Oral history interview with Dennis Herling (Family History)
This is an oral history interview with Westmorland neighborhood resident Dennis Herling, focusing on his family's history.
This recording was created on . You can view the original file and full metadata in our digital repository.
Oral history interview with Dennis Herling
This is an oral history interview with Westmorland neighborhood resident Dennis Herling, who lived in the neighborhood 1943-1962.
This recording was created on . You can view the original file and full metadata in our digital repository.
- June 11, 2014
Dennis Herling Interview
Westmorland Address: 3825 Paunack Avenue (1943-1962)
Current Address: 601 Riverview Drive, Bremerton, WA 98312 (since 1995)
Interviewer: Tom Martinelli
Tom Martinelli: This is Tom Martinelli and I'm speaking today with Dennis Herling on June 11, 2004. We're sitting in my living room at 445 Caromar Drive and Dennis is visiting here from the state of Washington and so I thought it would be a good time to sit down and talk over his memories of living in Westmorland. So Dennis let's get started by just talking about some basic information about yourself. Where were you born?
Dennis Herling: Here in Madison at St. Mary's Hospital, 1943.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. And how long did you live in Westmorland?
Dennis Herling: Well up until graduated from high school in '61 and then I went away to school on '62. And got married '65. Back to Madison but not in Westmorland. So I guess you could say I left Westmorland in '62.
Tom Martinelli: Okay, sure. What was the address that you lived at?
Dennis Herling: 3825 Paunack Avenue
Tom Martinelli: Okay. Were your parents the first owners of that house or they did buy it from somebody?
Dennis Herling: They built it and actually just moved up from 3817 (Paunack Avenue) where they lived when I was born. And they built that house at 3825 (Paunack Avenue), I think in 1953 or '55.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. So you spent your whole younger years growing up in that house?
Dennis Herling: Yes. On Paunack Avenue; all of the time between the two houses.
Tom Martinelli: What’s your earliest memory of Westmorland? How young were you, memories you can remember of Westmorland?
Dennis Herling: Well, I guess I go by pictures that I found. And I guess some snow falls, way back when they were pulling me around in a sled. And pictures like from around my grandpa's place and our home there on Paunack.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. And where did your grandfather live again? What was his address?
Dennis Herling: Bill Herling, and he lived on Glenway near Paunack.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. This is also going back to your youth. What was it like when you were growing up here? What do you remember about the neighborhood?
Dennis Herling: We could go from one end of the neighborhood to the other. Riding my bike all over. Down to the duck pond. Over here to Midvale school.
Tom Martinelli: I'm thinking there were still a lot of vacant lots in the neighborhood, when you were young? So kids had the run of the vacant lots, places to play. So were there many kids on Paunack that you could play with, or did you kind of spread out over the whole neighborhood?
Dennis Herling: None like my age. There were some older and some younger. But we would all kind of play together. But none exactly my age.
Tom Martinelli: Let's move on and talk a little bit about your life after high school, and the work you did. What exactly did you do for a living?
Dennis Herling: I moved to Indianapolis in 1967 and went to work for Allison Transmission, a division of General Motors. And started as a Technician in their Engineering Test Department. And I moved into the Quality Assurance Department. And then 1985 I went into Sales and Service.
Dennis Herling: And moved out to Washington with Allison in '95.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. So let's just back track a little bit, after high school, you did attend College? And then this was your first job out of College?
Dennis Herling: Yes. First real job.
Tom Martinelli: So how did you get into that originally? What lead you to Indianapolis?
Dennis Herling: I went up to Stout (College) in Menomonie, while there I was working in a garage and we did automatic transmissions. In that garage, when I got out of school, I found out that Allison also built automatic transmissions for heavier equipment, trucks and so on. And that sound interesting, so I applied there and I got a job.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. During the course of your career, did you participate in any kind of volunteer works such as a volunteer fire department or any other kind of civic role as a volunteer?
