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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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This article was contributed by Kay R.

Sheboygan Press - April 17, 1916

{There is a photo of Carl I. Henrickson}

Recollections Of Boyhood Days In Sheboygan In The Latter Seventies

This well written story will be read with a great deal of interest for it is from the pen of Carl I. HENRICKSON, who lived on the South Side and moved away some years ago - In his new field he has acquired fame, for he is a writer of stories that have found their way into "Everybody's" and other Popular magazines. The editor of the Press asked him to write of the days spent in Sheboygan and he had contributed the following interesting article. - Editor's Note.

My recollections of my life in Sheboygan are confined to that hazy and somewhat romantic period which one can best describe as Primary and First reader days, for I was in the first reader when my parents moved away to Milwaukee.

Sheboygan at that time may have been a fairly large town, but to me it consisted of about three city squares, a lake, and lots of mud. I lived on Kentucky avenue two doors east of what was then Griffith street - now South Eighth street, I believe. There was a little schoolhouse right across the street on the corner of the block. It had a cute little cupola with a bell in it, and I remember how it tempted the marksmanship of the big boys of the school and what a feat it was considered to hit the bell with a stone picked up from the gravel with which the schoolyard was covered, and catch the melodious "ping" which the bell gave out. The difficulty in doing this was not so much one of marksmanship as diplomacy, for to be caught in the nefarious work meant everlasting disgrace. I can still remember the solemn session which followed the tattled report that one of the ROLLINS boys had stoned the bell. It was a fearful offense. We sat pale and spellbound while teacher cross-examined him. He was found guilty and was convicted, and as far as I know, may still be pining away in the states prison at Waupun.

Miss Tillie OLSON (Now Mrs. OVERN of Albert Lea, Minn.,) was teacher of the primary room and Miss Mc CLEMENTS had the "big" room. I still have the Reward of Merit which Miss MC CLEMENTS gave me for not being tardy, for a whole term. {You see I lived across the street.}

If there was a sewerage system on the south side in those days it was a very poor one, judging from what happened after a rainstorm. There were ditches along either side of the street and these would fill up and run over, resulting in a series of lakes, and canals which were the delight of small boys but downright nuisances to the mother who had to keep their children clean and dry. The planks at the street crossings would wash away and become lawful prey of adventure-seeking boys. A twelve-inch plank, an empty nail-keg bottom side up in the middle of it, a small barefooted boy on the plank with a long stick to guide and poke his way along, and I want to tell you that the Venetian days on the Grand Canals of the south side of Sheboygan, will linger long after other memories have been forgotten.

I was one of the first to fall in the small pox epidemic that struck Sheboygan in the latter seventies. Mother had "coffee" with a friend one afternoon, and of course she took me along, This friend had been ill for a week or more and her face was broken out with a rash. If it got any worse she thought she would call a doctor. The ladies busied themselves with their knitting and gossip and the coffee, but as I had nothing special to do, I did the easiest thing in the world and caught the small pox from the hostess. After the party she went right to bed, and I got sick a week afterwards. Dr. SQUIRES was our physician and I can remember how he prevented me from becoming pockmarked. The process was simple. At the psychological time he opened a jar or (sic) white lead, lifted me up on his lap, and with a table knife, smeared and spread the stuff over my face, where it remained for days. I have never heard of another case of such treatment, but whether or not it is still in vogue, I can vouch for its success as Dr. SQUIRES practiced it. During my illness the whole family was quarantined and our neighbor next door took upon himself the duties of Board of Health, for he nailed a board to our gate post on which he had painted "Smell-box hear. Kep out." As our gate was also nailed shut, those who failed to grasp the import of the sign were convinced that there was something wrong inside and let us alone. Did I hear anyone ask it I recovered? Yes, I did.

One of the big events of those days was to go with father and mother up town to the public square on a Sunday morning or a holiday. We sat around on the iron benches and watched the "fine folks" go by. And to watch the fountain play was a pleasure that gave real zest to life. Living on the south side in those days had its penalties (it may all be changed now) but as all the "big bugs" lived up-town we felt we were treading on sacred soil after we climbed Eighth street hill and crossed Pennsylvania avenue.

