Oregon Area Community Book's Blog

January 6, 2011

Volunteers meeting January 11, 7pm – check us out!

Filed under: Uncategorized — oregonareacommbook @ 9:35 pm

Volunteer meetings for the Oregon Area Community Book Project begin for 2011 with a new time and new place.

Volunteers will meet on January 11, 7pm, at Lisa Hustad’s home, 345 Landover Drive, Oregon.

Any and all are welcome to come and see what the volunteer group is up to. Find a role for yourself that fits your time and ambitions.


Now it’s easy to print this blog in book form.

Filed under: Uncategorized — oregonareacommbook @ 3:16 pm

Wrapping up activity on the Oregon Area Community Book Project in 2010, we created a book with all the history essays posted to the Oregon Area Community Book’s blog so far. To download this file and print it on your own computer, go to this page and click the link to download it.

Note–due to a glitch in the blog-2-print software, the book doesn’t include the photo captions–we’re working on resolving that issue!

January 5, 2011

Oregon Public Library Centennial Celebration 1910-2010

Filed under: Community, Social — oregonareacommbook @ 7:50 pm

By Susan Santner, Library Director

To celebrate this marvelous achievement the library offered a series of programs throughout the year.  Events kicked off in January with a yearlong Centennial Community Read. It was a program designed to get as many people as possible in the Oregon area to read the same book at the same time. The goal was to foster community by providing a forum for public discussion and interaction-and most of all-demonstrating that reading can be fun!

The Centennial Community Read selection was Living a Country Year: Wit and Wisdom from the Good Old Days by Wisconsin author Jerry Apps. In this warm hearted memoir, Apps tells of growing up on a farm near Wild Rose, Wisconsin in the 1940’s. The chapters are arranged from January to December and talk about love and respect for the land and for a vanishing rural way of life by using personal incidents, adventures, recipes, observations and thoughts for each month.

One way to participate in the Centennial Community Read was to listen to a chapter being read aloud and sample a recipe from the book. The library co-sponsored a Reader’s Theatre series with the Oregon Area Senior Center. Library staff, along with volunteers, read a chapter and the Senior Center provided samples of the recipes.

Jerry Apps made a personal visit to Oregon on October 23, 2010 to share stories about his writing and wrap up the reader’s theatre series. A very appreciative audience shared coffee and cake after his presentation.

Every month of the year had special programs to celebrate the Centennial. There were additional author visits, teen tech month, poetry jam, pre-school players, series of four storytelling concerts, and the official birthday party on October 9, 2010, attended by over 300 people.

The family entertainment included face painters, a juggler and a balloon artist.

There was a formal dedication ceremony which included a distinguished panel of speakers including the President of the Oregon Village Board Steve Staton, Library Board of Trustees President Lisa Hustad and Wisconsin Senator Jon Erpenbach, who presented Senate citation to the library in honor of the Centennial.

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.
Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” -Groucho Marx

Local artist Clarice Christenson presented the library will a lovely hand painted Centennial plate which will hang in the library for the next 100 years.

The most significant Centennial addition to the library was the beautiful new circulation desk built by local wood craftsman Paul Morrison of The Wood Cycle Shop located in Oregon.

The circulation desk was updated to enhance efficiencies and streamline the increasing demands of library circulation.

Paul was able to recycle, rebuild and refinish portions of the old desk into the new. He built new tops and moved the old tops underneath for additional shelving. Pieces of lumber to build the tops of the desk were donated by members of the community. Each piece of wood lumber was identified as to its species, the story behind it and the person or family who donated it to the project. Monetary donations were also greatly appreciated. These generous gifts were recorded in a memorial Centennial Community Desk booklet to honor the Centennial achievement and the community who built it.

The three beautiful mosaic tiles that were added to the front of the desk were designed and built by Cheryl Adams, of Adams Studio.

The Friends of the Library were the major contributors to the desk. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts. The Friends of the Library were originally organized by director Joan Wethal years ago. The library has been getting by with a little help from them ever since. They have been supporting the library landscaping; all of our programming efforts, special furniture, Centennial expenses including the indoor banner and this year a full size puppet stage.

Friends of the Oregon Library Board consist of President Beth Larimer, Vice-President Sue Johnson, Secretary Pat Berkan, June Hanson and Lucy Ruth were Co-Treasurers, Membership Sharon Kopenski, and Volunteer Coordinator Nancy Allen. The Friends currently have 120 members.

In a token of appreciation the library board of trustees presented a plaque to the Friends for their marvelous enthusiasm for books, and their generous and unwavering support. The plaque was present to Beth Larimer, as president of Friends board. All of the Friends who were present were asked to step forward.

