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The Greenbush: Past, Present, Future
Tuesday, May 2, 2006, 9-5
Italian Workmen’s Club, 914 Regent Street, Madison, WI
9:00 – 9:05 Greetings
9:05 – 9:20 Greenbush Characters (Doug Moe, The Capital Times)
9:20 – 9:30 Video: “Greenbush to South Madison: The African American Experience” (Jocelyne Bodden, UW Student)
9:30 – 10: 00 African Americans in the Greenbush (Billy McDonald, E.B. Mathews)
10:00 – 10:10 Video: “Voices of Triangle Residents: Looking Towards the Future” (Jocelyne Bodden, UW Student)
10:10 – 10:20 Break
10:20 -11:00 Service Providers Describe Present-day Greenbush (Jeanne Pien, Community Development Authority; Paul Ly, Bayview Foundation; Carlos Jaramillo, Meriter Hospital; Linda Weyenberg, Neighborhood House)
11:00 – 11:15 Unveiling the “Greenbush Tour” Web Site (Sara Ziemendorf, UW Learning Support Services)
11: 15 -11:30 Greenbush Open Space Plans (Brian Siegel, UW Student)
11:30 – 12:00 Excerpts from Great Blue Articles About Greenbush Grocieries, Merle Sweet, and Longfellow School (Lulu, Micah, and Elena, Randall Students)
12:00 – 1:00 Picnic Lunch and Bocce Ball (Raul DeLuna, Meriter Hospital)
1:00 – 1:30 Video about Greenbush Housing, PowerPoint about Gardening, and PowerPoint about Proposed Greenbush Museum (Sam and Soleil, Randall Students, and Emily Ehlers, Architect)
1:30 – 2:10 Future of the Greenbush (Jule Stroick, City of Madison Neighborhood Planner; Amy Roundtree, Greenbush Neighborhood Association; Kevin Grohskopf, St. Mary’s Hospital)
2:10 – 2:30 Greenbush Handheld Augmented Reality Game (Mingfong Jan and John Martin, UW Graduate Students, Educational Technology)
2:30 – 2:40 Break
2:40 – 2:55 Greenbush Reunion Project (Raul DeLuna)
2:55 – 3:35 Keeping in Touch (Joseph “Buffo” Cerniglia and other former members of the Greenbush community)
3:35 – 3:45 Break
3:45 – 4:15 Our Newest Neighbors: Smith Hall (Margaret Nellis and UW Students)
4:15 – 4:45 The Jewish Community in the Greenbush (Jon Pollack, MATC)
4:45 – 5:00 Video: “Bayview Meets the Old Greenbush: A Randall Teachers’ Tour” (Jocelyne Bodden, UW Student)
“Box City” Models of Historical Buildings (Randall Students)
Model of Greenbush Museum (Randall Students with Architect Emily Ehlers),
Photos from Nick Stassi Collection
Open Space Plans by Sam Dennis’ UW Landscape Architecture Students
Doug Moe, The Capital Times
Doug Moe, columnist at The Cap Times, wrote 10 years of his columns, six days a week. Doug Moe really knows his stuff, he should, as he has written over 3,000 columns. Doug told us he didn’t know what he was getting himself into doing a column everyday. Doug also knows that if you don’t report on local stuff people will just turn on their TV, laptop or computers and look it up. Over the years Doug has encountered many Greenbush characters, I mean wrote about many Greenbush characters.
Doug Moe wrote about Jenny Justo. She was the bootlegging Queen of them all. Her mom went to jail and her dad was dead. He died when she was six years old. Jenny had to take care of her younger sisters and brothers. Five kids was a lot of work. Jenny was the oldest. She tried to make a bar and it worked but then she went to jail for it. She had to go to jail for a year or more. When she was done she came back and made a bar again, because you could drink now. The bar she opened is now called Smoky’s.
Jenny Justo’s husband was a famous baseball player, Art. When he had too much to drink at Jenny’s club, he would crawl into the back of his car and sleep it off. One night he fell asleep only to wake up in Chicago! Art later found that some people had stolen his car.
Another very memorable article that Doug Moe did was the one about the famous murder of Annie Lemburger. The person Doug actually wrote about was her nephew, Mark Lemburger. He had heard the story of Annie Lemburger many times and had become obsessed with the story. Hundreds of newspaper article had been written about her, all over the country, so it would be hard to ignore it. Anne Lemburger was 7 years old when she was abducted and killed. She was found later, floating in Lake Monona, deceased.
