Washington County Historical Society

Gateway to Minnesota History

Month: July 2016

Memories of Hay Lake School

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This issue: Contents
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: The Story of the Northfield Raid
  • WCHS News: August Events
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Real Life ‘Pokemon’ Hunting
  • Featured Article: Memories of Hay Lake School

Editor’s Note

Folks, I don’t want to alarm you – but summer is on its way out.

Lumberjack Days is fading into the rear view mirror, August is about to start, and the Washington County Fair is next week. (Be sure to swing by our booth to say hi!)

…I’ll give everyone a moment to collect themselves.

But just because we’re at the tail end of summer, that doesn’t mean our calendar at the Historical Society is any less full! Head down to our News Section to read about the next FREE five events and programs over the next month!

And in case you missed it, one of our favorite St. Croix Valley historians, Ken Martens was up at Hay Lake on Sunday discussing the hardships of our pioneer ancestors. Here’s a quick video recap (2:15) of Ken’s program.

Who’s that knocking on the door? Why, it’s another “What Is This Thing?!” challenge!

Over the last few weeks, you may have noticed packs of Millennials roaming around Stillwater – their eyes glued intently to their phones. No, they aren’t zombies (despite any similarities) they’re just enjoying the the “Pokemon Go” craze! As you’ll see in our Old News section, Stillwaterites took their “Pokemon” hunting a bit more seriously back in 1868.

A few issues ago, we took a good look at the history of the Warden’s House, so in this week’s Featured Article, we’ll dive into the history of WCHS’ other flagship museum – the Hay Lake Schoolhouse!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

sean.pallas@wchsmn.org

WCHS News

The Story of the Northfield Raid

This Sunday, July 31st, at 2:00 PM Hayes Scriven, Executive Director of the Northfield Historical Society visits the Warden’s House to discuss the infamous attempted bank robbery perpetrated by the James-Younger Gang.

On September 7th, 1876, the typically quiet town of Northfield, Minnesota erupted into violence as Frank & Jesse James along with Cole, Jim, & Bob Younger and a number of other desperados attempted a bold broad daylight robbery of the town’s bank. Four were left dead in the ensuing gunfight and Northfield had secured its place in history.

During the free and open to the public program Scriven will detail every bullet fired and every dollar swiped during his city’s most well known historic episode.

More Events

WCHS News

August Events

Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame – Sun. August 7th @ 2:00 PM – Hay Lake School, Scandia

Carol Castle of the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame discusses the on-going efforts to save & share Minnesota’s rich Pro Wrestling history.

Verne Gagne, a name synonymous with the history of Minnesota, created the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in the 1950s. For decades names such as Mad Dog Vachon, Nick Bockwinkel, Larry “The Ax” Hennig, The Crusher, Baron Von Rascke, and more graced the squared circle throughout Minnesota and the Midwest. In the 1970s the AWA was sweeping the nation, being the largest wrestling promotion in the United States. It was not until the early 1990s when the AWA was officially purchased by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

Castle, who is a die-hard professional wrestling fan has begun to collect and preserve its history and interpret its importance on the state. Housed in Robbinsdale (known as the birth place of wrestling in Minnesota), Castle will speak on the beginnings of creating the Hall of Fame and what it takes to begin such a large venture. This year’s inductees will include Greco-Roman wrestler; Alan Rice, Professional wrestling legend; Stan Kowalski, and hall of fame wrestling coach; John Gregelko. In 2015 the first two inductees were placed in the Hall of Fame, Larry “The Ax” Henning and Verne Gagne.

Outdoor Museum Movie Night Presents: Gulliver’s Travels – Thurs. August 11th @ 7:30 PM – Hay Lake School, Scandia

How many remember going to the drive-in movie theater as a kid? In 2016, drive-in movies are on the decline and the younger generation may never get the chance to feel what it’s like to watch a movie under the stars. This is a chance for all to enjoy that feeling again. The Hay Lake School grounds allow us to project 1939’s “Gulliver’s Travels” on the side of the museum, so all attendees can enjoy the feeling of watching a movie outside.

