January 28, 2020 – West Bend, WI – Today’s 1919 photo, courtesy Steve Kissinger, is posted as a tribute to Catholic Schools Week.
According to the archives in the Research Center at the History Center of Washington County, ‘The public grade school was located at the head of Elm Street where it intersects with Eighth Avenue. The view looks northwest and was taken from Eighth Avenue. Notable with this view is the addition of the tower fire escape. The building was later sold to Holy Angels Catholic Church, which used it as an elementary school. The building no longer exists.’
Dick Klumb of West Bend wrote a book in 2001 about the ‘History of Holy Angels.’ “The Public School was constructed in approximately 1888,” said Klumb.
“In 1939 after McLane School was built Holy Angels purchased this school from the West Bend School District and it became Holy Angels grade school. An addition to the south side of the school was added in 1950 and in 1963 the original Public School was torn down and the current building was completed.”
Roger Strack of Kewaskum was in second grade when he moved to McLane School. He said he didn’t recognize the Public School as much as he did the big merry go round on the north side of the playground and the fire escape. “I remember we’d open the steel door and climb up the slide,” Strack said.
Washington County Judge Andrew Gonring said his father, Mike, went to school when it was Holy Angels. “He used to say, a lot of famous fannies slid down that fire escape,” said Gonring. “At the annual Valentine’s Day party at school you could slide down it for two cents.”
Corey (Kohl) Wuebben said he “spent some of the happiest years of my life in that building.” Wuebben said the “old part of the building where the fire escape is pictured was demolished” and is now the site of the food stand and band tent during the annual parish festival.
Mary Ann Goeden Hupfer of West Bend went to school at the original Holy Angels in the mid 1940s when Sister Agatha was principal and Rev. Stehling would “teach religious ed and hand out jellybeans.”
“I remember the really long cloak room in the sixth grade,” Hupfer said. “It had hooks and we’d all hang our coats and caps in there because we had no lockers.” Hupfer also remembered marching with music. “When we’d go outside for recess there was an old Victrola in the lobby and we’d march in procession and you wouldn’t talk until you were down the street,” she said.
Hupfer also remembered an incident in first grade when she was in Sister Robert’s class. “My friend Marcella broke her crayon in half and we got caught giggling in the back of class. I had to stay after school until 4 o’clock with my finger on my mouth,” laughed Hupfer.
Kay Baker Michels was a 1963 graduate of Holy Angels School. “Both my husband, Terry Michels, and I attended this school and I taught at Holy Angels for 26 years as a second grade teacher and librarian.” Michels said the connection with the photo was that it tied into celebrating Catholic Schools Week. “I also remember the old fire escape,” said Michels. “Everyone wanted to be in Sister Hildebrand’s class as you got to take a ride in it each time there was a fire drill.”
James Fellenz went to Holy Angels back in the 1950s. “I’ll never forget the fire escape,” Fellenz said. “The janitor took our shoes and we had to walk home bare footed. It was in March; talk about having cold feet.”
Doug Jaeger also recalled how “some of us kids used to climb up that outdoor emergency escape chute and slide back down.”
Maureen Dick of West Bend was a student at Holy Angels until in 1963. “I was in the eighth grade and that was the first year for the new addition on the north side of the building,” she said. “If I remember correctly the old building wasn’t taken down until the new one was completed.”
Dick recalled that was also the beginning of the Holy Angels picnic. “At the first picnic we were allowed go inside and pay to swing a sledge hammer at a wall,” she said referencing the demolition.
Some of the teachers connected to Holy Angels included Sister Mary Marks; she ran the candy store in the basement at lunch time. Sister Mary Agatha, Sister Mary Lisetta, Sister Mary Ventura, Sister Mary Hildebrand, Sister Cyril, Ms. Brown, Sister Lillian, Mrs. Rice, Sister Marinella, Sister Mary Floria, and Sister Mary Amabilis.
On a side note: One of the notable talking points was the fire escape. Jim Dricken wrote, “When they took the building down in the mid 1960s, my dad Len Dricken, saved the fire escape to be used as a fun item for kids. The fire escape, named ‘The Tower,’ is still in use at Lake Lenwood Beach and Campground.