Staying Afloat

As time passed, Dad saved several hundred dollars to buy a canoe of his own but he ended up buying an engagement ring instead.  It was good thing that he had fallen in love with the water before he fell in love with Mom or he would have been sunk without enough money saved to buy the ring.  –Debbie

After we were married and living in Champagne, it wasn’t long before we realized we were very tight on money. So I went to the office at the School of Architecture to talk to the secretary about how to apply for a student loan. She was a great staff assistant and knew almost everyone in the entire school by name.

“For whom?” she asked.

“Me. We got married and we’re a little short.”

I remember this like yesterday–she said, “Mr. Wenzler, you don’t need a loan, you can have a scholarship!”

Sometime in late fall, we thought the bicycle was nice, but that a car would be better.

Mom and Dad's transportation

Mom and Dad’s transportation

One of the architectural students had a 1939 Chevy for sale and we managed to buy that.  So now we had a car when we wanted to go to Milwaukee and would usually take along another one of the architectural students with us.

In the spring of that year, I was in my last academic class which was concrete structures.  It was taught by Professor Morgan who had a great deal of experience in actual concrete design. This was before the age of calculators and computers so all my calculations were done by slide-rule.

I remember one of the lectures that spring when he made an announcement that the physical plant was looking for someone to serve as a field representative on some of the University jobs. He said if anyone was interested, to contact the physical plant.  I sat there and waited a few minutes–I remember I was sitting in sort of the center of the class–then got up and excused myself. I went right over to the physical plant and got the job.They gave me some of their smaller jobs to oversee and I learned quite a bit about overseeing a construction project.

Professor Morgan always finished the end of his semester with a volunteer attendance week in which he would explain what life meant from his perspective. He talked about his belief in the Bible and Jesus Christ using graphs, charts and technical data to support it.

Once I started working halftime, our finances greatly improved. It wasn’t too long before we went to the bank to get a loan to buy a 1948 Fastback Chevy Coop.

2nd car

The Chevy

I was a senior in my last semester when I got a call from Hugo Haeuser’s son, saying his dad had died and they had some jobs in the works–particularly a church in Illinois. So I applied to take the exam in Illinois and flunked two parts. No one at Haueser’s office was registered–they were keeping the firm open waiting for me to get my license and now made the decision to close the firm.

I graduated in January of 1952 and got registered as an architect that same year in Illinois.  Wisconsin wouldn’t give me credit for my experience while I was still in school — it had to be after graduation.  I knew the draft would be after me so our plan was to have a child right away but, well, that didn’t work out either.

So I needed three years of work experience, I didn’t have a job and furthermore, now I was subject to the draft.  I went for my physical and I flunked that too because of my asthma and a heart murmur.  I remember clearly, stopping to get gas for my car. I had a credit card but thought–here I am, no job and not registered, how will I pay this off?  I had been approached by a classmate from Riverside and her husband who asked me to design their house but I really needed a steady job. My Dad knew that the architect Al Siewert was looking for a draftsman to add to his staff. So I got an interview with Siewert. In the process, I told him about the house my classmate wanted me to design. He hired me and said it was okay to go ahead with the design as long as it didn’t interfere with my work. So we stayed afloat.


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