Elisabeth Fassbender was admitted to Appleton’s St. Elizabeth Hospital in late March 1937. Her daughter, Anna, had passed away on February 2nd at the age of 71, and at 97, Elisabeth herself was beginning to slow down.
Monday afternoon, March 23rd, Henry and Ida drove from their home in Hollandtown, Brown County, to Appleton to visit his mother. They made the approximately 13-mile drive in the company car, a “1935 model Ford sedan, dark green, with the 1937 Wisconsin license plates No. 198-968,” registered to the Fassbender Brothers.1 Parking in the lot, they entered the hospital to spend time with Elisabeth. I would like to think that they met Henry’s sister, Elizabeth, and brother, Hubert in the room so that it was a nice family visit.
Upon leaving his mother’s bedside at approximately 8:30 p.m. they were shocked to discover that the car was missing. It had been stolen.
How did they return home that evening? A call may have been made to Elizabeth’s son, Arthur Ellenbecker. After filling out the police report, it was very late, and the 37-year-old was the perfect person to make the trek out to Hollandtown and back to Appleton.
Elisabeth was released from the hospital and returned home where she passed away peacefully on Wednesday afternoon, 14 Apr 1937. She was survived by four sons, one daughter, 34 grandchildren, and 34 great-grandchildren. The oldest grandchild was 41, and the youngest, Henry’s daughter, Rosemary, was just 11 years old.
But what about Henry’s car? What happened to it?
Tuesday afternoon, March 24th, the car was recovered at the St. Mary school grounds in Menasha, Winnebago County, by the Menasha police.2 “Apparently” the car had been taken for “transportation from Appleton to the basketball tournament under way” at St. Mary’s.3
“Four Plead Guilty Of Car Theft” read the Appleton Post-Crescent headline 26 Mar 1937. “Four youths plead guilty of operating automobiles without the owners consent.” Two of the youths 17 and 18 years of age were from Kimberly, Outagamie County. They were arraigned on two warrants, one dating February 25th, and the second being Henry’s car.
The other men, 19 year old residents of Appleton, were on probation when they drove to Menasha in the Fassbender vehicle, returning to Appleton in a second stolen car, as the previous October they had been convicted of taking two nickel slot machines from a Menasha tavern. They were arraigned on three counts of operating a car without the owners consent.
A total of eight vehicles had been stolen and used for “joy-riding about the country” by the young men; five cars from Outagamie and three from Winnebago County. One of the boys told the Outagamie county sheriff that one of the cars “was nearly new, with less than 500 miles on the speedometer. The sheriff said he boasted that he had ‘had it up to 90 miles an hour.’”4
The two 19-year-olds were charged to “three years in the state penitentiary [in Waupun] on each of the four counts on which they were arraigned. The sentences will run concurrently.”
In December a judge canceled the probation of the two younger men, and they were sentenced to serve three years in the state reformatory at Green Bay, Brown County.5 The paper doesn’t give a reason for this, but it may have had something to do with the fact that “a loaded automatic was found on” one youth’s “person when he was picked up,” and “police reported finding a revolver under the mattress” at the other youth’s home.”6
So as the newspaper reported: “The Court Closes Crime Career.” I am sure that Henry was happy to have the car returned with only a few extra miles put on the speedometer, and without being damaged.
“Report Auto Theft,” Appleton Post-Crescent, 23 Mar 1937, Tuesday Evening, p. 13, col. 4; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 4 Feb 2022).
“Car Is Recovered,” The Daily Northwestern, 25 Mar 1937, Thursday, p. 17, col. 4; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 18 Nov 2015).
“Car is Recovered” The Daily Northwestern, 25 Mar 1937, Thursday, p. 17, col. 4; NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 18 Nov 2015).
“Youths Are Held While Car Thefts Are Investigated,” The Daily Northwestern, 23 Mar 1937, Wednesday, p. 4, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 18 Feb 2022).
“Cancel Probations of Two Kimberly Youths,” Appleton Post-Crescent, 2 Dec 1937, Thursday Evening, p. 12, col. 6; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 19 Feb 2022).
“Youths Are Held While Car Thefts Are Investigated,” Wednesday, p. 4, col. 1.
Last Friday the 1950 U.S. Census was finally released for viewing, and so I decided to make a trip to Hollandtown, Brown, Wisconsin to visit my in-laws, my husband’s grandparents, and any other family members who happened to be living in this small community in April 1950.
