A Neighbor’s Reminiscence
By Cynthia Sommer
A recent visit with Joan Krueger provided me with a perspective of Murray Hill neighborhood in the past 50 years – an area of stability with caring and interacting neighbors. She has lived for the past 58 years in a two-owner duplex, over 100 years old in the 2600 N. Cramer block. Her husband, Gordon, and his family moved into the house in 1918 (90+ yrs ago) and they remembered the building of the apartments across the street and the four physicians who had homes/offices on the four corners of the block. Joan’s husband of 56 years was baptized, confirmed and buried through the Salem Ev. LutheranChurch, two blocks away. Gordon’s father was the station manager for streetcars run by the Milwaukee Electric Railroad and Light Co. located on Oakland Avenue near Edgewood (RiverPark area).
Joan came to Milwaukee in 1949 from Denmark when she was 18years old because of the changes in her country as a consequence of the Nazi occupation. Contacts with family friends aided her settlement in Milwaukee and the waters of Lake Michigan reminded her of home. She still gives pre-travel talks on her personal history to 4th graders from GoldaMeirSchool that travel to Denmark as part of the Urban Gifted and Talented program. Joan married her husband at 21 and through the years raised her five children, worked at several jobs and was a caregiver for both her mother-in-law and husband.
In the early years, she often used the streetcar that came down Oakland Avenue, turned east on E. Park Place and then south onto N. Murray. Stores in a short walking distance from her home included Retzer’s grocery store, Willis Rexall Drugs, Van’s bakery, Schuster’s grocery, A & P, Eastside Beer & Liquor and Adolph Weber’s Candy Store with its penny candy and luscious chocolates. A little further walk to Locust/Oakland took her to Henry Jung’s Jewelry where her wedding rings were purchased, Badger Paints where her husband worked in later years and Riverside Bootery where shoes were made or repaired (owner moved to Texas to make his fortune making custom cowboy boots). Places to eat included Plotkin’s deli (Asian Chin’s site), George Webb’s (Subway site), Red Barn restaurant (former Walgreen’s site) and Kalt’s restaurant (Oakland Trattoria site). Joan remembers Murray Hill as a nice place to raise her five children and the circle continues with three of her grandchildren returning to live in the area.
Her volunteer work at the BartlettAvenueSchool in the neighborhood led to the principal suggesting that she should consider applying for a job since she was there so much. This led to Joan working in several MPS schools, including 8 years in the library at BartlettAvenueSchool and involvement in a Head Start program that involved working with the young students and assessing their home environment. At Bartlett Avenue School, she and another staff organized a crocheting/knitting class for 40 boys and girls in the library as a special project – a young African American girl who had a significant hand abnormality even managed to make an afghan and another student made a vest for her gym teacher. Little things make schools and neighborhoods better. The circle of the neighborhood continues in many strange way – Joan’s son, who is a “green” architect involved in the designs of Audubon and the UrbanEcologyCenter, used some of the building material from the demolition of BartlettAvenueSchool in the construction of the UrbanEcologyCenter. I’m sure Joan had a little influence somewhere along the way! Joan still actively gardens, cuts her grass, shovels snow, walks her dog daily and is involve in the community. We wish Joan many more pleasant years living in her home in Murray Hill.