Spike Peterson, a man who could drive a spike through a 2×4 with his bare fist. He ended up in jail for opening (with his bare hands) a safe with money inside that some other men couldn’t.
Doug also told a story about someone named Curtis “Spike Driver” Peterson. He was a wrestler and got his name from being able to drive a spike through, yes through a 2×4. Curtis became a criminal when two thieves were trying to open a safe. When they couldn’t open it, they tried to carry it and couldn’t. One of the thieves knew Curtis and called him in and Spike broke open the safe.
African Americans in the Greenbush
Billy McDonald & E.B. Matthews
Billy McDonald, the brother of Betty Banks, also went to Longfellow. He wasn’t born in the Bush and but lived there for nine years. His father died when he was six. All his best friends were from the Greenbush. Before he left, he knew nothing of segregation at all.
Many summer days were spent at Neighborhood House, or playing sports at Brittingham Park. He and his family went to picnic in the park every other Sunday. Sometimes other families would join them. “We never felt that we lacked anything”, he said. “We always had what you call fun.” One famous quote from Mr. McDonald is “The best education I ever had was growing up in the Bush.”
Billy McDonald wasn’t born in the Greenbush but lived there for nine years. He used to be at the Neighborhood House all the time and if not there he would be playing baseball or swimming with no racism.
He said that the best education he ever had was growing up in the Bush and going to Longfellow school.
Billy McDonald lived in the Greenbush for 9 years but wasn’t born there. He went to Longfellow and Central High; he also said “My best education was growing up in the Bush.”
Billy’s dad died when he was six or seven and he had lots of friends, he also went to Longfellow. So when he went to Longfellow, on his first day he walked in fine and then when he sat down, in his classroom, he started to cry. Then, I forget his name, but a boy came up and then patted Billy on the back and said, “You will be okay, you will make lots of friends.” His mom did get remarried.
When Billy or E.B. went to the Neighborhood House and then their friends would go over to the park across the street. They would play all kinds of sports like football, baseball or soccer. Then after that they would go and jump in the lake and swim. I can just see them jumping in the lake and all of them walking from the Neighborhood House to the park.
Billy McDonald lived in the Greenbush for 9 years. When he was 3, his father died. When he was 6, his family moved. On the first day of 2nd grade, Billy walked into the classroom, sat down and began crying. A boy named Bob McCann tapped him on the shoulder and said not to worry. Everybody worked together in the Greenbush.
Every other Sunday, Billy’s family would go down to Brittingham Park and they would play and swim in the lake.
I think Billy McDonald has some really nice and funny stories. He still goes to all the reunions in the Bush with his friends. When he and his friends were kids they would hang at the White Front Grocery till about six o’clock p.m. when he then had to go home for dinner.
His family would go out to grill ribs and chicken every other Sunday at a park. Everybody would eat his father’s cooking because he was a professional.
E.B. Matthews, Adrina Squire’s brother, lived in the Greenbush when he was a kid just like us.
Mr. Matthews was on the Central High football team. They were undefeated, unscored on and yet they hated West High School. They had a couple of very good players on the Regents (West High). Whenever one of those great players went out to catch a pass, whoever was covering him on the Central team would whisper, “I got ya. I got ya,” which distracted the offending player, causing them to fumble the ball. This happened over and over again until Central won: 29 to 0.
One of my favorite stories that E.B. Matthews told us about was, he worked at the Oscar Meyer Weiner place from 11 o’clock pm to 7 o’clock am. One day he was cleaning up a garage and one of his friends said he should be a police officer. He said he did not want to, so the friend said if you don’t go to this meeting thing tomorrow I’ll send somebody down to get you. Not wanting to be seen getting put into a police car he went the next day. He was surprised to find that 50% of the people there were his buddies from school.
The one thing I can see most vividly is when the football team that E.B. Mathew was on won a game they would go over to someone’s house (that they knew) and they would have spaghetti and meatballs. E.B. Matthews said “I still like meatballs and spaghetti today.”
E.B. Mathews recalls the Central High School football team. In Central’s first season when E.B. was there, they were unbeaten, untied and unscored on. There was no discrimination at all. Everyone got along.
Service Providers Describe Present-Day Greenbush
Jeanne Pien, Community Development Authority; Paul Ly, Bayview Foundation; Carlos Jaramillo, Meriter Hospital; Linda Weyenberg, Neighborhood House
There were four service providers who talked at the conference: Jeanne Pein, Paul Ly, Carlos Jaramillo and Linda Weyenberg. Jeanne works with CDA housing like Parkside and Brittingham. She works in all of these places and helps some of the people there. Paul is the director of Bayview. Carlos is an interpreter over at Meriter. In fact, he runs the interpreter section. Linda is the director of the Neighborhood House. She is the one who plans the activities and goes to the meetings.