“Heading into town” that morning, I had no idea that I would still be there a few days later. I love how the enumerator, Mrs. Margaret Farrell used St. Francis Catholic church as the departure point for her notes. The homes were unnumbered at this time, so people lived on “County Trunk D 1/2 mile church,” or “1/4 mile church,” and “near church.” She enumerated this community of 1,017 people, living in 231 dwellings between March 31, and April 21st.
What kept me in Hollandtown was the insight into the lives of people I knew, some casually, some very well, all sparking memories of days gone by. Has it really been 36 years since I first stepped foot into Van Abel’s supper club for the 40th wedding celebration of Bernard and Marie Campbell Fassbender?
Speaking of the Van Abel’s, I “ran into” them first. Living a 1/2 mile from the church on County Trunk D, was Nell Van Abel and her son, Wilfred, or Will, as we knew him. Nell had just lost her husband Bill in January, and Will would not marry Anne Duffy until 1954. Nell was enumerated as Keeping House, and Will the Proprietor of a “Tavern-Bolding.”
The 1950 census includes many chances for a person to be part of the “Sample Line,” and Will, enumerated on Line 8, was one such person. Unlike other censuses, no indication is made as to who provided the information, so it is left to our imagination as to why questions 33a-33c were left unanswered. The questions read: “If Male— (Ask each question) Did he ever serve in the U.S. Armed Forces during—World War II, World War I, any other time, including present service.” These questions were simply left unanswered. Will most definitely served during World War II and had also spent 18 months as a prisoner of war. Was the memory just too fresh to even answer with a simple, yes?
Living a 1/4 mile from the church is his brother, and partner in the tavern, Don, who was enumerated with his family, wife Bernice, 3-year-old Patricia, and 2-year-old Sue. He was also enumerated as the Proprietor of a “Tavern-Bolding.” Bolding? I have to believe that Mrs. Farrell had a weak moment, and spelled the word Bowling as Bolding, as bowling lanes had been added to the property a few years before. Both men spent long hours working in the tavern, each stating that the prior week they had worked 84 hours.
Continuing my walk with Mrs. Farrell, I finally arrive at my in-law’s household. I was surprised to see that the street was named Church Road in 1950, and delighted to see that she named their place of business White Clover Dairy rather than the expected generic “cheese factory.”
And here was a moment of Oh My Gosh. On this day, the day of Mrs. Farrell’s visit, 28-year-old Marie was eight months pregnant with her second child; her first child, Dick, was 2 years old. Dick must have been a rambunctious child if the number of photos of him that include bandaids is any indication. Mrs. Farrell asked Marie the question as to how many hours her 37-year-old husband had worked the week prior, Marie answered, 84. 84 hours. That’s a lot of hours alone, and with all chores being much more labor-intensive than they are today – imagine the laundry! Well, I don’t have to, there are pictures.
Moving two doors down to take a look at Butch’s parent’s entry, I found that 70-year-old Henry was still working as a cheesemaker, working 70 hours the week before, and his daughter, 23-year-old Rose Mary, put in 48 working in the office. Rosie would marry Victor Busse in May 1951.
It got me thinking, how many people in this small community worked at White Clover? I found 19, and some even were part of the Sample Line. Four Fassbender family members, and 15 people from the community. A newspaper article dated October 1948 states that at that time the factory employed 14 people above and beyond the Fassbender brothers, so I am fairly confident that I have captured all of the employees.
Bernard W. Fassbender, age 37, Hours worked last week: 84
Henry J. Fassbender, age 70. Hours worked last week: 70
Norbert J. Fassbender, age 38. Hours worked last week: 75
Sample Line: Weeks worked in 1949 – 52, Income earned from working in own business – $3,000
Earl Vande Hey, age 23. Hours worked last week: 65
Sample Line: Worked in Own Business in 1949
Joseph F. Nies, age 24. Hours worked last week: 77
Donald J. Hart, age 23. Hours worked last week: 63.
