Re-thinking movie night

May 1, 2015

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

NEW Jill Maher Headshot Dec 2013Movie night! One Saturday evening my husband, 7-year-old daughter, and I stayed home and planned to watch a family movie. We scrolled through the offerings on Amazon Prime.

The classic action-fantasy movie from the 1980s, Goonies, seemed like a great choice. For the kids of the 1970s who are now parents themselves, a good Goonies reference is guaranteed to elicit an appreciative chuckle.

We were wrong. As we got into it, we realized the movie was too scary for our first grader. It starts with a jailhouse suicide by hanging, and even though the prisoner is faking it to escape, that seems too complex and grotesque for our young daughter. The One Eyed Willie character is scary…and I haven’t even ranted about the fat kid and Asian boy stereotypes yet, or the “humor” about trying to see up a girl’s skirt.

Before settling in to start the movie, we had paused to look at the Motion Picture Association of America rating, but it failed us this time. The film was released in 1985 and garnered a rating of PG. It seems that PG-13 was available, having been just introduced in 1984, and I’m surprised Goonies didn’t reach that level.

Modern moviegoers are accustomed to seeing ratings justified with statements like “brief nudity, strong language.” For older movies, the MPAA-sponsored site filmratings.com doesn’t give the reason for its ratings, so a robust site like commonsensemedia.org is much more helpful. Common Sense Media recommends Goonies for age 10, They advise age 5 for Frozen, the movie many kids who are my daughter’s age are really interested in. That level of detail seems more helpful than the broader ratings buckets. MPAA puts Goonies alongside Frozen (which is PG rather than G for “some action and mild rude humor”) but I would never put Frozen and Goonies in the same rating category.

While researching for this article, I learned that some other countries have more specific categories like ages 12, 16, and 18. Those would be useful as our child gets into the pre-teen and then teen categories. I also realized that groups of American parents set the U.S. ratings, rather than a federal entity and that it’s voluntary for the studios that belong to the MPAA.

Since the Goonies night, I have been more careful to check into a movie’s age-based ratings at Common Sense Media. Guess I gained a bit more common sense!

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at jill@bayviewcompass.com.


Research confirms fixing Milwaukee’s schools means fixing Milwaukee too

May 1, 2015

By Jay Bullock

Jay1headshotLate last year, a groundbreaking study of Milwaukee Public Schools students was published in Sociology of Education, and I wager most of you don’t wait eagerly for that journal to hit your mailboxes, and likely, have not heard of the study.

But the study, “Student Neighborhoods, Schools, and Test Score Growth: Evidence from Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” does the important work of teasing out which has a bigger impact on student academic achievement — where students live or where students go to school.

Researchers Deven Carlson from the University of Oklahoma and Joshua M. Cowen from Michigan State University took advantage of MPS’s wide-open enrollment policy, something unique among urban school districts, where students are as likely to attend a school outside of their own neighborhood, as one in their own neighborhood. This allowed researchers to compare students who live in the same census tract and attend different schools with those students who attend the same school but live in different parts of the city.

Their conclusion: “Educational inequities will not be eliminated by policies or practices exclusively focused on improving either school or neighborhood conditions.” In other words, students who attend low-performing schools suffer even if they’re from good neighborhoods, and students who live in challenging neighborhoods suffer even if they go to good schools.

Previous research has focused on one or the other; however, this study, the researchers state, is among the first to do both.

This is important research to think about now in Milwaukee because many school reformers, including state legislators pushing stiff penalties for failing schools and districts, insist that shutting down bad schools and replacing them with charter schools, for example, is the answer to Milwaukee’s problem of persistently low student achievement.

Others, including me, on many occasions, argue that more attention ought to be given to the time our students spend outside of school. A stable home life free from the stresses of poverty, unemployment, and violent crime (consider recent local news), makes academic success easier.

The chance that students live in challenging neighborhoods here in Milwaukee is dispiritingly high. After looking at nearly 96,000 students over five years, Carlson and Cowen report that the average MPS student lives in a terrible neighborhood: unemployment is 15%, a third of families have just one parent, 85% of adults lack a college degree, and one in eight households is impoverished.