Representing the youth of the community and the future of the library were Christian and Gabriella Wirtz. They were each asked to hold the end of the dedication ribbon so the Friends could cut it.

A coffee and cake reception was held, in the Sue Ames Room while talented members of the Oregon High School orchestra entertained with a selection of classical music. Over three hundred pieces of cake were served and every tasty crumb was consumed.

“What is more important in a library than anything else
is the fact that it exists.”    -Archibald MacLeish

There are many people who have supported the library during this Centennial year with their time, money and advice. I would like acknowledge them:

  • Alison Koelsch, the Director of the Oregon Area Senior Center who has been cooking and baking recipes all year for our Centennial reader’s theatre performances of Jerry Apps book “Living a Country Year: Wit and Wisdom from the Good Old Days.”
  • Mike and Erica Weidler from the Firefly Coffeehouse for hosting our storytelling events throughout the year.
  • Staff at WOW and Oregon Cable Access who have filmed all of our events this year.

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap
compared to that of an ignorant nation.”   -Walter Cronkite

The library is supported through tax dollars, Dane county reimbursements and also through donations. We get by with a little help from our friends. It would be impossible accurately name all the individuals who have contributed to the library over the last 100 years.

I would like to acknowledge a few of them.

  • My two predecessors …Joan Wethal and Vicki Cothroll.
  • The Bruning Foundation that helps to cover the cost of databases and newspaper and periodical subscriptions
  • The Faust Family who generously supports the library through the donation sticker program at Bill’s Food Center.
  • The Oregon Observer whose donation helped us purchase the lovely desk lamps.
  • The Wackman Foundation which has been set aside for book purchase.

Thank you to all the people who have donated memorials in honor of a family member who loved the library and all the countless individuals who donated funds to support the collection and special projects.

“If you have a garden and a library,
you have everything you need”    –   Cicero

This year the Friends of the Library funded a new garden bed under the lamp post on Brook St. We also had a little help from our friends at the Oregon Garden Club including Mary Smith, Susan Kosharek, Jack Mitchell, Sandy O’Malley, Susan Shedivy, Barb Stock. They were led by Peg Thomas and Windi Fourdaine. They spent many hot hours working along with the Friends of the Library-June Hanson, and Gerry & Jeanne Neath, to spruce up the outdoor gardens for the Centennial Celebration. They also donated a great many of the beautiful plants along the front of the building.

I would like to thank the Village Board including of the Village Board President Steve Staton, Trustees David Donovan, Eric Poole, Randy Way Darlene Groenier, Jon S. Lourigan, and Philip J. Harms for their continued belief in the importance of a public library, Mike Gracz the Village administrator, Renee Hoeft the finance director and all their staff for their continued support and advice, and the staff of the public works and police departments who have been of assistance in so many ways.

In preparation for the Centennial the library was given a face lift by giving the interior of the building a fresh coat of paint, installing a much needed acoustical ceiling, adding three desk lamps, updating the indoor and outdoor signage, adding library read posters and chair rail to the Sue Ames Room, installing library advocacy quotes in the lobby and decorating with a few indoor plants and beautiful handmade quilts.

The Centennial Celebration could not end without acknowledging the wonderful talent of the dedicated library staff that has worked so hard this year. They have put up with all the planning, painting, rebuilding, removing, rearranging, dust, plastic tarps, and contractors, … all with good humor… always asking how they could help. The management team of Kelly Allen (Youth Services), Judy Collison (Circulation Supervisor), Mary Davidson (Technical Services) and Susan Kosharek (Adult Services).

The support staff has been outstanding in their excellent customer service to the community. They include reference assistants Wendy Borden and Nikki Bolka, circulation team of Cheryl Adams, Rachel Becker, Laura Dewey, Alicia Fisher, Molly Krause, Peg Thomas, Pat Wyman and the library pages consisting of Adam Chisman, Dani Carpenter, Emily Reinicke and Claire Sommers.

What a marvelous year it has been. We are pleased with all that has been accomplished in the last 100 years and look forward with optimism to what the future will hold for our public library.

“Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library.
The only entrance requirement is interest.”   – Lady Bird Johnson

December 29, 2010

Joan Gefke’s death is a loss to our community.

Filed under: Uncategorized — oregonareacommbook @ 6:59 pm

By Lisa Hustad

The OACB Project suffered a loss when Joan Gefke died. She was one of the founders of the Oregon Area Historical Society and the Historic Preservation Commission. She was on the Library Centennial Committee in 2008 and was one of the people who wanted the Library Centennial Booklet to go beyond the library-history and to include the Oregon area.

