June 12, 2010

Variety and surprises at Monument Square Art Fair

More than 100 artists -- most of them from Wisconsin, but a few from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan (and one each from Florida and Arizona) -- have their craftsmanship and creativity on display at Festival Park, in the mis-named Monument Square Art Fair this weekend.

The art fair continues Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Art, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Here are a few pieces that caught my eye.

Top picture is a glass sculpture by Dan Fenn of Lansing, Iowa. Yes, it reminded me of Dale Chihuly's elaborate glass hangings seen at the Racine Art Museum -- the difference being that Fenn and his wife actually blow the glass themselves (Chihuly is famous for having others make "his" glasswork), and the Fenns' work is affordable. This piece is $600 -- $30 for each of the 20 individual pieces; buy as many as you like and hand-pick the colors. Their website is here.

Gregory Dinauer of Madison makes unusual three-dimensional glass sculptures -- most of those on display doubled as mirrors doubling as "contemporary representations of your favorite city skyline." The large one with leaves and mirrors on the left went for $850. More on his website.

Connie Thompson of Oregon, WI, has been making these original fibre-based dolls for ten years; she estimates that she's created more than 1,200 of the whimsical creations already. Sometimes she knows exactly what will turn out; other times she lets her materials guide her -- as she did with the sea shells that became Athena, left. Athena was priced at $150; Tallulah at right was $125. More at her website.

Look closely at this quilted piece held by artist Joan Ladendorf of Hanover Park, IL. She's been making fabric artwork for more than 20 years, and says she has more than 12,000 pieces of fabric. But that's not what's unusual about the piece she's holding: it's a Mobius Strip, notable for having just one side and one edge. A one-sided quilt, in other words.  Being just one-sided, you might think it took just half the time to create; you'd be wrong. It was selling for $450 as a conversation piece. More on Joan's website.

This set of photos has a hidden message; how long did it take you to figure out? Photographer Laura Spaulding of Racine has created a series of pictures she calls Say It With Fotos, "See it, Say it, Spell it." She says she's constantly stopping the car to take a picture of this landmark or that -- so she can fit it into a word or name series. Her word photos are priced by the letter. The one above is $105. More on her website.

Terry Hunt of Luddington, MI, gave up a career has a custom home builder in favor of creating whimsical wood sculptures. Doors no longer have to fit just so; roofs don't have to be waterproof when he makes his sculptures. The grizzled sailor in the foreground -- he's about four-feet tall -- was priced at $595.

And last -- but certainly not least -- the largest bug we've seen so far this summer. Herb Johnson's metal creation is meant for the garden ... a garden that will scare the birds, dogs and neighborhood kids away. This dragonfly stood about eight feet tall on its stand; its wingspread is 80 inches. Johnson, who teaches jewelry making and metalsmithing to high school kids in Hartland, WI, is asking $1,900 for it. More (and smaller sculptures, too) on his website.

Little dogs run for fun (and for K-9 Cancer)

Deb Cvilicek's Boston terrier, Al, demonstrates his skill in tunnel running
 Photos by Julie A. Jacob
By Julie A. Jacob
For RacinePost

Toy dogs may be small, but they have boundless energy and spunk. More than 50 little dogs showed off their speed and athletic skill and proved that they ca do everything the big dogs can do at the Roy’s Run’s for K-9 Cancer agility event this weekend at the Greater Racine Kennel Club on 6 Mile Road.

Agility is a popular canine sport, in which dogs, guided by signals from their human handlers, jump over fences, leap through tire rings, dash through nylon tunnels, scamper across elevated walks and trot up and down over teeter-totters. They are scored on how accurately and quickly they complete the obstacle course. Dogs who compile a certain number of points over several events are awarded agility titles.

“It’s a great bonding exercise,” said Deb Chvilicek, an agility trainer and chairperson of Roy’s Run,

Although the sport was originally designed for larger dogs, such as border collies, dogs of all sizes now participate in agility. Teacup agility events like this one, which was organized by the Happy Feet K-9 Agility Club in Oak Creek, are limited to dogs no more than 17” tall.

Al lost an ear to skin cancer,
but is now happy and  healthy

But as the name of the event indicates, Roy’s Run for K-9 Cancer had a purpose beyond the camaraderie and fun of an agility meet. Proceeds from the entry fees, concessions, and a raffle are being donated to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine for canine cancer research.

