Memories of Post-War Racine

Rye Gewalt writes: “This was forwarded to me by an old friend and I thought you might enjoy it. I grew up in Racine during that period so it resonates. I don’t know who wrote it.”

Author found! Thanks to Vyto Kapocius and his Park High School classmates for this great collection of Racine memories.

Memories of Post-War Racine
Late 1940s to Mid 1950s

1. Fourth of July Fireworks at Washington Park Golf Course and the swaying bridge crossing Root River

2. Parades with Racine’s musical units — the Elks Band, Boy Scouts, Kilties and Boys of 76, Johnsons Wax Band, Park Board Band

3. Sun bathing at North Beach during the day and bonfire beach parties at night

4. Reggies Roller Rink at North Beach

5. Swimming au natural at the quarry on Northwestern Avenue

6. Rialto and Venetian, Uptown, Capitol, Crown, Badger, Main Street and Douglas Ave Theaters

7. Radio station WRAC and Saturday Morning Teen Time Program

8. Ethnic programs such as Peder Bachs Danish hour and the Kurier Polski Programma on WRJN

9. Fibber McGee and Molly radio program (sponsored by S C Johnsons Wax) broadcast from Memorial Hall

10. Downtown stores -Zahns, Fantles, Racine Dry Goods,(had elevators) and Penneys, Sears, Fish Furniture, Eitels, Thrifty Mac, Gosieskis Music, Lulevich Jewelry, Mezinis Photography, Ace Pool Hall, Thrifty Sandys (Very nice Lionel Train Store )

11. Reflecting ponds on Monument Square

12. A&W Root Beer stand and carhops on 12th Street

13. Kewpies hamburgers for 25 cents and root beer for a nickel

14. Dutch Maid ice cream shops on Wisconsin Ave and Washington Ave

15. The Spot ice cream store at 11th and Herrick, Cho-Chos ice cream push-ups, Sammy ice cream bars

16. Public Fruit Markets on Main, 6th Street and Washington Avenue

17. Telephone numbers that began with Jackson and Prospect

18. Operators who connected calls before dial phones

19. Racine Zoo concerts by the Park Board Band on Sundays in the summer

20. The UW-Racine Extension Center Student Union in Memorial Hall

21. Post Prom Dances with big bands such as Stan Kenton and Count Basie

22. Friday night dances with Jim Frosethas band at the Y at 4th and Wisconsin after high school football and basketball games

23. Formal dances at South Hills Country Club

24. North Shore Metroliners and the Chicago NorthWestern

(North Shore Electroliners plus North Western passenger trains, per Dennis Mayer)

25. Interurban from Kenosha to Milwaukee operating along Wisconsin Ave., Main Street, State and Douglas

26. Railway Express Agency delivery trucks

27. Wind Point submarine races

28. Perch fishing off the north or south piers

29. Horlick Field football games on Saturdays between the four junior high schools-McKinley, Washington, Mitchell and Franklin

30. Ice skating in the Park bowl and warming shed at end of Valley Drive

31. Tobogganing at Washington Park, sledding down Chicago Street hill.

32. Tennis courts behind Park High

33. Park Center Swimming Pool

34. Washington Park ski jump

35. Pizza restaurants Charlies, Brushas (pencil sketches courtesy of Flint Morrison) and Natales

36. All you can eat chicken at Kilbourn Gardens

37. Scooping the loop down Main Street and turning around after the bridge at W. H. Pugh station

38. The Three-mile Reef Lighthouse and harbor fog horns

39. Blue suede shoes or bucks, charcoal trousers (pegged at 14 inches), pink shirt and blue sport coat

40. Old Horlicks Dam/ Horlicks Malted Milk plant

41. Water tower along Chicago NorthWestern tracks at 9th Street

42. Howell and Franklin Schools

43. Friday night dances for junior high students at the Washington Park recreation center, admission 10 cents

44. Two way traffic on Sixth and Seventh Streets

45. Nash, Crosleys, Packards, Studebakers, Kaiser, Frazer, Hudsons, Plymouths, Metros, Edsels and fins on practically every car in the late 50s