Joan had talked to me about the untapped potential that the library had to connect people to their roots and community by linking the people living here to the rich cultural, historic, and land resources surrounding us. She and Joan Whethal had both talked about the library one day having a research room that would support genealogical inquiry. She was one of the people who saw the library at the center of the community reaching out beyond its four walls using its tremendous capacity to connect the community together.

Joan Gefke and Rita Plummer are two women who changed my life and inspired me to see community service (volunteer work) as an expected norm that gives back more than it takes.

Read Joan’s obituary here…

December 22, 2010

Oregon Brooklyn Satellite – Habitat for Humanity

Filed under: Uncategorized — oregonareacommbook @ 8:45 pm

By Marcy Worzala and Bernie Triechel

Habitat for Humanity of Dane County, Inc. (HFHDC) was initiated by Oregon and Brooklyn area churches and supportive community residents in 1987. Initially they built three homes in the Oregon-Brooklyn area. Then with a change of leadership and realization that broader resources were in the affiliate’s best interests, it expanded to Habitat for Humanity-Dane County (HFHDC) in the early 1990s. Construction focused in the Madison area for the next several years. Then in 2003, again initiated by the interests of local churches, the Oregon Brooklyn Satellite came into being, a local satellite to partner with HFHDC in planning, family selection, and building Habitat homes in Oregon and Brooklyn.

A total of nine homes were built:  a single family residence in Brooklyn in 2005, two duplexes (2006, 2007), and a quad-plex (2009-2010) in Oregon.

While HFHDC gave staff and financial support to these projects, the primary leadership was provided by the local Steering Committee and the enthusiasm and dedication of many area volunteers. Many community businesses contributed discounts, volunteer labor, gifts-in-kind, and expertise.

Marcy Worzala coordinated the Steering Committee through the construction of the first five residences, and then Mike Whaley spearheaded the committee for the quad-plex. Bernie Treichel was a mainstay and tremendous resource, as she was involved with volunteer coordination and construction since 1987.  The final quad-plex, a two-year project, involved 10,762 volunteer hours.

One of the quads was built by the Oregon High School Trades Class, in a joint project. Another one of the quads was an “Apostles’ Build,” a joint project sponsored by area churches in labor and in financial contribution.  The churches involved: Holy Mother of Consolation, St John’s, High Point Church, Community of Life Lutheran, People’s United Methodist, St Andrew/William Catholic Church, and Hillcrest Bible Church.

The other two homes, as well as two previous homes, were sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutheran.  Other major financial sponsors included the Union Bank and Trust in Brooklyn and the State Bank of Cross Plains.

The group has taken a break since completion of the quad-plex in May of 2010.


The volunteer group that worked on the home in Brooklyn in 2005.



Habitat volunteer and one of the founders of the Oregon-Brooklyn satellite chapter, Marcy Worzala.


Habitat for Humanity float in 2005 Summer Fest parade.

Duplex built on Dunn Avenue in 2006.

Habitat homeowner Tessa Brady and her family.

Habitat homeowners Jim and Nicole Jackson and their family.

Second duplex completed on Dunn Avenue, 2007.

Habitat homeowners Lisa Skolaski and her family and Caitlin Szudy and her family

Architect's visualization of the Habitat for Humanity quad-plex completed in 2008.

“Don’t Just Watch TV. . . Make It!”

Filed under: Uncategorized — oregonareacommbook @ 7:36 pm

by Liz Harlow, OCAmedia

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated non-commercial TV channels be provided by cable companies in 1984. In 1985, the Village of Oregon authorized the nonprofit Oregon Community Foundation, Inc., to administer the franchise fees collected from local cable TV  subscribers in the operation of the local channel WOW. Jack Statz, Al  Gasner, and Bob Wickhem were instrumental in setting up the Cable TV Committee. Liz Harlow was appointed Program Coordinator in 1985. The first  office operated out of the A/V room at Oregon High School. The first  program to air was an OHS Boys Basketball game in January, 1986.

The mission of Oregon Cable Access (OCAmedia) is to protect and exercise the right of free speech by providing a communication vehicle for citizens to express themselves, and to provide programming that informs, enriches, educates, entertains, and enhances the lives of viewers. A community-wide survey of viewing preferences were: School sports, concerts, speakers, Oregon Village and School Board meetings, candidates for public offices, church services, Oregon Senior Center, Oregon Public Library, Oregon Historical Society/Museum events, etc.

Liz Harlow chats with Lisa Hustad about the Oregon Area Community Book projectat the Chamber of Commerce Business Expo, November 19, 2009.

