This is a panel discussion with former Westmorland neighborhood residents held at Oakwood Village in Madison, Wisconsin, about their experiences in the Westmorland neighborhood.
Panel discussion with former Westmorland neighborhood residents
Transcript from the Oakwood Resident Interviews
28, July 2010 (Beth Culp)
Revised 6, August, 2010 (Tom Martinelli)
Keith VanLanduyt (Mediator): What is your name and where did you live in Westmorland?
Ardith: My name is Ardith MacDowell and I lived in Westmorland for thirty years. We moved there (3814 Meyer Avenue) in 1947, and bought a small house. But when we were expecting our fourth child, we liked the neighborhood so well that we built a house almost across the street (3815 Meyer Avenue)—the one empty lot in the block. We enjoyed living there for all those many years.
And we loved the (Westmorland) park. It was always fun to go up there although it was four blocks for us to walk up there. Queen of Peace (school) was not there when we built, of course. And we loved the Fourth of July parades and things. And in fact one year, my husband was connected with the State Fair in Milwaukee and was working with some of the fireworks people, and so one year he got the fireworks to come to
Westmorland; so we had one of the best fireworks in the city that particular year. We enjoyed living there for many years.
[We lived at] 3814 and 3815 Meyer Avenue (the shortest move within Westmorland). [The houses] were across the street from each other. There was a lot that people were using for a garden, and we persuaded them to sell it to us.
Nancy: My name is Nancy Hazelhorst, and we moved from Amory, when my husband started a company down here in Madison. And my youngest daughter was just going into first grade, and we lived there until she was getting out of high school. I was on (4106) St. Clair; it was right across the street from the park, and it was the big brick one. It was a nice home; I really liked that. . . I had some problematic neighbors—they were very bad. The police knew me, and I knew every police officer.
Gale: My name is Gale Vandeburg. We lived at 533 Gately Terrace, which is the first house on Gately Terrace just off of South Owen. Gately runs down past the park, then it runs half a block over and up the hill. Rather short street. We moved there in 1954, and we left there when they built Heritage Oaks (at Oakwood) in 2006. And my wife passed away just this past Spring. We lived there quite a long time.
Betty: My name is Betty Skowland. I lived at 3909 Birch Avenue from 1947 to 2002, when I moved here (Oakwood Retirement Center). And we built the house, you know, with the Veterans (Loan), we got $10,000 to build a house. There were a lot of vacant lots around us at that time—many. And the Judge had a big garden two blocks across the street from us. And I used to see him come out at 6 o’clock in the morning and work in his garden. Then two houses were built on those lots. I have always been very grateful that we brought up four children there, that they could walk to school. They could come home at lunch if they wanted to. They could play with their neighbors, and the golf course was a wonderful resource. I had a whistle, I could go out on the front steps and I would whistle for them to come. And all their friends knew too!
It was just wonderful to have the park. And our streets were lined with cars (and people) who came and watched the Fourth of July fireworks. And the kids spent the whole day at the park. It was fantastic—the opportunities we had. Because we belonged in a community, and I hope you still have that. I think you do because my neighbors are still there, that some of you may know.
Christy: My name is Chrystie Jackson, and we used (a horn) that my brother sent me from Germany, so that’s what I used to call my children (in reference to Betty Skowland’s comment that she called her children in with a whistle). We built a house in Sunset Village when my husband was on the staff here at UW soon as he got his PhD. And then we decided to go to Purdue and thought we’d always be gone. So we sold our house. And they give us a year extension so we could come back, instead of accepting his (UW) resignation. So six months later we came back and we didn’t have a house. So we bought a house that was partly done on (3901) Meyer Avenue. So we finished that and we lived there for several—five—years. Then we built a house on (563) Park Lane. (She then gave us pictures of this house).