Free tours of the museum begin at 7:30pm, show time of the film will begin at dusk. Attendees are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket to sit on for the duration of the event. There is even room on the grounds to park a few cars to truly give it that “drive-in movie feeling.” Concessions will be available (popcorn, candy, soda, water, etc.) with all funds going to the Washington County Historical Society.

Gulliver’s Travels is based on seaman Lamuel Gulliver who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck in a distant land whose people are no bigger than peanuts, adventure then ensues. With a run time of 76 minutes, Gulliver’s Travels is a great time for both children and adults. Children will enjoy the music and animated nature of the film while adults will enjoy the “it’s so bad its good” feel to this 1939 classic.

Ancient Egypt Was Built From Here – Sun. August 14th @ 2:00 PM – Warden’s House Museum, Stillwater

Join Dr. Maria Nilsson and John R. Ward archaeologists, founders of the “Friends of Silsila“, & hosts of “Egypt’s Treasure Guardians” on National Geographic, for a discussion of the extraordinarily important ancient Egyptian site, the sandstone pits at Gabel el-Silsila.

Gebel el-Silsila is situated along the Nile River in Egypt and was used as a major quarry from ca. 1500 BCE all the way to around 200 CE. Many of the most famous and powerful pharaohs ordered the construction of ancient Egypt’s most well known temples, such as Luxor and Karnak, from the sandstone harvested at Silsila.

Dr. Nillson and Ward have spent years heading the first ever-comprehensive archaeological survey of the site. Their team’s latest discovery is pinpointing the location of a previously lost 3,400-year-old, 18th dynasty necropolis.

One Room Schoolhouses – Sat. August 20th @ 2:00 PM – Eder School, Oakdale

Before laptops and smartphones, we sent all our kids to one room to learn the 3 R’s.

Learn about Washington County’s one-room school house legacy from Hay Lake School Manager, Dustyn Dubuque.

More Events

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 41)

Last issue’s What Is This Thing?! went pretty well! Got a lot of responses, and even better, a lot of correct responses!

In case you missed it, the last item was a gas light spigot. Specifically, this gas light was inside the Warden’s House itself.

Although the house itself was built on the cheap, they did get technological advancements fairly early. Gas lighting was brought into the home by the 1870s (along with steam heat). But even more impressive is the fact that electricity was installed in 1888!

Now, electric lights were definitely an improvement over the technically unsafe gas systems, but both types of lighting were kept in the house for the next decade as neither were particularly reliable in their infancies.

Congratulations to everyone who was able to correctly shed some light on our previous challenge! And thank you for playing!

Onto this week’s challenge!

Can you identify the WCHS artifact photographed above? If you’d care to venture an answer, you can send an email to me at spallas.wchs@gmail.com, tweet @WCHSMN, or post your guess on our Facebook page.

Good luck!

Full Image

Side Image

Old News

Real Life ‘Pokemon’ Hunting

The only way you haven’t heard of the new “Pokemon Go” mobile game is if you’ve been managing to completely avoid any sort of media for the last handful of weeks (and I guess I wouldn’t blame you, the news has been pretty grim lately).

In case you don’t know, this latest fad has countless masses wandering their towns and neighborhoods using their smart phones to desperately search for rare digital monsters. (Seriously, people are spending more time playing Pokemon Go than on Twitter and Facebook).

Even weeks after it’s launch – you can still find plenty of aspiring Poke-Masters hunting around Stillwater.

…well, back in 1868, folks were a bit less excited to see critters in unexpected places.

Local News – Stillwater Republican – July 26, 1868

On Wednesday last Mrs. A. M. Dodd, while going down the cellar stairs of her residence on Third street, near Pine, discovered an unwelcome guest in the shape of a rattlesnake taking his afternoon nap in the cellar window. Not relishing the idea of admitting into her family a member to whom she could not give a cordial welcome she called her husband who was working in his garden nearby and related to him the situation. He at once repaired to the aforesaid window and disturbed the quiet slumber of his-snakeship by dealing him a well directed blow with a hoe, which caused an immediate death. He measures 44 inches in length and has seven rattles. His corpse is preserved and is on exhibition in the window of Mesars. Carli & Kauffman’s drug store.

