History Index: Government
Sussex Community Hall
Community Hall was Depression-era project
H. Keller, Living Sussex Sun, Retrospect, Oct. 14 - Nov 4, 2015
by Michael R. Reilly, November 12, 2015, last updated
Two 1979 survey pictures of
the Sussex Community Hall taken by the Wisconsin State Historical Society
Editor's note: I've taken six of Fred H. Keller's articles about the Sussex
Community Hall, four of them from the above series, added other material, and condensed them into the
feature about the Sussex Community Hall, built in 1937 during the Great
Depression, on the triangle of Silver Spring Drive and Main Street in downtown
Sussex, concerns the impending destruction of the 78-year-old building. It was
the Sussex Village Hall, fire department garage and the Main Street School's gym
and stage structure, and is today the Sussex Food Pantry and Sussex Youth Club.
listing of reasons for the demolition includes the cost to make it ADA
compliant, overdue maintenance problems, lack of parking space and the quest by
the village to have Silver Spring Drive enter Main Street at a right angle.
Because of the acute angle
of Silver Spring Drive on arrival at Main St. in Sussex, the powers to be
decreed that traffic could not make a left turn (which was sort of a U turn).
With the change of Silver Spring Drive going thru the space now occupied by the
78-year-old Sussex Community Hall, one will arrive at a "T" in the intersection,
thus being able to go east-west. This also means that there will be a big road
bend in the former Golner farm—that is west of the existing Sussex Post Office.
Sussex was incorporated as a village in 1924, and separated away from the town
of Lisbon, there was an immediate stir to find a space to hold village board
meetings. Meanwhile the Sussex Main Street School's Two-Year High School
(1920-47) needed a gym and an auditorium. The Sussex Fire Department, started in
1922, needed a fire station (garage) to accommodate their growing equipment
storage needs, and the high building would have the community fire/disaster
siren on it, and furnish a meeting hall for fire department's meetings and
solved by using the Lees General Store loft room. It was a wooden building
constructed by Joe Marsden that became the center of the community in 1890.
many businesses, but it was anchored by the biggest general store building in
downtown Sussex. The spacious second-story loft had many uses for the community
as a dance hall, auditorium, basketball court and other uses.
Sussex community and village board agitated for a proper meeting hall of their
own, a dream that never seemed to occur, and then it all fell together as the
Depression pushed the government to find ways out of it.
Courier Ad, October 1933.
had been angling for several years to have a community building when finally the
Public Works Administration or PWA in Washington announced a $11,046 grant and a
Above - Milwaukee
Journal articles announcing the grant and loan that was given to The Village
of Sussex to build a community building from the Washington D.C. Public Works
Administration in 1936.
It was a
momentous year in 1937 for the village of Sussex as it got its first village
hall, high school gymnasium, fire department station, community building, dance
hall, auditorium and stage for plays and events, and a great place to hold
the result of the United States government trying to dig out of the Great
Depression, which started in 1929. The government approved "make work for public
good" projects to give employment to out-of-work men. The specs for construction
clearly state that 90 percent of the workers in the construction must have been
out of work for a period of time prior to construction.
Top and bottom, Resolution paper and
promissory note for payment to the Farmers & Merchants Bank from the
Village of Sussex, July 1, 1938 due on March 15, 1939 for $1,000.
did Sussex get? A two-story community hall, built with concrete, local Lannon
stone and for reportedly the first time in the state of Wisconsin, wooden,
laminated, vaulted beams to hold up the high ceiling.
Sussex Village Board, headed up by local meat market proprietor Charles Busse,
along with members John Kraemer, Carl Marx, Claude "Butch" Kaderabeck, Roy
"Stub" Stier, Herb Beier and John Lenck, was successful in getting a federal
grant of $11,046 and a loan of $13,500. The total cost was roughly $27,000,
$14,000 of which came from Sussex and $13,000 from a PWA-WPA grant (Public Works
Administration-Works Progress Administration). Sussex had Busse and the
long-serving Village Clerk Milo Hardiman sign 14 $1,000 bonds, earning 3-percent
issued 14 total $1,000 community hall bonds. They were backed up by the $439,318
of the assessed valuation of all the taxable property in the village of Sussex.
"It's ironic at that time, taxable property in the village was assessed
at $439,319. Today, recent estimates for just renovating the historic hall run
about $400,000," Fred said.
the paid-up bonds, issued on April Fool's Day, April 1, 1937, are in the
possession of the Sussex Lisbon Area Historical Society Museum. They are
10-by-14 inches on parchment paper with all sorts of orange-colored art stating
the value of $1,000 each, 1 to 14, with the signatures of Sussex Village
President Charles Busse and Village Clerk Milo Hardiman. The interest rate was 3
percent. Before World War II they
had redeemed these bonds. The bonds were due on the same
day -- April 1, 1940 [9 years ahead of scheduled due date]. Today the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society has these
bonds; beautiful filigree bonds, with orange color on bond parchment, 9 by 15
inches, signed by "C.A. Busse" and "M.W. Hardiman". It showed that the taxable
property of Sussex is $439,318.00 (2 houses today).