In 1951, before our house was even finished on Park Lane, my husband was asked to spearhead a petition for a sidewalk from Westmorland to West High, down Speedway Road. They tried the petition earlier and it failed. But only by approaching it for safety of your child would the people sign. Because they liked it rural; you now, they didn’t really want a sidewalk. And then Marion (husband) was also asked to put on the first fireworks in Westmorland, and so, of course, that was new to him as well. He asked other professor friends to help him. And of course it was a great success so it was continued all those years. My son also helped. I also worked on safety in the park, and arranging some swimming lessons. A city bus took the children to Vilas (Park). I think most of the kids learned to swim that way. Raising a family in Westmorland was really wonderful. We had so many friends there, and we just loved it. It was so rewarding. And we lived there 25 years.
My youngest son did his scout work out here at Oakwood, when we were living in Westmorland to get his Eagle in community service.
Ronny: My name is Ronny Saeman and we lived in Westmorland—built our house in 1950. And we lived there until we moved to Heritage (Oaks at Oakwood), just like the Vandeburgs. We lived on (564) Gately Terrace, just across the street from the park, and I relate to a lot of the things that have been said. I remember my husband helping with the fireworks one year and he was horrified because he worked for the federal government and, you know, the safety wasn’t there…and after that they hired professionals to do it. But it became kind of a problem. Some years, if the wind was just right a lot of still burning things came down on the roof. Once, one of our cars got speckled because of it. And we had to go up on our roof to make sure there wasn’t anything that was still burning. But it was great because we could sit in our backyard and watch the fireworks.
Our kids also went over there, and my husband would whistle to call them. It was wonderful—letting the kids go there by themselves. Now, unfortunately, they have to be accompanied. But it was great. And selling our house was very easy, and I’m sure that Westmorland is still just a great area. We had no problems selling it. [My address was] 564 Gately Terrace; it was a red house to (in response to Beth Culp saying they painted their own house red). We built it in December 31, 1950 and moved here (Oakwood) November 13, 2006.
[There is a bench in Westmorland Park with a bench dedicated to Ronny and Jerry
You might be interested in what we paid for our lot: $1,100.00. And that was not the original price—the (original list) price was $770.00. Somebody else had bought it and then we bought it from them for $1,100.00. And I was [president of the Westmorland Association]. I was president twice, once quite early, and once [in the 90s].
Elinor: My name is Eleanor Moore and I lived at 4337 Keating Terrace. We moved there in 1966, in the summertime. And we stayed there until I moved here in December of 2005. And I enjoyed all my time there. Our youngest of three daughters went through Midvale School from kindergarten through eighth grade. And both the girls went to West High and then the University of Wisconsin. I fondly remember the parades and the fireworks. It was just a very friendly neighborhood.
Ardith: Don’t I remember that the park field was flooded and we had an ice rink in the wintertime?
Betty & others: Oh, yes
Nancy: It was a hockey rink for the West High kids to practice
Ronny: We took turns going down there and monitoring.
Ardith: Yeah, it was pretty special.
Betty: I’d like to know about the school. Because Midvale wasn’t there when we moved in. Our era built it (in 1950). And the first Parent Teacher Association we started out. And we had potlucks to buy the dishes so we could serve the food. I wondered what the situation is.
(Tom and Amy give current state of where school is now and how the school grade system is set up)
More specific questions, quickly, are you originally from Madison and was your Westmorland home your first home in Madison or did you live elsewhere? Ardith?
Ardith: I went to the University here, but I was not originally from Madison. But the one small house on Meyer was the first house that we lived in.
Nancy: [I was not from here] I am from South Dakota. And the Westmorland house was the first house in Madison. And I really did like the neighborhood, except the (one) neighbor.
