Shoe Column: Stevens Point Back In The Day, James Kiehl and Will Lehner
By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
By far, the most fun thing about writing this column for the Stevens Point City Times is hearing from the readers.
It seems like a lot of people like to be reminded about what our fine city of Stevens Point was like “way back when”, especially in the 1950s and ’60s. Our wonderful town was so peaceful. We followed the Milwaukee Braves of Aaron, Mathews, and Spahn. We cheered for the Packers who had a Hall of Fame head coach in Vince Lombardi, and they had not one but two great quarterbacks in Bart Starr and Zeke Bratkowski. A good burger cost maybe a quarter, Ike and JFK were in the White House, and nobody went around shooting up schools and concerts. Gasoline was cheap, and nobody locked their doors.
I’m a huge Facebook fan. Several years ago, a guy from Point named James Kiehl started a page called “You Know You’re From Stevens Point If…”. Back then, James’ site had around 1,000 members. Now it has almost 9,000. A lot of folks on that site love to talk about Stevens Point and its amazing past.
A couple of years ago, I asked an innocent question on Kiehl’s page. The question was: What businesses, stores, or buildings used to be on Main Street in Stevens Point? Kinda figured it might get 50 responses. Well, it got over 500. In fact, it’s STILL going today.
I’d like to take a trip down memory lane with some of those Point people. Some, but only a few, of those places still remain. Paulo Pavelski remembered Tea Shop. So did Patricia Higgins. Kevin Kaczmarek: Alley Cat. Janice Sparhawk: Nigbor Furs and Hallmark. Sherman Rudnick: Trusdell Furs, Point Fish Company, Shafton’s, and, of course, Rudnick’s Grocery where Graffiti’s is now. By the way, if Point actually has an “official” historian, it must be Sherman. The guy knows EVERYTHING about what Point used to be like!
Sandra Galloway mentioned Lou Vincent’s, Hardly Ever, and Tiffany’s. Monica Davisson recalled Osco Drugs and said she knew Shippy Shoes had Buster Browns (Harvey Giese worked there). Kathy Tetzloff brought up Erzinger’s, and Alice Przybylski mentioned Boston’s Furniture. Mary Swanson said that her dad owned Continential Clothing Store (clothes for men) which was next to Hannon Drug Store which is where Osco was before it became River City Diner. Elaine Baumann talked about Wilshire’s and Whitney’s Candy Store, home of the 12-cent caramel apple.
Rusty Krutza: Bob’s Food King and Moon Fun Shop. Mary Zurawski: Spurgeon’s. Cheryl ODonnell named many places including Smart Shop, Campbell’s, Graham-Lane, Golden Hanger, Toyland, Sears, and Westy’s. She worked at Seifert’s. Elizabeth Hardy also said she worked at Seifert’s in high school. Sandy “Zippity” Duda Roth mentioned Toyland and Bon Ton Beauty Shop. Sandra Lepak submitted Otterlee’s, and Robert Rifleman went with Gwidt’s Drugs. Derek McKnight chipped in with Coast to Coast and Silvermint.
Jiminy Cricket!!! Where the hell did everything go?
Do you want more? Tom Smrz (no vowel) recalled Main Street’s National T and Jim Laab’s Music (one of the few that still remains). Pam Thomson mentioned Kremb’s Furniture. (I went to grade school with Tina). JC Penney and Ben Franklin came to mind for Karman Delk. Luree Woehrle talked about Montgomery Wards (“Monkey Wards”). Susan Kohnen also remembered their squeaky floors. Tammy Rae remembered Citizen’s National Bank, and Sue Petterson never forgot Anderson Dance Studio.
Mark Colrud said he liked to stop in at the Main Street Café for a burger, fries, and a Coke before heading over to the Fox Theatre (Mark knows a ton about Point history). Lois Smith noted that Campbell’s was the only store with an elevator, and she also recalled United Cloak, Woolworth’s, and the “five and dime” McClellans. I used to buy plastic army men at McClellans.
