When the United States was drawn into World War II by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the war effort was put forth by everyone from soldiers at the front to school children at home. Young Edward J. Mulqueen of Cudahy, Wisconsin, wanted to do his part, so he donated his prized hunting knife to the U.S. military.
An 11-year-old student at St. Frederick’s Catholic School, Mulqueen read about the shortages of materials for the war effort. Newspapers carried pleas for donation of quality knives, since the hardened steel used in the blades was scarce. Eddie didn’t hesitate. In late 1942, he carefully packaged up his knife and mailed it to the address published in the newspaper. He was proud to do his part. After all, with two brothers headed for the Pacific theater (and later a third) he had a personal stake in the fight.
He might have forgotten about the donation, but two letters from the U.S. military, one from a general and one from a corporal, set his heart to soaring. The first letter, dated January 21, 1943, thanked Eddie for his thoughtfulness. “Words themselves cannot fully express our gratitude,” wrote Maj. Gen. Barney M. Giles, commander of the Fourth Air Force. “However, when the battles are over and our boys are home again, we all will thrill at the tales of how they were used.”
Giles was not just some Army bureaucrat. He was commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Force in the Pacific, who later became deputy commander of the entire U.S. Army Air Force. Giles worked alongside legendary war heroes, including Adm. Chester Nimitz,Lt. Gen. James Doolittle and Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold. He closed his letter to Mulqueen this way: “This much I know. With your gift goes another weapon that will certainly do much to help our boys slap the Japs into a complete and lasting tailspin.”
The next letter, from a U.S. Army Air Force officer in February 1943, was especially meaningful to Eddie. “He wished he had a hundred, yes even a thousand knives to donate,” read an article in the Cudahy Reminder/Enterprise. “His knife was seeing action and was being useful to one of our service men fighting in the Pacific.”
Stationed in the Fiji Islands, Cpl. Lucas R. Boyson was glad to receive the knife sent all the way from Wisconsin. Boyson, 29, was even more impressed that an elementary school student was behind the donation. “I was fortunate to receive your knife and to say it was a treat would be to put it mildly,” Boyson wrote in a letter to Mulqueen on February 14, 1943. “It is grand to cut stalks of sugar cane or bamboo sticks and for that matter general miscellaneous uses. I shall carry it with me always and each time I use it, I’ll whisper a ‘thanks to Eddie.’ ”
A married enlistee from Elyria, Ohio, Boyson was serving with the 375th Air Base Squadron, part of the U.S. Army air corps. He was among the first wave of men from Lorain County, Ohio to volunteer for service in January 1941. He wrote to Eddie that the natives on the islands were impressed with the knife, compared with the “hand-pounded, crude machetes they carry with them in the jungles.”
We don’t know if Boyson ever used the knife in combat, but we do know he survived the war and returned to Ohio, where he lived an exemplary life of faith and public service. On February 28, 1946, Lucas and WilhelminaBoyson welcomed a baby daughter, Mina. Lucas was an attorney who became actively involved with his American Legion post, St. Jude Catholic Church and a variety of civic groups and causes. At one time he headed the Lorain County Bar Association. He was also a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, a group with a special focus on patriotism. Boyson died on December 5, 1992 at age 78.
Inspired by the wartime service of three brothers and one sister, Eddie joined the U.S. Navy and served during the Korean War. After the war, he got married and started a job at Wisconsin Electric Power Co. He was an electrician for many years. Eddie and his wife Marie had three children. The couple later moved to Michigan, where Eddie died in August 1991 at age 60.
Our newest “Eye on the Past” feature photo shows a charming little grocery store located about 1.5 miles west of Lake Michigan in Waukegan, Illinois. Wilson’s Food Store was located at 1814 Grand Avenue, operated by my Dad’s aunt and uncle, Nina (Treutel) Wilson and Lawrence Wilson. Nina was a younger sister of my Grandmother Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman.
The Wilson family, including children Steve and Laurni Lee, operated the grocery in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The family living quarters were behind the store. Any time someone entered, a bell rang in the back and family members took turns waiting on customers. Shown on the right side of the photo are Laurni Lee (Wilson) Breedlove and Steve Wilson. Emma (Treutel) Carlin (1877-1962) is holding baby Bonnie (Treutel) Young. In front of them is Bonnie’s older sister, Patricia (Treutel) Anderson. Emma was Nina and Ruby’s aunt from Arpin, Wisconsin. Bonnie and Patricia are Laurni Lee and Steve’s cousins.