The event is named in honor of Chvilicek’s late Boston terrier, Roy, who died of a brain tumor in 2005. The meet is the first of what she plans to be yearly agility events to raise money for and awareness of canine cancer.

A few years after Roy passed away, another one of Chvilicek's three Boston terriers, Al, was diagnosed with skin cancer. After surgery that included the removal of his right ear, the disease was cured, and now Al is a healthy little dog who enjoys competing in agility events.

The trials continue Sunday, starting shortly after 9 a.m. and running until late afternoon, with a break for lunch.  There's no charge for spectators. Location is a grassy area at the Greater Racine Kennel Club, 6320 Six Mile Road.

Information on teacup dog agility classes and events is available at www.happyfeetagility.com. Donations to the UW School of Veterinary Medicine canine research fund can be made at www.uwfoundation.wisc.edu/giving?seq=9788

This dog enjoys a romp through the obstacle course.

Agility training is a great way for humans and their canine companions
to bond with each other as they work together to complete the course.

The obstacle course included an elevated dogwalk.

Relay participants remember cancer victims
-- and do something to fight the disease

Applause for cancer survivors taking the first lap around the Relay track

As track meets go, the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, now under way at Case High School's Hammes Field, is unique.

Men and women participate; young and old; healthy and ailing; some with a full head of hair, others with a bald pate signifying chemo and radiation treatment. They started walking around the track shortly after 6 p.m. Friday night, and won't finish until about 10 a.m. Saturday morning. Some walk; some are in wheelchairs; some shuffle along in walkers.

Before the Relay started, there were 93 teams registered; 957 individuals. Between them, they had already raised $68,010.88 for the fight against cancer. (Update: They raised $205,000.) Every team promises to have at least one member on the track throughout the night, "because cancer never sleeps."

First around the track Friday night were cancer survivors, many of them wearing purple t-shirts proclaiming their own personal victories: "Had it. Fought it. Survived it." The survivors' lap was followed by a second group, the care-givers, followed by everyone else, all present to fight back against the disease. They marched to bouncy rock 'n roll; the more energetic taking time out for an hour of Zumba.

The track was lined with luminaries celebrating the lives of people who have battled cancer, and remembering loved ones lost. At dusk, candles were lit within each hand-decorated bag bearing the name of a person touched by cancer; participants then walked a lap in silence.

Luminaries celebrated the victories ... and remembered those who lost
Zumba drew scores with boundless energy to spare

Here are three photos taken by Dan White, after the luminaries were lit at 9 p.m.


June 11, 2010

Proposal to save bricks hits a roadblock

Bricks on College Avenue in Racine.

Two aldermen hope to force city contractors to save street bricks uncovered in road projects for the eventual reconstruction of College Avenue.

Aldermen Jeff Coe and Eric Marcus want to write an ordinance requiring the city to save paving bricks found in city construction projects and save them for use when brick streets need repair. They appeared by the City Council's Public Works Committee on Tuesday night to make their case.

Public Works Commissioner Rick Jones opposed the idea. He said many bricks uncovered in the construction project are unusable, it would cost $200,000 to store them for later use and it would slow city construction projects.

Marcus wrote on his aldermanic blog that " at least one non-profit organization in the city that would be willing to get the bricks and store them until needed." He also pointed out that Jones said many bricks were unusable, but also said contractors count on salvaging bricks when bidding on projects.

The committee eventually voted to send the proposal to the council's Committee of the Whole to create a policy for the repair or replacement of brick streets. The policy would include alternatives such as paving over the street, replacing it with concrete or charging homeowners to replace the bricks.

Preserving College Avenue is an ongoing challenge for whoever represents the city's Second District. Homeowners are reluctant to pay the high cost to preserve the brick street, but also don't want to lose the distinct feature. The city doesn't want to cover the entire cost, either.

Marcus's attempt to require recycling city pavers was an attempt to reduce the eventual cost of replacing the street. But the proposal appears to be stalled without Jones' support.

Health Board questions closing fountain

The city shut down the Laurel Clark Fountain over health concerns. Now they're researching if those concerns are founded.

The city's Health Department started testing the fountain's water quality this week, Public Health Commissioner Dottie-Kay Bowersox told the Board of Health on Tuesday.

The tests drew some attention from Board members, who peppered city staff about the need to close down the fountain. Dr. William Little, Dr. John Berge and Dr. Mohammed Rafiullah all raised questions about closing the fountain.

Rafiullah asked if the city could use alternatives to chlorine to treat the fountain's water. Chlorine is corroding the fountain's pipes and damaging its pump.

