Central High School, ca. 1913Photo courtesy of La Crosse Public Library Archives
Seven Miles to Viroqua is a very short, easy-to-read, book written by Roy Bangsberg about his experiences growing up in rural Wisconsin during the 1910s. It was written for his parents. The memoir includes Bangsberg’s experiences on his family’s farm as well as his experiences going to high school in the nearby town of Viroqua. The title of the memoir refers to the fact that Bangsberg’s family’s farm was seven miles outside of town. This book covers Bangsberg’s life from his childhood until he graduated from high school with a focus on his high school years in town. Bangsberg had to live in the town of Viroqua during the school year, with a family that wasn’t his, because there were no rural high schools. This was not unusual for farm kids at the time! The memoir covers lots of interesting information about what it was like living on his own as a teenager attending high school in a small town.
Something great about this book is that it is easy to find the information that you need! Although this memoir covers a lot about Bangsberg’s youth living in a farming community, this Friendly Finding Aid will focus on the later part of the book that discusses Bangsberg’s high school experience.
This FFA is broken down into three topics; 1) basketball, 2) social life, and 3) high school. Each of these sections has information about different aspects of Bangsberg’s life that are talked about in the book. Each section has page numbers that include information about the topic mentioned. You can read all of the sections included in the Friendly Finding Aid or just go to the one that you find most interesting!
Chapter 7 of this book focuses entirely on basketball and the basketball team in Viroqua. It includes information about why basketball was played instead of other sports and who their biggest rivals were. If you are interested in sports, this chapter provides an interesting look into what high school sports were like during this time period. They’re probably different then you’d expect! The following pages are just a few of the interesting parts in this chapter. However, this is a short chapter so it should be no problem reading the entire thing or, you can find the parts you think are the most interesting!
Page 87: Read the paragraph at the beginning of this page to understand why basketball was the most popular sport for small town high schools.
Page 88: Read the two paragraphs on this page to learn what happened when Bansberg’s team would play teams that came from a bigger school. Little Viroqua played teams from schools such as La Crosse and other schools with a lot more students. Read to find out what happened when they would play teams like La Crosse that had more students.
Pages 88-89: Did you know that basketball was not always played in a school gym? (In fact, Viroqua high school did not even have one!) These two pages will describe where the Viroqua basketball team played their games. You’ll be surprised!
Pages 93-95: Viroqua had no school busses when Bangsberg went to school! These pages describe the ways that the basketball team would travel to get to their games. Make a guess about how they traveled before you read, then see if you’re right!
In his book, Bangsberg spends a lot of time describing the different social events that happened around town during his time in high school. He also talks a lot about his friends. This section of the finding aid helps organize and describe some of these events.
Pages 68-70: These three pages describe the pranks that Bangsberg and his friends loved to play during Halloween and other times of the year. Reading this section will give you a sense of how high school kids in the 1910s were pranksters!
Pages 70-73: These pages talk about the county fairs that happened when Bangsberg was living in town. The fair was one of the biggest events of the year and was enjoyed by people who lived in town and those who lived on the surrounding farms. Read these pages to figure out why, as a high school student, Bangsberg liked the fair so much and what the purpose of the fair was.
Pages 81-83: These pages discuss adventures that Bangsberg had with his friends when he was living in town. They describe different times that he and his friends would drive their family’s cars (which he calls automobiles), including one time when they were driving and got stuck! Read these pages to get a better understanding of what youth in the 1910s did with their free time.
Pages 84-86: These pages talk about the everyday after-school experiences of Bangsberg and his friends, including where they would spend their time after school. Bangsberg was not a model high school student, indeed he could be naughty! Read to find out what he and his friends did to avoid being caught doing things they shouldn’t have been doing.
Bangsberg is living in the town of Viroqua to attend high school. Although this collection doesn’t talk that much about what happened while he was attending class, below are interesting parts that talk about the classroom experience.
Pages 39-40: Did you know that students had to take a test to get into high school? In these pages Bangsberg gives a brief description of the test he had to take after he graduated 8th grade. Read this section to understand Bangsbeg’s experience taking it.
Pages 66-68: In these pages Bangsberg talks about the high school assemblies that he would have to attend when he was in school. As you read, think about them and if they are the same as assemblies today.
Pages 100-103: This section gives a general overview of the graduation ceremony from high school. The details of the ceremony are not very specific because Bangsberg did not graduate with the rest of his class! Read, these pages, (along with page 97), to find out why he could not graduate.
