Contributed and hosted by Richard LaBrosse
This story was developed from information told to me by Pat Landin, Robert Hammond’s granddaughter and from my personal experience with the subject of the story.
William Hammond, a pioneer resident of Oconto County, married Harriet Bennett in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin. In 1896, they moved to an Oconto County farm where they raised ten children. Florence, Emma, William, Bruce, George, Arthur, Lila, Gertrude, Louisa and the subject of this story, Robert.
Mr. Hammond was hardly ever called Robert. Everybody in the Oconto Falls area knew him as Bob. He was born on January 22, 1892 in Kewaunee County. On January 22, 1914, he married Leona Sophia Willhimina Graham, the daughter of Daniel Graham whose wife was Minevera (aka: Minnie) Brunk. Bob and Leona were married in the Methodist Church in Oconto Falls by the Rev. E. J. Symons.
Bob was a World War I veteran. He was stationed in Augusta, Georgia at Camp Hancock where he contracted TB and spent most of his enlisted time in the hospital. During World War 11, he worked for a defense factory in Milwaukee while living with Joe and Ruby (Graham) Murray.
Prior to joining the Oconto Falls police force, Bob worked for A. J. Peterson, the Falls Elevator and the Scott Paper mill. He was a very civic-minded person and was always more than willing to give someone a helping hand when they needed it. Bob’s wife once said that she had a hard time keeping blankets in their home as Bob would always take them and go to the railroad station and look in all the empty cars for those who were riding the rails looking for work. The nights were cold and they could not afford blankets of their own.
The Hammonds lived at 302 North Oakland in Oconto Falls, which is on the west side of town. About a block from his home there is a monument to Bob Hammond. His granddaughter, who helped with a lot of this story, tells of the time she was born in Oconto Falls in the Hammond home. Pat’s mother, Elaine Hammond-Reynolds-Landin, was ready to deliver. Dr. Oswaldt had a broken arm at the time. Her father, Jack Renyolds, was out of town at the time and Dr. Oswaldt called on Bob to assist in the birth, which he did with great pride and joy.
Bob loved to garden and he spent many hours planting, watering and weeding. He was a perfectionist, therefore every row had to be perfectly straight and no weeds were allowed to grow.
Back many years, when segregation was allowed, Bob would have no part of it. He believed that every person was equal and color had nothing to do with it. The Harlem Globetrotters came to Oconto Falls to perform. This African-American team was having great difficulty finding a place to stay. There was not enough bedrooms for all of the team in Bob’s house, so he started asking friends and each took in some members of the team. That was the kind of person he was.
Bob was a member of the American Legion Post No. 302, the Odd Fellows and the Methodist Church. He was also in the Ground Observer Corps during the war. It was Bob’s job to watch the skies for enemy planes and he spent 2000 hours doing just that for the people of Oconto Falls.
My personal recollection of Bob Hammond is something that I remember well to this day. I was quite young when Bob was the police officer for Oconto Falls. My mother and dad used to take me along when they did their shopping at the Red Owl store on Main Street. Now for a young kid to not want to go in a store back in those days, there had to be really something important going on. I would stay in the car with the window rolled down just waiting for Bob to walk by. Most times he did, you see, Bob didn’t use a car, he walked a beat. He knew everybody in town and would always stop to chat for a minute. Anyway, whenever Bob saw me in the car, he would come over and start talking. What about, I do not remember. All I can say is he got my attention and I liked it.
Bob wore his police whistle on a chain around his neck. If he saw somebody committing a traffic violation, he just blew his whistle and that person stopped. One would ask a question in this day and age, “Why would anyone stop for a cop blowing a whistle?” Well, I will tell you in one word, “RESPECT”. A lot of the old timers I talked to have told me that they too HAD to stop because Bob blew his whistle.
In July of 1941 there was an Oconto Falls City Council meeting. Bob was Assistant Chief of Police at that time. The council voted to raise Bob’s salary up to $ 60.00 per month. Later on Bob became Chief of Police and he held that job for eleven years until he retired. Bob’s retirement party drew over 50 businessmen from Oconto Falls.
Bob Hammond passed away July 27, 1981. He was 89 years old and living in the Falls Nursing Home. Bob is buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Oconto Falls.