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Written by Marie Darrow
Compositor - Ben Penkivich, for the Gillett Public Library
Scanned and contributed by Jennifer Bumann
Family Site  Researching Oconto County surnames


(Page 41)
    HOLLYWOOD MOVIES- In the mid 1930's during & severe winter a  great deal of excitement was generated in the area when one of the major film companies front Hollywood made scenes near here for their production "Thunder Below" starring Lon Chaney.  It was rumored that the railroad bridge near Jewell's farm was to be blown up.  It was - in the movie - but the real thing stayed intact and a small replica was destroyed.

    "Thunder Below" presented the story of the hardships in the early railroading years in Wisconsin.  Later, watching the picture in a darkened movie theater, it was a thrill to recognize the depot at Green Valley, and to watch the big scene played at the familiar old bridge.

    KU KLUX KLAN - In the mid-depression years there was an active Ku Klux Klan chapter in this area.  Several times on Saturday nights, the hooded, robed members rode into town on horseback and held meetings on a lot on the west end of the downtown area.

    TENT SHOW - For many years, and until about 1940, the high point of the summer for most of the youngsters in town was the annual visit of the Gagnon-Pollack Show.

    This was a touring tent show that stayed for a week and presented a different Melodrama each night. The tent was pitched on a vacant lot, often where the dry-cleaning shop is today.  Seeing the actors and actresses on the street each day was almost as wonderful to the kids as watching the show each night.  The perennials, Edythe Gagnon and Guy Pollack, stars and owners of the show, came every year, but the rest of the cast, and the red-wigged comedian named Toby varied from year to year.  After the regular show there was an additional concert which cost an additional dime.  Also, big "Treasure Chests" of candy were sold between the acts, each box containing a prize. The excitement ran high when someone found a coupon in his box and went to the stage to receive a major prize.  By happy coincidence the visit of the tent show each year came about beanpicking time. The kids quit grumbling about the troublesome bask and beans reAlly flowed to the canning factory as soon as the Gagnon-Pollack advertising posters appeared In the windows.

    BARBERS - One of Gillett's early barbers, Homer Kindness, who was part Indian, quit the barbering business and set out with a medicine show.  He had a gaily painted enclosed wagon with which he toured the lumber camps and neighboring communities, entertaining musical program and singing the virtues of his "Cure-All" Snake Oil made from an old Indian secret recipe.  For awhile, about in 1920, Lee Nygaard provided much of the good music for his show, and later "Doc" Kindness' son and daughter, both talented musicians, traveled with him.

(Page 42)
    CRIME - While the vast majority of the people in Gillett were good law abiding citizens, there were a few "bad men."  The stage coach was held up and robbed between Pulcifer and Mosling, and the stage coach driver identified the bandit as his uncle.  However he was never caught and brought to trial.  Later a lone bandit stopped the train north of Gillett and systematically robbed it.  The same man who had earlier robbed the stage coach was accused, but never found and brought to trial.

    DISAPPEARED - One of Gillett's early mysteries was the disappearance of Pete Renter, son of Nick Renter who had the tavern near the depot.  Pete disappeared during the night when he was about 12 years old, and no trace of him was ever found.  Nick never gave up searching for him.

    SIDEWALKS - The first sidewalks in Gillett were made of wood and the first street lights were kerosene lamps mounted on posts.  Ell Tayton, who was constable, was the old lamplighter.

    CELEBRATIONS - Before the park was donated to the village, celebrations were held on Main Street.  Stands built of white birch trees lined both sides of the street and goodies appropriate to the holiday were sold.

    MONEY- The school children in 1890 were anxious to earn a little spending money, just as they are today.  Sometimes they would get a chance to work on a farm.  If they worked hard all day long they could earn 25 cents.  Charlie Darrow, Cal John, and Ed Kasbab got fish from Oconto and sold them house to house when they were boys.

    TEMPERANCE - In the early 1900's there was a large group of temperance people in Gillett, most of whom lived in the area near the Methodist church.  That area was nicknamed "Temperance Town" and is often referred to by that name even yet.  Because they wanted a social headquarters where no intoxicating drinks were .served, they built the brick building now serving as the printing office.  It was promptly called "Temperance Hall."  During prohibition years it was used as a storage garage by Bocher Brothers Hardware, and was later purchased by Mr. William Clough when he became owner and editor of the Gillett Times.  He remodeled the building and moved the presses and printing equipment there from Main Street where the Laundromat Is today.

    WEATHER - Besides their ever present danger from wild beasts and hostile Indians, the pioneers endured natural disasters.  The summer of 1871 was hot and dry.  The earth became so hard and cracked it opened in some places from the severe drought.  Crops suffered from lack of rain.  The fire broke out and swept through the community.  Considerable damage was done although the pioneer settlers fought tirelessly to save their homes.

    In 1875 there was another disaster.  This time a hurricane swept through the community, destroying several homes.  Matt Finnegan's first home, Gillett's barn, and many other buildings were completely demolished.

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