.
Kitchen Craft and Lustre Craft were big products at the time for the West Bend Company which placed ads nationally in newspapers across the country and Modern Bride magazine.
Mehring has a scrapbook of clippings of the ad including one that ran in an Iowa newspaper.
Nobody ever saw the ads in West Bend, the only way people in town may have caught Mehring in print was if they bought the cookware; her photo, pleasantly flipping hamburgers on a stove filled with Kitchen Craft stainless steel cookware, was on the front of the cookbook included with each piece.
On Saturday, April 23 there will be a West Bend Company reunion. It will coincide with an open house as the former factory that was known for making pots and pans has been repurposed into the new Cast Iron Luxury Living Apartments.
Folks will gather and share stories about working at the company, tours will be offered and there will be free food and drink and music. The event will run from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. RSVP’s are appreciated at 414-975-2617 or E-mail Megan at Castiron@hendricksgroup.net
Former Badger counselor killed in car accident
Teachers, administrators, parents and students at Badger Middle School in West Bend offered up a moment of silence this week in memory of Matt Heinen, 35, a former school counselor who was killed in a two-vehicle accident Thursday morning in Fond du Lac. Heinen worked in West Bend from August 2009 – June 2012 when the district added a third school counselor; he served as the AVID coordinator in a combined position. He was currently working as a guidance counselor at Fond du Lac High School.
Former coworker Angie Borst said counselors remembered Heinen. “We all liked him very much,” Borst said. “He cared about students and was always willing to collaborate as a team and help others.”
Kathleen Erickson praised Heinen for being a “true spirit” and a “role model” for the many lives of students and staff.
Thomas King worked with Heinen as a middle school counselor in West Bend. “Enjoyed working with Matt. He was very student focused and caring,” said King. “He was great with the middle school kids. We worked together as part of the middle school AVID team, a program to help high-ability kids learn to work up to their potential. I appreciated his energy and enthusiasm. He was always upbeat and ready to go,” King said.
Nicole Minor posted on WashingtonCountyInsider.com, “Absolutely devastating! Such an admirable human being; my thoughts and prayers to his family. Worked with him at Badger and we are just heartbroken.”
Authorities said Heinen was west bound on State Highway 23 just before 7:30 a.m. when he apparently lost control of his vehicle and slid into the eastbound lane causing an accident. Heinen’s car was hit broadside by an SUV. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the other vehicle, a 37-year-old Mt. Calvary man, was taken to St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac with non-life threatening injuries
Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Sergeant Paul Rottscholl said weather conditions may have been a factor as there was low visibility due to heavy snow and fog and road conditions were slippery.
Washington County Fair lineup
The Washington County Fair will release its list of Main Stage headliners on Monday. WashingtonCountyInsider.com has already announced country singer Hunter Hayes will headline Thursday, July 28. There’s also early word country singer Lee Brice is expected to headline. Also this week construction got underway for the new amphitheatre stage at the Washington County Fair Park. The new 50 x 100-foot stage is financed in partnership with West Bend Mutual Insurance. The new stage will be completed in time for the July 2016 Washington County Fair.
2016 Washington County Senior Conference is April 28
Pre-registration is required for the 2016 Senior Conference at the Washington County Fair Park on April 28. There will be a wide variety of speakers and topics including MYSELF!
I’ll give you the lowdown on some interesting travel tips – whether you hit the road by bicycle or choose a more conventional means of transportation. I’ll provide insights on some of my life’s experiences including: Lost luggage-what to do when customer service pretends they don’t understand English, Benefits to carrying an AARP card – even if you’re not that old yet, and the always popular – How to make sleep if there’s a bat in your room. Sign up at 262-335-4497.
New banners unveiled at Downtown Art Walk
Downtown West Bend’s ArtWalk is Saturday May 14 with a sneak peek of the 2016 banners from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. at the Museum of Wisconsin Art. The event will feature free admission to MOWA, a silent auction of banners and live music.