Twenty five years later, the PEG (Public-Education-Government) channels continue to reflect the reality of life by archiving the collective memories and events of our hometown.  WOW airs public and government programs, while the second channel, ORE, airs Educational (school-youth) programs. Hundreds of volunteers and paid  high school students have contributed to this local effort.

The office moved from the small corner in the high school A/V room to the Village Hall for several years, and now occupies space at 900 Market St. The expanded facility allows for a small studio for in-house taping,  (e.g. Meet the Candidates, Panther Talk, panel discussions, interviews, demonstrations, etc.).

Digital cameras, tripods, and editing equipment for videotaping local events of interest are available to the public.  Chroma-key (Green-screen) applications are the latest additions to the video services offered. There is now an expanded digital audience online, and some programs (such as Oregon Village and School Board meetings) are streamed live on ocamedia.com.

No tax money has ever been used toward channel operations. Cable subscriber fees comprise the majority of OCAmedia’s operating budget.

Staff, students, volunteers are not just watching TV, but making it!

WOW's Matt Hill operates a camera at an Oregon Public Library centennial event.

WOW’s Dan Sutter films a “Centennial Read” discussion with Library Director Susan Santner and guests, at the Oregon Senior Center.

Making Summer Fest a Community—and Family—Tradition

Filed under: Uncategorized — oregonareacommbook @ 7:21 pm


In 1976, the Waterman Street neighborhood float featured a Bicentennial theme: “May Liberty Always Dwell in Our Country.”

With Dennis and Lynda Farrar

Oregon’s summer festival has been an exciting part of village life for as long as anyone can remember. An article on the history of Summer Fest that appeared in the Oregon Observer on June 22, 2006 mentioned a particularly memorable event for Oregon’s centennial in 1941. A pageant, rides, and a parade were highlights, as well as a raffle and food stands, organized by the local volunteer fire department and American Legion.

But 1941 was the last year that summer festival took place. “That December the United States entered World War II, and the festivals ceased for over 20 years,” the Observer article stated.

A new summer festival was initiated in 1965 by charter members of the Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce, founded the previous year. Dennis Farrar, former president of the Chamber of Commerce and a retired optometrist along with his wife Lynda, shortly after they arrived in Oregon in 1971.


The Farrar children enjoyed the rides at Summer Fest 1977.

According to Farrar, Dr. Milton “Bob” Wischhoff (whose optometry practice had brought the Farrars to Oregon) was responsible for defending the Summer Fest name against bigger rivals.

The name, and the annual date, tied to the start of summer, came out of the early planning sessions. No one is quite sure who suggested Summer Fest, or settled on the two-word spelling. But in 1967, Dr. Wischhoff received a phone call from the managers of Milwaukee’s summer lakefront music festival. The caller demanded Oregon change the name of its festival.

“Dr. Wischhoff told them Oregon spelled their celebration’s name differently, and had started two years before the Milwaukee festival,” Dennis recalled. “He suggested Milwaukee change their name. It took the caller by surprise and then he said, ‘Okay. Well I might get back to you.’ He never called back.” Milwaukee’s event is now known as Summerfest—one word.

The Oregon Summer Fests starting in 1965 were held in the “hitching post” area in Oregon’s downtown. “It had rides, a small carnival, and a beer tent among other things. Of course they moved all the parking out. That was a problem,” Dennis said.

“After a few years I became president of the Chamber. It struck me that there’s a massive amount of blacktop over at the school grounds. It’s the perfect setting for the Summer Fest.” Dennis contacted the superintendent of the Oregon School District, Phil Helgeson, who liked the idea but was concerned about holes in the blacktop from the tent stakes. That problem was quickly resolved with weights replacing stakes.

By law, no beer could be sold or consumed on school property. “That was no great problem–we just set up the tent on village property next to the school grounds,“ said Dennis. Since then, (about 1975 or ’76) Summer Fest has taken place on the high school grounds.

Reminiscing about his time as Chamber President and Parade Chairman, several highlights came to mind for Dennis.

One was the Summer Fest Parade. Businesses donated money in the name of participating groups, with the funds raised benefitting the Zor Shrine, (a charitable group known for funding children’s hospitals). Each year, Shriners would bring a camel from Madison’s Vilas Zoo for the parade chairman to ride. Dennis recalled, “I was Parade Chairman for some years, so we alternated riding the camel–Lynda one year and myself the next.”


Dennis Farrar rode the camel in 1973, an honor reserved for the Parade Chairman. In 1976, it was Lynda Farrar’s turn to ride the camel.

One of the chairman’s responsibilities was organizing the parade line-up. Dennis wanted marching bands from area schools, but that proved to be difficult. “The only band we could get was the Oregon band. Even Stoughton would not cooperate. They were dismantled for the summer,” Dennis said.

