by Dave Cisler
transcribed by Diane Horn
September 4, 1969
Oconto on the Crest of a Wave
A quaint “complete” business directory of Oconto, with corrections and additions, published near the end of the “horse and buggy days”, lists the residents of Oconto over 18 years of age, giving addresses and telephone numbers. It is filled with interesting advertisements. It appears that the population of Oconto was at an all time high of nearly 7,000.
Advertising from our neighbors, especially Little Suamico, Pensaukee, Stiles, Lena, Oconto Falls, Gillett and Marinette, indicate the life and growth of all those nearby communities.
All were now connected with each other by a network of telephone lines, winding roads and railroads.
Communities located on the Bay each had a harbor and lighthouse well kept up and used by boats carrying freight and passengers, by fishing fleets and pleasure crafts and launches.
The city officers and a harbor committee consisting of Attorney Victor J. O’Kelliher, Carl Riggins and others worked arduously toward the new harbor and pier that was constructed under federal regulations. A new graveled pier road was built. The Oconto Woman’s Club had the new road lined with elm trees.
Newspapers of the times (before the days of radio and television) at Oconto were The Oconto Lumberman, published by Joseph Hall; the Oconto County Reporter, published by W.M. Comstock; the Enquirer, published by R.G. (Bob)Sharp, and The Enterprise, published by P.A. Badore. All carried homey news items, detailed obituaries, continued stories, and the necessarily belated world happenings of great importance. Much of each issue was taken up with advertising. Every week some of the publications contained large ads of the Oconto Company (lumber mill) Store, Hemmingsen’s, Brazeau Bros., and Goodrich and Martineau.
Mail order catalogs were also sent out by Goodrich and Martineau which carried a large stock of
Mr. and Mrs. Antone Martineau (she was the former Anna Jennings) in their handsome new Buick. The picture was taken about 1906. The buildings shown are Wilke Pocquette's Saloon (complete with swinging door), Lucia Bros. garage (later Jarvis Brothers and Hugp Lingelbach garage) and William Bros. Grocery.
The Joseph Hoeffel
General Store was first in Frenchtown
and later on Main Street. It carried quality merchandise
None of the Hoeffel family are now residents of Oconto, but their big
and those in attendance are still remembered.
An Oconto native who later moved to Gillett, Spies was bookkeeper and director of the Oconto County Hospital. He took a keen interest in cultural affairs of the city and directed both Shakespearian dramas and comic opera productions.
Doctors and lawyers were very busy serving their patients and clients in and outside of Oconto. The mill company attorneys and all the lawyers’ offices were located in apartments above the stores on Main Street.
Armstrong’s office was connected to his home on
the first floor. Drs. T.C. Clark, P.F. Gaunt, C. W. Stoelting
W.C. Watkins had their offices mostly in apartments above the drug
as did the dentists.
Dr. O’Keefe had his office, hospital rooms and home in one building off of Main Street at the corner of Washington Street and Superior Avenue. Long after his death, the building became known as the O’Keefe apartments until demolished. The Wisconsin Telephone Company now stands on the O’Keefe lots.
Compared to the
present day, life and time moved at
a much slower pace. There were long hours of toil for
People seemed pleased and happy with simple pleasures and
In the summer, picnics and outings and celebrations took place at
Park, and before that at Dutchman’s Park and the Fair
young set sometimes went to the parks on hay rides or swimming and
parties. In the winter there were sleigh rides.
bicycle riding and races. In summer there was baseball and in
fall, football. In the winter and early spring basketball was
Popular Basketball Team of Company "M" Oconto National Guard
Joe Kampo, Heiny Ellman, Coach Germond, Captain Hall, Sly Topel, Bud Fencel, Joe Heller and Rooster Heller.
Home talent plays were given at the old Music Hall and when that place was abandoned by all but the Oconto Lumberman printing office, plays, dances and other inside amusements such as ten pins and bowling took place at the Turner Opera House and the then big new Oconto high school.
Lodges – the Masons, the Knights of Pythius, Odd Fellows, Elks and other societies like the Modern Woodmen – had their own halls at which members met, held their meetings and had social gatherings.
At one time there were five moving picture theaters in Oconto – the Star Electric, the Gem, the Elite, the Bijou and the Grand.
The Gem, first
owned by Henry Cole, was located east
of the Goodrich and Martineau Department Store in the building last
by the Pitrof Candy Store. It was furnished with regular
seats and cuspidors. Len Lord operated the Grand.
Turner Opera House at the corner of Adams Street and Superior Avenue became the Marinette Knitting Mills' Oconto plant about 1914, and in 1958 was taken over by the Great Lakes Shoe Company.
The Bijou was located on Superior Avenue south of Watterich’s Jewelry store (later Harry Aronson’s Clothing Store). It was operated by the Hass brothers, Reinhold and Otto. Reinhold ran the movie machines and Minnie (Hass) Carlson sold tickets and played the talking machine which had a large morning glory horn attachment that projected the record music outside to the street. It was loud enough to be heard, at times, on Main Street. Later the Bijou moved to Main Street and was run by John Follett.
From four to ten pieces
Music furnished for all occasions. Prices reasonable. Correspondance solicited.
Frank Knapp owned the Elite when it was located in the present Oconto Home Bakery building.
In some theaters the audience sat on folding chairs until theater seats were used in these “commercial places of amusement”. The admission was a nickel (five cents).
Colored slides and
short reels of black and white moving
pictures were shown. Love stories, hair-raising thrillers
Indian fighting, cowboys and trail wrecks, hero and villain series
beautiful maidens rescued, dutiful sons and daughters theme films, and
many comedies were flashed on the screen.
QUARTET OF OCONTO MUSICIANS
The picture was taken in the upstairs parlor of the Beyer House. The player with the bass violin is Dr. W.C. Stoelting.
Thera Hemmingsen, Irene DeBeck (who became Mrs. AL Brunner) played the pianos at the show houses. Hannah (Schumacher) Van De Walle, Vida McClelland, Bessie Merline and others sang. Sometimes Bessie played the piano, too. Songs such as “My Pretty Red Wing”, “Tell Me a Beautiful Story”, “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” and “Yippee Ki Yo Ki Ya” were sung.
Standing, Judge H.F. Jones, Mr. Perry, unidentified Methodist minister and James Hoeffel; seated, Mr. Trudell, the Indian visitor and Attorney Patrick Lynch. The picture was taken at the W.M. Lee Studio.
When the theater
owners raised the admission price
to ten cents, some said they would quit going to the shows.
In those days some
people would go from one theater
to the other, attending all five shows in one night. After
they sometimes stopped for refreshments at Jack Carr’s