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On a history note | Remembering the Schroeder Dairy fire in September 1964

West Bend, WI – It was February 2015 when a large fire raced through the Renner farm on the corner of County Road G in the Town of Trenton. Neighbors in West Bend, WI recalled the water coming out of their taps was orange as fire crews drained the water supply to help douse the flames. In years prior, the farm was Schroeder Dairy owned by Bill Schroeder.
Remembering the Schroeder Dairy fire
Last Sunday a fire raced through John Renner’s property on County Road G in the town of Trenton leveling a barn and causing $1.2 million in damage. It wasn’t the first time that property fell victim to fire.
It was Saturday night, Labor Day weekend, 1964. Bill Schroeder was 31 years old and owned Schroeder Dairy. It was a big farm, the “most famous farm in the whole world” according to Schroeder.
Life magazine featured the dairy in its January 1955 issue. There were artistic aerial photos taken by the Margaret Bourke-White. ‘Views of crop lands, including Frederick Schroeder’s dairy farm in Wisconsin’ is how the magazine read.
 “I was home with the kids,” recalled Bill Schroeder, 81. “We were watching a football game on TV and all at once people started screaming in the yard that there was a fire.” 
It was the barn. Fire departments from West Bend, Newburg and Jackson responded. “I was milking about 90 cows back then,” he said. “A lot of them were out in the pasture but I went into the barn and carried out some young ones. It’s amazing how strong you are when you have to be.”
The barn burned to the ground. Schroeder blamed it on some new wiring upstairs on the second floor. “Dust fire,” he said.
That barn had been in the family since the 1800s when his ancestors came over from Germany, homesteaded in Washington County, started a sawmill and cheese factory.
Schroeder’s grandfather Herbert ran the farm, followed by his father Frederick Schroeder who started a bottle-milk business and was later elected to the state assembly in 1964. 
Bill Schroeder bought the place in 1953; he was just 20 years old.
Piles of Polaroids and newspaper clippings, some yellowing and dog-eared, lay askew inside an open briefcase resting on a stuffed chair in Schroeder’s apartment on Stonebridge Road.
The photos are of cows mostly. Schroeder remembers all their names including Highboy Bill, Carnation Design, and Pabst Sir Comet Oliver. He talks about the FFA, 4-H and the Washington County Fair in Slinger. Schroeder confidently describes himself as a “really good cow man.”
“You know some guys are born to play basketball or football or whatever, but I was known all over the United States for my cow skills,” he said.
Schroeder recalled a cow sale where he bought a heifer for $600 and within days sold it to National Tea Company for $6,000.  
 “A cow’s udder has to be up high, so they don’t step on it,” he said, sharing some of his secrets. “The cow also has to be big enough to eat a lot of food, the feet and legs have to be decent, it has to be able to have calves easily, and the thinner the tail is on a cow the more ‘dairyness’ to her producing milk.”
For years Schroeder was a representative on the Wisconsin Milk Board. He talks of meetings in “Chicago with (Richard) Nixon” and with “(Gerald) Ford in Fond du Lac.”  
“Gehl farm machinery was born out here,” Schroeder said. “We had International Harvester and John Deere, I had prize-winning cows and production records, and we had people fly here from Germany and Switzerland to buy cattle.”
After the fire in 1964 Schroeder started again. “West Bend Concrete Products along with Winninghoff and Bradley they built a fireproof barn for me,” he said.
On Tuesday, Schroeder drove past the old farm on County Road G and looked at the aftermath on the Renner property.  “I can’t believe it,” he said. “It was all built with upside down T’s and then cement poured over it. The Yahr’s said that would never burn. I never believed that would ever burn.” 
Schroeder Dairy
Today’s c.1950 photo, courtesy Bill Schroeder, features one of his family’s prize bulls. The animal is displayed in front of the barn on the Schroeder Dairy farm. That barn went up in flames in 1964. It’s the same location of the Renner fire this past Sunday. 
It was February 2015 when the fire occurred at the Renner farm.  Below are more stories that occurred that month.
Future of Ponderosa
The future of the former Ponderosa, 2020 West Washington St., West Bend is a hot topic. The restaurant closed in 2008. Steve Kilian and his son Steve Jr. purchased the property October 2011 and the past few years the building has sat empty.
The Kilian’s have worked to market the property but according to Steve Kilian Jr. they’ve had little luck.
We want to develop that piece of property, unfortunately we haven’t had a lot of interest at this point in time,” Kilian Jr. said. “Our goal is to do something that will be beneficial to the city so it doesn’t look the way it does right now.”
A couple options that have been on the table include a strip mall and a popular franchise restaurant. “We wanted someone like an Olive Garden or something like that,” said Kilian Jr. “We thought that would be a great spot but unfortunately there hasn’t been any great interest.”
Adam Williquette, vice president with Anderson Commercial Group, tried to drum up interest in the parcel. “There wasn’t enough ‘upside’ in development of a new retail center and the thought is it may make more sense to potentially wait for one large user to either utilize the ‘bones’ of the existing building or do one larger one.”