Bayview was first just a lot of Greenbush houses. Then they were all torn down from the Urban Renewal and Bayview was created. It provides home for families with low and medium income. There are lots of different varieties of ethnic groups who live there.
Meriter, according to the man who presented, is expanding which has been caused by the growing need for health care. But instead of sprawling to the sides or invading the triangle, Meriter is expanding upward, to the maximum height of 11 stories.
Unfortunately, I am under the impression that this man was trying to convince us of the fact that we should all go to Meriter. The way he was talking about the reasonably priced breakfast and how we should drop in sometime, as if the hospital were a bed & breakfast.
Jeanne Pein is apart of the CDA Housing. Her job is to help the people with disabilities and the elderly residents to find people to help them with their needs. This help allows them to take care of their apartment and then they don’t have to go into a nursing home.
Paul Ly works in Bayview. Bayview is not a part of the city [government]. What Bayview does is provide homes for low income families: 65% are Asian, 25% are Latinos and 10% are African American. Also in Bayview is the Triangle Ethnic Fest.
Jeanne, Paul and Linda all work together. They said that they couldn’t do their job without each other. Jean said that without Paul’s “kids” the people who live in the CDA housing would have an activity taken away. What Jean means is that the people who live in the CDA housing enjoy watching the kids play outside.
Linda Weyenberg is the director of the Neighborhood House. There are only two full time employees who work at there. The rest are all college volunteers who work part-time. Linda said that she and the rest of the Neighborhood House really value their volunteers.
“Hi, my name is Carlos Jaramillo, I work at Meriter. We have the 5th largest hospital in Wisconsin. Meriter has been in the community for 120 years. Before, in the olden days, Meriter was called Madison General Hospital.”
Neighborhood House is located on South Mills Street. They have an emergency food pantry and information on services. The director goes over to Parkside a lot to see residents and hear their stories about the historic Greenbush. Neighborhood House offers karate, fencing and much more. Neighborhood House has only two fulltime employees, so they are glad to have so many volunteers.
Future of the Greenbush
Jule Stroick, City of Madison Neighborhood Planner; Amy Roundtree, Greenbush Neighborhood Association; Kevin Grohskopf, St. Mary’s Hospital
Jule Stroick is a city planner. She says that everything surrounding a neighborhood affects it. South Madison, Regent St. and Park St. are all going to be developed. UW and Meriter are growing. Dean Medical is almost waiting to be redeveloped. The UW is an economic engine. How will all of this redevelopment look? Will this make Madison a stronger city? How will all of this affect Greenbush? Those are some questions that need to be thought about. Park St. is a big barrier, it is very busy. Things on either side need to be accessible. There needs to be a sense of attraction to make people come there. Jule suggested that putting parking or traffic underground could help. It would make crossing easy and people could get to Monona Bay easier.
Jule Stroick works as a city planner. She is particularly interested in the Bush. Before I go into detail, I want to say the broad topic of her discussion. How can we create a stronger, healthier city, with economics and employment? Say there is a mall that everyone nearby goes to, now say this mall is being thought of as a bad place from the city’s point of view. That was almost exactly the view of the Bush. I’m going to say another broad topic; how do people get what they want but the city does too? Hopefully they’ll find a way to do that with the upcoming Urban Renewal.
Amy Roundtree mentioned that everywhere you look there are cranes. As she looks into the future, she sees energy-efficient housing and affordable housing. Amy mentioned that the only problem with us talking about a new Greenbush is that some people may think “oh no, here is the Urban Renewal all over again.” Amy Roundtree also said that people here value having lots of different ethnicities. She thinks having a neighborhood with a bunch of different ethnicities will help the future. Amy also works in the neighborhood association.
When Kevin spoke, he told us about the new building expansion of St. Mary’s. He told us that they talked about this expansion with some residents and they were surprised at the answer because many of the residents said they would rather have them build out towards South Park instead of building up. Someone also said they were hoping that this new expansion would last for 10-20 years.
Kevin works for St. Mary’s. He says that it’s important to accommodate elderly people in the future as well as people with disabilities.
