Mr. Young came to speak about his experiences as a student at the Wisconsin
Child Center. Our class was lucky to have him visit. He is the father
of Mr. Young, the middle school band teacher. He kept a journal and
a diary while he was at the Child Care Center.
Mr. Young told us that he was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in an unwed mother’s home. His twin sister died when she was very young. He was taken to live with his father and stepmother. His stepmother died at a young age. After she died he had to go live with a brother and sister while his father looked for work.
He said that he had to move to upper Wisconsin near Park Falls. By the time he was in fourth grade he had been to at least five or six different schools. It was around this time that his father went to Detroit to work. When his father came back he was married.
It was during the Depression when his father died. Mr. Young was only ten years old at the time. His new stepmother had three daughters of her own that were somewhat older than Mr. Young. His second stepmother never cared for him. He wanted to go back to Park Falls and live with his brother, but, she wouldn’t allow it. Then one day, she just decided that she didn’t want him. Mr. Young says that he still remembers that day, it was one of the happiest he had. He and one of his stepsister had gone fishing. The weather was beautiful and they had a wonderful time. When he got home the Sheriff was there to take him away. His stepmother had told the Sheriff that she no longer wanted him. The Sheriff felt bad, and wanted to take him to his home for the night, but there was no room. So Mr. Young had to sleep in a jail cell with the door left open.
The next day he was taken to the Child Care Center in Sparta, Wisconsin. Mr. Young told us that he had to go to the infirmary first to make sure that he was healthy and didn’t carry any diseases that might take awhile to show up. He said that for the first week he cried himself to sleep underneath a big tree in the yard. He was assigned to live in Cottage C. He was given work to do in the kitchen. He told us that the dining room held 150 students. He helped to bake the bread, slice it, butter it and number it. The bread was numbered so that the children always had fresh bread to eat. One time he cut the end on one of his fingers off in the slicing machine.
Next, he was moved to Cottage L. This was the big boy’s cottage. He got work as a janitor. He worked with a man named Mr. Pauley. He really liked Mr. Pauley. He brought the boys he worked with little treats every week.
The following year when he was 12, Mr. Young got to work on the farm. He helped to feed, and milk the cows. He somehow cut his tongue just outside of Cottage C, he had to be taken to the hospital to get stitches. He was able to complete both of fifth and sixth grade at the Child Care Center.
Mr. and Mrs. Neuman of Norwalk, had several boys come to work on their farm. They eventually brought each of them back for one reason or another. But they still needed help. On the 20th of May, they interviewed Mr. Young. They told him that they thought he was much too small to do the type of work they expected. It took them three separate interviews to decided. Finally, Mr. Neuman asked Mr. Young “Can you drive a team of horses?” When Mr. Young said that he could, they took him home. He was thirteen years old at the time. He lived with the Neuman’s for ten years.
Mr. Young told us that he ran away from the Child Care Center once. But, as it was getting dark, and he was getting hungry he decided that he should go back. His stepmother never saw him again. His stepsister’s did come once. He did not see his brother or sister for twenty one years. Mr. Young said that his fondest memories of the Child Care Center was the great food. His favorite meal was the hash. He said that there were outings, and that they had a radio in Cottage L, were they could listen to the Packer games. He said that some of his friends, didn’t like the Child Center but for him “it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Don Clark lives in Colby. He and his sister Marion went to the state
school in the 1930’s. The only time he could possibly see his sister is
when he went to deliver food to the cottages. He stayed there for 7 years.
They came because their parents couldn’t care for them. He also had
two sisters, Helen and Bernice. They were old enough to take care
of themselves. He remembers when he was in second grade he roomed
in a dormitory cottage with many other boys. He never made any close
friends, but he insisted it was a good life there. Over the long
seven years he lived there only his sister, Bernice, came to see him.
Clark and a few other boys worked in the garden. He also was on the “ bread
making team”. “ We had good food and a place to stay, although if
rules were broken children were subject to corporal punishment. It
didn’t hurt us,” he says. His sister was adopted and that hurt.
He never saw her again. He never went past 8th grade. In the
next few years he worked for his board and room in farm families.
He claims that worst six weeks in his life was at a farm where they eat
sardines for every meal. Luckily he moved to Baraboo. He stayed there
until he grew older. Then he moved to Milwaukee he worked there at
the Allis Chalmers until he retired.
Donna Wiley Robinson’s earliest memories are of the state school.
Her brother, Norman, and her went there because her mother and her stepfather
were causing problems. It was around 1930’s she was 3 or 4.
She stayed there until she finished 8th grade. She went home but
things did not work out. So, she and her brother were sent to foster
homes. Norman said he didn’t have very good memories but Donna did.
She remembers the old swimming pool. She enjoyed listening to Jane
Colby telling stories. She also remembers working in the kitchen
with Earline DeWitt. She was like a mother to her. “At Christmas
they gave each of us to buy presents. It wasn’t much, but I wanted to buy
Mrs. DeWitt something. I saw some chore boys in a display (chore boys are
little scrubber dealies) They were colorful and didn’t cost much. I bought
one for Mrs. DeWitt. After I gave it to her some of the attendants made
fun of me for giving her something like that,” Donna related. But
Mrs. DeWitt thanked her and gave her some stationary in return. Donna
is a mother now (5 girls and 1 boy). “Family is everything”, she
said. She lived in Indiana for 20 years she moved back to Cornell.
