CATCH OF THE DAY — Recycling Is Not The Whole Answer

March 1, 2018

By Marla Schmidt

How much plastic trash are you adding to the environment in a day? A week? A month?

Most of us have no idea because we have been programmed by an industry that has caused us to buy into the sheer convenience of single-use plastics, like beverage cups, disposable cutlery, and grocery bags. It has become part of our daily living to the point we don’t even see it. Because most of us dispose of used paper, plastic, and glass by simply throwing them into the recycling bin and forgetting about them, it’s easy to think that all recycled materials are created equal. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Each material has a unique value, determined by the rarity of the virgin resource used to manufacture it and the price the recycled material fetches on the commodity market.

The recycling process for each type of material also requires a different amount of water and energy and comes with a unique, and sometimes hefty, carbon footprint.

To better understand Milwaukee’s recycling program, I toured the Materials Recovery Facility last fall to watch our trash in action. While quite impressed with the state-of-the-art facility, I also realized that it was just one part of the process of recycling that includes sorting and then baling the various recycled materials for distribution. I wondered where it all went from there. Recently I came across an article that linked to a video tour of the EcoStar Recycling Facility right here in Wisconsin. It picks up where Milwaukee’s Materials Recovery Facility leaves off. EcoStar processes those plastic bales. In the video, CEO Dan Mohs states that the food grade plastic bottles his company manufactures from recycled plastic require 50 percent less carbon than the same bottles manufactured from virgin resources.

EcoStar is a division of Placon, founded in 1966 by engineer Tom Mohs. The company is located in Fitchburg, Wis. (To see the multitude of steps involved in creating recycled plastic, watch the video:

We consumers believe we are doing the right thing by recycling, but it is not the answer. Recycling is a treatment for pollution not a cure for it. The packaging industry has little incentive to stop using single-use plastic. They have created a market with consumers who heedlessly buy into the ubiquity of plastic, thus benefiting the plastic industry’s bottom line. We must, as individuals, take it upon ourselves to reduce our use of single-use plastic.

Recycling is not the answer. Instead, we must reduce the amount of single-use plastic we use daily. Start with a small step. Begin by eliminating your use of plastic straws. Refuse single-use plastic straws. Because some restaurants serve a beverage with the straw in the glass, tell your server not to serve yours with a straw, when you order.

The action or inaction of each and every one of us really controls our destiny.

The Last Plastic Straw campaign strives to educate the public about the absurdity of single-use plastic, its effects on our health, our environment, and our oceans. The campaign is already underway here in Milwaukee and these businesses have taken the pledge to offer straws only upon request and to switch from plastic to paper straws: Bowls, Café LuLu, Juniper61, Mistral, Sheridan’s, and the newest restaurant to pledge to remove plastic straws, The National Café, 839 W. National Avenue. Change starts with changing behavior. Let these businesses know you appreciate their efforts.

This is an invitation to all bars and restaurants, to be part of the movement to eliminate plastic pollution.

You can contact me at and follow our progress on Facebook at catchofthedayMKE.

IN BALANCE — Introduction to Native American Herbalism

March 1, 2018

By Angela Kingsawan

Occasionally things fall into place in a very serendipitous way. I lived in Bay View 20 years ago and enjoyed every moment. Being invited to write this column in Bay View’s paper is both an honor and a pleasure.

My name is Angela Kingsawan. I am descended from Tigua, Raramuri, and Mexica cultures and have been an herbalist and gardener for as far back as I can remember. These cultures have influenced how I view the world.

I am always aware of and amazed at the wild abundance throughout our neighborhoods. Bay View is most certainly at the top of my list. Even though my herbal journey has taken me back to my childhood home on the southside of Milwaukee, I frequent Bay View on a regular basis.

I would like to share some simple herbal knowledge to bring all-natural wellness to the lives of those who read this, by sharing some of the observations I made on a walk I took in January.  Even though it was deep in the winter season, it was unusually temperate the day I decided to take a long stroll with my youngest daughter, Elena. We have had such strange winter weather and I’m always surprised at the resiliency of the Plant Beings.

As soon as I had Elena in the stroller, she pointed out Catnip growing wild in a front lawn. Catnip, in Native tradition, is baby medicine. I’m not surprised it spoke to Elena. My friend Catnip has helped my family in countless ways over the years. Most people see Catnip as an invasive weed that must be pulled or mowed over; I see a natural cure for cold, flu, congestion, and tummy upsets. Whether Catnip is fresh or dried, it can be made into a medicinal tea. Boiled water poured over the herb, steeped and covered for at least five minutes, will produce a potent medicine.

Catnip grows happily alongside other “weeds” like Dandelion. That’s just where I happily found Dandelion on our walk. I know most gardeners and homeowners have very strong feelings about this herb. Please remember, Dandelion is extremely medicinal. It will cleanse and fortify our body but will do the same for our Spirit. When I was expecting Elena, Dandelion was the only form of iron my body would accept.* I would go into my backyard and pick its leaves. When sautéed with olive oil, garlic, onion, and tomato, it is one of my favorite wild-harvested foods. It was truly a blessing to me and my developing child. Elena and I both said “thank you” to Dandelion before continuing our walk.

We also found Yarrow sprouting up through cracks in the sidewalk. This humble plant has such an ancient and glorious past. Yarrow has marched into battle with the ancient Greeks and Romans. It is said that it caressed Cleopatra’s hands. It has travelled all the way around the globe to meet our Native Peoples. Yarrow has whispered its secrets to our Elders and gifted us with its medicine. I welcome Yarrow into our home gratefully each growing season. It appears wild throughout our state. When there are fevers to be broken, I use it as a tea. When there are nosebleeds to be stopped, I crush the fresh or dried herb and place it directly into the nasal cavity. It staunches bleeding almost instantly.

When we approached Humboldt Park, I took a deep breath as I gazed skyward. I’m always in awe of great and beautiful trees, the Standing People, who hold the wisdom of the ages. They each have their own medicines that have helped our ancestors in many different lands. Both native and non-native species are beneficial.

Many plants have naturalized here, just as so many people have. They have learned to coexist and thrive. The plants have the power to teach us to do the same. If we take the time to slow down and listen, the plant life around us will heal our hearts. This type of healing will not only benefit us now but has the potential to benefit our future generations as well.

My intention with my contribution to this In Balance column is to encourage you to step outside for a moment and breathe deeply. Exhale and connect with your surroundings. You don’t have to be an herbalist or a gardener to appreciate the bounty that surrounds us. Taking those moments to be in nature is healing to the mind, body, and spirit. The plants around us are breathing and alive. They will impart their wisdom and gift their medicines, if we take the time to respectfully ask for their help.

*According to USDA’s Nutrition database, 1 cup of chopped raw dandelion greens provides 1.71 milligrams of iron. The National Institutes of Health recommend 8-27 milligrams of iron per day depending on one’s age and sex. Its recommendation for pregnant women is 27 milligrams per day.

Angela Kingsawan is the herbalist and garden coordinator at Core El Centro, a wholistic healing center. More info:
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat, or serve as a substitute for medical advice or care.

St. Francis Students Create Gift Of Independence

March 1, 2018

By Sheila Julson

St. Francis High School students Georgia Hancock, Alex Reid, and Jake Bednarski pose with the robot they built to give toddler Vivian Johnson more independence. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Toddler tethered to medical equipment assisted by their robot

Students in the St. Francis Robotics  (SFROBOTICS) program are using their skills and ingenuity to make life a little easier for a Menomonee Falls toddler Vivian Johnson, who was born with Chiari malformation. The condition, according to the Kids Health website, “causes the cerebellum — the part of the brain that controls coordination and muscle movement — to push into the space normally occupied by the spinal cord.”

