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Local History Index : School Index

Sussex Main Street Graded School History

transcribed and edited by Michael R. Reilly, Editor

Updated 01/23/2015


Sussex Main Street School

A wrinkled, folded multi-class photo recently turned up mistakenly identified with a date of "about 1938," but in truth it dates to 1940. The vast majority of the children listed, age 11-14, graduated from the Sussex two-year high school at age 16 between 1942 and 1944. Today, they would be in their early 80s, but many are deceased.

Pictured in the front row are (from left): Ken Schlei, Lenore Dopke (Cain), Francis Fleischmann, Sid Richards and Ken Marx. Second row (from left): unknown, Ralph Clarey, Marjorie Schultz, Marion Mamerow (Knoebel), unknown, Howard Pautzke and Harry Dopke Jr. Third row (from left): Ken Huelse, Fritz Haasch, Charlotte Zillmer (Rieve-Toth), Lois Ann Mantz (Gill), Dolores Tetzlaff, Elsie Mae Wileden (Weyer) and Mickey Karl. Fourth row (from left): Lorraine Clarey (Schaich), Dolores Fleischmann, Melvin Meyer, Jean Otto, Lois Kramer (Wandsneider), Geneva Weber and Doris Rieve (Howard). Back row (from left): Ervin Mudlitz, Russell Bauer, Betty Karl, Lloyd Pautzke, Ruth Mantz, Ruby Schley (Pederson), Mary Pope, Jean Adele Becker (Freiss), George Kraemer, Norman Steffen, George Hart, Fritz Fuchs, Paul Fleischmann, Elton Lees, Gordon Huelse, Marion Schmul (Haasch), Juanita Weber (Horne) and Jeanette Kraemer.

According to the Aug. 14, 1983, Sussex State Graded School all-school reunion booklet, the following students graduated from the Sussex two-year high school in 1942: Ken Schlei, Ken Marx, Harry Dopke Jr., Doris Rieve, Paul Fleischmann, Marion Schmul, Juanita Weber and Jeanette Kraemer.

Students who graduated in 1943 are: Sid Richards, Marion Mamerow, Ken Huelse, Fritz Haasch, Charlotte Zillmer, Lois Ann Mantz, Dolores Tetzlaff, Elsie Mae Wileden, Lorraine Clarey, Jean Otto, Lois Kramer, Geneva Weber, Ervin Mudlitz and Gordon Huelse.

The 1944 class included: Lenore Dopke, Francis Fleischmann, Marjorie Schultz, Lloyd Pautzke, Ruth Mantz, Ruby Schley, Jean Adele Becker, George Kraemer, Norman Steffen and Elton Lees.

Most of the boys went into the service during World War II, and many continued their service in the Korean War. Fritz Haasch joined at the end of WWII and became a sergeant major (highest ranking non-commissioned office in a division) during the Korean War.

Elsie Mae Wileden (Weyer) is the namesake for the park at the Pauline Haass Library/Sussex Village Hall after her many years of service on the Sussex Park Board and other volunteer duties.

Paul Fleischmann served multiple terms as the village president, and was at one time the president of the Sussex Lions Club.

Marjorie Schultz's farm on Pewaukee Road, while still in the Town of Lisbon, will be annexed into the Village of Sussex as a major development of homes, businesses and a possible park addition.

Norman Steffen served as the Sussex Fire Chief in the early 1970s.

George Kraemer played on the 1950-51 Sussex Athletic Club Land O' Rivers grand championship basketball team. He is in the Sussex Baseball Hall of Fame.

Francis "Porky" Fleischmann played on some Lannon baseball grand championship teams, and he is currently nearing 60 years of employment with Halquist Quarry.

Lois Kramer served as the Sussex Village Clerk.

Lenore Dopke has a tree planted for her at the Sussex Village Park, commemorating her years as a staunch fan of the local Land O' Lakes baseball team. Her husband Paul Cain played with and managed the team, and he is a member of the Sussex Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ken Marx is the local "Mr. Horseshoe" champ.

Ervin Mudlitz graduated from Sussex High School in 1943, the year his brother Emory was killed on a bombing mission to Germany. The Sussex VFW is named after him (Horne-Mudlitz).

Sussex High School lasted from 1920 to 1947, when it was discontinued. Sussex Main Street School closed in 1979 and was going to be torn down in 1988, but the community rose up and demanded that it be saved. Remodeling was completed in 1990, and it is now the Sussex Village Hall.

