2006 Augusta Wisconsin Sesquicentennial
Remembering a 1956 Centennial Year History of Augusta Wisconsin 50 Years later. How things were. Rural phone service in the 1950's. Friday night society remembrances, TV and Movies in 1956
Augusta Wisconsin as it was during the 1956 centennial. Small town America in the 1950's, the middle of the 20th Century
The Augusta Wisconsin Dells Mill School Class of 1955 - 1956. The Dells Mill School (a one room rural school house - Grades 1 through 8)
Augusta Wisconsin, along with rest of the US, struggled through its pioneer days, the civil war and it's aftermath, the First World War, and then later a very mean Depression, and an even meaner World War Two. There were relatively few extended easy times during Augusta's maturity. Only in the late 1890's to about the 1910's and during the Roaring 1920's were there consistent peace, prosperity and the good life.
The 1950's brought an extended period of the good life to America. Augusta Wisconsin and all of the US experienced the growth of the middle class and the democratization that such wealth and rights give- see note at the end of this article. Here are rememberings and changes in small town life and Augusta, as remembered by this site's author.
The population of Augusta Wisconsin has stayed almost constant from the 1870's through 2006. The population of Augusta Wisconsin in 1870 was about 1,200, in 2006 it was about 1,400. Seemingly Unchanged by Time
What life was like in 1956:
Country phone service in 1956 in rural and Augusta Wisconsin:
- The phone line was a party line. Everyone on the party would hear any phone ring on the Party
- Telephone service was extremely local. Our local number was 4F2 - the phone would ring four long rings and two short rings - if that sequence was heard in your home, it would mean the call was for you. The "F" indicated what party line you were on.
- Your party line neighbors would hear all rings; if their number was 4F3, as in 4 long rings and 3 short rights, we could hear the rings too
- Phones had no dial tone. To call a neighbor on your party line, you would just ring their number.
- Reaching friends on other party lines required operator assistance. The operator was summoned by one long ring and you would ask for the other party by name.
- Neighbors could pick up the phone and eavesdrop on any and all calls on the party line. They would hear your ring to the operator too.
- There were few area codes; long distance phone calls were rare and expensive, people calling in would have to ask for a party in Augusta Wisconsin by their name.
- There was no direct dialing. You had to go through the operator. Making a long distance call in 1956 could take 20 minutes or more just to get connected. In 2006 it is almost impossible or expensive to reach an 'operator'.
- I remember my family calling to relatives with emergency information to Long Island New York. A family sibling had died at age 26. The charge was $11 or $12 a minute - a 3 minute call was $33 to $40 - over $200.00 in 2006 dollars. A call from Wisconsin to Long Island New York in 2006 can be free or up to $1.00 depending on which type of telephone service and plan you use.
- Direct Dial phones came to Augusta in the early 1960's. At first private lines were a very expensive option but the party line direct dial phones only rang for your number. You party line neighbors did not know when you were making or receiving a call but they still could hear your conversations if they picked up the phone.
- You could know if your neighbor was making or receiving a call by static on a radio if it was near your party line phone. It was rumored around town that some nosy people purposely had radios near their phone so they could snoop.
- All lines were private in 2006
- A recent year - The 1954 Telephone Book -
Click it to see the Cover, Information Page and 1st page of the
Click it to see the directory
Remembering rural society in Downtown Augusta Wisconsin
The Augusta Movie Theatre was located at the site what is now the Augusta City Hall, next to the old Farmer's Bar (the Hitching Post gift shop in 2006). The original building was razed. Like in the rest of America, attending Movies was THE recreation in the 1940's and 1950's see note at the end of this article
The Augusta movie theatre opened and closed several times during the 1960's and 70's. During the 60's it was reinvented; in addition to movies it served fast food including recreation options such as pin ball machines It offered recreation and food during the day, before and after movies, and recent movies at night and during matinees on Saturday and Sunday.