Editors Note: After some diligent research, I may have uncovered a photograph of said rattlesnake.

Featured Article

Memories of Hay Lake School

by Mildred Swing Zillgitt

Shouts and laughter of eager children have long been silenced. The once dry and trampled playgrounds have succumbed to hay and stubble. Wind and rain against the windowpanes fall on deaf ears, for no one is there to listen. Thus it has been with country schools all over the land. School architecture was generally the same: a door at one end, windows on opposing sides, two cloakrooms, and a belfry…not to forget those all important country johns. Prosaic? Perhaps. But to anyone who attended such an institution, there’s a world of feeling akin to reverence.

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Mildred Swing Zillgitt watched many schoolhouses fall to wrecking crews and felt little or no ill will towards the aggressor. However, upon learning that Hay Lake School had been abandoned for a better place of learning, she held her breath…anticipating the worst. As if to compensate, she said to herself, “Abandon if you must! Rip down those venerable walls! Decry them if you wish! But you can never silence those echoes of yesteryear nor destroy the dreams of childhood, for memory lives on forever.”

But as you know, the Hay Lake school would not be destined for a landfill. In 1978, the Washington County Historical Society purchased the site. When Mildred heard this news, she was “thrilled beyond words.” As her alma mater, Hay Lake held a special place in her heart.

“Though some things have grown misty with forgetting, things I didn’t understand in the past have become meaningful to me now. It is good to unleash childhood memories of those formative years. What I hope to do, if you’ll bear with me, is to recall some of those early sensations…joys, fears, and sharing.

For sentimental reasons, it is customary to preface a recounting of the past with ‘The Good Old Days”. However, those days weren’t all good, believe me. The world I once knew was not altogether carefree nor filled with magic and imagination. Often, fears and apprehensions stalked my pathway. But whoever said that growing up was easy? The recollections of my last years at Hay Lake are blended with mixed emotions. Although school was never better, I would be remiss in saying that jaunty days and happiness abounded, since right about then a transition was taking place in the land. A most significant and unforgettable period in history was in the making – we were hovering in the shadows of a World War. Young and old alike felt the impact of its vicious sting. But memory has a strange and beautiful arithmetic; it can subtract the bad and add only the good things.

The classroom I once knew had streaks of sunshine streaming through the east windows upon rows and rows desks and seats. There was a huge heating stove with a galvanized jacket at the rear of the room. Separate cloakrooms were provided for boys and girls where wraps were hung on hooks along the wall. Beneath the array of clothing was a semicircle of lunch pails. The clothing cubicles were dark and cold. I remember that in winter we’d bring our lunch pails inside and line them up beneath the windows to keep our sandwiches and fruit from freezing solid.

I have recollections of an extravagant display of blackboards on the walls and a modest library in one corner. One space was of particular interests, for it boasted a set of encyclopedia. Plus a huge unabridged dictionary. Close by stood a revolving world globe. A case containing a map of every country in the world was suspended on the wall back of the teacher’s desk. This paraphernalia was the extent of the equipment a teacher had in those days with which to operate a school.

A captain’s chair and desk of yellow oak signified the center of authority, for in that era it was the teacher who governed the classroom. She had an unwritten set of rules we all respected and at least tried to observe. To wit: Not to leave our seat without permission; no talking out loud and no whispering and no scuffling of feet. Two fingers in the air meant, ‘I want to leave the room, please!’ These rigid rules were necessary for eight grades in one room to function properly.

The seating arrangement was always the same in that the seventh and eighth graders occupied the back seats while the small fry sat close to the front. There were grades one through eight, and some years, as many as 36 children were in attendance. I shudder now when I think of the workload projected on one teacher. The assignments alone must have been astronomical.

Each grade recited either seated on long benches or standing in a semicircle, beginning with the first grade, until each had performed in one way or another. You can imagine the activity going on up front at all times. While some kids hovered over their own lessons, completely oblivious to what was going on elsewhere in the room, most of us got our learning from ‘up front’. This very often added to our woes when we came to class unprepared with our own assignments.