SFRBOTICS is part one of the St. Francis School District STEM program. It was formed as a robotics club in 2008 under the guidance of science teacher Peter Graven. He quickly realized that student robotics could encompass more than robot competitions, although they do that, too. He formed ONEIGHTY, a program where students use technology to assist people and improve an aspect or aspects of their lives.

Graven said the students’ ONEIGHTY work is what likely got the attention of TMJ4 reporter Courtny Gerrish, who in November 2015 covered the plight of then 14-month old Baby Vivian Johnson and the struggle of her parents, Sarah and Clay Johnson, to persuade BadgerCare to cover a special bed designed for children with special needs.

Vivian Johnson lives in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin with her parents Sarah and Clay Johnson, and her siblings Samuel and Lilly. —Courtesy Sarah Johnson

As Vivian grew, she defied her doctor’s glum prognosis that she would never walk or be very active.

Vivian’s life is dependent on her being continually tethered to her ventilator, oxygen tank, and other large, cumbersome medical devices. When she began to walk, Vivian’s parents needed to follow her with those life-sustaining devices. Graven said Vivian and her parents needed something that would enable her to be more independent so she could play where she wanted and when she wanted without her parents following her with the equipment. Enter robotics.

“We started communicating with Vivian’s family and began work on the project the beginning of last school year,” Graven said. Their goal was to create a robot that would carry the equipment, moving from place to place with Vivian.

Graven, and SFROBOTICS members, Alex Reid, a senior at St. Francis High School, and Georgia Hancock, a junior, explained the design and challenges behind “Vivian’s Bot” or “Fulplae” because it allows full access to play. Their solution would be a tiered shelf-robot that held her medical devices and followed her as she moved around. Graven said that the robot must be able to avoid obstacles in the house. At the same time, it must recognize that Vivian is not an obstacle nor are the tethers between her and the robot.

Reid said that they visited Vivian’s family’s home to examine the layout and to determine the robot’s dimensions and potential designs. Reid and Hancock, along with SFROBOTICS members Colton Feirer (Grade 11), Jacob Bednarski (Grade 12) and Angelina Fowler (Grade 10), actively worked on Fulplae. Eleventh graders Josh Wendlick and Ryan Putnam also contributed to the project.

The students designed and built the robot and wrote its software.

“You can search on MIT’s web page and find designs very similar, so we’ve basically asked high school kids to do graduate work,” Graven said. “It definitely upped their game.”

Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) mentors donated their time and expertise to help customize the robot’s axle and frame.

Several local and nationwide companies and organizations stepped up and donated time or supplies to help SFROBOTICS students create Fulplae. Price Engineering, in Hartland, Wis., donated the purple metal used for the frame.

“The 80/20 metal is a material we never worked with before the Vivian project, but we wanted to use it because it’s durable,” Hancock said. “We just sent [Price] the file and let them know what we needed for the frame, and they sent us all the parts. We had to assemble it.”

Wauwatosa-based Interstate Batteries donated batteries to help power Fulplae, and Cross the Road Electronics, of Michigan, provided motorized controllers. Some plastic parts were donated by UW-Milwaukee, while other plastic parts were designed and printed by the SFROBOTICS team.

Once Fulplae was up and running, SFROBOTICS did test runs at the lab, which has tiled floors. But when they took the robot to Vivian’s home to test, the students were stymied by an unanticipated obstacle — carpeting.

“The machine doesn’t drive well on the carpet,” Reid explained. “It drove around here just fine on tiled floors but turning on carpet was a problem.” They also had to do some further tweaking to incorporate the tubing and cables that tether Vivian to her medical equipment.

‘We were doing test runs without the cabling, but when Vivian’s mother attached her to the device, we saw (these) further challenges,” Reid said. “It’s a learning process. If you’re not willing to make a mistake, you better not start any project.”

Hancock said those challenges motivated the students to improve the design. They initially used motors designed for 18 by 18 inch robots but realized that the robot required a more powerful motor. Fulplae is controlled by a radio, similar to a radio-controlled car, that her parents will operate.

Fulplae includes light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors. Many of its components were new to SFROBOTICS members. “It’s a path we’ve never been down before and a challenge,” Hancock said. “But if you’ve ever met this little girl, you cannot tell her not to walk. Her personality is amazing.”

Reid agrees that the project, while challenging, has been inspirational. “It’s impressive that she’s gotten this far. She’s defying doctors’ expectations,” he said. “I want her to be able to walk. It’s personal investment now and I’m rooting for her.”

Reid and Hancock are both St. Francis residents. Hancock developed an interest in robotics and mechanics as a sixth grader when she first saw robotics in action. She joined SFROBOTICS in eighth grade and never looked back. She plans to pursue a career in engineering.

Reid has already been accepted at MSOE, but even after receiving his high school diploma, he intends to continue working with SFROBOTICS as a mentor. Since he was a child, he enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together. He and his dad, Dan Reid, once disassembled and reassembled a robot. His mother, Lisa Stika, also encouraged his robotics pursuits.

“Our robotics club has made it to state FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge, a statewide robotics tournament) every year since I’ve been involved, so it’s been awesome to be able to compete in that,” Hancock said. “I enjoy being a part of the team, and Mr. Graven has been great.”

Reid enjoys the problem solving behind robotics, as well as the networking with other competitors and representatives from companies that support robotics. “We meet cool people at competitions, like the people at Interstate Batteries who were invited to judge our junior FLL (FIRST LEGO League) competition,” he said. “We didn’t expect them to have an interest in robotics after they donated batteries, but they came to other competitions and helped us out.”

St. Francis High School students Jake Bednarski, Georgia Hancock, and Alex Reid absorb the information their robotics coach Peter Graven dispenses. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Graven works with LimbForge and E-Nable, nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing 3-D printed, wearable prosthetic devices for people with malformed hands or missing digits.

His SFROBOTICS students use open-source designs with their 3-D printers to make plastic hands with hinged fingers that can grasp and pick up items. The plastic hands are custom-sized, cast from plaster molds made of a client’s hand. The prosthetics can be designed and printed in different colors or with a superhero character or sports logos.

SFROBOTICS also built underwater ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) to compete in the Wisconsin Regional MATEROV competition as well as in SEAPERCH competitions. The students are working with the members of the board of directors of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum on a number of projects and plan to make ROV dives to explore local Wisconsin shipwrecks.

The Johnson family will not need to pay for Fulplae because the SFROBOTICS students created it for her as their gift.

Reid and Hancock invite people to visit the club and see what SFROBOTICS is doing. He said they’re willing to help other schools launch their own robotics programs. They meet in lab space at Deer Creek Intermediate School in St. Francis. The robotics program encompasses Grades 4 through 12.

More info:
To follow Vivian’s progress:

Crabby’s Bar & Grill — Fran Daniels has served up handmade fare for more than 50 years

March 1, 2018

By Catherine Jozwik

Kathy Bach and Fran Daniels pose in their restaurant, Crabby’s Bar & Grill. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Fran Daniels has been part of the Bay View business community for more than 50 years. He opened Francisco’s, his first restaurant, in 1964. Twenty years later he and his wife Kathy Bach enlarged the restaurant, added a bar, expanded the menu, and renamed it.

Because of its extensive seafood menu, Bach and Daniels named it Crabby’s Bar & Grill.

Located on the southeast corner of Kinnickinnic and Oklahoma avenues, Crabby’s décor includes a long wooden bar, paneling, lamp-lit tables, a big handmade canvas sailboat, and vintage Milwaukee photos. Crabby’s is a living testament to Bay View’s dining past that still offers a place to unwind. Smooth rock music from the 1970s plays through the speakers, creating a relaxing ambience for patrons.

“It’s a beautiful place,” said Daniels.

After Daniels’ stroke on Feb. 2, 2017, the couple closed the restaurant for nine months. They reopened it Dec. 4 with a new, pared down menu.