Dennis Herling: No. One of the volunteer things that I did in my youth that was a lot of fun was for the Dane County Conservation League (Organized by Paul Olson, Midvale School principal), in high school. We went out and did stream improvements. Black Earth stream, a stream out in Verona.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. That was interesting, Okay. Hobbies? Did you have any hobbies while you were growing up?
Dennis Herling: It was pretty much automotive; anything mechanical--
Tom Martinelli: Do you belong to any kind of clubs?
Dennis Herling: No.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. There's a question here that says…who are people who had an impact on Westmorland, or Madison? I guess people you remember when you were living here in Westmorland. Maybe people associated with the neighborhood association. People that always seemed to be doing things and had an impact on the neighborhood.
Dennis Herling: Well I guess one of the people I really looked up to was living across from us on Paunack; he's was a policeman for the city, city police. He worked his way up, through the ranks and eventually became the Police Chief. I believe he probably would be the most influential that way.
Tom Martinelli: And his name?
Dennis Herling: Wilbur Emery.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. That's interesting.
Dennis Herling: I did have an uncle who was Fire Chief in Madison. And his son was the Police Chief in Monona Grove. They were the people that I looked up to.
Tom Martinelli: What was his name, the Fire Chief?
Dennis Herling: The Fire Chief was Richard Widmann. His son was Raymond Widmann.
Tom Martinelli: Okay, that's fine. Now it looks like we're going to jump backwards again to your childhood. Which school did you attend in Westmorland?
Dennis Herling: Well I started in Dudgeon (School, on Monroe Street) for Kindergarten through 2nd. And then when Midvale (School on Caromar Drive) opened, I was there from 3rd to 6th.
Tom Martinelli: That was in 1951, Midvale opened.
Dennis Herling: From there I went over to Cherokee which was my first busing experience. Went over to Cherokee for 7th and 8th. And then over to West High School for 9th thru 12th.
Tom Martinelli: Did you walk down to West?
Dennis Herling: Yeah, all of them we walked. Even to Dudgeon. Even in the 1st and 2nd grade we walked to school, walk home for lunch, walk back to school and walk home in the evening.
Tom Martinelli: That's great! Yeah. Do you remember any favorite teachers? Favorite classes?
Dennis Herling: One of my favorite teachers was your neighbor, Mr. Antonie.
Tom Martinelli: Yes, Sal.
Dennis Herling: Yes. And he was great. At West, I had a Shop teacher that I really liked, Wallace Bondhus, this was his name. I think that I can remember them all. Just about every teacher for every grade.
Tom Martinelli: So your automotive interest, was Shop your favorite subject?
Dennis Herling: Yes, definitely it was the favorite. But I knew I also wanted to prepare for College. But I took every Shop class that I could.
Tom Martinelli: So we talked about walking to school. Were there sidewalks down Speedway Road at that time? Or did you have to walk along the edge of the road?-
Dennis Herling: I think there were sidewalks going to West. Yeah. I suspect there were not sidewalks for Dudgeon or Midvale at the time.
Tom Martinelli: Here are some interesting questions: How would you describe yourself as a child? [Laughter]
Dennis Herling: Oh.
Tom Martinelli: Did you give your parents a hard time? Were you an easy kid to raise?
Dennis Herling: I was pretty easy. Easy to raise. Definitely, I had an inquisitive mind, I guess you'd say. I'd like to spend time at the downtown library reading machinery hand books.
Tom Martinelli: Did you have any chores to do?
Dennis Herling: Oh yes. Around the house, definitely.
Tom Martinelli: Did you get an allowance?
Dennis Herling: I think so. [Laughter]
Tom Martinelli: Probably not very much.
Dennis Herling: I kind of remember a $0.35 one.
Tom Martinelli: Describe a perfect day when you were 10 years old.
Dennis Herling: Oh, I suppose at ten, probably a summer day. My mother would pack us up and go to, what is it called….Sandy Beach, over at Middleton. That would be a summer day. A winter day would be going down to the Glenway Golf Course. Going across the golf course and go sledding down the back hill down there.
Tom Martinelli: How would you know if you've done something your parents didn't approve of?
