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On a History Note | Dugout Tavern in West Bend, WI

West Bend, WI Remember the Dugout Tavern? This 1939 photo, courtesy the Washington County Historical Society, is of The Dugout Tavern on Fifth Avenue in downtown West Bend.

Darold Hoelz, 96, of West Bend lived on the third floor of the same building that housed The Dugout; he was there from 1947 through 1951.

“I remember two doors to the tavern in the front of that building, the right door was the women’s entrance and the left one was the men’s entrance,” said Hoelz. “Women didn’t go to the tavern in the 1940s; it wasn’t proper,” he said of the two-door setup. Class of 1944

“If you went into the right entrance there were tables and chairs and the left entrance had the bar. The men sat at the bar and the women were supposed to sit at a table.”

Holtz laughed at the memory. “Nobody had a television set so we’d go downstairs and sit on the women’s side and have some free popcorn and a nickel beer or a schnit of beer,” he said translating the German term for ‘little glass.’

History Lithia

“We were probably drinking Lithia – the best of the better beers and we’d watch boxing with Kid Gavilan and Gorgeous George with wrestling,” said Hoelz.

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Lee Schaefer was a bartender in the 1940s and after he left Chickie Fellenz took over.

Hoelz referred to The Dugout as “a workin’ mans bar.” “The guys would stop and have a beer on the way home from work and sometimes they would have a little bucket and they’d carry home a little beer in a bucket,” he said.

The owners of the building where The Dugout was located were Arthur “Tom” Gruenwald and his wife Rose. Hoelz said he paid $35 a month rent for his apartment but also remembered his electric bill was always unreasonably high.

“One day my wife and I were in the basement doing wash and just for the heck of it I pulled the lever on the electric box labeled for my apartment. My washing machine went off but so did the coolers in the basement where The Dugout stored its beer barrels,” he said.

“That’s how I found out I was paying for Lee Schafer to cool his beer.” Hoelz said after that Schafer started chipping in for his electric bill.

Cast iron

To the south of The Dugout was the West Bend Casket Company, immediately to the south of that was the Gehl Monument Company and then Lochen Ford Garage.

This week’s photo, courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society, dates to 1935 and features costumed kids at a local grade school dressed for Halloween.

Mike Paul from Paul’s Auction in Kewaskum said the little pail of beer was known as “Bucket Boys” or Kesseljunges to the Krauts.

“It was a small tin pail, about five to six-inches high with a wire-bail handle,” said Paul.

“In Milwaukee, ‘Growler Boys’ would deliver them from the brewery to construction or job sites by lining them up on a five to six-foot-long wooden pole, grab them in the middle, one in each hand and off they went.”

Betty Homuth said she was a little girl growing up in Kewaskum and her neighbor Otto Backus would send his son Howard with a copper pail with a lid. “He’d pass our house and go up to Highway 28 where you go up to Hon-E-Kor but instead he’d go out to River Road where the Opera House Tavern and Dance Hall used to be and he’d have to get beer for his dad in the quart container,” she said.

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