A short story about Tenney Park and the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood, told by Thomas Schmidt, Jean Huxmann, and Steve Huxmann.
[START OF RECORDING]
I: I’m Joe Orman, it is May 19, 2019, and I am here with:
N1: Tom Schmidt, S-CH-MIDT.
N2: Jean Huxxman. H-U-X-M- A-N-N.
N3: Steve Huxmann. H-U-X-M- A-N-N.
I: Ok, now I was told that you had a story to share about taking your kids to school in canoes?
N2: That’s right… You wanna hear that, right?
I: Yes, I would to hear that, yes.
N1: You guys start…
N2: Ok, so Lapham school…closed for ten years.
N2: And our oldest son went to Lapham School for Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade. And then— the school closed. And so, all of the—Tenney neighborhood kids… had to move over to Marquette School. And people were not real happy about that [LAUGHS] at all. But we decided, the first year that they went over to Marquette, we thought, well we weren’t happy about the fact that they’d been there all year, we’re do something fun at the end of the year. So, we decided to meet—neighborhood people—here at the Yahara River, and get into canoes, and we just had an inflatable rowboat at the time. And so, we met early in the morning, and took our kids down the river to Marquette School on the last day of school. And then they climbed up the rocks, and went into the school. And then we went out for donuts, we went out to Ovens of Brittany or somewhere for snacks…
N1: Yeah… Yeah… Jean and Steve set this all up. And they that uh, inflatable, uh raft, rowboat, whatever.
N2 [INTERUPTING]: Yeah… [UNSURE OF BRAND] Raft.
N1: And then uh, I had uh, an aluminum canoe,
N1: And uh…my daughter, Megan. And, I think Ben maybe was, he was pretty little, but he probably was there [ASKING N2]. Was Jeffery along?
N1: Yeah. Okay.
N2: Well, let’s see now: Jeffery was at the Tenney Nursery.
N1: Yeah I don’t know if my s-
N2 [INTERRUPTING]: They might have gone along, but they didn’t go into the school. [N1 TALKING OVER]
N1: Yeah, yeah, but it was—it was a lot of fun!
N2: And then, more and more people started doing it. And so we kept up the tradition every year. Um…
N1: Well until—
N2: Until they graduated from… 5th grade, Middle School.
N1 [OVER THE LAST SENTENCE]: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, and—and I
N2 [INTERRUPTING]: Until the YOUNGER kids graduated from Middle School.
N1: And I think it’s still going on.
N2: And then it did continue with other families after that. I don’t know if it’s still going on… But maybe, yeah.
I: That’s fantastic.
N1: Oh I think so.
N1: I think so and, and the fact that you, you’ve got this canoe thing going on today.
N1: And the gentleman who set that up, Tony [INDECIPHERABLE],
N2: Oh he was one of the initial—people that got taken down the river.
N1: Yeah he was one of the kids that was a part of all that.
I: What were uh, what were uh people’s reactions like the first year that you did this? Like did— were there people actually like at the school at that time that could see you uh take—like bring that kids up to the rocks, er?
N1: No… I don’t think so—
N3: No, it was just something we that we did.
N3: No—no fanfare, no media
[I, N1, N2, N3 LAUGHS]
N2: No Facebook posts [GROUP LAUGHS]
N1: And I’m pretty sure like Jean said we went somewhere to get something.
N2: We just took pictures, I mean the parents took pictures.
N1: Yeah, yeah.
I [At the same time]: Right right right.
N2: And the kids thought it was fun.
N2: A fun way to get to school.
N1: Yeah, it was, it was great [N1, N2, I LAUGHS].
I: That sounds wonderful. So how long have you all been in the neighborhood?
N1: Well—I… My… wife and I, moved in in 1971.
N1: And we’re still in the same house that we bought in 1971. And a little aside for that: our house at that time cost $15,500.
N1: So, it was uh, a different time.
N1: Yeah, its—
N2: And we moved in 1977…from Sherman Terrace just on the other side of the river to Few Street. And we’re in the same house too, since then.
N1: And we, we all got to know each other because
N2: Oh yeah! We can talk about that.
N1: The neighborhood—
N2: We had a babysitting co-op.
N1: Yeah, a babysitting co-op.
N1: Yeah, and so we had what? Maybe 20 families? To start off?
