Column: Random Thoughts & Shoe’s Mailbag
By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
My cousin quit his job on the firing squad. They told the shooters they had to start lining up in a circle.
We didn’t listen to any of that “rap” baloney back in the ’60s or ’70s in Stevens Point. My idea of a fun time was listening to the “I’d like to teach the world to sing” Coke commercial filmed on a hilltop in Italy.
Back then, you got out your small record player and put your .45, or album on the turntable and turned the thing on. Now all the kids do is press a button.
The two worst words in the English language are “Payment due”.
I admit it. I’m “losing” it. Opened the freezer to get some ice cubes. Found three empty trays. Wonderful.
Every time I exit my buddy Doug Berry’s Doug’s Sports Pub, his bar manager Chad Newby says: “Thanks. For leaving”.
Someone recently asked me if I was gonna put up my fake Christmas tree this year. Had to answer “No” since I never took it down from last year.
I think kids these days are missing out on some of the fun we used to have way back when. Loved to sit in front of the black and white tv on Saturdays in Point and watch the Boston Celtics take on the Lakers in 1960. Then it was time to go down to the basement.
We put an empty coffee can up on one wall and another one at the opposite end of the basement. Then my bro Casey and I would get out the little rubber basketball and go at it “full-court”. And we would “announce” the games as they were being played… “Frank Selvy has the ball…passes to Elgin Baylor… (we’d throw the ball off a wall)…now over to Jerry West!…West shoots!…he misses!…Bill Russell with the rebound!…over to Bob Cousy!… spots Bill Sharman in the corner!…Sharman shoots!…he scores! 2-0 Boston!” (By the way, Jerry West is the NBA logo.)
Neighbor Woody Keene dropped by with a page out of some kind of historical book. It read, “In 1838, George Stevens set up his trading post on a ‘point’ of the Wisconsin River.” It went on to say that Stevens was a merchant and trader. He would get furs from the Indians and trade them rams’ horns filled with booze. Supposedly, the Indians called the post “Stevens Pint”. Keep in mind that this is only a legend.
Got an email from Dan Kortenkamp, PhD. Emeritus Professor, Department of Psychology, UWSP. Dan talked about growing up in Oelwein, Iowa, a town the same size of Stevens Point. He worked at a radio station. In 1956, a lady called asking to play “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” by some unknown named Elvis Presley. Dan never heard of Elvis or the song so he switched her to the disk jockey. The song reached #1 on the Billboard country music chart in February 1956 and remained there for 39 weeks. Elvis became a national star. His first #1 hit on the pop music charts was “Heartbreak Hotel” in ‘56. Dan also recalled listening to “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and his Comets and wasn’t sure how to dance to it.
Laurie Shudarek wrote to say that her daughter Jill married Patrick Cady who made the movie “Trivia Town”. Former Point Mayor Wescott declared the film the “official movie of Stevens Point”. Mike Wiza, an alderman at the time, had a role in the movie.
People still like to talk about Point and the Golden Years. Larry Leton said he and his pals enjoyed going down to Benny Gagas’ Tavern on the square. They would listen to Benny playing his concertina and they could have a schoop of beer for a dime. Larry also mentioned that the first tent he bought was from Hunter’s Corner. Bart Woyak also brought up Hunter’s Corner. And Keith Roeske said that he misses Hunter’s Corner and remembers when Rollo had some World War Two insect repellent that melted his fishing line.
Got an email from James Lepak, a P.A. at Klasinski Clinic. He wanted to add a little to some of our earlier columns. He enjoyed the column about Stevens Point people doing nice things for one another and could relate to my neighbor getting back his lost wallet. James said that his daughter found a wallet outside Menard’s. He and his daughter saw an address on the owner’s license so they took the wallet to the guy’s house.
The guy was stunned since he didn’t even know he lost it! Mr. Lepak also said that Dr. Henneghan found THREE wallets on Water Street while he was riding his bike. The doc turned them all in to the police station. Also, apparently Shane Melenbacker of Jim’s office lost his wallet once. He was trying to retrace his steps when Kwik Trip called letting his know that someone turned his wallet in. By the way, Jim said he loves Tom Jensen’s pickles, makes his own salsa, liked the late sports legend Don Kottke, and still has an ostrich egg shell from Joe Dernbach’s farm.
John Schmidt, Pacelli Class of ‘65, recalled how we’ve talked about my former great neighbor Florence Schmidt. Florence is his grandma. John talked a lot about his grandpa Walter owning the Stevens Point Dairy in the 1920’s, ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. The Dairy building was between Clark Street and the Wisconsin River. John worked there as a kid scooping ice cream cones.
Walter’s dairy made the famous “Cho-Cho” and was mainly a wholesale business selling to root beer stands, church picnics, and places like grocery stores. John also mentioned that the Stevens Point Dairy had a great ice cream and butter-maker named Roman Dragula. “Romie” later went on to own Romie’s Rendezvous tavern (now Final Score) and was a softball sponsor legend around town. John himself was on the Stevens Point Police Dept. and enjoyed directing traffic in the ’70s.
These emails and letters from the readers truly inform, educate, and entertain. Got one from former Little League teammate Dave Garber. Dave said he and his buddy David Schwerbel used to hang around a boathouse on the Wisconsin River as kids in Point. It was Howard Wells’ boat slip and repair business. Dave said Wells was a former merchant marine who had a bed in the middle of his living room with red and green navigation lights on either side.
Howard Wells was a nice quiet guy who once built a 24-foot boat, stored a vintage 1950’s Plymouth, and was known for being kind to animals. Howard frequently had dinner at his sister Ida Wells Atwell’s house. Wells’ boathouse was located on the Wisconsin River west of Pfiffner Park, and several people including the Garbers and Ted and Emily Wysocki kept their boats at Wells for many years. So did Carl Maslowski and his sisters Theresa, Ramona, and Grace. Dave was excited to find a “H.E.Wells” sign at an antique store in Custer. The crazy part about all this is that I’ve driven past that boathouse a hundred times and never knew what it was called until now.
The recent story about Don Ceplina’s 1941 Stevens Point Phone Directory got some feedback. John Quirk said he’s lived in Joe Milcharek’s house on Sixth Avenue for many years and wanted to know if Joe had a phone number in 1941. (He did. 838-W). Sandi Hornung wondered if there were any Boyingtons in the ‘41 phonebook. (There are). C.S.Boyington on 306 Wyatt Avenue. 629-W. Juanita Lemancik asked if we’d look up a number for her dad Edward Hoppa. She thought his Point phone number back in 1941 was 1187-J (She was right; Juanita has a great memory).
Nipper Nitka’s brother Jim Nitka collects Stevens Point stuff. He has a ton of Stevens Point old bar chips and tokens. Jim wanted to know where the following taverns were located: Roy’s Bar, Stan & Glenda’s Bar, and Helen & Marie’s Tap. Feel free to comment. I know Roy’s was on the South Side, and Terry Kluck says Stan & Glenda’s Bar used to be the Moose Lodge by Artic Locker on the square.
The Wisconsin River in Stevens Point is brought up frequently. It sure must’ve changed from the river I knew as a kid. We used to catch little underzized bullheads. The river was so polluted the bullheads used to beg us not to throw them back.
Catch ya on the flip side, and thanks for listening.
Sullivan can be reached at [email protected].