Muskrat House is proud to present you with another edition of This Week in Wisconsin – now with 40% more swear words.
Let’s do some history shit.
August 6th – Richard Bong Dies
Admit, you still snicker at that Bong Recreation Area sign. But besides having that name, Richard Bong was a certified bad ass. In training in California, the Poplar native routinely did loops AROUND THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. His commanding officer called him “the most natural pilot” he ever saw. He picked Bong to fly the P-38, one of only 50 men to do so. He flew hundreds of combat missions in World War II, downing 40 enemy aircraft (plus 7 unconfirmed victories) to earn the title “Ace of Aces”. He earned the Medal of Honor in the Philippines. The Aviation Hall of Fame dug up this quote from a profile on Bong shortly after he won the Medal of Honor:
Bong described combat flying as fun and a great game that made life interesting
I KNOW. Finally, after 200 sorties and 500 hours of combat flight under his belt, Bong was sent home in early 1945. On August 6th – the same day the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima – Richard Bong stalled a P-80 fighter during takeoff on a test flight and bailed out at low altitude, but did not survive the crash. He was buried near his home in Poplar as the most successful fighter pilot in American history.
August 7th: First Socialist Congressman Killed By Public Transit
Victor Berger was essentially the Bernie Sanders of the early 20th Century. He founded a few socialist newspapers in Milwaukee and campaigned hard for Socialist and Democratic Socialist causes in all levels of government, making him wildly popular in the progressive era. So it came as little shock when he actually won a congressional seat in 1910, making him the first Socialist in any state to head to Washington. His resume in DC is bat-shit and wonderful. We don’t have time to get into it here but it includes the following:
- Introducing a bill to outlaw the Senate
- Advocating nationalizing wireless communication
- A 20 year conviction to federal prison for speaking out against WWI
The conviction didn’t stick, and he’d serve in Congress on and off until 1926. In 1929, back to his old life as a newspaperman in Milwaukee, he was hit by a streetcar on what is now Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. He never recovered from his injuries and was buried in Forest Home Cemetery – the People’s Cemetery. #FeelTheBerg
August 8th: Racine is incorporated
White folks lived at the mouth of the Root River and Lake Michigan since about 1834. At the time, it was known as Port Gilbert, so named by Captain Gilbert Knapp who first hung a shingle in the area. By 1841 they were a full fledged village, and seven years later they were named County Seat and officially incorporated as the city of Racine – which is French for ‘Root’, by the way.
Get it? Because of the river.
August 9th: Solomon Juneau is born
Solomon Juneau was born on August 9th, 1793 in Repentigny, Quebec. From there, he’d develop a long and distinguished resume. Fur trader. Husband. Father. Newspaper Man. Founder of Milwaukee. The most reputable character in the saga of Milwaukee’s Bridge War.
Juneau would go on, after being the city’s first mayor, he would found the town of Theresa – named for his mother. He’d die there in 1855, and as evidence of his not-shittiness, six Menominee Chiefs served as pall bearers for his funeral.
August 11th: The Green Bay Packers are born
The year is 1919. The place is Green Bay. The man is Curly Lambeau. Thus begins the gospel of the Green Bay Packers.
The Green and Gold were officially organized over the course of two August evenings in the editorial rooms of the Green Bay Press-Gazette by Notre Dame alum and foorball star Curly Lambeau, along with a group of young athletes from around the area. The team did so well over the first few years that Lambeau and Co. sold public stock options in 1922. It saved the team, frustrated the NFL, and gave people a visible symbol of throwing their money away for the next 90-some years.
August 12th: Wizard of Oz debuts in Oconomowoc
It might not seem like a big deal that one time, in 1939, a movie played in Oconomowoc. Lots of movies play in lots of places. But for Wizard of Oz, it was the first ever showing of the film.
You have to remember that, at the time, Wizard of Oz was what we’d call in the biz a ‘high concept’ film. Basically, with color film and little people and an effeminite lion it might be too fucked up for Middle America. The Hollywood brass decided to test the theory by showing it to a bunch of country rubes who could tell them if it was any good.
They picked Oconomowoc, along with Kenosha, to soft open the movie, since two Wisconsinites had connections to the film.
Turns out, people thought it was pretty good.