Daniels wants people to know that his restaurant is open again. “People think we’re closed,” he said, “but we’re not.”

And while Daniels and Bach have put their building on the market, they’re not in a hurry to sell.

“If it sells, great. If not, that’s okay,” Bach said.

The couple has witnessed many neighborhood changes, including a dramatic increase in the number of restaurants and bars, in their decades as Bay View business owners.

Daniels, now 77, said that when he opened his Italian restaurant, Francisco’s, in 1964, there were very few restaurants in the neighborhood, except for De Marinis.

Daniels said he and Ron Zeller, owner of At Random cocktail lounge, 2501 S. Delaware Avenue, opened their businesses at the same time and became close.

“He’s been my best friend for years,” Daniels said.

Years ago, Bay View was more family and community-oriented, according to Bach.

“If the neighbors had young kids, chances are they wound up working here,” she said.

Bach, a Rice Lake native, moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and met Daniels through mutual friends.

Daniels, who was raised in Bay View, attended Mound Street School and graduated from Bay View High School in 1958.

He was 17 when he graduated and began working in restaurants, mostly making pizzas. At 23, he borrowed $1,200 from his father, and he and Rose Stankiewicz, his boss and owner of Alsta’s restaurant, decided to go into business.

Together, the pair leased space on the south end of the building, sharing the building with other businesses such as a bakery, drugstore, and barbershop

“Rose showed him the ropes,” Bach said.

Daniels purchased the building in 1974 and converted the second level to living spaces.

He later purchased the two houses south of the restaurant and demolished them. Originally intending to create a space for outdoor dining, Daniels decided on a parking lot instead.

—Photo Jennifer Kresse

Later Daniels remodeled the exterior of the building. He expanded the restaurant by adding a bar and renamed it Crabby’s, reopening in 1984 with a more expansive menu than Francisco’s.

According to Bach, supper clubs, which experienced a downward trend in the past two decades, were popular among dining patrons when Crabby’s opened. Recently supper clubs are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, she said.

Bach said their entrees were made to order, no pre-made dishes. They even made their pasta from scratch.

Now, due to the couple’s time constraints and other commitments, such as Daniels’ physical therapy that requires several appointments each week, each several hours long, they have eliminated their original menu. No longer serving steaks, seafood, or its popular Friday night fish fry, the restaurant has gone back to Francisco’s roots, serving a variety of made-to-order pizzas prepared in an old-fashioned deck pizza oven with slate grates.

Some unusual and regional favorites include the cheese-and kraut pizza, cheese and shrimp pizza, and a white chicken pizza. “We have people driving all the way from Pewaukee for [the cheese and kraut pizza],” Bach said.

Asked about the Italian cuisine and the non-Italian surname Daniels, Bach said that Fran’s forebears were Italian. Although Fran’s father was adopted, his dad learned that his birth father was “part Italian” and that his grandfather’s last name was Matero.

Bach said she typically runs the restaurant alone, but if things get busy, she calls on two former staff members to help out—Denise Kraning, who waits tables, and Mike Scicero, who tends bar. Both have been with the business for more than 20 years.

“They’re pretty much family at this point,” said Bach.

Like any supper club worth its salt, Crabby’s serves up the Old Fashioned, a classic Wisconsin drink, but the spirits don’t end there.

Crabby’s has a full-service bar. Guests can choose from a variety of wines and domestic and imported beers.

Although Bach has taken over Daniels’ bartending duties, he was quick to mention that patrons can still imbibe traditional supper club drinks. Ice cream beverages include the Grasshopper, Pink Lady, and Brandy Alexander. For cold nights, Irish coffee, Bavarian coffee, and some of Daniels’ own creations warm customers, like the minty, sweet Irish Tease.

Because of its proximity to the St. Francis seminary, many students and religious figures, such as former and current archbishops Timothy Dolan and Jerome Listecki, have patronized Crabby’s.

Memorable and prominent customers throughout the years include former Milwaukee police chief Harold Breier, Milwaukee County Supervisor Dan Cupertino, and Oakland Raiders defensive end and onetime Oak Creek resident John Matuszak.

Kathy Bach and Francisco Daniels have been married for 46 years. Daniels has three children from a previous marriage. Two of his children followed their dad’s lead. His son and daughter-in-law, Chris and Dawn Daniels, own and operate Matero’s Pub and Pizza in Custer, Wis. His daughter and son-in-law Wendy and Thad Klasinski, own and operate Michele’s Restaurant and Catering in Stevens Point.

Andrew Oren, former pastor of the Bay View Methodist Church and lifelong resident, has been a customer of Francisco’s, then Crabby’s, for about 40 years.

“I’m a big fan of the pizza burgers. It’s a comfort food place for me,” he said.

Oren remembers how Francisco’s served up savory steak. “It would come out sizzling on a stainless-steel platter,” he said. The restaurant, smaller than Crabby’s, always seemed full of customers, Oren said.

Now retired, he still makes it a point to patronize Crabby’s every six weeks or so. He wants people to know that Bach and Daniels, along with their restaurant, are an essential part of Bay View history.

“It’s a mom-and-pop place,” said Oren. “I’d hate to see another chain store go in there.”

Editor’s Note: Before Fran Daniels expanded his restaurant and remodeled his building, the main door to the building was located on a diagonal across the northwest corner of the building. In the 1950s, Rocky’s Pharmacy, owned by Rocco Lincoln Giove, occupied the retail space. Prior to Rocky’s, it was McKinnon’s No. 2 Pharmacy, and before that, in the 1940s, Raleigh Pharmacy, according to John Giove, whose father was Rocky Giove.

Chivalry Is Not Dead

March 1, 2018

By Catherine Jozwik

Eli Corona, owner of The Family Mechanic auto service shop, 1122 E. Holt Avenue in Bay View. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

The Family Mechanic’s kindness a balm for car break-in misery

The recent Bay View auto vandalism epidemic has many neighbors concerned. More than a few residents have awakened to find their car windows had been smashed overnight.

Elijah Corona, owner of The Family Mechanic, 1122 E. Holt Avenue, has been helping vehicle owners affected by this crime for several years. He replaces auto glass for customers in the Bay View area at cost, often saving them hundreds of dollars.

Corona, who grew up on Milwaukee’s north side, said his family didn’t have much money.

His father advised him to pick a trade, so he decided to become an auto mechanic. At age 13, Corona began working for Mr. P’s Tires at the business’s north side location as a cleaner. From 2010-2015 he worked as a technical trainer for Bridgestone, an auto parts manufacturing company.

“I worked for Bridgestone Retail Operations. “The training I did was focused on career development, quality control, (and) safety training. My territory was Wisconsin and Northern Illinois,” Corona said.

Encouraged by his wife, Brooke Corona, he opened The Family Mechanic in 2014, while still employed at Bridgestone. “(Brooke) said I should follow my dreams and I did,” Corona said. “I kind of had dual roles for about a year.”

He hired employees to run the shop, 2151 S. 1st Street, in rented space. The shop moved to its present Holt Avenue location in 2016, when his and adjacent buildings were scheduled for demolition to make way for the construction of Restaurant Depot.

Shortly after he opened the auto shop, Corona’s and several of his neighbors’ vehicles were broken into and their windows smashed. Knowing that he was a mechanic, people asked him if he replaced glass.

“I said, yes, at cost. Then the word spread. I never thought we’d be replacing that many windows. We did about 77 in three days.” Corona said. “My glass supplier loves me.”

To keep up with the influx of business, he hired two new technicians.

The average price for a piece of glass ranges from $75-$110. Laminated glass is more durable and runs about $150 per piece.

Recently some Bay View residents have come to The Family Mechanic with all four of their car windows broken.