Such a uniformly and overwhelmingly difficult out-of-school environment for most MPS students may explain why there was much less variation in neighborhood effect on student achievement than there was in school effect. “The school students attend makes a larger difference,” in Carlson and Cowen’s words, “than do the neighborhoods in which they live.”

That is, the difference in test scores in any given year of children from the same neighborhood that attend different schools, is likely to be greater than those of students who attend the same school but who do not live in the same neighborhood. When children attend a high-quality school, even for just one year, they will finish that one year much better off than those children who stay in a mediocre school but move to a nicer part of town.

This might give a boost to people who want to shutter bad schools in Milwaukee in hopes that students would go to better schools, but serves to discourage those of us who oppose most of those efforts.

I honestly found the study’s findings surprising since my own experience teaching in MPS has often felt like a Sisyphean struggle against the pull outside forces have on my students. To be told it’s the other way around is a bit of a punch in the gut.

But not so fast, the researchers said.

In the long run, they caution, improving schools without help for the places that students live is a losing game. Children in Milwaukee attend any given school for maybe three or four years (if that—Milwaukee has a high student mobility rate) but will live in a given neighborhood, or a similar neighborhood, much longer.

“A neighborhood’s cumulative contribution to students’ achievement levels,” Carlson and Cowen write, “may be at least as large as, if not larger than, the cumulative contribution of the schools they attend.”

This gives a boost to my side, the ones who argue that the out-of-school factors need greater attention than they currently get, although, I’ve never been one to suggest that MPS doesn’t need to worry about school quality. Personally, professionally, and journalistically, I spend a lot of time trying to push our public schools and teachers to be the best they can be.

Carlson and Cowen do, ultimately, confirm what I’ve said all along: to fix the Milwaukee Public Schools, you must fix Milwaukee too.

Jay Bullock teaches English at Bay View Middle and High School and tweets as @folkbum. Email him at mpshallmonitor@gmail.com.


Public meeting May 20 about potential development for former Army Reserve land

May 1, 2015

By Katherine Keller

Usack will site his Machthaus at the back of the lot on Winchester. He will be allowed the unusual back-lot placement because city zoning laws allow for a cottage or “mother’s-in-law” home behind the main home on some city lots. A home once stood on the front of the east-facing lot. By placing the home at the back end of the lot, it will be clear of the home on the adjacent lot to the south, which will provide his rooftop solar panels unimpeded exposure to the sun.

Usack will site his Machthaus at the back of the lot on Winchester. He will be allowed the unusual back-lot placement because city zoning laws allow for a cottage or “mother’s-in-law” home behind the main home on some city lots. A home once stood on the front of the east-facing lot. By placing the home at the back end of the lot, it will be clear of the home on the adjacent lot to the south, which will provide his rooftop solar panels unimpeded exposure to the sun.

District 14 Alderman Tony Zielinski is hosting a meeting May 20 at 6pm in the South Shore Park Pavilion to discuss a potential plan to develop small, 625-square-foot highly energy-efficient homes on the former Army Reserve site in Bay View. The 5.6-acre parcel bounded by South Logan Avenue, South Bay Street, Lincoln Avenue, and East Conway Street is owned by the city.

The proposed homes, known as a “Machthaus,”  are based on a design for Bay View resident Nikolai Usack that he will construct at 2442 S. Winchester St. The Machthaus design is the result of collaboration by Usack, Stephen Servais, and Juili Kaufman. The home will use gray water from sinks to be used in toilets, efficient windows, solar panels to generate heat and power, flooring that absorbs heat, and building materials from recycled sources.

The home will not include a basement but the garage will be underneath the back of the home, accessible from the alley. Although the home will be off the electric and gas grid relying on solar power and a wood-burning stove, Usack said he will use the city’s water and sewer systems.

