This Friendly Finding Aid is on the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp newspapers. (Did you know that CCC workers lived in camp settings and that these camps published their own newsletters?) This collection consists of thirteen folders covering camps in three different Western Wisconsin counties. This finding aid, however, will focus on only the newspapers in Jackson County. The Jackson County collection consists of five folders, covering the years from 1934-1937. They focus on three different CCC camps: North Bend, Lake Arbutus, and Irving. While there are only three camps, there are five newspapers listed for Jackson county. This is because the Lake Arbutus camp newspaper changed its name three times!
Beginning in 1929 the U.S. and the world fell into a deep economic depression, called the Great Depression. In 1933, unemployment was around 25 percent of the work force, or 13 to 16 million unemployed people! Desperate to help people out and keep American youth (men) out of the overcrowded labor market and also off the streets, President Franklin Roosevelt introduced the CCC. Approximately three million men would enroll by 1942. Schooling was an important part of CCC camps because, many young men at this time did not have a high school diploma and the CCC gave them a chance to learn and develop basic skills.
The folders in this collection are filled with camp newspapers that range from only a couple months to a couple years long. Since all the documents are printed newspapers, they’re much easier to read than handwritten primary sources. But be aware, because these newspapers are over eighty years old the print has faded in some spots! The newspapers cover a wide range of subjects in CCC camp life, from serious camp news, to lighthearted jokes and gossip, as well as sports news and scores. Almost every newspaper in this collection includes some sports news such as games and scores, but this finding aid will focus on education in the CCC camps.
The newspaper titles that make up this finding aid are:
• Arbutus Bugle Call
• The Bugle
• Camp Irving Newsletters
This finding aid has the papers organized by title and date beginning with the earliest newspaper available for that title. (The date for each newspaper will be given when available, but not all newspapers have dates!) Please note that most of these newspapers include the date of publication on the title page, but not always! For example, the 1606 editor usually put the date in the center of the title page underneath the title, but the editor of Arbutus Bugle Call and The Bugle put the date of publication on the bottom of the title page. The Camp Irving Newsletters editor is not consistent. For most Camp Irving Newsletters, the date of publication will be either typed or handwritten in the upper right-hand corner of the title page. Don’t worry, although it seems confusing you will figure it out! If a newspaper in the collection places the date in an unusual location it will be noted in this finding aid.
*A note about the Camp Irving Newsletters: Be aware that the Camp Irving Newsletters are much less complete, and much less organized than the other camp newspapers. Page numbers are often not included, so look for the titles.
1 June 1934
• Troop 1606 arrived at their new camp in North Bend, Jackson County just before this was published. The paper describes their new living conditions and states that the camp will soon be having educational lectures led by various professors and engineers. Look for the list of lecture topics to see what lessons the camp offered.
30 June 1934
• Page through this edition and notice that the camp had an Education Advisor, a continuing lecture series, and a camp library with 300 volumes! Take a look at how the camp encouraged reading through a competition.
15 July 1934
• Something to look for in this paper is the column that lists the number of men in company 1606. In addition, notice all the engineering lectures, a proposed debate team, and winter education program. Do you think these programs were popular?
30 July 1934
• Read page one of this paper to see how the camp intended to use new technology such as slides and “moving pictures” into their schooling. Another column is about the arrival of new books in the camp library. Read to get a sense of how well the members of the camp knew each other. The newspaper is able to refer to people by last name and it expects that the entire camp knows who it is!
30 August 1934
• Read the column on page one written by Educational Director, Edward Libowski. Take note of the emphasis being placed on getting a good education and working to achieve valuable skills while in the CCC. Page two gives the camp’s library hours and describes the new series of educational lectures.
15 September 1934
• Read the column that focuses on “Education through reading.” It shows how hard the camp leaders tried to encourage reading and achieving an education. Page two lists a number of classes that will be available to the camp, including algebra, geometry, and many more! Do you think the men wanted to spend their spare time doing algebra?
15 October 1934
• Page four lists new books in history, economics, and spelling available to the CCC members. This paper also states that spelling classes will be given, and encourages the camp members to attend. How popular do you think spelling class was?
