Ever hear of the nationally recognized sport of "tree sitting"? It was big news back in the summer of 1930 when a handful of Racine kids, no more than 10 years old, competed to see who could sit in a tree the longest. The sport apparently caught on around the country, and Racine was known as its birthplace.
Below is a recap of the news on July 21,1930. I went back 80 years to see if there was any mention of the Great Depression at the time. There was very little about the economy in Racine's two daily papers - the Racine Times-Call and the Racine Journal News - but there was lots on a heat wave that walloped the city. Both papers reported temperatures hitting 104 degrees, an oppressive heat considering most, if any, people had air conditioning at the time. No deaths were reported in Racine, but nationally the heat wave killed dozens.
The newspaper items below are in no particular order, just as I read them in the papers. They're also far from comprehensive of everything in the day's paper. Readers certainly got their money's worth at this time. A paper cost 3 cents and was packed full of local, state and national news.
OK, on with the reports (I added any words in bold) ...
Racine Times-Call - “Racine’s Foremost Newspaper”
Monday, July 21, 1930
Price: 3 cents
Top of the Page: Two St. Louis Flyers Soar Aloft in Attempt to Regain World Endurance Reocrd
Main headline: "HEAT LOOSENS GRIP"
“An easterly wind this morning brought relief to Racine and Wisconsin after the scorching temperature of 104 degrees over Sunday.
But before the respite came old man weather hung up a heat record for July that promises to remain unchallenged here for some time to come. Weather records reveal no heat maximum here as high as 104 degrees for the past 30 years.
Residents sought vainly for relief. Automobile travel was negligible as burning pavements and a hot wind made driving a hardship.
“Thousands at Beach”
Thousands sought municipal beach, where the easiest escape from the scorching sun was obtained, according to Christ Johnson, caretaker.
The sandy stretch that comprises the beach here was dotted with bathers until far into the night Sunday.
With the change of wind today came the possibility of rain that may relieve some of the tension among farmers in the county.
The extensive drought has brought consternation among members of the agricultural fraternity here. Blistering heat of the four-day wave has scorched crops and man alike in the open farm areas. Farmers report large opening in the ground as the result of the intense heat, which has also shriveled crops and otherwise endangered what promised to be a “bumper crop.”
Record Water Consumption
The water pumping station on Reichert court reported a record total of gallons for the four days, according to A.H. Hunting, chief engineer.
Those who took a shower, sprinkled their lawn, or mixed themselves an ice-cold drink, did their share yesterday and the hot days previous in consuming some of the 39,983,631 gallons that were used in the city.
Over Sunday Racine escaped any hot weather tragedies or casualties. No heat prostrations were reported at local hospitals, despite the record mercury rise.
TENNIS CHAMP: Herman Lynch is men’s senior tennis champion today. He won the final match in the senior singles division of the city tournament at the courts of Wisconsin’s Racquet club on Spring street this morning, defeating Joe Kunple 9-7, 6-1.
CITY HALL: shipments of steel for the new city hall were in the city today and construction was started at once. A crew of workmen for the Wisconsin Bridge and Iron company accompanied the steel. Delayed for almost a month the failure of the steel to arrive sooner slowed up the building of the new municipal building considerably. Several weeks will be required to erect the steel, it is believed.
OBIT: Phillip I Hess, 82, native son of Racine, died Sunday afternoon at St. Mary’s hospital after an illness of several months.
He was born Jan. 3, 1848 at the corner of Bridge and Ontario streets, where his father, Henry Hess, a pioneer resident, conducted a blacksmith shop in the days when Racine was but a small village. He lived in Racine all his life, with the exception of a few years spent on a farm in his early youth. Subsequently he became the owner of a meat market on Sixth street, which he conducted for nearly half a century until he retired from active business 12 years ago, and lived a quiet life at his home, 1000 Park avenue.
WATER TANK: Construction of a monster water standpipe or tank west of the city is expected to relieve the low pressure encountered in West Racine and in the southwest section of the city, it was announced today by the water commission.
Cost of the tank will be around $35,000 and represents a major addition to the water facilities. It will be 65 feet high and 85 feet in diameter. (Note: The Racine Journal News had the cost at $145,000.)
Senator W.S. Goodland, president of the commission, Mayor Armstrong, Superintendent Pierce, W.S. Dooley and W.T. Harvey inspected the site and decided that the tank will be erected on the south end of the land recently purchased. The land is about in a line with Fifteenth street and nearly one-half a mile west of the present city limits
TREE SITTERS: Sipping ice cold drinks in their leafy bowers, Racine’s two tree sitters survived the heat wave that swept the city Sunday, and hung up records of 260 and 240 hours respectively this morning.
At 7:15 a.m. Eddie Staskas, 1001 Grove avenue stood 104 degrees of heat that blasted the city, and was still “going strong this morning with 260 hours “in the air,” to his credit.
Following close on Eddie’s heels is Bobby Pritchard in his tree at Fifth street and Lake avenue. Bobby reports 240 hours in the air at 7:30 a.m. today. “I’m sticking it out until I have to come down for school in September, if Eddie does the same thing,” Bobby said today.
Others “Forced Down”
In the meantime, while Bobby and Eddie are hanging up a world’s tree sitting record for Racine, authorities in other sections agreed that the craze is a hazardous “occupation.”
Danger from live wires that loops through trees, the hazard of tumbling out while asleep or fatigued, and the parental paddle, were gaining the upper hand throughout the tree-sitting belt, with the prospect that many of the “endurance flights” would come to a quick and ignominious end.
In El Paso, Tex., Cecilia Schwartau, 10, remained in her tree on the fifth day and claimed the “world’s record for girls.” Cecilia’s record quashes the record set up by DeBorah Bell, of Racine, who can still, however, lay claim to be the first girl tree sitter in the world. DeBorah established 51 hours “in the air” here, during the pioneer days of the “profession” some few weeks ago.