N3: At least a dozen,
N2: At least twenty…yeah.
N3: At least a dozen, I think. I don’t know if it was twenty.
N1: Yeah… Anyway, in the teens.
N1: And a lot of us, uh, are still in the neighborhood…
N2 and N3: Mhm.
N1: And a lot of us are—well we’re all friends yet.
N1: Not, not everyone in the co-op, I don’t mean that, but I mean most of our real close group is still together.
N2: Yeah, still—
N1: And married!
N2: Yeah… Still married [CHUCKLES].
I: [LAUGHS] That’s impressive—
N1: Which in itself is unbelievable!
I: Wow… That’s really fantastic.
N1: Yeah… It’s a good, well we like the neighborhood. Otherwise we would have left.
N2: The neighbor was sort of—we were the young families moving in, at that time. And we all just got to know each other.
N2: And we’ve stayed and now we’re the old families.
N1: Yeah, that’s right.
I2: May I ask—who were the old families when you were the young families?
N2: Yeah—the old families were…. Older people, lots of people who did, like tradesman work like—
N2: Our house was owned by a roofer… And the guy next door did [ASKING N3] insulating?
N2: That kind of job.
N1: Concrete work…
N2: Plumbers… And uhm… they moved out, we moved in. Some of them didn’t—weren’t happy that we were all moving in. [N2 and N2 LAUGH]. We’re trying to be happier that the younger people are moving in now. [N2. N3, I, and I2 LAUGH] Than they were, but.
N1: The, the woman, that lived next door to us, we have a shared driveway—Mrs. Schneider [sp?] was her name. And Mrs. Schneider grew up in the house that was, [that] we shared the driveway with. And her father had built that house. And I—I think that our house was, I don’t know if our house was there at that time or not, but, I think our house was 1907, I think. Uh, there’s some—we’re not sure about the actual date. Uhm, but uhm… Can I, can I tell a quick story about our neighbor—I don’t wanna keep…
I: Yeah no, no, please do.
N1: Ok, so, uh behind us, uh… I live at 1127 Gorham.
N1: And behind us—just little bit at an angle from us—was a family, that had lived there for quite some time. And they had a old outhouse on their property- a three hole outhouse.
N1: OK? Now, some people don’t understand how outhouses work. But they, that’s 3 on top of each other that’s 3 sideways. [I2 laughs]
I: Right, right.
N3: A luxury, a luxury
I: Luxury, a luxury.
N1: Right, a luxury
I2: I’d say so.
N1: You’d invite friends over [I2 LAUGHS]
[N2 and N3 CHUCKLE]
N1: And, so, a client of mine—cuz’ I was a carpenter…
N1: Uh… A client of mine, said that her father… wanted that outhouse. And they—they had a cottage on Lake Mendota.
N1: And so, they wanted that outhouse moved, to their property on Lake Mendota [GROUP BEGINS TO LAUGH].
N1: And so they—this is horse and wagon time. Y’know?
I: Right right right right…
N1: So they brought this wagon over and they loaded this outhouse onto the wagon. And this man and his wife, who wanted the outhouse, came over together on the wagon, but when they left with the outhouse, it was the owner of the outhouse, and the new owner of the outhouse, and she needed a place to sit. And so, she sat in the outhouse, on the way home. And I believe that it was on Baldwin Street.
N1 [CONTINUING]: I might not be exactly sure about this, but the door swung open. [LAUGHTER] And one of her friends was walking, by, or whatever. And so, she waved at that person [GROUP LAUGHS]. And away they went.
I2: As you do.
I: As you do, yes.
N1: As you do. And so, this story was relayed to me by the daughter of this man. And uh… I’m assuming it’s true. But in any event.
I: That’s fantastic.
N1: The other thing that was happening in the neighborhood when we moved in, was they had—y’know it was still uh, basically Madison was a part of a farm community.
N1: And so, we would have, down Gorham Street, we would have tractors, and we would even have a combine—it’s a large farm machine…
N1: Going down, uh, Gorham Street. And the only thing I could speculate was: There was a brother on one side of Madison who had a farm, and there was another brother on the other side of Madison [GROUP BEGINS TO CHUCKLE].
I: [LAUGHING] Sure, sure.
N1: And the combine’s a very expensive item
N1: And they were sharing this combine. But it would always be on a Sunday morning.