She was really happy and excited to attend the reunion.
Carol Jean Raspberry Horst of Ladysmith. She spent 3 years at the state school. In the years of 1940-1943. At first she thought it was the end of the world but then she realized that it was one of the most important part of her life. When she came here she was 10. She had two siblings both brothers that came with her. They were Frances and Raymond. They were sent to the child center because their mothers death because their father could not take care of them. While she was at the center she was placed in cottage F. Her house mother, Ms. Gilligan commented,” F is for finishing”. She had learned table manners, and how to take turns serving. She learned how to clean thoroughly. Her job at the cottage was to clean the bathroom. When she was done she gave everything the white glove test as Ms. Gilligan called it. If you didn’t make your bed right you had to do it again till you got it right. Carol did it right and she was rewarded with the honor to clean Mother Gillian’s office. She liked doing it so much that when she ran away Ms. Gillian threatened to take away the privilege. Carol didn’t run away because she was unhappy. She said she had a reason. “ I wanted a dog and you couldn’t have one at the center,” she complained. She loves her experiences at the state school. They needless to say lead her to her career, as a Case Manager Specialist for Retarded Children. “ The Child Center gave stability and consistency at a time I needed it most. It was like a home to me or those three years,” she said. It’s too bad that her brothers did not think so. She talks about it, “ They were so little, but when I get home maybe we can talk about it. It brought us close as children. Maybe it will bring we close again.” She praises the education, “The education was marvelous. When I went back to my old school, I was far ahead of the kids in my class”
John Woefel of LaCrosse spent 16 years at the school. He suffers now from Muscular Dystrophy. He was placed there at age 6. It was because his parents couldn’t deal with his disease. He called it home from 1947-1963 when he graduated from the Sparta high school. He enjoys his memories. He admits that he didn’t like the rules but almost all of the kids didn’t. He states people were good to him and he had good times. He went to school 1st through 8th grade at the child center school. Then he went to Sparta High School (the old middle school). When he graduated he returned to Reedsberg. There he lived with his grandmother. He never actually had a good relationship with his parents. He wanted to get a job and not just sit around at home. Eventually he moved to LaCrosse. There he found a job as an office worker for the Visiting Nurses Office. He retired last April.
Frazier and his wife Shirley were at the center for 12 years. That
was in the 40s and 50s. He and his four brothers came from a family
of 18 children. Their parents were unable to take care of them.
Only the boys left their home, but Ray didn’t have any complaints about
leaving. So, he and his 4 brothers went. “We got so many presents
at Christmas. A lot more than kids, who were not at the center,” he said.
He loved all the parties. One of the most memorable was when a housemother
dressed him up as Annie Oakley; he won first place for best costume.
“We had good teachers, got go to the movies, ride bikes, and attend church”,
he says. His brothers were together all the time. Even when they
went into foster homes that didn’t separate them. Their foster parent
just happened to know each other. So, they lived happily.
Daisy Anderson was the oldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.A. She met
her husband Albert Anderson when she was at the state school. They
married November 8 1896. They had 6 kids. Anderson ran a boarding
house in Rockford. She was shot when she protected a young woman
from her violent husband. When she had hidden the young wife the
enraged husband stormed in her house looking for his wife. Then he
shot Daisy. Afterwards he committed suicide.
Powers Jorgensen lived here from 1959 to 1963. She graduated from
Andringa's mother and grandmother, both divorced, were housemothers there.
She said, "I was brought up with 30 kids and 6 caregivers." She did
everything the same except she had family. The kids there were expected
to call the staff, lady, miss, or mister, always. The kids learned
to respect the things they had. The shoes you would find in the basement,
and there were no easy chairs or sofas. Each kid had 3 chairs of
their own, a meal time, story time, and "sitting on punishment".
If a kid had a bad mood it was not tolerated according to Andringa.
Most of the kids learned to not touch other peoples stuff even if it was
a rock of a dried up worm. "We learned to respect ourselves," Andringa
said. Andringa noted that the caregivers were really kind and cared
about the children. They even brought the kids home on special occasions
Tubbs lives in Eau Clair now. He was 8 years old when he came to
Sparta in 1928. When he was 13 a couple adopted him. He says
they wanted a slave not a son. "I worked on the farm for 5 dollars
a month in the summer and my room and a board during the winter.... I had
to buy my own clothes and anything else I needed out of that," he said.
The state sent a social worker to check the living conditions. But they
called ahead and the couple sent him to a room. Thankfully a older
brother rescued him when he was 16.
Schwartzlow and his younger brother John were brought here in 1938.
Robert was 1 and 6 months old and John was 4 months. His brother
and him was playing baseball when Robert had to go to the main cottage.
They told him he was going somewhere. He explains that he was not
adopted but shipped out as a farm hand to Deerfield. That happened
in 1949. He worked on the farm until he was 16. Later he said,"
I was their slave. They were pretty mean to me. They wouldn't let me keep
any mail, and anything that came from Sparta, they tore it up." Even
though the memories are unclear he know the
Sparta Herald, August 25, 1997
Sparta Herald, August 24, 1998
Sparta Herald, January 4, 1999
Family Group Sheet, September 7, 2002
First Person Testimonial by Mr. Bruce Young
Photos courtesy of: