On Arts


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Historical Buildings in Mazomanie

Mazomanie was founded by Mr. Brodhead (I don’t know his full name). He worked for the Milwaukee Railroad. He came up north and chose the spot for the city of Mazomanie. Then he started to build.


Mazomanie was named after an Indian. Mazomanie rivaled Madison. They had electricity before Madison. But now that Madison has a bigger population and because it’s the capital city, Madison has more money to spend on newer things.

Shimts Hall had graduation ceremonies, road shows, and Broadway shows performed in it. For a long time after they stopped playing shows in it, it was a general store. Now its top floor is used for apartments.

The whole main street in Mazomanie is on the Historic Register. The buildings on the historic list are preserved so you can’t make a huge change in them (I mean you can paint them and all).


Mazomanie was founded in 1855. When the railroad came to Mazomanie, the two communities near Mazomanie really suffered. One was knocked out and the other is a very small town. Mazo used to rival Madison. They had four blacksmiths, a fanning mill, three hotels, two nurseries, a flour mill, and much, much more. Sandstone was quarried in Mazo, and most of the buildings were built with it.


Old Feed Mill

In Mazomanie we went to the old mill, now a restaurant and tavern. First our tour guide showed us the downstairs basement, where all the machinery was kept. We saw the place where little boys in the town would sneak downstairs, down to the cellar, and take their fishlines out of their pockets and fish for croppies through a hole in the floor.

They took the steel mill wheel out in the 1960s and replaced it with a turbine that was more efficient. You can if you go there still see the cogs and pulleys that they used to make flour. They still grind their own flour nowadays as a restaurant. They make a really good whole wheat bread on their mill equipment.

The dam was taken out a while ago by the DNR because it was a hazard. They get their grain from the mid-southwest and Mississippi Valley. To grind their grain, they stored the grain in the attic and pushed it down a chute to a wagon and/or train, to ship all over the world and the U.S.


The mill not only made flour, it also powered the community.


Transcription from the Tour Guide: People will just walk around and they look up at the ceiling and they look at different things and they are just so thrilled that this building is here and that it has not been torn down. Because you don’t find buildings like this everywhere that you go. It’s a very special place to work. It’s preserving a bit of our history, a bit of our past. If this building were torn down, and all the other buildings were torn down that were like it, as old as it, you guys would never have a chance to really see, to really feel what it’s like to be inside a building like this. It’s been empty for quite a few years and the owners, Dan and Nancy, had seen it and they just thought it was a wonderful building and they wanted to preserve it. There isn’t a need for a mill that’s grinding that much flour and grain right now here and they thought that having a restaurant and a gift shop, a lot of people could come to this building and enjoy it.

The water generated electricity, hydraulic power. This mill generated electricity for the whole village and Mazomanie was the first village to have electric lights back in the 1800s, street lights, and that was all powered because they had this mill. Now Mazomanie had electric street lights before Madison did.

Barn Types

It was amazing how there were so many shapes of barns, and so many things were grown under those roofs.


Stoughton Opera House

John Vorndran, Transcription from Oral Interview: In 1982 they were going to tear this building down, and the people in town that had come here for shows, school graduations, and plays–they’d had a wonderful time, just like you coming here today and so they didn’t want to see it torn down… The restoration’s been going on for twenty years…

See those little wires underneath the seat? Know what those are for? That’s were the men put their hats. They turned them over and then slid them in there and then they didn’t have to hold their hats. They were kind of clever back then…

We had the grand reopening and it was a hundred years to the day… There aren’t very many opera houses like this left in the United States. Most of them were torn down. Not many left that are as close to the original condition as this one.


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Yard Art

Wally Keller is a man who we visited because he makes excellent sculptures. He gets the parts mainly from old farm equipment. He makes machines to build sculptures with old farm equipment. At his driveway, there’s a huge sculpture named Pegleg the Pirate. Around his yard there are all sorts of whimsical creatures. We walked over to a statue that had gears that enabled it to move. It was made out of wagon wheels and round plates.

My favorite was the bug whose wings were made out of two old tractor seats and other garden tools like a spade or a hoe. When we went inside his workshop, he had all sorts of little cars and bugs and some machines. He showed us how the machines could bend a metal bar into a circle.


One of Wally’s creations is a four-legged dragon. The wings are stretched-out metal. The spine of the dragon is a large chain. Some parts move on his creations. Another one of his creations has a spinning metal wheel in the center and spinning rotary blades on the wheel and cultivator blades that spin on other parts of his creation. Another one of Wally’s creatures is the T-Rex dragon. He has made an ostrich sculpture, a hand drill sculpture, and a kangaroo sculpture.