Sample Line: Weeks worked in 1949 – 52, wages earned $2,181
Occupation: Office Work
Mike Flynn, age 54. Hours worked last week: 40
Sample Line: Weeks worked in 1949 – 52, wages earned $1,800.00
Rose M. Fassbender, age 23. Hours worked last week: 48
Occupation: Factory Helper/Cheese Helper/Helps Make Cheese
William Verheyen, age 18. Hours worked last week: 65
Alfred A. Brochtrup, age 21. Hours worked last week: 60
Clarence R. Kelly, age 43. Hours worked last week: 56
Occupation: Waxing Cheese
Theresa Van De Loo, age 18. Hours worked last week – not reported
Noeim Clark, age 20. Hours worked last week: 45
Occupation: Wrapping Cheese
Ann Van De Loo, age 18. Hours worked last week: 48
Sample Line: Weeks worked in 1949 – 26, wages earned $600.00
Dolores M. Liebergen, age 20. Hours worked last week: 51
Eileen M. Penterman, age 20. Hours worked last week: 32
Estella A. Hagens, age 31. Hours worked last week: 40
Arlene J. Fink, age 19. Hours worked last week: 54
Occupation: Hauls Milk
Donald J. Weber, age 25. Hours worked last week: 65
To round up the rest of the Fassbender family I had to travel first to Dundas:
Occupation: Cheese Maker
Hubert Fassbender, age 31. Hours worked last week: 84
Then to Kaukauna:
Fassbender, Harold, age 41. Hours worked last week: 65
Occupation: Cheese Wrapper
Fassbender, Mary, age 42. Hours worked last week: 27
Sample Line: Weeks worked in 1949 – 39, wages earned $1,200.
There were two residents of Hollandtown that worked for South Kaukauna Dairy. Namely, Jerome D. Van Abel, age 38, (brother of Will and Don), who worked 38 hours as a Bookkeeper, and Mary B. Wall, age 23, who packed cheese. She worked 32 hours the previous week, and her Sample Line tells us that she worked 26 hours in 1949 and earned $800.00.
Also working at South Kaukauna Dairy was the husband of Mildred Fassbender, Leroy C. Gerharz, age 41. He had worked the previous week 42 hours as a Traffic Manager.
Now that I have compiled this information, I am comparing it to the company financial statements I have from this period. Also, newspaper articles provide me with additional anecdotal information. So much, that my head is spinning.
A few weeks ago Gary went on a lead for bathroom remodel. As they were reviewing the potential client’s needs and wants, and chatting a bit, Gary learned that she had worked at Rennes Health & Rehab Center here in Appleton. He mentioned that his father had been at Rennes after his stroke, and she replied “Butch?”
On December 30, 1998, Butch suffered a debilitating stroke, he was 86 years old. Upon leaving the hospital, he was moved to Rennes with the hope that with some rehab, he would regain his strength, some use of the left side of his body, and hopefully be able to speak again. Sadly, this hope was not meant to be, and he would live his remaining days at Rennes. He passed away Thursday, October 16, 2003.
One of the effects of the stroke was that he was unable to swallow well enough to get the nutrition he needed to live. We could offer him small tastes of some of his favorite foods, but not too much, or he would choke. Because of this, he relied on a feeding tube for his daily nutrition.
The feeding tube required regular maintenance to keep it clean, and it was this task that our potential client was in the process of completing, when the planes struck the World Trade Towers the morning of September 11, 2001. She told Gary, that just as people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, she will always remember that she was with Butch that morning of the attack on our country.
She went on to say how much she enjoyed spending time with him, and how the staff loved to see the enduring love that he had for his wife, Marie, and she for him.
Living in a nursing home is never easy. Knowing that your loved one can never come home is not easy. But it is nice to know that even after 15 years, your family is remembered with fondness, and has made a lasting impression on those who worked at Rennes in the years 1999-2003.
This week we celebrate new beginnings. Twenty-four years ago my son and his cousin, my goddaughter, were born on Thursdays, five weeks apart. I am having a hard time believing how quickly the years have gone by, but I am not surprised at the amazing adults they have become. This week they both start the next chapter in their lives. A week of new beginnings.
Last week we spent the week packing, driving, unpacking, and again driving. My son had accepted a job in Rhode Island, over 1000 miles distance from his current home in DeKalb, Illinois. It is a real grown up job. Now don’t get me wrong, the job he left was a real job, and a fantastic opportunity, but he was ready to move on. Have you been to DeKalb? While it is a college town, it is not a place that could offer an amazing social life for a young adult. My childrens description of the city is “the town that gave up.” So Monday, February 20th we drove to DeKalb, and started packing. We picked up the truck on Tuesday, and packed the 16’ box truck that we had reserved. Wednesday morning dawned foggy, but we got an early start, caravanning our way east, my son in his pickup truck in the lead, my husband and daughter next, and me following in the truck. We made it to Utica, New York that night. The next afternoon we were unloading the truck into his new home. By Saturday noon we were finished, even the stacking washer and dryer were humming away with loads of laundry. Sunday we were on the road early, heading back to Wisconsin. Tuesday he started his new job. We were blessed by unseasonable weather for February – 50s and 60s, and little to no wind. No winter coats were needed during the mad rush of the week. Today, March 1st, we are in the midst of a snowstorm with blustery winds. I do believe that a bit of intercession was made on our behalf, and for that I am truly grateful.