Gale: We came from Appleton, I was with the University Extension there in Agriculture. This was our first house in Madison. We didn’t want to move, actually. We loved Appleton, and the people there. It was a very good life there. The University here was trying to convince me to come join the staff on campus, but I didn’t want to come. But I finally did, despite the fact that my wife didn’t want to come. She liked it there. But I came alone to look for a house. She said “I want two things: I want to be near a school.” Midvale was brand new, so we were near a school, two blocks. And she said “I want to be on a bus-line.” Well, at that time the bus stopped kiddy-corner across the street on South Owen, so we were on a bus-line. And I said, “Well there’s one thing I want; I want a big lot. I wanted a big garden. And we had a third of an acre there, we had the biggest lot in the community. And it was full of fir trees and grapevines and all sorts of shrubs, which I could add to, and did. And then the park was right there. It was the very first house I looked at. We paid $20,000.00 for it in 1954. And we sold it for $245,000. And we sold it to people who were already living in Westmorland.
Betty: We rented a house, before my husband went into the service, on Western Avenue. And then when we came back after the war was over, then we built in that area. [My husband] was from Marinette, and I came here from New Hampshire.
Christy: We were from Nebraska; we came here for my husband’s PhD (at the UW). We first built a house in Sunset Village for $5,000. A darling little house; we did a lot of work on it but…
Ronny: I am Ronny Saeman. I am from Northern Wisconsin. My husband was from Cross Plains. We met here at the University. We were married in 1949 and lived in an apartment until we built our house. [The only house they ever had].
Elinor: I was originally from New Jersey and my husband had worked there for a year. Previously he came from Texas. And that was the only house that we had in Madison. We just stayed there the whole time; from 66 until 2005. Well, he died two years earlier, but…
[Tom talks about the proximity to the University and how most of this group had connections to the University, and that our location is a real asset to our community. He
also speaks of the bike path and how that has become a virtual freeway in the mornings
Amy adds that the paving over of the RR tracks has made such a huge difference. And, as a realtor, she never hears people looking for two car garages anymore because there has been a real shift in mindset and lifestyle over the last ten years, Our neighborhood is desirable and fashionable because of the location—and our bus service and the bike trail].
Keith: Why did you all move to Westmorland?
Ardith: We had a new baby and lived in Waukesha. Paul Stark’s agency was recommended to us and so we contacted them. And we bought the house in one day. We didn’t have any more time and someone was babysitting the baby at home. And we were happy with the location. We knew quite a bit about Madison, and we liked the location.
Nancy: Don called me one day and said he couldn’t get home, back up to Amory (where they were living). And for me to come down here because he found a house that he thought I would like. And so I drove down here and… we went over and I thought, “Oh gosh, this neighborhood is so small…and I came from Amory, I mean, NOT a big place. But it just looked so different. And we went in, and we bought it right then. And it was very, very convenient for Don. And I was never sorry about that.
Gale: Well, I didn’t know what Westmorland was… I didn’t pick it because it was Westmorland. It just happened that a fellow I’d worked with, my predecessor in Appleton, had moved to Madison and lived over on Charles Lane. And so when I came down to look at a house, I came to his house and stayed with him. And they said, “say there’s a house for sale over there that you might like.” And it had everything we wanted. You know, it was next to the bus, next to the park, next to the school. . . I made a temporary commitment to the house, in June. And the real estate agent came to our house in Appleton, and they sold us the house while we were in Appleton, without my wife ever seeing it. I assured her it was okay though.
Betty: I can’t remember, I think because there were a lot of vacant lots, and I think that it was a $500 lot, and it was on the west side of town. And so we bought it. Things grew up around us afterward.
Christy: Westmorland—we had liked Sunset Village a lot—but Westmorland had so many opportunities. We had a lot of friends there. And it just seemed like it extended beyond its own little area. The park, and everybody seemed so cohesive in their plans to make a good living in Westmorland. And it was close to West High … and other schools . . . and the bus stop. It was, really, an ideal place to move.
Ronny: When we were married, well, Jerry worked for Forest Products Laboratory. So when we were looking for lots we were naturally looking for somewhere that was almost within walking distance. So we looked at the west side, and we liked the lot right across the street from the park. And it was available, so we took it.