30 November 1934 (Date can be found at the top of each page for this edition)
• This is the second paper at their new location in Glidden, Wisconsin. The newspaper states that the Glidden camp has better living conditions than the camp at North Bend. Read all of page six. It gives great information about the debate team. It tries to encourage and convince the men that education and knowledge is power. What does this tell you about how motivated the men may have been toward schooling?
December 1934 (No day is given for this newspaper)
• This is the last paper available for the 1606 company. Be sure to read page eight. Even though it is the last paper available it continues to endorse education among the company!
7 February 1935
• This is the earliest paper available for the CCC camp stationed at Lake Arbutus. This issue makes several references to education. It encourages the men to “get the reading habit.”
20 April 1935
• Notice that the Lake Arbutus newspaper had changed its name, but this is still the newspaper for the same company as the Arbutus Bugle Call. Page six offers information on educational news in camp and states that new books are arriving in the camp soon.
22 October 1935 (Look for the postage stamp on the title page that gives the date)
• This is the first newspaper available for this camp. Right away on the second page(unnumbered) look for the column that describes the meeting about the class schedule.
31 January 1936
• Notice on the first page(unnumbered) the column titled “Evening Classes to be Offered.” Once again the editor encourages participation and argues that these classes will make those who attend more employable. Do you agree?
15 February 1936
• Pay close attention to the column titled “Classes Begin,” on page 106 (numbered at bottom of page). This section gives details on the classes being offered at Camp Irving. Are they similar to the other camps?
May 1936 (No day given)
• This newspaper has some very interesting information on the courses being taught to CCC members. Such as “U.S. history in 20 lessons” and “World History in 12 lessons.” Be sure to read the column titled “The Classroom.” This column shows many other types of skills being taught to CCC members.
30 June 1936
• This newspaper does not have a lot on education, however it includes some great information about the CCC and its function. A large part of this paper is a “Questions and Answers” section for beginner CCC members. Some of the topics covered include: wages, CCC history, and the work performed. How much did CCC members earn?
June 1937 (No day given)
• Be aware that the camp has changed location to Black River Falls and that a year has passed since the last newspaper! Be sure to read the column on page nine titled “The Educated Man.” This column was written by the Educational Advisor of the camp and shows how much the camp leaders valued educational programs. What does the repeated push for classes and training tell us about education in CCC camps?
Reviewed by: Joshua Krings
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Murphy Library Area Research Center
Orris “Bob” White, the man behind the collection of the Orris O. White Papers, 1919-1962, lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression. This finding aid will focus only on his experience during and after World War I (1914-1918), because it had a large and long-lasting impact on the rest of White’s life. White was a poet and English professor at La Crosse State Teacher’s College, (which later became UWL), from 1914-1952. His teaching career was interrupted when he left to serve in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France during World War I. The battlefields were not at all what White and his fellow soldiers were expecting. With hardly any training, the AEF was thrust into the first modern war, with machine guns and more advanced weapons than they could have ever imagined.
After the war, White returned home to his job as a professor, but he and many other veterans still could not make sense of their experiences. Because the soldiers felt misunderstood and different, they were called “The Lost Generation.” They carried not only visible scars, but invisible ones as well, like “shell shock,” or what is known today as PTSD. White and many other veterans turned to poetry and creative writing in order to better understand and explain what they’d experienced during the war. Because of this, they became known as soldier-poets. The soldier-poets tell their own personal history of World War I and the aftermath as the world moved into the modern era.
The Orris O. White collection is made up of two boxes. The first box includes various drafts of White’s poems. The second box also contains drafts of poems, as well as some of White’s creative stories and essays. Since there are multiple drafts and copies of each work scattered throughout the collection, this finding aid will indicate only where a particular document first appears. White and his fellow soldier-poets were rather straightforward with their experiences, because they wanted to explain the reality of war and their memories. The poems and stories are fairly easy to read and interpret. His essays are the most straightforward out of all his works. Nearly every document in the collection is typed, except for Box Two, Folder Four. All documents in that folder are handwritten.