Keeping in Touch
Buffo Cerniglia & George Fabian
Since Urban Renewal destroyed the original Greenbush neighborhood, many past residents have been finding ways to keep in touch. Buffo organizes lunch each week for a lot of the past residents. George’s Park Street Shoe repair is a favorite hangout place for them to tell stories about each other.
George Fabian owns a shoe repair shop called Park Street Shoe Repair. He said that it’s a favorite hangout for older residents of the Greenbush to share stories and talk. George said that sometimes older residents, who are dying, come to say goodbye. Funeral processionals sometimes go out of their way to pass the little shoe repair shop.
Buffo and George told us how everyone stays connected. The men mostly hangout at the Park Street Shoe Repair. George said that the shop has become an elderly daycare. Like one day some guy’s wife had to run some errands and she left her husband there.
Stories are best told by someone who remembers them well and Greenbush stories are no exception. Buffo Cerniglia and George Fabian are both former residents of the Greenbush and they know a lot of stories.
Buffo told a story about Salerno/Intravaia, an all girls’ band. One time they were going to play in a concert and the drummer girl got sick and couldn’t play. The Intravaia sisters took one of their brothers as a substitute drummer. They dressed him up like a girl and then all through the concert people were looking at him and thinking, what an ugly girl that is! At the end of the concert the Intravaia brother pulled off the wig and everyone laughed.
Another story that was particularly powerful for me was this one, short but wonderful. George Fabian’s father couldn’t write, only his own name. He worked at a shoe repair shop. Every Friday he’d have to write out his orders. George would write and his father would dictate. No one knew until George told them at his father’s funeral. That’s how determined people were in Greenbush, to keep their dignity. They were proud of it.
One night when Buffo was having his dinner his dad got mad at him. He dad started to strangle Buffo and then Buffo tired to get out of his reach and pull his hand away. His mom said, “Go to your room for trying to hit your dad!” Buffo then ran upstairs and went out the window and saw his friends below. His mom yelled, “Don’t jump, your friends will think you’re crazy!” George, his friend said, “Jump, jump!” Buffo wanted to kill George. So he ran down stairs and it took his dad and three other people to stop Buffo.
Patsy always liked to drink a lot. One night he was so drunk that he had to climb into the backseat of his car. There he fell asleep. Patsy woke up in Chicago. Two guys had stolen his car and had driven it all the way there, without waking up Patsy once. But of course, they didn’t realize that there was someone sleeping in the back of the car.
There had been a murder in the Greenbush the night before, when the two people stole Patsy’s car. When the murder took place, a person was able to see it all because he was standing a little ways away. When the few who did see the murder started running away, one of their hats fell off. As soon as Patsy returned his car into his driveway he got arrested. The police officers also found a bunch of booze in the back of his car. Which, at the time, was illegal. That made him even more likely to be one of the killers. Because he could have been drunk and, well, he was drunk, he could have killed a person. Patsy was driven over to the police station. He kept on saying that he wasn’t the murderer, but none of the policemen listened. Patsy knew that if he said that he was the killer he would be arrested and put into jail. He also knew that if he said he was in Chicago delivering booze, he would also be arrested.
The police officers made Patsy try on the hat – it fit like it was made for him! Now the police officers were sure they had the right man. Patsy requested that he see the chief of police. So a police officer brought Patsy to him. Patsy knew that the chief of police also like to drink, just like him. Patsy just told the chief that he was delivering booze to Chicago and he was nowhere near the Greenbush or even in Madison. The chief believed him because the chief didn’t care too much about booze being illegal.
The Jewish Community in the Greenbush
Jon Pollack, MATC
Jon Pollack came to describe the Jewish community in the Greenbush. The heyday of the Jewish community, in the Greenbush, overlaps with the Italian experience, but was in many ways much different. Most of the people came from Kapulia, in the province of Minsk, in Russia.
The Greenbush was thought to be an awful place because so many Italians lived there. We all know the stereotype about Italians, right? Well, it was said that all Italians were awful criminals, but that’s just a stereotype, yet some people still believed it. It was a pity that people only realize how wonderful the “Bush” was after it was destroyed.
The Jewish immigration began around 1890. About 29 Jews in Madison settled in the south Madison area. Later on, more Jews moved into the Greenbush. A lot of them were from the same village in Russia, a place near Minsk called Kapulia. In 1904, the Sinaiko brothers came to the Bush. When they brought back their mother, she was appalled that the brothers hadn’t built a synagogue. Soon after, Agudas Achim, “Knot of Brothers”, was founded. After that, the community grew and in 1907 half the Jewish people in Madison were living in the Greenbush.
