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 of classmates in attendance and 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.”
Audrey then asked, “Do you know who I mean when I say Gene?” I guessed Gene Wendelborn and she said that was her brother. Small world.
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 down hill all the way to school but up hill 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 snowpants 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.”
-“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.
-Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President of the United States.
-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.