Usack will site his Machthaus at the back of the lot on Winchester. The city will permit that placement because there was once a home that sat on the front of the lot (east). Winchester will be allowed the unusual back-lot placement because of the city’s zoning laws that allow for a cottage or “mother’s-in-law” house behind the main home. By placing the home at the back end of the lot, it will be clear of the home on the adjacent south lot, which will provide his rooftop solar panels unimpeded exposure to the sun.

Usack will site his Machthaus at the back of the lot on Winchester. The back of the house features the garage that is entered via the alley.

Usack will site his Machthaus at the back of the lot on Winchester. The back of the house features the garage that is entered via the alley. He compares its ‘basementless design’ to that of Milwaukee’s Polish flats that are common in Riverwest, although there more in other Milwaukee neighborhoods, including Bay View, on Burrell Street.


Avalon Theater landmark ceremony features Vel Phillips documentary June 1

May 1, 2015

By Ron Winkler

 

The Joseph Williams home, as it appeared during construction of the Avalon Theater. Courtesy Bay View Historical Society

The Joseph Williams home, as it appeared during construction of the Avalon Theater. Courtesy Bay View Historical Society

The Bay View Historical Society is hosting a ceremony to bestow landmark status on the Avalon Theater, 2473 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Monday, June 1.

The Avalon Theater is the twenty-second landmark bestowed by the Bay View Historical Society. Its first landmark was the Beulah Brinton House in 1986. (The society purchased the house for its headquarters in 2005 and paid off the mortgage last month.)

Landmarking by the society is honorary and is not encumbered with any restrictions, as is the City of Milwaukee’s landmark award, which stipulates modifications must be approved to ensure they are tasteful and historically appropriate. A copper plaque identifies the society’s landmarks. The Avalon Theater will receive the society’s twenty-second plaque.

Although the society’s landmark is given mainly to schools, churches, homes, and other buildings, the Pryor Avenue Well and the Wisconsin Champion European Copper Beech Tree in South Shore Park are among its designated landmarks.

The Avalon Theatre* opened in 1929, but was shuttered in 2000 due to dwindling attendance. It stood vacant, in danger of being converted to offices by the previous owner, Craig Ellsworth, until purchased by Lee Barczak in 2005. His optimistic plan to reopen the theater within two years was postponed time and again due to the economic downturn and his desire to do more than a pedestrian renovation. When the long-awaited opening finally took place in December 2014, Avalon fans  agreed the $2.5 million restoration was worth the wait. It exemplifies Bay View’s ongoing renewal.

The theater was designated a City of Milwaukee landmark in 2004.

Doors open at 4:30pm. Tours of the Avalon will be given prior to the ceremony. Refreshments will be served.

The event is free and open to the public.

Vel Phillips early in her career, wearing a sticker that reads, “We’re here for Wisconsin Human Rights Legislation.” Courtesy David Glisczinski, Wisconsin Public Television

Vel Phillips early in her career, wearing a sticker that reads, “We’re here for Wisconsin Human Rights Legislation.” Courtesy David Glisczinski, Wisconsin Public Television

Dream Big Dreams

Following the landmark ceremony, the one-hour public television documentary, Vel Phillips: Dream Big Dreams, will be shown. The screening will be followed by a discussion about equity and civil rights. Wisconsin Public Television produced the documentary and asked the Bay View Historical Society to host WPT’s ninth and final program of community engagement projects. The society was asked to further the discussion about community activism, especially as it relates to Bay View.

The documentary celebrates the life and work of Milwaukee native Vel Phillips, a groundbreaking civic leader and Civil Rights activist, who rose to prominence in the midst of violent racism. The film, produced by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and Wisconsin Public Television, uses archival footage and contemporary interviews with Phillips, her family, and friends, including Hall of Fame Milwaukee Braves and Milwaukee Brewers baseball player Henry “Hank” Aaron. Other interviews feature Phillips’ son Michael, the late Wisconsin Governor Patrick Lucey, former members of the Milwaukee Commandos, and Professor Patrick D. Jones, author of The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee. 