My goddaughter went to college in Virginia, and it was there that she met the man who she will be marrying this Saturday, March 4th. Unlike her cousin, who went to school here in the Midwest, and has moved east for a new job, she went to school in the east, only to find herself moving back to the Midwest for a new job. And a new life as a married woman.
New beginnings, new lives. My hopes and dreams are that these coming days and years are full of faith, good fortune, and much happiness for both of them.
May joy and peace surround you, contentment latch your door, and happiness be with you now and bless you evermore!
Twenty years ago this week, wait, what? Twenty years ago? How is that possible? Anyway. Twenty years ago this week, I went on a road trip with my in-laws to Rochester, Minnesota. To be more specific, to the Mayo Clinic. What triggered this memory? Hanging the ornament that both Marie and I fell in love with, and purchased for our Christmas trees. I remember laughing with her, saying that no one will ever know we own the same ornament.
Marie had been experiencing some pretty intense pain in her back, and it was felt by her doctors here in Appleton that she should be examined at the Mayo Clinic with the hope that they could help her.
Appointments were scheduled for December 3-4, and 9-10. I believe we were able to re-schedule the 9-10 appointments, as I know we were not there over the weekend – and most importantly in Rochester for Butch’s birthday on the 8th. The next decision to be made, was Butch, who was just about to turn 84, up to the task of making the drive in unpredictable December weather? I don’t remember how the decision was made, but I was appointed chief driver, and appointment monitor, while Gary stayed at home wrangling our 7 1/2 year old daughter, 4 year old son, and continued to work full time.
We left on Monday, December 2nd, and as I recall the drive to Rochester was uneventful. Marie sat in front with me, and Butch sat in the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car, taking in the rare view from rear seat of his car.
Marie’s appointment schedule was not heavy, and while tests were time consuming, we found time to wander the Apache Mall, and do a bit of Christmas shopping. We also enjoyed having dinner like “old people” at a restaurant that served a cheap, early bird menu. Eating at 4:30 was perfect, as we were always starving by this time of day. Time for real meals were few and far between due to the doctor appointments. Butch thought that fact that we were eating this early was doubly funny. Here we were laughing about eating with the old people, when, well, he was old!
It’s funny, I thought I remembered this trip so clearly, but in reality, it is a series of highlights. One doctor appointment in particular sticks out. Marie was asked to reach as far as she could toward the floor. She promptly complied, bending in 1/2 and laying her palms flat on the floor. The doctor almost fell of his stool. He was not expecting this from a 74 year old woman, who was there to see him for chronic back pain.
As the appointments ended and we prepared to return home, the weather took a turn. Marie and I headed out that evening to get gas so we wouldn’t have to do it the next day. Neither of us had filled up the Town Car before, and we stood laughing in the snow, trying to figure out how to open the fuel door. We finally got out the manual, figured it out and pumped our gas.
The weather had further deteriorated the by next morning, when we headed cautiously out for home. Approaching a stop light, just turning green, a car decided to make a mad left turn in front of us. I held tight, and pushed on the brakes. From the seat next to me was heard “Sh*$T!” while in the back seat, “DA*@&#N” as an involuntary “F#()#@@K” came out of my mouth. Luckily the breaks held, the car stopped, and we didn’t hit anything, and nothing hit us!
As the snow continued to fall, we made our way east on what is mostly two lane state highways. At one point, it became clear that I was going to have to pass a semi who was being extra cautious. Finding my moment I headed out and around, holding the car to the road as we hit the slush and snow. The comment from the back seat. “I always knew you were a good driver!” Reaching Oshkosh though, Butch had had enough. He needed a break, and a meal. OH! We were so close to home. But we stopped and had a quick bite to eat before getting back on the road and on our way to Hollandtown.
Unfortunately the trip to Mayo brought no miracle relief for Marie. She was given meditation tapes, some new medications to try, along with some exercises. Ultimately she learned that she needed to slow down a bit, take care of herself, and when it came to housecleaning, she didn’t need to throw the sofa across the family room all by herself, she could ask for help.
Each year as I put this special little blue bird on the Christmas tree, I think of this trip, the laughter, and even the fear of what the doctors may find. And this year, like I have for the past three years, a second blue bird is hung on our tree. They now hang in the same household. And I want everyone to know it.
