West Bend Museum elicits ag memories

WEST BEND – A new building at the West Bend Historical Society Museum opened to the public Saturday, featuring the machinery, tools and other artifacts of a bygone era in agriculture.

Plus replicas of a cow, a pig, a horse and some chickens.

Pat Lauck, president of the West Bend Historical Society, said that the bovine just barely made it, arriving Friday.

The exhibit where the life-sized Bessie is featured has several milking machines. It brings back a few memories for Lauck.

“My dad milked Holstein cows,” she said. “I never did like the job, though that’s part of my childhood.”

Eli Grimm, of West Bend, did a quick demonstration of a foot-powered whetstone. He used it to sharpen an ax.

“I remember using it,” he said of the device, ” although not very often.”

Grimm, 75, said that those about 10 years older than himself would have had lots more time on the hand tools on display.

“I always had electricity,” he said.

He still had praise for the hand-powered equipment.

“It was simple and good,” he said. “It was physically hard labor though.”

Marjorie Kramer, of West Bend, grew up on a farm a few miles from town. She’s told her own children about how things used to be on the farm.

“I tell my kids that and they say ‘That’s in the stone age,'” she joked.

One display that triggered memories for her featured a large chicken laying box. For her and other children on the farm, collecting eggs from hens who were not always too anxious to give them up was a daily chore.

The results of sticking your hand in to search varied.

“Sometimes they were empty,” she said, “sometimes not.”

The sometimes “not empty” didn’t always mean an egg.

“Once in awhile there would be a mouse,” Kramer said.

Hard work was just part of life then, she said.

“I don’t think anybody minded,” she said.

Sis Bargman, Marlene Larson and Juanita Anliker, all of West Bend, were enchanted with the life-sized horse hooked to a doctor’s wagon with a headless but hat-wearing doctor in the seat.

Bargman’s memories of the chickens were less than stellar.

“Oh, those stupid chickens,” she said.

Larson had a solution that worked well for dealing with them.

“I used to throw corn cobs at them,” she said. “They were a good weapon.”

She also remembered a foot-powered whetstone.

“I used to sit on one of those and pedal,” she said.

Anliker had her own “used to” with the 1958 Ford tractor on display.

“I used to drive a tractor like that,” she said.

A window from the old Rodman Post Office is also on display along with a horse-drawn mail wagon.

“I brought a lot of stamps from that Rodman window,” Bargman said.

Trissa Schmidt, 13, of West Bend, said she was familiar with most of the items on display. She said that she expected life would have been a lot different in the past.

She’s fine with the world the way it is, although if she had to do things like they were done, she said, “I wouldn’t mind.”

Lauck said the building was constructed with a grant from the Wild Rose Casino for $62,000 and a 25 percent match from the local community through donations of money and in-kind services.

Much of that help, she said, was close to home.

“Our husbands,” she joked.

She also said that the artifacts on display are from the West Bend area and the surrounding counties.

The museum is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day on Saturday and Sunday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for children.

The rest of the year, the museum is open by appointment only and can be reached at 200-9234.