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April 2014

23

Fred H. Keller | Retrospect


Excalibur in Sussex

This October 1980 photo was used to promote the sales of the Excalibur Series IV.

This October 1980 photo was used to promote the sales of the Excalibur Series IV. Photo by:

In October of 1980, a great going company in Milwaukee was the Excalibur Automobile Corporation of Milwaukee with a production of 250 per year of this Excalibur Series IV model.

The basic cost was $44,000, and the entire 1981 production was already sold out when this October 1980 promotion photo was taken. They were even expanding, as there would be a second model in 1981, a roadster two-seater takeoff on the 1936 Mercedes 540K.

Now the Sussex connection in 1980 was the picturesque September 1910-built Chicago and North Western RR depot that now graced a back lot in downtown Sussex. Today, this is the Sussex Lisbon Area Historical Society Museum.

Back in 1980, it was the emerging remodeled Depot's Peppermint Junction Ice Cream Parlor and the adjacent Marie DeViller's Baggage Room.

In 1971, Lucille and James Henry came to Sussex as they bought from the local Redeemer United Church of Christ their abandoned in 1967-68 church.

What the Henrys got from the United Church of Christ was a parsonage and the church, and their idea was to convert the church into an arts and crafts gift shop with a smattering of antiques.

They had consolidated their business when they saw an opportunity to expand. Lisbon/Sussex had three railroads going through these communities, the Wisconsin Central, the Bug Line and the Chicago North Western RR which came in 1910-12. These three railroads produced five depots, two on the Wisconsin Central (Templeton and Colgate), two on the Bug Line (Templeton and Sussex) and a North Western depot west of Maple Avenue. In 1977 only one of these depots stood, the former North Western, and it was abandoned.

It is reported that the North Western was up for a proposition that someone with a good idea could get it. The Henrys saw the opportunity and paid $300 to the North Western to move it off their property on Maple Avenue to Main Street.

However, it was cheap to get this far, but now they had to get the blessing of the Village of Sussex to move it into downtown Sussex. The Village fathers were not against it, but they had the Henrys go through several legal steps, and eventually they got the numerous permits.

One of the more difficult was to have a deeded telephone pole moved from the backyard of the church parsonage property with the telephone company demanding $3,000. It was worked out and in the last days of June 1978, a big move occurred from 2 to 4 a.m. Half of Sussex was up to see the big happening, as a 75-foot trailer mounted with a 72 by 24 foot building turned onto Maple Avenue and came to the intersection of Maple and Main and made a left turn to go down Main to the former parsonage where a right turn had to be negotiated between the church and parsonage. Some say there was three inches clearance on both sides. The movers were successful and set the church up on a waiting 11 course basement.

Now Excalibur asked for a possibility to use the site in October 1980 for pictures to promote their products. They got the rights and models, actors and cameras were on the scene to take this photo for Nancy Von Grossmann from Excalibur.

A year later she sent a large framed print to the Henrys. In time, after the Henrys sold the place, and the new owner Sandy Mach got a big package from the Henrys — they gave her the framed photo of the October 1980 Excalibur promo.

In turn, Sandy Mach donated it to emerging museum, where today it hangs proudly for the public to see.

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