Washington County vets on today’s Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.
There will be several veterans from Washington County on today’s Stars & Stripes Honor Flight including Edward Burke, a WWII Navy vet from Hartford, WWII Navy veteran Dale Carlson of West Bend, Korean War Army veteran James Menzel of West Bend and Charlie Beckman a Korean War Navy veteran from West Bend.
James Menzel, 86, of West Bend is a Korean War veteran. Drafted in 1952 into the Army, Menzel was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. where he specialized in hand-to-hand combat.
Sitting in a comfortable recliner at his home on Meadowbrook Drive, Menzel tried to recall his past with the best of intentions. Pleasant and helpful, he struggled – still affected by a stroke 11 years ago that stole his speech and his memory.
“I specialized in hand to hand,” he said with confidence. “Bayonet and grenades.”
In the service for about three years, Menzel saw little action in Korea as he was stationed about a mile from the front lines. “I had tools in a truck and a grinder and I took care of everything,” he said.
Discharged when he was about 25 years old, Menzel returned to Hartford and picked up a job as manager of Delaney’s clothing store. “It was right on the corner across from the Fire Department,” he said.
Within a short period Menzel was asked to manage the men’s clothing section at JC Penny in West Bend. “I fitted people for suits,” he said. “I was good at it and I worked a short time for Fred Sager.”
During his prime, Menzel could fill out a suit. “We had wide ties, bow ties, and suspenders,” he recalled. “I could even make my own bow tie and I taught all my kids how to tie ties.”
Menzel’s son Bob is going to be his guardian on the Honor Flight.
Charlie Beckman, 86, grew up in Eau Claire and graduated high school in 1948. “I enlisted in the Navy and went for basic training at Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois,” said Beckman.
After training Beckman was an Interior Communications Electricians 3rd Class; he shipped out of Los Angeles on the heavy cruiser U.S.S. St. Paul and went to Japan.
“We were going to Formosa Island and our assignment was to keep our eye on China,” he said.
“It was dangerous because as we were going up the Yangtze River in 1949; this is when Communists were fighting the Nationalists and as we went up the river you could see the shells go from one side of the river to the other,” said Beckman.
Beckman initially signed up to serve three years in the Navy but received an extension in what was called a “Harry Truman year.”
Discharged in 1952, Beckman returned to Eau Claire where he bought his first car, a 1952 blue Ford. “I ended up driving back to California because I met a guy in the Navy, Owen Porter, and we started working together,” he said.
One of Beckman’s memorable experiences was being a forklift driver for Howard Hughes.
“We were lifting weights and putting them on a helicopter for Howard Hughes,” said Beckman. “He was testing how much weight helicopters could have on board. He called me by name.” said Beckman.
Taking advantage of his intelligence Beckman left the forklift and went to work for Western Electric in L.A. Following a brief stint in the Eau Claire area in 1960 Beckman put in an application to do defense work with Western Electric in Greenland where he spent a year and a half before transferring back to the states.
Beckman has been to Washington D.C. before. He said he is looking forward to seeing the Korean War memorial.
Edward Burke, 88, of Hartford will be one of five veterans from Washington County on the Sept. 17 Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to Washington D.C.
Burke served in the Navy during WWII. “I was at Pulaski High School in Milwaukee and enlisted when I was 17,” Burke said. “The Navy gave a bunch of high school seniors a test and I passed and it said we were suitable for training.”
Burke went to Great Lakes, Illinois for basic training where he pursued radar repair. Stationed at Wright Junior College in Chicago the Navy eventually shipped Burke to the west coast. “It was 1945, the war was over and the military didn’t know what to do with us,” he said.
While on the coast, Burke served on a sea-going tug boat. He became ill and by the time he got out of the hospital the tug had left. Burke later found himself sailing out of San Francisco to Hawaii. “We were called the Magic Carpet Fleet,” said Burke referencing Operation Magic Carpet which was a post WWII effort to bring military personnel home. “We went to Hawaii and brought back people from the war zone and we took others over there to replace some.”
Burke said they made two trips on the U.S.S. Arthur Middleton AKA 25 and then the military “decommissioned our ship in Norfolk, Virginia.” In the Navy for about “one year exactly,” Burke was discharged, returned to the Milwaukee area where he made his way to West Bend and bought a small farm in 1958.
Burke said he’s excited to be going on the Honor Flight. His guardian is his granddaughter Allison Dunavant.
Hartford band announcement is Monday
Hartford Union High School is rolling out the red carpet Monday as the Lord Mayor of Westminster will arrive at 7:15 a.m. to present a formal invitation to the Hartford Union High School band and orchestra as it has been selected to perform in the 2017-18 New Year’s Day Celebration and Gala Concert Festival in London. HUHS director Andy Hacker will formally accept the invitation during an all-school assembly. The Gala Concert and New Year’s Day Celebration is attended by over 500,000 people who line the streets for the parade each year.