Although many of the former students are deceased, a significant number of them are still present in the community, as are some of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Sussex Main Street School-1912

Former Sussex village president, fire chief and Lions Club president Roy Stier gave me this photo in 1976 as an afterthought. He had lived all his life on Main Street, just east of Maple Avenue. He knew that the photo was a 1912 class photo of the Sussex Main Street School, but he could not identify a single person, not even himself. He thought he might be in the front row, fourth from the right.

Roy Stier was born to Fred Stier (1874-1924) and his wife Mary Smith. Mary was the daughter of Francis A. Smith (1855-1937) and his wife Eliza Love (1857-1902). Francis Smith was the firstborn son of English emigrant Jeremiah L. Smith (1829-1910), who was born in Sussex, England and came to New York at age 20, and then came to Lisbon in 1849. He married Ann Rebecca Weaver (1835-1922) on Nov. 8, 1854, and they had 10 children at their Howards Lane/Highway 164 40-acre homestead.

Politically, Jeremiah was a Democrat, and he frequently won the Waukesha County Coroner vote in addition to some positions in Lisbon township politics.

Ann Rebecca was the granddaughter of the first woman settler in Lisbon, Melinda Warren Weaver (1813-1886), who left New York in September 1836 and arrived in Lisbon in March 1837. She was a relative of General Joe Warren, a dentist by trade, who was the first U.S. general officer to die in battle, at the battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War.

Melinda was the first teacher in Lisbon and the first in Waukesha County in 1838. Today there is a mini park on Maple Avenue that is named after her, on land adjacent to the land her husband John Weaver claimed (160 acres for $1.25 per acre, $200 total). Today, Clover Drive bisects it as it meanders east of Maple Avenue.

A major event in Melinda's life was the Centennial celebrations of the United States in 1876. She was asked to write a small history of her life as the first woman settler in Lisbon. The book, which is available at the Pauline Haass Public Library, is titled "Memories of Early Days." It is often used to show the hardships of early women settlers in the Midwest. Melinda was Roy Stier's great-grandmother on his mother's side.

On his father's side, Roy's father Fred Stier was one of the 16 signers of the Village of Sussex incorporation in September 1924. Roy's grandfather was Jacob Stier, who was born in Germany and married Anna Eisenhauer, a distant relative of President Dwight Eisenhower (notice changed spelling).

Getting back to the class photo, there were 75 students in the two-room school, 39 boys and 36 girls. The photo also includes the principal and the lower-grade teacher. Two of the girls are carrying dolls, while two boys have baseball bats.

Originally, the Sussex Main Street School was located where Paul Cain's Service is today, and it was called the Lisbon #10 District School. It was built in 1849 out of wood and had a value of $150. The land was acquired on a rental deal from pioneer William Weaver Jr. (1802-1896), with an annual rent of $2.

In 1867, an acre of land on the far eastern limits of Sussex next to the Sussex Creek was purchased from George Elliott. A new two-room cream brick schoolhouse with outhouse toilets was built on the site, for $1,683.41. This version of the school is the backdrop for the 1912 student photo.

The school's location on the eastern edge of the village prompted businesses and churches to build there as well.

Scarlet fever closed down the school in 1886, as so many children were absent in April and May.

Very soon after the photo was taken, a new red brick, four-room, two-story school was built in front of it, opening in 1914. The old school was torn down soon after. The new school lasted only until Jan. 30, 1922, when it was completely destroyed by a nighttime fire. Another new school, also two stories and four rooms, was quickly built at a cost of $25,000 on the foundation of the 1914 school. It was abandoned by the Hamilton School District in 1979, and in 1990 it became the Sussex Village Hall.

The kids in the 1912 photo are sitting where today the parking for the Village Hall starts north. A question to the reading public: Is there anyone out there who might also have this photo with the names of the students on the back?



by Fred H. Keller, Sussex Village Historian,

Source: Sussex Sun, Tuesday,  May 11, 2005 

    DESTROYED BY FIRE - This huge, red brick four-room schoolhouse was built for $13,000 directly in front of the old schoolhouse. It opened in 1914, only to burn to the ground in 1922. The last three are featured in this story. The first school was organized in 1849 for Lisbon School District No. 10. This wooden school was built for about $1,700 behind what is now Paul Cain's Service Station on Maple Avenue. The teacher was paid $66 per school year. Later additions to the school included an outhouse for $8.50 and a wood-burning stove for $13.46. (Students were expected to provide the wood.) By 1853, the school building was valued at $150. The original land claimant, William Weaver, leased the land to the school for an annual rent of $2. The student population outgrew the old wooden school, so in 1867 one acre of land next to Sussex Creek, on what was then the extreme eastern edge of old Sussex, was purchased. The second school, a two-room cream brick structure, cost $1,683.41.     

