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IT'S A SNAP Tiddlywinks teams converge on Sussex for old-fashioned competition

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Thursday, February 15, 1996
Author: LUKE KLINK, Special to the Journal Sentinel

Whooooaaahh, Nellie! The VFW Post's 20th annual Tiddlywinks Tournament was a real barn-burner, and tiddlywinkers from throughout the state rode into Sussex recently to shoot their winks.

Thirty-six teams, with players from Milwaukee, Muskego, Madison, Hartford, West Bend, Colgate and other tiddlywink meccas across Wisconsin made Sussex their hub during the recent two-day event.

The tournament was at the Horne Mudlitz VFW Post 6377 building, also home to Hella's Restaurant , N63-W24375 Main St.

It lacked pricey free-agents, teams that relocate every other year on owners' whims, and players who play both offense and defense but the tournament did have a roaring crowd.

With more than 250 people attending the first day, vehicles overflowed from the parking lot onto the shoulder of Main St. in front of the restaurant .

After the singing of the "Star Spangled Banner," play commenced Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Teams with names like 5 Guys Named Dick, The Magnificent Five and We're Here for the Beer stood poised and ready to shoot.

"We're the team of the '90s and we were the team of the '80s," said Dave Bullock, a member of the team 5 Guys Named Dick, which took first place in the tournament and took home the championship trophy and $150 cash prize. "We win it every even-numbered year 1990, 1992 and now 1996.

"We used to be a little more wild in our younger days, but we're aging more gracefully now," he stated.

His teammates were Duane Downing, West Bend; Jeff Kluender, Adell; John Sadowski, Muskego; and Kevin Schein, Milwaukee.

The 5 Guys Named Dick team has been competing in the tournament since 1986 and has developed some fierce rivalries during this time.

"Five Guys Named Dick are our arch-rivals," said Greg Rintelman, Colgate resident and a member of The Magnificent Five team. "We do this every year because we're the best."

Rounding out The Magnificent Five are Steve Brahm, Colgate; Dave Herbert, Sussex ; Scott Kloss, Town of Pewaukee; and Greg Zyla, Sussex .

"It's a riot," said Zyla. "This is plain, old-fashioned, clean fun. I've got a trophy room filled with trophies from this thing. We win very often.

"We meet all the people on these teams right here, about once each year," he stated.

The Magnificent Five has had a number of different lineups in previous tournaments and now averages about 12 years of experience among current shooters, Zyla said.

He said that, in previous tiddlywinks competitions, teams have come from Minnesota, California, New York and Canada.

The Magnificent Five and 5 Guys Named Dick were among a number of teams sporting team shirts reminiscent of ones seen at area bowling alleys.

Zyla stated that shooters on his team sport personalized tiddlywink shirts to show team spirit; Rintelman said the shirts help intimidate opponents.

This tiddlywinks tournament officially began in 1977 when Archie Johnson, the bar manager for the VFW post, wanted something that might help members shake the winter doldrums.

Johnson decided to develop a tournament for players of tiddlywinks, a game he used to pass time while stationed in the South Pacific during World War II.

The tournament this year was held in honor of Johnson, who died in December at 77.

The tiddlywink playing field is a 3-foot-by-3-foot carpet, and a 3-inch high tumbler-style glass, placed in the center of the carpet, is the target for shooters.

Each team has five shooters and through five rounds, shooters from each team alternate turns using a plastic disc or wink to chip four smaller winks, one at a time, into the glass.

Shooters have three opportunities to hit their mark as long as the wink does not land somewhere off of the play field with play beginning from one of four corner pads that are 15 inches from the glass.

A wink in the glass on the first shot is worth 10 points, on the second is worth five points and on the third is worth one point. A perfect score for a frame is 40 points and for a game is 200 points.

In round play, a good individual score is about 100 points and a good team score usually runs from 300 to 400 points.

At the end of five rounds, the team with the higher total score wins.

The tiddlywink teams each paid a $25 entrance fee to play. Teams remain in the tournament's championship round until the first loss, which drops the team into the consolation round. A second loss knocks the team out of the tournament.

First-place tiddlywink teams in the championship and consolation rounds win trophies and prize money. Teams finishing second in either round win prize money.

Prizes are based on the number of teams that participate.

Post Service Commander LeRoy Eichorst said the tournament has evolved from a money-making event for the post into a charity fund-raiser.

He said the several hundred dollars raised from each tournament are donated to the VA Hospital, in Milwaukee, and to several local organizations.

"Everyone seems to enjoy it," he said. "Some of these people haven't seen each other since last year and it gives them a chance to get together."

A few of the youngest and first-time shooters were on a team called We're Here for the Beer.

"I've never played this game in my life ever before," said Michael Parker, a Milwaukee resident. "It's a game everyone else played as a kid and now, after 20 years, it's a tradition here."