46. Old Abe Eagle atop a post at the J I Case Clausen Works

47. Herrick Mansion, Herrick Avenue and Herrick Hill to Uptown

48. Danish Beer Gardens and Chris, the bartender, on Four Mile Road

49. Tony Rondonis bar with musical wine bottles

50. Bricks on Washington Avenue, College Avenue

51. Smelt fishing by lantern light off Herrick Ave. bridge

52. Shadow of a nude from a tree near Villa

53. Elks Lodge on 6th Street overlooking Lake Michigan

54. Don Hutson’s Chevrolet dealership at the foot of 5th Street

55. Coal boats unloading at Pughs dock

56. Coal trucks and dusty coal bins in basements

57. Horse drawn milk wagons from Progressive Dairy, also Mari Gold and Harmony dairies

58. Student nurses dorm at the Bendstead Mansion across from East Park

59. Pokornys Drug Store at 4th and Main

60. Durango’s Pizza on Main Street and on High Street

61. Journal Times paperboys

62. Gen. Douglas MacArthurs speedy visit through Racine in 1952

63. Wisconsin Highway 42 re-named to Highway 32, three lanes wide (passing lane was also called suicide lane.)

64. Gasoline at 16 cents a gallon

65. The cannon at Washington and 12th to keep the Danes in West Racine and the band shell for weekly concerts in the summer

66. Horse drawn rag collectors going up and down alleys

67. Garbage incinerator behind City Hall

68. City dump on Lake Michigan at foot of 6th Street

69. Police Headquarters on 3rd Street

70. Natural gas storage tanks and coke factory on lake front

71. The Egyptian mummy in the museum located in the court house

72. Manufacturing jobs at Hamilton Beach Osters, Andis Clippers, Rainfair, Massey Harris (later Massey Fergusen), Young Radiator, Western Printing, Jacobsen, Belle City Malleable, Hamilton Beach, Haban Mfg., Gordon Machines, Hartman Mfg. Co., Dremel, Lakeside Malleable Castings Co., Racine Boiler and Tank, Jacobson-Lawn Mowers, Green Mfg, Modine Mfg, Walker Mfg plus many other smaller Companies that were taxed out.

73. Saturday night Stock Car racing at Horlick Field (per Dennis Mayer)

You have to be older than 60 to remember many of these events and milestones!

More Memories — by Jon Aceto, December 2010

4. Reggie’s Kiddie Land as well, with mini roller coaster after the roller rink “burned down”

5. Skating on Root River above Horlick’s Dam where there was also another Kiddie Land on Rapids Drive.

6. Don’t forget the Granada off Douglas Ave on Charles or the Rex which became a bowling alley on Main. The Venetian and Uptown had Live Wurlitzer Organs played during intermission for the Saturday Kiddie shows –$0.25 for 3-4 serials (Lash LaRue, Flash Gordon, King of the Rocket men), lots of cartoons, and a cowboy movie—what a deal. A kid with 50 cents could take the bus, see the show, buy popcorn (Maybe jujubes or Blackjack gum?) and ride back home.

7. I recall WRAC’s Saturday program being called “The Melody Nuthouse” I appeared on it one day in about 1953. The crazy MC’s ‘sold’ me the program.

10. Zahn’s had elevator operators, “Going up!”

16. Farmer’s market on West & Marquette Saturdays in the summer.

18, “Number playeeze.”

19. Skating on the Zoo pond in winter.

22. I think his name was Froseth.

24. Metroliners gave you a transfer for Chicago and Milwaukee public transportation. I used to go to Milwaukee to see the Braves. The State Street Trolley, yeah, trolley, took us to County Stadium.

There was also a tiled tunnel connecting the N-bound & S-bound 400 stations (cool in summer) at the Northwestern station.

Locomotives on the Northwestern were soot and steam before diesels.

The NW crossing gates were pumped by hand by guys in elevated towers along the tracks 24/7.

28. Beside fishing off the piers, sometimes there was a jump off the pier into the harbor for an impromptu swim when they weren’t biting. (Add fishing for ‘crabs’ in Island park beforehand for bait for fishing: 10 cents of liver, some string and some patience). If you had a boat, you could fish off the Reef Lighthouse when it was still manned by the Coast Guard.