Reviewed by: Rachel Syring
This collection was put together by none other than La Crosse’s Mr. Baseball himself, William J. “Boober” Parizek. He was a man who knew everything about the Coulee region’s baseball history. He had personal connections to locally famous ball players and collected any document, newspaper clipping, or audio tape on the subject. Parizek was a long-time resident of the area and graduated from Central High School in 1938 where he played baseball and softball.
The William J. Parizek Papers span 1887 to 2006 and are a great collection about the history of baseball and other sports in La Crosse, Wisconsin. It is one box containing 62 folders! This finding aid, however, focuses on a small selection of the folders all dealing with baseball’s impact on the development and growth in the city and the region.
The game of baseball represents American and La Crosse’s history and identity. Its popularity as a leisure activity has brought in businesses and created local heroes. Without baseball, La Crosse would not be the city it is today!
This finding aid focuses on three themes. They are: 1) William J. Parizek, a.k.a “Mr. Baseball”; 2) La Crosse baseball teams; and 3) Edward Konetchy.
William J. Parizek (“Mr. Baseball”)
These two folders contain all kinds of interesting baseball materials that William J. Parizek saved over the years. They are not in any particular order, and I highlight just a few things within them. Go through the whole folder and I promise you that you’ll understand why Parizek had the nickname “Mr. Baseball”!
Folder 39 contains notes written by “Mr. Baseball”. There is a booklet filled with team photos, names of players from different teams, and a brief history of softball in La Crosse during the summer of 1920. Parizek was very involved with a lot of teams from different leagues, and you will see that he is found in some of these collections. You will have no trouble finding him. For example, take a look at the 1954 rosters of the La Crosse 12-inch fast-pitch Classic League. You will find that he played for the Causeway Beer Depot! He also played for the 1956 Wettsteins Softball team, as well as the 1958 Men’s Wear Baseball team. He then went on to coach numerous teams, including the La Crosse Legion team in 1964.
Folder 41B has a few newspaper articles about Parizek, along with photos of him. All of the newspaper articles honor him, including one that was written about him while he was playing for the Causeway Beer Depot Softball team. Find the one from June 17, 1953. That was “Boober Parizek Night!” The photos included in this folder show some of the teams that he played for, and there is even a stand-alone picture of him holding his bat in a Newburg uniform from 1958.
This collection of folders shows how baseball was widespread throughout La Crosse since there were SIXTEEN baseball teams spanning from the mid-1800s up until 2006.
Folders 11-12, 16, and 26-38 contain descriptions of these teams and their players, newspaper articles, and photos of various teams that span over a century (1886-1985) in the La Crosse area! The teams’ names are a great insight to local businesses and organizations. Some examples include the Boosters (Booster Club of La Crosse), Clothing Co. team (North Side Nelson Clothing Company), News Company (junior league team), and the Fords (Dahl Automotive). There are even some folders that include game stats and lineups! For example, folder 32 includes the lineup of the 1909 La Crosse Outcasts and their final league standings.
“La Crosse has often been called the ‘hotbed of baseball’ in the Coulee Region” because well-known baseball players, such as Burleigh Grimes, the man who threw the spitball, and Leroy “Satchel” Paige, the greatest African-American pitcher of all time, played at the Copeland Park baseball diamond. However, La Crosse has some famous people of its own.
Edward Konetchy, for example, was a hometown baseball legend who from 1907-1921, played in the Major Leagues for teams such as the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. He was even inducted into the Wisconsin Hall of Fame! His induction was celebrated with a banquet, which took place in 1962 and was hosted by the chairman of Oktoberfest. In addition, these folders contain his salaries as a ballplayer from La Crosse to his last days in the MLB.
Folder 20 has a description of the banquet. Page three of this description, which is from the Editor’s Tribune, references Konetchy’s amazing baseball achievements. Some of them include topping the National League in fielding for seven consecutive years, playing in the longest game in MLB history, and hitting 41 homeruns as a 40 year old!
Folder 21 has complete recordings (reel-to-reel and digital) of Konetchy’s 1962 Wisconsin Hall of Fame banquet that was held in La Crosse. All together the recordings are about 45 minutes, and they introduce a number of people who were involved with the banquet. Most of them had an impact on Wisconsin baseball in some form. One of the people was the announcer for the Milwaukee Braves at the time, my grandpa Earl Gillespie! (Digging in the archives can be very rewarding!) Also, there are photos from Konetchy’s Wisconsin Hall of Fame banquet.
Reviewed by: Daniel Potter
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