Troll Carving

The trolls in the Mount Horeb Trollway are made by Mike Feeney. Mike models the trolls after people and characters he remembers and knows. One of his first trolls was the chicken thief troll. He made this troll after hearing stories about people who would steal chickens to feed their families in the Great Depression. The chicken thief has a chicken on his head, one in a bag, and one in his hand.

In Norway the trolls are evil and mean. They poison wells and burn houses and eat people. Mike’s trolls are new world trolls and have a sort of humor to them.Frankie, the accordion-playing troll, was a real person in Mt. Horeb. There are lots of funny Frankie stories. One time, it’s said, some people drove him up to La Crosse and then left. They dropped him off at 3 a.m. and at 6 a.m. he was back on his bench. Mike was inspired to make the Frankie troll with the accordion at Mt. Horeb Summer Art Fair. He and his friends were sitting and talking when Frankie showed up and started playing a tune on the accordion. Nobody ever knew he was talented. After he finished the tune, they gave him a beer. He played another tune and got another beer, and this just went on. Mike thought it would make a good troll.

When Mike starts a troll, he uses a chainsaw to make the basic shape. Then he uses smaller and smaller tools to get more detail. The next trolls Mike will be doing are a tooth fairy troll and a troll on a tricycle!


Mike Feeney’s website:


In the quilting group, we learned that 7 percent of the homes in the U.S. use quilts, or somebody quilts, or both. We also learned about different designs, like the log cabin. It’s called the log cabin because it has a ring on the outside and then another ring and so on until it gets to the middle, and that ring represents the chimney.

Another design is the Irish chain. It’s made up of squares that go diagonal and crisscross all over. And a double Irish chain is where there’s a different color along the outside. But then when they crisscross, the outside color doesn’t overlap the chain.


Some of the quilters learned how to make quilts when they were really young. Some learned from their grandmas.


The tools they use can be dangerous. There are very sharp pizza rollers to cut the fabric with. You have to remember to put the blade back.


Hardanger Lace with Carol Sklaven

Carol Sklaven has lived in Stoughton all her life, and like many others in Stoughton and all over the world, she makes Hardanger lace. She makes things like dolls, pillowcases, baptizing gowns, sheets, Christmas tree ornaments, etc.

Traditionally you do Hardanger lace either white thread on white fabric (white on white) or you do ivory thread with ivory fabric (ivory on ivory). Now the traditions are being broken a little, and you can get other colors too, like red, blue, green, and a couple others.

Making Hardanger lace is a long process. The 22-count fabric used for Hardanger lace has tiny holes that you can thread the needle in and out of. These holds form a grid pattern. First you sew a pattern or outline, which will be the basic shape. Then you pull some threads out in the form of a square. You repeat this step until your ?? only an intricate pattern of fabric all around the doily. Then you carefully sew around the holes over the thread that’s left. [illustration]


Carol makes Christmas tree ornaments and says that she plans on having an all-Hardanger tree. Stoughton is a very rich town culturally. For instance, on special holidays people could always go out with their bunads on. Some even ate lutefisk. Lutefisk is a dish that poorer people used to eat. It’s dried fish that has been cooked again and served with lots of butter. Now people eat it just to say, “I’m Norwegian-American.”


Rosemaling and Syttende Mai Royalty

Introducing Helen and Chester Johnson, the 2001 king and queen of Stoughton’s Syttende Mai! Syttende Mai is a Norwegian holiday celebrating the birth of Norway. In Syttende Mai a lot of people wear bunads, a costume that people wear in Norway. The embroidered skirt Helen was wearing indicates waves.

The Syttende Mai king and queen spend a week going around to schools, nursing homes, and many other places around town. Something very important about the selection of Syttende Mai Royals is that the chosen ones are not chosen because of their beauty but because of what they have done for the town. A couple of good things they did were restoring the clock tower, donating land, working on the Stoughton depot, and starting the first skateboard ramp and youth center. Helen was also the mayor of Stoughton.

I am grateful for the beast,
Within it is the zest, 
And the vitality of life, 
And the source of spirit and strength. 
Yes, very pretty, isn’t it?

That is a verse that Chester and Helen Johnson’s son rosemaled onto a plate. It was very beautiful.

Their son lives just on the outside of Stoughton, and he used to sell his art. He is now part of the Wisconsin Rosemaling Association.


