Mr. Pecore, born, raised and a life-time resident of Oconto County, writes his memories of the City of Oconto in the early 1900's. This was written and published for the Oconto County Reporter in 1967.
OF AN OLD-TIMER
by Fred Pecor
Sylvester's first florist shop was a small greenhouse on McDonald street near Voy avenue, Oconto. Sylvester irrigated his blooms by running a pipe from the Oconto river,, across the road into his greenhouse.
The knoll of ground on the west end of Madison street where it merges with Main street was once an lndian camping ground. The Indians from around Shawano and Keshena would come into town each fall to pick the wild rice in the bay and would got their camp up where the Ernest Prior home now stands.
In the early days there was a park just east of the present airport called Voy's Park. It was a popular place with the young crowd because of the big dance pavilion located there where C. J. Francis and his brass band held forth. A second forgotten park was the "Dutch Garden" on the present Mott street, In the general area of the sanitary landfill site. The park was maintained by the Turner society and also had a dance pavilion. Charlie Keeler used to play the violin with one of the Merline boys and Wally Kimball on guitars.
In the city's horse-and-buggy days there were four drinking troughs for horses throughout the city; one was at the corner of Smith avenue and McDonald street, one situated at Collins avenue and Second street, and a third at Pecor street and Brazeau avenue. The fourth, in front of the Christian Science church, is the only one still In existence and is maintained as a, flower bed by the Oconto Woman's Club.
Oconto's last and best-known Indian resident, Susie Mechaquette, was not a member of the Menominee tribe, but of the Stockbridge Indians, distinguished by their tightly curled hair. Susie and her husband, "Injun John', were the parents of three children - two daughters and a son. A deeply religious family, the children would walk along the river trail each Sunday morning to attend mass at St. Peter's Catholic church. They always carried a lunch with them, staying in town until it was time to attend the 3 p.m. vesper services. One of the girls, Mary Ann, went to live on the reservation where she married a young buck name Bob Ketchum. When he died, she married a Leparvier. The second daughter, Elizabeth, who married an Oconto resident named Olson, died quite young and is buried in the Catholic cemetery. The son also died as a young man and is buried somewhere around Susie's hill in an unmarked grave. 'Injun John' is also believed to be buried in that area, though reports of his final resting place differ.
Most of us old timers are not likely to forget the time when Eddie McGorty, world's middleweight champion of the early 1900's, hit town. I was about 15 then (I'm 80 now) and I can still see him in his tent at the Park avenue fairgrounds. Eddie also specialized to tap dancing, and when his performance at the fair was done he went around town appearing in the different taverns. Eddie danced while George Gardner (a native of these parts who couldn't read or write but could play any instrument by ear) played the piano. Well, when they got to Housner's tavern - now the Y-Go-By on Michigan avenue - a couple of the local yokels, feeling their oats, decided to take McGorty on. The fight didn't last long but it covered a lot of territory and when it was over, five of the city's young men were laid out all over Main street.
Years ago before housewives could jump In the family car to go grocery shopping, a lot of the groceries used to come to them and shopping was done on the curb or at the doorstep. At one time there were two traveling meat wagons. The horses had bells fastened to their yokes to announce to the neighborhood the meat man was coming by. The housewife would pick out the cut she wanted and the dealer would slice it off the animal carcass. Milk and fish were also delivered by horse and wagon. I particularly remember the late "Booyah" Follett when he was a fish peddler going by the house yelling - "Fresh herring - with their eyes wide open."!
The old town
used to get pretty hot around election time, with people
taking up for one candidate or the other. One election I remember was
W. A. Holt was running for mayor. Old Charlie Dagen had another man he
wanted to see get the job, but Holt won, and when the
was made and the Holt sawmill whistle set up a victory blast, Dagen
out there and shot at it with a rifle. Not many people remember the old
Douglas school that stood on the southwest corner of Gale and Messenger
streets. It was built before the Pecor school and had cedar posts
It to keep cows from wandering onto the school lawn.