Lawrence Wilson was a longtime chemist and plant superintendent at Pfanstiehl Laboratories in Waukegan. I distinctly remember Uncle Laurie and Aunt Nina coming to my wedding in December 1990 in Racine, Wisconsin. Somewhere I have a video of them arriving at the reception at Racine’s Memorial Hall. After retirement, the couple moved to Arizona. Lawrence died in 2001, and Nina passed away in 2005.
The little brick building in the photo still stands, although over the years it was extended on both sides to include other businesses. The vintage metal signs in the photo advertised Orange Crush and 7up soda. Window stickers promoted Sealtest ice cream, Hydrox sandwich cookies, and produce (cut corn, green beens, wax beans and broccoli).
It was just the kind of wartime story that made an emotional impact on Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. Three Irish brothers serving in World War II appeared together to promote the sale of war bonds at a series of rallies in November 1944. Two were home on leave from the front and one was about to embark on his first overseas tour of duty.
There they stood on stage, the baby-faced Thomas “Tinker” Mulqueen still in naval training, the serious Marine Cpl. Earl J. Mulqueen Jr., on crutches due to the loss of his left leg above the knee, and the curly-haired redhead, Patrick J. Mulqueen, home from more than 18 months at sea with the U.S. Navy.
“Maybe it is because they are Irish, or maybe it is because they look so much like little boys—or maybe it is because everyone at one time or another, lost his heart to an Irish grin,” wrote The Milwaukee Journal in a front-page story on November 10, 1944. “But no matter what the reason, more and more persons every day are agreeing that the Mulqueen brothers, Tommy, Earl and Patrick, are among the greatest things which ever happened to Milwaukee.”
The impact the boys had was most evident at a bond rally at Schuster’s Department Store on Milwaukee’s North 3rd Street. The event got off to a slow start. Ben Barkin, head of the local war finance committee (later a legendary Milwaukee PR man and founder of the Great Circus Parade) was worried. That all changed when the Mulqueen boys took to the stage. “They are so cute,” one woman said. “They look like little boys playing soldier.”
Now the crowd was interested. Barkin introduced the lads. The 17-year-old Tommy was first to step forward and said simply, “You buy the bonds and the Mulqueens will win the war.” Considering he had yet to set foot in a combat zone, such as statement could have been viewed as a “wisecrack by a fresh kid,” The Journal wrote. But it wasn’t. “When Tommy said it, you knew he was telling the solemn truth,” the paper wrote. (Tinker went on to serve as a sailor on the fleet oiler USS Mattaponi.)
Earl talked about the war. At 21, he had seen more fierce combat than most would ever see. He fought at Guadalcanal and Tarawa with the 2nd Marine Division. Those were two of the bloodiest, deadliest battles of the entire Pacific war. Earl was a mortar crewman, so he was right at the front.
Earl was helping prepare an invasion fleet for the 1944 assault on the Mariana Islands when his landing ship-tank (LST) blew up at Pearl Harbor. The massive chain explosion caused the loss of many ships and resulted in hundreds of casualties. Because of the preparations underway for the invasion of Saipan, the Pearl Harbor disaster was a classified secret until the 1960s. So Earl was only able to say that he “almost made it to Saipan.” (Details of Earl’s war service and loss of his leg in the West Loch disaster will be the focus of a future Archive story.)
Patrick spoke of his experience as a firemanaboard the light cruiser USS Concord (CL-10). He enlisted on August 7, 1942 and by March 1943 was among the compliment of 700 aboard the Concord. The ship escorted reinforcement convoys in the southern Pacific, and prowled the dangerous, icy waters of the north Pacific. The Concord was involved in numerous bombardments of the Kurile Islands. During 1943, the Concord was on a surveying mission of the South Pacific with retired Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, the famous explorer. The ship visited Tahiti, Bora Bora and the Easter Islands. A huge explosion onboard on October 7, 1943 took the lives of 22 crewmen. Caused by ignition of gasoline fumes at the rear of the ship, the explosion threw some men overboard, while others were killed from concussion, burns, fractured skulls and broken necks. On October 8, those men were buried at sea. After participating in bond rallies in Milwaukee, Patrick was assigned duty on the USS Crockett (APA148), a Haskell class amphibious attack transport. The USS Crockett had just been commissioned on November 28, 1944.
The crowd at Schuster’s quickly figured out that these “boys” had seen and experienced the horror of war. “It was simple and short,” The Journal wrote. “No frills. No hero stuff, no dramatics—nothing but a couple of kids, one on crutches, asking people to buy and sell bonds.” The stories of the Mulqueen boys had the desired effect. Barkin exclaimed, “You know, the bond drive is going to come out all right.” He was right, for the Schuster’s bond drive raised more than $500,000.