To people of Norwegian descent around the world, Syttende Mai (which translated into English means seventeenth of May), celebrates the day when Norway gained independence from Sweden.

The Syttende Mai Festival in Stoughton claims to be the biggest outside of Norway. 40,000 people come to Stoughton for Syttende Mai fest every year. Can you imagine planning that? Beth Bauer can. She puts Syttende Mai together and makes it run smoothly. They have some old games for little kids. They have a running contest, and it’s two miles long. They have a juggler and a storyteller there. There is some Norwegian food and and a luncheon on Saturday. The whole town celebrates Norwegian. Some people that are not Norwegian still celebrate the Norwegian background.


Every year a new Syttende Mai king and queen are selected to ride in the horse-drawn carriage. They are informed in September and have to keep it secret until January. Then they can tell.


Rosemaling Exhibit at the Home Savings Bank

Before…became a professional rosemaler, she came to the bank Stoughton Bank in Stoughton and did some practice. Most of it was on the doors and walls, but some on the rafters and edging on desks.


Most rosemaling is done on black background and looks much like Hungarian embroidery, but the work she did resembled more of a modern, yet traditional style. Her picture is hanging on the wall near the front door. There is no rosemaling around it, but she did have some of her artwork put into the picture with her.


Rosemaling is Norwegian rose painting.


Music and Dance

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Hmong Music

Mr. Tong Chaj is playing a qeej and singing. The song is about a boy who doesn’t’ have any parents. Mr. Tong learned to play the qeej by a qeej master player that was Hmong. Mr. Na Yee was dancing with the qeej, which sounds sounds soft and beautiful.


Mr. Na Yee showed us other instruments. He brought 2 flutes to show us. One was short and the other was long. The flute is to blow for someone you miss.


The k’eng is a long, thin-tubed instrument made out of a light wood, that resembles bamboo. The singers sang in a voice that sounded quite similar to the k’eng, a low and high pitched tone with jumps here and there. While singing, some of them danced in circles, fast, then slow; one way, and then the other.


My first session was on the k’eng music and its significance in Hmong culture. We learned that K’eng was mostly played at funerals. They used to play it at weddings, but now they don’t. We learned that even the most talented K’eng players have to practice almost everyday. K’eng players used to battle with one another to show that they were the best. But now they don’t.


There is other Hmong music, too. Much of it has to do with courtship between young men and women. The young man would come down to his girlfriend’s house, and play the jaw harp – a twangy instrument that fits in your mouth.

The k’eng player helps give the spirit of the dead to the other world.


When that guy played K’eng(traditional Hmong instrument) I thought the sound was like a bird singing and a human voice.


Another thing is … that usually after you play the song [on the Hmong instrument], you sing the same song you played.


It is a real honor to play one of these instruments at any ceremony, especially to play the k’eng at a funeral. To the Hmong, it is a belief that the K’eng player talks to the deceased person, and the music is taking them in harmony to the other world. They have a conversation like this: “Should I go to the other world?” “Yes, there is nothing else for you here.”


The person that passes away and blows the k’eng gives them good wishes.


Only very good k”eng players can do this [play at a funeral] because they need to play for the right amount of time. If they don’t play long enough the spirit will never get there. If they play too long, their [k’eng player’s] spirit will go with the spirit of the dead person to the other world.


The k’eng has this nice rhythm. Now he is singing what the k’eng sound means. His voice is not that low and not that loud. The k’eng has words to it when it is played.


The first k’eng player learned to play the k’eng when he was 9, 10 or 11, and it took six or seven months to just learn. It took much longer to master.


The k’eng, made of bamboo, sounds to me slightly like a bagpipe, but in a strange way.


Both the k’engs that we saw had decorations on it, like coins and bead, I think to show wealthiness.


Music has been part of the Hmong culture for ages. They have beautiful instruments that make incredible sounds when played. Take the k’eng — it can talk. What I mean by that is the tone. Very excellent players can tell a fake from a real player. And a good player can tell whether or not the person is happy or sad.


Polka Lesson at 3D Dance Studio

In Deerfield, we met a class of other fourth-graders. We went to the dance studio for polka lessons. Some of us danced with people in different classes, but nobody danced with the opposite gender.


The polka is a dance people do at weddings. There are three kinds of polkas, and we learned the easiest one. It was still a little bit hard. In this dance you stand on your toes for the first part and they start to hurt.


The polka is a very common and old dance. It is a really simple dance. You mostly use your legs.


