|Seventy-five years ago Sunday, the town of Norwood community, Phlox, held a big celebration to honor one of its most durable visitors and trout fisherman, Jack McBride.|
McBride had been coming to Phlox to angle for trout on the Red River for 32 years, making the Hotel Allright his base and even plied the waters of the neighboring Menominee Indian Reservation — a true trout fishing Mecca.
Some years he stayed a week or two, during others, a month or two.
This Sunday in 1939 marked dedication of a plaque and memorial to McBride, a sign of a friendship between a community and a man that still stands today just east of the Red River and not far north of Highway 47.
Few souls fishing the Red or the thousands visiting the Phlox Pond beach and the softball diamonds know just what the marker is for, the fun and sense of community pride it reflected seven and one-half decades ago.
In fact, a man living in the town of Norwood knows just what it is doing there.
McBride was drawn to the community well over a century ago by its strong fishing attributes. McBride made friends — a lot of them — and kept coming back for decades.
Back in the early 1900s, before automobiles were a dime-a-dozen and passable roads even more rare, small towns like Phlox were more self sufficient.
Except for those Prohibition years, there were busy saloons, the Allright, where McBride and his crew stayed during the visits and a big sawmill turning out lumber on the shores of the Phlox Pond.
Of course, the St. Joseph Catholic Church steeple towered over the community.
Two days before the placement of the plaque along the river, the Antigo Daily Journal covered the event carefully.
It reported that McBride had come to the area as a far younger man, a real test because there was no railroad and the roads were mere mud trails in the spring.
McBride had operated a clothing store and bowling alley in Milwaukee before retiring. When he came to Phlox in 1907 it was a very busy spot. Besides the sawmill and the hotel, there were three stores, three taverns and a population of about 400 people.
He brought friends to stay at Allright for at least part of the season. The Journal story reported the guest list included legendary attorney and courtroom artist, Clarence Darrow, Chief Justice Marvin Rosenberry of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and assortment of businessmen, authors and lumber men from just about all points in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest.
A lifeline fly fisherman, McBride was known as a conservationist and sportsman.
The Sunday program started with a service on the banks of the Red River, which was McBride’s favorite fishing spot.
The Mattoon High School Band and Evelyn Jansen’s Accordioneers spent the day entertaining the crowd.
The day after the party, the Antigo Daily Journal reported tremendous amounts of beer were consumed, likely by McBride and the friends he attracted.
The Journal reported that when he arrived in Phlox, saw the banners, flags and signs he asked, “What the Hell’s going on here?” When told, he beamed with satisfaction and pride.
The famed Allright, under the direction of Mrs. Matteson, served a big banquet in the evening as the fun and fellowship continued, mostly sparked with the talk of trout fishing as the opening of the season drew ever closer Monday morning.
THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL—The state's big newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal, made it to Phlox for the big McBride Day parade 75 years ago Sunday and printed this photograph of Jack and one of the bands. The Milwaukee businessman was honored for his 32 straight years of fishing the Red River in eastern Langlade County and making headquarters for him and his friends, including Attorney Clarence Darrow, in Phlox. The inset shows the marker today, a curiosity to visitors and anglers on the river.