||1923 SUSSEX PARADE
vehicles in this 1923 are the Sussex Fire Chief’s coupe and the new
$2,500 Nash-Pirsch fire truck.
The most notable thing in this classic
Sussex history photo—taken in 1923, probably at the Fourth of July
parade—is the first Sussex fire truck.
1923 Parade Shows Off First
Sussex Fire Truck
by Fred H. Keller, Staff Writer, Sussex Sun,
November 16, 2005
The Ashlar Masonic Lodge,
which had just been completed the previous year, is also a highlight, as is the
then-new concrete-paved Main Street (Highway 74) going west to North Lake and
east to Menomonee Falls.
The photographer, Roy Stier (1902-1983), used a 122-A post
card camera. Roy's great-great- grandmother was Melinda Weaver (1813-1886), the
first woman pioneer of Lisbon, who arrived here in 1837. Roy was also related to
Fire Chief William Smith and to Otto Smith, who are both in the photo.
was a charter member of the Sussex Fire Department and a future fire chief,
village trustee and village president. He was also a charter member in 1939 of
the Sussex Lions Club and later its president.
The parade had assembled in west Sussex, probably at Lisbon Town Hall (today, Sussex Family Practice). It marched east through Sussex's four corners (Maple Avenue and Main Street) to Templeton's four corners (Waukesha and Main), then across the Wisconsin Central Railroad tracks to a picnic in
the woods where Quad/Graphics is today.
The picnic in the Viergutz Woods (also known as the Orgas
Woods and later the Mamerow Woods) included legal bingo, illegal beer and a
10-cents-a-couple dance on a wooden floor laid on the forest floor. The picnic
earned $1,100 that day for the Fire Department.
The department was only one year old at the time. It had been
formed in 1922 after the massive Jan. 30, 1922, fire that destroyed the
nine-year-old Sussex Main Street School. The initial organizational meetings were held May 3 and 9 and the bylaws written.
There was an immediate push to buy a fire truck. Department member John Stier, who owned the Nash automobile franchise at the Sussex
Garage (today Paul Cain's Service Station), sold the department a Nash truck for
It was driven to Pirsch in Kenosha to be outfitted with two
45-gallon steel water tanks, ladders, a siren and other equipment, including a
chemically operated pumping sys
Ten pounds of baking soda and some sulfuric acid were added
to one of the tanks, which would be agitated to create a chemical reaction
inside the sealed tank. Pres
sure would build up to 175 pounds to push the water out of the hose when its
valve was opened. Then the second water tank would be charged the same way. It
was like shaking a bottle of soda and then taking the cap off.
Fully equipped, the first firetruck cost was $2,500. It was
first parked at the Sussex Garage, later at the Universal Garage (Lotter's Car
Care Center today) before the 1937 construction of Sussex Community Hall.
Driving the firetruck in the photo is 15-year-old Joseph
LeVern "Mickey" Clarey (1908-1994). He was not a member of the SFD,
but from the get-go, even though he was only 14 years old, he ran to every fire
call, and when the new fire- truck came in 1923, he was one of the very first to
learn to drive and clutch the Nash truck.
He officially joined the department in 1926 when he turned
18, and remained a member for the next 42 years, the current record for
longevity on the department.
Current Fire Chief Corky Curtis is trying to break that
record. He also joined at age 18 right out of Hamilton High School in 1975. He
has 12 more years to go to tie Clarey when he turns 60. He wants to go a few
years longer even to create a new record that will probably never be broken.
Born in Colgate, Mickey Clarey was a 1925 graduate of the
two-year Sussex High School. He spent all 54 years of his working life at the Mammoth Spring Canning Co.
In 1986 at the Lisbon-Sussex sesquicentennial celebration, he saw to it that his collection of fire department memorabilia and
trinkets were included in the large time capsule buried at Sussex Village Park, which is scheduled to be opened 50 years later in 2036.
Note: The Sussex Fire Department was originally called Lisbon Fire Company No. 1. The name was changed a
couple of times in later years.
©Sussex Sun 2005
Gissal, Keith R. Always of Lannon. July 27, 2006, age 86 years.
Beloved husband of Ramona (Seraphine) and the late June. Loving father
of Terry (Laurie), Thomas and Robert (Karen) Gissal. Dear brother of
Sydney (Jeanette) Gissal. Further survived by 10 grandchildren, 4
great-grandchildren, other relatives and many friends. A Mass of
Christian Burial will be celebrated Sat., July 29 at 11 AM at St. James
Catholic Church, W220 N6588 Town Line Rd., Menomonee Falls. Private
burial Sunnyside Cemetery. Visitation Sat., 9 AM until time of the Mass.