Phillips graduated from North Division High School in Milwaukee and attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. on a scholarship. In 1951, she became the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. She and her husband, fellow attorney W. Dale Phillips, moved to Milwaukee, where they became the first husband-and-wife couple to be admitted to the Wisconsin Bar.

In 1956, Phillips became the first woman elected to Milwaukee’s Common Council. In 1962, she introduced the city’s first open-housing ordinance. In 1958, she was elected the first black member of the Democratic National Committee,

In the 1960s, she joined Father James Groppi and the NAACP Youth Council, leading marches for fair and open housing to Milwaukee’s predominantly white south side. Day after day the marchers endured great hostility and violence while singing songs of freedom. Milwaukee’s open housing bill was finally passed two weeks after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in April 1968.

In 1971, she became the first black woman to serve as a judge in Wisconsin. In 1978 she was the first woman and African-American elected to a statewide constitutional office as Secretary of State.

Vel Phillips is still active today as head of the Vel Phillips Foundation. Courtesy David Glisczinski, Wisconsin Public Television

Vel Phillips is still active today as head of the Vel Phillips Foundation. Courtesy David Glisczinski, Wisconsin Public Television

Vel Phillips Today

Her advocacy and charitable work continue today with America’s Black Holocaust Museum, the NAACP, and the committee for the Joshua Glover statue in Jackson Square. She is active on the boards of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Community Shares, and the Haggerty Museum.

The Vel Phillips Foundation was created in 2006. Its website describes its focus as “giving scholarships to qualified minorities and grants to organizations that focus on social justice, educational initiatives, jobs, and equality in housing…also (funding) cutting-edge initiatives, individual or collaborative, that will enhance harmony among people of different socioeconomic levels, races, sects, and ethnicities.”

Pioneer, activist, humanitarian, and diplomat, Vel Phillips celebrated her 91st birthday in February and is expected to attend the event at the Avalon Theater. *Originally spelled “theatre,” the current owners changed the spelling to “theater” when the Avalon reopened last year.

Bay View Historical Society Landmarks

Beulah Brinton House
2590 S. Superior St. (1872-73) May 15, 1983 

Bay View United Methodist Church,
2772 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. (1888) May 6, 1984 

State Historical Society Marker
for Bay View Rolling Mill
Northeast corner of Superior Street and

Russell Avenue, June 2, 1985 

Puddler’s Hall
2461-63 S. St. Clair St. (1873) May 3, 1986 

St. Augustine School 2
507 S. Graham St. (1888) August 28, 1988 

St. Lucas Lutheran Church
2605 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. (1888) October 16, 1988 

Estes House
2136 E. Estes St. (1880-81) June 4, 1989 

Kneisler’s White House Tavern
2900 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. (1891) October 6, 1991 

Club Garibaldi, 2
501 S. Superior St. (1907) October 1, 1992 

Trowbridge Street School
1943 E. Trowbridge St. (1893-94) May 20, 1994 

Dover Street School
619 E. Dover St. (1889) December 5, 2001 

Wisconsin Champion European
Copper Beech Tree
South Shore Park, across from

2116 East Estes St. September 24, 2005 

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
1023 E. Russell Ave. (1907) May 20, 2006

Keller Winery
324 E. Deer Pl. (1909) September 30, 2006 

Groppi’s Grocery
1441 E. Russell Ave. (1900) June 21, 2008

South Shore Park Pavilion
2900 S. Shore Dr. (1933) November 10, 2008

Delaware House
2499 S. Delaware Ave. (ca. 1870) June 27, 2009

Eschweiler House
2445 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. (1903) June 27, 2010

Joseph Williams House
606 E. Homer St. (1865) June 18, 2011

T.H. Stemper Company
1125 E. Potter Ave. 2012

Pryor Avenue Well
1700 block E. Pryor Ave. (1882-83) 2013

Avalon Theater
2473 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. (1929) 2015

 


Strontium levels in Pryor Avenue Well water prompt precautionary health advisory

May 1, 2015

By Katherine Keller

A health notice about strontium in Bay View’s well water is posted on a lamp post next to the Pryor Avenue Iron Well.  PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

A health notice about strontium in Bay View’s well water is posted on a lamp post next to the Pryor Avenue Iron Well.
PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

Some Bay View residents and others who gather water at the Pryor Avenue Iron Well were surprised to find a literature box posted near the well with a precautionary advisory about elevated levels of strontium in the well water.

