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September 2014

21

Fred H. Keller | Retrospect


Fire Thyme Toys at Sussex Main Street School

Sussex Main Street School was started in 1849 with a wooden school where today one finds Paul Cain's Service Station on Maple Avenue and Main Street. Then in 1867, this first school building was deemed too small, and a new land mass at the eastern end of then Sussex (on Main Street) next to the Sussex creek was chosen for a new land and construction cost of $1,683.41.

The big result of moving the grade school to the east was Sussex was moving away from its starting position on Maple and Main. The area of Main and the intersection of Silver Spring became the new business center of Sussex, and now went east on Main Street and Silver Spring Drive, eventually meeting with the 1886-89 emerging village of Templeton at the intersection of Waukesha Avenue and Main Street. In September 1924, old Sussex and Templeton merged into the incorporated Village of Sussex.

The important building center was and continues to be the Sussex Main Street School through its evolutions that followed after 1867. Today what is left of the main Street school is the Sussex Village Hall.

The expansion of the Main Street School in 1953 (Orchard Drive School) meant more kids enrolled in the now K-8 school system. There had always been a major playground with toys from 1867 to even today, but in the mid 1960s, it was the old merry-go-round and swing sets that were not enough.

In a series of years, a swinging gate toy, a six-level lolly pop climbing toy, monkey bars, metal slides, small and large, were added. But then on big step further was taken in the mid-1960s when a fire pole toy was added.

There is a side story of the fire truck and fire pole playground toy. The Curtis family had moved into a Main Street home in 1950. Eventually, this family of father Don and mother Anna Mae had seven children. the last one born was Colin Curtis, who acquired a nickname of "Corkie." He was born Dec. 31, 1956. His two grandfathers had been fire chiefs in Milwaukee, and there was firefighter blood in his veins. Unknown to the Curtis family was that the ideal childhood toy for Colin was the mid-1960s fire thyme toys, right in his backyard at the Main Orchard School.

He was in a boyhood heaven of his future life as July 1, 1975, he was accepted as a member of the Sussex Fire Department. Actually, he was taking training, and occasionally, while in high school, being scarfed up to help fight fire as early as 1973. Back then, the rule that you had to be 21 to be a Sussex Firefighter was amended or ignored so that Curtis could be on the fire department only a month after graduating from Hamilton High School in June 1975 at age 18.

He would take a lot of Sussex Fire Department training and Waukesha Tech and elsewhere. He rose to Lieutenant, Captain and eventually Chief of the Sussex Fire Department. Meanwhile, his full-time job was a firefighter at the Brookfield City Fire Department, where he rose to deputy chief and is now retired. Now at 58-plus he is in his wanning years as the Sussex Chief, after serving nearly 40 years on the Sussex Fire Department.

When Curtis was asked about the fire thyme toys at the Main Orchard School playground he said he grew up with them and that he always figured they were put in his "backyard" for his early training.

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