    The original outhouses were replaced in 1884 with brick outhouses. In 1886, the school was closed in April-May because of an outbreak of scarlet fever. In June the children would not return because of continued fear of the deadly disease. In 1913-14, a new two-story red brick school was built in front of the old cream brick school. Once it was completed at a cost of $13,000, the old school was torn down. The new school still used outhouses, but added electricity and indoor plumbing in 1921. The school included a two-year high school from 1920 to 1947. The school burned to the ground Jan. 30, 1922. Its students scattered to various churches and other open buildings to continue their education while a new $26,000 school was built. Orchard Drive School was built behind it, and Maple Avenue School south of the village in 1962. Main Street School closed in 1979. 

    In 1988, it was to be torn down, but Save Our School (SOS) prevailed on the village leadership to remodel the building into the Sussex Village Hall, which opened in mid-1990. It has served in that capacity for the last 15 years. 

Sussex Sun 2005

Blackboard Comes Back to Sussex

by Fred H. Keller, Sussex Village Historian,

Source: Living Sussex Sun, Tuesday,  March 24, 2010

The word "blackboard" is old fashioned today as there are no true black stone chalkboards installed in schools. Instead the modern trend is to install a composition plastic-type white board that uses a marker to record the day's lesson, announcement or work on problems.

In schools before World War II, the blackboard was truly a blackboard of very heavy, thin polished sheets of blue-black slate rock surfaces used for school instruction by applying chalk to them. Although there was colored chalk, they were only used for art classes or if a teacher really wanted to emphasize something.

The Sussex Main Street School goes back to 1849 when it was installed on the southeast corner of Maple and Main Streets where today Paul's Service Station is located. It was constructed out of wood and it had the designation of Lisbon District #10 School. It was for children of the newly started (1842) unincorporated village of Sussex.

This wood school lasted until $1,683.41 was spent on a school made of cream brick next to the Sussex Creek in an area that is now the back parking lot of the Sussex Village Hall. The old wood school would eventually become a black smith shop.

The new, two-room school had a first- through fourth-grade room taught by one woman and a fifth- through eighth-grade room taught by a man who was also the principal. There was one doorway on the west that was for ladies and the door on the east was for the boys. It would last until 1914 when in 1913 a major two-story red brick school was built ahead of the cream brick school.

The new school had a short life of only nine years as on the evening of Jan. 30, 1922, a fire swept the Sussex Main Street School which had housed 10 grades and a two-year high school.

Several things happened after the fire. The 10 grades were housed temporarily in a variety of local churches and lofts. The ruins of the fire were torn down and a new $26,000 school was built to replace the old $13,000 school. By September of 1922, the new school opened for 10 grades including the two-year Sussex High School. This is where the blackboards were installed with maple frames and an eraser lip below to hold felt erasers and chalk.

The high school was closed in 1947 with Sussex graduates going on to Menomonee Falls, Hartland, Pewaukee or Waukesha High Schools. In 1952-54, big additions were constructed behind the Main Street School to house nine grades as kindergarten was added. These two additions were designated Orchard Drive School and in 1980, they became the Sussex Library and the first Pauline Haass library which was torn down after the current Pauline Haass library was completed.

In 1979, the Hamilton School District discontinued use of the Main Street/Orchard Drive schools and ultimately sold the property to the Village. In March of 1988, the village was within three days of demolishing the Main Street School. The village knowing that the community wanted remembrances of the old grade high school allowed anyone to come in on a Saturday in early March to take what they wanted. The extended Curtis/Goetz family was there enforce removing banisters and in a major deconstruction move in an upstairs room, Greg Goetz, current Sussex Trustee, and his brother-in-law Corky Curtis, current Sussex Fire Chief, removed a 52-by-58-inch blackboard that weighed more than 100 pounds. It ended up in the basement of the Goetz Sunrise Drive home where the kids used it for fun while the parents would put down assignments for the family to accomplish.

Now 22 years and a generation later, in late February, the Goetz family decided that the 1922-installed, 1988-removed blackboard should go back to Sussex in the museum so future generations could see how students from 1922 to 1979 used the polished slate boards.

Meanwhile the school set for destruction saw the destroy order rescinded and the structure was saved and remolded and opened in 1990 as the current Sussex Village Hall.

Retrospect: Will Main Street School be saved again?