N1: Because, very little traffic. [GROUP MURMURING]
I: Just when you’re trying to sleep yeah.
N1: Well no, no no no. It wasn’t like it was that loud always or-
N1: No, it was—it was great actually. I would love for that day to happen again.
N1: When a combine would go down Gorham Street.
I2: That would be nice to happen at the Centennial, to have a combine around.
N1: Wouldn’t that be something? [I2 LAUGHS]
[INAUDIBLE UNTIL 9:37]
N3: Well I think I should tell the story about the deer in the woods [INAUDIBLE].
N3: We lived, before we moved into this neighborhood on North Few street, we lived just across the river, at a housing development that was built after WWII called Sherman Terrace.
N3: And were there until we had our second child, shortly after. But in that building, the building we were in which was #13, on the other side was just a big, open field. There was—Camelot, and all that other housing development—didn’t exist. And there were, and there was kind of a woods there. And from time-to-time [SNAPS LIPS] we would find whitetail deer, in that woods.
N1: They would follow the railroad tracks from up north, down into the city, cross the street, and then forage in the forest, and, and then go back [N1 CHUCKLES]. So we had, we had deer next to our building, in Madison.
N2: And then we had and then we had that circus train that came and stopped.
N3: Oh that’s right!
N2: Circus train used to go once a year from Baraboo to Milwaukee.
N2: And it would stop, right on Fordem Avenue. And then the whole neighborhood could come and walk along.
N3: See animals!
N2: See all the circus trains.
N3: They’d flip open the steam organ, and someone would play the
N2 and N3 [TOGETHER]: Calliope.
I: That’s incredible.
I2: It would stop where the train yard is now?
N2 and N3: Yes.
I2: Ohhh. Ok.
N2: Yeah, and so from our apartment you could hear it and see it and then know, “Now it’s time to go out.”
I: That’s incredible.
N1: Yeah anyway it’s a good—it’s a good neighborhood.
I2: Yeah, clearly.
[General sounds of agreement]
N1: I don’t know if I’ve got anything else…
N3: We’ll think of something as soon as we walk through that door.
[General sounds of agreement]
N2: Do you have any questions [INAUDIBLE]?
I2: We’re here all day!
I: Yeah, we’re here all day if you have more stories or…
I2: I mean, if you have anything specific about… Tenney Park err… Y’know, bringing your kids here…
N2: Well everybody brought their kids here.
N2: And then our kids brought themselves here. They would go skating after school.
N3: Yeah, that was back in the day when the parents didn’t necessarily…
N3: Go with the kids.
N3: “We’re going to the park.” “OK”.
N2: Yeah they kids would- would meet and play games.
N2: Well, hockey.
N1: Oh yeah. Hockey and… baseball…
N1: And one of the kids that our kids hung around with, Tony Sterm [sp?]? He’s the one that’s setting up this canoe race on the pond right now.
I2: Oh wonderful.
N1: Alright, uhm, the kids always used to be able to tell when Spring was here because that’s when Tony, would fall through the ice [INAUDIBLE] the lagoon.
N1: And I mean it happened!
N1: It happened more than once. So, they always knew when Spring was here when Tony would fall through the ice.
N1: Well I don’t know; I don’t have anything else.
I2: Like his own Groundhog’s Day.
N3: Oh! When our kids were real little, we would come down to the lake—down to Tenney Park—
N3: Where the swimming beach is. And the water was clear.
N2 and N1: Oh, yeah.
N3: And we had noooo, no hesitation about letting the kids play in the water, swim in the water.
N2: They gave swimming lessons over there.
N3: They gave swimming lessons there. You could see to the bottom of the lake there wasn’t any algae or anything like that. And y’know it sounds like I’m telling an older-timer story from the 1800’s or something, but, it wasn’t that long ago!
I: Right. Right.
N3: It wasn’t that long ago!
N3: And then, and then the concession stand there sold hotdogs, and ice cream, and y’know nothing gets…I don’t think anything gets sold there anymore. So that was, that became kind of a destination place for the kids. They could come down and get a popsicle or an ice cream bar in the summertime and go swimming with their friends and come home and, no danger.
I: Yeah. Well that’s fantastic.
N3: Yep, that gives you something to work on huh?
I: Oh yeah, absolutely, thank you for sharing.
[END OF RECORDING]