There was a wonderful bandstand in the north end of the square and on certain occasions a brass band used to entertain the gaping crowds that gathered about it. If I could have played in that band I would have died happy. Father frequently told me the story of what happened in this park one Fourth of July shortly after the war, when a cannon exploded and killed and maimed several people.

After a pilgrimage to the Public Square we would go to WAGNER's not far away and have a dish of ice cream and lady fingers. On our way home we would probably visit some vessel at the dock where father knew the captain or the mate, and frequently we would go down to the Life Saving Station, which was very wonderful with its coils of rope and boats and brass trimmings and the oil skin coats and rubber boots that hung from hooks on the walls. And they told me that the best life-saver of them all was a Norwegian sailor who could not swim.

One day a man came to the house and asked if he could saw our wood. Father used to saw his own wood, but this old fellow put up such a good story that mother pleaded for him and convinced father it would be a Christian act to let the old man do the work. The next day while watching him at work at the saw-buck and admiring the effectiveness of his stroke, he rested back on the log for a moment and told me he had once been a wealthy man, but lost all he had in the Peshtigo fire, wife, children and property. He showed me burns on his arms and neck. He said he saved his own life by wading out into the river and ducking his head occasionally to keep the flames from scorching him, and in that he had only been partially successful. He was working his way to some town in Illinois where he hoped to find relatives.

I remember a fearful snowstorm. It snowed for several days and nights. The snow was so deep that even the fences disappeared. Skis and snowshoes became very popular. Without them communication or shopping were impossible. Father made me a pair of skis, and with the aid of a long stick I explored the mysteries of the new arctic regions into which we found ourselves transplanted. While the snowstorm was at its height, my little baby sister died. Few of mother's friends could reach her to comfort her, and the funeral train consisted of a hand-sled with father and my uncle pulling it and a friend or two following behind all on skis.

One of the big adventures of those days was to walk down the road on the south and west side of the river, passing MATTOON's chair factory, MESSINGER's boarding house and ZSCHETZSCHE's tannery, winding up at the Shanghai Bridge. There was lots to see and talk about all the way along, but most interesting was a house built of discarded vessel cabins and an abandoned box car and occupied by a hermit, an ex-missionary. He was called the "Tre-double PRESTEN," which meant the Triple-ordained minister, I guess. While doing service as a missionary in the South Sea Islands he had escaped being eaten by cannibals on numerous occasions, and he was said to lead a charmed life. I once got a look at him at close range, and as I remember him, I don't see how even a cannibal could have contemplated him as a morsel of food with any relish. Eventually he died and his house crumbled away and fell into the river.

Political torch-light processions were common in those days, and I remember what a lot of fun I had with a cape, a soldier cap and a torch that father kept on hand for political purposes. The best place to stand to see the processions go by was on a barrel in front of EDKING's saloon on the southwest corner of Griffith street and Indiana avenue. The big event was to find father in the parade, but illumination was usually so "punk" that it was difficult to recognize even your own folks as they went by.

I have in recent years roamed over the territory that constitutes my whole world at one time, and O what a change has come over it all. The little house on Kentucky avenue, is still there with its peculiar curved window frames and half-round windows in the gable end. But it is no longer a cottage; it has been raised up with a new story under it, and seems quite indifferent to the many memories that hover round it.

Still less romantic now is the house where I was born, a store building just south of the alley on the west side of the street between Kentucky and Indiana avenues. The building is now occupied by Greeks, and just as an excuse to have the sensation of standing in my old birthplace, I recently stepped into the shop to buy some trifle. After I made my purchase I told the lady who waited on me (in confidence of course) that I was born in an upper room of the building. She seemed neither startled nor interested. From the looks of the brood of "kids" that hovered in, near, and around the place, being born in that building is no longer an important or unusual event. I evidently "had nothing" on her and she made no attempt to conceal the fact.

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