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The Danish Brotherhood Lodge 14 of Kenosha is a fraternal organization that was established in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin in the early 20th century. The lodge was founded by a group of Danish immigrants who had settled in the area and wanted to preserve their cultural heritage and traditions.
The exact date of the founding of the lodge is not known, but it is believed to have been established sometime in the early 1900s. The first recorded meeting of the lodge was held on December 20, 1905, and it was attended by 33 members.
The Danish Brotherhood Lodge 14 of Kenosha was one of many lodges established throughout the United States by Danish immigrants. The organization was modeled after similar fraternal organizations in Denmark and had the goal of promoting Danish culture, language, and traditions, as well as providing support and assistance to Danish immigrants and their families.
The lodge was an active participant in the local community and was involved in a variety of charitable and social activities. It provided financial assistance to members in need, organized cultural events and festivals, and supported local Danish-American businesses.
During World War II, the Danish Brotherhood Lodge 14 of Kenosha played an important role in supporting the war effort. Many of its members served in the armed forces, and the lodge provided assistance to their families while they were away. The lodge also participated in bond drives and other war-related activities.
In the post-war years, the Danish Brotherhood Lodge 14 of Kenosha continued to be an important part of the local Danish-American community. It supported cultural events and festivals, provided scholarships to local students, and continued to provide assistance to members in need.
Today, the Danish Brotherhood Lodge 14 of Kenosha continues to exist, although its membership has declined in recent years. It remains an important part of the city's Danish-American heritage and continues to promote Danish culture and traditions in the local community.
Our Earliest Years 1884 to 1920
Lodge #14 was first chartered on February 1, 1884 with Jorgen Andresen as the first president. The lodge temporarily disbanded about 1886 and was re-chartered on April 30, 1892 with Jens Larsen as the president. Meetings were first held in a second floor room above a store in downtown Kenosha.
Although numbered 14, the Lodge is now the sixth oldest lodge in the Brotherhood since several of the lodges chartered earlier are no longer in existence.
Many newspaper articles from early Kenosha attest to the activities of Lodge #14. As early as December, 1897, an article headlined, “Danish Christmas Tree” stated:
“One of the most pleasant celebrations of Christmastide was the entertainment given last evening by the Danish Brotherhood…in the center of the room was placed a large Christmas tree, which was beautifully illuminated with candles…gifts were distributed and all the little hearts made happy by the appearance of Santa Claus…”
In 1887, another article in The Kenosha Union told of the celebration of the fifth anniversary of the lodge. It described the beautifully decorated hall and “the tables neatly arranged and full of the best eatables.” President James Larson gave an address of welcome and responses were made by Peter Johnson, Dr. Harbert, Peter Maegaard, and Prof. Harbert. After refreshments, “the floor was cleared and all enjoyed the balance of the evening in dancing.”
However, the Danes in Kenosha did not spend all of their time in organized activity. An interesting article appearing in September, 1897, in the Kenosha Evening News provided this information:
“Two Danish men were pretty well pickled with that which inebriates and does not cheer next morning, were found asleep at about 1 o’clock this morning on Milwaukee Avenue in a cart to which a horse was attached. The horse showed signs of having been driven hard and had probably stopped for a rest. The two men evidently thought the opportunity ripe for their rest also. It took the combined efforts of two men to wake them up and start them on their way homeward.”
Among the activities of Lodge #14 in the early days were popularity contests featuring politicians with the winners being awarded a prize. In 1898, just prior to the spring municipal elections, this article appeared in the News:
“The Danish Brotherhood gave their annual election ball at their hall in the Gonnermann building Monday evening and a very pleasant evening was spent by those who were able to leave election troubles behind and enjoy the music and dancing…part of the program was the contest for a silk umbrella to be given to the most popular candidate for Mayor. Mr. Pettit led from the start…the vote standing Pettit 505 to Culley 216…dancing continued until early morning. About 80 couples were in attendance.”
By the time of the national elections in 1898, the Lodge apparently had enough of politics and “indefinitely postponed” a dance. “The reason was the fact that some of the Democratic members of the Brotherhood attempted to turn the dance into a political meeting and had asked L.B. Bohmrich to deliver a speech on the occasion. This was too much for the Republican Danes to stand.”