Dennis Herling: Well they would let me know [Laughter].
Tom Martinelli: Any particular way? Like the tone of the voice or the way they called out your name?
Dennis Herling: Yeah, both.
Tom Martinelli: Do you take family vacations.
Dennis Herling: Yeah we did.
Tom Martinelli: What were those like? Where would you go?
Dennis Herling: My dad had a brother and sister out in Washington, D.C. We would go there, not every year, but maybe over a span, three times maybe. A lot of trips around the state. My folks were very proud of Wisconsin. We would go from Lake Superior or Lake Michigan to the north. To the Mississippi River, and all over.
Tom Martinelli: Did your family camp?
Dennis Herling: No. We did not camp.
Tom Martinelli: You stayed in motels?
Dennis Herling: Yeah.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. Did you participate in any organizations when you're growing up like scouting or 4H?
Dennis Herling: Cub Scouts and that was really about the last--
Tom Martinelli: Okay, what do you remember doing in Cub Scouts? [Cough] Earning your badges?
Dennis Herling: Oh, the den meetings. I guess other than
that. Yeah, earning the badges.
Tom Martinelli: Okay.
Tom Martinelli: Did you ever play a musical instrument?
Dennis Herling: Yes. My mother wanted me to be a concert pianist, I believe. [Laughter] I didn't share that enthusiasm. But took piano for a long time. My folks bought a piano before they bought a TV. Because they had such great hopes. [Laughter] And then I played the trumpet, I guess it was, in the band at Cherokee.
Tom Martinelli: But when you got out of grade school, you pretty much gave that all up?
Dennis Herling: Yes.
Tom Martinelli: Were there still some wild or undeveloped areas in your neighborhood where children would play? And what did you do there to spend your time?
Dennis Herling: The undeveloped areas of the-- You know Westmorland Park wasn't totally developed like it is today. I mean you could get down into the woods there, and-- Everything on the other side of Midvale was-- Midvale Boulevard, west side of Midvale Boulevard, was still pretty much undeveloped and wooded. And the Glen, the old stone quarry, down there, right off of Glenway Street.
Tom Martinelli: There was a big orchard over at the corner of Midvale and Mineral Point Road. That's one of the last areas to get developed. Heavily wooded area over there. There was an orchard there that kids would raid for apples and other fruits.
Dennis Herling: Oh, yeah. The duck pond, and the Arboretum. Riding a bike through the Arboretum
Tom Martinelli: Okay. Did you attend church? Which one?
Dennis Herling: Yes. Bethany Methodist.
Tom Martinelli: Were your parents religious people? Or was it a sometime thing?
Dennis Herling: My mother more so than my dad, yeah they were both religious.
Tom Martinelli: Any pets?
Dennis Herling: We were not a pet family. [Laughter] Probably had a gold fish and a turtle at a younger age. Other than that, no. We didn't have like dogs or cats. Something I did miss, I think, in my youth.
Tom Martinelli: You have a dog now?
Dennis Herling: Now we have a dog. [Laughter]
Tom Martinelli: Do you remember being sick when you were young? Do you remember doctor coming to your house?
Dennis Herling: Oh, doctors came to the house. Yeah.
Tom Martinelli: Were you ever quarantined because of measles or mumps?
Dennis Herling: I think so, yeah. Measles and mumps, I kind of remember they put a sign in the window, or something like that. I remember I had walking pneumonia from the end of 6th grade all the way thru that summer. So that was a bad summer.
Tom Martinelli: The doctor would come by and check up on you?
Dennis Herling: What?
Tom Martinelli: And the doctor would stop by?
Dennis Herling: Yeah, he would stop by.
Tom Martinelli: That was a regular occasion back then?
Dennis Herling: Yeah.
Tom Martinelli: Remember anything about the Polio outbreak in 1955? Did that affect your family?
Dennis Herling: Yes. I remember it. I remember a boy just maybe a couple years older than I was from church that got the polio and he passed away. But I remember getting the vaccines for it. People were very concerned about it. In the day it was a big thing.
