With titles focusing on Italians, Irish, Jews, African-Americans, Latinos and others in Milwaukee, alongside books on Bronzeville, the American Association Brewers team, Milwaukee County Parks and a host of other topics, Arcadia's Images of America series is helping to document every aspect of local history through historical photographs.
Larry Widen, who runs The Times Cinema and the Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse and co-authored "Milwaukee Movie Palaces" (reprinted last year as "Silver Screens"), calls himself "one of Milwaukee's ‘Nostalgia Merchants'," and he's the author of "Entertainment in Early Milwaukee," which is part of the Arcadia Series.
Widen also published "Vintage Milwaukee Postcards" in 2005.
The 127-page softcover volume shows how Milwaukeeans amused themselves from the middle of the 19th century until 1950, with chapters focusing on hotels, taverns and restaurants; theater, music and museums; social gathering places; amusement parks and outdoors; shopping and movies.
Each section traces the development of these sectors through period photographs, each accompanied by an explanation of its importance.
Widen has said he hopes the book's purpose is two-fold.
"A bit of fun for the reader while preserving something from the past. I think a ‘pop' history appeals to a wider audience. In the case of movie theaters, it's a very nostalgic subject, unlike, say, a Civil War textbook. The movies are a phenomenon of our culture, and we recall going to them with dates, family and friends. I just want people to enjoy the fabulous photos in this book."
What's especially interesting about the book is the way in which Widen notes that in the past Milwaukeeans learned -- due to circumstances and thanks to ingenuity -- to have fun without always spending a lot of money.
Therefore, in addition to concert halls and cinemas, there are photographs of picnics in area parks, kids swimming in area waterways and walks in the park.
Obviously, the key to a work like this is the image, and luckily Widen has access to plenty of images.
"I really liked the opportunity to try doing a book that was more photographic in nature. I think the pictures speak for themselves, and I had some in my collection that had never been published before, so it was great to get them out in front of people.
"I have a large body of information in my own archives that came from writing books. ... Other material came from various Milwaukee histories."
"Entertainment in Early Milwaukee" is available at local bookshops for $19.99.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.