Contrary to rules, I was more interested in everyone else’s lessons than my own. History was the most tortuous subject inflicted upon me. I recall one day when my wide-open book lay unattended on my desk. I just couldn’t concentrate on such mundane things as the Lewis and Clark expedition with all those goodies going on up front. Fractions and square root flashing like magic and that fine velvety sound of the long white chalk gliding over the blackboard fascinated me.

Suddenly, it was time for my class to recite. Then came the turning point in my life! While I was standing there in that semicircle, questions bounced back and forth until I was called upon…the whole world stood still, for I knew not a word. Unfortunately, for me at least, the teacher had eyes in the back of her head and had, no doubt, been observing my preoccupation earlier. She was prepared for this and was not about to let me off the hook.

‘Open your book,’ she blazed. ‘Now read that paragraph.’ I did just that. ‘Now close your book and tell me what you read.’ I was so flustered that I froze to the floor. That wasn’t all, for this ordeal was repeated three times over. I glanced around at my classmates whose eyes were hard upon me. Irving glared at me with that look: ‘Gosh, you’re dumb.’ He always knew the answers, both large and small. For some possible escape, I looked down at the floor, where all I could see was an assortment of scuffed shoes.

All that I didn’t forget, but the paragraph I read three times over still hadn’t caught up with me. That was a most terrifying experience when my little world stood still.

A muffled snicker issued from the group as class was dismissed. My ears and faced tinged with embarrassment. What might have seemed, at the time, to be wasted energy proved productive in the long run. After that, I learned to chart routes and journeys of early explorers with the aid of maps. And, in due time, history became my favorite subject, which bears out the fact that the teacher proved her point after all.

My recollections of weather conditions during my school days are blended in a combination of snow, rain, gusty winds and blistering heat, with a smattering of blue skies and gentle breezes. Martha and Dora, who lived but a hop-skip-and-jump from school, never felt the really harsh blasts of winter. But the rest of us all had a mile or more to walk, which was a hardship in itself, especially when roads drifted in for weeks on end. I vividly recall one blizzardy March day, the events of could well have proved catastrophic had it not been for our concerned parents. The telling of this tale could fill a book itself.

Aside from our regular curriculum, we crammed in a course in penmanship, which was known as the Palmer Method. Though a bit ridiculous, it was a blessed relief from our usual humdrum studies. The exercise demanded that we sit up straight with both feet flat on the floor. ‘Hold your pen firmly, but not too rigid,’ the teacher intoned, as she paced up and down the aisles, placing her hand on our backs to be sure our spines were absolutely perpendicular. However ludicrous, it was not a complete loss, I for it was good, sound discipline.

To this day, I cringe when I see clerks and waitresses clutching their pens in a cramped, squeezing position. But then, they never heard of the Method.

Numerous other activities, such as spelldowns, took place in the evenings. I recall and can say with pride that whenever Hay Lake was pitted against other schools, we proved to have some pretty good champions in the art. Then there were those basket and pie socials, which would set the entire community in a flurry. This fostered togetherness and was a means of relaxation during those long winter months before the advent of radio and television.

Seasons came and passed in rapid succession; the grandeur and unspeakable beauty of autumn, the stern glory of winter, then March winds that knew no bounds, and ultimately, summer vacation. Finally, came the day when it was my turn to occupy one of those coveted back seats earmarked for eighth graders only. Yes, I’d earned the distinction now of ‘Upper Classman’. That last year at Hay Lake was, indeed, a memorable one.

While new horizons beckoned to me, I experienced isolated moments of forebodings. Did I really want to be liberated from country school and parental care to face the world with all its perplexities? Where should I go? What would I do? Human nature is a complex thing at best, but to a fifteen year old with growing pains it can be downright devastating. Especially for someone who didn’t know which way she was going. Somehow, though, I managed to make my exodus to new and less carefree frontiers.