“Most people in Bay View leave their doors unlocked and don’t leave anything in the car. Vandals here are breaking windows just to break windows,” said Corona. “It’s like a game to them.”

He noted that car vandalism is not confined to Bay View. The shop replaces glass for customers who live in the Third Ward, Walker’s Point, and on Brady Street.

Corona and his technicians repaired windows on 17 cars February 13 and three more the following day. “We have seen a crazy increase in repairs [in 2018], he said.”

Bay View Neighborhood Association president Patty Pritchard Thompson presented Eli Corona with a thank you gift for his generous service to the many unfortunate residents of the 53207 zip code area who have been victims of car vandalism. Corona replaces their broken auto glass at cost. —Photo Katherine Keller

He recommends that car owners buy an alarm system with a very loud alarm in order to deter criminals.

Building strong relationships with customers, and with the Bay View community, are priorities for Corona, who said he would like to get involved in events such as Chill on the Hill and with neighborhood associations.

Corona is still replacing broken car windows at cost for those who live in the 53207 zip code area. He said his glass partner, Paustian’s Auto Glass, is also offering its services at a discounted rate because of the sheer volume of glass replacement in the Bay View neighborhood.

Corona said he doesn’t do what he does for publicity. He does it because it feels good to help.

He will provide the service as long as he has sufficient staff to do so.

At some point, Brooke Corona plans to leave her corporate job to help her husband with the shop, stepping into the position of both office and finance manager.

In addition to his auto services, Corona owns a fleet of plow trucks and he is happy to clear streets and alleys of snow for his neighbors, especially veterans and those who are disabled. He said while he doesn’t charge the majority of those he helps with his plowing service, some people insist on paying him.

Remembering Ruth Simos

March 1, 2018

By Michael Timm

A member of the Bay View Arts Guild, Simos took art classes at MATC. She painted and drew figures, flowers, and Milwaukee park landscapes. Simos was also on the selection committee for art to revamp Mitchell International’s baggage claim area. Her drawing of a tree can be seen on the marker in South Shore Park that is placed where the giant European Copper Beech tree stood before it was recently culled. —Photo Gibson Bathrick

Ruth Simos, March 28, 1924 – February 22, 2018

This article was originally published in the Compass February 2011 to announce that Ruth Simos had been selected as winner of the Bay View Compass Spirit of Bay View award. Simos embodied the spirit of Bay View as a volunteer and the president and founder of the Humboldt Park Watch.

Ruth Simos, Tireless Parks Advocate

There was dancing in the street. The dancers wore black leotards, headbands with silver sequins, and black felt spats that looked like horse hooves. They shook their silver pom-poms to catcalls as men emerged from a bar near KK and Lincoln, holding signs with scores of 9s and 10s. A man shouted at one of the dancers, “Hey, Granny, you can bake cookies for me any day!”

That dancer was Ruth Margaret Simos, one-time member of the Dancing Grannies, a local troupe that was dancing in the South Shore Frolics Parade. Simos joined women from the Bay View Historical Society and the South Shore Yacht Club as a Dancing Granny for a few years. “It was fun,” Simos recalled. “It was an adventure.”

Simos lives near Humboldt Park in the same Bay View bungalow her parents bought when she was nine months old. Her father was a master plumber, her mother a food demonstrator. The youngest of three sisters, Simos grew up with a Depression-era mindset. She remembers her parents’ political yard sign for Al Smith, Catholic candidate for president in 1928. She attended films at the Mirth and the    about  the bombing of Pearl Harbor on the radio while rehearsing a Bay View High School Round Table skit.

She graduated from Bay View High with a science major (with four years of art) and married George Simos, an electrical engineer for Square D Company, in 1945. They started a family on S. Ninth Street in a one-bedroom apartment, then after five years rented and later bought her parents’ house.

The parks have always been a part of Simos’ life. She recalls lacing up her skates and spending many a winter Sunday on the Humboldt Park Lagoon, forgoing meals and returning home exhausted but exhilarated. Nowadays, the cold keeps her inside, but she renders park scenes she’s photographed in watercolor or pastels—sunrises over Lake Michigan and reflections on the lagoon among them.

Simos looks fondly upon Humboldt Park and imagines what Milwaukee would be like if the street grid of houses continued unabated through the open green space. It’s not someplace she would want to live.

“The parks are for everybody,” Simos said. “If you don’t belong to a country club, if you don’t have a swimming pool in your backyard, the parks are there.”

The Humboldt Park Watch Simos launched with a dozen other neighbors is now going into its 14th year. Her proudest accomplishment through the park watch is Tree Day, which brings over 200 schoolchildren into Humboldt Park the second week of October. Kids witness the planting of replacement trees and do related activities. It’s her small way of connecting young people to a valuable public resource.

“The parks have gone downhill so far since Mr. Walker’s been in office,” Simos said, adding that she’s opposed to parks privatization. “Many of us can remember when things were a lot better.”

Simos counts six children (one in Bay View), 16 grandchildren, and multiple great-grandchildren. “All cute,” she said. She enjoys walking her neighborhood and exploring alleys.

She’s witnessed giant leaps in technology but remains convinced that participating directly in human communities is more rewarding. “I see people texting—I think, ‘Good God, get a life.’”

Simos said her community work has resulted in her meeting people that she never would have if she’d stayed in the house. In her mind, volunteering to make a change is better than griping about change that doesn’t happen. And, she quipped, “If you’re a volunteer, they can’t fire you.”


Ruth Simos Memorial March 17
The visitation and memorial for Ruth Simos will be held at Immaculate Conception Church, 1023 E. Russell Ave., Saturday, March 17, from 10am to 12pm. A celebration of her life will be held after Mass at the Humboldt Park Pavilion.

St. Francis Custom Motorcycle Builder Wins National Competition

November 1, 2017

A welding class at St. Francis High School was the initial impetus that propelled Steve Dietzman on the path to becoming a highly accomplished custom-motorcycle builder. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere.”

That was the tagline that advertised Easy Rider, the 1969 cult classic biker movie.

Since then, thousands have surrendered to their wanderlust to ride the nation’s ribbons of highways on two wheels, in search of their own America.

Champion custom-motorcycle builder Steve Dietzman of Studio Cycles stands ready to outfit them with his rad rides.

Steve Dietzman, a modest 25-year-old, rose to national prominence this year with his custom-built 1968 Triumph Bonneville Chopper. He won the Retro Modified Class category of 2017 International Motor Show (IMS). Dietzman believes his attention to detail and his passion to go above and beyond helped him win the competition.

“I went to [the IMS] for about three years as a spectator, so that motivated me to finish up my bike and enter it in the show,” he said.

Dietzman’s custom-built 1968 Triumph Bonneville Chopper was the winner in the 2017 International Motor Show’s Retro Modified Class. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Milwaukee’s Royal Enfield (retail store of British motorcycle manufacturer) sponsored the retro Modified Class category. Dietzman won a trophy, a Royal Enfield motorcycle, and a cash prize.

The Compass caught up with Dietzman on a sunny September afternoon as he worked in a workshop near in the Tippecanoe neighborhood. Motorcycles in various stages of completion were staged throughout the shop.

Most of Dietzman’s motorcycles are projects for his friends. He pointed to a Harley-Davidson Panhead, stripped down to the frame, wheels, and fuel tank. “This is my buddy’s Panhead. He got married and started a family at 23, so that’s what happens,” Dietzman said, pointing to the bike’s shell, indicating his friend’s progress on the rebuild has been slowed.

Another friend dropped off a Honda for a full custom build.

On display was one of Dietzman’s most recent accomplishments, a sleek blue and chrome 1979 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead Chopper. The bike was featured in a motorcycles-as-art exhibit curated by Michael Lichter at the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The iconic rally began in 1938 and is held annually in the first week of August in Sturgis, S.D.