One of the great community happenings in the late-1980s through June of 1990 was the saving and remodeling of the 1922-built Sussex junior high school and Sussex Main Street elementary school. The village prior to 1990 met in the Sussex Community Hall a New Deal project building.

Prior to building the Sussex Community Hall, the Sussex Village Fathers met in the former Lisbon Town Hall which today is the reception room of the Sussex Family Medical Group and the Sussex Community Hall is now home to the Sussex food pantry.

The school was built for about $13,000 and it was the pride of Sussex. In 1920, a two-year high school was carved out of the inside of this school building.

However on Jan. 30, 1922, in the middle of the night the school was destroyed by a fire. The cause was likely spontaneous combustion of a new delivery of coal, but there was also suspicion that it might have been arson because a series of schools in the Fox River Valley had been torched. The burning of the Main Street School caused the formation of the Sussex Volunteer Fire Department which received its charter in May of 1922 led by John Kraemer.

The school district cleaned up the ruin and a new school was built for $26,000 that was ready for eighth-graders and two-year high school students by September of 1922. In 1947 the state ruled against two-year high schools which ultimately led to the construction of Hamilton High School from 1958-62. This followed by the decline of student population in the school district in the 1970s closed the Main Street School by 1979 and the village bought the building.

In 1988 the building was three days from being demolished when a "Save the School" or SOS group of local residents convinced elected officials to have professionals evaluate the condition of the discarded school. Two University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee architectural professors, Jeff Ollswang and Harvey Rabinowitz, had just evaluated the 1866-built Lisbon Town Hall prompting its reuse for a doctor's office.

According to a brochure created by the SOS committee, $500,000 was spent to convert the building into Sussex Village Hall. A grand opening was held on Sept. 15, 1990. To add to the newly created civic center, the Sussex World War II monument was moved to the area in June of 1990 and the Sussex village stone monument sign was installed there in October of 1992.

Plunkett Raysich architectural firm warned officials that the former school building is no longer suitable as a long-term seat of government after they conducted a recent study of the building. They have suggested the village invest about a half million dollars in maintenance that might add 10 to 15 years of life to the building. The consultants also suggested a new building could be built for about $5.5 million that would "allow for the utmost in flexible space and energy efficiency at only a slightly higher cost" than remodeling and expanding the existing building.

Sussex Village Trustee Pat Tetzlaff has been appointed to lead a citizens study group to explore options for the historic building.

Retrospect: A look at the first- through third-grade in Sussex Main Street School circa 1923

The 36 students in this feature's 1923 photo were part of the first, second and third grade in the then-new Sussex Main Street School that was in downtown Sussex. The photo was taken in today's Sussex Village Hall. The 36 students - an average of 12 students per class - were all taught by one teacher.

Sussex had a new school in 1913, but it burned down on Jan. 30, 1922. It was immediately rebuilt in a period of seven months from January to early September of 1922 using the old foundation of the former school.

Back when this picture was taken in the early part of 1923, there were 10 grades at Sussex Main Street School. This photo came from the collection of George and his son, Raymond, Podolske. George Podolske was the owner of Podolske Hardware Store in downtown Sussex from 1915 to 1966. It was later torn down to make way for the Schumann IGA store which today is the Piggly Wiggly. After his son, Raymond, came back from WWII in 1915, he became part of his father's business. Raymond's daughters, Janet and Elaine, in early February of this year were going through their father and grandfather's roll-top desk and found a box full of items to donate to the Sussex Lisbon Area Historical Society which included this photo.

The group of children in this photo graduated from Sussex Jr. High School (part of the same building) between 1931 and 1934. Of the 17 students, at least eight of the boys were part of the Greatest Generation and were drafted or volunteered for service. Robert Cannon was killed during the invasion of Germany. Roman Kayser was wounded and lived out his life with a plate in his head ultimately dying from the wound.

Ray Podolske was an officer as a navigator on a B17 that was shot down after a big raid on Schwinfurt ball bearing plant. He was imprisoned in Stalag 17, famous for its escape mentality.

Other students from this school I know that were WWII veterans are Bill and George Lawler, Frank Mudlitz, Hilbert "Hib" Manke and Dan Greulich. The teacher in the photo is Mildred Christoph.

Of the girls, Joyce Zillmer married Art Bauer who became the Sussex Postmaster from 1954-1970. Joyce's father was the chairman of the Town of Lisbon from 1924-1955.