At first, Oregon paid drum and bugle corps from Chicago to come, but that became expensive. “So I got together with Mike Davis, Oregon High School Marching Band director at the time. He said, ‘The only way we can get bands to come is if we have some type of competition. Then we can get contestants to come and we can have them march in the parade.” From that conversation sprang the Parade of Bands Competition in Oregon, a field show held on Sunday nights, with the parade competition during the afternoon parade.

The winners of the parade competition were announced after all the bands performed. “We gave first, second, and third place trophies. The parents of the kids from all the bands were here. It was a big draw,” Dennis remembered.


OHS Marching Band drum line in 1988, with Erin Farrar. (see arrow on photo)

To this day, Oregon’s Summer Fest features competitions, midway rides, ball games and the popular Summer Fest Parade. The Farrar family has participated every year, as the 4.5 feet of shelves holding 26 family photo albums covering 1973 to 1990 attest.

In 2010, major sponsors included the Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce, Firefly Coffeehouse, Re/Max Preferred Real Estate, State Bank of Cross Plains, Oregon Community Bank and Trust, Frank Beer Distributors, and  Good Karma Broadcasting (105.9 Radio). Other sponsors included Academy of Sound, Adams Outdoor Advertising, Alliant Energy, American Family Insurance, American Transmission Co., Bank of Oregon, Bergey Jewelry, Calkins Midways, Conant Automotive, DLM Financial Solutions, Group Health Cooperative, M&I Bank, Milio’s Sandwiches, NAPA Auto Supply, Oak Bank, OCA Media, Oregon Family Dentistry, Oregon Mental Health Services, Ozee Cars, Pepsi Cola, Stoehr Automotive Center, Stoughton Trailers, Torhorst & Associates, US Cellular/Hanson Electronics, and Wisconsin Monuments & Vault Company.

Volunteer groups helping with many aspects of the event included Boy Scout Troop 50, Oregon Brooklyn Mighty Mites, Oregon Police Explorers, Delta Phi Sorority, Oregon High School PAC, and members of the Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce.


In 1985 the local Webelo troop carried the American Flag.

December 10, 2010

What Was Life Like in the 1940’s?

Filed under: Uncategorized — oregonareacommbook @ 3:52 pm

In Fall 2010 the Oregon Middle School Enriched English classes studied the “1940’s—A Decade of Change.” Some students in Heidi Pancratz’ class visited the Oregon Senior Center to interview seniors about their experiences during the 1940’s. Other students interviewed relatives who lived through this dynamic time of change.

Read more on the OMS online newspaper!


December 6, 2010

History Repeats Itself: “Warning to Shoppers”

Filed under: Uncategorized — oregonareacommbook @ 5:21 pm

Submitted by Gerald Neath, Oregon Area Historical Society

"Christmas Mail" photo courtesy of the Oregon Area Historical Society. Were these packages purchased from catalogs, to the detriment of local merchants?

The Oregon Observer of December 2, 2010 reprinted  a gem from 100 years ago that couldn’t be more contemporary.

The December 1910 Oregon Observer published this WARNING TO SHOPPERS:
The Holiday Season is near.  Do not be led away with catalogues and flaming ads of mail order houses to the detriment of your own home merchants and loss to yourselves.  Remember that all kinds of fish are caught by baits and suckers that bite are generally landed.

Remember your home merchants are not declaring dividends of $10,000,000 like some mail order houses.  Stop!  Think!  Of whom do they get their surplus?  And who are the suckers? Does taking this ten million out of the country and away from home help you at home?  Do they contribute to reduce your taxes or to make good roads for you?

Every dollar you spend at home does contribute to your own welfare—not to keep up trusts and large mail order houses and large capitalized industries to your detriment.  They have sapped the country that much more than the goods they have sold cost them, besides paying the expense of handling, rent, fuel, labor, etc.

“You cannot serve God and mammon.”  Neither can you keep your home merchants and buy your wants away from home.


Looking South on Main Street, 1899. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Area Historical Society.

November 24, 2010

“Miss Oregon”—Not Just Another Beauty Pageant

Filed under: Business, Community — Tags: — oregonareacommbook @ 10:47 pm

by Bobbi Dumas

Anytime a “Miss Something or Other” is mentioned, the inevitable conclusion is that it must be a beauty contest. The Miss Oregon title signified much more.

Miss Oregon, a now defunct event that selected a young woman from the village to act as a representative of Oregon’s Chamber of Commerce, was once a centerpiece of the community calendar. For many of the participants, as well as the women and men who worked tirelessly to put the pageant together, its loss remains huge.