Dietzman performed the fine-tuning, welding, and mechanical aspects of the build. The paintwork is outsourced to his buddy, artist Rome Urbaniak. “Some people think it’s my best work yet,” he said, referring to the Shovelhead, “but I don’t think so. I always strive to go above and beyond, always pushing, pushing one step further. I hope my best work is yet to come!” he said.

Dietzman owns five motorcycles, three in driving form. His Triumph Bonneville is his favorite.

Teen Passion

Dietzman started riding motorcycles when he was 16. His first bike was a 1969 Honda 350. “My friend and me used to rent a single-stall garage not far from here during high school and we hid our motorcycles from our parents,” he said. “We called it ‘the studio’ because it was tiny. The name carried over to Studio Cycles.”

Dietzman’s parents found out about his motorcycle after one of their friends saw him cruising around Bay View. “After I caught wind of this, I decided to drive my bike home one day. Their response to me having a motorcycle was well received! I believe they knew (about my bike) longer than I thought they did,” he said.

Dietzman is a 2011 graduate of St. Francis High School. The school has a woodshop, but hasn’t had an auto or metal shop for some time, Dietzman said. So during his junior year, he participated in a school-to-work program and studied welding at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s downtown campus.

“I realized I didn’t want to do welding as a career,” he said. However, he immediately connected with the fabrication aspect of welding that he could use it for work on motorcycle frames and parts.

When he sought a deeper understanding of engine mechanics, he took a small engines class at MATC, along with auto tech training.

He built his first motorcycle when he was 18, a 1977 Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster. “It was totally stock and (I) made it into a bobber. I changed the frame and everything on it,” he said.

The bike was featured in a motorcycles-as-art exhibit curated by Michael Lichter at the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Bobbing a bike involves stripping extraneous bodywork from a motorcycle, including removing the front fender and shortening the rear fender.

Dietzman finds motorcycles primarily via Craigslist.

For his commission projects, clients usually have a general idea of what they want and Dietzman fine-tunes it for them. He gets ideas from social media. He studies photos and considers how to make good ideas even better.

Despite holding a full-time sales position at Fastenal, an industrial supplier, along with his own business, Dietzman still finds time to mentor bike builders of the future through BUILD, a nonprofit educational organization that pairs teams of high school students with bike-builder mentors. The St. Francis High School program started in 2011, during Dietzman’s senior year. He and four other students participated in the program’s inaugural year.

“School was a little boring for me, but to go work on those motorcycles after school was awesome,” he said. “I remember skipping work to go work on motorcycles. That gave me the kick start to want to work on bikes.”

Dietzman serves as a mentor in the St. Francis High School program.

He helps students gain valuable life and interpersonal skills while restoring vintage motorcycles. They start out with a motorcycle chassis that is in rundown condition and turn it into a full race bike. They learn a wide range of skills, including motorcycle design, welding, fabricating, painting, and even fundraising. At the end of the build, the bikes are raced at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Other high schools that offer BUILD include Bradley Tech, Pulaski, New Berlin, South Milwaukee, Shorewood, and Muskego.

Still in his 20s, the sky, or the open highway, is the limit for Dietzman. While he loves making custom bikes and might expand into a larger workspace with a storefront, he’s keeping his full-time job and will see where the road takes him.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to the Bay View Compass. 

Goodbye Old Friend

September 1, 2017

By Katherine Keller

South Shore Park’s iconic beech tree has died

The trunk of the State Champion European Copper Beech in South Shore Park will remain in place for a time as local groups, Friends of South Shore Park among those, consider ways to memorialize the tree. PHOTO Katherine Keller

I hate to see it go,” said Lauri Gorton, who lives on Estes Street across from the State Champion European Copper Beech tree in South Shore Park.

The iconic Bay View tree has reached the end of its life and is giving way to Milwaukee County Parks arborists, who began removing its limbs August 9. The beech succumbed to old age and a fungal disease.

“The tree is so significant,” Polly Caster said. She was among a group of people who gathered at the tree to pick up pieces that the arborists placed at its base for those who wanted to pickup a souvenir. “It’s been like a neighbor. I see it every day when I walk my dog.” Caster has lived on Mabbett Avenue since the early 90s.

Jan Grimes has lived on Superior Street since 1985, and like Caster, has admired the tree for decades.

“I see it every season. It’s delicate leaves in spring and fully leafed out in summer. It was magnificent,” Caster said.

Log Ladies Jan Grimes and Polly Caster took a break from a painting project to gather slabs and logs that were cut from the Eurpoean Copper Beech tree in South Shore Park. PHOTO Katherine Keller

The stately beech is believed to have begun life in the mid-1800s. That means it may have been part of the South Shore landscape for about 160 to 170 years.

The beech would have sprung up on the land some years after Elijah and Zebiah Estes purchased their land in 1835 or 1836 and developed their home and farm on the land above Lake Michigan. A section of their land was later incorporated into what is now South Shore Park.

Residue from the Bay View rolling mills likely settled on its limbs. Perhaps social activist and “civic saint” Beulah Brinton strolled past the tree as she introduced new immigrant families to the developing village of Bay View.

The tree survived the many changes to the land that nurtured it over a period of 16 or so decades.

In 2016 we reported that Milwaukee County Parks Forestry Supervisor Gregg Collins said that the majestic beech tree was in poor health and “over-mature.” In other words, the tree had exceeded its species’ typical lifespan. He compared it to a human being who was 105 years old.

Collins said that beginning in 2012 the tree lost several large limbs and that missing bark was evidenced at the base of the trunk. Missing bark indicated tissue dieback, another symptom of a tree in decline.

In 2015, he hired Wachtel to examine the tree. He said they observed canopy thinning, gypsy moths, aphids, carpenter ants, more tissue dieback, and fungal infection. Different strategies were deployed to support the tree — an antifungal treatment, ant killer, compost tea, watering the root zone, and adding mulch at the base of the tree.

The tree’s distress was exacerbated that year by hot dry weeks in June, July, and August.

Last year, the majority of its leaves dried and shriveled by midsummer. Collins decided to give the tree one more year but it failed to rebound.

Jeffrey Gollner, Milwaukee County Parks arborist and natural resources technician was in charge of the crew that removed the beech tree’s limbs.

“Fungus killed it,” he said. “We tried various fungicides, fertilizers, and plant growth regulators.”

A plant growth regulator is a hormone, Gollner said, sometimes used on large old trees. It slows growth, allowing the tree’s “energy to be directed toward maintenance,’ to its existing limbs, leaves, and roots.

He said there are numerous European Copper Beech trees growing along the lake in Milwaukee County, but also along the lake as far south as Racine and to Green Bay on the north. noting they don’t grow farther inland.

Mike Gagliano, Jeff Gollner, Ellen Stollenwerk, and Joe Wilson used their skills and expertise to remove the limbs of the Wisconsin State Champion European Copper Beech tree in South Shore Park. It is thought the tree is approximately 160 to 170 years old. The rings will be counted if the trunk is not hollow. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Gollner said there are many Wisconsin State Champion Trees in Milwaukee County Parks and on private land. He noted that one of those is an Ohio Buckeye that is growing on private property on the little section of Euclid Avenue, east of Kinnickinnic Avenue, in the little neighborhood behind Walgreens.

Not far from the dead beech is a Norway Maple that was marked for culling that Gollner estimated to be about 60 years old. Trees are culled when they begin to die. Dying or dead limbs fall and pose a hazard to park-goers.

He said parks are relatively harsh environments for trees. The Norway Maple’s native habitat is a forest where the soil is covered with decomposing leaves, bark, and other plant material with nutrients that are absorbed by the tree’s roots. By contrast, park trees are surrounded by turf that “sucks nutrition” for itself, disadvantaging the trees. Human traffic compacts the soil — trees require porous soil for good root growth.

