Milwaukee events that made us cry
There's a lot to celebrate living in Milwaukee, but, of course, there's also been a lot of sorrow in this city.
The editors and writers at OnMilwaukee.com have felt verklempt – maybe even shed a tear or two – at numerous points in Milwaukee's history and here's a description of when and why they cried.
Go ahead, call us saps, but then feel free to add your own Wisconsin woes via the Talkback feature.
There used to be an older couple who could dance up a storm. They weren't married, but they'd show up at almost every outdoor concert in Milwaukee during the summer. Church Festivals, Summerfest, all sorts of places. They would move to the very front of the bandstand and dance every single song, start to finish. Smooth and classy. Then, one summer, no guy. The woman showed up a few times that I saw and she told me that her partner died that winter. Tears flowed from my eyes. I wished I could dance with her and be her partner.
I can't say I've ever felt a deep sorrow for any Milwaukee woes, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for the semi-controversial yeast odor that used to waft over I-94. When my schools went on field trips into the "big city," I always associated the onset of the Red Star yeast smell as the beginning of countless adventures to Milwaukee's museums and attractions. Now that I'm older and drive myself down that same stretch of interstate on a daily basis, it's just not the same without it. And, every once in awhile, my heart sinks a little at the absence of that quintessential Brew City experience.
Unfortunately, as a new Milwaukeean, I've already had to experience something of great sorrow in covering the mass shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek in August. I'll admit – as a reporter you become desensitized to the news when you first hear it. It was the second mass shooting in my brief career that I've covered and when you're sent on an assignment by your editors, you're sent to do a job. But, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the outpouring of emotion from the survivors; the courageous men and women who stood up to tell the story of their lost family and friends just a day after it occurred. You're not human if you're not affected by that, and my heart broke for them.
I went to the Oriental Pharmacy lunch counter the day before it closed to have my last bowl of soup. I bought a second "I'm Hooked On Oriental Drugs" T-shirt for the archives and said thank you to my favorite employees, many of whom had worked there since I was a kid. I took a few photos of the exterior with a disposable camera. And then I walked a mile or so back to my apartment in Riverwest, eyes and nose watering the entire way.
I'm sure I've shed a tear or 10 over a big Bucks' loss or Marquette defeat through my years, but two major Milwaukee moments stand out in my Brew City cry timeline. First, the death of Samson. Read Molly's great piece here. Samson was a true icon and Milwaukee's "pet." I took his death like that of a family pet. Secondly, laugh if you will, but I balled when Arnold's burnt down on "Happy Days." I was old enough to know it was a bit silly that I was crying so I remember trying to hide it from my parents. But, I also remember the moment. It was gonna be grand. Chachi gets a date with Joanie, so he throws his apron in the kitchen and walks her home. The rest is history, Arnold's goes up in flames and a young Jeff Sherman weeps.
I remember sitting at my desk in our editorial office – alone, before anyone else had arrived for the day – and reading the news that Pablo Thrailkill Castelaz had died at age 6 and 6 days, after a courageous battle against cancer. Though I'd never met Pablo, I'd known his dad for years, and I followed his tragic story. I was a pretty new dad and my nascent fatherhood, my thoughts for Pablo, my friendship with his dad Jeff and just the overarching sense of the random unfairness of life all snowballed and came flooding out. I pulled myself together and wrote something that morning.
The closing of County Stadium – I've grown to like Miller Park, but I loved County Stadium. For its obscured sight lines, its always-on-the-fritz scoreboard, its echo-y sound system and its decrepit and rusting amenities, it was where I grew up watching baseball. And, while I understood the need to destroy it, I cried when they did. On that final night in 2000, I wept like a child. I think I kissed and hugged a beam. I tried to look away in the subsequent months as they slowly tore it down. To me, County Stadium was a shrine to my Brewers memories. I bought back some of those memories at the auction that winter, and I admit that new memories are being made each season at Miller Park. But County Stadium was one of my favorite places on Earth. I still miss it dearly.
Mine: 1. When Goldman's closed on Mitchell St. I didn't even get a t-shirt (they were sold out right away after announcing they would close). 2. Also, when the Avalon Theater on KK closed. Still breaks my heart when I drive by. 3. When they dozed the Alonzo Cudworth VFW post on Prospect (had my wedding reception there). GREAT lakeview backdrop - at least we have the pix. 4. When I was a kid, when they dozed Pinky's Bowl on 27th and Oklahoma. Old school neon - it was the perfect neighbor to Leon's. 5. When they turned my friends and my bachelorette pad (beauty 4 BR brownstone with unbelievable woodwork and built ins - and an annual Halloween extravaganza for over a decade) into a chiropractic office at 2331 S. KK Ave next to Tonic Tavern. Owch. 6. Southgate Mall on South 27th was bulldozed for a Walmart. Umm yeah. 7. When Al's Custard turned into Jessica's Custard (divorce I'm told) across from the airport and then...car lot ("what is it now again? nothing with a cool boomarang design countertop or 1950's attached barstools I'll tell ya that much" said in her best southside old lady accent.)
The event that brought me closest to tears was watching the Honor Flight movie at Miller Park. It is a very touching story. My wife did cry for most of it.
2001 Bucks vs Sixers Eastern Conference Finals. One jumpshot away from the NBA Finals. 2010 NLCS sitting at Miller Park and watching the last game Fielder plays in a Brewers uniform while we're 2 wins away from the World Series. And watching Pizza Man burn down. I didn't cry, but those three events stick out for me.
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