The cost of that, according to Williquette, means a national tenant and “one that has an appetite for some very high rents.”
From a city perspective there’s been impressive business growth and development across the community including Paradise Drive, Highway 33 and the industrial parks.
Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said the city would love to see the former Ponderosa redeveloped. He believes it’s just a matter of time.  “The Kilian organization has a long track record of supporting this community in a number of ways,” Sadownikow said. “Their extensive experience in property management and development leads me to believe when the timing is right they will move forward and turn that location into something to be proud of.”
The Kilian’s remain optimistic. “This is a nice property,” said Kilian Jr. “It’s the entrance to McDonald’s and Burger King, it made sense to buy it, we don’t regret it, and at some point something very good will end up in that location; hopefully sooner than later.”  
Local inventors of The Great Plate make debut on new national TV show
There’s a brand new show on the Food Network airing March 9 and local inventors of The Great Plate, Rick Kellow and Beth Kuehl of Slinger, are two of the featured contestants. “It’s a combination of Shark Tank and the Food Network,” said Kuehl describing the format of the cable TV show. “We pitch our product to a panel of investors and a studio audience and we try to get an investment deal or strategic partner to help us expand what we have.”
The program, Food Fortune, is specific to the food-and-beverage industry. The Kuehl’s tried out for the show in Chicago, advanced to California and on Thursday producers gave them the green light to talk about their upcoming national appearance.
The Great Plate is a simple plastic 10-inch food-and-beverage plate. It was debuted in 2014 and is now carried at CVS and Menards stores across the country. “We’re filling reorders for those stores and we’re going to sell 12 packs on Amazon with new colors coming out as well,” said Kuehl.  The Great Plate also sells locally at Ace Hardware in Slinger, The Corner Score, Sonya’s Rose in Jackson and Pack and Ship and More in Hartford.  
“We’re super excited to be chosen for this show and we’re excited for the community,” said Kuehl.  “There are 33 companies involved in the manufacturing of The Great Plate, 70 percent of the companies are in Wisconsin and the majority are in Washington County so it’s a good boost for jobs in this area.” Kuehl could not release the outcome of the show.   
West Bend School District restructures testing procedure
Administrators in the West Bend School District are changing their approach to testing after a cheating scandal in an Advanced Placement math class was reported in the student newspaper The Current.
The article by Miranda Paikowski detailed how a test, given over a two-day period, was found by a student online. That information was shared with peers and upon review of test scores teachers suspected several dozen students had cheated.
“These are practice exams,” David Uelmen, assistant principal at West Bend East and West High School, said. “A colleague from somewhere in the nation posted that test online and that shouldn’t have happened.”
Moving forward, Uelmen said, the administration will implement changes. “We’re having our staff create their own end-of-course assessments and practice examinations,” he said. “Teachers will also be Googling tests online and we’re looking at changing the practice of two-day tests.
AP courses are beneficial to high school students allowing them to earn college credits. The actual AP tests are scheduled for May. 
In terms of ramifications for cheating the 2014-15 West Bend School District Student/Parent Handbook reads: Any student caught cheating will receive a grade of zero on the assignment or exam.
Uelmen said students were not caught cheating. “Was there academic dishonesty? Could things have been done different, absolutely,” he said.  “As far as somebody going in there and flat out cheating we came to the determination that did not exactly happen. Nobody went into that test with the answers in hand.”
The school district sent home a note to parents and all students in both AP Statistics courses were required to retake a different exam.
Kettle Moraine Lutheran offers Wis. School Choice   
Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School has joined the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) where vouchers will be offered to qualifying families to pay the child’s tuition to attend school in Jackson.
“Any parent in the state of Wisconsin who lives outside of the city of Racine or Milwaukee can apply for a voucher at KML if their income is under the income threshold and they live in the state of Wisconsin,” KML Principal Jamie Luehring said.
Currently there are only 1,000 vouchers throughout the state in the WPCP. Legislation moving through Madison could increase that cap come the end of the budget cycle.
“We know there are a limited number of vouchers available,” said Luehring. “We’re encouraging people who qualify to apply.”
The bottom line, according to Luehring, is to give parents the right to choose, no matter their income level. “We want people who are looking for a safe, rigorous, Christian education founded on God’s word. We believe they should have the opportunity to choose KML.”
Prior to meeting the Feb. 1 deadline, KML held extensive meetings and feedback sessions with parents, the board of directors, and the KML Federation of 28 churches and grade schools that support the school.
 “We’d been talking since last September and obviously people raised concerns but we helped everyone understand that once people are in our doors they have to follow our policies and procedures,” Luehring said. “We’re certain people who come will be from families who are interested in supporting and benefiting from our mission.”
Current enrollment at KML is 395 students with room for 500. “We have plenty of room, but we don’t anticipate a huge initial growth up front,” said Luehring. “We imagine a handful of folks.”
April 20 is the deadline to sign up for the program; another enrollment period is anticipated in July after the state budget is completed.