Elinor: My husband came out from New Jersey to look at houses. And he lined up houses for me to look at when I came out. And we decided that we liked the house on Keating Terrace. Especially because it had an apple tree, or it had two apple trees actually. One of them had a tree-house in it. We were also next to the schoolyard with a baseball diamond, which was something the girls valued. And I liked the idea that we were near a school and our youngest could just walk up the hill and not have to cross any streets to go to school. So, everybody was happy. And we had lots of room and enjoyed it.
[Sad interlude about the drowning of the child in the open culvert. I don’t need to talk
about that again.]
Keith: What are your initial memories of your house, and who came with you? What struck you about the house and the neighborhood when you first came to Westmorland?
Ardith: Well, we didn’t have sidewalks yet. Those were built some years later. And we had beautiful elm trees, which the disease took some years later. And we had three children when we moved there. We did have some young people live with us for some time, from our home area, when they needed a place to, because we had two bedrooms upstairs. And although it was a very little house, it had three bedrooms. And we certainly made use of them.
Nancy: I really liked the house. The rooms were all big. Especially my girls because they had their own rooms, and large ones….my son likes smaller places and as soon as he graduated he was out of here…he went to school up at River Falls and he settled there. He’s a carpenter…
Gale: Well, I don’t remember anything about the street except the park down there, which was very impressive. And I had colored slides of it, but we can’t see those anymore. But the park was absolutely beautiful. My initial memories and most vivid memories are of the lot itself, and the trees were all relatively small at that time. But there were fir trees there, and there was a great huge long area of grapevines. And there were so many raspberries. My wife and I used to pick raspberries and she used to freeze them. But we used to pick so many raspberries early in the morning. And on the way to work, I’d stop in at the Sentry grocery store (on Mineral Point Road) and leave off several pints of raspberries every morning. They wanted all the raspberries they could get. The person who lived there (previously) was a cancer research person at the university, and he built a house almost like it out in Orchard Ridge. And he built the house we were in 1950.
Betty: There were no sidewalks. I remember when we had to build them. The few neighbors that were there when we were there, they’ve all almost gone now. No, we were alone there, watching people move on either side of us for awhile.
Gale: If I my memory serves me correctly, Midvale Blvd. was a gravel road there for awhile. . .
Chrystie: We had to build our house smaller than we wanted because our children didn’t want to move where they couldn’t walk to school. We had the walkway beside our house. And that was nice. One day I found someone’s false teeth though, on the walkway. I left them there, hoping maybe they’d come back for them. A lot of different clothes were left on the walkway—kids would lose things.
Ronny: Not only did we not have sidewalks, but when we moved in on Gately Terrace, Gately Terrace was a mud street. We saw the street go in. Also Tokay was just a dirt road. I remember when they were putting in Midvale Blvd, all the trucks came down Gately; there was no other way they could go. And all the houses—there were several houses built on Gately and a few on the next street, but the first years we just watched houses go up, and they did go up quite fast.
Elinor: I remember the lack of trees and shrubbery. It certainly changed the 39 years we were there. I also remember going to Bergman’s (at Midvale Plaza), they had a postal service there, and that was nice. And at one time they put in a gas station, but they tore it down. They also had a grocery store that came and went.
[There were not a lot of trees because it had been farmland and a golf course]
Keith: Describe what life was like during the years that you lived in Westmorland.
Ardith: Our children, we were at the edge of town, so some of our children went to West High, some went to Cherokee, and others went to another one (school). And then the last of the children went back to West. We were at the edge of town, so we had to go wherever there was room for the children to go.