Marcia Fernholz, director of environmental health, explained the state does not recognize alternative methods for treating water.

Little wondered if the water even needed to be treated. He asked how the city could make a decision without testing the water. That led to a light, but somewhat uncomfortable, exchange with staff. Little said Lake Michigan water isn't treated, and Fernholz replied that the fountain's tank is much smaller than the lake. Little then said that water exposed to the sun is naturally treated.

No action was taken on the issue.

City staff talked about police and the Parks and Recreation Department enforcing the ordinance to keep kids out of the fountain. Some people have ignored, or not seen, signs saying the fountain is closed.

Alderman Bob Mozol said the police should issue tickets to the kids' parents to send a message. Alderman Jim Kaplan said it was an issue of personal accountability.

No word on when the water tests on the fountain will be made public. Even if the water is clean, it's likely the city won't change its decision because of state law.

Outdoor concert season is under way
(with only a partial rain-out)

An enthusiastic audience greeted the Kal Bergendahl Project for the first of this summer's Music on the Monument concerts -- every Friday at 11:30 a.m. at Monument Square.

Bergendahl and his three sidemen played cool jazz to the lunchtime crowd for 45 minutes before a light drizzle began -- and they made it through another 45 minutes with most of the audience intact until the skies opened for a brief shower that ended the outdoor concert 30 minutes early. That's one of the risks of outdoor concerts.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, the summer concert season can continue at full force. Take your pick: We've got free concerts every Thursday at Music & More at the First Presbyterian Church, three free Summer Nights at the Square concerts on the second Saturday of June, July and August (blues veterans Howard & The White Boys tomorrow night), four Animal Crackers concerts at the Zoo on Wednesday nights during July and August, the Racine Symphony Orchestra's Pops Concerts, music on the street each month during the Downtown merchants' First Friday events, and, of course, lots of music at bars and church festivals.

So put the iPod away for a while and get out to hear something new.

Kal Bergendahl gets into it before the rain cut performance a little short

Caron Butler's bike giveaway is July 10

NBA star Caron Butler will return to Racine on July 10th with bikes for city youths.

Kids between 6 and 16 years old are eligible for the free bikes. Registration for the bikes is Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon in the basement at City Hall, 730 Washington Ave.

For more information on the bike giveaway, please call (202) 449-2718.

June 10, 2010

Hispanics fuel Racine County's population growth, according to Census

Racine County's population grew by 497 people from 2008 to 2009, according to US Census figures released Thursday.

The Census estimated 200,601 people lived in Racine County in 2009, up from 200,109 people in 2008. The increase amounts to less than 1 percent.

Hispanics accounted for most of the county's population increase. Racine County's Hispanic population increased by 736 people last year, a 3.5 percent increase over 2008.

The increase was slightly offset by a decline in the county's non-Hispanic population. (Hispanics are considered an ethnicity, not a race, so they are not directly comparable to African Americans, Caucasians, Asians, American Indians and others.)

Non-Hispanics in Racine County declined by 244 people from 2008 to 2009, according to the Census.

Racine County's neighbors saw population increases, as well.

Kenosha County added 1,037 people from 2008 to 2009, according to the Census, while Walworth County added 55 people. Milwaukee County grew by 5,548 people.

Statewide, population grew by 27,164, according to the Census.

The state's Hispanic population grew by 11,200 people, or 0.4 percent, from 2008 to 2009. It's increased 55 percent since 2000.

The state's non-Hispanic population grew by 15,964 people, or 0.3 percent, according to the Census. It's grown by 3.6 percent since 2000.

Countryside offers clinics to revaccinate pets

Countryside Humane Society is holding vaccination clinics this week for pets that received expired rabies vaccinations from the shelter.

The clinic is scheduled at Countryside on Friday, June 11 from 4-6 p.m. and Saturday, June 12 from 1-3 p.m.

The shelter is scrambling to address the fallout of a discovery that has left hundreds of local pet owners wondering if their animals were properly vaccinated. Local news site Racine Uncovered broke the story back on May 27. Countryside responded the next day with a press release copping to the expired vaccinations. (They also appear to have fired the employee who brought the problem to light.)

On Monday the city's Finance Committee voted to put its animal control contract out for bid, something it hadn't done for at least five years. The last time the city asked for bids Countryside was the only agency to respond. The services are considered too expensive for the city to offer on its own.