The Augusta City Hall was at the site that now includes part of the Augusta Wisconsin Library
Free Movies in the open air were offered on Friday Nights during the summertime next to the then City Hall, under the shadow of the old Augusta Water Tower. Favorites were old Laurel and Hardy and Tarzan movies
Stores would be open until 9:00 pm on Friday nights to accommodate the farmer's families needs
A prime social activity for area farmers on Friday nights was to drive to town, park on Lincoln ("main street") and talk, gossip and watch what was going on in the 'city'.
There was a "competition" for the key parking spaces on Lincoln Street, a one block long business district. Some families almost always got there earlier in the day and always seemed to have the best spots. If a regular attending family was not at their spot, others would gossip if something was wrong in that Augusta Family.
It was common for the men to head to one of the bars for beer and to play cards or shoot pool. The women would shop, set in their cars and gossip. Youth would head to the free movie or winter high school activities in Augusta Wisconsin.
Since the town was supported by area farmers, this social activity would end before 10 pm so that the farmers could rise early the next day to attend to their business.
Businesses were not open late on Saturday, some closed by 1pm. The businesses wanted time off and since Sunday was a church day, the residents needed to be up for early services.
Businesses were closed on Sunday because it was the Church Day and a Family Day. City ordnances required that stores and bars be closed
Remembering Augusta Wisconsin Holidays in 1956
In Augusta Wisconsin and the United States there were no designated Monday Holidays other than Labor Day - most Federal holidays were on specific dates. For example, Memorial Day was on May 30th - PERIOD. It did not become a 'last Monday in May' holiday until 1968 when a number of legal holiday dates were changed to Mondays by Federal law
World War II (World War Two or the Second World Ware) was a very recent memory. Augusta Wisconsin held a glorious parade honoring World War veterans and heroes for all wars on May 30th, with the parade ending in a solemn ceremony for the fallen at East Lawn Cemetery
Augusta families would participate in the parade and solemn honors at East Lawn cemetery, after which they would head for the bars or family reunions to celebrate family and life. (To the bars excepting when the holiday fell on a Sunday)
Armistice day was November 11th. The holiday had its origin from the signing of the armistice on November 11 in 1919 when World War I ended (World War One, or the 1st World War, also known as the Great War). It officially became Veteran's Day in 1954. It was a day to wave flags but not a day to take off of work. The nation still celebrates Veteran's Day on November 11.
There were 2 President's days in 1956 - Lincoln's Birthday on February 12th and Washington's Birthday on February 22nd. Both days were holidays but they were not recognized for time off by all the states. In 2006 there is one Federal President's Day Holiday, yet a number of states still have off two President's Days; one for Washington's Birthday (the Monday Holiday) AND a separate day (Feb 12) for Lincoln's Birthday. 1956 Augusta Wisconsin recognized the two days of a time of honor but a time to work too.
Martin Luther King day on the 3rd Monday in January is a national holiday in 2006. The modern civil rights movement was in its infancy in 1956 and most of Augusta was not aware of it, and of course the holiday did not exist. The first national Martin Luther King Holiday was celebrated January 20, 1986
Other 1956 facts and remembrances.
The national hourly minimum wage was increased from $.75 to $1.00 on March 1, 1956. The national minimum wage in 2006 was $5.15. It would be about $7.50 if it were adjusted for inflation to equal the 1956 buying power. Wisconsin's minimum wage became $6.50 an hour on June 1, 2006
The First Class Postage Rate was 3 cents (about 23 cents in 2006 dollars) - 2 ¢ for a Post Card. In 2006 the First Class Rate increased from 37 cents to 39 cents - The Post Card rate increased from 23 to 24 ¢
The price of gas was about 30 cents a gallon in 1956 but could be as low as 21 to 25 cents. In 2006 the price varied but averaged about $2.20 a gallon - exactly as it should be by inflation rate for the 30 cent price.