Memorials to St. James Building Fund or VFW Children's Home. Keith was a
veteran of WW II, postmaster of Lannon for 26 years, a member of Lannon
Volunteer Fire Department for 47 years serving as chief for 22 years.
SCHMIDT & BARTELT A.A. Schmidt & Sons Funeral and Cremation Service
Published in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on July 28, 2006
- See more
Tales are told of
firefighters' early banquets
On Jan. 30, 1922, the then-9-year-old Sussex
Main Street School caught fire and was totally
destroyed, with only four brick walls left
standing. In quick order the then-unincorporated
village had a special meeting of the
Sussex-Templeton Advancement Association and the
end result was the formation of the Sussex Fire
There was a crescendo of ideas to raise
money, recruit firefighters and buy equipment.
This endeavor was led by John P. Kraemer. The
preliminary work was capped by a May 2, 1922,
meeting at the Lisbon town hall (today the
reception room of the Sussex Wheaton Franciscan
health care center). This was followed a week
later, on May 9th, when it was finalized and the
fire company was founded.
Each year following there was a stag night
outing for the all-male membership of the
company, a sort of founders birthday party for
the 33-member firefighter company.
For the first 30-plus years the banquet
usually consisted of Oyster soup (into the
1950s), when it was converted into an annual
banquet that the wives were invited to attend.
By the early 1980s women were allowed to become
firefighters in the department.
Now, over the years, things have happened at
these banquets, besides eating, raising a few
beverages and giving out awards.
Recently I was asked to recount some of the
funny points and some of the hijinks that have
occurred at these annual founders parties.
There is a story about the 1940s, when there
was a banquet at the Sussex Community Hall.
Towards midnight a local character, Jack Clarey,
who had relatives in the fire department, was a
gate crasher. He came in with a buzz and the
firefighters catered to his thirst, and Jack
just plain got tired and fell asleep. As the
firefighters left the community hall, they
wondered what to do with snoring Jack. So they
put him on top of a table, and left him
stretched out, sleeping away.
The next morning Rudy Kerstein came to the
village hall and as caretaker he was going to
start cleaning up. He found Jack still asleep,
and roused him to go home.
Now in the 1940s, several of the firefighters
were also on the Sussex Village Board. They had
a village meeting the following Thursday and
made a motion, and sent a letter to Jack Clarey,
charging him for a "night's lodging in the
Then there was the night of a 1960s banquet
when all the firefighters reported to the
banquet fully dressed in the newly issued formal
fireman's uniforms. Well, about 11 p.m. the
Sussex Fire Department was alerted that Pewaukee
had a major house fire that was threatening to
set fire to adjacent homes.
The Sussex firefighters donned their fire
coats, hats and boots over their pressed
uniforms, and away the equipment went to
Pewaukee. Now the Pewaukee firemen noticed that
the Sussex firemen had dress uniforms under
their fire coats and boots, and asked about
The quick answer was, "Well, in Sussex we
always wear our dress uniforms when we report
for duty." Never telling them the real truth.
Then there was the tale of the missing bottle
of booze. For several years in the late 1960s
the founders banquet always had a contingent of
old former retired firefighters who were guests
of the event. Then, on cleaning up the following
morning, the bottles of booze that were consumed
were counted, and each year somehow a bottle of
bourbon was missing, and this happened a couple
of years in a row.
So the following year there was a designated
bar server who watched the inventory closely,
even to the point of removing himself from the
immediate area, but still spying.
There were a few old cronies, including
former Chief George Podolske and former
firefighter and longtime village President
Charles Busse, who hung around the banquet for
food and the awards, and then suddenly left for
a card game at Busse's place with a couple of
other old-timer retired firefighters, and they
helped themselves to a full bottle of booze as
Problem solved … but the decision was made to
let the old-timers have their fun, and they were
not remonstrated against.
And there are more
Then there were the stories about Philip
"Chinny" Stier and Vilas Kraut that would fill
two more columns if told. Year 2014 saw the
annual founders day celebration held again, 92
years later, this time at the Bone Yard banquet
hall, and there will probably be a 93rd next
year, and so on.
Downtown 1966 "Urban Renewal" Fire