There was at least one contest that predated the Miss Oregon pageant, a popularity event held during the Depression that had the community cast votes for young women who signed up, and ultimately crowned the winner the Oregon Queen. However, the more modern pageant started in 1966, and Pat Anderson (now Wilkening) was crowned the first-ever Miss Oregon.

“It was a big event,” Pat Wilkening remembers, “and it was generated as part of the 125th birthday celebration of Oregon. That year, Oregon also hosted the Alice in Dairyland contest, a big Wisconsin tradition. I remember that the Chamber liked the idea of having someone represent the village across the state, and we were the first small town to do that. The pageant was started, basically, to promote and celebrate Oregon.”

The experience for the girls that year was fairly straightforward. “We each had interviews with judges beforehand, and then we had to do a talent during the pageant. No bathing suits. The Chamber encouraged women between age 16 and 21 to participate, and about 18 of us signed up, with 10 finalists making it to the pageant night.” Pat was crowned on April 22, 1966, by Miss Madison.


April 22, 1966: The recently crowned Miss Oregon Pat Anderson, Miss Madison Pat Giese, and Miss Oregon runner-up/alternate Annetta Koepe, represent the Chamber of Commerce, sponsors of this big event.

An excerpt from Pat Anderson (Wilkenson)’s winning speech.

Wilkening’s experience as Miss Oregon was unique. For one thing, she was the only Miss Oregon to attend the Miss Wisconsin contest. After that year, likely due to the cost of entry, Miss Oregon stayed in Oregon – at least from a contest perspective, anyway. “Of course Miss Oregon’s job was to represent Oregon, so I attended community events in Oregon and surrounding areas, taking part in parades and celebrations. Since it was our 125th anniversary celebration, I took Oregon booster buttons to then-Governor, Warren Knowles. Because of that, I was asked, along with Miss Octoberfest, to do a Wisconsin State ‘We Like It Here’ promotion, where we flew with the governor across the state into different communities. It was a lovely experience.”


Governer Knowles helped publicize Oregon’s 125th anniversary celebration. From left: Dr. M. J. Wischhoff, Oregon Chamber of Commerce director and general chairman of the anniversary event, Governor Warren Knowles, Jim Cannon, Chamber secretary and chairman of the recent Miss Oregon pageant, Pat Anderson, Miss Oregon, Norm Champion, Oregon Chamber of Commerce President.

Pat considers her year as Miss Oregon a life-changing experience. “It was wonderful. I can’t express how much it did for me, in terms of building my self-confidence and other skills, like public speaking and being comfortable in front of a crowd. But it was so much more than a beauty contest,” Wilkening notes. “There were area musicians who played for the pageant, and Ginny O’Brien helped organize them and make it into more of a show. My year, Buzz Hanson (an active Chamber member and community ambassador) wrote a song that the girls sang as part of the pageant evening. Everyone came and a number of people from Oregon participated. It was a real community event.”

Indeed, ask any person involved in the Miss Oregon pageant history from its beginnings, down to the last couple years, and you’ll hear the same note of affection and wistfulness toward the pageant-era. Most will credit Ginny O’Brien, now 88 and still active in Oregon, as being the principal contributor to the pageant in its first decade.

Pauline McMannes, who pretty much ran the show later, remains amazed at what Oregon pulled together in those first few years. “Ginny didn’t run a pageant, she ran a show. At the time, the pageant was held in the high school auditorium. Ginny was involved with the Madison-area theater guild and had a lot of connections with area artists and musicians. Each year, she would pick a theme, and then would basically write a musical around it. The talent in this town, and the way it came together on the night of the Miss Oregon pageant, was truly something to behold. And it was something everyone in the community got behind. The school, the chamber, businesses and families. It was a sell-out crowd every year. She wrote something every year, produced, choreographed, and found talent in the community to take part. Oregon really stepped up to the plate the night of the pageant, and the whole community just shone.”

If you ask Ginny, she’ll acknowledge that it was hard work, but she modestly attributes the success of the event to “all the people who just put their shoulders to the wheel. Really, it was everyone, not me,” she claims. “The school encouraged the girls to take part, and the people in the community rallied around it. The newspaper wrote about the event and the girls, and everyone turned out. It was a lot of work, but when you’re having fun, you don’t notice. It was truly one of the best things I ever did, and working with the people here who were so committed to making it great, for the girls, and for the community, was an honor.”


1978 Miss Oregon Tracie Halverson rides the Summer Fest float with contestants Kay Ferguson, Julie Brindley, and Laura Cower.