Kettle Moraine Lutheran currently does not receive or accept any state aid. Luehring confirmed they do receive a small amount of title funds which are covered under federal aid.
This past year as KML reviewed eighth grade classes and potential students, it found 24 kids that identified ‘financial need’ as a reason they ‘may or may not attend KML.’
“Thirteen students for sure would not be able to come because of finances,” said Luehring. “We give out $100,000 in tuition assistance each year but our superintendent will often say we need $300,000 to meet the needs out there.
“There’s not a huge financial gain for us. The driving factor is we want parents that want this education to be able to have it.” More information is available at kml.org/wcpc
Trendressa closing in April
Downtown West Bend clothing store Trendressa is closing. “I’m not getting the sales I thought I’d get with a brick-and-mortar place,” owner Mary Kutsche said. “I do sales online as well and I’m just going back to that.”
The store, 162 S. Main Street, carried a mix of ladies, juniors and girls. “When I first opened it was popular and other than the holidays the norm has been just a few people in and out,” she said.  Trendressa opened last May in the storefront that was previously home to Hometown Talents & Treasures, John’s Photography, Mehring’s Fishery, and the Heipp General Store.
“If anyone comes in now, everything is 50 percent off,” Kutsche said. The store will close after March 25. 
Hot-ticket auction items
A sneak peek at some of the items debuting in two weeks at the St. Frances Cabrini Dinner Auction. A trip to Maui, Hawaii, donated by alumni families Curt and Diane Rudy, Tim and Sandy Leitheiser, Dave and Beth Schmitt, John and Sue Callen, Steve and Donna Schmitt and Sue Valind. The Eric and Julie Fortney family have donated a trip to sunny Arizona. The Hafeman family will host a summer party for a group at Lac Lawrann Barn and Pavilion, complete with music, beverages and a pig roast.
Silent auction items include a kid’s fishing package, a parent-and-child skiing package, Pandora and other jewelry items, an American girl doll, YMCA membership and Pleasant Valley Tennis/Fitness memberships. “Each grade has also contributed handmade items to themed baskets available for bidding,” said organizer Jenny Thill. Event co-chairs include Anne Grundahl and Krista Sanders. More details are at www.cabriniauction.com.
Unique Election Day story
An interesting Election-Day story from Linda Bruss, chief inspector in charge of voting at District 5 in the city of West Bend. “Something cute happened yesterday at elections,” wrote Bruss.  “Between 6:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. Jed Dolnick, Alan Carter and Rich Kasten all walked in the door to vote.”
The savvy Bruss realized the unique connection. “Jed, Alan and Rich were all aldermen in District 5.”  
City clerk Amy Reuteman said Dolnick served 1998-2002, Carter from 2002- 2014 and Kasten was elected in 2014 and is the current representative. “None of the men were in the room at the same time,” said Bruss. “They just walked in one after another.”   
Turnout Tuesday in District 5 had 180 votes cast including 34 absentee ballots. “That means we had only 146 voters walk in during the 13-hour day along with two former and one current alderman in 15 minutes.” Bruss has been overseeing the polling station since 2000.
Mad Max is hiring
A job fair is coming up for full and part-time positions at Mad Max in West Bend. The Saukville-based company recently purchased its third store in West Bend, 1229 S. Main Street.
Mad Max is looking for a deli manager, baristas, cashiers, maintenance, and local haulers with a CDL license and hazmat endorsement. The job fair will be Feb. 28, March 7 and March 14 from 9 a.m. – noon at corporate headquarters 725 N. Progress Drive, Saukville. Applicants are encouraged to bring identification, a resume and at least three references.
Mad Max will be opening its new store in West Bend this summer. This is the corporations 10th outlet with other locations in Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Sheboygan, and Port Washington. More details available at madmaxcstores.com 
Updates & tidbits
-On Feb. 25, Paul Price, Dean of UW-Washington County, will speak at the Common Sense Citizen’s meeting about how the budget might affect the UW system. Dr. Cathy Sandeen, Chancellor of Wisconsin Colleges and the UW-Extension, will also be on hand. The meeting, free and open to the public, gets underway at 7 p.m. at the West Bend Moose Lodge, 1721 Chestnut Street.  
-There’s an Open House May 2 at the remodeled Schwai’s in Cedar Creek. Owners Kevin and Amy Zimmer are hosting the event to show off the remodel and retain the establishment’s liquor license. The Zimmer’s have been working on the interior of the building, 3747 Cedar Creek Road, since closing on the purchase of the property in August 2014. Proceeds from the event, which will feature Lithia beer and food by Tommy Schwai, will benefit the Washington County Humane Society.
-Krimmer’s Restaurant, 114 S. Main St., opens Wednesday, Feb. 25 in West Bend. More information is available at 262-334-8454.
– Hannah Mrozak’s run on American Idol has ended. The Richfield native was eliminated during this week’s show. Mrozak wrote, “I am sad but I have learned so much through the entire process and I have met so many wonderful people because of this experience! I am so grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity! I cannot thank everyone enough for all the love and support you have given me. Music is my life and I do not plan on giving up!”

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