Nancy: The first thing we did is we went up and joined Midvale (School), it was very close for our kids, for confirmation (?) and all that. And I’m still a member there [editor’s note: She may mean Queen of Peace Church]. The one thing I remember that wasn’t good is I woke up one night, Don was over in England, and it just looked like it was a fire. So I got up and looked out, and the two jerks [delinquent neighbors] were pouring gasoline down the street and setting it on fire. It was terrible. So I called the police and they said there is a (patrol) car out there, they’ll get them over there right away. And boy, they took those kids by the nap of the neck—I stood there and watched them . . . . I lived right over there by the park and anything that went on over there .… ice skating at the rink, or hockey for the West High kids and some from the University. The way they had it divided was very good, with the younger kids (on the) lower (rink), and the older ones were (on the) upper (rink). So my kids could just run across the street. That we really liked.
[Conversation ensued about the terrors these two boys caused, examples not needed.]
Gale: We lived next to the little Lustron house, and his whole garage had been set afire and his car was in there and it burned up. [More talk about that.] The park was the nicest thing in that neighborhood. Our kids all took summer programs down in the park. They put on drama festivals, our kids played instruments down there. I have tape recordings of the singing they did down there. Anybody could come and the Recreation Dept. or whoever it was putting this on, would simply work with the kids.
Tom: The kids called it Greenbox because they had this big box set up behind the backstop and would keep all the supplies in there under lock. And it was painted green. I spent a lot of hours in the park. You’d go over there in the morning and stay there all morning, go home and have lunch, and come back in the afternoon. I’m assuming these were kids from the University that were majoring in recreation and they would hire them for the summer. And they were really great. They had all kinds of activities planned.
Gale: The park itself was so nice. And, Ardith knows we started a 4-H club in that community. Very active, and very good. In fact, we had some pretty good parents in that group. They were all State or University people. It was a very active 4-H club.
Ardith: The club was very active. Most of the parents were former 4-H people or on the University staff.
Gale: I was the State Director of the Extension , we had the McDowells, State Director of Agriculture, and then we had . . . the head of the Department of Natural Resources (Lester Voight)…
Ardith: The parents knew how valuable 4-H was, so they organized it.
Gale: Our own son started a Combo…it was pretty loud. But they played and finally played at the state contest. But Westmorland was really the center of all this activity.
[Conversation about the 4th of July Celebration, and about the horses and ponies that were set up there for the kids.]
Gale: The Fourth of July Parade used to go right past our house. It came down Gately Terrace around by our house. We used to set up lawn chairs out there by the boulevard. In those days they had horses to lead the parade and the fire trucks would come and it was a BIG parade. Huge.
Betty: I agree with all of this. And I’m thinking that we had Scout troops. I remember being that. I remember little boys…Cub Scouts.
Gale: My wife was a scout leader.
Ardith: Yes. I was a scout leader, too.
Gale: They used to meet at our house.
Betty: But I think our lives then centered around school and the activities and what we could do there with our kids. We were very fortunate.
Chrystie: It was family-oriented, certainly. We all had children about the same age. And we all went to the park. And they all walked to West High. It was just a wonderful area to raise a family.
Gale: I’m awfully glad we lived there before the pairing of the schools.
[Conversation ensues about splitting the schools]
Ronny: One thing I remember was the women with little children would get together, because most of them did not go to work, so we’d get together for coffee and the children would play together. We quite often would have a block party. I think that’s true of quite a few blocks. I remember watching them build a rock garden in the park in the 1950s. There was a huge pile of rocks at the end of the park, I suppose from the edge of the woods. I suppose they came from either the streets, when they were building the streets, and they used those for the rock garden. And for the first couple of years after it was built, there was a graduate student of horticulture that, I think he must have done this for his PhD or something, and he worked there in the summertime. And it was just beautiful.
Gale: It was.
Ronny: (continuing) He planted all kinds of shrubs and had all kinds of bulbs and annuals that he planted in the rock garden. It was just beautiful.
Gale: Very pretty. In fact, there are either two or three of the flowering crabs were planted by our 4-H club.
Amy: Ohhh, they’re still going strong. It’s beautiful in the Spring. Still is.
Keith: What are some events—storms, neighborhood happenings, particular good times or bad times that you remember happening in the neighborhood?
