Historic Greendale House Series Begins!
Week#46: Learn about some of the historic houses in Greendale. Also, the 'secret weapon' behind many of the 75th Birthday Countdown stories is revealed.
History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.
History and Folklore!
This week is the beginning of a series on some of the historic houses in Greendale. The first house in the series was on one of the farms purchased by the federal government. Some of the farm’s land is still Greendale, but the farm house is now the Ross Lodge. Here’s the story:
Ross Lodge - in Whitnall Park - 6750 S. 92nd St. - Greendale, WI 53129
This charming, white two story farm house is tucked away in the Mangan Woods Preserve of Whitnall Park. It is an overnight rental facility, handicap accessible, for the Milwaukee County park system.
The deeds to this farm start in 1840 and show various owners up to 1936. That is the year that the land (farm) was purchased by the Federal Government to be a part of the development of the Greenbelt Town known as Greendale. Then in 1955, Milwaukee County decided to purchase this area to be a part of Whitnall Park.
In 1986, the farm house was renovated with funds from the Park People of Milwaukee County, Inc. and private donations. The farm house was renamed Ross Lodge in recognition of the donation made by Will and Cava Ross.
Editor’s note: The house stories in this series will show up periodically, not weekly. When the series is complete we’ll combine all the houses into one story for your convenience. Visit each house when the original story appears, or spend a Sunday afternoon visiting them all when the series is complete. Either way I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing these historic Greendale homes.
But did you know?
In a previous story we talked about ‘Whitnall Park – The Wilderness West of Greendale’ (see week#51). As a follow up that story I found several articles in the Milwaukee Journal newspaper concerning the Root River Parkway. The section of the Root River Parkway from a point northwest of Greendale to the south limits of Greendale was a gift from the federal government.
On May 5 20, 1936 the Milwaukee Journal reported that “the federal government is ready to give the county 500 acres of land along the root river in the Greendale area for the development of the county park system” The announcement was made Wednesday by Fred L. Naumer, regional co-ordinator of the Greendale project, after his return from Washington where the gift to the county was approved by officials of the RA (resettlement administration).” This gift made possible the longest continuous stretch of parkway in Milwaukee County at the time.
This gift was almost nullified when later in 1936 the federal government was sued in an attempt to stop the Greendale project entirely (see Week#47). That suit and other editorials at the time questioned whether the tax payers were unduly being burdened with the cost of the Greendale housing to the benefit of those who would rent them. The suit did not succeed, Greendale was built and by most accounts the Government recovered its initial investment. Because it was only farm land at the time, the value of the parkway was not seen as significant. But today, it would be hard to put a value on the five miles of the Root River Parkway west of Greendale. The recreational value to everyone in Southeast Wisconsin is ‘priceless’.
People, Past & Present!
“At the January 14 meeting, the Historical Society also presented the Quentin V. Zillig “Distinguished Service Award” to Kathleen Kendellen Hart to recognize her long-term distinguished service to the Greendale Historical Society and the Village of Greendale.”
In the article Ted Mainella, President of the Greendale Historical Society, added:
“Kathleen Hart represents the best of our Society and the Village of Greendale,” Mainella said. “Ms. Hart has played a vital role in the awarding of numerous grants for the Hose Tower renovation project and her dedication to preserving the history of Greendale is to be commended.”
It should come as no surprise to many readers of these stories that Kathleen Hart (Kendellen) is my ‘secret weapon’ in this series of 75 stories about Greendale. Kathleen grew up in Greendale and is now one of the Super volunteers with the Greendale Historical Society. When one of my weekly stories requires historical research the first thing I do on Monday morning I call Kathleen.
I say hi (sometimes) and then I get right to the point. “Kathleen, my story this week is on such and such topic. Can you get together the research for me?” She says OK and then a day or two later when I show up at the Historical Society office, the books and boxes of materials on the topic are waiting for me. That saves me the hours of digging time and makes it possible for me to do these stories on a weekly basis.
While I’m working on one of my stories at the office, and in between the phone calls and the work Kathleen is doing, we jabber on about almost anything. We talk Greendale, history, family, 75th Anniversary, people and of course politics. It makes the time go faster and the research ‘more funner’. It has also given me the opportunity to get to know Kathleen better. And the more I know, the more amazed I am at the life she has lived and is still living. Now I’m going to share some of her story with you.
Kathleen Kendellen was born at St. Joe’s Hospital on August 22, 1933. Her parents were Jim and Bess Kendellen and as was told in a previous story (See Week#50) the family moved to Greendale in 1938 when Kathleen was 5 years old. Kathleen’s brothers and sisters were Tom (’35), Dan (’37) and Sheila (’38). Sheila was one of the first babies born in the new community of Greendale. They first lived at 5605 Arbutus Court and later moved to 5590 Apple Court. It was on Apple Court that Kathleen spent most of her youth. It was the house that her parents purchased from the government when it was offered for sale, and where both parents lived the rest of their lives. It was also the house that Kathleen returned to after many years in 2002. But I’m getting ahead of the story.
Kathleen was in the first Greendale kindergarten class in 1938. Her earliest memory is nap time, and bringing a mat to school to nap on. Skipping ahead a little, she also remembers having to go to Sheila’s kindergarten class after school and drink her warm milk. Sheila would not drink it and was not allowed to go home until she did. Stuff like that the oldest kid usually got stuck doing. Drinking warm milk?