Bill Lawler became the Waukesha District Attorney and George Lawler became the Waukehsa County District Attorney. George also served in the administration of Guam. Roy Podolske and Hilbert Manke also served on the Sussex Fire Department for 30 years. Ed McLaughlin is one of the few survivors of this group. He married a teacher from the old Lisbon Sixteen School named Dorothy and they went into farming and land purchasing. They started Willow Spring Mobile Home Court across from St. James Catholic Church.

Retrospect, Dec. 31, 2014: Courier was student-run newspaper at Main Street School

In the recent acquisition of the historic photo collection of former Sussex resident Audrey Stier Schlegel, which goes back to the pioneers of Lisbon, there is a photo taken in 1947 that shows the all-classes editorial board of the Main Street School Courier newspaper. At that time, the school was in its last year of a having a first- through 10th-grade set of classes, including a two-year high school.

In the 1990s, with the move from the former Sussex Village Office to the old Main Street School, there was a move to start a quarterly newsletter to the Sussex community under the direction of then-village administrator Chris Swartz. Casting around for a name for this publication, it was noted that the former Two-Year High School had a publication from pre-1933 to post-1950 that was called The Courier. Thus, the name was chosen.

In the Stier-Schlegel photo collection and assorted letters and documents is a photo labeled, "Sussex Courier newspaper editors 1947," suitably identified by a back side listing of all names.

The sophomores for the two-year high school are well-represented with five of the seven in that class, Claudia Kaderabek, the editor, Phyllis D'Orazio, Marilyn Riewe, Dorothy Schultz and Karl Wittmann.

Claudia Kaderabek and Audrey Stier (seventh grade) were the best of friends as they were next-door residents on Sussex's West Main Street. Both farmers, Butch Kaderabek and Roy "Stub" Stier, were long-time members of the Sussex Fire Department and both served on the Sussex Village Board. They were both charter members in 1939 of the Sussex Lions Club with Kaderabek serving as president in 1943-44 and Stier in 1949-50. Both also served as Sussex Fire Chiefs.

Kaderabek was a World War I soldier in France, where he served as a butcher, a trade he had learned at the butcher shop of his father, Herman Kaderabek, in downtown Sussex.

Claudia would later marry classmate Karl Wittmann and they would have a house on Maple Avenue, near the St. Alban's complex, and raise three children. Claudia was a Girl Scout leader of the highest rank. Today, she and Karl live in northern Wisconsin in retirement.

In the back row are brothers Jerry and Doug Tetzlaff, two outstanding athletes. Today, both deceased, are enshrined in the Land O' Lakes Baseball Hall of Fame and also in the Sussex Baseball Hall of Fame. Both were also outstanding players on the Sussex Land O' Rivers and Land O' Lakes basketball teams of the 1950s and 60s. Both would serve in the Army during the Korean War.

Also in the top row is Francis Haasch, who ended up in an artillery unit in the Korean War. Now deceased, his most harrowing Army experience was with the situation where the "human sea" attack by the Chinese. He was involved in bore sighting the big cannons at the close-in oncoming Chinese. He is the father of the current long-time president of the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society and past president of the Sussex Old Engine Show group, Steve Haasch.

Dorothy Schultz, an honors student, became a full-fledged farmer and herdsman of a huge farm on Pewaukee Road, just south of Main Street. Now deceased, a part of her farm will be added in the future to the Sussex Village Park, where a four-plex softball/youth baseball set of fields is envisioned (off Weaver Drive). It will also be an alternate exit for the Village Park.

The school newspaper, the "Courier," was sold to village and town residents for 35 cents during the school year. There were usually eight to 10 Couriers printed each year, a sort of monthly newspaper with some village news, but the majority of news was about what was happening at the school.

There was an added stream income as the Courier also carried ads for local businesses. A listing of these ads was a sort of directory. The 1945 Courier had ads for the feed mill, Nettesheim and Otto, the Mantz Farmers Mutual Insurance Co., Busse's and the Kaderabek meat markets, Steir garage (sold Nash cars), Halquist Stone Co., Beier's Wadham's Service Station, Peterson's Beauty Salon, Schumann's IGA, Podolske's Hardware, Dr. Van Valin, Allen Russell Dentist, Hearle's Shoe Shop, Taylor's Tavern, Roginske's Barber Shop, Fuller Goodman's Lumber Yard, Etzel Dairy, Malsch Furniture, Lee's General Store, Brook Hotel, Marx's Garage, Farmers & Merchant's Bank, Will's Sweet Shop and Hardiman Oil Co.

After 1947, the Sussex Two-Year High School ceased to exist because of a rule of the state of Wisconsin, which generally true throughout the state.




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