Schuster’s was just one of many venues at which the Mulqueen boys spoke. At some rallies, they were joined by their mother, Margaret “Madge” Mulqueen, who was deeply involved with the war effort through the Wisconsin chapter of the Marine Corps League. She had four blue stars displayed in the window of the Mulqueen home at 3854 E. Cudahy Avenue in Cudahy — one for each of the three boys and one for her daughter Margaret, a Navy nurse based in San Diego.
The bond drives were a crucial part of the home-front effort in World War II. Across the nation, eight war-bond drives between 1942 and 1945 raised more than $190 billion. Investors purchased $25 bonds for $18.25. Bonds were redeemable after 10 years. Companies sponsored in-house bond rallies, and employees pledged purchases through payroll deduction. Children were encouraged to buy 25-cent war stamps to save up for their own war bond. Special sections of local newspapers were dedicated to promoting bond sales. On the radio, popular programs such as Fibber McGee and Molly dedicated entire episodes to war bonds and other home-front efforts.
Earl Mulqueen and Army T/Sgt. Louis C. Koth appeared at such a corporate event at Oshkosh B’Gosh Inc. on November 30, 1944. They were introduced by company president Earl W. Wyman. Koth was a radio operator aboard a U.S. Army Air Force B-17 bomber that was shot down during a mission over Schweinfurt, Germany. Koth was on his third mission in a B-17 Stratofortress when he was forced to parachute into enemy territory. Taken prisoner and repatriated 11 months later, Koth lost his right arm. Koth began participating in the bond tours shortly after being released from a hospital in Madison in the fall of 1944.
Koth and Earl Mulqueen toured Oshkosh Motor Truck Inc. and Universal Motor Co. Later they were interviewed live on radio station WOSH by local bond chairman Richard J. White. “Both of these boys are giving freely of their time to help the sixth war loan campaign,” White said. “They have made sacrifices beyond any that we are being asked to make, and although they will not see action again, they are both anxious to do whatever they possibly can to see that ammunition does not have to be rationed at the front.”
The bond rallies helped explain the costs of supplying the troops. Toothbrushes cost 8 cents each. A hand grenade was $1.56. An anti-tank shell cost nearly $3. A Garand rifle was $55. A 1,000-pound bomb cost $250, while a 75-mm Howitzer cost $11,350. A PT boat cost the military $145,000, while a 1,630-ton destroyer had a price tag of $10 million. A fully outfitted battleship cost $97 million. Bond drives supplied the U.S. government with needed cash, while giving ordinary citizens a concrete way to participate in the war effort.
Largely due to Barkin’s tireless efforts, Milwaukee’s World War II war-bond drives became a model for the nation. Described by The Milwaukee Journal as an “ace ward bond salesman,” Barkin was honored as Milwaukee’s man of the year in 1945 by the Milwaukee Junior Chamber of Commerce. For his $1 annual salary, Barkin popped up just about everywhere in Milwaukee: schools, churches, civic clubs and businesses. The 28-year-old was unable to enlist due to a disability, so he threw his energy into raising money for the war effort. Doctors told him to slow down, but the pitchman didn’t listen. He gave more than 1,000 speeches each year as head of the community division of the war finance committee.
“Let’s show Milwaukee what their money is buying,” Barkin said in 1943. He organized a “Wings for Victory” parade of tanks, jeeps, artillery and other hardware to do just that. Funds from the rally after the parade were used to buy military transport planes for Mitchell Field. Barkin convinced Milwaukee to rename Wisconsin Avenue “War Bonds Drive” for the duration of World War II, a practice later adopted in dozens of other cities. He understood the importance of having soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines tell their stories. The results were often heart-rending. He told the story of a Milwaukee woman who stood in line for two hours to buy a war bond for her boy, serving in North Africa. Her husband had just died two days prior. “Doggone it,” Barkin told Walter Monfried of The Milwaukee Journal,“that kinds of gets you, doesn’t it?”
So Barkin knew when the Mulqueen boys stepped on stage, the people would dig deeply into their pockets to support the war. “No matter what the mood of the meeting before the kids talk,” The Journal wrote, “when they finish, that meeting is sure of going over the top.
“Everyone who has heard the Mulqueen brothers agrees,” the paper wrote, “that the kids are among the best in the world.”
When was the last time your visit to the Cineplex included live entertainment? (The bratty 5-year-old in front of you throwing popcorn at his brother does not count.) The movie theater was once about much more than movies, and the price of admission included live performances, newsreels, comedy shorts and more. For years our own Ruby V. Hanneman was a featured performer at some of Wisconsin Rapids finest cinemas, and her name appeared in ads right alongside Silent Era stars of the day like Neal Hart, Ricardo Cortez,Doris Kenyon and Jack Holt.