Photos-- Top, $1,000 Village of Sussex Community Hall Bond that is
dated April 1, 1937 and was due on April 1, 1949.
Bottom, front & back of envelope the bond was
was a slur for the WPA, "We Poke Along." However, the presidency of Franklin D.
Roosevelt from 1932 through World War II saw thousands of such make-work
I was a
"Depression baby" and my father lost his job and worked for the WPA, helping
build a dam on the Fox River in Waterford. It helped tide over our family, with
three children at the time, until he got a family-supporting job in Elm Grove.
question is, how do you build this public building that was two-faced, with an
address on Main Street and a rear address on Silver Spring Drive? The modern-day
grid system address of the Sussex Community Hall is N63 W23626 Silver Spring
Drive, while the Main Street address is N63 W23625 Main St. Today,
the Silver Spring entrance is used by the Sussex area food pantry, while the
Main Street entrance is used by the Sussex Youth center and assorted other
were let in March of 1937 with a stipulation that the center must be completed
in 94 days.
resident John Motz was hired as the building inspector watchdog as there was a
groundbreaking April 15, 1937, and at that time, Sussex as a village was 13
years old and there was an estimated population of 496 residents.
THE FIRST SHOVEL- On April 15, 1937 the
symbolic first shovel was sunk for the new Sussex Community Hall. Identified
left to right; John Motz-building inspector, Charles Busse-village president,
John Lenck, Carl Marx-village board member, a bookkeeper from Milwaukee, an
“Italian” and Walschlager, the last three being WPA workers.
Wileden dug the foundation and basement, plus the 40,000-gallon cistern, with
his tracked steam shovel. In the end, there was also the add-on that below
the building would be a 40,000-gallon cistern as one of several water sources
that were being engineered in the community.
There was a drafting pipe out on Main St.
where a pumper could pull up to be filled, and water would then be hauled to the
fire scene (there were two other cisterns in the Village also). C. H. Kaderabeck
was the fire chief, and he was also on the Village Board. Herb Beier was also a
trustee and a fire fighter. Previously, water had to be pumped from a flooded
quarry a mile away.
When the hall was built, it had a siren
on top, which was used to alert people
"Years ago, it was also used for a
curfew warning at 10 p.m. for kids,"
recalled Keller . "Now
the siren is used as a tornado warning."
Built 60 years ago of concrete blocks
inside and Lannon stone outside, the
Community Hall was shaped by workers
whose wages ranged from 35 cents to 70
cents an hour.
could you build in the Great Depression of 1929-40? One must look at the wage
requirements in the handbook of construction, once owned by John Motz, that
is today part of the collection-research library of the Sussex-Lisbon Area
Historical Society museum.
Now the WPA (Works Progress Administration)
came in to do the construction. There was a directive to hire out of work men,
and those accepting public assistance. Now the wages: the water boy got 35˘ per
hour, as did the watchman. In the 40˘ group were the concrete laborer and
Now the 45˘ per hour group included Teamster:
1 ˝ ton or concrete mixer operator, glazier helpers, handy man, hood carrier,
plaster tender, scaffold builder and tractor operator.
Next up were the 50˘ group: electrician
helper, concrete man, mason tender, plumber helper, sheet metal worker and big
The 60˘ men were: the carpenter, brick layer
concrete finishing, electrician, glazier, gutter installer, painter, plasterer,
plumber, sheet metal worker and the stone mason. Oh, yes, the rod and
re-enforcing worker was also paid 60˘ per hour. Now the foreman earned 60-70˘
The contractor had to post the wages paid in
conspicuous points on the site of the project. There were also directives on
payment to workers in cash, at least once a week.
it went, quickly, on a site that was formerly a sawmill business.
Top left photo,
Bob Brown at controls April, 1937.
Top right photo,
Digging the basement of Sussex Community Hall, April 1937. Men standing
top to bottom; George Wileden, Ollie Kazser and Roy Stier.
Bottom left photo, the
daughter of the building inspector, John Motz, Eleanor Motz stands on
the delivered Lannon Stone for the new Community Hall during the summer
photo, Building the Sussex Community Hall. A $27,000 all-purpose
structure was started and completed in 1937. This photo was taken from
Silver Spring Dr. Clearly seen are the fire department’s two garage
doors and the laminated wood trusses for the roof. A 40,000 gallon water
cistern was dug and placed under the building for fire fighting.
Photos-- top and bottom;
The Sussex 2 year high school newspaper the “Courier” was printed and
distributed October 26, 1937. It shows a student Dave John’s cartoons inviting
Sussex residents and others to the grand opening set for the following day,
October 27, 1937. Over 400 attended.
Sussex Community Hall was completed, a grand opening was held on Oct. 27, 1937
with Sussex Village President Charles Busse speaking and John Motz, the project
lead being recognized for construction of the building made of Lannon stone,
concrete and wooden laminated beams that were in the building's gymnasium.
Raymond Washburn presented a speech for the
PWA. William Zillmer, the longest serving ever Town of Lisbon Chairman spoke for
his board, and area church pastors.
