This photo from 1926 or 1927 has always intrigued me. At first glance, it looks like the man passing before the camera was the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. For years, I could not figure out who was in the photo or where it was taken.
One day I opened the digital file in Adobe Photoshop and zoomed in on the details. There, hidden to the left of the man’s suit lapel, was my grandmother, Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman. Now the photo made some sense. No doubt my grandfather, Carl F. Hanneman, was taking a picture of his lovely bride when someone pulled the 1920s equivalent of a photobomb. Wearing a hat and fur coat, Ruby is facing the camera, but looking to her right. The photo intruder’s identity remains a mystery.
I concluded the photo was most likely taken on the streets of Janesville, Wisconsin in 1926. At the time, Carl was a pharmacist for the McCue & Buss Drug Co., 14 S. Main Street, Janesville. Ruby was wearing her Sunday best, so perhaps the couple were going to lunch after Mass. The other possible location for the photo is Fond du Lac, where Carl once worked as a druggist for the Staeben Drug Co.
It seems natural that Carl and Ruby were pioneers of the photobomb (or at least early victims of it). As we wrote on these pages in 2014, they took “selfies” on their honeymoon in July 1925, generations before invention of the iPhone or the selfie stick. “Photobombing” is a somewhat recent term referring to the practice of inserting oneself into a photo scene, usually to play a joke on the photographer.
Carl was an avid photographer. His photo collection includes a number of Janesville street scenes from the mid-1920s (see samples below). Early in his career, he had short stints working in Janesville and Fond du Lac before returning to his hometown, Wisconsin Rapids. In 1936, he moved his young family to Mauston, where the couple spent the rest of their lives. He was a pharmacist for more than 50 years.
From very little on, my grandmother, Ruby Viola Hanneman, had a beauty that radiated in the many photographs taken of her. Her grandchildren no doubt recall the housecoat-type of outfits she often wore around the house. But make no mistake, Ruby was a fashion icon in her day. Our photo gallery bears ample testimony.
My grandparents were anything but wealthy. They worked hard to provide a middle-class home to their three children, Donn, David (my Dad) and Lavonne. Grandpa Carl F. Hanneman was a pharmacist at the Hess clinic and hospital. As we detailed in another post, he wrote to the attorney general of Wisconsin for help in upgrading his pharmacist license so he could better care for his family.
Regardless of the family’s financial circumstances, the Hanneman children were always dressed in nice clothing. Carl had nice suits for work and Sunday Mass. If you met Ruby at a family event, you might think she descended from royalty. Actually, there was a longstanding family yarn that said the Treutel family from which Ruby came was from a royal line in Europe. I’m still researching that one. Nevertheless, Ruby was always sharply dressed. The main photo above shows her in a Life Magazine pose during a 1950s trip out West. Classic stuff.
Far be it for me to offer detailed commentary on women’s fashion, but I am struck by Ruby’s fashion sense as shown in the photo gallery below. Dresses, hats, gloves, shoes and coats, nicely coordinated. This was evident at different events, from weddings to the common Sunday visit to family and extended family in the Wisconsin Rapids area. So many decades later, these photos are a real treat, although also reminders of the hole in our lives left by the absence of loved ones like Dad (1933-2007) and Grandma Ruby (1904-1977).
I am quite tickled that my youngest daughter, not coincidentally named Ruby, is also very interested in fashion and interior decorating, just like her great grandma. I marvel at her discussions of colors, styles and fabrics — things I know little about. One thing is for sure: Ruby V. Hanneman is no doubt pleased to look down and see Ruby E. Hanneman, a young lady after her own heart.
As many times as I’ve traveled to central Wisconsin, I was not aware of a beautiful, sprawling religious shrine built by a Catholic priest in thanksgiving for having his health restored after a visit to Lourdes, France in the early 1900s. The Rudolph Grotto Gardens near Wisconsin Rapids were the dream fulfilled of Father Philip Wagner, who developed and dedicated the site to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1927.
I learned of Rudolph Grotto Gardens while researching a photo of my grandmother, Ruby V. Hanneman, standing near a statue of St. Philomena in 1958 or 1959. St. Philomena, who was martyred at age 13, is known as the Patroness of the Living Rosary. Her shrine at Rudolph Grotto Gardens was built in 1957 by Edmund Rybicki, Father Wagner’s right-hand man.
