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History: Local: Community Organizations

The Rifle Club, also known as the Sussex Gun Club

A Sussex local girl, 16-year-old Betty Lou Fuller, was out and about in the early spring of 1945, just as World War II was ending, with her box Brownie camera, and took a photo in Templeton (east Sussex) of eight young boys. Today, this site would be on the Sussex Main Street sidewalk, just immediately east of Waukesha Avenue looking south. The house behind the photo is the Herb and Janette Beier home, essentially where the north parking lot of Rumors is today.

Notice the horse hitching post of limestone on the immediate right side of the photo, a carryover from the last of the horse days, in the 1920s and '30s.

What you see is eight boys who belong to the Sussex Gun Club, also known as the "Rifle Club."

Betty Lou Fuller, the photographer, is today known as Betty Mindemann, who was the wife of the late Reuben Mindemann, a farmer and then a major trucking firm owner-executive, while Betty became an over 40-year antique business owner.

Asked about the former club, Betty said, "There were several different local groups belonging to the Sussex Gun Club. We were taught the different types of shooting, and how to clean, carry, handle and maintain a gun."

She remembers that a local garage owner, Herb Beier, was their main instructor.

Betty became proficient enough to actually win a match at Merton that year, but never received her metal because of the war time shortage of metal to make the winner decoration. Fifty-eight years later, she is still waiting for it.

Gun clubs for youths, plus the mainstay adults, were popular in Waukesha County back then, with every little berg having this offered.

Jack Beier, Elton Lees, Stanley Fuller, Le Roy Schlei, Ken Schlei, George Kraemer, Art Magnusson and Billy Beier are all pictured in the photo and all would attend Sussex Main Street School.

Jack and Billy were brothers, and sons of Herb Beier.

Jack is a tragic story. After serving in the armed forces, he married, built a home on Elmwood Avenue and joined the Sussex Fire Department in 1956, where he remained a member for 16 years, until 1972. Now, he was divorced and he disintegrated into being a recluse, living under bridges in Milwaukee and dying before his time.

Meanwhile, his brother Bill married, had a home and family also on Elmwood Avenue in Sussex, and joined the Sussex Fire Department in 1957, leaving 19 years later.

His leaving the fire department was the aftermath of one of the most tragic accidents in the history of Lisbon on July 2, 1975, when five lives were snuffed out. The accident occurred on Hillside Road, adjacent to Norwalk Road, with the dead being four girls, ages 13 to 15, and the driver, age 21. It so affected Bill that he shortly retired, on Jan. 1, 1977. He lived on, but died again before he should.

Elton Lees was the son of owner-manager of the Lees General Store in downtown Sussex (where Piggly Wiggly is today).

Stanley Fuller is a brother of Betty Mindemann, one of eight siblings who lived in what was the so-called "Cheese Factory" that formerly stood on the northwest corner of Maple and Champeny.

Le Roy Schlei was a cousin of Ken Schlei.

George Kraemer was the son of John and Lauer Kraemer. John was the big wheel at the Mammoth Spring Canning Co., and considered the "Father of Sussex" and the "Father of the Sussex Fire Department."

Ken Schlei was a good basketball player of the Sussex High School team, and once he and his wife had a fast food mini emporium in downtown Sussex.

Art Magnusson was the son of the Sussex Village blacksmith and he got a University of Wisconsin education. After spending most of this life in the greater Sussex area, he now is a resident of Venice, Fla., but comes back to Slinger, Wis. for the summers. He is the only living member left from the photo.

Betty Mindemann said the club used the basement of the former Steiner Brothers Cheese Factory that once stood on the grassed area, immediately north of Rumors. The club shooting gallery was in the basement of this former factory, which now belonged to Herb Beier, who remodeled it into apartments upstairs. There was a length of basement 50 foot range, where the 22 rifles would be fired into targets from prone, kneeling and standing positions, and then there was the competitive shooting contest with other community teams. The club had a lifespan of about 20 years.

 

 

 

 

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