Father M.J. Stier of St. James Catholic
Church and Reverend W.D. Millen of Lisbon Presbyterian Church led the devotions.
was to be used by the village board for public meetings, voting and whatever, with the
other most important use as the first village-owned *Sussex Fire Department
equipment storage garage and meeting/training facility.
More than 400 people -- most of the community of
496 residents -- went through the Sussex
Village and Community Hall during its
grand opening, six months after
construction had started. The Menomonee
Falls Legion Band provided music for the
Today, Sussex has a
population of about 7,500.
DEDICATION DAY--The population
of Sussex in 1937 was 496 souls, 400 attended the dedication ceremony on
Oct. 27, 1937. For the occasion a banner was draped across the front of
the building, and a podium set up for the dignitaries.
Steve Haasch Nov. 22, 2009: "There is an earlier anniversary booklet (50th
anniversary) that has the picture of the fire house at the Sussex Community Hall
on the front cover. The doors were where the windows of the Outreach center
(Sussex Food Pantry) are today. Behind the garage area was a meeting room inside
the building. I will try to find the picture. I still remember that firehouse.
The first ‘Ambulance’ was called ‘The Rescue Truck” #454 and was actually an old
police paddy wagon. It was later replaced with a larger International panel van
when the firehouse moved to the new location. The radio system was part of the
Waukesha County system, Sussex having number from 450 to 469. Their call sign
Sussex Community Hall, built in 1937, really hit its prime in the 1940s as the
center of the world for Sussex.
was used for many wedding receptions, fire department and Sussex Lions Club
dances as fundraisers, and the location of boys and girls basketball games for
the Sussex Two-Year High School.
1938-46, the gymnasium was used for an early September flower show.
from locally grown gardens and arrangements of wild flowers were shown and
judged. The flower show competition, an all-school event for first through 10th
grades, was put on by the Sussex Main Street School staff, who sponsored the
event for a community project.
every bouquet brought in by the children was a set of proud parents, planting,
pruning and arranging the flowers.
were many different categories: living and dining room bouquets, shadow boxes,
winter bouquet and even single outstanding specimens.
dahlias and gladiolus were the stars of the shows.
of Mammoth Springs Canning Company executive Harry Yuds, who lived on Silver
Spring Drive, and Harry Rogers, the village banker, were the judges.
and recognition were the rewards and the competition was keen.
with John Kramer, Principal Winston Brown founded the Sussex Lions Club in April
1939. There was a charter meeting April 18 at the Brook Hotel (where the Sussex
clock tower is today). After the charter meeting, the group and their wives
adjourned the meeting to walk a long block east to the Sussex Community Hall for
a dance and party. There were 20 original members. Today, with the Lions,
Lioness and younger Leos, there are well more than 200 members.
came, the Sussex Lions Club was looking around for a fundraiser. On Jan. 19 and
20, they gave an uproarious minstrel show on the stage at one end of the gym at
the community hall. From all reports, as written up in the school newspaper, The
Courier, it was "an amazing spectacle, and when we say amazing, we mean
program consisted of jokes, dances, female impersonations, skits, etc. And it
was all for the price of admission of 15 and 25 cents to the general public.
the fun, the spectators were "frisked" at the door, as only one rotten egg to a
person was allowed, but there were no restrictions on tomatoes, according to the
ticket stubs and posters.
The Sussex Lions Club, the
Sussex VFW, and the fire department made use of the community hall for their
dances, once a staple for fund-raisers, and the upstairs hall was used for
Sussex Main Street School
used the gym from 1937 until 1960 when the Maple avenue School was constructed
with a gym. The upper grades attended Maple Avenue and the lower grades stayed
at the main Street-Orchard Drive School.
In addition to be used for
sports, the gym had a stage at the north end for school plays and commencements.
Graduations were held in the main hall from 1939 to 1960. [Editor's note -
Fred's original article stated from 1938-1960. But the 1937-38 graduating class
had to find an alternate location. See next insert.]
Courier, May 28, 1938
The Hall and the School [Hall being the Sussex Community Hall, School is Sussex Main St. School.]
"This is why the play was in the school instead of the hall:
We planned from the first to give our play on May 20 [see the last Courier]; but about two weeks from this date we learned from the hall committee that May 20 was taken.
Now we could not learn our play any sooner, for we learned it in record time as it was. We could not give the play later because of Final Examinations. And we "absolutely" could not have the hall on the 20th! So there was but one thing to do: give the play in the school.
Of course, from the start there were some of the sophomores that thought the hall rent was too high. The village rate to the school has been $8 for the Lyceum numbers and one-half the gate receipts for basketball. Thus, the school children used the hall 9 times and paid the village $46.44.
We went in the hole in basketball; but the play and the puppet show [in the school] have helped us balance our budget.
As for next year, the picture looks dark. There is a question as to whether we will be able to afford to use the hall at all."
The sophomore graduation play and commencement
exercises were subsequently held in an upper room at the Main Street School.