Jimmy Clemons, the 10-year-old Racine boy in whose mind was born the idea that has set the nation’s children endurance mad, paid Milwaukee tree sitters a tribute Sunday by coming to visit them. Among his visits was one to Harold Herder, who had been up for 267 hours and who claimed a record. Jimmy, the original tree sitter, who remained perched in a tree for 36 hours, 15 minutes, climbed into Herder’s tree to congratulate the Milwaukee boy.
RAIN: While Racine hoping against hope for rain, two police detectives got more than their share last night.
Detectives Lester McEnchern and Earl Olson were handed warrants calling for the arrest of a man at Boyd, Wis. … and another for a man in Oconto.
On their way back to Racine, but more than 100 miles from the city, they encountered a miniature tornado, they reported. They wind howled and dispelled the heat from which they suffered earlier in the day. And then it rained.
The rain poured down so hard it was almost impossible to see the road, the detectives reported. The car was covered with blotches of mud from the running board to the top.
CIVIL WAR: Stillwater, Minn. – The faint scent of garden flowers floated from bouquets at the backs of 33 crepe-draped chairs as Charles Lockwood said goodbye today to his companions of battle.
Lockwood kept a promise made 45 years ago. He sipped a toast of vinegar – once choice Burgundy – to the memory of his dead comrades.
Alone at the table with the memories of his Civil War comrades in Company B, First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, Lockwood recited:
“The camp fire smoulders-ashes fall;
The clouds are black against
No tap of drums, no bugle
My comrades, all, goodbye.”
POSSIBLE DROWNING: Fear that a woman was drowned while indulging a midnight swim near the municipal beach last night was expressed by the police today. Police were summoned when a woman living near the beach reported she heard a scream for help about midnight.
DRAMA: Charges against his wife and another man followed a husband’s unexpected return to his home last night while he was recovering today from severe loss of blood caused by a severed artery.
Police raided his home after he made a complaint and was rushed to St. Mary’s hospital for treatment.
He told the officers he came home to find all the lights out and the doors locked. Pounding on the doors he demanded admittance, but there was no response from within. Attempting to force his way in he pushed his hand through a pane of glass with the result that the artery in his right arm was cut.
At this point the police were called and the doors of the home forced open. They found the wife and the other man. Both were brought to the station and charged with disorderly conduct.
The husband’s condition was reported favorable today, although he was considerably weakened by the loss of blood.
VISITORS: Mayor and a party of 11 aldermen and other city officials from Columbus, Ohio, will be in Racine Thursday morning to inspect Racine’s new garbage disposal plant.
The Racine Journal-News = "Circulation of the Journal-NewsReaches Seventy-one Per Cent of the Racine Trading Territory."
Top headline: “Intense Heat Wave Moves East”
DRIVING CONTEST: Official start of the 120-hour second speed endurance drive will be made from the Journal-News building Tuesday afternoon at 4 o’clock. Sheriff John Anderson will handcuff “Speed” Kelly, the driver, to the wheel of the Willy’s Six in which he will attempt to establish the new record. From the Journal-News building, the driver will proceed to Air City airport, where a special track has been constructed for his long drive.
Ed Hedeen, manager of the airport, has completed arrangements and, in addition to providing ample lighting facilities for the night driving, has planned a program of stunts and thrills for persons who visit the field.
Kelly, a veteran of several endurance drives, will attempt to set the new record by driving five days and five nights without a stop. The car has been prepared by mechanics and the machine will be locked in second gear, preventing the shifting of gears. Attendants will be on hand constantly to care for man and machine in their grueling test.
Full view of the driver may be obtained at any time of the day or night as lights have been provided to illuminate the track during the night.
Saturday will mark the first appearance of a glider at the local air field. Hedeen is bringing an experienced man to demonstrate this type of machine which has become very popular throughout the nation. The gliding exhibit will relieve the monotony of the steady drive.
BIKE ENDURANCE: Four North Main street lads have started another contest. They are not interested in tree-sitting and have adopted something different.
Al Leuker, Sylvester Soens, Gordan Melvin and Charles Hemmingsen, all living on North Main street, mounted their “bikes” at 1 o’clock this afternoon in front of the Hemmingsen residence, 3603 North Main street, and started riding.
The lads are going to see which can remain on his bicycle the greatest number of hours. They are riding slowly along North Main street and Michigan boulevard and the cross streets in that district.
LARGEST EGG: Inspired probably by the tree sitters who have been making history here for the past 10 days, Biddy, a Rhode Island hen in the flock of George White, Orchard avenue, went out for a “setting” record herself last Friday and the result is that Mr. White is proudly displaying what is probably the largest egg ever laid in this section. It is eight inches around the middle and weighs three-sixteenth of a pound.
From faint indentures in the shell it appears that Biddy combined three eggs in the record shell. Mr. White, who was born and brought up on a farm, declares that in all his experience he never saw such a ponderous egg.
CRIME EXPLAINED: A new way of reasoning the why of crime was laid before President Hoover’s law-enforcement commission Saturday by a young San Francisco physician who believes the chief factor in all human misbehavior lies in chemical or physical malformation of men’s bodies.
Dr. Ralph A. Reynolds gave his findings from extensive investigation in San Quentin prison to Chairman Wickersham and Commissioner Anderson, in charge of the inquiry into causes of crime.
“Here is a girl, 11 years old,” he exemplified, “who, because of disfunctioning gland, has developed physical characteristics normally attained in 18 years. She has the problems of 18 years and the experience and knowledge of 11 years. Is it any wonder she gets into trouble? Yet, if we did not know her physical defect, we would only condemn or pity her for moral turpitude.”