Oh, Barry Bishop knew that the old beautiful Post Office was on Main, and Dave Pliska commented on Point Surplus. Kim Bannach had nice thoughts about several stores and really loved the Christmas lights and music on the sidewalks. Fran Fulton recalled the Quality Store. Marilyn Hutkowski said she shopped at Seifert’s all the time. Christine Meier-Wojcik liked Polston’s Furniture Store and the Four Winds Gift Shop. Mike Fink was fond of S&J’s Palace and the Hostel Shoppe (which moved).
I tell ya, these Point people have great memories. Rory Welch recalled Brill’s, David Rolstad brought up the Town Clown, and Pat Hedquist, a former outfielder on the Unique Bar, shifted his focus to the east end of Main Street by the high school. Pat mentioned Sugar Bowl, Chartier’s, and Porter’s Grocery. Meanwhile, Bob Bochenek talked about the west end of town, including Arctic Locker, Point Bakery, and the Ritz Tavern. The Ritz had polka bands every Sunday and the place was mobbed.
Patricia Higgins also recalled Grubba’s Jewelers (which is still downtown) and Karen Martin remembered Kiddy Korners.
Whew! There sure were a lot of neat places on Main Street. Sean Houlihan thought he bought some pilot goggles from Fairway. Hoolie also had a great question. He asked, “Why did kamikaze pilots wear safety helmets?” He also noted that the pilots who attended kamikaze school seldom showed up for their class reunions.
And the comments just kept on coming. Tammy Larson recalled the Moose Tavern and Weltman’s. Bill Lewandowski singled out the A&P Grocery, First National Bank, and the United Cloak Shop. Bernard Liebe came up with Haberdashery (near the Lyric), Tim’s Watch Shop, and the Loop Tavern. The Loop had that slow-cooking chicken in the front window. Tom Meyer gave a plug for Grin & Beer It, and Chris Keel recalled the Stagger Inn and Ray & Gertie’s. Pat O’Donnell remembered seeing “Spit in the Ocean” down at the Long Branch, and Randy Richter recalled WPS. Curt Carpenter let the readers know that McCains had an elevator, and Bill Russell said so did the old Campbells.
Karen Zinda remembered Harold’s Jewelry, not to be confused with Grubba’s Jewelry, Peacock Jewelry, or Arenberg’s Jewelry. Ed Clussman remembered about 60 places, including Dutch’s Men Store, Sherwin-Williams Paint, Mirman’s Furniture (Harvey was my Little League umpire), WSPT Radio, Singer Sewing, Barnaby Beauty Shop, Kuhl’s Department Store, Big Shoe Store, Bill’s Shoe Store, and Jean’s Hat Shop. Stevens Point’s main Street was a hub for shoe stores and jewelry stores.
Again, Jim Kiehl’s site on Facebook is so cool! More Point folks are joining every day. Diane Ostrowski and Jerry Kramar mentioned the Lyric Theatre. His members also thought of Main Street and remembered Pasternacki’s, Genesis Decorating, Parkinson’s, Bean Eddy, Mrs. Anderson’s Dance Studio, the Masonic Temple, Benson Optical, Fair Store, Spot Café, One Stop Sport Shop, City News, Gambles, River City Diner, and the Popcorn Stand.
It was pretty easy to find a job back in that era. It wasn’t like another city I won’t name. A buddy of mine got fired from the unemployment office so he just moved to the other side of the desk.
Let’s end with a word about a legend in town, Mr. Will Lehner. He saw a recent column which mentioned that there might be a Della St. in Point. Will pointed out that it’s located by UPS on Minnesota Avenue. He enjoys reading about Stevens Point’s days gone by. In case you didn’t know it, Mr. Lehner has a great story to tell. He’s 96 now.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Will was a 20-year old sailor in the Navy. He was on the USS Ward at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While in the harbor, the men on the USS Ward spotted something in the water. It was a Japanese submarine. The Ward fired at the sub and sank it. A little more than an hour later, Japan’s surprise attack began. 183 Japanese planes dropped bombs on American naval vessels, killing 2400 Americans. Two United States battleships were destroyed immediately. America declared war on the empire of Japan the next day, and World War II was on.
I remember back when the American Legion was up and running. Will Lehner used to help put on spaghetti feeds. They were awesome.
To have Mr. Lehner comment on a simple column is quite an honor indeed. He is a true hero.