L. Cook card - Community Hall in Sussex
Thousands of basketball games, dances, dinners, weddings, meetings and other
myriad community happenings occurred in this structure along with serving as a
local teen hangout. The photo accompanying this
feature is from a taffy pull event staged by Alma Spiegle. All the
people in the photo are now in their 70s or have died. Immediately behind Alma
Spiegle is the lanky Richard "Red" Frantl. He spent four years in the U.S. Air
Force in the late-1950s and now lives in Menomonee Falls at age 77.
resident Al Frantl (who is not in this photo, but remembers teen gatherings
here) said you would enter the building from Main Street, head down the steps
and pass a men's restroom where a 5 cent coke machine stood. He said he also
remembers the bathroom was used by the "Waukesha boys" who would come to the
teen dances and put their beer bottles in the cold water on the top of the
toilet tanks so it would be hidden and remain cool at the same time.
Source: Taffy pull photo surfaces from 1952 community center event
by Fred H. Keller, Posted: Living Sussex Sun, June 21, 2011 Three years
ago, I received a black-and-white photo in the mail from Linda (nee Speigle)
Otzelberger of Hartland. The photo was of 10 people at the Sussex Community Hall
during a teen event in January of 1952.
The Sussex Fire Department housed its equipment
and held its meetings and training sessions in the hall from 1937 to 1963 when
it moved out to a new fire house west of the village.
The Sussex Public works took over the former fire
station basement from 1963 to the 1970s when its garage was built on Clover
Drive next to the Waste Water Treatment Plant.
The village used the hall as its meeting place
from 1937 to 1973. Then, in 1976-'77, the garage area and
adjacent lower area were remodeled into
the first Village Hall. It was the
Village Hall until 1990, when the Main
Street School became the Sussex
The use of the gym floor for basketball and
volleyball was encouraged for youth groups and adult pickup games until 1977
when the new village meeting rooms were constructed downstairs. After that the
games interfered with the growing use of the hall by the expanding village
The Sussex Teen Center took over the gym upstairs
in 1989, and has had it since as an off and on situation.
With the village office moving to the new village
hall in the remodeled Main Street School , the 121st Field Artillery of the
Wisconsin National Guard rented the old building until the new Sussex Armory was
completed on South Maple Avenue. the Guard shared the hall upstairs with the
Teen Club at times. With the Guard leaving in early 1994, the main and sole use
has been for the Teen Club.
About some of the dances held:
This 1994 summer photo of
the Sussex Community Hall was taken before the historical sign from 1969 was
reworded and placed on the north wall of the structure. The trees were removed
shortly afterward. The fire hydrant is a replacement for the original 1937 draft
Old Hall To Face Wrecking Balls?, Sussex
Sun, July 18, 1995
Village of Sussex: Demolition is one of the
options being considered by the Village of Sussex as it tries to decide the
future of the old Sussex Village Hall.
At a meeting of the Public Safety and Welfare
committee July 11, village president John Tews said the building must be
re-roofed, and that it needs new windows, heating system, [elevators] and restrooms. It must
also be brought into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act
requirements for access for the handicapped, and has no space for parking.
Tews said it would be an expensive undertaking
that would have to be finished before the building could be rented for office
"We might put out bids for demolition and see who
is interested in it," Tews said.
The structure once housed the national Guard and
is currently home to the Sussex Teen Center.
It costs the village $18,000 a year to keep it in
heat, electricity, and gas and to service the heating plant, without any money
spent on repairs.
"That is a significant amount of money," Tews
Tews said he had talked with organizers of the
Teen Center last summer about their options, and suggested at that time they
look ahead for ideas for a new home.
"Having the Teen Center as the only use of the
building doesn't make good use of the facilities," he said.
There had been a proposal by Fire Chief Tom
Schlei to turn the building into a museum which would feature an antique fire
truck and feed mill equipment along with exhibits from the collection of Sussex
historian Fred Keller.
It has also been proposed that the Sussex Food
Pantry move into the vacant portion of the building.
Sussex village officials toured the old Sussex
Community Hall Friday to check its condition and repairs needed.
[Editor Note: Above article truncated,
eliminating redundant material.]
About a year ago , Judy Casper, director
of ministries for the Cooperating
Churches of Sussex ,
proposed the hall be renovated and
brought into compliance with the
Americans with Disabilities Act.
The renovations, which were estimated to
cost at least $400,000 over a 10-year
period, failed to win approval of the
Public Safety and Welfare Committee of
However, Fred said in 1997, he
expects the improvements to be done
"piecemeal," possibly over a five-year
period. Already, he said, St. James
Church in Sussex has
received a $30,000 grant to be used to
improve the food pantry itself and make
it accessible to people with
"Almost new air conditioner", Sussex Sun,
September 17, 1996: Mohrhesen and Associates remove "fairly new boilers" from
the old Orchard Drive School to be installed at the Sussex Community Hall.
[Editor note: were the air conditioners moved there as well?]
