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Bits and Pieces for Dec. 21
Is everybody ready for Christmas?

For most of the people I talk to, the answer is no.


Moving on, I came across an anniversary of an embarrassing event while writing a 75-year-ago column this week. 

It involves an error in judgment among men in the production department at the newspaper and then the failure of the proofreader and the others involved in the process in 1938 to stop it.

Either it was a miss, or a very naughty joke.

It started when I spotted a local page ad from Fred L. Berner, editor of the newspaper and one of the original Berner Brothers. Fred, my father said, was a serious and straight-as-an arrow man.

It was quite an apology.


While reading the apology is easy, explaining the rest of this is not.

Since it was one of Dad’s favorite tales about his relatives, I knew to go back one day and look for an Antigo Hardware Co. ad on page three.

My memory didn’t fail me. 

At the bottom of page three was the ad for the store, located on the south side of the 800 block of Fifth Avenue. It was selling kitchen devices for Christmas.

There is nothing wrong with the body of the ad until you get to the name of the firm and the address/phone number. Even that’s mostly OK.

The phone number for the store was number two, which back in the day was synonymous for the product of defecation.

The Linotype operator who set the ad used the vernacular word in capital letters with quote marks around it. 

You might have run into a little rough language during those days, but not in the daily newspaper. At least not one edited by Fred L. Berner

In 1938 this was a stunner.

I bet most of the community was laughing, much like the staff did after viewing the situation here at the Journal this week. 

But I bet it was a bad day in the production department at the Journal in 1938, and if it happened here today with a newer generation of Fred Berner, it wouldn’t be any different.


The editorial department at the Journal is putting the finishing touches on the year-in-review for the annual Dec. 31 paper, and it is remarkable to eye the activities that have taken place in a small community like Antigo and Langlade County.

We’ve made great steps forward and a few back, and that was even the case this week.

The step back was the closing of the Fuddfest celebration, a country music event in the town of Vilas.

The Nicholson family has been doing it for about 15 years as facilities grew and the venue expanded. But the general economic malaise of the past few years and the continued increase in costs for services, including insurance, security and talent, led to problems. They announced that at least for the time being, planning for the 2014 festival had ended.

Over the years it has been fun. Lady Antebellum, a band now playing to packed arenas, was here. So was Luke Bryan and plenty of others on their way up, who won.


Tracy Lawrence and other established stars including Lorrie Morgan, Ronnie Milsap, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Oak Ridge Boys, Gatlin Brothers and dozens and dozens more were on the stage.

I hope someone with deep pockets walks in and we’re rolling again.

The summer of 2014 is still quite a spell away, and I’m already missing it.


There were a few very good things announced this week. Sartori is planning  a $14 million update and additions to its plants here and in Plymouth, and a good chunk of that cash will be spent in Antigo.

Two homes in the area of the firm’s office and plant on Morse/Edison streets have been razed to create needed space.

The other is the Rexnord purchase of Merit Gear in Antigo for $78 million. That could bring jobs, investment and certainly security to the well-known Antigo gear-maker.


The firm dates back decades and was housed during the early days in the building that now serves as the home for Bennett’s Electric at Highway 45 and Kelly Street. Obviously, over the years the growth has been stunning.

Stanley Benes was around in those days, and recalls that Frank Cerney, Tony Molleto and George Schroeder got the firm going with 26 employees in that building in 1951.


On Sunday, a former pastor at Peace Lutheran Church, who now serves a congregation in Grafton, will have a date with the pulpit in his church north of Milwaukee, and then head to Green Bay and Lambeau Field.

A great Packer fan, Rev. Scott Kruse is set to participate in the “Ultimate Lambeau Leap” sweepstakes.

Fox6 News TV in Milwaukee reported that on Sunday at half-time, he’ll get the opportunity to do something that’s usually reserved for players.

In October, Kruse submitted his name to the Packers “Ultimate Lambeau Leap” sweepstakes. More than 100,000 others did too, but only 10 were randomly selected for a tryout.


Kruse’s jump comes 17 years to the day after taking another kind of leap. Sunday is Kruse’s wedding anniversary.

The event will bring the whole family to Lambeau Field to root for Dad.

Also cheering Kruse will be his congregation of 3,000 strong.

This event also honors the anniversary of the first Lambeau Leap.

LeRoy Butler is credited with starting the tradition 20 years ago. I must thank Fox6 TV for the work they did and the help from the Green Bay Packers and Steve Kafka.


I was curious when I wrote the 75 Years Ago column Friday about an Antigo guest, Cliff Thompson, who was planning to meet Santa Claus Saturday on the Chicago and Northwestern depot platform when he arrived from the North Pole by train.

Thousands were expected to be on hand, including the high school band, and Thompson, billed as the “tallest man.”

So I looked him up on the Web, and found he was born in North Dakota and as a boy came to Scandinavia, Wisconsin with his family.

He claimed to be 8 feet, 7 inches tall and weigh 460 pounds, but his actual height was about 7 feet, 5 inches — which is still very tall.

He spent four years with the Al G. Barnes Circus and four years with Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey. 

After eight years as a career giant, he left the circus to become a traveling salesman. 

Though no longer a freak by trade, Thompson was still continually on display, representing everything from the Blatz Brewing Co. — when he visited with Santa in Antigo — to The Big Shoe Store in Stevens Point. 

At the Wisconsin State Fair, he drew a sign that said "Drink Milk: Look what it did for me." 

He advertised the 1935 Ford V8 as roomy enough for a giant, although his own car was custom-fitted to accommodate his size.

When he reached middle age, travel became more difficult. 


He required a cane to get around and was no longer content to sleep diagonally on two hotel room beds pushed together. 

In 1949 he entered Marquette University in Milwaukee and obtained his law degree within two years, becoming the tallest lawyer in history. He practiced first in Iola and then in Los Angeles before finally settling in Portland, Oregon. 

The Web says he died on Oct. 15, 1955, four days short of his 51st birthday, from a combination of gallstones and liver disease. 

Is there anyone out there who remembers Thompson or Santa’s arrival in 1938? Call me.


I have two Christmas related notes:

— Give a ticket or two to the Snowball as gifts.

A group of people are working to build a small performance theater and art center in downtown Antigo, and are holding another fund-raising dance Saturday, Jan. 18. The cost of the tickets is tax-deductible. We have those tickets for sale at the Journal’s front desk.

Antigo simply does not see decorations like those that will be installed for the event in the Edison Events Center. Enjoying the hors d’oeuvres and the ambiance0.both are attractive. 

There will be a story next week explaining where the exotic trappings for the event come from — it’s fascinating.

 — Christmas dinner is lurking at the Edison Club on Wednesday for people who are alone, want to be with a crowd, need a hand cooking turkey, ham and all the fixings or are looking for a little help with the cost of the Yule meal. There is no charge, but if you want to leave a little donation, all will help.

Serving is from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

It is a good time with very good food.


I’ve overstayed my space and probably the patience of readers.

Please have a Merry, Merry Christmas.

2014 space
612 Superior Street
Antigo, WI 54409
Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
MapOnUs Location: (local)

612 Superior Street,
Antigo, WI 54409
Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
MapOnUs Location: (local)

*Member WNA & NNA

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