Ardith: Well, I can’t think about bad times, but all of a sudden I remember that we had a sewing circle. For about three years, the women who lived within a short distance—about 10 or 12 women…so we got to know each other a bit better. We were just sewing or knitting. There was a lot of knitting going on then. And patching—there was always a lot of patching to do! And we did get to know the women very, very well. Right in the immediate neighborhood there.
Nancy: My story was that I had Bad Neighbor, Good Neighbor. And we (the good neighbor) are still friends. We meet for lunch. Her name is Dottie Buerugee. And also Trish Ornensen.
[Conversation about the unfortunate family that made up the “Bad” neighbors. Sad circumstances and really naughty boys…had a meeting with a judge and everything and the other father didn’t show—they’d lost their mother. Nancy had to lock her doors all the time, even if she wanted to go to the garage. Because there were times when she’d come in when the boys were older and rummaging through her cupboards.]
Nancy: I remember about the tornado that I was scared to death. Don wasn’t home, and none of my kids were home. It was June of 2004.
Amy: Took out a lot of trees. Nobody was hurt.
Tom: The tornado went over the channel 27 news tower and they had to cut the broadcast and go downstairs—so Westmorland had a heads up.
[More talk about the tornado and the circumstances around it…Gale adds a story about his son being there visiting and his wife being back in her bedroom, ill. Gale and son were watching TV with the curtains closed, and his wife must have been listening to the radio, because she called up, “Shouldn’t you two be in the basement?” Gale had no idea why, so he got up and opened the curtains and thought, “My goodness!” It was too late to go downstairs by then—it was all over.]
Gale: The only other thing I remember is that garage burning down next door. This was earlier. Back when the Ford Mustang came out, about 1966 or so. We had a new Ford Mustang, my kids were old enough, so I had to get a Ford Mustang, along with the other cars. And I had it parked in front of the house, on Gately Terrace there, and I came out one morning, and the tires were gone. I don’t know who did that (we all assume it was Nancy’s neighbors).
Betty: Well, I’m trying to remember when there was a bad storm—like a hurricane…I was going to say early 1970’s. We didn’t have any electricity for about three days—
[Everyone pipes up that that was the Ice Storm of 1976—they all pitched in with
memories of that one.]
Betty: In ’76…because it knocked down limbs from trees and right on our porch. We lost a Red Bud tree. And we had a lot of damage. The neighbors across the street had lights. And they brought over the coffee pot [we all interjected with how life saving and nice that was]. It was fine. But we didn’t have any [electricity] for about three days. People left and went to hotels. But we had a fireplace and so we slept in front of the fireplace.
Ardith: Yes, we had a fireplace, and we burnt a little tree that we had taken down in the summertime. We burned that whole tree in the fireplace. And we put big blankets on all the doors, so that we could keep the living and dining room warm. And so then we could eat.
Betty: So you lived in that room.
Ardith: We lived in it, yes.
Betty: Yes, I know, I remember that.
Ardith: For three days.
Chystie: There was a quite active bridge group on Park Lane. It was only a block long. . . . Yes, we had that for years and years, and I imagine there were a number of bridge groups.
Betty: Oh yes, we had a neighborhood bridge group, couples and women in the afternoon. And we had a wonderful time with the couples, because we all moved in about the same time. Had kids about the same time. And we had gatherings of just the couples. And I remember Christmas Eves—we would go around to the houses and we saw the toys before the kids did. Across the street, there was an electric train. And all of us adults went over and we saw the electric train before the kids the next morning.
