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September 2014


Local Historians | The Old Rail Fence

Service clubs play part in Lake Country

As long as there have been small towns there have been service clubs: Community Fathers, Community Mothers, Lions Club, volunteer fire departments and auxiliaries, Future Farmers of America and many others. As soon as a school was built a PTA was formed to provide outside activities such as plays, picnics and all types of fundraisers to benefit the school. That has evolved into the PBC or Parents Booster Club which serves the same purpose.

One club that has remained fairly consistent in both standards and requirements is the 4-H Club. The 4-H Club of North Lake was formed in 1953 with officers made up of young people and Gerald Quinn as general leader.

The 4-H Club was part of the County Extension Service, which is sponsored jointly by the Federal Extension Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, the College of Agriculture of the University of Wisconsin and the County Board of Supervisors. The purpose of the club is to help members acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes for a future satisfying work experience whether in farming, raising a family, working outside the home or just hobby type endeavors such as quilting, sewing, building furniture, painting, drawing and any other interests. Remember, in 1953 very few people had televisions making it imperative to provide young people with knowledge and skills through practical experience.

Almost every young person joined the 4-H Club as soon as they were old enough. Mothers and fathers were the teachers of the groups, which the club sponsored, and met at least once a week to work on the various projects. Being primarily farm communities there were many projects involving livestock, poultry and pets, as well as crops, garden and yard upkeep, nature, dog training, leathercraft, gun safety and cooking and canning.

In addition to project work, the club members have lots of good times. They have picnics, parties and ball games and go ice skating, roller skating and swimming. One memorable event about 35 years ago was a musical the club put on about the food groups. The costumes were all hand made, songs written by the students and directed by students. The group from North Lake ended up in the finals at Arrowhead High School where they won first place.

The Waukesha County Fair which is now held at the Expo Center in Waukesha, was once held in an old building next to Discount Liquor on Barstow Street, also in Waukesha. The main floor had a large ring roped off for showing cattle, horses, dogs, sheep and goats, pigs and all types of livestock. Surrounding that were tables displaying the works by the students - one such project being a replica of the old feed mill in North Lake made totally out of either matchsticks or toothpicks. It definitely won a blue ribbon. The groups vied for the best cake, cookie, pie, jam or other recipe prizes. The display of vegetables trying for the largest, heaviest, reddest or what have you, took up one end of the building.

Now it's all held in the livestock buildings at the expo center and is often overshadowed by the carnival rides, games, stage shows and other distractions. When it was downtown in Waukesha there was no admission fee and the kids brought bag lunches for the day. Now a bratwurst can run up to $6, and that's after you have paid to enter the grounds and park. It is still a wonderful experience to walk through the buildings, have an ice cream cone or a cream puff while you view all the beautiful things these young hands and minds have created.

Biweekly in Living, the two authors of this column provide photos and articles featuring tidbits from the past to help Lake Country readers better understand and appreciate their roots. Penny Williams focuses on Pewaukee and Jeanne Ann Frederickson on Merton.

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