Ruby often appeared at theIdeal Theatre at 220 E. Grand Ave., Wisconsin Rapids. She sang a “musical novelty” at two shows on Halloween night 1925. The main attraction was The Thundering Herd, a movie based on the 1925 novel by Zane Grey. (Zane Grey happened to be a favorite author of Carl F. Hanneman and his son David, but we digress.) Seats that night were just 10 cents or 25 cents, half off the typical ticket prices.
On Thanksgiving 1925, Ruby sang for the audience at Paramount Pictures In the Name of Love, starring Ricardo Cortez and Greta Nissen. Ruby sang two numbers, “Lonesome, That’s All,” and “In the Garden of Tomorrow.” The 15 cent and 35 cent admission also included the Wisconsin Rapids Quintette, newsreels and a Will Rogers comedy.
Ruby got perhaps her most prominent billing for the October 17, 1925 showing ofThe Spaniard. Her name was most prominent in the ad in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune.“Added Attraction, Mrs. Ruby Hanneman in a Musical Novelty,Please, the ad read. On Aug. 25, 1925 she appeared at the New Palace Theater singing, “I Wonder What’s Become of Sally.” The feature film that night was Born Rich starring Bert Lytell and Claire Windsor.
By the time she starred at the New Palace and the Ideal, Ruby was a veteran singer. According to the April 4, 1921 edition of the Daily Tribune,Ruby Treutel “brought down the applause of the house time after time” for her performance in the play “The Fire Prince” at Daly’s Theater. Ruby was 17 at the time.
When she graduated from Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids in 1922, Ruby had years of experience in music and drama. She played the female lead in the operetta Sylvia during her senior year. She was also president of the Glee Club. Under her senior class portrait in the yearbook The Ahdawagam read the motto, “Music hath charms and so does she.”
While scanning my grandfather’s old slide collection, I came across two stray images from 1957 marked “Gein’s House.” I couldn’t get the slides on the scanner bed fast enough. It turns out the photos were indeed of the ramshackle farm house of the notorious killer and grave robber, Ed Gein.
For Carl F. Hanneman, the trip to Plainfield would have been a minor detour on one of the family’s many trips from Mauston to Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. He, like thousands of other Wisconsinites in the late fall of 1957, just had to see for himself the home where the unimaginable occurred from 1945 to 1957. For in that decrepit structure at the corner of Acher and 2nd avenues a few miles southwest of Plainfield, the handyman bachelor Gein committed unspeakable acts.
The day of Gein’s undoing came on November 16, 1957, the opening day of the gun deer hunting season in Wisconsin. Gein made the trip into Plainfield to buy some anti-freeze at Worden’s hardware store. While there, he took a .22-caliber rifle from the store display and shot to death the owner, Bernice Worden, 58. After slitting her throat, he dragged her body out the back and put it into a truck. Later that day, sheriff’s deputies from several counties were searching for Worden, a well-known local who had run the Plainfield hardware store since her husband’s death in 1931.
Gein’s car had been spotted in the village that day, so police twice stopped at his 160-acre farmstead to talk to him. He wasn’t home. On the second trip, Waushara County Sheriff Arthur Schley peered into a shed that Gein used as a summer kitchen and was shocked. “My God, there she is!” he shouted. There was the body of Worden, hung upside down by the ankles, gutted and dressed out like a deer ready for the butcher. “There was a body hanging in the woodshed by the ankles,” said Captain Lloyd Schoephoester of the nearby Green Lake County sheriff’s department. “Tendons in the ankles had been cut and a rod and been placed through them. The body was drawn up in the air by a block and tackle. The body was dressed out and the head was missing.” Sheriff Schley went outside and vomited.
Worden’s head was later found in a burlap sack nearby. Her internal organs were in a bucket. If that sight wasn’t enough to sicken responding police, a search of Gein’s home would put them over the edge. Inside the filthy and cluttered home they found five human heads wrapped in plastic bags, four skulls and 10 “death masks” made by removing the face and hair from a human head. “Some of them have lipstick on and look perfectly natural,” said Wood County sheriff’s deputy Dave Sharkey. “It you knew them, you’d be able to recognize them.”
There was more. Police found chairs and lampshades fashioned from human skin, four human noses, two sets of lips, a belt made of female nipples, and a collection of female genitals. Two of the vulvas in Gein’s collection belonged to teenage girls, and authorities concluded he likely murdered these girls. On the stove was a saucepan containing a human heart, later identified as belonging to Worden. There was a wastebasket made from skin, and skulls fastened to Gein’s bedposts. Bowls were made from the tops of human skulls.