A 14" black and white table top television was about $130 in 1956 - equivalent to about $975 in 2006. Console TV's were much more. Color television was just reaching the market - a 21" table top set was $500 - with a mostly round picture and questionable color quality ($3800 in 2006 dollars ) Color TV's were useless even though they were available because no color programs were broadcast in color locally - color broadcasts did not become common until the late 1960's.
Comic books were 10 cents and a favorite kids entertainment (about 75 cents in 2006 dollars). In 2006 they are $3.00 to $4.00
Augusta had 1 policeman in 1956, commonly known as "Pinky Englesby". In 2006 Augusta has 4. The change was required by legislative lobbying to better protect small towns and to increase enforcement employment
Sandy Hill Road was a location for 'necking' with your high school sweetheart, there were only 1 or 2 houses on the road. In 2006 Sandy Hill drive is a suburban type residential neighborhood, far too populated for 'necking'.
You can see a family dairy farm as it was in the 1950's by clicking the image. The farm is located just 4 miles from Augusta near the Dells Mill and Museum
1956 Entertainment in Rural America and Rural Augusta Wisconsin
Radio was the primary means of "home entertainment". Radio dramas, comedy and variety shows were in the mix. I remember my favorites being The Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger shows. The family would gather around the radio as though it were a fireplace of warmth. I often listened to the radio dramas with my family and my Grandfather.
Television in 1956 Augusta was still a very new device and not many had it. WEAU TV in Eau Claire Wisconsin, with the first sign-on on December 17th in 1953 as an NBC station. In 1956 it had a weak signal and it was the only television station and network that could be received in Augusta well. A rooftop antenna was required to receive the station. Nationally the top shows were The Lucy Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS. Most of the Augusta area could not receive these channels with these networks in 1956. The top rated 1956 show on NBC was The Perry Como Show.
WEAU's TV broadcast tower was in Eau Claire Wisconsin, directly behind the TV station. Its broadcast range was just barely enough to reach Augusta Wisconsin, 20 miles away. That tower was upgraded to a 1000 feet tower in late 1956 making it easier to receive in Augusta, even with just rabbit ear antennas.
In 1966, a much taller, about 2000 feet, and more powerful tower was built near Fairchild, Wisconsin giving good reception to all of the Augusta Wisconsin area. AUTHORS UPDATE: The tower collapsed completely during night hours on March 22, 2011 under windy and icy conditions. There were no injuries.
Howard (the hat) Trickey was the favorite weatherman with his trademark hats and comic sketchings.
"Sheriff Bob" on WEAU TV-13 in Eau Claire,
The average movie ticket price in 1956 was 35 cents at the Augusta Theatre, and 25 cents for kids. The inflation price to 2006 would make an adult ticket about $2.70. Average movie ticket price in 2006 was about $7.00
The 3 top grossing movies in 1956 were Guys and Dolls, The King and I and Trapeze. (The Ten Commandments was released in October 1956 but it did become the top movie until 1957). The top movies were not shown in small town America, including Augusta, Wisconsin until up to a year after they had been shown in larger cities. When The Ten Commandments was shown in the area, it was a major social and cultural event and worth a family's full car trip to Eau Claire to see it. This special event had 65 cent adult admission.
The baseball major league Milwaukee Braves Baseball Team moved from Boston to Milwaukee in the 1953 season. In 1956 bubble gum card collecting was the rage for kids as the Milwaukee Braves headed for the World Series Championship in 1957 (Beating the New York Yankees).
A pack of baseball cards including the bubble gum was 5 cents. Hank Aaron was becoming a state hero, having started his professional baseball career for the minor league Eau Claire Braves in 1952.
A statue is erected in Eau Claire at the baseball stadium in Carson Park commemorating Hank Aaron's contribution to baseball and to the Eau Claire Wisconsin area sometime in the 1970's or early 1980's.