“It is my understanding that the strontium test in 2014 was initiated to coincide with an EPA regulatory requirement to sample the municipal water supply. The test in 2015 was taken to confirm the 2014 results after information was released by the EPA that they are considering regulating strontium in the future,” said Sarah DeRoo, the spokesperson of City of Milwaukee Health Department. “The City of Milwaukee Health Department was contacted by Milwaukee Water Works regarding the test results, and together we chose to proactively notify the public.”

Neither the State of Wisconsin nor the federal government regulated strontium levels in drinking water.

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established advisory levels for its safe consumption. Levels greater than 4,000 micrograms in a lifetime, according to the EPA, could develop strontium-related health problems. The effects of low levels of strontium in the bodies of adults are negligible. But infants, children, and adolescents are more likely to be affected by strontium levels higher than those considered safe by EPA.

Unusually high levels of stable strontium ingested in food or water by children may occur, especially if the diet is low in calcium and protein, and may cause problems with bone growth, according to a 2004 report published by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Strontium in Pryor Well water tested at 5,400 micrograms per liter in late 2014 and 5,500 micrograms per liter when retested in 2015, spurring the City of Milwaukee Health Department to issue the public health notice.

By comparison, the strontium level in Milwaukee treated water collected in 2014 was 110 micrograms per liter and in unprocessed Lake Michigan water collected in 2014, the strontium level was 115 micrograms per liter, according to Sandra Rusch Walton, Communications Manager for the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works.

Water from the Pryor Avenue Well is tested annually for nitrate and total coliforms/E.Coli. In 2014, Milwaukee Water Works tested the well water for a number of metals, including strontium.

It was retested when the first test revealed levels that were considered to be of concern. The second test verified the results of the first test, prompting the health department to publish its advisory and post copies of it at the Bay View public well.

Eaton Eurofins in South Bend, Ind. analyzed the water samples.

Walton noted that the well water will henceforth be tested annually for strontium.

Although there are four isotopes of strontium that are radioactive, no radioactive strontium was found in the Pryor Avenue well water, Walton said.

Strontium

Strontium, a natural element (Sr), is common and found in rocks, soil, dust, coal, oil, and surface and groundwater in varying amounts. Typically, concentrations in most materials are low, just a few parts per million.

The element is not found in its pure form, but combined with other elements in minerals.

One of those, strontium carbonate, is used in making ceramics and glass products, pyrotechnics, paint pigments, fluorescent lights, and medicines.

Natural strontium exists in four stable isotopes 84Sr, 86Sr, 87Sr, and 88Sr, and these are not radioactive.

Radioactive strontium isotopes also exist but not naturally. Rather, they are produced by human activity. The most hazardous form is 90Sr, which is formed in nuclear reactors or during the explosion of nuclear weapons.

Its half-life is 29 years, when it turns into yttrium ninety (90Y). Another radioactive isotope, 89Sr, is used in medical applications.

Both stable and radioactive strontium are present in dust but the predominant form is stable and nonradioactive.

A common source of airborne nonradioactive strontium is from emissions produced in the process of burning coal and oil. On average, 20 nanograms per cubic meter has been measured in the air in different regions of the United States . A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram.

Strontium dust particles in the air fall onto water, plants, and soil on their own or when it rains or snows and will mix in with soil or drop to the bottom of lakes, rivers, and ponds where they remain and mix with strontium that was already there.Rocks and soil that the water had contact with are the sources of stable, nonradioactive strontium found in water. The majority of strontium in water is from these sources, and only a small amount is from airborne dust particles.

For human beings, the largest exposure to strontium is food and water consumption because it is in fish, vegetables, and livestock. Grain, leafy vegetables and dairy products contribute the greatest percentage of dietary strontium but for most people, intake is moderate.