Kewaskum Classic car show is Sunday, Sept. 18
One of the largest, local car shows in Washington County is just around the corner as the annual Kewaskum Classic Car Show & Benefit is coming up September 18.
“In 2015 there were 450 classic and modern cars, trucks, and street rods,” said organizer Mark ‘Curly’ Kissinger. “We had to start turning them away around 10 a.m.” Sunday’s show runs 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. Driver goodie bags will be given to the first 150 cars (includes dash plaque). This is a non-judged show (meaning no trophy).
Raffle prizes, silent auction and 50/50 raffles. Kewaskum Firefighters Association will be providing the food. Benefactors this year include Troy Krezinski (cancer) and Jason Anderson, who suffered a head injury this past winter. If you’d like to donate please contact Kissinger at 262-347-9992 or drop off at The Grand Larsony.
Updates & tidbits
-West Bend School District Superintendent Erik Olson will be the guest speaker Sept. 28 at the Common Sense Citizens meeting held 7 p.m. at the West Bend Moose Lodge on 18th Avenue. The meetings are free and open to the public.
– Research trials that pay up to $2,525 are underway at Spaulding Clinical, a Phase 1 pharmaceutical testing firm in West Bend. Paid volunteers are needed and Spaulding Clinical will cover an Uber ride so you can schedule a screening and receive up to $250. Call today 800-597-4507 or visit spauldingpays.com. Information on the study is at spauldingpays.com/current/
– Wisconsin Women for Trump will be holding an event at the GOP Office, 519 Hickory St. in West Bend today/Saturday at 11 a.m. “We are doing a short program regarding the constitution,” said Katy Kiernan. “I’ll read the preamble and then have a discussion regarding where Trump and Clinton differ regarding the constitution.” The meeting is open to the public.
-The funeral for Washington County Sheriff’s corrections officer Timothy F. Kraft is Monday, Sept. 19 at the Phillip Funeral Home Chapel on W. Paradise Drive in West Bend. Kraft died on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the age of 60. Visitation will be at the funeral home from 3 p.m. until the time of the service with Military Honors to follow.
-The funeral for Tom Piwoni is Sunday, Sept. 18 at 5 p.m. at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 331 Main St. in Kewaskum. In his early 20’s, Piwoni moved to Kewaskum where he owned/operated his first of many taverns in the Kewaskum area including Tom’s Place (which is now an apartment at the bottom of the hill from Hon e Kor), he also ran the bar that is now Grand Larsony/ Kissy’s in Kewaskum, The 5th Quarter and Trollops just north of town. Piwoni co-owned T and Vern’s back in 1995 which is now the location for Speakeasy.
WBHS Class of 1944 has 72nd reunion
The West Bend High School Class of 1944 held its 72nd class reunion Wednesday at the Top of the Ridge in West Bend. There were 11 classmates in attendance. They had a list of classmates who had recently passed including Eugene Otten, Douglas Ziegler, Werner Martin, Caroline Gerner Reisse, Joe Cechvala and Russel Becker.
There were a lot of laughs and a few sketchy memories about the old school including the cement owls that hung on the roof line of the building. Some recalled teachers saying there were cameras in the eyes of the owls and they’d be able to keep an eye on the children.
Darold Hoelz, 90, said he remembered the good times and the girls. “There was a balcony round the top of the gym and the kids from the country ate their lunch there and the kids from the city ate in the cafeteria,” said Hoelz. “That’s because the kids from the country didn’t have any money; we’d brown bag it. We’d have a sandwich, a pickle and a cookie.”
Hoelz recalled they’d play cards in the balcony or they’d talk. “A lot of times we’d go down to the gym and play during the noon hour, either volleyball or boxing. We had big pillow gloves,” said Hoelz. “I did it once and got pretty scuffed up. I didn’t like it at all.” Hoelz said he slugged it out with Webster Hron and Webby showed him “what for.”
Marion Otto Ward, 90, said she remembered teacher Mike Hildebrand. “He taught citizenship and social studies. He’d come over and tap on the desk with his long ruler and he’d say, “Mildred … why aren’t you paying attention?” And I sat there and he tapped again and said, “Why aren’t you paying attention – what’s wrong with you?” And I said Mildred was my sister and she graduated four years ago, my name is Marion. I’m surprised he didn’t throw me out the window.”
August Uttech, 90, said the Amity Leather Company was across the street when he went to Badger High School. “I worked for 45 years at the West Bend Company and then everything went to pot because Amity closed, Enger Kress closed and the West Bend Company closed.”