The Banner Art Event features hand-painted banners by local artists that will create an outdoor gallery on the streets of Downtown West Bend. The banners hang on the light poles of Main Street and Sixth Avenue from May through October. Pamphlets will be available at downtown businesses offering a synopsis of the banners. Thank you. ~ The Downtown West Bend Association and participating businesses that make the event possible.
Annual Allenton Buffalo Feed is Saturday, April 23
The Allenton Area Advancement Association (AAAA) is prepping for the 38th annual Buffalo Feed, April 23. The AAAA was founded by business leaders Don Jonas, Rosie Gass, and Harold Hefter. In 1978, during an impromptu meeting at a local tavern, half a buffalo was purchased and a unique buffet-style fund raiser was born. Money from the event was given to the Hartford Hospital Foundation for the Allenton Clinic as well as the Slinger High School Band Program, the Slinger Honors, Inc. and assisted in developing parks in the greater Allenton Area.
Tickets for the Buffalo Feed are available at allentonwi.org and the following businesses: Romie’s BP, Jug’s Hitching Post, Alma’s Café, Allenton Service, National Exchange Bank & Trust, WTKM Radio, and any member of the AAAA.
Habitat for Humanity making a difference in Washington Co.
A couple of Habitat for Humanity homes were blessed this week in Washington County. Ashley and Brian Lewis and their children celebrated their new Habitat home on Georgetown Drive in Jackson on Saturday with a dedication attended by friends, family and Habitat members.
On Wednesday a Habitat home on Bender Road in West Bend received an official blessing from St. Frances Cabrini’s Rev. Nathan Reesman. This is a tri-parish build and includes St. Frances Cabrini, St. Mary’s and Holy Trinity Newburg. The parishes will raise money for Habitat and help volunteers to build a new home for Krista Komp and her family. Kudos to the Stockhausen family for donating the land.
Losing community leaders
A couple of community leaders died this week. Former Washington County Finance Director Sue Haag, 61, passed away Thursday around 10:30 p.m. She had recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. A funeral Mass is set for Tuesday, April 12 at 1 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church in Barton.
Chuck Myrhum, 64, owner of the Myrhum Patten Funeral Home died Saturday, April 2 following a one-month struggle with an aggressive cancer. Chuck became a licensed funeral director in 1977. During his career his commitment to serving both his profession and his community were evident. The funeral is Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Frances Cabrini.
Updates & tidbits
– A nationwide search is underway to hire a replacement for Shawn Graff, OWLT executive director, who has resigned to take a position as Great Lakes Regional director of the American Bird Conservancy. Graff had been with the OWLT for 13 years.
– Colton Wiesner, a 2012 graduate of West Bend West High School is featured in the 2016 spring issue of St. Norbert College Magazine. The article details how Wiesner returned to Nicaragua in January and brought 40 new stethoscopes and 40 blood-pressure cuffs to donate to the clinics. He also raised more than $1,400 for medical supplies during an event at Horicon Meats.
– Two students from Hartford Union High School, Elisha Jaeke and Amy Holzer, will receive the Herb Kohl Excellence Scholarships. HUHS teacher Mark Arnholt is a 2016 recipient of the Herb Kohl Fellowship Grant as well as the Teacher of the Year at HUHS for 2015.
-On Saturday, April 30, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. it’s the Kettle Moraine YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day. The day is designed to improve health and well-being for kids and families. It features games, healthy cooking demonstrations, arts and crafts to motivate and teach families how to develop healthy routines at home. There will also be bicycle helmets available to the first 200 kids. Those who have bike helmets are encouraged to bring them for a free helmet fitting.
– The Slinger Super Speedway season opener is April 24.
-Life of Hope will hold a free community event Thursday, April 21 as Kevin Hines, a mental health advocate, presents an evening of education and hope with a testament to the strength of the human spirit. The event starts 7 p.m. in the West Bend H.S. Auditorium.
– The Enchantment in the Park group is meeting at the warehouse at Regner Park every Monday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. putting together new displays for the 2016 season. Free lunch will be served.
