History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.
People, Past & Present!
This coming Sunday we celebrate Father’s Day. Greendale is rich in the number of wonderful fathers, past and present. This year we’ve chosen to honor two fathers who will be immediately recognized by the baby boomer generation. They are Art Krueger and Bob Birmingham. Here are their stories...
On August 30th, 1944 the Greendale Board of Health established the polio quarantine and required all children to stay at home in their own yards. That’s when Officer Arthur Krueger rose to fame. He patrolled the town to ensure the public health mandate was followed. But while doing so he entertained the children with song and stories over the loud speaker mounted on top of the patrol car. A contest was held to name him, and Bess Kendellen had the winning entry ‘Polio Romeo’. She won 2 tickets to the theatre, redeemable I assume after the quarantine expired. And with that a legend was born.
I first learned about this polio quarantine several weeks ago in the process of interviewing residents for these stories. Those who were children during that time talked about what a long summer it was, and how they longed to go outside their yard and play. Doing research I determined the quarantine only lasted until September 22nd, 1944, approximately 24 days. When I asked Kathleen Hart (Kendellen) about that she replied, “It seemed a lot longer than that.”
There are two interesting side stories with a polio connection. First, Art’s future wife Leona had contracted polio during the 1930’s when she was 12 years old. She recovered from it and went on to become a champion swimmer and diver. As an adult she was a Water Safety Instructor at the Natatorium on Milwaukee’s south side. Second, Leona told the story of the time all her children had their tonsils removed. Her four daughters needed their tonsils out but could not go to the hospital because of the quarantine. So Dr. Brown came to the house and performed the operations on the dining room table. Talk about out-patient surgery.
Art and Leona first applied to be residents in Greendale in March of 1938. They were denied because Art’s income was $10 over the max allowed. But in April Leona was pregnant with Sally and they were accepted and moved in at 5704 Carnation Court. Over the years they moved to originals on Angle Lane and Schoolway. Art and Leona had eight children; Sally, Carol, Patricia, Susan, Lois, Kathleen, Rick and David.
But how did Art become a police officer? Well, he lost his job at the tockyards and a friend told him of an opening with the newly formed Greendale Police Department. He met with the police chief at the time and was hired on the spot, even though he had no experience. How did they fix the experience problem? Well as the story is told he rode around in the police car with another officer for one day, and the next day he was patrolling on his own. That's pretty scary by today’s standards, but it seems that his affection for children came in handy. Sally said that if her father caught a kid getting into trouble for the first time he’d give them a warning. He’d also tell them if they got in trouble again he’d tell their parents. Usually, that was enough to convince them not to get into trouble again, or at least not to get caught. I’m just kidding…….
There are pictures in the archives of Art with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Since his first six children were girls, I was wondering why. Sally said that Dad needed to be around boys because he could not at home, so he was one of the parents who started up the scouts in Greendale. Later, when Rick was born on a Sunday. Sally remembers her dad being so excited he was throwing cigars out the windows of the house. Then they went to St. Luke’s for Sunday service. At the end of the service when Rick’s birth was announced the whole church broke out in cheering.
Art served as a police officer until the early 1950’s when the Village was transferred from the Federal Government to private ownership (see ). He worked for a short while as a milkman for Doc Seiler (i.e. Truman J. Seiler), and then worked for 20 years for Allen-Bradley. He was elected a Village Trustee twice and served from 1951 until 1954. He was active in the church, sang in St. Luke’s choir and taught Sunday School. His love of song was well known, and for Greendale’s 5th Anniversary he wrote the song “GREENDALE FOREVER”. The words were sung to the tune of the 1908 music “You Tell Me Your Dream and I’ll Tell You Mine”. The words are:
GREENDALE FOREVER I LOVE YOU TRUE
YOU ARE THE BEST TOWN I EVER KNEW
YOUR FRIENDS ARE MY FRIENDS, NEVER TO PART
YES DEAR OLD GREENDALE, HERE IS MY HEART
Art Krueger was active in the community, influenced a lot of young children as a police officer, scout leader and church leader. But why select him for this Father’s Day tribute? His son Dave tells us why. “Dad was the spiritual leader of the family. He taught us togetherness as a family. He made sure he spent time with all of us. Because of his example of family togetherness, my wife Colleen and I have visited all 50 States with our children.” Unfortunately Art passed away in 2010.
Now for a story about the second half of that famous dynamic duo started several weeks ago. No not Batman and Robin, not the Lone Ranger and Tonto, not Bullwinkle and Rocky, but Bob and Marie Birmingham. We saluted Marie on Mother’s Day (), and now we honor Bob Birmingham on Father’s Day.
Six weeks after his 18th birthday, Bob joined the Air Force and flew 5 missions aboard a B24 Liberator Bomber. After learning a little about his time in the military, Bob asked me to simply say that he was a proud veteran of the 8th Air Force. Once again for the umpteenth time we’ve met a WWII veteran who does not talk about his service. It was not until his children were grown that they even learned the details of his time in the military.
Too bad I can’t talk about it. If I could, I’d tell you how on his 5th mission flying out of Norwich England to bomb a target in Hamburg, Germany he and his crewmates ended up in Sweden for the rest of the war. Bob was in the nose turret and had just signaled for the bombs to be dropped when the plane was hit by anti-aircraft. Two engines were out and an anti-aircraft shell had actually come up thru the open bomb doors and lodged in the ceiling of the aircraft, miraculously not exploding. The crew headed back across Germany and Denmark and considered trying to reach Sweden. The maps for Sweden had been pulled from the cockpit, so the crew did not exactly know how to get there. Every German town had anti-aircraft guns which they had to survive, and they had to throw everything possible out of the plane to keep altitude.