Tom Martinelli: Do you remember anything that was new and cool when you were a kid? For instance, remember getting your first TV? Black and white TV?
Dennis Herling: Yeah, first TV.
Tom Martinelli: What year would that have then? How old were you then?
Dennis Herling: I would say it was probably about 1958-59.
Dennis Herling: We had to adjust the antenna, constantly tweaking the dials.
Tom Matinelli: Were your parents pretty strict about how much you could watch it? Or did you watch anything you wanted?
Dennis Herling: I guess I don't really remember that they were. But I don't think, you know, that I was interested in the TV that much. There were a couple of programs that I watched. Come home and watch the Mickey Mouse Club.
Tom Martinelli: More fun doing cool things outside, playing with your buddies?
Dennis Herling: Yeah.
Tom Martinelli: Moving on to the teen years….so talk a little bit about your high school experience. What was your social life like? What did you participate in, sports? What do you remember about high school?
Dennis Herling: Well the... just trying to get decent grades. Liking the Shop classes and the Sciences classes. I was not, did not, really participate in any sports or organized activities in high school.
Tom Martinelli: Did you have a job, a part time job while in high school?
Dennis Herling: Yeah. Probably the last two years of high school, I worked at a bakery down on University Avenue; Saturdays, and after school at night; ride the bus down; bring the bus home.
Tom Martinelli: What was the name of the bakery?
Dennis Herling: Gordy’s Bakeshop. It was across from the old hospital and old nurses dorms.
Tom Martinelli: What do you remember about learning to drive?
Dennis Herling: Being very anxious to be able to drive. My grandparents had a cottage up north. Once in a while they would let me drive the back roads up there before I was licensed. I remember taking the driver's ed class at West High. Coach Jim Stevens was my driving instructor with a 1959 Chevy. Since we had a stick shift, the driving class car I drove was also a stick shift.
Tom Martinelli: Did you do any dating in high school?
Dennis Herling: Not a lot until about the last two years.
Tom Martinelli: What would you do on your dates?
Dennis Herling: Oh, movies. The girl went to East High. So we would just hang out there, or go to a movie.
Tom Martinelli: You go to drive-ins? The one out off of Mineral Point Road?
Dennis Herling: The one on Stoughton Road, because she was on the east side.
Tom Martinelli: Was there another one?
Dennis Herling: I don’t remember going to the drive in very much.
Tom Martinelli: There are a number of questions here about raising a family. Since you weren't in Westmorland during that time, we can skip those questions. How did you end up meeting your wife?
Dennis Herling: Up at Stout. And she was from Black Earth. (They married in September 1965 and Dennis graduated from Stout in 1966). Raising a family…..Our first came along in February 1967, and then we moved to Indianapolis a short time later. She was born in February, and we moved down there in August. And she would come back and spend time with my folks there on Paunack..
Dennis Herling: And they'd take her around different places in the state and she would stay with the family. So while we weren't raising a family in Westmorland, they certainly were exposed to Westmorland
Tom Martinelli: So she would have memories of then being in the neighborhood?
Dennis Herling: Yes.
Tom Martinelli: Did you just have the one daughter, or did you have children?
Dennis Herling: No, no, we also had a son.
Tom Martinelli: When was he born?
Dennis Herling: He was born in 1973. She was born in '67, and then him in August '73.
Tom Martinelli: The next section is referred to as Westmorland Over Time. Who were some of the great characters that lived in Westmorland? [Laughter] Some other people, maybe some of the other parents on the block?
Dennis Herling: Oh, okay.
Tom Martinelli: People who were funny, pulled pranks, or tricks.
Dennis Herling: Friends of my folks that, yeah, they'd all get together, have a few drinks and have a meal. Play cards and they'd get kind of silly.
Tom Martinelli: Do you remember any stories the older people telling about Westmorland? I guess that your grandfather would be one example of that. Westmorland before the time that you were born? Tell me something about your grandfather running Herling’s Tavern which is now the Village Bar.