For those of us who are growing old, there’s a certain magic in remembering our youth – like fresh winds of Galilee blowing in to recharge and energize our souls. In my reminiscing, I have renewed many fond memories which have lain dormant for many years. And I find that I can still draw from the endless resources of those Golden Years at Hay Lake, where discipline and learning went hand in hand.

Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society!

Membership is one way that you can help support the Washington County Historical Society. Your membership helps us collect, preserve, and disseminate the history of Washington County for county residents and visitors in the belief that a historical perspective enhances our understanding of community and sense of place.

Benefits of membership:

  • FREE admission to the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater and Hay Lake Museum Complex in Scandia
  • Discounts on purchases in the museum gift shop (10% Individual & Family members, 15% Patron & Sustaining members)
  • FREE use of WCHS library and research center
  • Subscription to Historical Whisperings, the society’s quarterly newsletter
  • Discounts on tickets to membership meetings
  • Knowing that your membership dollars support the preservation of our treasured past for generations to come

The Washington County Historical Society has depended on membership ever since it was formed in 1934. Please show your support for the organization by becoming a member today.

More: WCHS Membership >>>

Mission Statement

Washington County Historical Society collects, preserves, and disseminates the history of the county and state of Minnesota.

From Stillwater to New York, New York

 

Receive the Historical Messenger in your inbox once every two weeks by signing up for our mailing list!

This issue: Contents
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Warden’s House Flashlight Tour
  • WCHS News: July Events
  • What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: A Pretty Paranoid Prisoner
  • Featured Article: From Stillwater to New York, New York

Editor’s Note

Olá! Welcome to today’s fresh e-newsletter!

Thank you to everyone who made our inaugural Flashlight Tour of the Warden’s House a huge success! Keep your eyes on our website, Facebook, and this humble e-newsletter of course as we will absolutely be holding more in the future! And speaking of Facebook, I’d like to announce a brand new feature to our guest speaker programs…

Obviously, we hope that you can make it to the events in person, but if you can’t – from now on we’ll be using Facebook Live to stream and record quick summaries of our guest speaker’s topics. In case you missed George Schire out at the Eder School this past Sunday, here’s a brief 5 minute video of George explaining why he loves the history of Minnesota Pro Wrestling.

And one more quick note, WCHS will be participating in the Lumberjack Days kick off event at the Historic Courthouse! Swing by and say hi to our Executive Director Brent Peterson while checking out Memories of Stillwater’s Lumberjack Days. This comprehensive history of everyone’s favorite lumber-themed summer festival will have a special 1 day price of $5 rather than $20 to celebrate the official return of Lumberjack Days to the Valley! Of course, we’ll also be hosting the annual Lumberjack Days Vintage Base Ball Exhibition at the Old Athletic Field on Saturday.

On to today’s issue!

In our News sections today, we’ll take a look at the next two programs on the ol’ WCHS calendar.

I’ve wandered through the collection to find yet another item for this week’s What Is This Thing?! challenge.

We’ll read a rather disturbing account of one of Stillwater prison’s many involuntary residents down in the Old News section.

Finally, we’ll wrap up today’s issue by relaying the tale of Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel – a Stillwater native who went on to help create one of New York City’s most iconic cultural pieces.

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager

spallas.wchs@gmail.com

WCHS News

“Girl from Birch Creek” Screening

Join us for a free screening of the award-winning documentary “Girl from Birch Creek” on Thursday, July 21st from 5 – 7:00 PM.

Lake Elmo’s Justice Rosalie Wahl, the first woman appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, fights for equal justice regardless of race, gender, or economic status in “Girl from Birch Creek“. The film also tells the story of the 1970’s women’s movement that helped make Justice Wahl’s appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court possible.

The evening will begin with an open house of the Eder School from 5 – 6 PM. The screening of the documentary will begin at 6:00 PM across the street from the Eder School at the Oakdale Discovery Center.

More Events

WCHS News

“The Perilous St. Croix River Valley Frontier”

Local historian Ken Martens visits the Hay Lake School Museum on Sunday, July 24th at 2 PM to discuss the exciting and harrowing tales found in his book “The Perilous St. Croix River Valley Frontier“.

