Reading old clippings from the Sheboygan [Wisconsin] Press, I found a remarkable listing of cultural events. For example, the visual arts were going to be the topic at the Sheboygan Branch of the American Association of University Women. Their guest was one Gerhard C.F. Miller, who painted in watercolor and sketcher’s pen “realistically but also imaginatively and creatively.” His talk “Painting to Travel and Traveling to Paint” would describe how he and his wife, the former Ruth Morton, “a nationally-known interior decorator,” who lived three miles north of Sturgeon Bay, traveled widely and painted, drawing inspiration from “the weathered houses, the gnarled cedars and the rocky landscapes of the Door County Peninsula as well as in the moonlit silhouette of a Biblical village, in the fortified Crusaders’ Harbor of Malta and in the jungles of South America.”
The Junior Woman’s Club announced a full slate of programs and activities for the coming season. Mrs. Jacob Fessler would speak and “show scenes” from her trip to the Far East, and a month later Wayne Jung would illustrate his talk with his decoupage creations. In April of the new year, Mrs. Emil C.A. Muss would exhibit and talk about her doll collection. I was especially intrigued by Mrs. Marion C. Fox, coming all the way from Milwaukee for a presentation entitled “History in Hats.”
However, the cultural event I most missed attending was the presentation at the Kewaskum’s Women’s Club by Manitowoc’s Mrs. Conrad Daellenbach, who gave humorous readings in Norwegian dialect including “one entitled ‘The Telephone.’’’ The accomplished Daellenbach—she was past president of the Manitowoc Women’s Club and the present secretary of the Civic Music Association—“has given readings and his written special monologues for church groups and social and fraternal organizations, featuring the brighter side of life. Many women’s clubs have booked her and these included Rhinelander, Marinette, Oconto, Sturgeon Bay and Manitowoc.” I’ll bet Garrison Keillor knew of her.
If I had read this paper when it first was published, I probably glanced at the ads, but now my eye is drawn to them, both for the products and for the prices. One hardware store offered an O-Cedar sponge mop for $2.44 and a two by six feet carpet runner for $1.98. In the new technology department, a 6 transistor radio using “2 penlight cells,” weighing 10 ounces, and promising to play up to 100 hours cost $12.88.
Ads in September anticipated winter, and fur trims were stylish. One store offered a fur boa “in quality mink only” and said that it was “fashion’s most flexible, most fascinating, most fabulous accessory.” It had clips and ties that allowed many uses. “Loop it, twist it, twirl it into the glamorous Neckline Décolletage shown above, [I am a little surprised this was not censored but perhaps many unsophisticated readers like me would not have known what décolletage was. On the other hand, in the accompanying drawing, it was hard to tell that the woman had breasts under the fur], a Shoulder Scarf, a Draped Hat, a Neckline Ascot, plus the many ways you will discover.” The price: $69.
Another company offered a coat that the spouse still considers attractive, perhaps because it is similar to one she once owned. Even though the offered garment may not have been the most practical outerwear for a Wisconsin winter, it was the “epitome of elegance. Slim clutch coat on Eininger’s famed Grandura, bracelet length sleeves; in walnut or topaz with huge bolster collar of rare Fromm natural pedigreed Golden Amber Fox. Also available in Fromm’s natural Ciel Fox on white Grandura.” It carried a price tag that few Sheboyganites could have afforded for what had to be a special-occasion wrap: $169.98. (Over $1,700 in today’s dollars.)
When asked about Sheboygan, I have often given the clichéd answer: It is a good place be from. Looking at these clippings returned me a little to that time and place, which was a good environment for me to grow up in. I do sometimes wonder what my life would have been if I had stayed in that place of glory days. I know that the prices have changed, but I don’t know how much of the rest of it has endured. My visits once I left have been brief, and the last was more than a decade ago. I am curious about that small town, but that curiosity is not strong enough to consider a permanent return. Somethings should stay in the memory or, in my case, in a file tucked in the back of a desk drawer.