September 19, 2019 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend High School Class of 1944 held its 75th class reunion on Wednesday, September 18 in the newly remodeled Top of the Ridge Restaurant in West Bend.
There were five classmates in attendance including: Katharine Hassmer Lutzke, Hedwig Bieri Gumm, Eileen Barber Ecker, Darold Hoelz, and Ollie “Bud”Lochen.
The average age at the table was 93 years old.
The tight-knit group has grown smaller over the years but despite age and physical ability the “Badger alumni” look forward to the get together to exchange stories and recollections.
Bud Lochen and his wife drive in from Wausau, Katharine Lutzke comes in from Menomonee Falls and the rest live in West Bend or “Upper West Bend” as Darold Hoelz refers to his nest on the hill in Barton.
Darold Hoelz and Bud Lochen Senior picture of Bud Lochen on the left.
Some of the hot topics of discussion included everything from shopping in West Bend to high school jobs, first cars, politics and Packers and updates in technology. Below are tidbits from some of the conversations….
High school jobs: “I used to work at the Rockfield Canning Company in Jackson,” said Hedwig Bieri Gumm. “We canned whatever was available including beans, peas and beets. I did whatever they assigned me to do; you didn’t have a choice.” Hedwig was paid about 30 cents an hour.
“I remember one guy in the canning business who worked daylight ‘til dark,” said Darold Hoelz. “One guy took home a check for $60. Not like it is now.”
“I worked in the farm fields,” said Hoelz. “Pulling weeds out of red beets. Got a nickel a row and I think my dad would bring me lunch and the lunch cost more than I made in a day. All the farmers would hire the kids and the farmer would come out at the end of the day with his tackle box and his pennies, nickels, and dimes and pay the kids.”
“At 14 we were able to get a work permit,” said Hoelz. “I don’t know where we got it but, in the summer, everyone worked for the canning company. Women, all the neighbors; they’d sit at those big belts and the peas would come along with those big thistles in them and they’d pick them out.”
“My first job was working for the West Bend Telephone Company,” said Katharine Hassmer Lutzke. “It was upstairs from the bank in downtown West Bend. (possibly above where Sager’s is now.) “My boss was a typical old maid. One day I was sick and I wanted to go home and she said I had to still work but I told her I didn’t feel good and I just wanted to lay down and go to bed and she went to her purse and got out a pill and she said it would help. I didn’t want to take that pill, but she said I should take it and keep working.”
Telephones: “We had a party line,” said Eileen Barber Ecker. “There were four, five or six on the line. It all changes too rapidly.”
“I built my house in 1956 and I still got the telephone on the wall; dial phone and it works,” said Hoelz. “The party line… there was always someone who would listen in and you knew who it was. You could tell them to get off the line but that didn’t mean they did it.”
“When you called it was two rings short and then long and when you were done with your conversation you would give it a real short ring and that would signal you were off the line,” Hoelz said. “It cost 35 cents for three minutes to call Milwaukee.”
“I still have a land line and it hangs on the wall by the kitchen counter,” said Eileen Ecker. “It’s a push-button phone but it doesn’t have the giant cord.”
School: “When I went to school if a note came home I’d get it twice as bad at home but now they blame the teacher and the teachers can’t touch the kids. My daughter taught first grade and the kids need a hug and you can’t touch the kids,” said Darold Hoelz.
Buds 1954 Ford by Roger Strack
First car: “A 1933 Studebaker touring car,” said Hoelz. “I’m a paid author to Reminisce Magazine for that. And every girl that rode in it from high school we painted her name on the side of the car. We drove that for two years once in a while we’d drive up to school.”
“Gas rationing; the folks had an oil heater in the basement and I took one part fuel oil and three parts gasoline and it would smoke a little bit but it ran,” said Hoelz.
History and politics: “Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president when we were in high school; He served 12 years and was in for four terms.”
“The big national news at the time was World War II,” said Hoelz. “We built model airplanes in shop class for recognition. They’d take them and give them to the Air Force and Navy, and they’d hang them up from the ceiling. The models were painted black like silhouettes and they would use that for recognition for fighter pilot training. You’d go down during your free period in school and work in the shop; they’d give you plans and then they’d give you a little certificate like you were a commander in the Navy because you made so many models.”
“Remember Billy Jakels and he delivered newspapers in West Bend and on December 7 he said, ‘I never delivered so many newspapers in my life,'” said Hoelz.
“The class before us had several fatalities from those who went into the service,” said Hoelz. “I don’t think our class lost any. There were about four or five of them killed in the war. That was the time of the big pushes.”
“Henry Gumm was a year ahead of us. Our American Legion Post in Jackson is named after him; S/Sgt. Henry F. Gumm Post 486. He was a tremendous athlete,” said Hoelz.
“I enlisted in the military when I was 17,” said Hoelz. “I didn’t want to get drafted, so I went into the Navy.”
Shops and saloons: “Sam Sutherlands had ice cream and a lot of kids went there,” said Eileen Barber Ecker. “It was kind of in the middle of Main Street.”
“The Mutual Mall used to be Larson’s Furniture,” said Hoelz.
“I miss Boston Store,” said Eileen Ecker. “Penny’s used to be downtown and they had the old cables and you’d send your money up to the second floor in that box.”
“When I was a kid it was $1 a call to see a doctor and that included medicine,” said Hoelz. “When I had my tonsils taken out on the kitchen table. The doctor came to the house. The local schoolteacher always roomed with us and we’d walk a mile together to school. One day the doctor came, and I figured something was up, so I locked myself in the bathroom. This Miss Lawrence was our border the teacher and I wouldn’t open the door and she said, ‘Darold you can trust me.’ The minute I opened that door a crack she had her foot in it and then they laid me out on the table and put the mask over my face and now the doctor tells me they came within this much of cutting my vocal cords. It was surely an adventure. It was Dr. Schloemer from Menomonee Falls. A buck a call, no appointment, you went in and sat down just like at the barber shop, waited your turn and the dollar covered your medicine.”
“I lived on the third floor above The Dugout and the tavern had two doors, one right next to the other. The right-hand door went into a room with the tables that was for the women. The left-hand door was the bar room and that was for the men,” said Hoelz. “Women should learn to keep their place in a tavern just like our church men sat on one side and women on the other. We had one German service and one English service. Now it’s Our Saviors UCC in Germantown.”
“Went to the Packer games on Sunday at State Fair Park for $1 and we sat in the bleachers,” Hoelz said. “That was during the Curly Lambeau era. Sunday afternoon you’d ask the fellas what do you want to do? Let’s go down to Milwaukee and go to the Packer game. On the northeast side of Milwaukee, the Brewers played at Borchert Field.”
To read more memories from the Class of 1944 click HERE.
During the 2017 reunion Marion Otto Ward, 90, remembered teacher Mike Hildebrand who 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.”