Gollner said that the trunk of the European Copper Beech will remain in place for a time as local groups, Friends of South Shore Park among those, consider ways to memorialize the tree, perhaps with tree carvings, a bench made from the wood, and salvaged slabs.

If the trunk is intact, Collins said his staff would do its best to get an accurate count. If some of the trunk has rotted away, he said they’d get an approximate date, working with what remains.

“While it is very sad to see the tree that provided so many with shade and climbing fun for kids go, our tree actually lived longer than many of its kind,” said Milwaukee County District 4 Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic. “The Milwaukee County Parks, Friends of South Shore Park, and the Bay View Historical Society are all in talks about how to best memorialize the remaining stump.” South Shore Park falls is in Dimitrijevic’s district.

The South Shore Park European Copper Beech was included on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ list of State Champion Trees. Although it is currently on hold, the champion tree program is a database of the state’s largest trees. DNR’s website notes, “DNR keeps big tree records to encourage the appreciation of Wisconsin’s forest and trees.”

Andrew Gawin, a member of Friends of South Shore Park, said his group requests suggestions about how to memorialize the tree. Cutting boards for a bench is one idea. Another is to take a cross section.

Gerry Thieme, who worked for the parks department at the time, planted the second European Copper Beech tree that is growing about 50 feet east of the original old tree, said Gollner. Gregg Collins said it was planted 17-20 years ago.

KK’s Glorious Flower Baskets

September 1, 2017

By Sheila Julson

This summer Kinnickinnic Avenue from Morgan Avenue to Becher Street was again beautified with bountiful hanging baskets. A project of the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), the basket arrangements will be displayed through September or mid-October, weather permitting.

The more successful of the baskets that bedeck Kinnickinnic Avenue are planted with Supertunia Vista Bubblegum, a bright pink petunia, and Supertunia Vista Silverberry petunias, typically white with pink accents. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

This was the second year that Custom Grown Greenhouses (4507 S. Sixth St.) created the baskets for the KK BID.

“We’re really pleased with the beauty of the baskets,” said Mary Ellen O’Donnell, BID board member and chair of its streetscape committee. We continued the contract with them this year and didn’t go out to bid because we were so happy with them last year.”

O’Donnell said this year they deferred to Custom Grown owner Paul Budzisz and his team, allowing them to select the flowers, whereas, in previous years, she and other BID members helped select them. Each basket is a little different and is planted with varieties of petunias, dragon lady begonias, sweet potatoes, lantana, and Carlina, among others.

Custom Grown handled all aspects of the project. They selected the flowers, planted the baskets, placed them on the brackets, watered them, and will remove them at the end of the season. The baskets are saved for reuse by the BID, O’Donnell said.

The 2017 budget for the project was $9,000. “There were high watering costs last year, so what we did was up-the-budget a bit to accommodate that,” O’Donnell said. “But we’re on track to be a little under budget this year.” There are about 58 baskets, she noted.

Budzisz has owned Custom Grown Greenhouses since 1988. “This year, they (BID) let me do my own thing to see what works best and what doesn’t,” he said. “There are some combinations where maybe we can cut down on the watering, and we also want to see people’s reactions (to the plant choices and designs).”

The more successful baskets are planted with Supertunia Vista Bubblegum, a bright pink petunia, and Supertunia Vista Silverberry petunias, typically white with pink accents. Neither requires deadheading and both are drought resistant. “They perform the best and most baskets with those turned out very well,” Budzisz said.

Some of the other baskets include Dragon Wing begonias with yellow sweet potato vines, lantana, and pink begonias. Budzisz is particularly pleased with the results of the baskets near the Immaculate Conception church on the corner of Kinnickinnic and Russell avenues. Those baskets hold begonias, Carlina, a white cascading plant, purple petunias, and blue ivy. They have grown successfully and Budzisz has heard good feedback from passers-by when he watered the baskets.

Custom Grown Greenhouses owner Paul Budzisz and employee Claire Raasch try to incorporate plants that don’t need much maintenance when designing their hanging baskets. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Budzisz, along with employee Claire Raasch, who has been at Custom Grown for 25 years, tries to incorporate plants that don’t need much maintenance.

Challenges like inclement weather and vandalism have been minimal. “We might have to touch them up occasionally,” he said, “but the only thing that happened was last year, when a basket fell. The hanger broke and the basket was lying on the ground. We think it was because last year’s sweet potato vines grew to where they nearly touched the ground and they got caught on something or had been tugged. This year’s vines don’t grow that long.”

Custom Grown works with other municipalities including Whitefish Bay, Wauwatosa, and Germantown, providing and caring for flowers and other plants. While much of their business is retail, they also grow plants for the Wisconsin State Fair Park grounds and for the Milwaukee County Zoo.

More color on KK

In addition to the hanging baskets, the KK BID also maintains the Art Stop site north of the KK/Howell/Lincoln avenues intersection and about six concrete planters owned by the BID, located in the vicinity of KK and Lincoln. O’Donnell said they were purchased and installed by a former, now defunct Bay View business association.

“Not every business was (using) the planters in front of their businesses,” said O’Donnell. The BID let businesses that wanted to use its planters continue doing so. For those who did not, the BID took them over. The BID added an additional planter at the south end of KK in front of Rusty
Sprocket Antiques.

PHOTO Katherine Keller

Additionally, Custom Grown provided the plants at the base of the new gateway signs on KK at Morgan Avenue and at Bay Street. The Becher sign was installed on an existing landscaped mound that is maintained by the city, O’Donnell said.

The sign just south of Morgan Park was installed on a barren island. “We wanted to put some nice landscaping around that sign, so we purchased planting materials from Custom Grown for both locations, as well as for Art Stop,” O’Donnell said. The BID contracted Curative Care, a nonprofit that hires people with disabilities. “They have a landscaping team as one of the services they provide. We were really excited about working with the organization. They planted at the two sign locations, as well as on the bare areas of the Art Stop. Custom Grown is doing the watering until the plants are established. Curative Care is handling the weeding and cleaning.”

Budzisz credits projects like KK BID baskets for promoting gardening and encouraging people to add more beauty and color to their properties. He said he hopes the trend continues to catch on with individuals and businesses.

Earl Gutbrod Has Retired

August 1, 2017

By Sheila Julson 

Bay View post office loses a friendly, familiar face

Newly retired postal clerk Earl Gutbrod said Bay View is the friendliest neighborhood he worked in during his 36 year career with the United States Post Office. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

For the past 15 years, jovial postal clerk Earl Gutbrod served thousands of patrons at the Bay View post office.

Known for his cordiality and humor, Gutbrod put on his United States Postal Service uniform for the last time May 31 and retired after 36 years of service. He has lived in Bay View for the past 30 years.

Now with leisure time aplenty, Gutbrod is pursuing photography, historical studies, canoeing, and, he added with a laugh, procrastinating.

Gutbrod, the oldest of six children, lived in numerous Milwaukee neighborhoods throughout the city during his childhood, attending approximately nine different Catholic parochial schools. After graduating from Riverside High School, he served in the U.S. Army from 1966 through 1969 and was in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. “I left footprints all over the Central Highlands,” Gutbrod said.

He graduated from UW-Milwaukee in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in business and then worked in sales, but he didn’t enjoy it.

During the early 1980s when an economic recession hit, he, like many others in America’s workforce, had difficulty finding work despite a solid work record and a good work ethic.

“It was scary because I always thought I could get a job,” he said. “So I took the post office exam on a lark, not really thinking about it,” he said. At that time, he was working two jobs, one at a wholesale meat company and another driving a school bus.

His application was accepted and he began working at the main branch on St. Paul Avenue in February 1981.

“I started on a letter sorting machine,” Gutbrod said.

