Don Reed Recalls the 1930's in Seymour
Don Reed Recalls the 1930’s
Recently Don Reed drew a map of Seymour as he recalled it from 1938. This was during the Depression and three years prior to Pearl Harbor. In discussing the map with Don, his ability to identify all businesses and comment on each was very impressive. This was a time prior to many people shopping in Green Bay and Appleton, and Seymour businesses met the needs of most everyone. Eventually, based on Don’s recollections, a three dimensional model will be made and displayed in the museum.
Don had many other recollections about life in Seymour during the 1930’s.
• Many people had water wells with hand pumps.
• Most toilets were two-hole back yard sheds.
• Many people had a garden and fruit trees.
• Cook stoves were usually wood or kerosene.
• The front porch was a popular spot to visit and relax.
• Movies at the Seymour Theater were 10 cents.
• Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry were popular.
• Wednesday night the H. S. band put on a concert.
• Doc Finkel’s German Band also entertained.
• On Sunday, church in the AM and baseball in the PM.
• Baseball was played at the fairgrounds.
• Empty lots were the sites of neighborhood ball games.
• Kids played in neighboring woods.
• Hide and seek was popular.
• A lighted skating rink was in what is now Don’s Pk. lot.
• Sulky horse races at the fair drew huge crowds.
• Kids went swimming in stone quarries and creeks.
• All 12 grades were in one building on Robbins St.
• Basketball games were played in the movie theater.
• Seats were removed and replaced after each game.
• A new gym and addition was built in the late 1930’s.
• Football was played at the fairgrounds.
• We walked a mile to school and home for lunch.
• School was mandatory through the 8th grade.
• If you were naughty, you sat facing the wall.
• Rural H.S. students were driven in, or roomed in town.
• Seymour had 4 Implement dealers and 5 grocery stores.
• The Hotel Seymour has always been a gathering place.
• Ten kids in the family and we all had part time jobs.
• College was too expensive for most people.
• The fair was a big hit, featuring popular entertainment.
Don Reed has witnessed many changes in the community and cited a major one being the transition from a farming town to a bedroom neighborhood with residents working in Green Bay and Appleton. He remembers the years when the city had four implement dealers, a creamery, and there was a cheese factory every few miles. Kuehne Bros. was a prominent shipper of livestock and produce, two large lumber companies, and a bustling downtown business district added to the attractions of the city. Baseball was the favorite pastime, the theater offered a variety of movies and performances, band concerts were great diversions, and fair drew huge crowds during the late summer. The Seymour fairgrounds racetrack had a reputation for hosting very competitive sulky horse races.
He recalls during the Great Depression of the 30’s, to save money, his father had the electric lights removed from the house. Everyone in the family had a part-time job, and all the neighbors had a garden in the backyard often selling surplus vegetables to the canning factory. With five automobile dealers in the city, it was easy to shop locally for a new car. During WWII many area residents served their country including Don and his five brothers. The Hotel Seymour was the main gathering place and a popular dining establishment.
Don got his start in the grocery business “candling eggs.” Farmers would trade eggs for groceries. Don worked for 13 years a meat cutter at the Economy Store on North Main St. He learned the meat cutting business from Clarence Hallada. In 1960 he purchased the grocery store on the corner of Factory and Main St. Eventually, with the help of investors, he
constructed a 66 x 110 ft metal building. The building has been added to four times. When the Seymour Bakery closed on Main St. Don purchased the equipment and added a bakery to the store. Parking was a problem and within several years the remainder of the buildings were purchased.
Reflecting on the history of what is now the parking lot, Don recalled that in the 1930’s the Muehl Furniture store dominated the corner of W. Wisconsin and Main St. For many years the Lotter Machine Shop was just west of Muehl’s. Operated by Joe and Vic Lotter, the men had a reputation for being able to fix anything. Later the building was purchased by Coonen’s and the Lotter’s worked for them. The Seymour Press was located next to machine shop. After a fire it moved to the corner of S. Main and W. Factory. A frozen food locker and liquor store completed the buildings on W. Wisconsin St. Eventually all were purchased to provide parking for Don’s.