Snapshots of Sussex of
yore", Sussex Sun, March 18, 1997: Sussex World War II soldiers memorial
was put up in 1946. It was moved to the front of the new Sussex Village Hall
[Main Street School] in June 1990. Ironically, Wilmer Marx put it up in 1946
[and is on the marker as a World War II local soldier] and supervised its
takedown and rebuilding at its new location.
Board agrees to continue
upgrade of Sussex Teen Center
New ceiling, windows will hold down heating cost, provide better
by Betsy Thatcher of the Journal Sentinel Staff, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
Aug 30, 1999
Sussex - the village has agreed to spend more than $50,000 to continue
renovations at the Sussex Teen Center, which is housed in one of the community's
The spending plan is part of an ongoing refurbishing of the building at
N63-W23626 Silver spring Drive, which originally was the Sussex Community Hall
when it was built in 1937 by the village and the Works Progress Administration.
The Lannon stone building often is referred to as Old Village Hall.
The Teen Center, which existed since 1978, occupies the upper floor of the
building. The Sussex food Pantry is in the lower level.
The $51,054 in village funds will be used to replace ceiling in the Teen Center
"It's a large and old building, and we have tremendous heat loss," said Village
Trustee Allen Olmstead, a member of the Teen center Board.
The new ceiling will add insulation and also cut down on some of the noise in
the gym, he said.
In addition, the funds will be used to replace all of the windows in the
building, including those in the lower level, he said.
New doors will be installed on the front, or Main St. side, of the building, and
access to the Teen Center will be changed from the rear to the front, Olmstead
Olmstead and other volunteers did landscaping outside the center last fall.
Other improvements already have been made in the Teen Center, including the
creation of a lounge area and the refurbishing of the wooden gym floor and the
The center offers basketball and volleyball games, computers, video games and
the lounge. There are also periodic outings to sporting events.
Attendance at the Teen Center dropped off years ago when it got the reputation
as a place where drug and gang activity was taking place, Olmstead said.
"Quite honestly, I think they were just rumors" at the time, Olmstead said, but
it did stigmatize the center.
After the center took up residence at its current location around 1990,
attendance picked up and peaked with hundreds of youths using the center each
The attendance is still healthy, but Olmstead said the center continues to
suffer from "a bad reputation."
Besides battling the old rumors, the center sometimes is regarded by area
youngsters as a place for geeks," he said.
"I am looking to change that [reputation]," Olmstead said. "I am looking for
Once young people try out the center, they realize it's a place to "have a
blast," he said.
An event earlier this year that featured an Easter bunny for smaller children
was a big success, he said. Events like that are important because they make
families aware of the center and the activities available there, he said.
"We're looking for kids in the 10 to 15 age bracket," Olmstead said. "Once they
get to high school, we get a falloff [in attendance] because they are driving
and going other places."
The center has revived a teen leaders concept under which a group of youngsters
organizes social functions and fund-raisers.
The center is staffed by two adults who work at the center through the YMCA.
Appropriate behavior at the center is strictly enforced, Olmstead said.
"This is not a place to go and run free for four hours," he said.
Here are some stories
about the Community Hall.
There is an old
Sussex Fire Department joke/story about one of their
annual founders' parties, probably sometime in
February or March in the 1940s.
It was a
commemoration of the founding of the Sussex Fire
Department because of the great Sussex Main Street
School fire Jan. 30, 1922, that resulted in the
Templeton Business Association starting a fire
department. It was then called the Lisbon Volunteer
Fire Company and changed to the Sussex Volunteer
Fire Company in the early 1930s.
Well it seems that
Jack Clarey, a resident bona fide village character,
was walking by the Community Hall late one night and
all the lights were on. He could hear the Sussex
Fire Company having a party inside and he decided to
pay a visit to his friends and neighbors.
The volunteer fire
fighters welcomed him in and gave him some "fire
water," and then some more, and then some more.
Meanwhile, it was apparent that Jack Clarey had
something of a head start prior to stopping into
this party and he had a reputation to uphold.
fire water made him tired and laid down to catch a
snooze. Initially, the partying firemen ignored Jack
but it became time to end the party, go home and
come back sometime Sunday morning to clean up the
Well, they found
old Jack still sleeping on a table, snoring up a
storm, according to the old story.
So, they were able
to wake him up and sent him home to his Maple Avenue
abode, and that should be the end of this story but
Tuesday night was the regular Sussex Village Board
meeting and, at that time, several Sussex Fire
Company members were also village board members.
They discussed how the Saturday night party for the
Sussex Fire Company had been a big success. Then it
was brought forward that Jack Clarey was a gate
crasher to the party and never left, sleeping out
the night on a bar table before he was awoken and
sent on his way home.
So, the Sussex
Village Board adopted a night's lodging bill be sent
to Jack Clarey for using the Sussex Community Hall
for a motel sleeping room.
On hearing this
story retold years later, my question was how much
did they charge and was it ever paid?