A Note on Poetry and the Themes of the World War I Experience and its Aftermath: The soldier-poets aimed to make sense of their own war memories while they showed the public the reality of these experiences. The themes in these poems often vary between bitter feelings of loss felt during and after the war and disconnection to the modern world, to optimistic patriotism and national pride. Works like “War is Hell” and “Cootie” come straight from White’s experiences. However, an important thing to remember is that though these poems hold value as firsthand accounts of memories, soldier-poets often embellished their memories. It wasn’t on purpose, but the modern warfare of World War I rattled many of the soldier-poets. Even with embellishments, White still acts like a historian, writing down his own experiences and his own story through poetry. Poetry may not be a fact-filled history, but it is still a wonderful form of writing history!
This finding aid lists a selection of poem titles that all deal with World War I and its aftermath. There are many more poems included in the collection than are not listed here. Look at the “See Also” section for other topics White writes about.
Folder Two: Poems
“The World…CALLING or…crying”: This is poem is a patriotic call to duty. Look for examples of White’s nationalism. He places the U.S. in a superior status above other countries, even during a time of uncertainty.
“The Unknown Soldier (of France)”: This poem is in memory of Alan Seeger, another famous soldier-poet. It describes Americans getting ready for war, as well as the soldier’s accounts of the French peasants and the countryside. Many soldier-poets would fall in love with this Old World country, which led some to remain in Europe, or to travel often like White did.
“Torch out of Flanders” and “A Stranger”: These two poems describe the post-war experience. “Torch out of Flanders” tells about the end of the war on Armistice Day (November 11, 1918). “A Stranger” tells about losing a companion in battle, as well as the loss of self.
Folder Seven: Poems
“The Freighter Cook”: This poem is filled with gloomy emotions from the physical injuries leftover from World War I, and life in the U.S. before the Great Depression.
Folder Nine: Poems
“Then God Dropped for War”: White writes that “flying (airplanes) was a means of war” and no longer a joy. This poem describes White’s negative response to the war.
“Tomorrow” (to all the Allied Forces): Contrary to the title, this poem details White’s longing for “yesterday,” or the “good old days.” The poem actually reminds fellow soldiers and veterans “to live, not destroy.” It seems to be a direct response to the violence experienced during World War I, explaining White’s personal reflections and thoughts about his experiences and the aftermath he lived in.
Folder Eleven: Poems
“Silhouettes (of Mississippi Valley)”: This poem uses images of ghosts, dreams, and nature to explore post-war grief.
Folder One: Essays
“Modern Ancient Mariner”: This essay shows White’s confidence in America’s “comeback” after the war. He is hopeful for a return to the “good old days.” He explicitly states that his hope for the future lies in the students he teaches every day at La Crosse! (See Box Two: Folder Seven if you want to read more about the classes White taught).
“The Lost Battalion”: This essay discusses White’s life as a veteran and a professor. He is concerned about the “lost youth,” or the Lost Generation, and states that education, literature, and the arts are the way to help this generation and the United States out of the post-war rut. As a college professor, this perspective makes sense. He puts his hope more in the individual and the arts, rather than industry and development. Fun Find: This typed out essay has an edit in pencil, adding “world” between the “recent war.” World War One was simply called The Great War while it was actually happening. The “world” wasn’t added until later, and the “one” certainly wasn’t added until after World War Two.
“After That—The Deluge”: White tries to explain the struggle of his post-war experience. He feels that the United States is caught in a “national game of make-believe,” avoiding the violence and negative aftermath of the war.
“A Reverie (No. 2)”: In describing violent Midwest blizzards, White mulls over the post-war experience and the odd feeling of “gain out of loss.”
Folder Two: Clipped Essays
“Free”: White criticizes post-war government in this essay.
“Reflecting on the Atmosphere of AEF”: This story explains the specific scene of Armistice Day. It describes the French village he stayed in, as well as the French family he lived with during his time at the front. He explains the loss and disbelief he felt, even as messengers declared the Allied victory. Remember soldier-poets embellished their memories even while they tried to show the reality of war.
“War is Hell”: This seems to be another one of White’s memories. This work tells the story of the soldier’s French friend Pierrot who helped the Allies by discovering and relaying important information. The scene actually takes place after the war was officially over, but raiders still attack the French village overnight.