In 1956, an upper grandstand ticket for the Milwaukee Braves was $1.35 ($1.85 for lower grandstand) at Milwaukee County Stadium. The Braves team moved to Atlanta in 1966 and was replaced as the Milwaukee Brewers when the Seattle Mariners team moved to Wisconsin in 1969. In 2006 a comparable ticket at Milwaukee's Miller Park: $10 (for 'specials'), $14 ('normal'), $20 ('marquee dates'). The inflation rate would make the $1.35 ticket about $10.
Rock and Roll topped hit charts in 1956 for the first time. Elvis Presley's Don't Be Cruel and Hound Dog were the 2 top hits in 1956 Elvis had 5 of the top 20 songs in 1956. Elvis made his national appearance on the Ed Sullivan show on September 6, 1956 but most of Augusta Wisconsin did not see it because the CBS Television Network could not be received by residents
Remembered Business Changes 1956 to 2006 - Changes of Centennial Book Advertising and other Augusta WI Businesses from 1956 to now
See a Brief History of the Buckhorn Bar on the Buckhorn Tavern Page
|Augusta Auto Company, Gas and new GM Cars||1915 to about 1970's when it moved to area west of the west lawn cemetery. The owner operator was Gus Bremmer.||Was at the current
location of John's I.G.A. parking lot at 100 North Spring, the
old Lincoln street address became a Spring Street Address.
Augusta Auto facilities were moved to the west end of town near
the West Lawn Cemetery and became Ralph Brewer's Auto - it is
out of business now. The building has become the Church of
God. The Augusta Auto Garage was torn down and became the IGA
Super market, with an about 20 car parking lot. The Supermarket
later became Family Foods
|Ben Franklin Variety store||1940's to about 1970's||Part of the current True Value Hardware; it
was in the same building. It was merged into one store when it
became True Value Hardware
|Korth's I.G.A||1940's to about 1970's||Initially known just as Korth's Supermarket;
then as Korth's I.G.A. The I.G.A. Super Market, was located at
the what is now part of the True Value Hardware at 128 West
|Stringer's Department Store||1923 to 1960's||Stringers was later named as A. C. Works, it is now the location of the Woodshed , Home of the Amish, at 105 West Lincoln Street|
|V. L. Dickinsen||1954 - now (2006)||became Dickenson Insurance & Real Estate|
|Anderson Funeral Home||1954 to now (2006)||still exits|
|Justesen Sisters||1911 - 1950's||A millinery shop, is closed, it was on the south side of stone street. It was a fading industry even in 1956. The site became Metz TV shop within the years following its closing|
|Harden's Red Owl Food Market||1954 - 1970's||is now closed and was at a location on the south side of Lincoln Street|
|Swartz Shell Service||1945 - 1970's||is now a vacant lot at the southeast corner of
Lincoln and Stone Street. You can see the location on a 19
Augusta Post Card Here
|Coles Standard Service||1938 - 1980's||In 2006 is a reconstructed and an Express
Mart and Quickstop at the corner of Bills Street and Lincoln -
Highway 27 / Highway 12 intersection at 719 W Lincoln Street
|Metz's Motor Court||1951 - now||The Metz Motel in 2006 is Al's Pioneer
Motel at 606 East Lincoln Street. Bill Metz later opened an
Television and record store in 'downtown' Augusta on the south
side of the street at the site of the Justesen Sisters Millinary
|Nu-Cafe - Fred Kawell||1948 - now (2006)||In 2006 is the Hungry Hunter Cafe at the same location of 125 West Lincoln Street.|
|Augusta Flour and Feed Co||1948 - now (2006)||was located on Railway Street in 1956 (see
Street Map); then to a location on Lincoln Street - it is
now on Buckman Street between Spring and Stone streets
|Erickson's Gamble Store||1948 - now (2006)||then Skomo's Gambles in 2006 is the V&S
Variety at 109 West Lincoln Street
|Zemple's Confectionary||1940 - 1957||The candy, magazine, tobacco store became a Laundromat some time after Zemple's retirement; until the early 2000's, and is now closed. Zemple's had a huge selection of Comic Books and Magazines and it had the best Butterscotch sundae in town|
Other Business Changes remembered
|Kohnke's Meat Market||Became Frase's at 136 South Stone Street|
|Augusta Canned Foods||cannery became Bush Brothers at 600 S Highway
Street Augusta, Wisconsin in the early 1960's
|Peoples State Bank||located on the south side of Lincoln street
became Unity Bank at the corner of Lincoln and Spring Street.
