Tag Archives: humor

“Get Off the Wheels and on the Heels,” Former Green Beret Says

This is one of my favorite stories from my newspaper days. Fritz was a decorated veteran of the 82nd Airborne, a former Green Beret and a colorful character who became well-known and beloved in Wisconsin and Tennessee.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

Fritz Bernshausen has walked 4,500 miles — just to deliver a message.

You might have seen him, two times a week, carrying the American flag from his south side Kenosha home, through Racine, to downtown Milwaukee.

What could be so important?

Fritz was front-page news in The Journal Times on August 29, 1987.

“I have a message,” Bernshausen said Friday on his way through Racine. “Walk America. That’s all it is. Two words — one verb, one noun.”

Bernshausen, 59, started walking the trail to Milwaukee about 3 1/2 years ago. In July, he started packing Old Glory to grab more attention.

“This is the 119th time I’ve done it,” he said. “I’m going to keep walking with that flag until I see some indication of a transposition of those two words — America walks.”

Bernshausen believes in foot power over gasoline power. You know, pedestrians over petroleum.

“America is in trouble all the world,” he said. “I figure the only way to solve that problem is to make America energy self-sufficient.”

Bernshausen said he is concerned about tensions in the Persian Gulf and Middle East, tensions he says cause two much risk and danger, just for the oil.

“A lot of boys are probably going to die for a barrel of oil,” said Bernshausen, a veteran of Army special forces from the Vietnam War. “It ain’t worth it.”

Fritz from his Vietnam days. (Johnson City Press photo)

“I’m concerned about my country,” he said. “I consider myself a public-spirited American…. This is my contribution to America.”

That contribution usually takes between 10 and 13 hours per trip, depending on the weather and how many people stop him along the way. If they ask, he gladly obliges.

“I got stopped by a policeman, I got stopped by a kid and a public works man,” he said, just before a photographer caught up with him. “I’m going to have to roll up the flag and run like hell.”

On occasion, Bernshausen packs some fruit to hand out to people along the route, which has become so familiar he said “I can almost do it blindfolded.”

Besides the flag, there is one other important bring-along.

“I carry some toilet paper,” he said, “just in case.”

While Bernshausen’s message is serious, the flag and the walking are good-natured ways of prodding citizens to think about fuel consumption.

“It’s real important to me,” he said. “It’s just too important (that) you can’t be serious.”

In that spirit, he quotes a phrase to sum up his effort: “Get off the wheels and on the heels.”

Once the long journey is finished, Bernshausen usually takes the bus home from Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Avenue. That was not the case on Friday. He met his daughter for dinner in Milwaukee and had to accept a car ride home.

A tough sacrifice for the cause.

(From the Aug. 29, 1987 issue of The Journal Times)

EPILOGUE: Fritz Albrecht Bernshausen died on March 13, 1993. He was just 64. He is survived by a son and four daughters. He requested that his  cremains be scattered from an airplane at 1,200 feet — a paratrooper’s jump altitude.

Loftus Campaign Hits a Bad Spell

By Joseph Hanneman
Journal Times

Candidates for governor often face tough questions from their opponents and the press, but Thomas Loftus got stumped Tuesday by a third-grader at Johnson Elementary School.

Loftus, the Democratic legislator challenging Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, asked students if they could think of any difficult words he could spell.

“Chrysanthemum,” chimed one student, referring to the flower.

It appeared the Assembly speaker from Sun Prairie regretted ever asking.

He turned to the chalk board and hesitantly wrote, “chrysanthinum.”

Several people in the room shook their heads, indicating Loftus’ version was wrong, but no one offered the correct spelling.

For the record, it’s c-h-r-y-s-a-n-t-h-e-m-u-m.

Loftus, who was in Racine to discuss his plan to reform school financing and cut elementary class sizes, had some other interesting exchanges with the students.

He asked kindergartners what the governor does.

“He tells people stuff,” one boy offered.

“Yeah, he tells people stuff,” Loftus replied, “some of it accurate.”

After speaking with fifth graders for about five minutes, one student raised her hand and said, “I forgot what your name was.”

“Dan Quayle,” Loftus quipped.

He then signed autographs for the students, which helped engrain his name in their minds.

As he left the room, students could be heard saying, “Loftus, Loftus, Tom Loftus.” ♦

– This article originally appeared on Page 1 of the Racine Journal Times on June 6, 1990. View the original newspaper page.

Grandma Ruby Collects Rocks, With a Snicker

It wasn’t such a curious hobby, collecting rocks, but more in how it was done. Ruby Viola (Treutel) Hanneman (1904-1977), simply could not resist picking rocks up off the ground wherever she went. And judging by the facial expressions of those around her, it became somewhat of a family joke.

Lavonne Hanneman can't resist laughing as her mother Ruby bends down to pick up rocks on a trip to South Dakota in 1947.
Lavonne Hanneman can’t resist laughing as her mother Ruby bends down to pick up rocks on a trip to South Dakota in 1947.

Rock collecting was certainly a Hanneman tradition. Uncle Wilbert G. Hanneman (1899-1987) had a rock shop up in Wausau, from which many a Hanneman child procured varieties of colorful, polished rocks. I have a bag of them to this day. Ruby liked to get her collectibles the old fashioned way, by finding them. She’d bend down to grab the most interesting or unusual ones, and husband Carl F. Hanneman (1901-1982) was often nearby to capture the moment on film.

David D. Hanneman's priceless facial expression says it all, as his father Carl snaps yet another photo of mother Ruby picking up rocks.
David D. Hanneman’s priceless facial expression says it all, as his father Carl snaps yet another photo of mother Ruby picking up rocks.

The best examples of this hobby (or habit) came on a family trip from Mauston, Wisconsin, to Williston, South Dakota in 1947. After getting caught all bent over on several photographic occasions, Ruby and the kids shot back. They put their heads together and gave old Carl Hanneman a two-cheek salute.

David and Lavonne Hanneman joined their mother Ruby in offering a rear-end salute to cameraman Carl F. Hanneman.
David and Lavonne Hanneman joined their mother Ruby in offering a rear-end salute to cameraman Carl F. Hanneman.
This photo proves Ruby’s habit was not a passing fad. Here she gathers samples on a trip to Phoenix in 1959.