At first, police thought they might be dealing with a prolific serial killer. After his arrest, Gein admitted killing Bernice Worden, but he said the grotesque artifacts in his home were from grave-robbing visits he made to the nearby Plainfield Cemetery, the Spiritland Cemetery in Portage County and the Hancock Cemetery in the Town of Hancock. Gein also admitted shooting and killing Portage County tavern keeper Mary Hogan on December 8, 1954. Her face was found among Gein’s collection of death masks.
Police were not initially inclined to believe Gein’s tales of grave robbing. On November 25, 1957, they exhumed the caskets of Eleanor Adams and Mabel Everson at Plainfield Cemetery. Both caskets were empty. In the soil above one casket they found dentures and a wedding ring. That was enough to convince police that Gein was indeed a grave robber. He told authorities he made the moonlight grave-robbing visits while in a daze. On some occasions, he awoke from the daze and stopped what he was doing. He said his grave robbing occurred between 1947 and 1952. He said he returned some bodies to their graves after experiencing remorse. Police did not dig up other graves, and ultimately don’t know just how many caskets Gein might have opened.
When interviewed by Wisconsin State Crime Lab officials, Gein said he would dress up with the women’s body parts. He would wear a death mask, a tanned skin shirt including women’s breasts, and a vagina placed over his own genitals, covered by a pair of panties. He would go out in the moonlight and prance about the farmyard in this sick getup. Although Gein was not a deer hunter, he was known to have given packages of “venison” to people in the community, who became sickened after Gein’s arrest at their unwitting cannibalism. Authorities became convinced that Gein practiced cannibalism, among his other grotesque crimes.
After a brief court hearing in January 1958, Gein was committed to the Wisconsin Central State Hospital for the criminally insane at Waupun, where he remained for 10 years. In early 1968, Circuit Court Judge Robert H. Gollmar ruled Gein was able to stand trial for the murder of Bernice Worden. In a November 1968 bench trial, Gein was convicted of first-degree murder for Worden’s death, but in a separate hearing found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sent back to Waupun. He later was moved to the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, where he died of cancer on July 26, 1984. He was buried next to his mother in the same Plainfield Cemetery that he plundered.
Gein suffered from schizophrenia. The death of his mother on December 29, 1945 apparently pushed him over the edge. Doctors said he had an unnatural Oedipus complex attachment to Augusta Gein. The women he killed and the graves he robbed represented substitutes for his mother. The women were plump and middle aged, doctors said. Gein had nursed his mother through two paralytic strokes. Gein’s father George died on April 1, 1940. His brother Henry was found dead after a marsh fire on the Gein property on May 16, 1944. It is widely believed that Gein killed his brother.
Based on the Worden convinction and Gein’s admission to killing Mary Hogan, Gein could not be considered a serial killer. But he was suspected of killing at least four other people. The teenage genitals found in his farmhouse might have belonged to Evelyn Hartley, 15, of La Crosse, and Georgia Jean Weckler, 8, of Fort Atkinson. Hartley disappeared in October 1953 and Weckler was abducted in May 1947. Neither crime was ever solved and the girls’ bodies were never found. In his 1982 book on the Gein case, Judge Gollmar wrote that if Gein did not kill these girls, then the abducted and killed two runaways, since his grave-robbing could not explain the presence of genitals belonging to young girls in Gein’s home. Gollmar also wrote that Gein might have killed two men who disappeared after visiting a Plainfield tavern. The disappearances of Victor Travis and a male companion were never solved. Travis’ jacket and his dog were found near the Gein farm, and neighbors noted a stench coming from Gein’s garden at the time.
Gein’s gruesome story created a cottage industry in macabre spinoffs. It was the inspiration for the book Psycho by Robert Bloch. The book was adapted into the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. Gein was said to be the inspiration for fictional characters in films including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs.
The Hanneman family has one link to Plainfield other than the photos of Gein’s house snapped by Carl Hanneman. Lisetta (Treutel) Moody (1861-1931), aunt of Ruby Hanneman, moved her family to Plainfield after living in Vesper in Wood County. She and her husband, Lewis Winfield Moody, are buried at Plainfield Cemetery. She testified at the trial of Frank Hinz after the 1902 shootout between the Moody and Hinz families.
This post has been updated with details from the 1982 book on Gein by Circuit Judge Robert H. Gollmar. The book, Edward Gein: America’s Most Bizarre Murderer, is a fascinating insider’s account of the Gein case.