In 1956, the current bank site was occupied by 2 homes. The bank
was on the south side of the street in 1956. It later moved to
a new building across the street (the current City Hall
location). A second bank, Bank of Augusta now serves the area
|The Farmers Bar||next to John's I.G.A in 2006 s now a gift
shop for handmade fragrances and scented candles, the Hitching
|Thode's Hardware||became Thode's Antiques which was closed in 2005 or early 2006. In the 1950's part of the building store front became Thode's Drug Store|
|Wally Shong's Drugstore||120 West Lincoln Street, was owned by Wally
Shong, even though by 2006 the original owner and the store's
namesake is deceased
|West Side Grocery||The was a tiny store, smaller then a two car
garage, less then a block from the Augusta High School (near the
location that became the Community Center) on Main Street. It
was affectionately known as "the little store", Its
livelihood was that is was open late daily, before any of
today's 'convenience' stores existed. It also served Augusta
School students at lunch time and after school with snacks, junk
food, and a few school supplies
|The Riverview Bar, Augusta WI||The Riverview was located at Highway 27 and
the Eau Claire River bridge, now the location of Riverside
Junction Rentals. In addition to it being a bar, it offered a
"convenience store" selection of basic household groceries and
needs. The convenience store would be opened for you as long as
the bar was open. The Riverview bar burned down, circa 2000,
and now is replaced in function by the Woodland Country Store,
also known as Woodland Crossing, convenience store on the
opposite side of the Eau Claire River
|The Rodell Tavern, Rodell, WI||In addition to libations, the tavern offered
convenience groceries and household items near the corner of
County Trunk V and Highway 12, between Fall Creek and Augusta.
The Bar is gone and it is now a residence located on what is now
called Rodell Road. You can read more about Rodell by
. It is the full Rodell History
|The Farmer's Store department stores||Were in Eau Claire, Osseo Wisconsin and
Fairchild Wisconsin, a tiny chain of general / department
stores. These stores served local residents at a time when
traveling to regional shopping cities such as Eau Claire was
uncommon, expensive and inconvenient.
|The Black Bear Restaurant||The Blackbear Restaurant at the location of
the Eau Claire River and Highway 27 exists today as it did in
1956. During the 1950's it offered motel rooms - loging is now
offered by the Woodland Country Store next to the restaurant.
|Klatt's Bar||Klatt's is located at what is Feske Road and Highway 27 just a few yards from
Eau Claire County V and the Augusta Wisconsin Dells Mill and
Museum. The bar was remodeled and expanded during the 1970's.
Doris Klatt became the 'gossip' columnist for the Augusta Area
Times (formerly the Augusta Union) when she retired until her
death in 2001. It was called the Gateway Bar, Sue's (Mama
Sue's) Bar and other names in the interim - its current name is
Tim and Peggy's Pitt Stop Pub
This venerable eating and drinking spot has been continually in business even through today. Stop by and say hello
Author's Notes: Remembered during the Augusta Wisconsin Sesquicentennial year of 2006 -
Special rememberance: My mother tells of 'walking in backwards" to get into movies because she did not have the 10 cents to see a movie. Obviously, the theatre owners knew this but let it pass. The longest extended 'good time' period for the US and Augusta Wisconsin ended, arguably, on September 11, 2001 (9/11)
This transcription is copyright 2006 by the authors of the site and Prorganize tm. Use of this information must cite this source, AugustaWI.com, including the copyright and this web site