On the occasion of the seventh annual banquet, in May 1899, the Kenosha Telegraph-Courier called it “one of the most enjoyable events ever held among the Danish population of the city. The article described the beautifully decorated hall and reported the walls as being “elaborately hung with American and Danish flags, and the various emblems of the order.” More than a hundred guests attended the celebration and speakers included Dr. Jorgensen, H. Harbert, and Henry Feldshau. The article also said that when organized the Lodge had but six members “and today it boasts a membership of over one hundred of the best known members of the Danish population of the city.”
In 1899, it was reported that the Brotherhood had purchased a lot on Pearl Street on which they could build a home which “will cost between $6,000 and $7,000.”
During July 1899, a grand picnic was organized by the lodge at Central Park in Kenosha. All the Danish-Americans of Racine and Kenosha were invited to the event. The program included a vocal concert by the Hamlet singers and an instrumental concert by the Kenosha Union Band, in addition to a tug-of-war between the two groups. It was reported that “arrangements have been made to have electric cars run to the park every half hour.” The event was characterized as being “a record breaker from every standpoint and more than 3,000 people attended including some who arrived on a Lake Michigan steamer from Michigan. In later years, many of the picnics were held at Anderson Park or Edelweis Park.
Another event that year, also held at Central Park, was an athletic meet including the Racine and Kenosha lodges and featuring a wrestling match and a sparing exhibition between the best members of the two chapters. Admission was free.
The Eighth annual banquet in May 1900, was held at the Central Music Hall and the report stated that the long tables filled with delicacies of the season spoke volumes in favor of the cooking of the Danish women in the city. The speechmaking was led by President O. Jorgensen.
An outstanding event that year was the July 4th picnic held on Washington Island (Simmons Island). Numerous representatives from other societies were in attendance and heard speeches by Governor George Peck, Eugene V. Debs, and Senator J.V. Quarles.
On the occasion of the annual banquet in May 1902, over 300 guests were present at the Meyers Auditorium and the report stated the banquet was a seven course dinner fit for the plate of a king. It was served by the wives and sweethearts of the members of the Brotherhood. That report also stated that the Danish Brotherhood had now become the leading Danish society in Kenosha and numerically was one of the strongest benevolent organizations of the city. It had over 170 members and the names of the leading Danish residents of the city appear on the rolls of the society.
In 1903 Kenosha was in dire need of a good hospital and the Brotherhood joined in raising funds for the hospital by having a great picnic in Schend’s Park. “All the Danish societies including the Danish Brotherhood, the Dania Society, the Singing Society Freya and the various societies united with the Danish Lutheran church” had a part in the event.
The anniversary banquet in 1902 was held at Simmons Hall and was attended by more than 200 guests. Following speeches at the event by School Commissioner James Larsen, S. Bergstrom, and Peter Johnson, the tables were removed and the Stemm Brothers full orchestra furnished the music for dancing “until early morning.”
In addition to occasionally entertaining the Racine Lodge, other groups were also invited to events. In 1904, Lodge #14 entertained the Waukegan Lodge at a smoker and supper and all were reported as having a fine time. Similarly, the Kenosha members occasionally went to other cities, as in 1906 when they chartered a special car on the Chicago Northwestern train and went to the Racine Lodges meeting.
On a stormy February evening in 1905, more than 200 Danes gathered at Simmons Hall to be entertained by Valdemar Kolling and Johannes Kerskind, two of the leading actors of Copenhagen. Also on the program was the Hamlet Singing Society of Racine.
During this early era, Masquerade Balls were very popular and the Lodge frequently sponsored such events. In 1905, and in 1906, a grand masked ball was held at the Germania Hall in early March and more than $125 in prizes was awarded to the best masqueraded guests. In 1907, the Ball was described as “the biggest event of the year” with 300 masked couples. After the grand march, the masks were removed and dancing continued until the early morning hours. Guest had come from Milwaukee, Racine and Waukegan. The Ball was an annual event for many years and in 1910 in a report on a City Council meeting it was reported:
Political oratory was rampant and the “dear people” and “overworked taxpayers” had another inning of it. The crowd in the lobby was not as large as usual and for this reason the brilliant display of oratory was cut short in order to give the members of the council a chance to get in on the masquerade of the Danish Brotherhood.