Pets that received expired vaccinations include:
  • Animals vaccinated at Countyrside with the 1-year rabies vaccine with the Serial Number S832529, between February 21, 2010 and May 26, 2010
  • Animals vaccinated with the 3-year vaccine with the Serial Number S830707, that were vaccinated between December 10, 2009 and May 26, 2010
Pet owners can check the Countryside Humane Society Rabies Certificate. The number is listed under Lot #. If a pet owner finds their animal has been vaccinated with one of these expired vaccines, they need to contact Countryside Humane Society at (262) 554-6699 immediately.

June 9, 2010

Police chief closing in on a new four-year contract

Police Chief Kurt Wahlen (second from right) talks with Public Works Commissioner Rick Jones, City Attorney Rob Weber (far left) and Information Systems Director Paul Ancona (far right). WRJN reporter Tom Karkow looks on.  

Police Chief Kurt Wahlen is negotiating a new contract with the city, according to sources.

Wahlen was hired in September 2006. His current contract runs out later this summer. Sources say Wahlen is close to reaching a new four-year deal to continue leading the city's police department.

The Police and Fire Commission, which is responsible for oversight of the chief and the department, discussed Wahlen's contract at its April 20 meeting. (Minutes of the meeting are not posted on the city's website.)

The commission is scheduled to next meet on July 13. No agenda has been released for the meeting.

City returned West Racine grant to preserve development options

Last week we reported on an oddity in West Racine: The city actually returned a $40,000 brownfield grant awarded by the state in 2007 to remediate a small plot of land in the neighborhood.

Alderman Jim Spangenberg clarified what happened this week. The city received the money to pave over a small lot at 3124 Washington Ave., near the corner of West Boulevard and Washington Avenue. The idea was to create a small square for public use, similar to a smaller Monument Square.

The city returned the grant after learning that it's not allowed to sell the property for 20 years after the money is spent. The restriction was unacceptable because the city hopes to redevelop the site, which could require selling the plot of land, Spangenberg said.

So, it ultimately came down to the city reading the fine print and realizing the grant wasn't a good fit for the long-term plans for the area.

Beach weather, finally! (And all that brings)

Beautiful weather drew big crowds to North Beach on Wednesday, and that comes with a large gathering of people.

While many people enjoyed Racine's sandy treasure, others apparently decided to fight near the North Beach Oasis and Kids Cove playground. Racine Uncovered has details of a wild afternoon at the beach.

Several police officers, including the K9 unit, were called to the area to control a rowdy crowd. By 8pm, all access to the beach was shut down to disperse the crowd, but a large group of people continued to cause problems on Barker Street around 9:15 p.m.

The problems aren't a surprise to police. The City Council voted last week to allow Chief Kurt Wahlen to spend an additional $33,000 on bike patrols for North Beach.

The JT is reporting few problems at the beach, saying the last-day-of-school went "relatively smoothly" on North Beach.

Police or not, thousands of people enjoyed themselves at North Beach Wednesday. Here's a few snaps that show the fun:

21st Century Prep students perform at State Capitol

 Sixty students from 21st Century Preparatory School perform at the State Capital on June 2. The students, grades K-8, were part of the school's Suzuki Strings group.

On Wednesday, June 2, sixty Suzuki Strings students from 21st Century Preparatory School traveled to Madison where they performed a recital at the State Capitol.

This was the first time that students from 21st Century Prep performed at the Capitol and they were thrilled by the experience. Members of the Suzuki Strings are in kindergarten through 8th grade, and they performed a variety of selections that were warmly received by visitors in attendance.

Mrs. Terry Hill, teacher at 21st Century Prep and director of the Suzuki Strings was impressed with the acoustics of the capitol, and compared it to playing at Carnegie Hall. Mrs. Hill commented, “The students were just amazing and did an outstanding job performing. We were so pleased with how well they played and how well everything came together."

RacinePost contest! Name these signs in West Racine

 Think you know West Racine? Prove it by entering RacinePost's sign scavenger hunt.

The image above is a collection of pictures of letters taken from signs outside of businesses in West Racine. Identify what signs each of the letters come from and email the list to: racinepost@gmail.com.

If you're the first person to correctly identify all 10 letters, you'll win a $20 gift certificate from Wilson's Coffee and Tea. All entries that get the 10 letters correct will receive a RacinePost bumper sticker and window cling.

The deadline to enter is June 30. If no one gets all 10 letters correct, the winner will be based on the most correct letters. Ties will be broken based on who entered first. 