Dennis Herling: A lot of that was before my memory. But I know that my mother, when my dad was away in the Army, living here on Paunack, half a block up from the bar; I know she would tell me that she'd pack me up as a baby in an old basket and go to the bar at night. Hang out with grandpa and grandmother there.
Tom Martinelli: Do you recall how many years your grandfather had Herling’s Tavern? What the span of years would have been; was it in the 40s?
Dennis Herling: Yeah, definitely in the ‘40s. I don't know really when he got out of it.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. We could pull that out of the history book.
Dennis Herling: I could refer to that.
Tom Martinelli: Yeah. Okay.
Dennis Herling: He had the other buildings. There was the old Burke’s drug store just south of the tavern that he built there; and a grocery store, which is now the (EVP) coffee shop. He had that.
Tom Martinelli: Some kind of a monopoly on the corner there, like a little shopping center.
Okay. Did you ever feel like living in Westmorland that…. did you always feel safe? I know you kind of came in between World War II and the Vietnam War. And there was the Cold War threat. But the Russians….did people ever talk about that, or was it just so far away that nobody really worried? Being safe in the neighborhood?
Dennis Herling: Oh, I think, yeah, people were concerned about that. WorId War II was too early for me. But like the Korean War and the Cold war, certainly there was a…..People were definitely concerned. And we would have the drills in school and so on. Which was probably overkill doing it.
Tom Martinelli: Like ducking down underneath your desk?
Dennis Herling: Yeah, that's really…..I mentioned that my dad had a brother in Washington, D.C. and a sister in Washington D.C.
Dennis Herling: Well out there, it seemed a lot more of a concern out there than here being in Midwest, pretty much isolated from things...
Tom Martinelli: Remember people building fallout shelters in their basements or underground; did people dig holes in their backyards?
Dennis Herling: I don't know anybody that did that. But definitely there were newspaper articles and features on people doing that. Certainly remember that part.
Tom Martinelli: So you do not have the opportunity to serve in the military at all?
Dennis Herling: No. When I graduated from high school that fall, I went to, started the University of Wisconsin and I was in the army ROTC, but I was only there one semester. And it wasn't working out for me. And so that's really the only service that I did. Then it was student deferrals; then got married and had a child, but I didn't get called up. I did go down to Milwaukee for a physical. I mean it did get close.
Tom Martinelli: Were there any other family members that were affected by military service?
Dennis Herling: My brother when he got out of high school at West, he joined the Navy and made a career out of it.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. Where you personally affected by the Korean War or the Vietnam War?
Dennis Herling: No, not personally. I had a cousin that was in the Marines in the Vietnam War. He was wounded, but I don't remember, even in the earlier wars…. I don't remember any casualties (in the family).
Tom Martinelli: Come on let’s talk about more fun things, I guess, memories of Westmorland Park?
Dennis Herling: Oh yeah. [Laughter]
Tom Martinelli: Spent a lot of time there?
Dennis Herling: I did. We would have like birthday parties down there. Of course, the Fourth of July. Can still taste the hotdog they would have down there. [Cough] The little ice cream sundaes and everything else.
Tom Martinelli: Did the city provide people at the park during the summer? Organize events for kids? Some people refer to as the Greenbox Program. There was a box, a locked box behind the backstop where the supplies would be kept. Were they doing that? That may not have come along a little later on. Where they doing that back in the 50s, early 50s?
Dennis Herling: That was down there, at Westmorland Park?
Tom Martinelli: Yes, Did you ever participate in any organized sports? Like the City Summer Baseball Recreation--
Dennis Herling: No, really didn't.
Tom Martinelli: Okay. It's unusual for a neighborhood to be surrounded by golf courses. Do you have any memories of the old Westmorland Golf course?
Dennis Herling: No.
Tom Martinelli: That was probably closed down by then; so there was Glenway Golf Course. You said that you went to Glenway in the winter to sled. Did you golf down there?
Dennis Herling: I probably played two games of golf. At one time but it was more of a place for recreation and had a lot more open gulley’s, open ravines. We could play in there, climb rocks, that kind of thing. Then there is now; it seems like they smoothed that all out.