By 1914, the masquerade was advertised as being private and tickets were sold at the hall and at Petersen and Rasmussen grocery – – gents, 50 cents; ladies, 25 cents.
The Brotherhood also participated in triennial meetings held by the United Danish Societies and such a meeting was held in Racine in June, 1905, at the new Dania Hall. On Sunday, June 4, the 56th anniversary of Danish independence, a grand folk fest was held in Kenosha at Central Park and 500 Danes from Racine and Kenosha were joined by 300 other delegates for the event. By 1914, the Lodge participated in a meeting of 20 Brotherhood lodges at Milwaukee at which establishment of an Old People’s Home in Wisconsin was discussed.
The 17th anniversary banquet was held at the Knights of Columbus hall with dinner served by “ten of the well known young Danish ladies of the city.” President Andrew Nelson acted as the toastmaster and short toasts were responded to by C. Fred Borstrom, Ollie Rasmussen, and Anton Mattheson.
In addition to all of the dances, banquets, and picnics, the Brotherhood members also participated in such activities as shooting matches, bowling and cultural events. In 1909, the Danish Gun Club defeated the South Side Gun Club. The Danish team was led by Rasmus Knudsen, and included Hans Larsen, Karl Petersen, Emil Clausen, and Peter Larsen. A bowling league in 1916 included teams called the Holms, Paulsens, Hansens, Petersens, Johnsons, and Jensens. Bowlers included A. Olsen, P. Nohr, L. Nielsen, Olaf Friberg, M. Petersen, N. Laursen, G. Sorensen, H. Paulsen, O. Thomsen, and Bert Jensen.
In 1909, Fru Julie Rosenberg was featured in a concert of Danish songs and a talk urging American Danes to be loyal to their adopted country but to not forget Denmark. She showed some “moving pictures” of Denmark and was reported to have “stirred the Danes of Kenosha to great heights of patriotism at her entertainment at Carpenters Hall.”
The Lodge began discussing plans for erecting a building for the use of the members in about 1907. A lengthy article in the News described the proposed building and, as was typical of news stories of the era, interjected such items as “The Danes are much given to social functions, and the large hall will be kept in use most of the time.” The Lodge initially planned to construct a hall on property it owned in the downtown area near the corner of Pearl and Exchange streets (55th Street and 5th Avenue). The lot had a frontage of 88 feet on Pearl Street and a depth of 140 feet and was considered as desirable for locating the farmer’s market of that day. Since some alderman showed interest in such a project, the Brotherhood offered the site to the city for $50 a front foot. However, it was sold to the Rhode Opera House owners and purchased property on Howland Avenue and Elizabeth Street (22nd Avenue and 63rd Street), closer to the center of the Danish population. The deal for the property was completed in February, 1910.
Plans for the building were drawn by Joseph Lindl, a Kenosha architect and a sketch appeared on the front page of the News. Construction was begun in May, 1910, and it was announced that the building would become “a handsome structure of stone and brick, 41 by 102 feet in dimensions,” and providing “a modern club house . . . Two commodious store buildings . . . A library, a ladies’ parlor, pool and billiard rooms and smaller rooms to be used for card rooms.” The basement was to include a kitchen, bowling alley, club room, shower baths, and toilet rooms. The second floor was to have lodge rooms and a dance hall, with a large stage and dressing rooms. It was expected to cost $22,000.
The building was opened on December 17, 1910, and the News story characterized it as “the most handsome club home owned by any of the similar organizations in the city.”
More than 350 persons from Kenosha and several other cities attended the opening event. “Many prominent men of the city were guests of honor at the opening banquet . . .Short addresses were made by Mayor M. J. Scholey, Dr. P. M. Jorgenson, and Joseph Josephson, President of the Lodge.” Fraternal greetings from the Racine Lodge were extended by Ivar Kirkgaard. A bazaar which attracted large crowds was held at the hall in the following year, and “at the prettily arranged booths thousands of articles,” many donated by merchants and businessmen, were sold. The bazaar was held from Wednesday through Saturday and there was music and dancing each evening. A memorial service at the end of May also became an annual event at the Hall.