Another story is
about the completion of the building.
for the Sussex Community Hall was April 15, 1937,
and it was completed in October of that year. There
was a grand opening ceremony on Oct. 27, 1937, with
an estimated 400 to 500 present, depending on the
The contract with
the U.S. Government, the granter of the Public Works
Administration money in the amount of $11,046 to the
village of Sussex, there was the stipulation that it
be done in 93 days by Works Progress Administration
workers. In truth, it went a little longer from
groundbreaking to the grand opening. It went more
than double the 93 days, as ground breaking to grand
opening was 196 days.
The final story
about the hall for this installment takes place in
There was a drive
by highly respected Mickey (Lavern) Clarey (a
42-year member of the Sussex Fire Department and
long-time pillar of the Mammoth Springs Canning Co.)
to remind people during the 50th anniversary of the
Community Hall that back in 1937, there was a
proposal made that "50 years hence, the cornerstone
should be removed, inspected, inventoried, added to,
and replaced to honor the people who made the Sussex
Community Hall possible." The year came and went and
the cornerstone still remains in place with its
Source: Excerpt from "Community
Hall has tales to tell",
H. Keller, Living Sussex Sun, Retrospect,
Nov. 12, 2015
Community Hall Sports Use
big-time use and something that really got it into use by the Sussex-Lisbon area
schools was as an auditorium and gym. At this time, there was a series of
two-year high schools, including local schools such as Sussex, Sullivan, Merton,
Grafton, Lannon, North Lake, Hartland, Norris Farm and Okauchee. With
Sussex having the very best gym, this is where the postseason basketball
tournament was held each year, giving the team an advantage that lead Sussex
High to numerous post-season tournaments. The notable championships were
recorded in 1939, 1940, and 1941.
The community Land o'
Rivers and Lakes basketball teams packed the gym with spectators for those
championship years. The grand championship Land O' Rivers team of 1950-51,
undefeated in league play and the play-offs, drew so many spectators that the
floor had to be narrowed with black tape to allow an extra row of seats. A
tournament that year raised $600, with seats costing 25 cents for general
highlight of the massive Lannon stone Sussex Community Hall is an upstairs
basketball gym. The downstairs, when built, was for Village rooms and the local
of Sussex had a driven desire to get into this building and play basketball, but
the caretaker John Miller had a mission to keep the boys out of the building.
Village boys came up with a scheme to thwart Miller. At some evening open house
they would secretly leave a window unlatched and sneak in by pushing in the
window. Then they'd enjoy an endless game of basketball.
Miller got smart and often checked every door, every window and would find the
unlatched lever. The boys found yet another entry that Miller never thought of
front of the Sussex Community Hall was a round manhole that was to be used to
deliver the coal into the basement coal bin. The boys would pry it open and the
smallest of the participating boys would drop in, walk around inside and up to
the bar opening the door or unlatching a window and letting everyone in. Then
they'd lock it up again. When they left they would go through the bar door and
the building would be secure, and Miller was never the wiser (other than he had
a feeling that he had been used and abused.)
Another time, Ted
Tetzlaff told me that the community boys would, on
leaving the lawful use of the Hall, find an
out-of-the-way window and throw the latch. Coming
back later, they had access to the gym. There is one
story of an upstairs window being unlatched that
required a boy to be hoisted up on the roof of the
adjoining Red Semrow home to gain this west-side
Then this former MP
[Fred Keller] is accused by Mike Galles of teaching
him to use two pocket knives to slip the deadbolt
and get either the back door or the main door open.
I admit that I knew that trick from my US Army MP
experience, but I don't remember telling Galles that
this new gym, there was also this Mr. All-Everything, the new Sussex Main Street
School principal, Winston Brown. He fashioned a big-time record using this gym
for the Sussex Two-Year High School sporting events. The Sussex High School boys
team, under their able Principal/Coach Winston Brown, took championships in
1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941 before moving on to a major promotion as the
superintendent of all Waukesha schools.
Austy Trealor mentions in the Sussex School Courier, "March 1938, We won cup in
basketball tournament." In a second entry, the letter winners are listed, "David
Johnson, Austy Trealor, Wilfred Mamerow, Donald Schlei, Arthur Krueger and Bill
the Sussex team was really good in basketball, and got to the championship game
against North Lake. First, it won the Tri-County Basketball league regular
members of the team were Paul Riewe, Ervin Zahnow, Dave Johns, Norman Headley,
Stanley Johns, Donald Schlei, Wilfred Mamerow, Bill Pautzke and Arne Peterson.
The managers were Russell Howard and Eugene Haasch with Brown as the coach.
won its opening game against Sullivan, 17-15.
was the final four semifinal game against Grafton. A quote from the
student-written Courier said, "This game was the most thrilling of the entire
tournament. Grafton had turned back Hartland in the opening round and was ready
for Sussex in the semifinals."
start to the end, it was a thrilling, extremely close "Neck and neck struggle"
that ended in a tie.
down to Arne Peterson. He was the last player to shoot a free throw. He had the
chance to end it all. He carried the entire game on his shoulders, as his
Grafton counterpart had missed, thus giving the next shooter the power to win or
go on to another set of free throws. Arne came through and the biased crowd let
out a cheer and a tear, win one, lose one. Sussex goes to the finals after
anti-climactic in the finals as Sussex demolished North Lake and the tenacious
Stapletons [?}, 36-17, thus holding their three opponents to 15, 15 and 17 points.
all-tournament team of seven players had three from Sussex honored with
individual awards, Billy Pautzke at center, Dave Johns at guard and Arne
Peterson as utility. No other team had more than one player named
Peterson went on to spend most of the rest of his life in Sussex, even serving
on the Sussex Fire Department for 33 years. He was the chief of the fire
department from 1975 to 1982. After high school, he played on a championship
Land O' Rivers baseball team for Sussex.