Marjorie Isselmann Grotelueschen, 90, said the class of 1944 was the best. “We all worked together and there weren’t any cliques,” she said.
Katharine Hassmer Lutzke said they had dances but she was from the country. “We lived on the farm in Jackson and we had a school bus and our driver was Smokey Weinert,” she said.
Eileen Barber Ecker, 90, said she lived on a farm and she drove to school and took two passengers in her Dodge. “I started driving very young; when you’re on the farm you drive everything.” Ecker said she liked everything about school except Mr. Hildebrand. “He thought you weren’t paying attention and he’d throw an eraser at you and he had good aim,” said Ecker. “In the middle of winter and if he thought class was getting a little boring he’d open all the windows and we froze to death.”
Audrey Brumm, 89, talking about Mr. Hildebrand and one of the kids was Bingo Oemen. “He was a little guy and I don’t know what he did but Mr. Hildebrand put him in the closet and when the class was over he opened the door and said you can come out now and he couldn’t find him. He was hiding in a box.”
Hedy Bieri Gumm, 90, lived in the country in Jackson and got bused in. “One day the bus couldn’t get through and we ended up at Schwai’s tavern,” said Gumm. “We all went in there and spent the day there until they could plow us out. That was an exciting day.”
Arlene Abel Goebel lived in West Bend. “We had Doug Ziegler and Don Schneiss and they’d have to go to that farm on Decorah and they’d come in with big high boots with manure on them. And they’d come in the main hall and they’d come clopping in with their big ole’ boots on all the way to the other end to get a lot of attention and they were always a hoot,” she said. “Doug Ziegler was a little bit of a trouble maker.”
Margie Klein Willkom, 89, was from Barton. “I walked 2-miles to school and it was downhill all the way to school but uphill all the way home,” she said. “And then we’d walk down for basketball games and football games. My favorite teacher was Miss Florence Meyer and she taught algebra and I often think of her but I think she has to be dead by now because I’m so old.”
Fashion wise, there were no slacks for the girls. “We wore blouses and skirts,” said Willkom. “We could wear snow pants during winter but we had to take them off as soon as we got to school.”
Ollie ‘Bud’ Lochen Junior, 90, and I was involved in the Ford agency with my father Ollie. “The dealership was at Fifth Avenue and Walnut and yes there was an elevator. In the old Model T days the cars were on display downstairs at the street level and they were repaired upstairs and carried up by elevator.” Heipp grocery was across the street. “I lived up on North Street, just east of the West Bend Aluminum Company,” he said. “We walked past lots of taverns on the way to school including the Gonring brothers and walked past White House Milk Company. I worked there part time after school and I unloaded the tin cans from the railroad cars that the condensed milk was put into.”
Lochen also worked at the JC Penny. “I worked in the men’s haberdashery and I did the window displays,” he said. “I wore a blazer or sport coat and a tie. I had three blazers and a close friend Bob Hron – we dressed the same, always.”
The Class of ’44 normally had reunions every five years but it was Doug Ziegler that resurrected it and since then they’ve had it every year. Darold Hoelz said the annual reunions make him feel good. “Nice people,” he said. “Our class really stuck together.”
Tidbits from 1944:
-“There were no blue jeans,” said Hoelz. “Everybody dressed nice.”
-“You paid attention in school or they’d let you know,” said Hoelz.
-“Punishment was staying after school, eighth hour or you scraped gum off the bottom of the desks,” Hoelz said.
-“The main room the guys would roll marbles down and there was one monitor up front.” said Hoelz.
-They all remembered tragedy in 1943 when their classmate Dick Bascom was killed. Bascom was a member of the Student Senate and president of the Latin Club; he played football and was coming to play in the last game of the year before leaving to serve his country when he was killed while changing a tire on his car.
-“First girl I danced with I married,” said Hoelz. “Her name was Peggy Varnes. We had the freshman dance. I didn’t know how to dance but I grabbed her and then after the war we got married.”
-Lochen also worked at the Amity Leather Company. “I was part time and I cut the silk for the purse linings. It came in large rolls and I cut it into assorted sizes,” he said. “I made good spending money and I spent it on girls. I treated them to movies at the Mermac and the West Bend Theatre. Weekends there were western movies.”
-Steve Swedish was the popular band for the era.
-Senior pictures were taken by Rackow’s Hollywood Studio. “He was the only one in town. He was located where Riverside Brewery is located,” said Hoelz.
-The grocery store in 1944 was the A&P and National Tea. Both were located by the West Bend Theatre.
-Homecoming football game was normally against the Mayville Cardinals. “We both had red and white uniforms,” said Hoelz.
-“We always had a bunch of outhouses on the bonfire for Homecoming,” said Hoelz. “They burned really good,” said Lochen.