30. Skating at Albert Park, Marquette Park and others…with warming houses and guys who’d sharpen your skates.

35. A note on Brusha’s: it had been my Grandfather’s (Sam) bar/restaurant/store; my parents ran the grocery store in the 1940’s there; he sold to the Brusha’s (we lived right next door).

46. Inside the building behind Old Abe was the Case Agricultural Case implements produced by Jerome Increase’s company.

51. Smelt fishing off the jettees a Shoop park, too, in spring.

59. Homer Dary’s Pharmacy with Soda Counter (Red Cross Pharmacy on State Street and Pokorney’s had one, too) where you could get a copper mug of rootbeer for $0.10..or even better a “Suicide”…sugar rush, anyone? Woolworth’s also had a lunch counter (sandwiches = 50¢; malts = 25¢; banana split = 39¢; coke was a dime).

71. Mrs. Trumbull was the curator. She knew the provenence of every best deposits item in the NW corner room on the 1st floor, just past the switchboard operator. Free, too.

Memorial Drive used to be called Forrest Street.

Other reminiscences:

Belle City Foundry…lots of work and pollution just south of Horlick Field. Used to watch the Belle City Belles play there (League of Their Own).

Hartman Trunk on Hamilton W of RR tracks made luggage—now a prison.

The Library moved from its old classic Carnegie building on Main and 7th to the lakefront location. You could go out on the terrace for a cig break

Lincoln Elementatry K-6 school wasn’t always a condo.

The “Y” moved from 4th & Wisconsin to the lakefront in the ’60’s. Co-Rec sponsored swimming, games, dances when I was in high school.

Batten Field was Horlick Airport.

The Theater Guild Playhouse in the abandoned church on High Street & Erie.

“Boy Scout Woods” off W High St. that extended from the Country Club to Lincoln Park. Hiking and day camping. Yeah, swimmin’ in the River, too.

The Guild Galleries in Porters was understaffed. My classmates & I used to eat our lunches there in luxury.

80 thoughts on “Memories of Post-War Racine

  1. My grandma is trying to remember a restaurant on hwy 20 & I-94 from the 60’s or 70’s. Located where Burger King is right now. Said Kilbourn Gardens was across the street. Anyone remember?

  2. we remember many of them, I worked for Case, Gordans, wife worked Johnsons wax and Massy. Grew up like many kids working in the Hansche or Piper onion, cabbage and potatoe fields.

  3. Does anyone remember the big elephant that was brought to the zoo so patrons could put money in so the zoo could raise funds. Does anyone have a photo of this elephant early 1960’s.

    • they also brought in a fake elephant kids could climb on. In the early 70’s my stupid cousin had a lion cub in their basement on Spring where Ohio St. They really had all kinds of animals. The lion was given to the zoo in exchange for them not prosecuting my Aunt and Uncle after lion mauled a little girl next door. She was fine but they had to pay a lot of money.

      • Your Uncle died under some very suspicious circumstances.One of my dogs got in a fight with one of the 2 lions Rob shot it in Ladysmith
        Where he moved. Boricon was the male lion that was donated to our zoo,
        when I workad there, as the first female zookeeper. Rob was a compassioate man not a stupid one at all. God Bless him, he sacrificed a Magnificent lion, for a Great Dane!

        • Robby was the one that died in Ladysmith. My uncle Bob always said it was a sherif or deputy. He would tell anyone who listen. As the years went on and my Aunt and Uncle we’re divorced ( she moved to AZ with my cousin Tammy. Uncle Bob found out it was a sheriff the shot Robby. I loved all there animals. Robby was younger. I got along fine until my grandfather moved in. He was playing this crazy record so loud. I begged him to please turn it down. I then went pick it off the player and cracked it in two! This was not mean. We got along fine but he could push one to the edge. They are all gone. Jay is in N. Carolina, Tammy and Roger were with my Aunt until she passed. When Uncle Bob died they sold their house.

  4. We had dance reviews at the Mainstreet theater. If you missed a movie downtown you could alway see it later at either the Capital, Uptown or Granada. Lastly the Crown…..