Only a small portion of strontium enters the bloodstream and is distributed throughout the body, where it behaves like calcium. A large portion of it accumulates in bones. In adults it adheres to the surface of bones. But in children with growing bones, strontium may be used to create bone, where it will be stored for years.

For adults, there are no harmful effects of stable strontium at levels that are typically found in the environment.

However, “unusually high levels” of stable strontium ingested in food or water by children may occur, especially if the diet is low in calcium and protein, and may cause problems with bone growth, according to a 2004 report published by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Infants and young children who ingest too much strontium can develop strontium rickets, a disease where bones are thicker and shorter than normal and may be deformed causing bow-legs and knock-knees. Some dental problems have also been observed due to high rates of strontium ingestion.

There are no federal standards for strontium levels in drinking water because high levels in water are relatively rare. However, EPA published a  health advisory that states a child drinking one liter of water in the course of a day, where the water has 2500 micrograms of strontium per liter, would not be expected to have any health problems related to strontium.

The State of Wisconsin recommends that if a resident’s water source exceeds 4000 micrograms per liter, the water should be treated with a device known to reduce strontium levels, or to purchase bottled water for drinking and beverage preparation.

Strontium in water has no taste or odor and the only way to know if drinking water has elevated levels is testing. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recommends that water should be tested only by a state-certified water testing lab, which can be found by searching lab lists on the Department of Natural Resources website.

Further, the state’s health department and local health departments will help interpret the lab results. (DHS: 608-266-1120.)

The EPA announced in a press release issued October 2014 that it has made a preliminary determination to regulate strontium in the nation’s drinking water and expects to issue its regulations in 2015.

“Although strontium affects all life stages, infants, children, and adolescents are of particular concern because their bones are developing. Strontium has been detected in 99 percent of public water systems and at levels of concern in 7 percent of public water systems in the country,” according to the EPA press release.

Much of the information about strontium in this article was sourced from a report entitled “Toxicological Profile for Strontium,”  published in April 2004 by U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.


Floral-form sculpture planned for Zillman Park

May 1, 2015

By Sheila Julson

Catherine and Carl Billingsley have donated Carl’s sculpture entitled Bud to the City of Milwaukee. It will be placed in Zillman Park in Bay View.  PHOTOS CARL BILLINGSLEY

Catherine and Carl Billingsley have donated Carl’s sculpture entitled Bud to the City of Milwaukee. It will be placed in Zillman Park in Bay View. PHOTO CARL BILLINGSLEY

Bud Facet 1 BILLINGSLEY

PHOTO CARL BILLINGSLEY

Carl and Catherine Billingsley, husband and wife, artists, and former Bay View residents, have donated one of Carl’s steel sculptures for permanent display at Zillman Park, 2168 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

The park is named after Catherine’s grandfather, Erwin Zillman, who was a civic leader, Milwaukee alderman, and publisher of the Bay View Observer newspaper.

Billingsley’s metal and stone sculptures are displayed in public art projects and exhibitions throughout the world. The sculpture, entitled Bud, will be placed in Zillman Park. It is a 12-foot tall welded-steel floral form in primary red and yellow, perched on a bronze-hued cylindrical base. The sculpture is currently on display in a public art project in Blissfield, Mich.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last year Brian Breider launched Bay View Art in the Park, a summer art festival in Zillman Park. Catherine Billingsley learned about it from a friend. “Carl and I talked about donating one of his sculptures to the park and bringing it to Milwaukee this summer,” she said. “I contacted Brian Breider to coordinate the project.”

Breider said he offered to assist the Billingsleys when they approached him with the idea. “Once we heard from Alderman Zielinski that the city would support it, a GoFundMe crowdfunding page was created to raise money for the miscellaneous costs involved to bring the sculpture to Milwaukee, which were under $1,000,” Breider said.

Catherine praised Breider’s assistance and said Zielinski put Carl in touch with city employees who would install the sculpture. The Billingsleys are planning a dedication ceremony for the sculpture Saturday, July 25, that will be open to the public.