Many community organizations also used the hall for a variety of events. Included among them were a program on “the beautiful state of Florida,” dancing lessons, dances sponsored by the A.A.W. Club, New Years Eve celebrations and dances given by the Danish Socialist Branch, vaudeville and dance by Woodman of the World, dance by Barnes Dairy Baseball Club, meetings of the Jacob Riis League.
Occasionally, announcements of events of the Brotherhood as well as the Sisterhood were published in the News in Danish. An example:
Dansk Brodersamfund Loge No. 14 – – Afholder General-Forsamling med valg af ny Bestyr else
paa Tirsdag Aften den 4de December. Alle brodre bedes overvare samme, da der f oruden Valg
ogsaa er potages of en stor klasse Kandidater.
The 25th Anniversary of the Lodge was commemorated on April 28, 1917, with nearly 400 celebrants. The banquet featured songs of Denmark and America, and speeches by N. T. Nielsen, president; R. Rasmussen representing the national office, and O. Rassmussen. Thomas Hansen and Dr. Helen Harbert told of the early days of the Lodge, and Michael Laurensen responded to a toast to the Danish women. The event concluded with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.
Edwin Larsen and Herman Levin, who were among the 53 members of Lodge #14 to participate in World War I, lost their lives in the service. Following the War, an impressive banquet was given to honor these men. A tablet inscribed with the names of the veterans was dedicated and during the banquet the Brage Singing Society sang. Mayor John Joachim and C. W. Johnson spoke, and Rolf Rasmussen reminisced in Danish on the humorous aspects of the selective service draft. A patriotic tableau was presented by 13 young ladies including: Helga Petersen, Edith Thomsen, Ebba Hansen, Florence Josephson, Ella Maegaard, Charlotte Larsen, Anna Rasmussen, Alice Neergaard, Dagmar Olsen, Edna Maegaard, Mabel Neergaard, Dagmar Hansen, and Ellen Rasmussen.
An interesting initiate in the local lodge in 1919 was a Danish wrestler, Paul Martinson, known in mat circles as the “Hindu Killer.” Martinson had wrestled in Kenosha several times and became acquainted with many Danes in the city.
For some time, the Danish Singing Society associated with the Brotherhood was very active socially. Among other events, they sponsored a masquerade dance in 1921 with many cash prizes.
A banner headline in the Kenosha Evening News of June 23, 1921, read “KENOSHANS AT DANISH THRONE.” The front page story began as follows:
Three Kenosha men, P. H. Norregaard, H. E. Hansen, and Martin Petersen stood in the shadow of the throne of Denmark this morning and were personally received by Prince Harold, the brother of King Christian and acting Regent in charge of the throne of Denmark.
The three Kenoshans were part of a group of 35 members of the Danish Singing Society of Racine who were on a tour of Europe. On the day following the visit with royalty, the group was hosted at a dinner and Klaus Bernstoen, Minister of Defense, toasted the visitors in Copenhagen.
Kenosha in the 1920’s was a rough – and – ready place. There were numerous difficulties in enforcing the Prohibition law and stills were being raided almost daily – -in tavern back rooms, homes and basements, and even in an abandoned downtown sewer. So, it was not unusual to see the August 9, 1921 headline reading:
RAID CLUBROOM, GET EVIDENCE – Scholey and Moore Pounce Down on Danish Brotherhood Clubhouse. The news article began as follows:
Officials of the Kenosha Lodge of the Danish Brotherhood were today facing the possibility of being arrested on warrants charging violations of the prohibition and gambling laws as a result of a raid carried on Monday afternoon by Constable John Scholey and Deputy Ralph Moore on the clubhouse operated by the order at Lilly Lake.
The news article told how the raiders found “a large number of bottles, unlabeled and bearing a liquid that looked very much as if it were the old time beer.” A slot machine was also found. However, on the following day, a headline read: “Danish Brotherhood Was Not Implicated – Danish Singing Society Brage and Not Danish Brotherhood Operator of Lilly Lake Clubhouse.” Apologies in the article were made by both the raiders and by the Kenosha Evening News.
(Reminiscences of Harold A. Bastrup, Chief of Police (Retired), who now resides in Anaheim, California.)