Jim Bossingham, owner of B.J.’s Hair Salon, was one of the area residents who was involved from the beginning with Ginny O’Brien’s mini-musicals. He took part by singing in the pageants, helped with the planning later, when Pauline McManus was the major force behind the event, and in 1990 saw his daughter, Deb, crowned as a Miss Oregon. From every angle, Jim feels the event was a great asset to the community, and he would love to see it come back.

“For my daughter, it made a big impact. It helped her sort of grow into her skin, so to speak. It was a very positive experience. But it wasn’t just about my daughter, it was about all the young women who took part. It was never a popularity contest. It was about being able to talk to people, to be polite and social, and a good spokesperson for your community. It was different from the other places they spent time and experiences they might have had. And on the night of the actual pageant, especially in the days when Ginny put together such a fabulous show, but later, too, when the young women had to stand up and give a speech in front of a packed room, it was just such a wonderful experience for all of Oregon. Honestly, everyone was so proud. There was this wonderful feeling of accomplishment in what our small town could put together. The joy was palpable.”



1989 Miss Oregon Erin Farrar awards the blue ribbon at the Madison Horse Show. "

Pauline McMannes, perhaps the person most responsible for the event for the longest time, adjusted the Miss Oregon pageant from the musical show into a quieter, less entertainment-focused evening, in part because she knew she wouldn’t be able to replicate Ginny’s accomplishments. “The full production aspect of it rolled back a little, and it became more about the young women and how they would represent Oregon.” Around the time Pauline took over, the event moved from the high school to various supper clubs on the north side of the village (same building, different management/owners through the years) and the talent segment was dropped.

Pauline invested hundreds of hours in the pageant each year and wound up planning it twenty-seven times. “All the young women who participated got a lot out of it, not just the winners. I spent a lot of time with them, helping them feel comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, learning how to give a speech, coaching them so they’d feel comfortable when it came time to sit down with judges for their interviews. The girls tended to bond over the experience, too. It was a special thing.”

Pauline’s Miss Oregon calendar started in January, when paperwork was gathered and the participating young women and a parent were invited to a meeting at Pauline’s home where they would discuss the rules, the schedule and the criteria. Each contestant was required to have an area business or business owner sponsor her. The week-end before the crowning, the women would experience the first segment of the Miss Oregon contest when they each met with four judges, two men and two women from other communities across Wisconsin. The participants were told to dress appropriately for a business interview, and would spend ten minutes with each judge. Pauline organized the judges, a broad spectrum of professionals that ranged over the years from bankers to (legal) judges to business owners, and everywhere in between.

The judges were looking for a number of things, mostly having to do with social skills and the ability to be at ease in conversation with a wide variety of topics and people from every walk of life. Once the interviews were tallied, the same judges would attend the pageant event, a week later. On that evening, the contestants stood in front of the usually standing-room only crowd and gave a speech. The topic was determined at the original organizational meeting, when each participant put a topic into a hat and then picked them randomly. They had from then until the pageant night to write and prepare a speech.

“We worked with them for months,” says Pauline. “I would help them any way I could. This wasn’t planned so that the girls who had the parents most willing to coach them would win. I would coach them if they needed it. I helped a lot of girls. I’d go over their speeches with them and give them suggestions. My goal was to make sure they all felt as comfortable as possible going into the competition. And you know? I believe almost any girl who signed up could have been a Miss Oregon. They were all great. But if they wanted help, I’d give it to them. I spent a lot of time with the girls, and they spent time together. If you ask most of them, they’ll tell you it was a fun time. A lot of them developed some special friendships from participating in Miss Oregon.”

The pageant crowning event was a dinner/dance, where the contestants wore formals. The judges would listen to the speeches, and would watch the young women during the dinner. “They were looking for other things than just how they gave their speeches,” Pauline adds. “How did they treat other guests? How did they interact in the crowd? Were they polite? Did they mingle, or just talk to one or two other people? Once, one of the girls sat in a corner all evening and read a book. Well, she was a nice girl, but you didn’t really want her to represent Oregon at social and community functions.”

After all the speeches were finished, the judges tallied the scores, and Miss Oregon was crowned, usually in the early spring. “The newly crowned Miss Oregon would dance with her father for a few minutes alone on the dance floor, and then all the other young women would join them with their fathers.”

Becky Bomkamp was crowned Miss Oregon in 1982.

“I know a lot of people think pageants are silly, and there were naysayers even in Oregon, when the pageant was a highlight event. But I honestly believe we provided a great experience for the young women of Oregon, and we helped them develop skills that would help them throughout their lives. We tried hard to make this event about being poised, friendly, articulate young women, comfortable in who they were and how they presented themselves to the world. We tried to separate it from beauty or popularity.”

