The first in the series of stories about Dad’s childhood started on my husband’s birthday this past March. The three of us had gone to a new restaurant in Riverwest called the Filling Station. It’s on Pierce and Keefe, just down the block from where Dad lived as a little tyke at 3341 N. Pierce in Milwaukee. Dad had been born in a house on Booth and Burleigh. When he was very small, they moved in with his mother’s mother, Gramdma Froemming, to the house on Pierce. This was during the depression so it helped both his grandmother and his folks to live together.
The Filling Station was called Charlie’s back then and he and the family would go there for Friday fish fries. So there we were, on that Friday in March, and Dad told the story of how the horse-drawn carriages would deliver milk to the homes in the neighborhood. WIlke’s Dairy stood where the Holton Youth Center now stands. My friend Cathy Costantini told me that when the Center first opened its doors, the basketball court still had floors that sloped toward the center of the room, since that is how the dairy’s spilled milk would flow into the center drain. The floors were redone very quickly so that the kids wouldn’t keep running into the center of the court.
Wilke’s horse-barn was across the street on the southwest corner of Burleigh and Booth. The police horses were also kept there. The horses drawing the dairy carriages would automatically know which houses to make the stops at as they made their way down Weil Street. One day, as Dad was on his way to Fratney Street School, he gave one of the horses a carrot. The horse learned very quickly and after that would stop at the same spot each day and look around. The dairy closed the barn when they quit using horses for delivery and switched to motorized trucks.
The street curbs were made out of lannon stone back then and our great Grandpa Froemming laid the stone for the curbs. He caught pneumonia and died young.
Anyway, if you plan to go to the Filling Station for a fish fry, call first. They don’t have them every Friday. Dad had an 8 oz hamburger instead. The waiter looked at me when Dad asked if their hamburger came from one steer. If it didn’t, he said, he’d have his cooked medium rather than medium-rare. Dinner was great. We’ll be going back for their fish fry.
So, I wrote this story down the next morning and posted it on Facebook — which was a big step for someone who has to hold her breath and count to three before making a post. I rarely posted for anything other than work. I wasn’t comfortable making my private life that available to so many eyes. But it was time I moved on — my job thrives on social media and in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt which I spout off all the time — unless you do something each day you’re afraid of you’re not really living.
I read my post to Dad after church on Sunday. He had a few corrections to make — it had to be accurate — and then he told us about the ash man. –Debbie
“The city would come with a mac truck tractor and pull four garbage dumpster wagons to drop off in the neighborhood. The horses would pull the dumpster wagons to collect from the garbage cans in alleys behind the homes. That’s one of the main reasons we have alleys. It was only later on that garages entered off the street. There were two types of city pick ups – garbage and ashes. Most homes were heated by coal-burning furnaces. The ash men would go into the basements and collect the ashes from the ash bins, usually concrete enclosures. Grandpa always gave the ash men a beer.” –Dad
His stories continue with the coal man, ice man, scissor sharpener man and rag man. It’s no wonder unemployment has skyrocketed with the loss of all these positions.