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Genealogy: Family Histories

Lannon's Sears and Roebuck House

Tucked just off Main Street in Lannon on the west side of Vine Street is a farmer mail order home. The exact location of this home is 7273 Vine St. It was built in 1937 by Gerhart Struck and his wife, Martha (Schmoller) with a kit that he had shipped to Lannon via the Bug Line Railroad from Sears and Roebuck.

Recently, a daughter, Anita L. Navin of Sun City, Ariz., sent a letter to the Sussex Lisbon-Area Historical Society describing this unique house. After visiting with her on the phone, she said this house was one of 7,000 built from Sears and Roebuck kits and she is afraid that many of the 7,000 have disappeared. Navin hopes the Lannon example remains to tell the story of house-kit construction that dates back to the Depression aftermath.

Today, according to Navin, the owners are Todd Cenkosky and Dawn Kuntzsch. It looks to be in excellent shape. Navin said she remembers her father telling her about the ordering and construction of the home. She said, "It was delivered from Milwaukee by a train that ran through Lannon at that time. My father and his brother, Wally, picked it up at the depot. I think my father paid less than $500 for it. It was a small house, less than 1,000 square feet.

"There was a living room, two bed rooms, single bath and kitchen. All the necessary parts were in the 'kit' including bath fixtures, kitchen sink and cabinets. Electric and plumbing were also included," she explained.

"I believe it was the Kismet model. The parts were all labeled and listed on a detailed diagram. You could verify that this is an authentic Sears and Roebuck home by checking the beams in the basement of the original part of the house. The number coinciding with the diagram is burned into each beam and should be visible. I saw this when Dad pointed it out to me," Navin continued.

She said her Aunt Margie Struck Carlson Coats Davenport of Lincoln, Calif., told her that she remembered the kitchen cabinets were wrong (when shipped). So they were returned and replacements re-shipped.

"My Aunt Delores Evans of Laguna Woods, Calif., remembered that my dad's uncle, Charlie Blodell helped with the carpentry," Navin said.

In the mid-1950s, the house was enlarged with a family room added to the rear of the home with indoor access to the basement. The original house had basement access from a back door hall entry.

Navin can feel the long shadows and her children have heard the story of the 1937 Sears and Roebuck kit home and they have prevailed upon their mother to tell the story of the home. The children did not want the family history to disappear so Navin sent a letter to SLAHS asking for any more information on the home.

Her father was the eighth born of 17 children but because of deaths, he was the third born to survive childhood. His parents were German-born Frank Struck and his wife, Marie. Of the 17 children, 12 matured to adulthood. After Frank had immigrated to the United States, and married he moved to Lannon through a job with the Milwaukee, Menomonee Falls and Western Railroad or Bug Line. In time he had a position as a "watchman" at the Lannon Depot and round house. After many years living and working in Lannon on the railroad, he was laid off at age 54 in 1928. He reverted back to his youth apprenticeship he acquired in Germany as a cobbler.

He already owned the land on Vine Street with the immediate corner lot on Main Street holding his residence and there he ran this business. He sold the rear of this piece of land to his seventh born child, Gerhart, to build his home. The Struck family was huge in Lannon and eventually the family owned three homes in the village.

Today, the Struck family maintains a large presence in nearby Lannon Sunnyside Cemetery. Twenty-five are buried there and likely more under their married names.

The information gleaned from Sunnyside Cemetery shows that Gerhart lived from 1918-1976. His wife, Martha, was born in 1918 and died in 1978 and was not yet 18 on May 30, 1936 when she married Gerhart. A year after they were married they built the kit house on Vine Street.

Frank Struck Lannon railroad man turned cobbler

A recent feature told of Gerhart Struck who in 1937 bought a kit from Sears and Roebuck for about $500 the he used to build a 1,000-square-foot home at 7273 Vine St., Lannon.

This house now 74 years old is becoming a historical keepsake because of the rarity of kit homes. Gerhart as the seventh child of Frank and Mary Struck, German immigrants. Frank found a job as a railroad worker for the Milwaukee, Menomonee Falls and Western Railroad or Bug Line Railroad working out of Lannon. He bought a three-lot parcel of land in Lannon in the old Hadfield plot north of Main and west of Lannon Road. Eventually Frank and his children built homes on these lots including the Sear's kit home.

So who was Frank? The "Farm Journal Illustrated Rural Directory of Waukesha County" for 1923 has this listing: Struck, Frank (Mary) 6 children, shoe repair(man), owner house and lot, (in) Lannon, (with) Menomonee Falls Telephone #40.

Frank Struck according to family members he was born May 10, 1874 (Sunnyside Cemetery records say he was born in 1878). His birth place was near Prummer, Germany. In 1895, at age 21, he immigrated to the U.S. In time he established himself as a railroad watchman at the Lannon Depot and nearby round house.

At age, 26, he married Mary Blodell on April 8, 1901. She was born in Dodgesheim, Germany. Her father died when she was around 5 years old. Her mother, with four small children, including Mary, came to the United States in 1887. Mary's mother soon remarried Walter Harbold and they had a son, Harold Jr. Mrs. Elizabeth Blodell Harbold in her old age came to Lannon to live out her days and died on July 9, 1936, but no stone marks her grave at Sunnyside Cemetery.

Meanwhile Mary Struck's family carried the story that when she came across the ocean at age 5, that she almost fell off the ship but was snatched to safety in the nick of time.