Tom Martinelli: What are some of the best times that you remember as a family in Westmorland? You talked about summer trips you would take. What about the things that you did as a family in Westmorland?
Dennis Herling: Within the neighborhood?
Tom Martinelli: Yeah.
Dennis Herling: Well, definitely the Fourth of July, and Halloween. We had parades for both of them. Our mother would always help me decorate up my bicycle for the Fourth of July. And make a costume for Halloween. And that's about it. I had something else, kind of on the tip of my tongue. It will come back to me.
Tom Martinelli: Did you have neighborhood block parties, or neighborhood picnics on Paunack?
Dennis Herling: No. But I know that after I left, like in the 60s, they did more of that down on Paunack.
Tom Martinelli: There's still is a group that has a block party over there every summer on Paunack.
Dennis Herling: Yeah. I suspect there is, because......
Tom Martinelli: Did your family participate in the neighborhood association events like Christmas decoration contests, for instance?
Dennis Herling: Oh, they did put up some Christmas decorations; I don't know that they were ever in the competition (Dennis later recalled that they did win a prize one year for their decoration-cut out and painted choir boys). Actually, that was one of the things I was going to mention, as a neighborhood function, there was always the Santa Claus that would come around and hand out a Candy Cane just before Christmas. That was always pretty neat.
Tom Martinelli: Well, do you have any other favorite memories about Westmorland, the Fourth of July festivities, being in the parade….you have touched on that a little bit, but do you have any more memories?
Dennis Herling: Well no, other than it was just a full day. Everybody would come and go. Go to where the parade was assembled. Go down to the park and stay there for lunch, and the games and the things going on, and then the fireworks at night. In those days, I was not even a teen, we were able to run in the neighborhood and nobody had concern for our safety. It was the same back then, and pretty neat. Where now people will have a feeling that they have to check on their kids constantly, or be with them. We could just run, go down there (to the park), and of course there was always neighbors and people that you knew around. But there certainly was not any kind of a safety concern.
Tom Martinelli: Yeah I think that was the big difference with all the mothers staying home. They kept an eye on the neighborhood kids all day long and kept in touch with each other.
Tom Martinelli: Nowadays you don't see many people around these houses during the day. Both adults are working, and the kids are off to day care.
Dennis Herling: Once, maybe more than once, the day after the Fourth of July, a friend and I went down there. We would find a lot of the gun powder that had blown out of the aerials. Laying around on the ground and we would take it home and have our own little fireworks in the sand box in the backyard
Tom Martinelli: You were on the cleanup crew [Laughter]. Well, I think I've ran out of questions. Anything else that you would like to share with us about your years in Westmorland that we didn't touch on?
Dennis Herling: Like what you said….generally a mother was home. And I think that definitely was something that's missing today. You couldn't get by with things, because somebody would see you because they were home. Your folks would find out if you did something that wasn't acceptable. I mowed yards probably the last two years of grade school, early high school. Shoveled snow.
Tom Martinelli: Did you ever have a paper route?
Dennis Herling: No. My brother did.
Tom Martinelli: Did you sell lemonade down at the Glenway Golf Course?
Dennis Herling: No.
Tom Martinelli: That was a big money maker for myself and the fellow that lived next door. And then I think the city cut it off. That was fun. We thought we were making pretty good money down there. Sell glasses of lemonade for a dime at the tee boxes. Just about everybody would buy a glass of lemonade. Now the kids living down by the old railroad track which is now a bike trail…..in the summer there will be kids that set up a little card table at the Glenway street crossing. It is where the track crosses the street. They'll be sitting there selling something to drink. It reminds me of my days at the golf course selling lemonade.
Oh well that's my story, but.......Well thank you Dennis. I really appreciate you spending time with us today and sharing your memories. And we'll certainly add this to our Oral History project. I think people like to listen to these stories; it brings back memories for them. I think there's a great value in sharing these stories. Thank you very much.
End of Audio