Kathleen remembers more about play time. She remembers the wading pool behind the school, games like maypole and mumbly peg. Mumbley peg is a game played by two or more that involves an open blade knife and kids feet. Ok, when recently have you seen young kids playing with knives in the backyard? She also remembers the playground and doing crafts with the playground attendant. Then there was roller skating from Apple Court to Badger Court to Clover Lane to see her friends. She remembers the 4th of July Celebrations in the Village and being a Girl Scout. Back then there was only one kind of Girl Scout cookie, 12 cookies in a box for 25¢. In a statement that will be a recurring theme in Kathleen’s life, she said she always sold the most Girl Scout cookies.
Her most amazing memory is working on a truck farm. The kids would congregate on Parking Street and a local farmer, Pete Walczak, would come and pick them up with a flat bed truck. They’d hop on for a trip to the farm and then work all day picking weeds. At the end of the day they would get an ice cream cone, pop and $2 pay (i.e. 25¢ per hour). Kathleen would put some money in the bank and with some of the money would buy stamps. She collected stamps, particularly commemoratives which came 4 stamps on a sheet for 12¢. That stamp collection would be worth quite a bit now, but it was a childhood hobby and not surprisingly did not survive. As for the truck farm work, how many times have you heard me say in various stories that times were different back then? Drinking warm milk, throwing knives as a game, and riding on a truck to a farm all day seem a little dangerous by today’s standards, but Kathleen seems to have survived to tell the story about them.
After grade school, Kathleen’s dad wanted her to go the high school at St. Mary’s by Lake Michigan. She wanted to stay in Greendale and go to school with her friends, but it was not to be. Perhaps he did not like the fact that she was smoking cigars with Carla (see attached picture). Perhpas it was just because to him she was special. To get to St. Mary’s she had to take 3 busses each way, rain or shine or snow. But she doesn’t remember that being a big deal, but she did miss her friends. She graduated in 1951 along with her class of 102 students. During high school there was a raffle for a TV. She sold the most tickets for the TV, but did not win it. When she was 16 years old she worked as a soda jerk in the drug store in downtown Greendale.
I asked her if she went on to college after high school. Her answer was “I went to college on the weekends.” She said that on weekends she would go visit her friends at college. During the week she worked. While I don’t have all the time frames correct, she said she worked at Allis Chalmers in the office, as a medical secretary at the Veteran’s Administration, and of course we heard of her work at the Village Inn with her parents. In 1954 she purchased a Ford convertible, powder blue with white sidewalls for approximately $2,000. I can only imagine what a happening young woman she must have been back then. Wally Hart sure noticed. He was a man in uniform that Kathleen met at an ale house after bowling. In 1995 Wally and Kathleen married at St. Al’s church in Greendale and took up residence in Milwaukee.
Remember I mentioned that recurring theme about Kathleen earlier. Well, along with selling the most Girl Scout cookies, the most raffle tickets, she had the most kids of anyone in her class. She and Wally had nine children, 7 boys and 2 girls. You’d think that raising nine children would be enough to keep Kathleen busy. No way. In the midst of all this she went back to college at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM) and after 10 years graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Education and Humanities. Talk about your over achiever.
But I’ve saved the best for last. Kathleen is a true activist, someone who believes in change that will benefit of the lives of others. She’s not a protester, although I suspect she has participated in some protests over the years, but someone who actually rolls up her sleeves and works for change. The earliest cause she told me about was her work as a member of the ‘Committee of 100’ in Milwaukee starting in 1976. The Committee of 100 was formed to develop a plan for the desegregation of the public schools in Milwaukee. Each school had a teacher, student and parent representative on the Committee (Note: The schools were grouped in clusters and each cluster had a committee. There was not one massive committee for the entire Milwaukee School District.) Kathleen and her son Bill were representatives for South Division High School. She told me it was the “greatest human relations experience anyone could have”. She recalled how shocked the people from the North side schools were when they found out there were people on the South side that also believed in integration. I won’t go into the history here, but some of you will remember the protests and marches over the 16th Street Bridge. I remember them. It was a tumultuous time.
I asked Kathleen if she could explain to me how she came to believe in this and other causes she has championed in the later years. She said it was because of her 6th Grade teacher, Mrs. Scott (Alice). Mrs. Scott had a class exchange with an inner city school. They came to Greendale for a day and Greendale went there for a day. Kathleen attributes that class exchange and a book she read ‘Black Like Me’, with forming beliefs that she still holds today. She could not understand how people could not be treated equally. It was not what she was taught or how she grew up. She grew up in an all white community, but that was not the point. Everyone was equal, everyone was treated the same way.
I could go on for pages with all of the campaigns Kathleen has worked on, all the causes she still works on. But I’d be here all night writing. I think you get the point. In 1996 Kathleen retired from her job with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and in 2002 moved back to Greendale to care for her aging mother. Her father has passed away in 1993 and mom died in 2010 at the age of 101. Her father James Kendellen immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1911, and in 2011 the Kendellen family gathered to celebrate 100 years in America.
Kathleen works hard, works with her heart, but still enjoys herself. She likes to visit her children and grandchildren, some who live locally and some across the country. She knows everyone in Greendale it seems, and is partial to triple chocolate ice cream with peanut butter. I like Kathleen because she is always cheerful, she’s smart and informed. She’s also my ‘secret weapon’, helping me with research for 75th Birthday Countdown stories. Finally, in all the time I’ve know her she’s only yelled at me once. How can you not like a person like that? My wife says that Kathleen must be a saint.
Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:
Week#47 Answer – The first set of twins born in Greendale were Larry and Gary Danielson, 5592 Arbutus Court.
Week#46 Question – When did the Greendale Village Concert Band form, and who was the director?
** Week #46 contributors Sally Chadwick, The Milwaukee Journal, Greendale Patch, Kathleen Hart.