“Cootie”: Cootie is a French woman who runs the Alley-way Café, an improvised cafeteria for the Allied troops stationed in her French village. White describes the reactions of the soldiers and Cootie to recent battles. Fun Find: Before this story, there is a handwritten apology from White. He apologizes for the actions portrayed in the story. White says he was not himself during the “game of war,” and apologizes for this part of himself that committed such violence.
Folder Three: Poems and Prose
“A Bald-Headed Bachelor Looks at Himself in the Mirror”: This is a fictional story, but it directly references “no man’s land” and trench warfare. This story also explains war injuries, referring to them as “noble wounds.”
Folder Five: Poems
“Bombardier”: This poem shows White’s support for the air force. It describes the feeling of flight and the heroic deeds of pilots.
Folder Seven: Poems and Prose
“Creed”: This poem describes the bitter victory many soldiers felt post-war. Although the Allies won the war, the soldier-poets lament the violence they experienced and committed. They fear these memories will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Reviewed by: Jenae Winter
Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)
This collection was put together for the FFA. It is actually ten different manuscript collections, each with their own title and call number. Together all these different sources tell a story about the LaX Rubber Mills . . . and a lot more!
This collection contains two vertical files on the La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. and LaCrosse Footwear, Inc., six oral history transcripts of people who worked for the La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. and LaCrosse Footwear, Inc., and two booklets published by the Rubber Mills Co. that explain the manufacture of rubber. The two booklets have very unusual names: “Caoutchouc,” published in 1915 (31-pages), and “Caoutchouc II” published in 1925 (39-pages). Don’t be turned off by the name. These booklets are very interesting and informative. They are also filled with pictures of the factory and the production process.
The La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. opened in 1896 in La Crosse and moved to Portland, Oregon in 2001. They imported rubber from Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America for making rubber products, mostly footwear. Though they were a small company, they were unique and grew to be one of the largest employers in La Crosse. This collection not only tells the story of a factory, but brings to light ways La Crosse was connected to other areas in the world because of manufacturing. It also tells the story of unions, strikes, and the exploitation of workers in La Crosse.
All the parts in this collection work very well together. For example, many of the people interviewed in the oral histories talk about the same subject, thus providing a number of viewpoints on the same topic. Likewise, the booklets give background and images to some of the things discussed in the oral histories. Lastly, the vertical files have a wide range of information about everything covered in the both the oral histories and the booklets. Each part of this collection is strong, but together it’s even stronger!
PLEASE NOTE: The La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. changed its name to LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. in 1986.
CITATION FOR LACROSSE FOOTWEAR: La Crosse Businesses Vertical File: LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. (1896- present). Special Collections, Murphy Library,University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
CITATION FOR RUBBER MILLS: La Crosse Businesses Vertical File: La Crosse Rubber Mills (1896-present). Special Collections, Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
PLEASE NOTE: The citation for documents in the vertical files changes depending on what is used. For example, a newspaper article would be cited differently than a pamphlet. Look at a Chicago Style citation guide or ask a librarian or teacher how to cite your specific source.
The two vertical files are very similar. They have many newspaper articles, pamphlets, programs, newsletters, and advertisements that explain the history and the people working for the Rubber Mills and/or LaCrosse Footwear. Most articles date back to the 1970s, but there are some from before that as well.
One of the oldest newspaper articles is from 1887. It describes the factory when it was quite small and also tells about the imported rubber the factory used. Other articles talk about workers’ strikes, the company’s name change, and the company’s move to Oregon. There is also an issue from a newsletter called “LRM Footwear Footnotes” with an interview of a woman who started working in the Rubber Mills in 1907!
Bill Larkin, interviewed by Sandra Molzhon, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 8 April 1997.
Jerry Larkin, interviewed by Herbert Tancil, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 22 April 1997.
Donna Lemke, interviewed by Margaret Larson, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 17 November 1994.
Richard Morkwed, interviewed by Sandra Molzhon, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 1 April 1997.
George Schneider, interviewed by Dan Freudenburg, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 19 March 1997.
Herman Tietz, interviewed by Howard Fredericks, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 20 June and 25 July 1972.
