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    The Old Sussex Community Hall

Community Hall was Depression-era project

By Fred H. Keller, Living Sussex Sun, Retrospect, Oct. 14 - Nov 4, 2015

Edited by Michael R. Reilly, November 12, 2015, last updated 11/24/2015



  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 following:

    This 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.

    A 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.

    When 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 classes.

    This was 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.

    It held 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.

    The 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.

    Sussex 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 $13,500 loan.



    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 wedding receptions.

    It was 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.


    So, what 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.

    The 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 interest.

    Sussex 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.

    Today 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 contained in.


    There 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 projects.

    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.

    The 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 gym/stage events.

    Bids were let in March of 1937 with a stipulation that the center must be completed in 94 days.

    Sussex 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.

    George 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 of fires.

    "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 two-story Sussex Community Hall was shaped by workers whose wages ranged from 35 cents to 70 cents an hour.

    How 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 teamster laborer.

    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 truck operators.

    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˘ per hour.

    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.

    And up 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 of 1937.

Bottom right 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.

    Once the 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.

    It 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 event.

    Today, Sussex has a population of about 7,500.


Below - 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.



    [1] From 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 was KDZ-464."

    The Sussex Community Hall, built in 1937, really hit its prime in the 1940s as the center of the world for Sussex.

The hall 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.


From 1938-46, the gymnasium was used for an early September flower show.

    Bouquets 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.

    Behind every bouquet brought in by the children was a set of proud parents, planting, pruning and arranging the flowers.

    There were many different categories: living and dining room bouquets, shadow boxes, winter bouquet and even single outstanding specimens.

    Giant dahlias and gladiolus were the stars of the shows.

    The wife of Mammoth Springs Canning Company executive Harry Yuds, who lived on Silver Spring Drive, and Harry Rogers, the village banker, were the judges.

    Ribbons and recognition were the rewards and the competition was keen.

    Along 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.

    As 1940 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 amazing."

    The 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.

    To start 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 wedding receptions.


    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.


1950's L. L. Cook card - Community Hall in Sussex

    [2] 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.

    Lisbon 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.

    [2] 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 Civic Center.

    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 office.

    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:

Mark Kenney via Facebook - Some of Peace Valley Connection's earliest band gigs were in the early seventies beginning in 1971. It was a magical time with great new music erupting every month. We made it a goal to learn a Top Ten Song for every community hall show. In 71, it was "Joy to the World." In 72, we learned Everybody's Everything, Dancing in the Moonlight, and Saturday in the Park. In 73, it was American Band, Smoke on the Water, Shambala. Great tunes great memories! It was a blast just trying to keep up with the changing songs. November 22 at 11:07pm

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 pipe.


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 space.

    "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 said.

    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 [1996], 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 Sussex .

    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 disabilities.


    "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 insulation
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 historic buildings.

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 gymnasium.

"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 said.

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 restrooms.

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 month.

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 parent support."

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.

    Meanwhile, the 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 mess.

    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 it isn't.

    The following 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.

    The groundbreaking 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 source.

    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 1987.

    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 original contents.

Source: Excerpt from "Community Hall has tales to tell", By Fred H. Keller, Living Sussex Sun, Retrospect, Nov. 12, 2015


Community Hall Sports Use

    Editor addition [from Facebook post Oct 7, 2015]:Courier, Sept 28, 1937 - 9th and 10th Grade girls play indoor baseball at new Sussex Community Hall.


    Girls' basketball is over also, and although we didn't win our two games, we had a great deal of fun and all of us learned the sport.

    In our first game which Merton we played girls' rules and found our opponents not so lady-like. After a split thumb, cuts and bruises, we played our next game in the good fighting manner, and not nearly the number of casualties resulted. At Merton and we had four different teams. Thus everyone was given a chance to play. Nowadays girls do not engage in much in inter-school competition, and so it is almost impossible get girls basketball games. But we have a great deal of fun just playing in the hall with each other after school. A number of the girls have been faithful supporters of the boys team, especially Doris, Jean Adele, Lorraine P., Jean, and Miss Klatt.


    Editor addition [from Facebook post Oct 28, 2015]: This is an excerpt from an early 1938 Courier newsletter; the students summarizing the end of the basketball season at Main Street School, and the required rental of the Community Hall in order to play.

    "After figuring up the total receipts and expenditures, we find that our basketball season was not a success on the financial standpoint. We went into the hole to the tune of $10.40. This money will have to be taken from the profit of the Lyceum Course, if there's any profit.

    Thus in our first year of the game we learn to our sorrow that basketball is an expensive luxury for a school that does not have its own gymnasium, and has to pay rent for a hall. Our suits are very old ones and are full of moth holes, next year will have to have new ones, if we play.

    Perhaps we cannot afford basketball. But we had so much fun at it this year that we actually would hate to give up the game."


    The 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 seating.

    [3] The 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 fire department.

    The boys 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.

    The 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.

    But 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 investigating.

    Out 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 upstairs window.

    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 trick.

    With 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.

    Student 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 Elliott."

    In 1939, 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 season championship.

    The 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.

    Sussex won its opening game against Sullivan, 17-15.

    Then it 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."

    From the start to the end, it was a thrilling, extremely close "Neck and neck struggle" that ended in a tie.

    It came 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 winning 16-15.

    It was 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.

    The 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 all-tournament.

    Arne 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.

    He found 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 before.

    Both Haasch and Peterson are now deceased.

    Peterson was a stone cutter and then a lifetime electrician. Haasch became a dentist.

    Both would be in their mid-90s if they were alive today.

    [3] Source: Above adapted from: 'Pepper' Steffen: 85-year Lisbon-Sussex resident, by Fred 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.

    Fred 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.

    There 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 Hillside Road.

    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 Rivers league.

    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 points.

    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 championship.

    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 Field."

    Meanwhile, Keller 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 score.

    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 for adults.

    Sports were 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.

    Marx, Kraemer, 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 concussion.

    Keller, Tetzlaff 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

May 1951

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 9:00 p.m.

            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

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