A short story about Tenney Park and the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood, told by Jackie Kaplan.
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I: This is. This is Joe Orman. It is May 19, 2019, and I am here with:
N: Jackie Kaplan. Uhh, K-A-P-L-A-N
N: And I live over on Marston Street. Umm, I first came to Madison, um, I'm originally from Chicago but I first came to Madison after living in Vermont,
N: And it was just too isolated, so I came to Madison, I thought it would be a great place to live, and um, originally I got an apartment over at Sherman Terrace and I lived there for about six years. And when I very first came to Madison, and was moving over to Sherman Terrace, um, my parents were, had loaded up the car, and we came down Marston Street to cut over, to get over to Sherman Ave, and Sherman Terrace. And my dad said, "Oh this would be a nice street to live on!" and I said, "Oh, dad, I could never afford to live on this street." But, eventually I could! Umm, so I moved to my house in '87, and umm, the isthmus had been just about written off, nobody thought anybody would want to live on the isthmus except for very old people who had their old houses and um, students. And actually, um, I was like, a thousand dollars too much in salary otherwise I could've gotten a WHEDA loan-
I: Right, right.
N: Yea. Uh, umm for to, and, and WHEDA loans were for people who had moderate income who, umm, to just encourage people to move to the isthmus. Because, they just the isthmus was gonna be written off. And there was a lot about how they're gonna tear down all the houses. Chris Lapham school was closed.
N: Ummm, so, I think the big thing is just how desirable the isthmus has become. And people love living on the isthmus now, and, and, and there's a real sense of neighborhood. And of course, all the apartments over on East Washington now. And now they're starting to build apartments over on East Johnson, and umm, I wonder if that's going to change the neighborhood. Because I think people who live in these high rises aren't going to have a real sense of ownership in the neighborhood.
N: Umm, but, umm, so far so good.
I: Alright. So can you tell me a little bit about living near Tenney Park and just memories you've got about Tenney Park?
N: Umm, it's just great living near the park. My house faces near the park, I get to sit umm, on my bed and watch people skate and umm, every year there's somebody, not always the same person, who's, who's skating at 5:30, 6:00 in the morning. It's not unusual for people to go, to park their car, go for a skate. Put their, umm, ice skates into their trunk of their car and take the bus to work.
N: Umm, and actually when they were um rebuilding my street, the workmen brought their umm fishing poles with them, and lounge chairs and they would sit and, and, um, fish off the lagoon, um, and then go back to the construction work again.
I: That's really interesting.
N: I think it's really significant what's hap-, you know after the big flood that we had...
N: Umm, that that's also pulling the neighborhood together, and um, making people realize that, that uh, we're not going to have the neighborhood if we don't advocate for it. Umm, and also making us realize that the watershed doesn't end across the street, or even across Lake Mendota.
N: That the watershed is much, much bigger than that. And we gotta be looking at the whole area. Umm, prob-, from, from way past Waunakee to way past Stoughton because that's really the whole ecological environment. Not just what happens in the, in Tenney Park Lagoon.
N: Yea. Umm, [PAUSE] What else is there? It's interesting, um, I'm interested in history and it's interesting to know about, some things about Tenney Park. Um, I got to, umm, we were going to do a historical project and put up some pictures of the pavilion that never happened. But, I got to meet the woman who's grandfather was the last janitor over at the school across...
I: Okay, yeah.
N: Across the street, and I got to talk to some older people. Um, there used to be a huge, um, slide, umm off of the Tenney Park beach. Really enormous, like stuff that we would never do now because it would just be too scary.
N: Um, and it was um, one woman told me that when she was a kid they would take the trolley over here, even though they lived on the west side because it was just, it, umm, going to Tenney Park beach was like the best place in Madison to go to. Um, I also read that even into the fifties there was a playground [PAUSE] person at the playground in Tenney Park with the nice fence around it and um women could drop their kids off and let the kids just stay here
N: for the, for the whole day.
N: Which is something we don't even,
N: Don't even have available to us anymore.
N: Umm, is there anything else that, hmm? Yea.
N: Yup, so. What else can I tell you about the area?
I: Uh huh, yea.
N: Oh! I, oh I think the only other thing is, umm. Cuz I'm aware of the school system, there's kind of a crisis because, umm, umm, the ebb and flow of people living in the area is much slower than other places.
N: So, we were able to successfully reopen Lapham, but now our numbers are down again, because when people's kids grow up they don't leave the area! [LAUGHTER] So, there must have been at least fifteen kids on my block ten years ago.
N: And now they're all graduated from college and the families stay. For better or worse.
N: So anything else? Nope, that's it?
I: I think that's it.
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