The position challenged him to memorize addresses and the letter carrier to whom they were assigned. He was soon sorting letters at a rate of about one per second, using a 10-key horizontal keyboard. “At first, it was very difficult. I wasn’t a typist, but it’s interesting what needing a job can teach you,” he said.

Today, automated systems sort mail from the time it is dropped into the mailbox until it’s routed to the carrier who delivers it.

He also performed other sorting tasks and saw many examples of how difficult some made it for their letters to reach the intended destination. “During a postage rate increase, somebody taped pennies onto the envelope by the stamp to make up the difference,” Gutbrod laughed.

Gutbrod worked at the downtown branch for about 10 years. From there, he worked as a substitute window clerk at a dozen post offices throughout Milwaukee. He enjoyed exploring different neighborhoods during his lunch breaks, and he was particularly intrigued by the Historic Mitchell Street neighborhood. The area’s stores, such as Goldman’s, the former iconic department store that sold everything from candy raisins to girdles, fascinated him. He remembers taking lots of pictures there.

Gutbrod worked at the USPS branches on 34th and Vliet and on the North Shore before being placed at the Bay View station in 2008. “I worked all over Milwaukee, and in all of the neighborhoods, people, overall, were decent and respectful,” he said. “Bay View is the friendliest neighborhood by far. I got to know a lot of people. It was always great seeing a friendly face in line, and we’d all kid around a bit.”

The drawbacks? “The worst was having to be the messenger of bad news,” Gutbrod said. Sometimes mail was lost or delayed. Customers expecting checks or other important mail would often come to the post office in search of an important letter or check. Despite a desire to help, neither Gutbrod, nor any other postal branch clerk, had any power to recover
delayed or lost mail.

“One week, I had two very unpleasant experiences because parcels got held up in customs in Russia and in Algeria,” Gutbrod recalled. “The one in Russia was especially poignant. A woman
(in Milwaukee) was mailing a wedding dress for a relative to get married in. She sent it express mail. The package made it to Russia and then it sat in customs in Russia and never made the wedding. As much as I wanted to help, sometime people don’t realize limitations. I have absolutely no influence in Russia or Algeria!”

—Photo Earl Gutbrod

The Red Fox is a favorite photo subject of Earl Gutbrod and is Bay View’s unofficial mascot.

The advent of the internet has drastically changed our way of life for better or worse and it has particularly impacted USPS. The agency’s bread and butter had long been mailed bills where a first class stamp was used by the creditor to mail a bill and first class postage was used again by the recipient to mail payment. Now, many people pay bills online. “That revenue is not being replaced,” Gutbrod said. “Somewhere along the line, a young person might ask what’s a stamp? That, by far, has been the biggest change.”

Gutbrod also noted that during his time working for USPS, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) was signed into law under the George W. Bush administration in 2006. Under PAEA, USPS was forced to prefund its future healthcare benefit payments for its retirees for 75 years forward.

The post office is a stand-alone government agency of the executive branch. It is the only federal agency that pays its own way. It has not received taxpayer money for many years. “If you use the corporate model, the board of directors would be Congress. These are the people that make the rules for which the post office must comply, with one big difference — the people on our board of directors get millions of dollars in campaign contributions every year from our competitors,” Gutbrod emphasized. “This has all sorts of crazy effects on some of the rules that Congress writes.”

PAEA and the impact of the internet occurred simultaneously, greatly reducing USPS mail volume. Consequently, Gutbrod said, service was affected due to cost-cutting measures that were instituted. Reducing the number of employees at post office counters was one of those.

Another was setting up a two-tier wage system creating the job category “city carrier assistants” (letter carriers), who begin employment at lower pay rates and who are on contract rather than permanent employees. They get moved around wherever needed and sometimes have to deliver a route with which they are completely unfamiliar. “People came in and said a letter was delivered to the wrong place, but the poor carrier was never even on that route before,” Gutbrod said sympathetically.

Earl Gutbrod served patrons at the Bay View Post Office from 2008 through May 2017. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Easing into retirement

A history enthusiast, Gutbrod is contemplating studying for a master’s degree in history. He’s particularly intrigued by 19th century America. “We talk about the way things have changed, but nothing compares to the way things changed during that century,” he said. “You had rural to urban lifestyle changes, steam power, changes in the economic structure, the Civil War, and the Industrial Revolution.”

Gutbrod has been a hobbyist photographer since he received a camera for his first communion at the former Holy Ghost Catholic Church on Lincoln Avenue at 32nd Street, now San Rafael.

He’s shown his work at Seasons of Life Art Gallery, located at St. Ann Center in St. Francis. His photo of a fox is on permanent display. He uses different types of digital equipment and is playing around with stereo photography, a technique where two pictures are captured simultaneously and then displayed side-by-side to give a three-dimensional effect.

Gutbrod also plans to go canoeing and kayaking. His motorcycle, a Honda 1800 VTX, will see more miles.

He shared a story about his last day on the job. “On my last day of work, I brought in an Eisenhower (silver) dollar. For my very last customer, I said, ‘I’m retiring tomorrow, and this job has been good to me. I’d like to give you this buck for luck. She took it and smiled, and said ‘I’ll never spend it.’”

He said he would like to thank his customers in Bay View. “It’s been good,” he said. “I was treated kindly, with respect, and these people made it all possible.”

To receive additional social security benefits, Gutbrod worked until age 70.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and contributor to the Bay View Compass.

MPS students create tiles for local community garden

June 1, 2017

By Katherine Keller

Four of the beautiful tiles made by Kate Vannoy’s Audubon High School students for the Hide House Community Garden plots. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Bay View resident Kate Vannoy discovered the Hide House Community Garden a number of years ago as she walked her dogs around her neighborhood. Last year her friend Tiffany Hoebeck rented a plot in the garden and Vannoy thought, “I want to do that too.”

There are 105 plots in the community garden on Deer Place between Greeley and Burrell streets. Since the raised beds were established in 2010, an attempt was made to identify the plots by painting its number on the frame. But the paint didn’t last long and the numbers faded to a state of illegibility.

Last year some of the HHCG members thought tile numbers would be a more durable solution, but when they researched prices, they found it would be cost-prohibitive.

Audubon High School students Byron Radford and Ximena Piedrabuena-Alcaraz participated in tile-making, a service-learning project that offered students the opportunity to help a community-based organization, while experiencing the complete range of ceramics. PHOTO Kate Vannoy

What about making tiles, they wondered. Lin Lindner and Tim Mckeehan, who own Terra Domus Design Group, a handmade tile, mosaics, and pottery studio in the Hide House, offered the use of their studio for garden members to make tiles. But only a few members signed up.

Then Kate Vannoy stepped up. She teaches art at Audubon Technology and Communication High School and thought tile-making would be a good project for her students.

Vannoy assigned the project to her class of 25 students with autism and special needs. The previous year she taught a regular art curriculum to many of those students but this year she wanted to give them a new and practical art experience.

Erika Bufkin incises a number into the clay in the early stages of tile production. PHOTO Kate Vannoy

It would be part of a service-learning curriculum that offered her students the opportunity to help a community-based organization, while experiencing the complete range of ceramics.

That range included every step from clay to firing. “My students did everything from reclaiming old clay, wedging, forming tiles, decorating, bisque firing, glazing, re-firing, cataloging, packaging, distribution — with all the trials and tribulations, including remaking tiles — that happened throughout the long, involved process,” Vannoy said.

The class made a number tile for each side of each frame. That’s 105 plots — 420 tiles, each about 5.5 inches square. They worked on the project from February until the end of May.

“There are 25 students enrolled in the course, but we also have three to five paraprofessionals and health care assistants in the class, and more often than not, we had additional students who came through to help,” Vannoy said. In all, a total of 30 students and eight adults had a hand in creating the tiles.