The oral histories are interviews with people who worked at the Rubber Mills. Some people worked at the Mills for only a few years, while others worked there their entire life. These interviews cover topics like: unions, working conditions in the factory, pay, child labor, women in the workplace, family relationships, the Depression, the economy, and war. Some interviews focus on the Rubber Mills for only a few pages, while others talk about it for the entire interview.
Bill Larkin worked as a supervisor for various departments in the Rubber Mills. He worked for the company from 1961 to 1996. The entire interview is about the Rubber Mills.
Pages 1-10 Mr. Larkin talks a lot about work and his work experience. In particular, he discusses how he got his job at the mill, and his family and co-workers. (Some of his co-workers are also family.) On pages 8-9 he mentions women in the factory.
Pages 10-13 cover Larkin’s first day on the job and the smell of rubber. Amazing!
Pages 13-21 Larkin addresses wages and the Mill owners. The Funk family was one of the Mill’s founders and also one of the wealthiest families in La Crosse. On pages 14-15, he describes working with rubber.
Pages 21-22 discuss unions.
Pages 22-25 Larkin talks about how World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and Desert Storm affected the Rubber Mills.
Pages 25-31 Larkin reviews the relationship between the company and the community, the company’s name change, and he gives his opinion on why La Crosse Footwear had the success it did.
Jerry Larkin worked as a chief engineer at the plant. He worked there from 1933 to 1976. The entire interview is about the Rubber Mills.
Pages 2-10 hit a wide range of topics, from politics and the Great Depression, to fellow mill workers, wages, and Tuberculosis! These are just a few of the subjects, therefore, for anyone interested in an overview of mill-related topics, these pages may be just the ticket. Also in this section, it is interesting to note that Jerry Larkin talks about his first day on the job. Bill Larkin’s oral history discusses the same topic, which may make for some enlightening comparisons or connections.
Pages 10-15 talk more about what his job was like, including having to take work home. In addition, Mr. Larkin discusses what he enjoyed about the job, unions, and how wars affected the company.
Pages 15-20 largely cover the mill’s relationship with La Crosse, the company’s growth, and his brothers’ jobs. However, on a completely unrelated topic, Larkin also provides insight into college sports!
Pages 20-29 also cover a lot of topics, including Larkin’s boss, Prohibition, changes made at the factory, and the Great Depression.
Donna Lemke worked on the assembly line and talks about what work was like as a woman. She worked there in the winter of 1947-1948 after graduating high school. Pages 9-16 cover the Rubber Mills.
Pages 9-13 Lemke talks about getting hired and what it was like to work at the mill, including how she dressed. In particular she discusses some of the dangers related to mill work and her memory of the factory’s smell. (She specifically notes the smell of the rubber cement.) Two other topics of note from this section are lay offs and the mill’s production during the wars.
Pages 14-16 discuss workers’ wages and more about getting laid off.
Richard Morkwed did not work on the factory floor. He worked in the billing department, the purchasing department, and later became the Vice President of Distribution. He worked at the company from 1948 to 1992. The entire interview is about the Rubber Mills.
Page 2-11 cover his history with the factory, including his first day on the job. Mr. Morkwed explains some of the different work duties related to the factory, and just like in Jerry Larkin’s interview, he talks about taking work home.
Pages 11-15 cover a number of different topics, but most notably, workplace atmosphere, layoffs, and the mill’s transfer to a new owner.
Pages 15-20 cover some very interesting topics, including, unions, the Korean War, buying rubber and cotton, the U.S.’s dependence on synthetic rubber during WWII, and company innovation. This part of the interview pairs nicely with the “Cauotchouc” booklets because they talk about the history of the La Crosse Rubber Mills where the factory got the rubber for making its shoes. Just a hint, it didn’t come from Wisconsin!
George Schneider bought the company in 1982 and became Chairman of the Board. The entire interview is about the company.
Pages 2-6 discuss how Schneider became involved with the company, product changes that happened during his watch, and his philosophy about the the mill.
Pages 6-11 comment on other factories that competed with the La Crosse factory, and innovative changes made.