Meanwhile, manager Eugene Haasch and Peterson were involved in World War II and,
on Feb. 19, 1945, both would be in on the invasion of Iwo Jima, Peterson in the
Navy while Haasch drove landing crafts up on to the invasion beaches. Haasch had
a near-death experience at Iwo Jima. The clutch on his landing craft burned out
in the soft volcanic sands and he had to sleep over while it was repaired for a
couple of days.
a shell hole in the volcanic turf and for two days, he slept in one direction.
He changed it on the third day so his head was where his feet were the previous
two days. A shell fragment hit his foot that night, where his head had been
Haasch and Peterson are now deceased.
was a stone cutter and then a lifetime electrician. Haasch became a dentist.
would be in their mid-90s if they were alive today.
Above adapted from:
'Pepper' Steffen: 85-year Lisbon-Sussex resident,
H. Keller, Historian, Posted: Living Sussex Sun, Nov. 19, 2013; and
"Play Gets Bumped From Community Hall", by Fred H. Keller, Living Sussex Sun,
Nov. 19, 2015.
Meanwhile, there had been an addition to three walls of the gymnasium, as some
local hunters had donated stuffed deer and elk heads that were hung high up on
the side walls.
Keller, while a young man playing a game there once, the ball was thrown by a
player the length of the court with a lot of force, but no accuracy, and on its
trajectory, it hit an elk horn and "poof" it deflated, hanging on the horn. A
new ball was introduced into the game and later a long series of sticks was used
to dislodge the deflated ball. The heads disappeared after that.
was also the famous length-of-the-court shot made by Sussex High School's Bob
Fryda. He was a county farm boy and familiar to heaving bales of hay around,
strong as a bull. He was a substitute who was inserted into the game and he
grabbed a rebound. On seeing a teammate streaking toward the far basket, he
threw the ball as far as he could and spectators who observed it said the ball
never got more than 11 or 12 feet off the floor before it zipped through the
basket. The refs saw it go through, yes it went through and signaled a basket,
unbelieving at the possibility of it going through, but it did. Bob Fryda now
lives in deep retirement on his three-generation farm (since about 1928) on
There was Tommy Beier rule No. 1. Tommy loved
basketball but he had a birth defect that his off hand was crippled. When Tommy,
a bona fide "community character" wanted to play, the rule was "No one ever
guards him … no one blocks his one-handed shot." It all worked out and
occasionally Tommy and his team would win a game, and everyone would
congratulate Tommy on his play and the shots he made.
Sussex had a Hall of a team in 1950-51
One of the great
years of the Sussex Community Hall was 1950-51 and
this writer is personally involved. I will refer to
myself as "Fred Keller" or "Keller" in the telling
of an important community use of the hall.
After the Sussex
High School used the Sussex Community Hall for the
end-of-the-year basketball tournaments for the
three-county area of northern Waukesha, Dodge and
Ozaukee counties, winning from 1938-41, there was a
downturn in the overall quality of the players. They
still preserved the right to stage the Tri-County
championship games until 1947 when the state of
Wisconsin outlawed two-year community high schools.
Sussex Main Street School reverted to a first
through eighth-grade school.
In 1949-50, Sussex
had a team in the Land O' Rivers league that hardly
won a game. They were bad. As part of the league
fee, Sussex was invited to a season-ending
tournament in Hartland and was seeded as the lowest
team, to play the highest seed, Dousman, which won
19 games in a row and was the grand champion of the
With the dismal
Sussex record, there was a request to add two
players from 1950 high school team. The overall
league commissioner, Martin Weber, who found the
Land O' Lakes-Rivers leagues in 1922, was asked to
make a ruling. "Could Sussex add two recent high
school graduates to its team?" His comment was
recorded to be, "No two high school players from
Sussex will make a difference." So, Jerry Tetzlaff
and Fred Keller were added to the team.
In the first-round
game, coach John Kuehn allowed his regular starters
to play the first four minutes of the game and they
were down 17-3.He then went to Tetzlaff and Keller
to enter the game and do what they could. Keller
immediately scored 12 consecutive points and, by
halftime, Sussex had erased Dousman's lead. Sussex
won, 57-51, as Keller and Tetzlaff combined for 42
The community of
Sussex took notice and they couldn't wait for the
next year's team to have a winning record and
odds-on league championship and even grand
Jerry Tetzlaff was
the all-everything at Menomonee Falls High School:
quarterback in football, scoring guard in basketball
and pitcher/hitter in baseball. He would become "Mr.