“People in our neighborhood understand the value of public art,” Zielinski said. “Consequently, I ensured the city would accept this very gracious gift and do what was necessary to make this project a reality. It is with sincere gratitude we accept this gift from the Billingsleys. There will be a formal unveiling of the project when it is completed.”

Mr. Bay View

Erwin Zillman (1888 – 1970) was referred to as “Mr. Bay View”’ by his constituents, Catherine said. He published and edited the Bay View Observer newspaper from 1934 to 1958. He served as alderman from 1948 to 1956 representing Ward 27 (Bay View) and Ward 17 from 1958 to 1964. (Much of the area of the former Ward 17 is currently known as Aldermanic District 14.) He wrote a history of Bay View published in 1966 entitled So You Will Know.

Zillman lived in a house on New York Avenue until his death.

“My grandfather really loved Bay View, and he would be absolutely delighted to see how it is thriving today,” Catherine said.

The triangular park on Kinnickinnic Avenue was dedicated in his honor in 1978.

Zillman Park was named in honor of Erwin Zillman, who was known as “Mr. Bay View.”  PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

Zillman Park was named in honor of Erwin Zillman, who was known as “Mr. Bay View.”
PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

Maybe Not Zillman Park?

According to Lee Barczak, president the Kinnickinnic Business Improvement District #44 (BID), the BID is considering a large number of projects and proposals for its Streetscape and Beautification Plan. The focus of one of those projects is Zillman Park.

“When Alderperson Zielinski brought to our attention the offer of the sculpture donation, it was tied to some costs that the KK BID was not ready to assume,” Barczak wrote in an email to the Compass in late April. “I asked him to put this installation on a slower track, so we could see how the proposals for this space could accommodate, or be in conflict with this addition to the park. I believe within the next 60 days we will have a plan with more definition that will enable us to see how this could come together.”

Barczak observed that there are always differing opinions surrounding any changes to a public artery as important as Kinnickinnic Avenue is to Bay View. “The KK BID wants to make changes that enhance the business opportunities in the BID, while making the street more enjoyable for all visitors and residents,” he said. “This is not an easy task and the board believes that moving quickly without public input is not in the long-term best interest of the businesses on KK, nor of the residents of the contiguous neighborhoods.”

He said that a suggestion that was made during a BID board discussion was that if the Billingsley sculpture did not fit in the BID’s greater plan for Zillman Park, it could be moved to a greenspace farther south on Kinnickinnic Avenue.

The Billingsley sculpture will be placed on the north side of the park adjacent to Ward Street. PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

The Billingsley sculpture will be placed on the north side of the park adjacent to Ward Street. PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

“If this were done, we asked about the idea of a switch of the Zillman Park name to that (new) space. Alderperson Zielinski was unsure how the family would react to such a change,” Barczak said. “The motivation behind this was to retain the Zillman name on KK, while also considering the possibility of renaming the current Zillman Park, if funding for a major project there could require such a renaming.”

Ald. Zielinski said that he will not support placing Billingsley’s sculpture anywhere but Zillman Park and that he will not support changing the name of Zillman Park. “Bay View residents honor both their history and tradition. Mr. Zillman played a large part in the community’s history,” Zielinski said.

The BID does not have the authority or power to change the park’s name, according to Zielinski. “I talked to Lee Barczak and told him that I was opposed to siting the sculpture anywhere but where Zillman’s granddaughter and her husband intended for it to be placed, when they donated it to Bay View and Milwaukee,” Zielinski said.

In an April 29 conversation with the Compass, Barczak reiterated that there are no confirmed plans for Zillman Park. “Everything at this point is just discussion and speculation,” he said. The BID plans to hold a series of public meetings in June to allow the community and business owners to express ideas and opinions about what they would like to see on KK.

From the 1940s to 1966, five generations of the Zillman family lived in this home at 3328 S. New York Avenue. PHOTOS KATHERINE KELLER

From the 1940s to 1966, five generations of the Zillman family lived in this home at 3328 S. New York Avenue. PHOTOS KATHERINE KELLER

A Family of Artists

Carl Billingsley grew up in Oklahoma where he often helped his grandfather, a carpenter.

