denis gullickson | talking titletown | oct. 2016
Apologies ahead of time to folks “my age," but I'm no fan of any meme that starts off, “Back when I was a kid …"
Typically, these things parade out a litany of “Remember Whens" about cheap gas, drinking from a garden hose and a carload of Catholic kids unsecured in the back of a pickup truck or a giant station wagon. (Heck. There were a lot of us. If something happened, there were plenty to spare.)
A recent post lamented the passing of “spankings, lead paint, rusty playgrounds, second-hand smoke, toy guns, no seatbelts, no helmets" and so on. It ended by suggesting that I “Share" if I survived those things.
First off, I don't “Share" anything that tells me to — especially those that command that I “Like" Jesus and pass it on to ten friends in ten minutes or face eternal damnation. Just saying. I figure I'm well-past that threat anyway.
Secondly, why would I share a bunch of nostalgic crap that suggests those were the good old days and these aren't?
Yeah, life today is complicated. It was back then, too. Seems as if folks my age have even purged the past of sunburn, broken arms, BBs in the eyeball, mosquitos, monsters under the bed, dirty diapers, cars that wouldn't start — you name it.
This isn't to say I don't appreciate history. I do. More than many. But I appreciate and celebrate history because it is history and does much to explain, illuminate and flavor the present — not because it's an inherent study of a better time.
(I may be known in some circles as an “expert" on football and Packers history, for instance, but the modern game is great by me. And I grew up during the Lombardi era.)
Maybe some of this is because I still work with teenagers every day.
“Old Green Bay"
That said, I want to give a “shoutout" to a few Facebook Group Pages that I enjoy thoroughly. Each counters Groucho's famous line, “I don't care to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member." After all, I am a member.
First off, the group page, “Photos & Memories of Old Green Bay, WI," created by Kent Crain.
Its 2,500+ members are invited to “post pictures and memories about Green Bay and the surrounding area's past, from the earliest days up until the end of the 20th century." They can also pose questions about area history and, as Kent said, “The questions … have led to some great conversations!"
Basic ground rules have kept those conversations to “civil discourse" on area history. “There's no place for snarky comments towards others here," Kent states. “Insults, name calling or other disrespectful remarks will be deleted and if severe enough the poster will be removed."
The page isn't for discussing “current political and religious topics" or “promoting local businesses or services," dissecting the current Packers season or general history.
Recent posts have concerned Rahr's Beer and Brewery and the old Vic Theater building. Great pics and conversations have concerned lost GB treasures like Kapps, the Stiller Company, Prange's Christmas displays, various neighborhoods, Bay Beach Dances and so on.
Regular contributions — historical photographs and accompanying information — come from the Brown County Library's Local History Department and the Neville Museum.
Kent's satisfaction with the page, he said, comes from “the personal photos that folks post from their family history — places of employment, houses, cars, street scenes, etc. — and how they almost inevitably get a response from someone along the lines of 'I never knew that!' I'm also pleased about how many people find old neighbors or family of people they knew when the conversations about the pictures begin."
“I've only had to give one person the boot," Kent added. “So, it's a very nice group of people."
Interested? Find the group on Facebook and request to join.
Local Rock and Roll
Also of great interest are a couple of pages sometimes touching on Titletown rock and roll history. And, no, this doesn't come with an “Oh, the music was so much better back then" caveat. Sorry.
These pages include “Wisconsin Garage Bands 1960s" and “Green Bay Rock n Roll News."
While “Garage Bands" isn't limited to the Green Bay area per se, it has given ink to area bands of the past including Green Bay's Invaders once made up of Mark Paulick, John Sawyer, Jim Sawyer, Pete Polzak and Dave Dobry; the Ants comprised of Craig Pribyl, Steven Lawrence and Lou Seiler; and the Generation consisting of Brian Powers, Mary Jo Tipler, Mark Paulick, Susan Lade and Rick Schilke.
One post is a copy of a newspaper article advertising “One of the BIGGEST rock shows to hit the state, 'Make the Scene for '67." The rock show in question was a three-night extravaganza at the Brown County Arena, featuring “nine big name groups and artists, and seven northern Wisconsin bands."
Local bands included Green Bay's People and Invaders, Manitowoc's Couriers, Sturgeon Bay's Morticians, Appleton's She Five and Private Property, and Oshkosh's Paul Bearers. The headliners were impressive, including the New Colony Six, Left Bank, Cyrkle, Cryin' Shames, Brian Hyland, Bobby Goldsboro and the McCoys,
By the way, there's a “garage band" page for locales far and wide, though nothing Green Bay-centric.
The “Green Bay Rock n Roll News" page is overseen by Ernesto Corpus. Culling items from “The College of Rock and Roll Knowledge," “Neil Ratner Rock Doc," “This Day in Music" and “All Things Music Plus" this page offers near-daily tidbits on rock history. It often gives mention to local happenings on that front from the past and present.
Kudos to Ernesto for an eclectic page that covers the gamut of rock history. A recent Saturday scroll gave nods to Johnny Cash, the Cure, Marvin Gaye, the Talking Heads, BB King, Jim Morrison and the Doors, and Les Paul and Mary Ford.
It also celebrated the filming of the video for Queen's single “Bicycle Race" at Wimbledon Stadium and the Ramones live version of “Needles and Pins" as well as spreading word of the Exclusive Company's live music event behind the store that day.
Also noted is the fact that resident “rockologist," live-music promoter extraordinaire and Frankly Green Bay columnist, Tom Smith, is an active member of both of these sites and, likely a few more like them. Ringing endorsements for sure.
And, while we are on the subject, it's about time someone commenced the as-close-as-possible definitive history of Green Bay Rock and Roll reaching back into the fifties. That, before a lot of the human resources for such a project are gone.
Keeping the Past in Perspective
“Right out here, right out here," my angry brother pointed toward the front yard from the living room of our parent's house one recent Christmas Eve.
“We would come home from school and play football every day, right out here," he continued. “We didn't sit around and do this (simulating a kid, thumbs flying across the buttons of a video game)."
“No, we didn't," I agreed. “But the older folks who chopped wood and carried water when they got home from school, thought those Gullickson boys were awful damned lazy."
“Besides," I added, “Do we have to become old farts who hate the kids and whatever they've got going? Is it mandatory? That's been happening for years now and really could stop anytime."
“Dad, you loved Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman when you were a kid, right?" I directed the question to my father who was also present.
“Yup," he said. “Sure did."
“And I love that stuff, too," I said. “Nothing like 18 guys and a quartet of great singers swinging in unison and nailing it on one take."
“No," my dad said. “Those were some great bands."
“Right," I said. “And your parents hated them."
His smile dimmed dramatically. “Yup, he said. They sure did."
So, here's an invite to anyone reading this as well as Facebook friends on these history group pages: Let's love all that stuff and the memories we have of them. Let's avoid a knee-jerk disdain for everything since.
In fact, take a drive downtown one of these days, but don't go looking for the old buildings and bridges and displays. Instead, take in what is going on right now. You will be amazed at a resurging downtown that's got a whole new vibe and — at least from the perspective of this writer — it's pretty nice to see. You can even listen to the oldies station while you're doing it.
Indeed, a full appreciation for the past invites us to embrace the present — maybe, even, the future.
Fall, 2016 finds author, educator, farmer and horseman Gullickson fresh off the world premiere of the original stage play, “The Vagabond Halfback" and planning for its reprise performances in February. Another school year has started up and most of the summer's hay is in the barn.