All Those Years Ago – A Visit to Amherst’s Past

by Eleonore Hebal

Using past issues of the Amherst Advocate, Tomorrow River Times, and Our Community Spirit for research, here’s a look at what was happening in the Amherst area 100, 75, 50, 25, and 10 years ago this month.

100 Years Ago – October 1916

In October of 1916, the Amherst Advocate reported upon an innovative new form of entertainment, sponsored by the Anti-Tuberculosis Association of Wisconsin, which was attracting large rural audiences. “A moving picture, automobile evolution of the old time Kickapoo Indian Medicine Man and his medicine wagon has been originated in WI and is now touring the state. It is the health wagon carrying sound health information instead of patent medicines, moving pictures, and a health exhibit instead of a singing quartet.” The gypsy-esque health wagon began its tour in Walworth County, providing moving picture shows about infectious diseases on weekday evenings in different villages throughout Wisconsin. The “medicine men” dispensed valuable information about basic sanitation practices and traditional folk remedies, discouraging unregulated, patent medicine.

In downtown Amherst, residents eagerly awaited the completion of road construction on Main Street. “Due to favorable weather, the grading on Main Street is nearly all finished and the gravel and clay topdressing has been put on quite a stretch of the street.”

The entrepreneurial women of The Amherst Ladies Aid organized a spirited Halloween feast for community members at Odd Fellows Hall.

“At 5 o’clock on Halloween,

In the year AD 1916

The Amherst Ladies Aid will serve

Supper to all who have the nerve

To come to Odd Fellow’s Hall and see

The witches and goblins making tea

Salads, chicken, and pumpkin pie

Cake and coffee, bread - wheat and rye,

Will be given for a very small sum

Of 25 cents, now won’t you come?”

75 years ago – October 1941

Seventy-five years ago, local headlines announced the first frost arrived on October 2nd, with temperatures dropping to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Many potato vines, garden vegetables, and flowers were killed throughout Portage County. Most potato farmers welcomed the freeze and practically all the schools in the Amherst area were closed for the annual two week potato vacation/harvesting. Unfortunately, one week into the busy harvest, a large storm with “winds of hurricane proportions” swept through the Tomorrow River Valley, delaying work, destroying crops, and blowing over many large trees.

In a daring escape, ninety valuable silver foxes broke free from the Bannach Bros. Silver Fox Ranch near Custer in mid-October. All but twenty foxes were retrieved – dead or alive – within several days, as the woods within the vicinity of the ranch was immediately searched by hunters. Since many of the foxes were not in their “prime” when shot, the Bannach Bros. suffered a heavy loss as the pelts were of sub-par quality.

In the second week of October, the Wisconsin 4-H team won regional honors with an exceptional dairy foods demonstration in a competition taking place in Memphis, Tennessee. One week later, the Tomorrow River Times reported that Senor Marte V. Gomez, secretary of Agriculture for Mexico, paid a special visit to Wisconsin to observe methods and equipment used by Badger dairymen and dairy plants in producing quality milk and dairy products.

The Amherst School Band hosted an Oyster Supper Fundraiser in the Amherst Community Hall basement to raise money for new uniforms. They successfully raised an adequate sum for the uniforms with the sale of homemade candy and seafood.

50 years ago – October 1966

Twenty-five years later, in October of 1966, the Tomorrow River Times reported that Amherst High School was burglarized for a sum of $284.41 and a large quantity of stamps. Entry was gained by prying open a window in the lunchroom and a hole was knocked through a wall in the storehouse adjacent to the vault. All of the contents of the vault were taken or scattered across the room. Several other break-ins were reported during the same week in surrounding counties.

The Amherst Lions Club sponsored a national essay contest awarding a prize of a $25,000 educational or career assistance grant. The essay’s subject matter was to develop a comprehensive plan for world peace.

Charlie W. Olson, a rural mail carrier on Route 2, Amherst from 1904-1936, celebrated his 96th birthday in the Iola Nursing Home. Olson used both horse drawn carriages and a Model T Ford (1919) to help him deliver mail.

On October 8, 1966, the ladies of the Peace Lutheran Church hosted the annual Smorgaasbord, celebrating the harvest season with an abundance of Scandinavian food, music, and costumes. Two weeks later, a Norwegian Lutefisk Dinner was held at the Faith Lutheran Church and the Annual Fall Chicken Dinner took place at St. Patrick's Church in Lanark. This same weekend, the Town and Country Art League, a Portage County arts group, sponsored the 6th Annual Fall Art Festival.

25 years ago - October 1991

In the first week of October 1991, the Tomorrow River Times announced that Kinderbrunnen Cottage Industries, a specialty boutique and custom gift store, was closing its doors on the corner of Main Street after three years of business. The owner stated there was not enough traffic on Main Street to sustain the gift shop.

Also, in the beginning of October 1991, The Village of Amherst purchased a portion of the Mittelstedt property for the construction of Well #3. Construction of the well was contracted to Layne Northwest Co., while Ellis Stone Industries built the pump house.

Glenda Jewell, daughter of Jim and Gen Jewell, was chosen to be part of the "Parents As Leaders Project" for 1991 - 1992. The Zippy Zees 4-H club celebrated its 40th anniversary with 4-H. Some of the first members of the group were reported as Gale Gordon, Jim Domaszek, Evy Packer, Alice Rosholt, Lyle Hanson, and Charlie Leppen. Mr. And Mrs. LeRoy Gordon and Lorraine Packer were the first general leaders of the club.

Amherst High School reported that the Falcon Ladies Volleyball team placed 2nd in CWC and the choir performed in Minnesota at the Family of Christ Lutheran Church.

10 years ago – October 2006

Ten years ago in October of 2006, the front page of Our Community Spirit included an inspired interview with Amherst’s legendary music man, Tom Pease, and an article concerning the $2500 donation that Eddie Danger, organizer of the annual Feel Good Festival, made to the Amherst school band. “Danger said he was establishing the program ('Adopt a Music Program') because so many area schools’ music departments are being threatened by budget problems." Danger worked for MREA by day and performed in the area with his group, the "Reverend Eddie Danger and His Band of Good Thieves," by night. The annual Feel Good Festival, a three day event at the Amherst Fairgrounds, attracted thousands of people and featured more than two dozen bands in 2006, along with a number of art and food vendors, games, hula hoop presentations and sundress contests, parades, puppet shows, camping, and other events.

Also in October of 2006, Matthew Repinski was named a 2006 Star in Agricultural Placement finalist by the National FFA Organization. At the time he was a junior at the University of Wisconsin and employed by the UW- Swine Research and Training Center. Shane Russom of Amherst High School was named a Commended Student in the 2007 National Merit Scholarship Program. Zach Uher, an Amherst High senior, was nominated to compete in the National Principal’s Leadership Award Scholarship Program. Zach had demonstrated exemplary achievement in his academic work and service to his school and community, “an excellent example of the outstanding caliber of young people in America’s high schools.”



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