Hardanger Fiddles

Sitting in the small shop of Poast Mark, probably making or playing a Hardanger fiddle, is Ron Poast. Ron first got into Hardanger fiddles because a great uncle had one, and the family loved it. When they were short on money one year, he sold it to a pawnshop. Many years later Ron was walking through downtown, and he saw what looked exactly like the one his Uncle Owen sold, in a museum. So he went in and talked to the people there, and they let him study Hardanger fiddles. And he found that they were not totally different from the violins he was already making. After that, he started making them.

When Ron makes a Hardanger fiddle, he always uses either curly maple or bird’s-eye maple. The curly maple is also called tiger maple. Ron uses curly or bird’s-eye maple on the back and sides of his instruments, and elm on the front. For the finger board and end board he uses African ebony, which is fairly expensive. He takes the bony and cuts designs that are quite intricate into the ebony. Then he inlays mother of pearl by hand.

Next, before he puts the bridge, finger board and strings on, he decorates the violin/fiddle with very intricate patterns that resemble rosemaling. What he actually does is called rosing.

The head of the violin or fiddle, which is the end with the tuning pegs, is always in the shape of a mythical dragon’s head. The dragon always has two teeth that Ron ?? on. All the rosing and cutting Ron does is freehand. He doesn’t have a stencil or any other material that helps him. He uses India ink, which works very well on wood.


The Hardanger fiddle has two sets of strings. Ron says that the sound stays longer. The fiddle has nine strings, five on the bottom and four on top.


Ron Post was a cool person. He is a violin maker and an artist. He free draws with a pen on the violin. If he messes up, then he just makes it part of his design. He won an award for the best violins in Wisconsin. He also won a national award.


I really want to learn how to make violins and fiddles, because then I could make my own instead of having to go out and buy them.


Holy Notes

The Holy Notes is a band with three women and two men. They play blues and gospel. They really only play gospel, because if you have a saxophone, it really ain’t blues.


The band has been playing together for one year. One of them learned how to play their instrument in fourth grade. One of the members learned how to play the accordion and other instruments before she learned how to play the bass. One of the members decided to play guitar because he heard his friend playing guitar and he thought it sounded good.


Everyone in the band sings. They normally sing religious songs and songs about the blues or happiness. Their music was wonderful, and I want to see them again.



The Madison Gospelaires are an a capella group. A capella means singing without instruments. The Gospelaires sang a few songs for us. They were called “There’s No Secret,” “How Long,” and “Doors of Progress.”

Gospel music is about Jesus and God, meaning it is in the Christian religion. The last song they sang alone was “Lord Remember Me.” Then we sang with them a little bit. We sang, “This Little Light of Mine” and another song. I thought we were good but I think they were better because of course they practice a lot and are doing gospel music all the time.

Sometimes in gospel music you clap your hands. I also saw them tapping their feet to the rhythm once in a while. They had a good sense of rhythm and I doubt they ever get off the beat.


Gospel singing has its roots in singing by Black slaves. Slaves sang the songs when they were picking cotton. But you don’t have to be Black to be a gospel singer.


Richard Davis

Richard Davis is a world-famous jazz musician. He also is a professor at the University of Wisconsin. Right now Richard Davis is interested in Irish polka. Richard Davis says jazz is mostly improvising. He uses scales, rhythms and melodies to help play jazz. The bass is the root of the music. The piano and the bass is a common duet. A piano, a bass, and drums can be a jazz trio. A guitar can also be in a jazz trio. Clarinet, saxophone, and trumpet are all jazz instruments.


Every time Richard Davis plays jazz, he smiles. He likes it so much, he teaches it to other people.


Richard Davis is a famous jazz musician. For him, jazz is only one type of music out of many. He said, “In jazz, you’ve got to do everything at the same time.” Which means, “Open your ears and eyes,” if you know what I mean. For Richard, the most important tool to use in jazz is melody, and scale. You can change melody by high and low voices. There are three instruments that Richard calls “rock of the harmony,” and they are bass, piano, and drums. The most important instrument in jazz is the saxophone, which Richard calls “the voice of jazz.”


The jazz trumpet was made famous by Louis Armstrong. Louis Armstrong also started scatting. In one performance, the music fell off the stand and he couldn’t read it. So he just made up the words as he went along.


A scale is a line of notes that goes up and down, loud or soft. Rhythm is how the music played. Some rhythms have long spaces in between the notes, and some have short ones.