Many settlers on the frontier were met with untimely deaths in tragic ways. The St. Croix earned its nickname “The River of Graves” when watercrafts were dashed against hazards like Death Rock. Harsh weather, disease, and poor living arrangements left settlers at the mercy of their new territory they call home.

Martens is an avid historian and both a researcher and Civil War reenactor. He currently is involved with the Afton Historical Society and Museum and Denmark Township Historical Society. Martens is a graduate of Stillwater High School and has spent most of his life in the St. Croix River Valley. Marten’s book covers fifty stories of frontier life. He will be giving a presentation on his research and have books for sale and to sign.

More Events

What is This Thing?!

What Is This Thing?! (Round 40)

When I saw last issue’s What Is This Thing?! – well, that was my exact response. I had absolutely no clue what the heck this wooden contraption was supposed to be. In fact, even after I had gone to our cataloguing software and looked it up by it’s identification number I still found it hard to believe!

So, long story short – thank you to everyone who took a guess, because it was really hard!

Here’s what this device would have looked like when all the pieces were put together. Yup – as unlikely as it is, last week’s mystery artifact is a clothes drying rack!

This week’s selection is a bit less obscure, but still hopefully a challenge!

Can you identify the WCHS artifact photographed above? If you’d care to venture an answer, you can send an email to me at spallas.wchs@gmail.com, tweet @WCHSMN, or post your guess on our Facebook page.

Good luck!

Full Image

Old News

A Pretty Paranoid Prisoner

The Old Stillwater Prison was surprisingly progressive for a 19th century prison. However, when it came to dealing with the mental illnesses of it’s inmate population – they were simply hamstrung by the era’s limited understanding of those sorts of diseases and disorders. As you’ll read, the then recently released James Ambrose had some very, very strange theories of who was running the Prison.

Amrbose was clearly an unhealthy individual and should have been transitioning to some sort of therapy rather than being released into the streets.

Naturally, in the typically blunt and tactless style of the time, the editors of the Stillwater Messenger couldn’t help themselves from commenting on both his mental and physical characteristics.

Stillwater Messenger – July 12, 1890

James Ambrose, a convict sent from St. Paul in May, 1887, to serve a four year term in the prison was recently discharged form that institution. He caused a great deal of trouble to the officers during the entire period of his incarceration. He was on the infirm list most of the time. He was actually too fat to be able to do anything. His weight when discharged was 307 pounds. If not actually insane he was certainly the victim of many strange delusions.

He labored under the impression that ex-deputy Westby was a mind reader, and at one time made a desperate assault upon him with a large butcher knife that he had mysteriously gained possession of. He had another idea too, to the effect that the Masons and Odd Fellows exercised a baleful power over the souls and bodies of the inmates of the prison.

He sent the following communication to the St. Paul Globe and it was published Tuesday morning:

To the editor of the Globe: – Please publish the following wail of the Minnesota state prisoners: We, the convicts of Minnesota, do solemnly aver that we have been and are being killed by being deprived of our minds or souls by the Free Masons and Odd Fellows, in which order every officer and guard of the prison belong. And they are all thought readers.

The convicts, as citizens of the United States, claim protection under the constitution, which guarantees liberty of conscience, or free thought. They demand of the United States an investigation of their case. The above will be attested to by an ex-convict.

James Ambrose.

Editor’s Note: Hmm..psychic, soul-stealing prison guards…why does that sound familiar?

Featured Article

From Stillwater to New York, New York

by Brent Peterson, WCHS Executive Director

There are many people who affect our lives. They could be our parents, siblings or neighborhood friends. Most of the time as we recall our lives we are touched by at least one, maybe more, of our teachers in school.

These teachers see success in all their pupils and wonder after they pass on to the next grade or venture out into the world what, if anything, did they teach the young boy or girl. Sometimes these pupils leave and become even more that the teachers ever expected of the student and for Mrs. F.E. Lammers, a poorly dressed, skinny boy became one of the Nations most well known people.

