Oregon Area Community Book's Blog

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.

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