To produce the right sound you have to pluck, shade, or ?? the sound. Some other blues musicians try a fake, like they’re playing the blues but they’re really not. You have to feel the blues to play the blues. Usually when someone is really playing the blues, they close their eyes really tight and don’t look at their fingers when they’re playing.



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Fireman's Story

Transcription of interview with Mike Danz, Black Earth Fire Department

“We started crawling in the back of the trailer [that was on fire] looking for this lady who was supposedly still home. . . All the furniture had fallen down around us, so we’re crawling through all the lamps and the tables, and the chairs were thrown about and it was very full of clutter anyway. It was an older lady and she had lived there for twenty-five years and she’d kept everything.

“As we crawled through one room and didn’t find her we crawled to the next room, then we’d go to the next room… We were headed down the hall to go to the kitchen, myself and my brother were both searching for her. As we went down the hall, the smoke got very thick, we couldn’t see anything.

“The heat was getting very intense. It started to hurt coming through your gear. We had one room left …. as we got closer to the kitchen both myself and my brother fell through the floor. At that moment, I was the most scared I’d ever been. We had to go from looking for her to figuring out how to get ourselves out of there without dying.

“So I helped my brother out of the hole and he helped me out of the hole and we hightailed it to the back door.

“I don’t want to know more than the guy next to me. If we were all in the fire department, I would want every one of you to know just as much as I know. Because if you don’t, and I depend on you to know something and I kept it a secret the whole time, it may cost me in the end. So it’s better not to have secrets.

“Out here we get wildfire and they’re grass and pine trees… We were going through there putting the fire out and putting the fire out and, all of a sudden, the wind turned, and it turned the whole fire and it started coming at us. Just faster than I could run. And I’m running and it’s getting closer and closer and closer, and just in the nick of time a jeep comes by, and I was able to jump in the back of the jeep and hide down between the wheel well, and we had to drive straight through that fire as fast as we could in that truck. And that was very hot and very scary.”

(Transcribed by Emma)

Lenny Anderson

Lenny Anderson is a storyteller who has lived in Deerfield since 1936. He said that in 1880, Deerfield was a mile north of where it is now. When he was a kid, they had a train that brought the mail. He said the train would be going really fast, and someone threw the mail out the window. They stuck hooks out of the train and grabbed the mail waiting to be sent.

There used to be a lot of Norwegians in Deerfield. A lot of the Norwegians grew tobacco. Lenny once worked in a tobacco warehouse, selling tobacco for $1.80 a pound.


In 1936 Lenny was born in Deerfield. I think the workers in Deerfield broke the surveyor, and that is how they got the name Deerfield.


Storyteller Doug Phundheller

Doug Phundheller is a very German 73-year-old man. Not nearly as Norwegian as most others. In the 1900s there were no televisions or radios, so everybody went to the opera house in Stoughton. It was a bit like a huge movie theater to them, but with plays instead of movies. The Opera House was built in 1901, but there weren’t any fire escapes yet. But seven years later they put in a fire escape. Now this wasn’t your ordinary fire escape. This was a beam that would tip and wobble back and forth. Doug and his friends would play on it and run back and forth, trying to balance, until someone would shoo them off.

In 1954 the opera house was no longer in use. It was very messy and pigeons used it for their homes. Oscar Johnson, called “Pretty Oscar,” was hired to shoot pigeons in the opera house.


The lights at the opera house were gas-powered. It had an elevator where a horse was on a rope connected to a pulley in the opera house, connected to an elevator. So when the horse would walk down the alley, the elevator would go up.

Important people would sit in the box seats of the opera house. The seats below the balcony were oak. The first Civil War band played at the Opera House.



At the first performance they had at the opera house, Abraham Lincoln’s wife came on a horse.


In 1982 they [who?] convinced the city to tear down and restore the opera house to how it originally looked. It had been abandoned for so many years that the windows were broken and the ceiling needed to be replaced.

They got started. First they put in heating and air conditioning. They re-plastered walls. One man took out all the seats by hand, unscrewing every screw (I bet his hands must have hurt.), and he put the new ones in.

The new seats, like the old ones, had wire underneath where the men used to put their hats.

It took more than 20 years to build and furnish the opera house. They spent almost a million dollars on the opera house, and the money all came from donations.


They had a grand reopening for the opera house. Important people came for the celebration. They put in modern sound systems. A gold outline on the stage is 22kt gold. The gold-colored designs on the walls were painted with stencils, then gold slabs were put on the design. [fix?] Above the state there is a large copper plate.