On pages 11-15 Mr. Schneider talks about hist relationship with workers. These pages also discuss strikes. Remember Schneider was the mill’s owner, so his perspective is important to keep in mind.
Pages 15-20 cover the mill’s role in the community, places Schneider traveled on business trips, and his vision for the company.
Herman Tietz worked in the factory from 1906 to 1908 making shoes. Only pages 31-38 cover the Rubber Mills. The rest of the interview is about other topics.
On pages 31-33 Mr. Tietz describes what the Rubber Mills looked like way back in 1903. He talks about what his job was like, and also his wages.
Pages 33-36 covers how shoes were made, and again, the smell of the rubber is brought up. (See also Donna Lemke and Bill Larkin.) Mr. Tietz goes further on this subject and describes the lack of ventilation in the factory.
Pages 36-38 discuss unions, working conditions,and his brother’s fallout with management.
PLEASE NOTE: “Cauotchouc II” is also available as a digital resource at: http://murphylibrary.uwlax.edu/digital/lacrosse/LaxFootwearCatalog1925/01.htm.
La Crosse Rubber Mills Company. “Caoutchouc: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear: An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its Growth to the Finished Product.” La Crosse, WI: La Crosse Rubber Mills Company, 1915.
La Crosse Rubber Mills Company. “Caoutchouc II: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear: An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its Growth to the Finished Product.” La Crosse, WI: La Crosse Rubber Mills Company, 1925.
The two booklets “Caoutchouc” (1915) and “Caoutchouc II” (1925) are very similar. Indeed, the second one is just an updated version of the first. Both explain where the factory’s rubber came from, how it was produced, and the products manufactured. Also, both have pictures to go with the text. Reading these booklets will help establish the context needed to better understand the La Crosse Rubber Mills.
PLEASE NOTE: The Rubber Mills published these booklets for their own purposes, and can be considered corporate propaganda. Think about this while reading the words and looking at the pictures too.
“Caoutchouc: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear, An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its growth to the finished Product,” (1915) is 31-pages long.
Pages 3-10 go through the history of rubber, where it came from, and how rubber manufacturing was invented. These pages are very interesting because they show that over 100 years ago La Crosse had connections with places you may have never thought possible.
Pages 11-26 discuss rubber manufacturing. These pages also have many photographs of workers in the factory, which along with the text, provides a kind of virtual tour of the rubber mills!
Pages 27-29 tour the administrative offices and give a conclusion to the booklet.
Pages 30-31 has pictures of different shoe styles made by the company.
“Cauotchouc II: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear, An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its growth to the finished Product,” (1925) is 39-pages long. It is longer than the first one because it has more information and a more complete tour of the factory buildings with additional pictures. Inside the front cover is also a flyer stating the purpose of the publication of this booklet.
Pages 3-5 give a history of rubber and where rubber came from. (Remember that this booklet is very similar to the first!)
Pages 6-7 explains the “vulcanization” of rubber.
Pages 8-10 discuss where rubber comes from. In particular, this book looks at rubber from wild rubber trees vs. plantations.
Pages 11-26 covers rubber manufacturing and footwear production. There are many photos and it feels like a tour through the factory.
Pages 27-30 give a brief history of the Rubber Mills, its founders, and company growth. There are also pictures of the founders and illustrations showing factory changes over the years.
Pages 31-34 give a description of the administrative offices with photos.
Page 35 shows product distribution throughout the world.
Pages 36-39 has pictures of different styles of shoes made by the company and gives a conclusion to the booklet.
Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher
The real title of this collection is the Wisconsin Extension Homemakers Council (WEHC). From 1920-1960 the WEHC was a volunteer organization for women that organized social, educational, and community development activities. The homemakers held frequent meetings, cooking lessons, and a range of other volunteer activities. They greatly valued volunteerism and education. These women worked with other organizations, such as the YMCA and the Children’s Home in La Crosse, and supported each other during the Great Depression and World War II by learning how to ration items and create budgets. This collection tells the stories of thirteen women – members of the WEHC – who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the changing roles of women in society. This box includes women from places such as Onalaska, Holmen, and Sparta.