The first grotto shrine at the Rudolph site, dedicated to the Our Lady of Lourdes, was completed in 1928. When a young and sick Philip Wagner visited the famous shrine at Lourdes, he promised the Blessed Virgin Mary that if he were healed of his illnesses so he could become a priest, he would build a shrine to her in America. And so he was healed, and was ordained a priest in 1915. He was assigned to St. Philomena Catholic Church in Rudolph in 1917.
Over the years, the site expanded to include the Stations of the Cross, the Ten Commandments, a Last Supper Shrine, A “Wonder Cave” modeled after the catacombs, a Shrine of the Resurrection, a soldier’s monument and more.
Father Wagner and Rybicki labored on the site for decades. After Father Wagner died in 1959, Rybicki became the site caretaker. In 1961, St. Philomena Church was rededicated and renamed St. Philip the Apostle in honor of Father Philip Wagner. The last project at the grotto gardens was finished in 1983. Read more about the site here.
This photograph has perplexed me for years. A baby in a diaper, lying on a pillow inside a steel wash tub. I strongly suspect this is my father, David D. Hanneman (1933-2007). The image raises many questions but provides no answers.
Why stick a baby in a wash tub? Was this the poor family’s playpen? The Depression-era bassinette? A brutal pre-Dr. Spock time-out? Freshly picked from the vine? In this day and age, such a photo might get you a visit from Child Services. I’m guessing my Grandma Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman (1904-1977) just thought it made a cute photo. She was known to dote on her “little Davey.”
If this was Dad in the tub, the photo was likely taken in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, where he was born in March 1933. The family did not move to Mauston until early 1936. Usually I can confirm my Dad’s ID in photos by the ears, but they are not visible in this image.
My memories of such a steel container at the house in Mauston had nothing to do with babies. I recall bluegill, sunfish and bass in such a tub, waiting for Grandpa Carl’s skilled fillet knife. Or the tub filled with ice and bottles of orange and grape soda (known as “pop” by some of you). But no babies.
This one is destined to remain a mystery. I’m sure it would tickle my grandma to know it was a conversation piece some 80 years later, and that no one called Child Services.
A simple family snapshot taken around 1918 is the only photograph we have showing Walter Treutel and his wife Mary (Ladick) Treutel together. Taken at the Treutel home in the village of Vesper, Wisconsin, the photo shows a teenaged Ruby along with younger siblings Marvin, 2, and Nina, 4. Elaine Treutel would come along in 1920. Baby Gordon Treutel died in 1910.
Walter was a rural route postal carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, while Mary tended to the family home on Anderton Avenue. The couple were married on December 29, 1902 in Vesper. Walter had recently relocated to Vesper from North Prairie in Waukesha County. Our Grandma Ruby Viola (Treutel) Hanneman was their first child, born June 22, 1904. Ruby was born at 1 p.m., delivered by Dr. F.A. Goedecke.
We learned recently that Mary’s nickname was Molly. That factoid came from none other than cousin Mary “Mollisu” Clark, the daughter of Elaine (Treutel) Clark and Max Clark.
Mrs. Treutel died at just 42 years old in January 1925. She had an operation in nearby Marshfield, but a post-operative infection claimed her life on January 31. She did not live to see her daughter Ruby get married that summer, and she did not get to see her other three children grow into adulthood.
It might seem a very odd thing to save, the pages of a hospital chart from 1939. But I suspect my father viewed his battle with pneumonia at age 6 as a defining moment. Perhaps his parents, Carl F. and Ruby Hanneman, feared they would lose their youngest son to an illness with a reputation for being deadly.
The trouble all started on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, when David D. Hanneman took ill with a high fever. The hospital chart says my Grandma Ruby “took care of him alone until Tues. night Dec. 5.” It’s not clear if this means Grandpa Carl, pharmacist at the Mauston clinic and hospital, was away on business or just working. Either way, on December 5, Caroline Denzien came to the Hanneman house on Morris Street to care for Dad and give Ruby a break.