Working with clay is always a favorite art project for high school students, Vannoy said. But this was more than an assignment to make a coffee mug or vase. It was a project that required many skills.

“(By) working on a project of this scale, the students have become proficient in knowing what each stage of the clay-to-ceramic process is and how to tell what will work and what might not,” she explained. “They had the chance to experiment, then try something else if it did not work out the way they wanted. Some of the students in our class enjoy repetition and work exceptionally well with sequential processes. This was a perfect project to build on those strengths while experiencing something new, all while helping their community.”

The Audubon High students made a number tile for each side of each frame at the Hide House Community Garden. They made 420 tiles, each about 5.5 inches square. They worked on the project from February until the end of May. PHOTO Kate Vannoy

“I liked crafting and sketching and decorating,” said Byron Radford. “And glazing to make it shine. I made scratch marks and different designs around the numbers.” He embellished the tiles with multiple colors.

Alejandro Rentas, who said he enjoyed the tile project, agreed. “I like making my own designs,” he said, but added that it was challenging to draw the lines into the clay to create the number shapes.

Paraprofessional Rokenda Smith saw the students become more cohesive as they worked on the project. “I noticed they learned to work as a team. It became a group effort,” she said.

“Everyone showed artistic ability with color, design. The tiles were personal and original,” said Angee Berté, another of the classroom’s paraprofessionals. There were many steps that the students learned before they had a finished tile. “They flattened the clay, cut squares, made designs, allowed them to dry, applied the glaze before they were fired in the kiln,” Berté said.

“They were so excited when we started, then some of the adults and students, who don’t love repetition, got bored after awhile with the constant forming, decorating, and remaking tiles,” Vannoy said. “However, it was about then that we started firing and glazing so most got excited and interested again. By the end everyone was happy to try out their new ceramic skills on projects for themselves, challenging themselves with different forms.”

Vannoy said that she is planning a field trip when school begins in fall, so the students can see their tiles in place in the Hide House Garden.

“I would love for our students to come and see the gardens. Too many of our students have limited access to whole fresh produce. We have some small plots at school for some students to work and harvest, but I think it is important for students to have access to gardens at home — in their neighborhoods. Wouldn’t it be great if all neighborhoods had community gardens?

Dr. Kate
Kate Vannoy holds a PhD in Educational Philosophy with a focus in instructional design. “Alternative nontraditional methods of instruction are my passion,” she says.
Dr. Kate, as her students address her, has taught at Audubon for 18 years, where she began as a middle school art teacher, later taking on the roll of technology coordinator. In 2008, when Audubon expanded and added the high school program, she went back to the art classroom. She started the credit recovery and attainment program and also coordinates the GED Option 2 program.

She graduated from Bay View High School in 1989 after attending 13 different grade schools in the U.S. and Canada. She and her husband Art Vannoy purchased their home in Bay View in 1995, where they raised three daughters.

Full Disclosure: Katherine Keller is a Hide House Community Garden volunteer.

New Bay View mural highlights neighborhood’s historic landmarks

January 7, 2017

By Katherine Keller

From left: Susan Ballje of the Bay View Historical Society. Josh Ebert, Tom Aldana, Mike Davenport, and Chacho Lopez are members of the Creative Collective of Artists from Walker’s Point. Member Jon Bartels, one of the mural painters, is not in the photo. Aldana did not contribute to the mural. PHOTO Sheila Semrou

When the Faust Music building came tumbling down last year, the iconic “For A Stronger Bay View” message painted in red letters on its north wall fell to rubble. For decades the sign served as a quasi locator sign at the neighborhood’s northern gateway on Kinnickinnic Avenue at Ward Street.

Now a new mural three blocks south again boldly announces “Bay View.” It is part of the painting that covers the entire north wall of Steve Ste. Marie’s Maytag Laundromat, 2510 S. Kinnickinnic.

“Historic Awakenings” is the mural’s theme, referencing 23 historic Bay View landmarks. A project of the Bay View Historical Society and the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District #44 (KK BID), the mural was designed to promote an interest in Bay View’s historic architecture, settlers, and history.

The depicted landmarks are those that were officially designated as such by the Bay View Historical Society.

Susan Ballje, one of the mural project organizers and past Bay View Historical Society president, said the idea for the mural began to emerge as the result of community visioning meetings presented by the KK BID in the past year. “Thoughts of a project to share the past and enjoy the present, and most importantly, to know Bay View’s history, began to surface,” Ballje said. The goal was to  share Bay View’s history and highlight the significance of the area.

Ballje worked with the BID board, including Lee Barczak, Mary Ellen O’Donnell, and Carisse Ramos. Ald. Tony Zielinski advised them about city guidelines. “I supported the mural. We need more murals. Public art is part of our blueprint for Bay View,” Zielinski said.

Ballje and her colleagues sought and received the Bay View Historical Society’s boards’ funding support for the $6,920 project.

“The Bay View Historical Society decided to take on the responsibility (of finding a building and artists) to use the mural as a way to educate the public about the history of the area. We researched murals and looked for funding to support the design, plan, and installation.” Ballje and her colleagues researched murals in Milwaukee, Ashland, Wis., Portland, Ore., and Chicago, Ill.

The  society received a $3,000 Community Improvement Project grant from the city of Milwaukee’s Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation. The remainder was funded by the Bay View Historical Society through donations made directly for the mural and from allocations from its education and community fund.

The artists they selected, Josh Ebert, Chacho Lopez, and Jon Bartels, are members of the Creative Collective of Artists from Walker’s Point. They are also tattoo artists at Walker’s Point Tattoo Company, 712 S. Second St.

“Susan called our shop and asked if we were capable of doing the mural,” Ebert said. He told her they were, and they were hired. He said she had seen some of their murals and thought he and his colleagues would be a good fit.

A number of buildings to provide “the canvas” were considered but Ste. Marie’s building was selected because it was centrally located with a big wall. “It took much longer than expected to work out contracts and agreements, find the right location, acquire funding, and create a workable design,” Ballje said. Things began to fall into place in early summer but painting didn’t begin until November.

Ste. Marie said that Ballje contacted him in May asking if he’d consider a mural on his north wall. “Anytime we, as property owners, have an opportunity to get involved with a project of this scope and depth, we should give all the support needed to move things along. We take from the community in terms of our sales, but that street runs both ways; we must also give back.”

He said under the terms of his contract, he agreed to keep the building in good repair “and standing” for the next 10 years.

Ebert said the shape and configuration of the wall, the utility meters, window, and the three-dimensional sign in the upper right corner of the wall presented challenges. The design itself required problem-solving because it would incorporate 23 landmarks. “It was difficult to integrate so many elements and still keep a consistent look and good flow,” Ebert said. “The design or sketch was put together in a matter of days, given the tight timeline. The font was chosen by Chacho to give it an ornamental antique look.”

Ebert said Bartels painted the panel with the Copper Beech tree and Lopez painted the “lettering and some buildings.” Ebert himself painted the remainder of the mural, “from the Avalon to about Puddler’s Hall.”

In total, they worked for three weeks. They began by priming the wall with a gray exterior primer to cover the existing white paint. They used spray paint to create the buildings and text. Ebert said they were paid $3,000 for the artwork plus $3,500 for materials.

“The old and the new are represented side by side, honoring the history in a very public setting,” Ballje said. “With stories and landmarks dating from the mid-1800’s, this mural helps to recognize the importance of preservation while changes are made going into the future.” She hopes the mural will stimulate conversation about Bay View history and also curiosity about the buildings that will lead to walking around the neighborhood to find the landmarks.

Ste. Marie is pleased with the finished art. “The mural actually exceeded my expectations,” he said. “It is really one of a kind and adds a lot of character to Bay View. It’s much better than a boring old white wall.” 

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