Good luck and happy hunting!

p.s. Here's a few tips ...

1. If you click on the image above you'll get a larger picture.
2. All signs are located between West Blvd and Blaine Ave.
3. All signs can be seen from sidewalks.

Update: We have a winner! 10-year-old Sophia Torosian was the first to name all 10 signs correctly. She wins a $10 gift certificate to Wilson's Coffee and Tea. Proud mom Sue wrote in that Sophia new three of the letters before they left the house, and answered the rest on a walk through West Racine.

Thanks to all who entered! And, here's the correct answers for the sign above:

W - from the West Racine Farmer's Market sign
E - Bendtsen's Bakery
S - DeRango's
T - Copy Cat Music

R - REA Building
A - Roots and Legends
C - Molbeck's
I - Infusino's
N - Nelson's
E - Larsen's

June 8, 2010

Bowersox brings energy, fresh ideas to Racine Health Department

Board of Health meeting, June 8, 2010.

Public Health Nurse Dottie-Kay Bowersox is hitting her stride as the head of Racine's Health Department.

Bowersox (no relation to the American Idol finalist) started working for the city in February. She's spent the last four months getting acquainted with the department and is working with employees to prioritize recommendations for improving the department and what she should be working on.

Along with conceptual planning Bowersox has made concrete changes to the department. In May she organized the first of four closure dates for the department to focus on planning and cleaning. The department shut down to the public on a Thursday and used the day to throw out old materials and clean areas for the first time in many years.

Bowersox wrote to city employees:
I am pleased to announce that Health Department personnel were the heroes of the day and made a significant dent in reducing unwanted /unnecessary materials. This is the first time in many years this type of event has happened. So when you see the recycling, shredder and / or equipment trucks leaving the back parking lot full … you have us to thank for it.
The Health Department will also be closed on July 29, Sept. 30 and Nov. 18 - all Thursdays. The cleaning and organizing dates portend a big change for the health department, according to Bowersox's monthly report to the Board of Health. Bowersox said the department may be moving to a new location by the end of the year.

She also brought an innovative idea with her from Michigan. Bowersox and the Health Department are organizing a small Farmers' Market outside of City Hall beginning in July for people who receive fresh produce vouchers from WIC. The idea is to catch recipients as they walk out of City Hall, where they pick up the vouchers, and get them shopping for healthy foods.

Bowersox located two local farmers who are certified by the state to sell produce outside of City Hall. Sales will be open to the public, but the focus will be on WIC recipients, she said.

A similar program Bowersox oversaw in Michigan had success, she said.

Bowersox drew compliments from Board of Health members at their Tuesday meeting. The board liked her monthly report, calling it informative and helpful.

It appears to be a solid turnaround for a department that struggled for over a year under the past public health nurse, who was essentially fired by the City Council. Her departure left a leadership void in the department existing staff filled for several months until Bowersox was hired.

The decision, so far, appears to be working out.

A couple of other Health Department notes:

BUDGET: The city will start work on its 2011 budget in July. Departments are already meeting on their spending plans for next year, and they'll receive direction from Mayor John Dickert and City Administrator Tom Friedel on what to expect for spending next year.

COUNTRYSIDE: Bowersox was talking with Countryside Humane Society as news broke that hundreds of pets received expired vaccinations. Her report said 507 animals vaccinated on the one-year cycle and an unknown number of pets on the 3-year cycle would need to be revaccinated. Countryside has scheduled four clinics over the next four months to revaccinate animals.

INFANT MORTALITY: Awhile back a Madison newspaper used a former Racine resident's story to highlight the city's significant decline in its infant mortality rate, particularly among African-American mothers. The story suggested the woman moved from Racine to Madison and received better care, which allowed her to give birth to a healthy baby after miscarrying in Racine. It also celebrated Madison's success at lowering its rate. That celebration was put on hold late last year when it was revealed Madison's infant mortality rate had shot back up, erasing all of its gains in a single year. Researchers don't know why, and they're hoping it was just a bad year.

Milwaukee legislator rips Simanek for 'absurd' drunken driving sentence

A Milwaukee state representative is ripping Racine Judge Stephen Simanek for sentencing a drunken driver to 2 1/2 years in prison for killing a Racine woman who was riding her bicycle.

State Rep. Josh Zepnick called Simanek's sentence "absurd" and said the judge should be "ashamed" of himself.