Frank and Mary's marriage lasted 61 years and produced 17 children; 12 survived to adulthood. Included in the 12 living were a set of boy-girl twins ad among the dead was also a set of twin boys.

While Frank was a railroad watchman, the 17th child was born, a boy, Frank Jr. born May 15, 1926 when Frank Sr. was 55 years old and Mary was 46. The Bug Line was a promising railroad but by 1928 better highways and trucks had softened the need for this railroad through Lannon and in an economy plan, Frank was laid off. He decided to make his small shoe repair business into a full time job to support his family. He learned this business as an apprentice in Berlin, Germany. If you knew Struck, he looked like you would imagine a shoe repairman to look. He was of medium build with a mustache and twinkle in his spectacled eyes. He had a slight limp from infantile paralysis. To top it off he was always smoking a pipe.

The family, to make ends meet, also had a gasoline pump out front, but that business disappeared when a gasoline tank blew up (according to a daughter's story). Mary had a little ice cream parlor in the Main Street home front room usually running it only during the summer.

In 1982 former Lannon post master, village trustee and longtime fire chief Keith Gissal was asked about Struck's ability to repair shoes.

Gissal said, "When I was a boy I would bring shoes to be repaired by Mr. Struck. It was cheap, $1.50 for shoe soles and a new heel. Sometimes it was even cheaper than that.

"The soles were glued on and then nailed on rather than being sewed on.."

Gissal also remembered getting ice cream treats at Mary Struck's parlor.

The diminutive Frank Struck was an ageless Lannon character, but he finally died at age 87 on Jan. 12, 1962. Mary died at age 80 a year and a half later on Aug. 27, 1963. Both are buried at Sunnyside Cemetery where today there are no less than 25 Strucks buried there.

Struck family lives on

The two most recent Retrospect columns had stories about the Frank and Mary Struck family of the 1900 to 1960s era, and their homes in Lannon off Vine Street.

Today only three of the 12 children (out of 17 children and 15 pregnancies with two sets of twins) that lived to adulthood are still alive. Meanwhile, there is a significant number of graves at the nearby Sunnyside Cemetery for the extended Struck family. I gathered so much information while researching the family and was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of 85-year-old Dorothy Druecke who lives in retirement in Menomonee Falls.

Just to review, Frank Struck was born on May 10, 1874, in Dodgesheim, Germany. He immigrated from Prummer, Germany with his extended family and friend to the U.S. in 1895. He quickly came to the Lannon/Menomonee Falls area and got a job on the Lannon section of the then new Bug Line Railroad. He would work until age 54 in 1928 for the Bug Line as a watchman only to be laid off. He then reverted to his German apprenticeship as a shoe cobbler-repairman, and had an assortment of other money making side jobs in addition to his wife having a front porch three-season ice cream parlor at the Vine-Main Street home (today 7373 Main St.).

On April 8, 1901 in Menomonee Falls (also possibly at old St. John's Lutheran Church of Lannon) Frank married a German immigrant girl named Mary Blodell. He was nearly 27 years old and she was born in 1882 making her about 19 years old.

According to Dorothy Druecke this was the order of birth: In 1902 Arthur was born, then a set of unnamed twin boys were born and died immediately; the fourth born was Franz who died at the age of 6 months; the fifth born was Irene on Oct. 30, 1907; the sixth was Marie in 1909, but she died at the age of 7 from pneumonia-diphtheria; Gerhart was child number seven, born in May 1912. (In 1937 he bought a Sears Roebuck kit house for $500 and built it on the back lot of her father's place where it stands today at 7273 Vine St., Lannon); Walter was child number eight, born on Dec. 17, 1914; the ninth child was Carl who was born in January 1916 and died on in Oct. 1918; the 10th child was Frances, born in 1918; the 11th was Esther born on July 27, 1919; Violet was number 12, who while lived to be an adult but died at age 38 (1960); number 13 was Margaret born in April 23, 1924; numbers 14 and 15 were a set of twins, Kurt and Dorothy born Feb. 5, 1926; number 16 was Delores born July 10, 1927; the last one was Frank Jr. born on May 15, 1929 - he arrived when Frank Sr. was 55 and his wife Mary was 46 years old.

The children of Frank and Mary attended Lannon Grade School and 11 of the 12 future adults attended Lannon's two-year high school which started in 1920. Many would go on to Menomonee Falls High School. The family church was across Main Street in Lannon, the wooden first St. John's Lutheran of Lannon.

Of the 12 who became adults, only three daughters are still alive today; Margaret, Dorothy and Dolores are all in their mid-80s. Dorothy, 85, remembers her father as a non-drinker, but mentioned that "after an election he would get a beer." She never remembers her mother voting, even after she got the right to in 1920 by the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She was 38 at the time.

Lannon had two general stores and a cubby hole store. The Struck family did their grocery shopping at the Flanagan Store on Lannon Road, just north of Main Street (Betty Ann's today). They bought their meats at the adjacent Walter's Meat Market. Dorothy remembers family folklore that prior to her birth in 1926, her mother had a cow in the livery stable, giving the milk to her children, but carefully saving the cream to sell to a local creamery for butter making. She also remembers the family having a Ford Model-T car.

Frank and Mary were married for 61 years. Frank died on Jan. 12, 1962, at the age of 87. Mary followed 19 months later at the age of 80.

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