The main occupation for Jews back then was the junk business. Many people thought that it was a low status job, asking people for trash and getting dirty. Jon told us that he thought owning a junkyard would be fascinating and it was pretty much before recycling happened.
I think Jon did an amazing job at describing the Russian Jewish community in the early 1900’s to the 1960’s during Urban Renewal. He really represented the Jewish culture. Most of the Russian Jews came from Kapulia and areas around Kapulia. When the Jews immigrated to America, some people came to a swampy area in south Madison, known as the Greenbush. Many Jewish families, in order to make some money, got into the junk business. Which took them door to door asking anybody if they had any junk (paper, tinfoil, metal, etc). This may have earned them money, but not enough for most people to make a career.
The first Jewish community was not centered in the Greenbush. In 1890 there were 29 Jewish families in south Madison and eleven in the Greenbush, though that number would increase immensely. Perhaps one of the reasons that in the early 1900’s not very many Jews were moving to Madison is there was no synagogue!
This was the last presentation in the conference, but definitely not the least informative. Jon talked about the early 1900’s mostly, when Jews were first coming to Madison and many of them were moving into the Greenbush. The first actual synagogue in the Greenbush was built in 1904 and destroyed by Urban Renewal.
Jon Pollack told us about the Jewish population and its peaks and valleys in the time of the Greenbush. It all started around the turn of the 19th century in northern Wisconsin.
A member of the Jessner family “bounced” from city to city after a series of petty crimes. He ended up in Madison around prohibition and ran a speakeasy, simply named after himself, called Jessner’s. It was more “public” than other areas at the time. Up until then the Jews had been accepted but the loss of Jessner’s wife caused him to then spiral into a very, very serious depression. After this he turned to much more serious crime sprees that cost many their lives.
Greenbush Community Conference: May 2, 2006
The conference was held at the Italian Workmen’s Club. The Italian Workmen’s Club was in the old Bush, present Bush, and hopefully the future Bush.
Everybody that talked about how the Greenbush was a good place (unlike the former city). When I listened to them I knew they respected and liked the Greenbush community. People who lived, worked, and planned for the Greenbush were finally heard.
All the presenters showed us something different about the Greenbush, what the old Bush was like, about the present Bush with Meriter Hospital, Bayview, and Neighborhood House, what the future Bush might be like.
In the past everyone knew everyone. They’d just go over to Brittingham Park to play and the mom would just say, “Be home in time for dinner.” They knew if they didn’t, they’d be in for it.
In the summer the Italian girls would have to help their mothers make tomato paste while their fathers crushed grapes for making wine. But soon, all that stopped.
Also they represented the African American part of the Greenbush extremely well with some really powerful stories by E.B. Matthews and Billy McDonald.
I think all phases of the Greenbush were portrayed very well. For example, the past. What with E.B. Matthews, Billy McDonald, Buffo and George Fabian, we had quite a collection of stories that viewed the Greenbush from all points.
With Buffo and George, we saw the past Greenbush as a place where everyone got along together, and they mostly told stories that were funny. The E.B. Matthews and Billy McDonald presentation was pretty much the same, although their stories were more powerful than funny, about the prejudice they found outside the Bush.
Everyone who told stories unleashed a lot of the rich details that were hidden away when Urban Renewal struck the neighborhood.
It seems like Buffo has an endless supply of funny, great stories.
Buffo takes the cake though; his stories were both jovial and serious at the same time.
I heard stories that described what the Greenbush was like: heaven.
He helped to explain a Jew’s life in the Bush and how many of them were proud that they had moved out of the Bush, rather than sad.
Our conference showed the Greenbush (in my opinion) like a safe, nice, undiscriminating, welcoming place. Our past evidence shows how the African Americans, E.B. Matthews and Billy McDonald, never knew about racism until they left the Bush and joined the army.
They never locked their doors; [they] knew their neighbors and welcomed everybody.
It is just story after story after story.
St. Joseph’s School, Brittingham Apartments, the Greenbush Museum, playing ball in empty lots, fishing on Monona Bay, and community gardening; these are a few of our Greenbush things that were said at the conference.
Another image I had was when Billy McDonald told us that in the old Greenbush some people would bring blankets down to Brittingham Beach and sleep there. Someone also mentioned that kids with different backgrounds played together and adults with different backgrounds worked together.
Today, in the present, there are mixed ethnicities, but it’s not the same and it will never be. But who said it couldn’t be better?
Today Park Street is as busy as ever and it’s like a wall between the people and the beautiful lake.