In the Stillwater Gazette of May 21, 1927, a headline read: “Stillwater Woman Recalls Teaching “Roxy” Rothafel.” Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel became one of the best known theater managers in the Country and he got his start in Stillwater.

The Farmington Tribune quotes Mrs. F.E. Lammers, formerly of Stillwater in reference to “Roxy” Rathafel. The article reads, “Years ago a poorly clad, half starved little fellow went to a German Lutheran school in Stillwater and said he wanted to learn to read and write. He was sent there by his Jewish father, the village cobbler.”

His teacher who was substituting for a short time was Mrs. F.E. Lammers. At the time of the article she was living in Lakeville, Minnesota.

“I felt so sorry for that little fellow,” Lammers said, “he was poorly dressed; it looked as though the legs of his father’s trousers had been cut off and the little fellow was shoved into them. Being a Jewish boy, he did not mix well with the other children.”

“But today,” the article states, “the lad who was once a half starved street urchin and the object of much ridicule of the gang, is now head of the largest and finest theater in the world, and is known throughout the radio world as “Roxy and His Gang.”

“It just goes to show that there are many opportunities for success in America even though one has but a humble start in life,” Mrs. Lammers said.

After reading an article in the American Magazine, Mrs. Lammers remembered Roxy as the one she taught in Stillwater. She wrote him a letter and received a reply. The letter reads in part: “I of course receive thousands of letters, but I don’t know of any one that gave me a bigger thrill than your own, first because you mentioned an incident that goes back further than anyone has ever gone, and I still can remember that little schoolroom under the German Lutheran church, my first school in fact. I remember the schoolmaster and how he used to lick me, but I am eternally grateful to him because I have not forgotten my German instruction. I want you to know that I appreciate more than words can tell your charming letter and the fact that you brought back this memory to me.”

Roxy was the first manager of Radio City Music Hall in New York City and one of his lasting efforts was to take a dance line from Russell Markert of Missouri called the “Missouri Rockets,” and renamed the line the “Roxyettes,” now world famously known as the “Rockettes.”

Roxy’s health was poor at best, but as the gallant entertainer he was he continued to promote shows. He returned to Stillwater in May 1934 to one of the largest celebrations ever given to any one individual in Stillwater.

There was a grand luncheon given in his honor at the Lowell Inn. Roxy was given a “Hello Roxy” book by the Stillwaterans in which there were over 2,000 signatures of local people. He toured the town in which he spent his youth and then over 500 people in 125 automobiles escorted Roxy and his Gang back to the Minnesota Theater where Roxy was having his show. Roxy was “mighty happy” about his hometown visit and told the crowd at the theater about his days on the St. Croix River.

Roxy’s health became more of a problem. He had to retire from the Radio City Music Hall because of poor health. He was feeling a bit better in early January 1936, but sometime during the night of January 12, 1936, Roxy died. He was buried on Long Island, New York three days later.

This pupil of Mrs. Lammers left Stillwater in trousers that did not fit and became the Nation’s leading theater promoter. Not bad for a cobbler’s kid from Stillwater.

 

Events

More information: WCHS Events >>>

Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society!

Membership is one way that you can help support the Washington County Historical Society. Your membership helps us collect, preserve, and disseminate the history of Washington County for county residents and visitors in the belief that a historical perspective enhances our understanding of community and sense of place.

Benefits of membership:

  • FREE admission to the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater and Hay Lake Museum Complex in Scandia
  • Discounts on purchases in the museum gift shop (10% Individual & Family members, 15% Patron & Sustaining members)
  • FREE use of WCHS library and research center
  • Subscription to Historical Whisperings, the society’s quarterly newsletter
  • Discounts on tickets to membership meetings
  • Knowing that your membership dollars support the preservation of our treasured past for generations to come

The Washington County Historical Society has depended on membership ever since it was formed in 1934. Please show your support for the organization by becoming a member today.

More: WCHS Membership >>>

Mission Statement

The Washington County Historical Society collects, preserves, and disseminates the history of the county and state of Minnesota.