[Betty actually skipped her current bridge group to come to our meeting]
Ronny: Well, I was going to mention the tornado also. We were gone; we were at a play at the University. And all of sudden they announced for us to go downstairs. And we thought it was a joke—that it was part of the play or something. But they convinced us, so we went. And somebody had a cell phone, and I discovered that it was in our neighborhood. So I kind of wondered. And when we came home, we could not get up Tokay beyond Gately Terrace. Fortunately, we could turn into Gately Terrace. And the lights were out. We did not have much damage, or any damage. A few of the branches, that’s all. The house two (doors) down from us lost some big limbs on their oaks. But we lost our Elm tree in the ice storm. So many branches came down that we decided that it would be impossible to get it looking good. And we also at that time we were worried about Dutch Elm Disease, so we just cut it down and put in another tree.
Another problem that we had in the park is that they set the shelter on fire at one time. I don’t remember which year, but when they rebuilt it, they put a lot of concrete in it.
[Conversation about when it happened, and it was in the early 70’s. Gale piped up that he has a bunch of pictures of the tornado damage in the area. What Tokay was like and others—Tom and Keith ask to borrow pictures]
And the ice storm I remember very well. We had a Birch tree in front of us, next to the street. And the branches were way down to the ground, and we didn’t know if it would survive, but it did. But the Elm trees were much more brittle, so I lost the branches.
Betty: I do remember we used to have window watchers—Peepers—that came up through the backyards. The word would go out, and we would watch.
[Beth, paranoid about safety and reassuring herself, asks if they all felt that it was safe in the neighborhood, with everyone watching out for each other. Everyone agreed yes]
Betty: Yes—it was a community. We all belonged to the same [community]. We felt wonderful about [it]. We had good neighbors.
Keith: We’ve talked a lot about the service projects and volunteering groups you were involved in. Are there any other groups that were very active back in your time that we haven’t talked about yet?
Betty: Did we mention PTA? Parent Teacher Association? Because I remember we were all very active in that.
Gale: Yes, very.
Amy: It sounds like a lot of your social activities also revolved around the school. And family. [all agree]
[Conversation about bomb shelters….none of them had shelters]
Gale: I should mention, we had some very good neighbors. Nowadays, you couldn’t do this, but my boys were a little young and they got interested in raising pigeons. And they moved from ordinary pigeons to very fancy pigeons. I mean really fancy. So in that backyard, close to our neighbors, we raised, in fact different size pigeons. We had a lot of small pigeon houses, where we’d have two stories—we built these together with the kids—and three sets of pens on each floor. And eventually went to a garage. My house didn’t have a garage to begin with, but we planned to build a garage. But it became a pigeon house and not a garage. And so there were times when we probably had at least 200 birds there. One breed, they used to fly up in the air and circle around, and then they’d tumble. These were rollers. And they’d tumble, but then they’d come out it, and the kids would watch this. And, one day, one rolled right into our chimney. It’s a great story. If you want to see some pictures of them—I have a lot them. Kinds of birds you’ve ever seen. Beautiful things. But I did a story when my wife’s life after she passed away this spring. And it tells a little about the pigeons in that story. Because she had to go out there in the winter and water the pigeons when the kids were at school, and get the water out of there, otherwise it would freeze. But to think that the neighbors would put up with all that. One day the neighbor over on St. Clair Street called and said, “Say, there’s a strange bird over here at our place. Would you come over?” And, sure enough, it was one of the fantailed birds. It was parked up on the eves. And they were fairly gentle birds, we just took a ladder and went up, got it and took it home.
Betty: Well, whatever happened to the birds?
Gale: We used to sell them. They showed them all over the country. There are national breed shows, just like for cattle. And I’d go one weekend with one boy—they wouldn’t breed the same breed, they had to have their own breed—so I’d go one weekend maybe to Cleveland, Ohio or to Kansas City—all over the country. And we’d show these birds.
[Conversation about how we can have chickens now, but no one has 200]
Gale: We used to have a few chickens, but they were some that they brought home from Midvale school, they were little chicks. And the boys brought them home, I think they gave them two, and the boys brought them home. And all of a sudden the neighbors, the Neidermeyers—you know the Neidermeyers, they lived across the street—came over and said, “My mother won’t let us keep these chicks. My wife said, “Okay, you can put them here.” So we had four of them for awhile. Chickens, dogs, cats. Fish, turtles.
