I knew I’d enjoy interviewing this long-time Wisconsin Dells resident because I’d already heard some of his stories. What I didn’t know is that he’d use his sophisticated webcam to watch me pull into his driveway. Our mystery man, or MM, is 82 years old, but he is up to date with the latest technology. Can you guess who he is? Here are some clues.
MM’s interest in gadgets dates back to his childhood. He recalls climbing up on a step stool, joyously cranking the wall phone in his Dells home and saying, “Hi, Gert, get me Dad at the drugstore.” And Gert would.
In 1908 MM’s grandfather, Mondus, opened a drug store in the Dells on the right-hand side of what is now Nig’s Bar. MM’s father, Gordon, continued the business. After moving across the street, the pharmacy was next to Kleimenhagen & Magoon, a clothing and shoe store. It had a soda fountain where customers could order drinks such as orange creams or chocolate malts.
MM was an only child, as was his father. His mother, whose family worked in a factory that made pearl buttons out of Mississippi clamshells, also came from a small family. MM likes to joke that they could have held a reunion in a telephone booth.
In the 1940s his family lived on River Road (then Highway 13) near what is now “The Vu.” Back then, the Clipper Winnebago was steam-powered. MM would hear the schlop, schlop, schlop of the tour boat’s paddlewheel as it returned from the Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial and hurry outside to watch it navigate its way through the jaws of the Wisconsin River.
MM attended the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. A highlight occurred after a classmate asked him to return a book to a museum curator. While doing so, the curator received a request for a V.I.P. tour and asked MM to help. The V.I.P. was Harry Belafonte.
As an adult, MM owned a photo studio above Nig’s Bar, which was above where his grandfather started the drugstore. He worked for the Chamber of Commerce and was on the academic staff for the University of Wisconsin—Extension specializing in audio-visual services.
At age 61 he married the love of his life. The romance began when he invited Baraboo resident Karen to a wine tasting which included taking home the stemware. He told her he wanted a second wine glass, but his twinkling eyes told me the real story. He followed up by inviting Karen out for his birthday and she followed up by asking if she could give him a birthday hug. MM’s eyes sparkle again as he says, “It went on from there.”
Serving our community and making this world a better place has always been important for MM. He’s been a lifelong member of Bethany Church which, ironically, was chartered the same month of MM’s birth.
I first met MM when I joined Kiwanis. He was a founding member of the Dells high school Key Club, a Kiwanis sponsored organization. He has continued his Kiwanis membership and has been an active participant for 57 years.
So, have you guessed our mystery man? If you haven’t, let’s crank the phone together.
Brrring! Brrring! “This is Gert.”
“Hi, Gert. Would you please connect us to the mystery man?”
“Yes, I will.”
A deep voice answers. “Stuelke’s Drug Store. Steve speaking.”
“Hi, Steve. It’s the Dells’ community thanking you for your many contributions. Let’s meet at the soda fountain. We’d love to join you in a chocolate malt and swap more stories.”