  5. I remember watching the Venetian Nights from the railing of Memorial hall, am I right that Lake Michigan came right up to there? The decorated boats were spectacular to this young girl, might have been 1948 ?

  6. I loved the Main St theater, we’d take the bus to downtown and watch the live plays they put on for the kids. The good old days,,,, I wonder what good things todays teens will have to look back on?

  7. Does anybody remember the Dept store that was next to Eitel’s before Walgreen’s moved in? Must have been early 50’s.

    • In the late 1940s I knew a Steve Rondone. He later changed his name to Steve Rondon. and moved to Milwaukee. Had a sister who managed and/or ran the Granada Theater on Doulas Ave. Are you related to them? Sure would like to know what happened to Steve.

    • Penny’s and Racine Dry Goods was in that block. Also when I worked at Henricksons Bakery Kringled were 50 cents.

  8. What was the name of the record store on Main Street in the same block and just north of the Venetian and Rialto theaters. Normal Norm was one of the sales clerks there.

    • Thom Petersen: SOULVILLE! … and there was nothing Normal about Norman ……… He still is a great friend! … Norman Wilde.

      Pete Sisak: Record Mart was downtown on Main, Gil Niesen was one of the speakers at the recent Golden Rondelle forum, as it was his parents store

      Thom Petersen: Norman Wilde ……… YOU ARE BEING PAGED?

  9. I am surprised nobody remembered the stately elm trees that lines so many of Racine’s streets. The leaves would pile up in the Fall and we’d play in them.

    • Can you tell me where the shop was located. People keep telling me that the building we are in at 8th & Villa St, used to have a dress maker shop inside of it. I was told a Sausage Shop, was there. Not sure our building is what you are looking for.

  10. What was the name of the bar (in the late 70’s/early 80’s) that’s now Rogan’s Shoes by the Dam on Rapid’s Dr.?

  11. Does anyone know the name of the drive in out on 3or4? mile road and douglas ave in the 60’s-70’s?they served a ground beef mixture that looked like a corndog, would love to find a recipe. They served root beer in glasses

    • My parents opened the 4 Mile Drive In in 1949. We had the corn dog and the corn burger.
      The ingredients used were simiar to meatloaf and we used a metal form to mold the mixture around the stix.
      After dipping in the coating we deep fried for a long, long time time. They were tasty, but took too long to cook. We fried them partly and finished them when an order came in. Labour intensive. Then they fell out of favor.
      The heavy glass mugs were so old fashioned…Richardson’s Root Beer.

  12. The first Loom of Denmark was originally a small brick store, up in the neighborhood of McKinley hill, north of Kinzie Ave. I remember a Mrs.Hermansen owned it. Originally she carried textiles, jewelry and some housewares. I went to school with her daughter in the early 1960’s. My mother and Mrs. Hermansen spoke Danish when we visited, so that is what I remember. It was a tiny little shop—which later was expanded and moved to the Washington St., location. There were always cookies and fresh coffee for the patrons. I have many lovely jewelry pieces and silver charms from the original store.

  13. Does anyone remember the old Westgate outdoor theatre?
    The Mygatts Corners frozen custard spot – Skewe’s
    Pinickenstein’s Fruit Stand (spelling?) out at Mygatt’s?

    • Sure, I remember the Skewes Grocery Store (today it would be called a Convenience Store) It was owned and run by Earl and Minnie Skewes. Their store was on the NW Corner of Hwy 12 and the Green Bay Road.

      • I seem to remember Skewes being on the intersection of Highway 20 ( Washington Ave. and Greenbay Road)…we went there for great custard cones…I grew up in Sunset Heights off GB Rd. and went to Mygatts School. Across from Skewes was Shocht’s (not sure of spelling) Store and filling station. Across from Mygatts was Parkette Drive In Restaurant. Up Washington going toward HWY 41 was Vern and Jimmy Peterson’s Used Car Lot….My first car, a 59 Chevrolet came off that lot!

    • Yes I remember the whole intersection.I lived on Sunset Blvd.just south of there between Hwy 20 and 11.Mygatts school where Hardees is and the old Mt.Pleasant Lutheran Church where Denny’s is now.And the Northeast corner had a hamburger joint. I forgot the name of it.