Other members of We're Here for the Beer were Paal Lonnebotn, Madison; Craig Podlesnik, Milwaukee; Linda Wielgus, Hartford; and Scott Witlacil, Hartford.

Anne Gibert, a Town of Richfield resident, knew some of the competitors and came to the tournament as a spectator. "I've never been to a tiddlywinks competition before," she stated. "It's really exciting and it looks like a lot of fun."

"It's a riot. This is plain, old-fashioned, clean fun. I've got a trophy room filled with trophies from this thing."
Caption: Photo; SARAH B. TEWS; STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Caption: Jamie Plumb took her turn as a member of "Knuckleheads II" during the 20th annual tiddlywinks competition Saturday at Hella's Restaurant in Sussex . Watching intently are teammates JeriAnn and Tony Olivo, of Colgate.

Pages From the Past Feb. 16, 1986

Twenty-five teams signed up for the ninth annual Sussex VFW state championship tiddlywinks tournament.

Pages From the Past Jan 4, 1996

Archie Johnson, the founder of Sussex’s Tiddlywinks tournaments, died at age 77.

Pages From the Past Feb 11, 2005

The Horne Mudlitz VFW held the 29th annual state championship tiddlywinks tournament. It was a charity event to raise money for the VA Hospital.


In 1979: The Sussex VFW Club, built in 1963, burned its mortgage. Meanwhile, in February, the VFW held its second annual state tiddlywinks tournament. Source:


The 150th anniversary of Sussex’s beginnings in Sussex Village Park was celebrated Oct. 25, 1986, ending with the burial of a time capsule, to be opened 50 years later, at the bicentennial celebration in 2036 – 28 years from now.

Here’s a partial list of the items that went into the capsule:  a Tiddly Winks game.


Sussex VFW welcomes new members in new space

Post finds more accommodating home on Waukesha Avenue

Village of Sussex - Christmas music cheerily played in the new home of the Horne Mudlitz VFW Post 6377 on a recent December afternoon. Sunshine poured in the post's main room, and goodie bags waited packed for children attending the post's annual Christmas party held on Sunday.

The new space is much more comfortable for 6377 members. And there are still the familiar pieces that have been part of the local VFW, including the original bar, a mainstay and proud display of coins, medals and other veterans' memorabilia encased in a clear coat on top.

"It's a lot nicer than that old foxhole we were in on Main Street," said member and Korean War veteran, Art Rude.

The Horne Mudlitz post has actually been in the new space at W232 N6342 Waukesha Ave. since fall. With the help of Mike Judson from Judson Real Estate and attorney Larry Knauf, the post was able to find a more suitable home. The former post was held in the basement of the Wee Welcome Inn on Main Street.

"We were in the basement for nearly 20 years and some of the members could no longer make the trip," down the stairs said Rude, and the ladies auxiliary years ago chose to start meeting at the library, he added. "Now we can share the new space."

The new post is obviously bigger and better. A former heating and cooling business, there is a large, enclosed garage area in back that has plenty of room for post meetings and possibly a new location for the annual tiddly winks tournament that attracts hundred of participants.

But the most important message the VFW 6377 members wanted to share today is, "We're not closed."

"We're looking for new members with the new space. It's hard to get members today," said Post Commander Chuck Eberhardt, now in his 80s, who has been with the post since the 1960s.

The Sussex post isn't the only one that has been struggling to attract new members. Steve Lawrence, state adjutant quartermaster for VFW Department of Wisconsin, said the problem is multifaceted.

"We are having some problems recruiting new members from recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A lot of it has to do with veterans coming back and just wanting to get back to their families," he said.

Lawrence said another problem is that members many recruiters were World War II and Korean War veterans, and they are passing on. "The Vietnam veterans haven't taken over because they are still working full time, for the most part. A lot of times, it takes someone to explain what we do for veterans and their families," he explained. Veterans organizations are instrumental in helping veterans secure medical benefits, lobby for veterans' rights and offer other means of support.

Membership in the VFW has been declining since the mid-1990s, "when we started to suffer the losses of the World War II veterans. That rate is now much higher; 1,000 a day are dying," he said.

But Eberthardt, a Korean War veteran, and his comrades are hoping the new location will revive the local post with some fresh membership in the new, larger space. They hope Post 6377 doesn't die off with the older generations. Participating in the Memorial Day parade since its inception in 1946, helping local veterans and being a part of the community, like the annual Christmas party, Horne Mudlitz Post 6377 is a staple of Sussex.

"We need these younger people to get involved and know what the post is about. They may think it's just a bunch of old guys, but it's not," said member Tom Klein.

Horne Mudlitz VFW Post 6377 meets at 7:30 p.m. the third Tuesday of the month. You can also stop by between noon and 6 p.m. every Saturday to play cards and socialize. Call (262) 820-9704 to find out more.

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