This is a primary source collection of oral history interviews of local women who were members of the WEHC. They are separated into fourteen folders. Each folder includes one interview of a Wisconsin woman. All of the interviews are typed, double spaced, and have very wide margins. Easy reading! The interviews vary in length, but none are very long. The collection also includes two small books that contain pictures and recipes.
Folder 1 is the only folder that does not include an interview. This folder has five documents, including a pamphlet with pictures of the councils, a description of the WEHC, a guide that lists questions used in the interviews, an advertisement for the WEHC, and a project from one of the homemakers. This project is a mini-drama written by Betty Epstein, whose interview is found in Folder 5.
Folder 2 is the account of Helen Basset, a farmer’s wife. Basset described her community work with the council. For example, Basset was part of the Indian Mission. The mission worked to dress Native American children in “clean and suitable” clothing. This interview is 14 pages.
Folder 3 describes the life of Joanne Dach from Viroqua, Wisconsin. Dach described charities that her chapter of the WEHC took part in. For example, she discussed food pantry donations and raising money for Haiti. Dach also described the challenges faced by women who attended college and worked full time jobs. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 4 includes the story of Dott Dobbs, from Ontario, Wisconsin. Alongside her farm duties, Dobbs described the volunteer work and roles of the WEHC. The council assisted with the local 4-H club and supported community members in need. For example, her council provided aid to families that were impacted by house fires and unexpected deaths. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 5 presents the story of Elisabeth (Betty) Epstein, from Jackson County. Unlike the other women in this collection, Epstein had a college degree. She described her work in the offices of army camps during World War II, and like Joanne Dach (folder 3), Epstein discussed gender roles. At one point Epstein described her community as a “man’s world” based on the opposition her council faced over railroad crossings. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 6 is the narrative of Marion Fauska from Onalaska, Wisconsin. Fauska described her educational experiences attending a six week course in order to become a teacher. This folder also includes discussion about the Great Depression and World War II. Fauska provides the perspective of a young bride who could not afford a honeymoon and how she was encouraged to work due to a shortage of teachers during the war. This interview is 35 pages.
Folder 7 describes the life of Mae Flaig from Sparta, Wisconsin. She was part of the WEHC, a Leadership Development Committee, and the 4-H Club. Flaig experienced the economic challenges and the shifting gender roles of women during the Great Depression and World War II. For example, Flaig noted that women became increasingly interested in political activity. This interview is 59 pages.
Folder 8 contains the interview of Leila Halverson, a farmer from Holmen, Wisconsin. She discussed lessons given by the Homemakers Association. These lessons included dressmaking and food preservation. Halverson also described food substitutes and how even in birthday cakes sugar had to be rationed during World War II. This interview is 5 pages.
Folder 9 holds the account of Dolores Kenyon, from Sparta, Wisconsin. After her marriage in 1943, Kenyon’s husband left to fight in World War II. She described women’s shifting roles, such as non-domestic work and financial planning. Kenyon was a volunteer with 4-H and the “Association for Retarded Citizens” (people with cognitive needs) in 1958. Small portions of this interview are hand written. This interview is 16 pages.
Folder 10 holds the interview of Effie Knudson, from West Salem, Wisconsin. Knudson was involved with the YMCA and the Children’s Home in La Crosse. Knudson described the Great Depression in an account about rationing sugar. She also discussed World War II and Victory Gardens. This interview is 16 pages.
Folder 11 contains the story of Josephine Sullivan Nixon. Nixon’s father served in the Civil War between 1863 and 1865, being discharged after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The interview also gives an account of what life was like during the Great Depression, including meat rationing and flour substitutes. This interview is 31 pages.
Folder 12 belongs to Alice Nuttleman from Onalaska, Wisconsin. Nuttleman described the lessons that the council taught, such as bread making and sewing. She also described growing gardens, picking berries, and rationing sugar during the Great Depression. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 13 describes the life of Margaret O’Rourke, a mother of twelve from Monroe, Wisconsin. She discussed sugar stamps, gas stamps and the difficulty of getting new tires during World War II. O’Rourke also described the Women’s Movement and gender roles during the war. For example, O’Rourke stated that men took part in more domestic duties in comparison to previous years. This interview is 39 pages.