Baseball" of Sussex, with more than 50 years of
participation as a star player that would be
inducted into the Land O' Lakes Baseball Hall of
Fame. On his death, the Sussex Village Park baseball
diamond was named after, "Tetzlaff Veterans Baseball
was coming off the Marquette High School team that
lost in the state finals in both 1949 and 1950. At 6
feet, 5 1/2 inches tall and a scholarship player on
the Marquette University freshman team, he could
The 1950 season
came up and Sussex went from the lowest of the low
the prior year to the highest of the high. The
Sussex community adopted the team as it went 27-4,
undefeated in league play, won three tournaments and
attracted standing room-only crowds to the home
games at the Sussex Community Hall.
The charge to see
a game was 25 cents for kids/students and 50 cents
administered by the Sussex Athletic Club, headed by
Joe Weber, with assistance from Jim Kraemer and an
assortment of village leaders.
The team was
essentially only seven players: Tetzlaff, Keller,
Kraemer, Donny Weber, Gerry Bennett, Willie Marx and
Buck Reimer. There was a part-time player, Jerry
Hoffman, who played 13 games. Sussex was a scoring
machine and had great rebounders, along with
hard-working defensive players. While the average
score was 45-35 game, Sussex averaged 60 points a
game and allowed just 35 points an outing.
The team and
players won a host of team and individual awards,
most of it hardware trophies, during the 27-4
season. The only games they lost were to teams that
had former Wisconsin or Marquette college players.
Reimer and Tetzlaff are in various baseball halls of
fame. Reimer and Tetzlaff are in the Land O' Lakes
hall of fame.
That team was a
one-year happening as the Korean War was going on.
Kraemer, Marx and Bennett had served in World War II
or immediately afterward, and then Keller, Tetzlaff
and Weber served during the Korean War.
Parts of the team
reunited in 1955 upon discharge to win a
co-championship in the Land O' Lakes. In 1964, there
was a "last hurrah" as Tetzlaff and Keller were key
parts of a team that advanced to the grand
championship. Sussex led by 20 points just as the
second half started, only to lose as the
eight-member team lost five players to fouling out
and a sixth player was in the hospital with a
and Kraemer finished first, second and third in the
league in scoring for the 1950-51 team. For the
season, thousands collectively filled the Sussex
Community Hall. It is said there was no
out-of-bounds as fans would actually have their feet
on the boundary line of the court. Refs allowed
players to step on the black court during throw-ins
Additional sources: "Sussex
hall built on hope, and still standing -
Built during Depression, it now houses
teen center and food pantry", Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel -
Thursday, November 6, 1997, Author:
CINDY CREBBIN, Special to
the Journal Sentinel.
"Community Hall has grand past", by Fred H.
Keller, Sussex Sun, Tuesday Nov. 26, 1996
The Weavings, Vol. 15., Number. 4,
Thursday, November 26, 2015, "LOCAL MONUMENT, SUSSEX COMMUNITY HALL TO BE
DEMOLISHED" By Fred H. Keller
Eight Grade Graduation
Sussex Community Hall
by Jeanne Youngbauer Schmidt, August 12, 2015
Transcribed and edited by Michael R. Reilly, 8/13/2015
My memories begin with our school trip which occurred on May 17th. We left
school at 6:45a.m. Our first stop was the Poynette state Game and fur farm. Then
it was on to the old Indian Agency House and Fort Winnebago at Portage. Lunch
was at the Hotel Raulf in Portage. In the afternoon we took the Wisconsin Dells
boat trip. Our next stop was the Badger ordinance on Hwy 12. The last stop of
the day was Devil's Lake State Park. We stopped for supper and arrived home at
Finally, on May 26th the long awaited day of graduation arrived.
I awoke early and began practicing my speech. I got to school by
8:15. Mr. Swanson, our principal and teacher, gave us graduation cards with a
gold pin inside with "SGS 51" inscribed on it. We then went to the Community
Hall to start decorating.
Some of us went around town together yellow tulips and white lilacs.
People were glad to share with us. We then decorated the front of the stage with
the yellow and white flowers. We hung a huge sign with our motto, "We finish to
begin:, on it in big gold letters on a maroon background with yellow streamers
coming out from it in all directions.
At noon we went to Meyer's store to pick up food for our picnic
lunch. We had our picnic in back of school across the creek. We had hot dogs,
pork and beans, pickles and soda.
In the afternoon we went back to the Community Hall to set up chairs
and put the final touches on the decorations. We folded programs and checked our
caps and gowns. Then we went home to rest.
We arrived at the Hall at 7:45 p.m., got into our caps and gowns.
Mr. Swanson pinned my corsage which was a gold rose and lilies-of-the-valley.
At 8:00 we began the march around the Hall to "Pomp and
Circumstance". The Welcome Speech was given by Perry Halquist. I gave the Class
Address. Music was provided by the Upper Class Chorus.
Diplomas were presented by Kenneth Luce, a school board member.
There were fifteen members of this graduating class.
1951 Main St School 8th Grade Graduation Class