When they reached the North Sea the pilot asked the entire crew if they wanted to proceed, and they all did. By another miracle they found the Swedish coast and were ordered into ditching position. For Bob that meant leaving the front turret and moving to the rear of the aircraft. Bob grabbed his parachute, started back, but stopped to check something. He proceeded on but without his parachute. Now jumping out of a damaged aircraft, over unknown terrain is bad enough, but without a parachute? Bob tried to rush back and get his chute, but it was too late. And now for the last miracle. Halfway back another crew member grabbed an extra parachute and gave it to him. He put it on, immediately jumped, pulled the cord, swung once, and hit a tree. The aircraft was that close to the ground. So close two crew members did not get out in time and crashed with the plane. However, they all survived and were ordered to stay in Sweden for the remainer of the war repairing other planes that had also been forced to divert there.
But I can’t tell you this story. Perhaps when you see Bob the next time you can ask him about ‘Operation Red Dog’ in January of 1945 and his miraculous survival. But don't mention the parachute!
Bob arrived back in the States in August of 1945. His sister had a friend, Marie, who was a cheerleader and attended Pius High School. Bob called on her to get a date but she was not home at the time. Not wanting to disappoint a serviceman Marie’s mother accepted the date for her. I found a dance card from the Pius Prom in May of 1946, and Bob’s name was on 16 of the 18 dances on the card. I asked him how he got so many of those dances. He told me he erased most of the other names, and no one was going to disappoint a serviceman. The rest as they say was history.
In 1955, married with 3 children (Robert, Jim, Shary) and twins on the way (Jean, Jeff), they visited Greendale and fell in love with the community. In July of 1956 they moved to their new home at 5620
Bentwood Lane. Later that same year they experienced what Greendale was truly like. Marie and the twins contracted the mumps and everyone was quarantined. Dr. Kuglitsch attended to them, making frequent house calls until everyone was well. Living in Greendale across from St. Al’s was their dream come true. But the dream suddenly came to an end. Bob was transferred by his company and the family moved into a small apartment in Winfield, IL. They were all miserable. Luckily a job opportunity to move back to the Milwaukee area came up. This time they purchased a house in the ‘L’ section where Bob and Marie still live.
But all of this is not what makes Bob and Marie special. How they raised their family, the example they set and the work they did in the community is the real stuff of this story. If you remember Marie was always dreaming up projects for the kids and the community. One of these projects was the idea to build a big candy cane house for Christmas. Jim said that it was a common joke in the family that Mom’s ideas were Dad’s work. Bob went about building the house to be sponsored by Layton State Bank. It had twenty 8 foot candy canes and was big enough to walk thru. I asked Bob if he ever got tired of these projects. He said that he and Marie believed that whatever the other person was involved in, they were involved in. He would work constructing projects for her, but when he needed 250 sandwiches for his Habitat for Humanity project she organized the team to get them made. They supported each other.
If you ask Bob what he is most proud of, besides his family he will say his work with Habitat for Humanity. When he retired from his work as Manager of Industrial Engineering with GE Hotpoint he wanted to give more back to the community. He was a member of St. Al’s Human Concerns Committee and by chance visited a Habitat site with another parishioner. Someone asked him when he got there if he could put on a doorknob. He couldn’t, but he did and that got him hooked. He became a house leader and St. Al’s began taking over entire house projects. Jimmy and Roselyn Carter helped on one of these projects in 1989. It was one of his ideas to have coin boxes for donations during Lent to support Habitat for Humanity. In the 20 years since the late 80’s these coin boxes have raised $165,000.
Once again, I’m going to let one of Bob’s sons tell us why his dad is so special. Jeff said his dad believes “Everything you do on earth is rewarded in heaven. I never saw my parents fight. They were 100% for each other. This was at times hard to live up to. But now we realize what a treasure they both were for us.”
This Father’s Day we honor both these fathers for their personal qualities, their faith in God, their example to their family, their devotion to their family, and their service to their Country and community. Happy Father’s Day Arthur Krueger and Bob Birmingham.
But did you know?
Father’s Day was founded in 1910 in Spokane, Washington by Sonora Smart Dodd to complement Mother’s Day by celebrating fatherhood. Her father, William Jackson Smart, was a Civil War Veteran who raised six children as a single parent. The holiday did not have much early success and met resistance from those who considered it just another attempt at commercialization. Finally, in 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers. Then in 1972 it was made a permanent national holiday signed into law by Richard Nixon.
Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:
– My list of historical facts says there are 2 alleys in Greendale, one in the ‘E’ section and one in the ‘C’ section. So I went looking for them. I found an alley in the ‘E’ section one block south of Northway on Euston Street. However, I never found one in the ‘C’ section. I’ll keep looking. If anyone knows where it is, or if it is gone, let me know.
Week#60 Question – Summer is here and it’s time for adults and kids to play outside. Do you know where all the parks and recreation areas are in Greendale today? If not, check in with us next week.
** Week 60 contributors Sally Chadwick, Greendale Historical Society, Kathleen Hart, Ted & Mary Mainella, Dave Krueger, Sally Minkley and daughter Karyn, Bob Birmingham and children Jim, Shari, Jean and Jeff.