Folder 14 contains an interview from Elsie Roberts, who discussed the Great Depression. Roberts described a shortage of money and food stamps. This interview is 14 pages.
Reviewed by: Krystle Thomas
Ruth (Ries) Zillmer, interviewed by Charles Lee, La Crosse Area Research Center, Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin La Crosse, January 8, 2004.
From 1943-1954 America had its first women’s professional baseball league, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley – yes, the chewing gum guy – created the league to keep the American pastime alive throughout WWII when a majority of the top male baseball players joined the war effort to serve their country. The first four teams formed in 1943 with 64 women, but eventually that number would grow to many more teams and over 550 female players!
This collection includes oral history interviews of two women who played in the AAGPBL, Ellen (Ahrndt) Proefrock and Ruth (Ries) Zillmer. Oral histories are recorded interviews with people who have personal knowledge of past events. In these interviews the former players cover topics related to their personal life as well as what life was like as a player in the league. Both women answer questions about subjects like uniforms, social expectations, tryouts, practice, and life on the road. They also address issues related to WWII such as the role of women in the workforce, gender roles, and public opinion of women’s sports during this time.
The histories are .wav format on a CD and can be listened to with any audio program such as iTunes or Windows Media Player. The quality is good so you can understand everything being said, but there is not a transcript so you must take your own notes for direct quotes. Also, the interviews are not very long so they are easy to listen to in their entirety, but if you’d like, you can use the times provided below to easily jump to a section you’re most interested in.
Ellen (Ahrndt) Proefrock played second base for the South Bend Blue Sox in 1944. This interview talks about her experience in the league.
Personal History (1:13-9:34) – In this section learn about Ellen’s life on the family farm and her early years playing baseball. At one point she recalls how her dad built a baseball field on their farm and all the community kids would come there to play.
Life playing in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (9:34-29:55) – During this part of the interview Ellen talks about her daily life while a part of the league. She discusses the players’ uniforms – they wore skirts – and attending “Charm School” as a part of her baseball training. Ellen also talks about practice, player salaries, bus trips, and having to live with another family during the baseball season.
Opinions (29:55-27:15) – Near the end of WWII the men started to come back and so many of the “girl” teams were disbanded. In this section Ellen gives her opinions of the legacy and the end of the AAGPBL.
WWII (37:15-44:51) – During the war women took on many new gender roles, including playing baseball. In this part of the interview Ellen talks about women in the workforce, why the AAGPBL was formed and women’s liberation after the war.
Life after the AAGPBL (44:51-58:00) – In this section Ellen talks about being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the 1992 movie A League of Their Own. Ellen talks about how both these events really put the AAGPBL on the map.
Total Time = 58 minutes
Ruth (Ries) Zillmer was a pitcher for the Rockford Peaches from 1951-1952. In this interview she recalls what life was like playing in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Personal History (00:40-8:47) – Ruth was born in Illinois before moving to a farm in Wearworth, Wisconsin, when she was 12 years old. In this section Ruth talks about growing up playing catch with her brother, and on various country school teams. Ruth played on a traveling team organized by the girls at her high school!
Life playing in the AAGPBL (8:47-22:31) – Ruth was a pitcher for the Rockford Peaches. In this section she talks about the team manager, William Allington, and learning how to properly slide into base while wearing a skirt. Ruth also discusses social expectations, uniforms, and tryouts.
WWII (22:31-31:27) – The 1940s was the time that “Rosie the Riveter” was telling women that they were needed in factories but after the war women were expected to return to their traditional gender roles in the home. In this section of the interview Ruth talks about the difference between the early years of the war and league and the later years when she played. She also talks about what girl’s athletics were like during this time including basketball, which was played only half court and with no dribbling.
Life after the AAGPBL (31:27-48:18) – The league officially ended in 1954 after only 6 teams remained. In this part Ruth talks about returning to school, getting married, and her continued interest and involvement in baseball. During this last section Ruth also talks about the Hall of Fame Induction, player reunions, and the legacy of the league.
Total Time = 48 minutes
Reviewed by: Megan Hackbarth