Ronny: As far as volunteering…after the Edgewood graduate student left Westmorland, from the rock garden, the city took care, had a half-time gardener there for the summer for a few years. And as their budget got smaller, they spent less and less time until, finally, all that they ever did was mow the grass. And so, everything grew up. Finally we decided it was too bad, you couldn’t even see the rocks. And Jerry knew . . . the husband of the director of Olbrich Gardens, Nancy [Ragland]. And so Nancy came up; and Nancy said, “If you get together a group, you can cut out all the junk”—because there was a lot of buckthorn and honeysuckle, wild roses and everything. So we did get a group together, and we cut out and hauled out the stuff. And they took out six truckloads of branches. And then the city came in and used Round-Up around the rocks to kill the stuff. And after that we could dig out the roots, and I did a lot of the planting then. That was my volunteer activity. . . I worked until we moved. And there were other people that helped. [We started it] probably around the time that Westmorland was having problems, because one the things that those boys (the troublesome neighbors of Nancy) did was to hide in those bushes there. And one of the things that we did was a lot of trimming inside to clear out the brush. [It was sometime in the 1970’s]
[Ronny did this volunteering from about 1976 to 2006, about thirty years!]
[Conversation takes place about the fact that part of the park is being restored back to natural prairie. And the other thing in the neighborhood is that more and more people are putting in veggie and functional gardens instead of grassy lawns. Gale talks about the neighbor he had who didn’t have any lawn, and Betty’s neighbor didn’t have any lawn—it was all prairie—she was the first one]
Beth: Did any of you participate in any of the Christmas decoration contests?
ALL: Oh, yeah. Yes, etc….
Nancy: We won it once.
Gale: So did we, once.
Betty: I was a judge once.
[Conversation about Westmorland still continuing the Santa tradition.]
[Wrap-up thank you’s and closing items….then Betty surprises us with a question]
Betty: I have a question. Do you have anything about Pop Gordon in there? [No, we don’t] Pop Gordon, who was an institution in the music world--
Betty: On, WHA, yes. And the whole state knew him.
Gale: He traveled all over the state. He was an Extension specialist in music.
Betty: They lived on Chamberlain Street, I think, the older area, and there was a new house across the street from me on Birch Avenue….it was a new little house and they moved in, Pop Gordon and Mrs. Gordon And he used to get us together at Christmas time, in houses. I had a group at my house, it was Christmas time.
Gale: He was good.
Betty: And then he got the little kids together in the neighborhood, and he took them around caroling. And he was just great.
Gale: I don’t know what his first name was, but he was always known as Pop Gordon; you ought to look him up. . . He was active in the state back in the early fifties.
Ardith: I think his first name was Edward.
Gale: I think so maybe.
Betty: Or Edwin. [They all agree.] I don’t know—he was always Pop Gordon. And what was the name of that musical group at the University? It wasn’t the philharmonic—that singing group that has a Christmas—Tudor singers? That kind of thing. He used to have them over at the house and they would practice. I’d open all the windows or I sat on the front step and I would listen. They were wonderful. . . . He’s been gone a long time, and Mrs. Gordon is gone, too. But they contributed a great deal to our block and our neighborhood.
[Editor's note: So far in the research I’ve done, I can’t find a record of Pop Gordon].
[The group recollected then that the director of the symphony, Rolland Johnson, lived in the neighborhood as well. And his wife was an opera singer and taught singing lessons. Betty was out in her yard one time and a woman driving by in a roadster came by singing her heart out. She stopped, and went into the house for her lesson. It was wonderful, Betty says.]
(Westmorland History Committee members attending the gathering included Keith VanLanduyt, Beth Culp, Amy Onofrey, and Tom Martinelli)
Meeting recording transcribed by Beth Culp
(1 hour & 29 minutes)
August 3, 2010