"The maximum sentence available to Simanek was 25 years and instead he chose to issue an incredibly weak and worthless 30 MONTHS!," Zepnick wrote in a prepared statement released Tuesday.

Zepnick has made a career of fighting for stronger drunken driving sentences. His sister Jamie was killed while riding a bike in 1990 by a drunken driver.

In Racine, Janell Gehrke killed Nancy Sellars in 2008 in a drunken driving crash. Simanek sentenced Gehrke to prison on Monday, saying he wanted to make an example of her.

Zepnick said Simanek failed to send that message.

"What is frightening is the total disrespect for justice that Simanek handed down yesterday," Zepnick wrote. "Just recently, Judge Simanek issued a 3 year sentence for Racine Mayor Gary Becker. While Becker's actions are sick and destructive, Becker never killed anyone, yet he gets a longer sentence than someone who flew down the highway at 50mph and never stopped after killing a bicyclist!"

Zepnick said the Legislature has increased the maximum penalty for drunken driving, but is reliant on judges to enforce the higher maximum sentences.

"We did our work in the Legislature and I hope the public speaks up about this mismatch between the public mandate for seeing fewer victims like Nancy Sellars ... and the actions of Judge Simanek who undermine public safety with absurd decisions."

Celebrating 175 years: The story of 'Lucky' Baldwin

I discovered a wonderful feature on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's website this morning. The paper has a searchable digital archive of its editions dating back to 1884, and it's entirely free.

I used the search engine to find the earliest story possible from Racine. That honor goes to the colorful, scandalous life story of "Lucky" Baldwin, a Racine bar tender turned millionaire. Baldwin moved west from Racine, struck it rich in the gold rush, lost it all, and then made it all back and then some in the stock market. Along the way he was married four times and shot by a girlfriend.

Here's a more thorough account of Baldwin, and an excerpt: 
Before leaving for his tiger hunting he had given his broker instructions to sell his shares of the Hale & Norcross Mine when it reached the price he had paid for it - eight hundred dollars a foot. On his return to San Francisco he learned that the mine had hit another bonanza and its value had climbed to twelve thousand dollars a foot. Thinking that at least he had made recouped his investment, he went to his broker's office and learned that the stock had not been sold. He had locked it in his safe before leaving for India and the broker could not get to it to sell at eight hundred dollars as Baldwin had instructed. The "error" had made him a multi-millionaire overnight. Although there are many other incidents of good fortune in Baldwin's life, this incident is thought to have been how he first got the nickname "Lucky."
And this account suggests Baldwin's coast still haunts land he owned in California. Baldwin (pictured right) lives on to this day as the namesake of a pub in Balwin Hills, Calif.

Search the archives yourself here. I'd love to see the Racine Public Library, the JT or some other historically minded entity put together a similar project for Racine's historic newspapers. Many can be scanned right from microfiche, which the newspaper and Racine Heritage Museum own. Technology allows for papers to be scanned, converted into searchable text and placed online in a user-friendly way.

Google helped the J-S and other newspapers create historical archives, splitting revenue from ads that run alongside the archives. Grants also may be available to help with digitalization costs.

Placing Racine's old newspapers in one searchable archive would be a remarkable aid to anyone curious about the city's history.

June 7, 2010

Celebrating 175 years: 'Vibrator Capitol of the World'

Standard Electric Works Factory, 1313 12th St. 

By Gerald L. Karwowski, www.racinehistory.com

Few people today know the story of the Racine business men who were instrumental in changing the world with their labor saving devices. Things we use every day like mixers, hair dryers, vacuums and vibrators were items they helped create.

Racine became known as “The Fractional Electric Motor Capitol of the World” because of the number of high-quality small motors manufactured here.

Racine could also be called the “Vibrator Capitol of the World,” because there were at least seven companies that manufactured vibrators here. Major companies that were known all over world like Hamilton-Beach, Oster, Allover, Master, Arnold, Andis and Racine Electric Co.

The booming small electric motor industry Racine enjoyed for many decades all started when Frederick Osius established the United States Standard Electric Works , April 19, 1904 with a capitol of $25,000, F. J. Osius, Pres; C.K. Carpenter, V-pres; George Schmitz, sec/ treas; to develop and manufacture small electric products in rented space on the 4th floor of the Secor Building at 245 Main Street ( Main Place). The company’s first product was a massage vibrator which was patented by Fred Osius and marketed as medical device for doctors. In early advertisements they were marketed as Dr. Arnold’s Massage Vibrators with the tagline, “Get Well and Keep Well Without Drugs."