The day after Thanksgiving allows me the time to sit and reflect. The food has been prepared and consumed, the dishes done, the house is quiet. Yesterday marked 30 years of Thanksgivings that Gary and I have spent together. The way we celebrate the holiday has certainly changed over these many years – three decades!
29 years ago I spent the day at my new in-laws home. In those days it was a dress up occasion, complete with pantyhose and heels. My mother-in-law roasted her turkey in a Nesco so that she could free her oven for the rest of the meal. Feeling a bit useless as the meal was getting on the table, I wandered into the utility room where my father-in-law was carving the turkey. I have no idea what we talked about, but as I stood there watching him, I snitched a piece of skin. He looked at me, snuck a peak into the kitchen, and helped himself to this forbidden treat. As partners in crime, he continued carving the bird, and we brought it to the table.
1989 was the first year that I prepared the meal. My daughter was almost six months old. One of the traditional sides for my side of the family was a sweet potato dish that my grandmother made, a take on the stereotypical sweet potato side. That year using canned sweet potatoes, and baking them in a toaster oven, I added butter and brown sugar to the dish, and then took it into the living room to see how I had done. Bringing the casserole dish to grandma, i asked her if there was enough butter and sugar. More sugar, she said. So I headed back into the kitchen to add additional sugar. Then headed back to the living room. This back and forth went on a few more times, until she felt that I had the correct amount of sugar added to the potatoes.
1990 was celebrated at my sister-in-laws. Knowing that Marie would have prepared pies and other things to bring for the meal, we stopped at the house on to see if we could help with anything. Butch happily greeted Kate at the door, and had to put her up on the counter to have a look at her. As she had only been walking a few months, she was still a bit unsteady on her feet, and she promptly sat down on a pumpkin pie. Thankfully, for both the pie and her coat, the pie was wrapped in plastic wrap.
In 1993 we had grand plans to host Thanksgiving here in our “new” house. But the summer rains held us up, and when Thanksgiving rolled around, the house was not ready for hosting. It was barely ready for our family consisting of a four year old, and a one year old who had decided to learn to walk the week before we moved in on November 19th. Without real clearance from the city, and with workmen arriving every day at 7:00 a.m., we were in no position to host. In fact, the house was barely ready for Christmas!
The 90s were filled with big family gatherings around our table, as girlfriends, and an occasional boyfriend joined us along with Gary’s older brother and his family. Many times my parents joined with the Fassbenders at the table, swelling the seating arrangement to 20. My dad bonding with Butch’s older sister, and Gary’s godmother over the “joys” of taking prednisone. Or conversations about a dream of traveling to Australia with a favorite nephew. It was during these years that I started to cook two turkeys instead of one large bird. That way there was plenty of dark meat to go around. Thanksgiving day Marie would arrive with a large casserole of her famous stuffing. A bread concoction that she spent days making as it required dry bread, chicken, ground beef, celery, onion, and an apple ground in the meat grinder, and then mixed together with sage, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, and three eggs, and the reserved cooking liquid from the chicken. My mothers, also famous, wild rice stuffing, also a bread stuffing, but using fresh bread combined with celery, onion, sage, thyme and five eggs – and we can’t forget the three sticks of butter in which you sautéed the onion and celery, filled the cavity of the birds. Tapper Salad fulfilled the role of a sweet side. An old family recipe of marshmallows, Queen Anne cherries, pineapple, and whipping cream. Marie taught me how to make jellied cranberry sauce. Having only made whole cranberry sauce up to this point, she told me to strain the sauce, put it back in the pan, add an additional cup of sugar and boil for another 15 minutes. Voila! The table in those years groaned with homemade goodness.
The new century brought another change as family dynamics changed, in addition to losing both Gary’s dad, and then my father So our table shrunk to six. Then to five when we lost Gary’s mother. This year we were a joyful ten as Gary’s nephew and his family joined us. The table has a different look these days. While the two stuffings/dressings are a constant, our tastes have changed. I no longer make the Tapper Salad. The marshmallows you can purchase in the stores today are just too sweet, and it pains me to spend $10 on canned cherries when we were not really enjoying it anymore. I plan on making homemade marshmallows and trying it again – maybe a 1/2 recipe. As for my grandma’s sweet potatoes, this year I roasted the sweet potatoes to a natural sweetness, and if you wanted a little extra, we put brown sugar on the table for sprinkling. And i put bourbon in the pumpkin pie.
What hasn’t changed is the blessings of family, and the joy of spending time together around the table. Not only on Thanksgiving, but every night that we are together. This time at table is just what our family does. It makes us who we are. A family sharing the blessings of being together and sharing a meal.