Taffy pull photo surfaces from 1952 community center event

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Taffy pull photo surfaces from 1952 community center event

Three years ago, I received a black-and-white photo in the mail from Linda (nee Speigle) Otzelberger of Hartland. The photo was of 10 people at the Sussex Community Hall during a teen event in January of 1952.

The Sussex Community Hall was 15 years old in 1952, it had been a community dream since 1924 when Sussex incorporated as a village. The Great Depression ht in 1929 and was still going strong in 1937 when the village fathers received a federal grant for $11,046 and a $13,500 loan to build the center. The grant money was part of the Public Works Administration and the center was to be built by the Work Progress Administration in an effort to help pull the county out of the depression. Bids were let in March of 1937 with a stipulation that the center must be completed in 94 days. Wages for crew were set at 65 cents an hour for a power shovel operator, electrician and stone mason. Plumbers, plasterers, carpenters and glazers received 60 cents an hour, general laborers, concrete laborers and teamsters helpers earned 40 cents an hour, and watchmen and the water boy received 35 cents an hour.

The center’s grand opening was October of 1937 with Sussex Village President Charles Busse speaking and John Motz, the project lead being recognized for construction of the building made of Lannon stone, concrete and wooden laminated beams that were in the building’s gymnasium. The building was also to be used for the village board chambers, fire department and garage.

Thousands of basketball games, dances, dinners, weddings, meetings and other myriad community happenings occurred in this structure along with serving as a local teen hangout. The photo accompanying this feature is from a taffy pull event staged by Alma Spiegle. All the people in the photo are now in their 70s or have died. Immediately behind Alma Spiegle is the lanky Richard “Red” Frantl. He spent four years in the U.S. Air Force in the late-1950s and now lives in Menomonee Falls at age 77.

Lisbon resident Al Frantl (who is not in this photo, but remembers teen gatherings here) said you would enter the building from Main Street, head down the steps and pass a men’s restroom where a 5 cent coke machine stood. He said he also remembers the bathroom was used by the “Waukesha boys” who would come to the teen dances and put their beer bottles in the cold water on the top of the toilet tanks so it would be hidden and remain cool at the same time.