In 1909 the company expanded and constructed a new three-story 50,000 square foot brick factory at 1218 Washington Avenue to manufacture and assemble their growing line of electrical products.

Within the year everything suddenly changed when the company sold the rights to a vacuum cleaner they invented for $300,000 to the McCrum-Howell Co., which also bought the new manufacturing plant. During the chain of events Osius sold out to his business partners and the Standard Electric Works moved next door in a smaller factory building at 1313 12th St. in January 1910.

When McCrum-Howell went bankrupt a few years later Standard Electric Works purchased their building back an by 1915 it was re-incorporated as Arnold Electric Co.; capital of $100,000; George Schmitz, Pres; Joseph Schmitz, sec-treas.

In April of 1910 Frederick Osius (left) founded his new company Hamilton-Beach to manufacture quality electrical products.

Chester Beach’s daughter Ella said, “ Osius paid my father and Louis Hamilton $1,000 each to use their names for his new company.” The pair left Standard Electric and joined Osius in the new corporation which was located in rented space in the Greene Manufacturing building at 1028 Douglas Avenue. The first products were a line of high-quality vibrators, small motors and their new “Cyclone Drink Mixer." The mixer was designed to agitate Horlick’s Malted Milk and it was the first practical electric drink mixer of its kind in the world. Chester Beach is credited for his inventive genius in developing the new Universal high-speed fractional motor used in the products. However, the Osius, Beach and Hamilton connection was short lived. By 1913 Chester Beach and Louis Hamilton both had left the firm and founded their own business Wisconsin Electric Company (Dumore).

Hamilton-Beach continued to grow under Osius’s leadership adding dozens of new products like sewing machine motors, fans and vacuums. In 1915, the company expanded building a new factory on Rapids Drive to keep up with the growing demand.

In 1922, Osius sold the Company to Scovill Mfg. for an unknown amount and moved to Miami, Fla. where he built a pretentious home on Millionaires' Row. Osius was quite the eccentric. He refused to have a telephone in his mansion. He said, “The friends who particularly want to see me will come to the house.”

1911 drawing of the Mc Crum-Howell (Arnold Building) at 1218 Washington Ave.

In 1931 Hamilton-Beach bought Arnold Electric Company and blended the Arnold products into the Hamilton-Beach product lines. Through the following decades the company ran smoothly with mixers being restyled every few years with a lot of chrome added during the 1950s and '60s. In 1968 the company closed the Racine plant.

A former Hamilton Beach Employee credits the Hamilton-Beach electric knife as the reason the company closed their plant in Racine. He said, “It was a instant success” and Scovill explored ways to capitalize on that product to make even more profits." 

At the time southern states were offering great incentives for business who would move. Hamilton-Beach took advantage of their offers which put an end to the era of Hamilton-Beach manufacturing in Racine.

Fight over CAR25 consultant may change city law

Remember the fights earlier this year about the mayor hiring a public information officer and trying to hire a consultant for CAR25?

Both may be history if the City Council approves a change in how the city bids out contracts for professional services. Aldermen Terry McCarthy and Greg Helding won support Monday night for their proposal to require the city to bid out any professional services contract that exceeds $25,000. Right now professionals services, such as legal fees and consultants, are exempt from competitive bids.

The council's Finance and Personnel Committee approved the new bidding process Monday. Along with requiring bids for contracts over $25,000, the new policy also directs the city's purchasing manager to secure and record three informal bids for contracts under $25,000, if practical.

The new ordinance is expected to effect about 12 city contracts. Legal fees that average less than $50,000 per year of a contract are exempt under the proposed changes.

The bidding process came under review earlier this year after controversy arose over Mayor John Dickert's plans to award a $40,000 no-bid contract to a local TV producer to overhaul CAR 25. The mayor was also questioned about awarding RAMAC a contract to hire PIO Mark Eickhorst for $25,000 without taking bids.

Both contracts would require competitive bids under Helding and McCarthy's proposal.

City Council votes to revoke 16th Street gas station's liquor license; AD Petroleum heads to due process hearing

A gas station with a reputation for selling liquor after 9 p.m. appears ready to change its ways.

AD Petroleum at 1917 16th St. got a stern warning from the city Monday night after a police officer organized four undercover stings catching the store in the act of breaking state law, which requires convenience to stop selling liquor at 9 p.m. 

