Greendale's Most Famous Visitor!

Week #62: Eleanor Roosevelt visits during the construction of Greendale and makes an important change. Terry&Tony Weber instill life long values into their children.

History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.

History and Folklore!

This story about Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1936 visit contributed by Sally Chadwick.

Some say she is our most famous visitor to Greendale. It happened on November 11, 1936. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the following in her daily diary:

"I visited the Greendale Resettlement project which has a delightful site and is I think a really good development. I wish, however, that every group of architects would have a woman sit at their elbow to advise on such minor details as the proper placing of things which she uses daily in her work. These details seem insignificant but they make all the difference in the ease with which work is accomplished and therefore in the happiness of the women in the family."

Greendale's story gives Mrs. Roosevelt all the credit for creating a small room in the utility area for the coal storage. The story is that when the coal was delivered, the coal dust would go everywhere, especially on the clean clothes being washed. In one month she got Congress to appropriate the extra money to create this room in all the homes.

Unfortunately, this was her only visit to Greendale. She would frequently note the development in Greenbelt, Maryland because it was so close to Washington, DC. Greenhills, Ohio was not visited as far as entries into her diary show. Mrs. Roosevelt did mention the three Greenbelt communities again in her diary on August 1, 1947:

"At the same time that this community was founded [Greenbelt, Maryland], two simpler [sic] developments were started - Greenhills, near Cincinnati, Ohio, and Greendale, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I speak of them because I think that anyone who is able to visit these towns should do so, and should carefully consider their planning and the consumer activities. They have had troubles, of course, through the years but, by and large, I think they have proved very successful. and in the situation in which we find ourselves today anything the public can learn about housing is valuable.”

If you are interested in reading the entire day, check out the following web site: www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/myday

People, Past & Present!

“We did not have stuff, we had each other.” That’s what two of the Weber girls, Rosie and Jeanie told me when I asked them where a large family in an original kept everything.

The girls had one good outfit for Easter and Christmas, and there were a lot of hand me downs. After the first five children were girls, Tony was the first boy. He jokingly said “The hand me downs sucked”. They mostly played outside, all year round. So the things they did have were and tear for playing outside like bikes, ice skates, baseball equipment, and sleds. Rosie said they never considered themselves, but grew up thinking about the family as a whole.

Harriet (Terry) and Anton (Tony) Weber purchased a three bedroom original at 6402 Crocus Court in 1952 for $8,000.00. The Scott Satula, told me that a three bedroom ‘Original’ had approximately 1,200 sq ft of living space. That’s not much space by modern standards. It consisted of a living room, dining room/kitchen, bathroom, utility room and three bedrooms. In that home Terry and Tony raised 11 children, eight girls and three boys. At the height of occupancy that meant six girls in the biggest bedroom, two girls and a baby in the 2nd bedroom, and two boys in the 3rd bedroom. Mom and Dad moved to a hide-a-bed in the living room. The kids told me the story of their mother exclaiming she finally got her own bedroom when she was 60 years old. But not surprisingly, these space considerations didn’t seem to matter, then or now as they remember growing up in Greendale.

Their mother was always at home on Saturday mornings, had the coffee brewing and fresh donuts on the table. Family and friends knew they could come by and visit, and they did. So the tradition was started and some 50 years later it still continues. Kathy now owns the family homestead and I dropped by last Saturday morning to chat and get a few pictures. Seven of the children were there on this particular Saturday as well as two of the husbands; Jeanie, Susie, Rosie & Ed, Kathy, Tony, Mary & Lenny and Chris. It was fun talking to them about growing up on Crocus Court.

There are six houses on Crocus Court east of Broad Street. In the 50’s there were 23 children in these six houses. The back of their house faced north and there was a big tree, called the ‘umbrella tree’ close to where the Village Gazebo is today. So their back yard was their playground, and there were always plenty of playmates. In summer they played were jacks, red rover, ring around the rosy, pompom pull away, hide and seek, red light/green light, and kick the can. They would go exploring all the way to Whitnall Park.

One summer however was not so much fun. All the kids had to stay in their own yard because of the polio epidemic. The police officer would drive by to make sure the kids were obeying this safety restriction. Paper accounts reviewed at the Greendale Historical Society indicate that was the summer of 1944.

In winter, there was ice skating, snow foots, and sledding down Clover Lane Hill. The Root River was wider then and they remember being able to skate under the bridges. Inside they had lots of records to play on the record player, and radio programs to listen to like Green Hornet, Inner Sanctum, The Shadow, Jack Benny, and Burns & Allen. Sometime around 1953 they did have a TV with a very small screen. For everyone to see it they developed an early version of stadium seating, with rows of chairs in the small living room. A funny version of color TV marketed back then was simply a colored sheet over the screen. What would people have thought if an HDTV suddenly appeared from out of the future?

But it was not all play and no work. During the school year they had dishes to do at night. And during the summer everyone had chores, like the bedrooms, floors, dusting, and vacuuming before they could go out to play. For grades first through eight everyone went to St. Al’s. They would get to school early and also stay late to help the nuns. They came home from school for lunch and they consumed at lot of pb&j. Mom was an excellent cook, and her homemade bread, homemade dumplings, and chicken and rice dinner were some of their favorites.

Sundays also held many memories for all the kids. Most Sundays they would get 25 cents to go to the movie, which left them 10 cents for some treat. Two movies were shown with cartoons in between. I suspect every kid in the Village was there. Other Sundays they would go visiting relatives. They’d pile in the station wagon, with 2 seats facing forward and the rear seat facing backwards and off they’d go. One Sunday they went to Browns Lake for swimming and a picnic. When they left, Tony remembers being left behind; at least for a short while until someone did a head count. I should have asked him if mom and dad were remorseful, or yelled at him for not getting in the car on time. Anyway, the story had a happy ending.

Rosie summarized it all for me by saying “It really was a community. Everyone looked after everyone else. If your mom was not around, another mom kept an eye on you.” I'm sure that sense of community was picked up by the kids also, with each watching out for all the other kids. Whatever it was, it seemed to work. The values instilled by Terry and Tony Weber still exits today in the lives of their children. They watch out for each other, help each other, and of course gather for coffee and donuts Saturday mornings on Crocus Court.

(Year each graduated from Greendale High School: Jeanie-1962, Susie-1964, Rosie-1966, Kathy-1967, Shirley-1969, Tony-1970, Mary-1972, George-1974, Carol-1975, Chris-1979, John-1981)

But did you know?

Clothes dryers were rare in the early 1940’s. Consequently housewives hung clothes outside on a clothes line to dry. I wondered out loud how clothes were dried in the winter. To my surprise I was told they also were hung outside. Yes, they did freeze and did need some additional drying once brought inside, but they were ‘fresh’. I just think it would be scary in winter when your Mom says to you, “That shirt is dirty, put on a clean one.” Brrr!

Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:

– The famous woman who visited Greendale
while it was being built was none other than the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. As a side note General Douglas MacArthur went through Greendale in 1951.

Week#62 Question – How many parks are there in Greendale, and how many can you name?

** Week #62 contributors Sally Chadwick, Scott Satula, Rosie Janczak, Weber Children, Kathleen Hart-Greendale Historical Society.


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