  14. Does anyone remember Alberts Grocery Store on the SW corner of 16th St. and Arthur Ave. in the 1950’s? I’d love to find a photo of the inside where we used to buy penny candy.

    • My husband was born on the corner of Albert and Summit, graduated Horlick in 1958, he was saying recently , remember the best hot roast beef sandwich from Demark’s Bar, and Sausage Kitchen sandwich called The Mousetrap, 5 types of cheese,!

      • Yes absolutely.Demarks and Sausage Kitchen DID have best Hot Beef sandwiches around.The only super Hot Beef sandwich since then was at “Boss Burgers and Beef” that was located at Wilkolmms Mobil station on Washington Ave.It closed about a year or 2 ago in 2019.It was only there about 4-5 years and originally a Burger King.Very sad because it was great Hot Beef.

  15. A man used to sell vegetables out of the back of his truck in the early 1940s. Hubert our milk man. J.I. Case and Horlick Malted Milk. Lincoln Bakery and Lincoln Supermarket. Hass Drug store. Ethnic picnics, sliding down the hill on sleds or cardboard, drum corp practice all in Lincoln Park. Christmas parties put on by Walker Mfg at one of the theaters when every kid received a present. Waiting for a bus which never came because it got stuck in the snow.

    • Walker had their kids Christmas party at the Rialto. One year I saw a metal Howdy Doody playing a piano. I ran to the boys gift side. They tried to give me a baby doll but no way. I got Howdy.

  16. I’m wracking my brain trying to think of the name of the shoe store that was on or near Rapids Drive, not far from Kiddieland in the 60s. We got all our shoes there and I can’t recall the name. P.S. Great memories on this page!

  17. My husband is the grandson of Cliff Russell and son of James (Jim) Russell both from Racine. Jim Russell graduated from Horlick High School class of 1934, 1935, 1936? What I’m interested in is Russell’s Pharmacy at 1651 Taylor Ave., Racine during the 1920s or 1930s to 1960s. Again I’m unsure of dates. It was owned by Cliff Russell. Does anyone know if the building is still there? Anything about it? Thank you.

  18. Got to include the Polish Hall on Mead St. Many people met and married their wives and husbands, at the Saturday Night dances That is where I learned to Polka.

  19. When I was about 6 or 7 years old in 1946~47, we lived outside of Racine in a line of 5 or 6 small houses right on a highway (41?). My parents both worked at Kilbourn Gardens, which must have been close to our house. We were really out in the “sticks” with farms surrounding us nearby. My brother and I walked to a One Room School with one teacher who taught a dozen kids aged around 7 (me) to kids around 13. After school we’d go to a small store nearby that we called 3 Corners Store, situated on the convergence of Highway 41 with a couple of small roads. I think the area we lived in was called Ives Grove. I also remember Sturdevant being in the area.
    I hope somebody remembers that One Room School, (real name I can’t remember) which should be in a historic listing somewhere. I loved to read, and the teacher let me read all of the books for both first and second grade because I was happy reading and she had her hands full with the rest of the kids. She skipped me to 3rd grade for the next semester. Those were the days, weren’t they?

  20. I’m trying to find out the Name of a school that was on Peck ave not sure what year. The building in still there. It’s behind the Mexican Restaurant on State St & Peck ave. If you stand in state st you can see it.

  21. Thanks,I do remember so many things and it was nice to be reminded of the ones I forgot about and learn about the places I had no idea were here.

  22. I wrote an article for the Racine journal times several years ago..headline “walk down memory lane”

    Perhaps you have read it? With much more than your great memories since I was Horlick.high…..we lived on Carlton drive off of Maine street..
    Homer dairy of course! The zahns dept store,the Shawshank jewlery,the Fanny farmer candy shop on the circle,fish a es,Eitles womens store,the record shops to play records in booths…..first McDonald’s on Douglas,park in hamburger s,

  23. This has been very interesting reading. Please keep it up. I haven’t lived in Racine since 1988, but planning on moving back within the next two years. Looking forward to it.

  24. Does anybody remember a foundry over near 12the and Grand Ave called “Ace Foundry” I worked there one summer when I attended UW in Madison I’ve love to see a picture or an address.

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