Speaking to women crowned as Miss Oregon, you get the sense that they agree with that assessment.

Ginger Neath (now Zimmerman), Miss Oregon 1972, was a longtime dance studio owner in Oregon, and remembers the pageant as completely removed from her high school experience. “I wasn’t popular in school. In fact, I was already studying dance seriously, with the intention of becoming a professional. The Miss Oregon pageant was a pivotal point in my life, and was a wonderful experience, but I’m sure, for me, winning had more to do with my outside interests and passions, and being able to talk about them, than it did any school popularity.” (And in Ginger’s case, doing them, since her experience included a talent – and she chose Hawaiian dance, which she was studying with intensity.)

Becky Bomkamp (now Groenier), Miss Oregon 1982, also feels grateful to the experience. “It impacted me, certainly, though I can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. It was a great year, and I met a lot of interesting people. It certainly added to the layers of who I am and what I’ve done. And since it wasn’t a ‘popularity’ contest, it seemed more real to me. You had the sense that the most popular girl at the school wouldn’t win just because she was the most popular girl at the school. It was about more than that.”

Oregon Observer, Thursday, March 18, 1982: 'Cooning' lions Last Sunday the Oregon Lions Club sponsored a Coon dog trial at the Oregon Sportsman's Club north of the village. Many entries from surrounding areas participated in the event. Raffle tickets were sold and Kenneth Loomes was the first-place winner of a shotgun. Joining in the festivities was Miss Oregon, Becky Bomkamp. Shown: Miss Oregon Becky Bomkamp draws the winning ticket, with Oliver Culles (left), head of concession and food, and Joe Byrne, (right), chairman of the raffle, in the white hat.


Deb Bossingham agrees. “It was a great program. There was scholarship money and a stipend for clothes. The duties of Miss Oregon included attending lots of area functions and community events, but I also welcomed new businesses into the village, and acted as an ambassador for the Chamber both within Oregon and outside of it. My dad was a Shriner, so we traveled to places all over Wisconsin, and it was fun to be in the parades and represent my hometown.”

The Miss Oregon contest saw a lot of change over its nearly three decades of existence. Alice Seeliger, former Oregon Chamber of Commerce President, notes that there were a few reasons for the event’s eventual demise. “While I do think there was a change in the attitude toward beauty pageants in general (and we did have our share of opponents to the program), we purposefully made a sincere effort to promote the program as less of a beauty pageant and more of an opportunity to earn scholarship money by becoming a very visible representative of the Chamber and the business community. And, appropriately, we promoted gender equity by renaming the program ‘Oregon Ambassador’ to allow young men to participate in the program. At least one young man did take advantage of that opportunity.

“I think once Pauline stepped down, the people who took over didn’t understand how much work she’d put into it to make it as special as it was, volunteer organizers were reluctant to take over the task, contestant applications dwindled, the Chamber needed to reallocate its resources and, eventually, the program was discontinued. It’s a shame, really.”

That’s a sentiment shared by almost everyone who had anything to do with the pageant. The Miss Oregons and Oregon Ambassadors, the planners, the supporters – all of them feel that the program was so much more than what people think of when they hear the phrase “Miss Oregon.” And in its passing, Oregon lost a wonderful community event and a great resource for its young women and men, not to mention visibility for Oregon in other communities.

“I’d love to see it come back,” Pauline McMannes comments, her voice soft and wistful. “I’d be willing to consider doing it myself again, if it meant the Miss Oregon pageant came back.”

“Miss Oregon” Chamber Representatives, 1966-1992

  • 1966 Pat Anderson
  • 1967 Betty Hoffland
  • 1968 Marcia McAllister
  • 1969 Nancy Stoneman
  • 1970 Laurie Kennan
  • 1971 Barb Miller
  • 1972 Ginger Neath
  • 1973 Gail Bentley
  • 1974 Lynn Okey
  • 1975 Terri Winch
  • 1976 Pam Jensen
  • 1977 Debbie Abrams
  • 1978 Tracie Halverson
  • 1979 Kelly Champagne
  • 1980 Penny Swinehart
  • 1981 JoLynne Jensen
  • 1982 Becky Bomkamp
  • 1983 Andrea Lukonic
  • 1984 Carla Christensen
  • 1985 Jill Guerink
  • 1986 Jackie Garvoille
  • 1987 DeAnne Anderson
  • 1988 Renee Frank
  • 1989 Erin Farrar
  • 1990 Deb Bossingham
  • 1991 Jeanne Horstmann
  • 1992 Tina Gefke
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