He later worked at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s School of Architecture, where he ran the woodshop where students constructed scale models of buildings and furniture prototypes. During that time, he earned a master of fine arts degree in sculpture.

Catherine Billingsley’s father, Robert Schellin (husband of Ruth Zillman), was a painter and taught ceramics at UWM. “There’s a long history of artists in the family,” said Catherine, who works in textile arts.  She taught weaving at MATC from 1984 until 1986, when she and her husband and children moved to Greensboro, N.C. after Carl was accepted a teaching position at the University of North Carolina. He worked there until 1992 when he accepted a teaching position at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

Catherine also taught at ECU and earned a master degree in textile arts in 2003. Carl retired from ECU in 2014.

“Carl may be retired, but he’s still getting around,” Catherine chuckled. He works in metal and stone and sculpts mostly large outdoor art displayed in public spaces. She said his work has been shown in Israel, Costa Rica, Australia, Japan, China, Brazil, and Latvia.

The Billingsley’s son carries on the family’s artistic heritage. Benjamin is an artist and printmaker and teaches at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, N.C. Their daughter Rachel Bixby is an accomplished knitter.

ERWIN ZILLMAN — MR. BAY VIEW

Erwin Zillman was born Aug. 21, 1888 on South Sixth Street near Virginia Street. His parents were Frederic Martin Zillman (b. 1850) and Emma Louise (Tabbert) Zillman. Frederick Zillman died when he and his horse and rig were struck by a Milwaukee streetcar in 1909. Widowed at age 45, his wife died in 1959 at age 95.

When Erwin Zillman was age 13, his family moved to the Town of Lake, where he graduated from Tippecanoe School.

In his book, So You Will Know, Zillman wrote, “When I was 17 the family moved to Bay View. I had finished business college (sic) and enrolled as a student in the Milwaukee Arts League. Further self-improvement was sought through various extension courses of the public school system.”

According to local Bay View historian Ron Winkler, Bay View young people attended South Division High School until Bay View High School opened in 1914. 

Erwin Zillman married Estelle Johnson and they had four children: Janet (died in infancy); Carol Zillman, who taught at MPS and was the principal of Mound Street School; Ruth Zillman Schellin; and Erwin Zillman, Jr. 

Erwin Zillman BV Observer BVHisSo

Erwin Zillman, left, published and edited the Bay View Observer newspaper from 1934 to 1958. —Courtesy Bay View Historical Society

Zillman published and edited the Bay View Observer newspaper from 1934 to 1958.

He was elected as Ward 27’s alderman (Bay View area) in 1948, when he was 59 years old. He served until 1956 when he lost his seat due to redistricting. The city combined a number of wards, reducing their number from 27 to 20. Ward 27 was combined with much of Ward 17, directly to its west, and named Ward 17.

When Alderman Schmidt, who held the Ward 17 seat, died during his term, Zillman successfully ran for the seat in 1958. Zillman served until age 75, retiring in 1964. (Ward 27 was later renamed Aldermanic District 14.)

In 1966, his history of Bay View, So You Will Know, was published.

Erwin and Estelle lived with their daughter Carol Zillman at 3328 S. New York Ave, and with Erwin’s mother Emma.

Erwin Zillman and his daughter Carol Zillman, who was the principal of Mound Street School in Bay View. —Courtesy Bay View Historical Society

Erwin Zillman and his daughter Carol Zillman, who was the principal of Mound Street School in Bay View. —Courtesy Bay View Historical Society

Carol purchased the home in the 1940s. In 1977 Zillman’s granddaughter Catherine Schellin Billingsley and her husband Carl Billingsley purchased the home. They and their children were the fourth and fifth generation of the Zillman family to reside in the home, which they occupied until 1986 when they moved to North Carolina.

Estelle Zillman died in 1952 and her husband Erwin died in November 1970.

Katherine Keller contributed to this story.


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