-Mason Holbrook of Barton is going to be the survivor story of the 2016 Washington/Ozaukee Heart Walk this year. Holbrook was born with Tetralogy of Fallot in 2014 and had to have several open heart surgeries. Join Team Mason at washingtonheartwalk.kintera.org/teammason
-A buddy bench will be installed Monday at the I 4 Learning Charter Community School, formerly Wayne Elementary. The design was inspired by a first grader who wanted to make a place for kids to go sit when they feel alone or need a little extra support.
-Geoff Littrel is giving his building, 156 N. Main Street in West Bend, a long-awaited face lift. Littrel purchased the building in 2009. It’s currently home to Barton Ink. The upgrade follows a revamping of the corridor from Old Settlers’ Park through Vest Pocket Park, across the new pedestrian bridge to the Museum of Wisconsin Art.
Washington County Navy vet on the April 16 Honor Flight – Story courtesy Tyler Kemnitz
The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight will give 16 commendable veterans from Washington County the opportunity to make a trip to Washington D.C. on April 16.
Serving in the United States Navy seems to be a family tradition for the Goeltz family.
Earl Goeltz, 81, is a Korean War era veteran. Both his father and uncle served in the Navy during the World War I. Mr. Goeltz’ youngest son, Mike, also served in the Navy for five years until 1997, and his nephew won the Bronze star in the Army in Vietnam. Goeltz’ sister was also an Army nurse.
Earl Goeltz started his journey with the United States military in 1952 at the age of 17 when he first joined the Wisconsin National Guard.
After graduating Ashland High School, Goeltz immediately committed to the Navy and served four years on a destroyer known as the USS Walker DDE-517, spending “most of our time on the Western Pacific in the Korea and Japan area… and the war was still going on, but they [the countries] signed an armistice while I was still in basic training.” Goeltz completed his basic training in San Diego.
“I was a shipfitter, and we were in the repair division of the ship. We took care of the firefighting equipment… basically any repairs the needed to be done,” said Goeltz. He served on an anti-submarine warfare vessel, also a converted WWII destroyer. Goeltz remarked that Navy terminology is something that has stuck with him for all his life. “The love affair that sailors have with ships is something else. When the people ask me ‘Where does it hurt?’ Well, it hurts on the port side or it hurts on the starboard side,” laughed Goeltz.
After serving in the Navy, Goeltz returned to Wisconsin, looking for employment at Splicewood Corporation, the job he had prior to his time in the service. “I started out at $1.25 an hour, and when I came back from the Navy, I came back and knocked on their door, asking for my job back and four years later, it was still $1.25 an hour!” said Goeltz.
After a couple weeks, Goeltz worked three months for a railroad company and then moved to the Washington County area, to return to school and earned a “2-year associates degree in a metal’s program” at MSOE.
During college Goeltz worked at American Motors, a career he would continue after graduating for 18 years. He found great success, moving from a supervisor’s job and beyond. “I really wanted to work in steel… even in the Navy that was the kind of stuff I did on the ship,” he said. After American Motors, Goeltz moved on LTV in Milwaukee, a steel mill based out of Pittsburgh, for 20 years until retirement in 1997. He continues to reside in Washington County today.
It was also not long after Goeltz’ time in the service he met his wife at a dance hall in Milwaukee. “I asked her for a date later on, and,” smiled Goeltz, “she didn’t say no, and that was money in the bank.” Goeltz is “glad and looking forward to the opportunity” to make the trip the Washington D.C. in April. “My executive officer on my ship was killed in a heli[copter] accident in 1972, and his name should be on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial,” said Goeltz.
The West Bend Company story was interesting. Will there ever be another company in West Bend that would employ 1,100 people? Is there a private firm in Washington County that employs 1,100 workers locally? There has to be but I can’t think of one at the moment.
I can recall as a small child riding in the car with my mother a time when we hit the shift change on highway 33 in the afternoon. Was an amazing sight to see.
It’s an interesting thought, Steve. According to this (scroll down), http://choosemilwaukee.com/en/Regional-Statistics/Washington-County
the largest employers in the county all employ less than 1,000 people. Odds are that the era of a huge, personnel-intensive, manufacturer in the county is over. The large employers are going to be service oriented, like insurance, healthcare, financial services, etc.