Early on Wednesday, December 6, they took him to the Hess Memorial Hospital in Mauston. Upon arrival, his fever was 104.2 degrees. Dr. J. Samuel Hess Jr. ordered a course of calcidine, a decongestant, and quinine, a potent germicidal drug known today as an anti-malaria treatment. They had reason for concern, since the pneumonia had festered for nearly two weeks. That first day, Dad drank frequently, but he was restless and had a “considerable” cough. He was “perspiring freely” as a result of the fever, which stayed above 104 degrees all day.
Dad responded quickly to the treatment. By midday on December 7, he was eating sherbet and sipping on some broth. He even felt bright enough to play a little bit of checkers. The fever was down below 100 degrees, but still shot back up on occasion. By nighttime, he was drinking lemonade, tomato juice and some tea. Overnight, the nurse noted he was “irritable” and had several coughing spells. On December 8, the fever dropped below 99 degrees and Dad graduated to eating noodles and rice, and custard.
By the December 10-11 period on the chart, Dad’s fever was gone and he was resting comfortably. Nourishment included chicken broth, Jello and Ovaltine. It appears he stayed at the hospital into the late afternoon of Wednesday, December 12, since there are no other pages beyond that time.
Eight uniformed, ax-wielding men and their sword-bearing commander grace this photograph from Vesper, Wisconsin, circa 1910. The men were Foresters, a ceremonial drill team from a fraternal group called the Modern Woodmen of America. The Woodmen organization dates to the 1880s. It was formed to provide financial relief when the family breadwinner died. Drill teams would participate in parades and at other public functions to promote the group and show patriotism.
At farthest left in the photo is Walter Treutel (1879-1948), father of our Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman (1904-1977). The fourth man from the left is Orville Carlin (1874-1934), Ruby’s uncle. Walter was the longtime rural-route postal carrier in Vesper. Orville operated a butcher shop and meat market at Vesper before moving his business to nearby Arpin. He was the husband of Walter’s sister, Emma (Treutel) Carlin (1877-1962).
There are several great things about this image of my Dad and his two siblings, taken in 1956 at Nekoosa, Wisconsin. The colors from the Kodachrome slide film are vivid, from the blue sky to the slicked-back black hair. The clothes are natty and the hairstyles are so 1950s. Right to left are Donn Gene Hanneman (1926-2014), Lavonne (Hanneman) Wellman (1937-1986), and my Dad, David D. Hanneman (1933-2014).
The photo was taken at the home of the trio’s uncle and aunt, Marvin and Mabel Treutel. The occasion was a Treutel family reunion. Their mother and my grandmother, Ruby V. Hanneman (1904-1977), was a Treutel before marrying Grandpa Carl F. Hanneman (1901-1922). It’s sad to think all three of them are gone, but I find comfort in the hope they are together in Heaven.
“Stentorian Voice.” Of all the notations in the Mauston High School yearbooks of David D. Hanneman, those two words truly stand out. In the “Report of Condition of the Students of Mauston High School” in 1950, David Hanneman’s asset is listed as “stentorian voice.” Not a common adjective, “stentorian” means “of powerful voice.” It can also mean “booming” and “loud.” No doubt the years 1947-51 were stentorian years for Hanneman, for he and his singing buddies at MHS earned accolades and medals for their singing.
Mauston High School at the time was known for its quality vocal and instrumental music programs. The boys’ double quartet or octette was among the highest profile examples of that quality. The barbershop group regularly competed at the state level in competition sponsored by the Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA).
The group included Hanneman and Roger Quick at second bass, Bob Jagoe and Dick Shaw at first bass, Clayton “Ty” Fieneand Bob Beck at first tenor, and Alan Banks and Arthur Volling at second tenor. Self-dubbed the “State Men” for annual appearances in competition, the group had its own cartoon likeness drawn into the Mauston High School yearbook, The Hammer.
In the many WSMA competitions, David Hanneman also sang bass solos, duets and mixed quartets and double quartets. According to one of the judge’s score cards, a Mauston quartet was rated “excellent” for tone, “good” for intonation and “good” for technique. Another judge rated Hanneman “excellent” for his bass solo and noted “maturity of quality” as his greatest singing asset. Hanneman kept the dozens of medals he won at these competitions for many decades after high school.
