Research Thoughts

Schafkopf in the Afternoon

When Peter Fassbender at age 62 moved to Appleton in 1901 to “take life easy,” ((“Old Timers,” (AppletonAppleton Review, 10 Oct 1930, p. 2, col. 1-2. Cit. Date: 23 Oct 1998)) he did anything but that. After the sudden death of his son-in-law, Peter Ellenbecker later that year, he welcomed his daughter Elizabeth, and her son Wilbert into his home. A few months later, he welcomed a new grandson, Arthur, as Elizabeth was pregnant with her second child at the time of her husband’s death. In addition to the hustle and bustle of a young family, his eldest daughter, Anna, was taking in sewing, and her clients were coming and going on a regular basis.

By 1921, as he reached 82 years of age, I imagine that he did slow down a bit, and “take life easy.” Daily Schafkopf/Schafskopf (today more commonly known as Sheephead/Sheepshead, and no, I don’t know how to play) sessions were now part of his routine. He stated in an interview in 1930, that he played daily “at the service building on the fair grounds, where he meets a number of his old cronies and shows them how to play that grand old game.” ((ibid.))

While he was playing this “grand old game” at the fair grounds in 1930, in August of 1921, the daily matches were held at Fire Station No. 2, which was located on the corner of State and Eighth Street, a block north of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and a few blocks from Peter’s home further north on State Street. That is, until the common council made the decision to close No. 2, and join it with the main station “uptown,” testing the plan of a centralized station. The headline and subheading clearly states how the men felt about this decision: “Closing Of Third Ward Engine Station Robbed Pionneers [sic] Of ‘Clubroom.’ Aged Men of Third Ward Resent Loss of Forum for Discussion of Public Questions Over Friendly Games of Skat and Schafkopf.” ((“Closing of Third Ward Engine Station Robeed Pionneers Of ‘Clubroom,'” Appleton Post-Crescent, 9 Aug 1921, Tuesday, p. Three, col. 2-3; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 6 Apr 2013)))

This “band of disconsolate old men” were “cherishing a bitterness” over the loss of this space, where they had gathered for nearly  half a century, to “heatedly discuss” “questions of national importance” based on “information obtained from assiduous newspaper reading, backed up by well developed imaginations and ripe experience.” ((ibid.))

The article interviewed several of the men who were regulars at the station house, and they all mourned the loss of this place where a game of cards could be started at any hour, where the latest newsAppleton Post-Crescent, 9 Aug 1921 was heard and given, and “profanity and vulgar talk” was never heard.

One of the men interviewed was Gottfried (Fred) Siegert, the father of Anna Siegert, who was the wife of Peter’s eldest son, John. It gives a wonderful look into his life.

“Gottfried Siegert, 444 Cherry-st., another veteran of the civil war, was a frequent afternoon visitor, his favorite game being Schafkopf. Mr. Siegert is 85 years old, and is as active and erect as a man of 60. He lost one eye in military service and has only partial use of the other, but even with this handicap of sight and age he holds his own in a game of ‘sheephead.’ Mr. Siegert came to Outagamie-co. in 1858 and lived the greater part of his life on a farm a short distance from Appleton which he cleared. He said he missed the engine house and his old associates.” ((ibid.))

Gottfried died March 28, 1925, and is buried next to his wife Mathilda in the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in King, Waupaca Co., Wisconsin.

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