The store has broken the law repeatedly over the years, according to a police officer who appeared before the Public Safety and Licensing Committee Monday night. The officer said a fatal car accident in the 1700 block of 16th Street was cause, at least in part, because the driver was going to AD Petroleum to buy alcohol at 11:20 p.m. 

"The suspect wouldn't have been in the neighborhood if they couldn't have purchased alcohol (at AD Petroleum)," the officer said. 

Police also said a shooting at AD Petroleum in 2008 was related to AD Petroleum selling liquor after hours. That incident drew a personal rebuke from Police Chief Kurt Wahlen. 

Attorney Franklyn Gimbel criticized the city for how it handled violations against AD Petroleum, which is owned by Kamaljit and Deepinder Dhaliwal. He said the eight violations documents by police were delivered to the Dhaliwals at one time. If they had been delivered individually, shortly after they occurred, the owners would have fixed the problem after the first offense. 

But Gimbel also conceded there was merit to the city's concerns. He said the Dhaliwals had already started covering its liquor section with a curtain at 9 p.m. to clearly show it is not available, and posted a sign telling people when liquor sales end.

Gimbel added the Dhaliwals would voluntarily turn in their liquor license if they are caught selling liquor after hours again.

"There has certainly been a wake up call for Mr. Dhaliwal about the risks of sloppy liquor sale management," Gimbel said.

The police officer who organized the undercover stings said he had personally warned Dhaliwal about selling liquor after 9 p.m. He also told the committee he had statements from neighborhood residents who are concerned about AD Petroleum, but Gimbel objected to the officer sharing the statements and committee Chairman Aron Wisneski agreed. Wisneski said he would rather have the residents state their concerns in person.

"I don't think the alderman understand the scope of the effect on the neighborhood," the officer told the committee.

The committee voted 3-0 to reach a "side agreement" with AD Petroleum to curb after-hour sales. The agreement will be drafted by City Attorney Rob Weber and Gimbel, and then return to the Public Safety and Licensing Committee for approval.

Update: The City Council voted 7-5 Tuesday night to try and take AD Petroleum's liquor license. The council voted to reject the side agreement with the gas station and head to a due process hearing, which is basically a trial with the city presenting a case to revoke the license.

WRJN's Tom Karkow has a report on the meeting. He described debate over AD Petroleum of at times being "heated."

June 6, 2010

Forget the gym; garden gives a good workout!

Photos by Kandy Meyers

Who needs the gym, when you can work out in the garden?

Competitors from the Biggest Losers contest at Anchor Fitness worked out for 90 minutes at the Racine Urban Garden Network's new community garden Saturday morning. Instead of barbells and weight machines, they raced back and forth, hauling wheelbarrows full of mulch to the gardens, and then spread it to a depth of six inches.

Meanwhile, one member of each team was mowing -- with an old push mower.

They kept up a steady pace for the whole hour and a half, and did such a good job that everyone got immunity for the effort, and none was kicked off the team.

At the end they said it was one of their hardest workouts.

The garden site is at 8th and Marquette. For information about reserving your own plot, go to the RUGN website.

Photo by Sherri Myers Wray

Carnival has moved on, but the memories remain

Regency Mall's parking lot is relatively quiet again, and that's a shame.

For the past few days, it's been a cacaphony of sound: shrieks of fear mixed with cries of pleasure. Mechanical sounds: the clicking, cranking, whooshing of big machines. Child sounds: tears of denial, whining, happy sounds.

Meanwhile, the colors of the carnival were everywhere -- thousands of lights at night, bright enamel colors of midway rides everywhere you looked -- left, right, straight up in the air. With names like Pharoh's Fury, Zero Gravity, Bumble Bee Bop, Freak Out and Cliff Hanger. Rides that sometimes lasted barely 90 seconds -- yes, we're talking about you, Freak Out -- but that was long enough.

And now it's gone. The carnival rides and all that oh-so-bad-for-you, but-oh-so-delicious food (cotton candy, candy apples, hot dogs, pizza, soda) have moved on to Brookfield, or somewhere else. (Along with the Midway "games" in which the truly skillful or very lucky have a chance to win a useless prize worth less than the entry price.) But have no fear; other carnivals will take its place, if not at Regency Mall, then at one of the myriad church festivals. The fun of summer usually lasts all summer, and this is just the beginning.

Check our Kiosk for lots more fun. And in the meantime, enjoy the pictures from Regency Mall's now-departed carnival. And ask yourself, if that had been you swinging near the top of Pharoh's Fury, would you have been text-messaging?