Singing wasn’t Hanneman’s only musical interest, however. He played the trumpet for a time and was in the Mauston public school band. He appeared in numerous parades playing the bass drum for the band.
David got his love of song from his mother, Ruby V. Hanneman. As a youngster, Ruby often performed onstage at theaters in Wisconsin Rapids. The Hanneman home in Mauston had a beautiful pump organ and a Victrola record player with a large collection of music. Later in life he appeared in a number of community musicals and sang in the choir at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. His deep voice could carry the entire parish in song, with enough volume to almost lift the church off its foundations.
Nothing was bigger news in the fall of 1950 in central Wisconsin than Mary Ann Van Hoof and her claims of receiving visions from the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Van Hoof farm near Necedah. Members of the Hanneman family of Mauston, had great devotion to Mary, and they were among 50,000 people in Necedah on October 7, 1950, when Van Hoof received the eighth of her reported visions of Mary.
The front page of the Wisconsin State Journalthe next day recounted the alleged vision this way:
“Mrs. Fred Van Hoof said she saw the Virgin Mary in a vision for the eighth time Saturday and was told in a ‘last warning’ to pray for peace. The gaunt farm wife, who said last August that the Virgin would appear to her Saturday noon in a blinding light, walked from her shabby home at the appointed hour, knelt in prayer and raised a crucifix to a statue of the Virgin. At that moment, the sun burst through rain clouds which had hovered over the humble farm most of the morning, and a murmur swept through the crowd estimated by state police at 50,000 persons.After a few minutes, Mrs. Van Hoof arose and addressed the mingled throng of curious and claims to have done on previous visitations. ‘This is the battle for peace for all of you,’ she said. ‘Prayer, my dear children, will bring you peace.’ ”
A priest from Watervliet, Michigan, who was also in attendance that day befriended the Hanneman family. Rev. Father Victor A. Fortino of St. Joseph’s Church in Watervliet, cautioned 17-year-old David D. Hanneman to wait for Catholic Church authorities to approve the alleged visions before he placed too much stock in them. “I hope that what transpired at Necedah will receive the approval of the Church authorities,for without it, we simply cannot believe Mrs. Van Hoof’s claims even though you and I enjoyed the same experience during the alleged apparition of Oct. 7,” Fortino wrote in a letter dated October 27, 1950.
Father Fortino warned that Satan has appeared to Saints and sinners alike posing as the Blessed Mother and as the Crucified Christ, so it is crucial that the Church rule on the Van Hoof apparitions. “I want to warn you about something,” Fortino wrote. “DO NOT AS YET ACCEPT THE NECEDAH STORY AS TRUE. WAIT UNTIL THE ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITIES HAVE DECIDED ON THE CASE.”
As it turned out, Fortino’s words were almost prophetic. In June 1955, Bishop John Treacy of the Diocese of La Crosse officially rejected Van Hoof’s visions.“Because of the continued promotion of the claims made by Mrs. Mary A. Van Hoof of Necedah, Wis., we, by virtue of our authority as bishop of the diocese of La Crosse, hereby declare that all claims regarding supernatural revelations and visions made by the aforementioned Mrs. Van Hoof are false. Further more, all public and private religious worship connected with these false claims is prohibited at Necedah, Wis.” As early as August 1950, Bishop Treacy had said Van Hoof’s claims “are of extremely doubtful nature.”
Father Fortino may have suspected the Necedah claims would turn out to be false, but he wrote that some good could come from the gathering that week in 1950 no matter what. “It seemed to me that Our Lady brought us together for Her own good purposes,” Fortino wrote. “What She intends for us, I do not know. But I hope that much good will come out of our chance meeting and our mutual experience in Necedah.”
Despite the controversy over Van Hoof and her claims, the Hanneman family maintained strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Carl and Ruby Hanneman kept a beautiful porcelain statue of the Blessed Mother in their Mauston home. After their deaths that statue found a place at David Hanneman’s residence in Sun Prairie. And it sat in front of the altar at his funeral Mass on April 19, 2007.