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Greendale's 75th Countdown: Peters Deli Become True Greendale Ambassadors

Week #72: Read all about Greendale’s population explosion and those special ambassadors on the southeast border.

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

History and Folklore!

In December of 1938, the year Greendale was established, the resident population stood at 2,500. Seventeen years later in 1955 the resident population had only slightly risen to 3,072. But in the next 15 years in 1970 the population had exploded to 15,089. Yikes, what did they start feeding these people?

Actually, several key factors led to this astounding growth. World War II ended in 1945 and many Americans feared that the postwar economy might bring back the hard times of the Great Depression with the drop in military spending. But instead, pent-up consumer demand, the quick conversion of the automobile industry to making cars, and the emergence of the aviation and electronics industries fueled economic growth. Easily affordable mortgages for veterans and the jump in postwar births, known as the baby boom, stimulated the housing market. The widespread ownership of cars spurred the migration to the suburbs, such as Greendale, Wisconsin.  

In October of 1952 the government made the decision to sell the rest of the land it owned and the public buildings following the lottery, in which citizens had the opportunity to buy the homes. An enterprising group of Milwaukeeans formed the Milwaukee Community Development Corporation (MCDC) and in January 1953 for approximately 10 million dollars bought the remaining 2,288 acres, 14 other land parcels and the public buildings. These men can be thanked for keeping Greendale whole and creating the framework for community development. They were Richard P Herzfeld, chairman of the Board of Boston Store, William A. Roberts, president of Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co., Francis J. Trecker, president of Kearney-Trecker Corporation, and Louis Quarles, senior member of the Quarles, Herriott and Clemons law firm. For the next 11 years they continued to plan and control expansion. In the mid 1960’s the remaining undeveloped land was sold to the Grootemaat Corporation.

Looking at the color coded map attached, consider the housing growth east of Loomis Avenue. The 50’s and 60’s saw the birth of subdivisions Lake Highlands (1958-1968), Greendale Woodlands (1954-1962), Village Green (1965-1966), College Grove (1964-1970) and Terrace Green (1965-1975). The last subdivision built was Serene Shadows in 1978. These subdivisions make up the ‘L’, ‘O’, ‘R’, ‘S’ and ‘T’ sections and the part of the ‘M’ section east of Loomis Road.

In anticipation of this growth was opened in 1961. In the aerial view of this area around 1964 you can see the ‘T’ section under construction, Highland View School on the upper right, with the entire eastern portion of the Eastway street loop not even constructed yet. But it would be soon, as would the entire area pictured, because this was the era of population explosion in Greendale.

But did you know? The streets in Greendale were not designed by someone who just dropped a bowl of spaghetti on a piece of map paper and traced them. Really! The streets were laid out with children and safety a priority. Residential streets are fairly short and are usually courts or dead ends. Only those living on that residential street would drive it and cutting down on car traffic considerably. Each residential street would then empty onto a slightly larger or ‘feeder’ street which would guide cars to a main street. An example in the ‘S’ section would be Sugarbush Court and Sugarbush Lane feeding into Eastway and connecting to 51st Street. Of course, this marvelous design is confusing for non-Greendale visitors who stop and ask you directions because they are ‘friggin’ lost!

People, Past & Present!

It’s 7 a.m. on the Sunday after St. Patrick’s Day and I’m headed one short block to participate in one of the traditions practiced on the southeast corner of the Village. If it’s Sunday, it must be hot ham and rolls at .

I’m the first customer of the day but while I’m lingering to jabber with Dick and Dale about the beautiful weather another customer jumps in front of me for the first register purchase of the day. ‘You snooze you lose!’ But no matter, while the freshly cooked and sliced ham and fresh baked rolls are special treats, that’s not the primary reason so many of us come. This is our oasis, the only Greendale business east of Loomis Avenue, and they are Greendale neighbors.

Richard Peters has been a Greendalian for nearly 50 years, and his son Dale almost as long. They are hands-on owners, not absentee, and we’ve gotten to know each other over the years. It’s like borrowing sugar from a neighbor (unfortunately also having to pay for it).   

The retail center at the corner of 51st and College was built around 1970 on property that was once a celery farm. Remember, all of the property in the Village of Greendale was made up of 17 farms purchased by the government in 1935. In 1972 Dick opened a Dry Cleaners in the middle of the strip center and the coin operated Laundromat followed a year later on the east side of the building. In 1977 Dick purchased the entire property which included a White Hen Pantry. Ten years later Peters Neighborhood Deli replaced the White Hen Pantry and the conversion to a full service neighborhood deli, dry cleaners and laundromat was complete. And it's been that way for 25 years.

Like so many other home owners and business owners who move to Greendale, the Peters have never wanted to leave. Living and working in Greendale is their way of life, just as the original founders had intended. Very early every morning, they deliver the dry cleaning dropped off at the College Avenue store to their plant in Milwaukee and pick up the cleaned and pressed clothes from the previous day. On the way back to Greendale to open the store they always drive down through the Village on Broad Street. Why, because as they will tell you, ‘We just love Greendale, the history, the small town charm and the people.’ On weekends they arrive even earlier at the store, 5 a.m., to prepare the hot sliced ham and freshly baked rolls. That would get tiring if you did not love what you were doing.

Dick and Dale Peters are ambassadors for Greendale on the southeast border of the Village. The intersection of 51st and College Avenue is a major crossroads for five communities. Travelers driving west on College Avenue come from Greendale, Greenfield, Milwaukee, and Oak Creek. From the south, Franklinites drive north up 51st Street. The d and deli are convenient for the home owners and numerous apartment dwellers along these routes. When they stop at Peters they are greeted with a smile. And if it’s information on Greendale they want, these two ambassadors dole it out in generous portions. When he’s not busy waiting on customers you will usually see Dick sitting and talking with someone who ‘just dropped by’. Like the theme song of the 1980s television sitcom ‘Cheers’, this is a place “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”.   

Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:

Week #72 Question – What year was Greendale High School on Southway opened?  

** Week #72 contributors Sally Chadwick, Richard and Dale Peters.

KM March 22, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Thank you for the wonderful "Countdown" articles! One of the reasons we chose Greendale as our home is its amazing history and these weekly installments have been very informative and enjoyable to read.

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