(In 1992 the Kenosha Danish Brotherhood celebrated its 100th year anniversary. Long gone are the members of the very first years of the Brotherhood but there are still many who, as children, recall the late twenties and thirties and the activities of the Lodge in those days. We also recall the early remembrances of earlier years as passed on to us by our parents. This article is on some of those early activities of the Lodge.)
My father, Laurits (Lawrence), and my mother, Sofia Bastrup, emigrated to the United States in 1914. They came through Ellis Island in New York. With them were my two brothers, Kai (Kay) and Borge (Berg). Both were small children at the time. I was born in 1923 in Kenosha and my sister, Helen, was born in 1928. All of us would be involved with the Danish Brotherhood throughout our lifetimes. (Helen is now Mrs. John Piwoni. They are active in the Lodge.) In later years, my brother, Kay, and I would move to California at different times and join lodges there.
When my parents came to Kenosha, the Lodge was already 22 years old and the center of Danish social activities. In Kenosha, there was a mixing of many people of many ethnic cultures and religions, most were recent immigrants. They worked together at the many large factories, but in those early days gathered together at their own clubs with people of their own origin. The Polish, Germans, Italians, and Danes, all had large clubs in Kenosha. There were also smaller clubs of other nationalities. These clubs would all join together each year for the splendid day-long Fourth of July celebrations at the Washington Park Bowl. There, the combined clubs celebrated the birthday of their newly-adopted country and would demonstrate the custom, dress, and dances of their former home countries. Thousands of people would attend, many in the traditional clothing of their former homes. Each organization would take turns providing entertainment on a stage in the bowl. Food from all nations could be purchased during the festivities.
My father joined the Danish Brotherhood and my mother became a member of the Sisterhood shortly after they arrived in Kenosha. There, they made many lifelong friends. Their best friends were Carl and Petra Olsen. (Carl, Senior, was the Lodge secretary for over 20 years.)
Most of my earliest fond recollections as a child have to do with the Danish Brotherhood and its many activities. There were the children’s Christmas parties, the dances, the annual Review, the annual Bazaar, the Danish holiday celebrations, numerous activities sponsored by the Women’s auxiliary, the Men’s Singing Society, and the many-faceted Danish Athletic Club which included tumbling, baseball, and soccer teams. And, there were also the frequent celebrations, as there are today, for weddings and anniversaries of all kinds. Along with the weekly Lodge meetings, there was never a week that there was not some type of Lodge activity going on, especially in the fall, winter, and spring months. Numerous summer activities also took place at the Men’s Singing Society Camp at Lilly Lake.
For members only, there was the basement bar which the current membership has so thoughtfully kept in its original form. The bar was open daily in the afternoon and evening and all day Saturday. It was run for the Lodge by a member who was elected in those early years for a one-year term. He and his family would live in an apartment furnished for them and located on the first floor of the Lodge. His responsibilities would include all of the janitorial services needed to keep the building in shape as well as running the bar. For many years, he would also open the Reading Room on the first floor at 9 a.m. The Reading Room had current newspapers and publications from Denmark, and a library of Danish books which could be checked out. This was a gathering place for the Danes to read and to talk about current events or about days past in “the old country.” My father was elected to the position of Lodge caretaker for a year, sometime in the early twenties. I recall my mother and two brothers talking about the work it involved. My mother would have to make Danish open face sandwiches to be served in the bar on Saturdays and Sundays, and the boys would have to keep the upstairs hall swept and the chairs and tables placed in order, depending on the days activities. They said it was a lot of work as each day had a different need.
The Second Floor – – “The Big Hall” and “The Little Hall”
The big hall, which is the dance hall, originally had a stage located on the east end. The large stage had a curtain and stage lighting. On both sides were rooms which led to the stage and which would be used for props and for cast members, when there was entertainment or the annual show called the Review. That annual show was something all of the Danes looked forward to and it had a variety of acts and skits. All were presented in the Danish language. The comedy skits were always the most popular. I remember one act during a Review where a large boat had been built and five members of the cast were in it. The simulated water, painted on wood in front of the boat, was constructed to look like waves. Three levels of these waves were moved irregularly to give the illusion of moving water. It was quite ingenious. The boat, with a large Danish flag on the bow, was placed on a see-saw so it looked like it was pushing through the waves. The Review, which lasted about two hours, always featured the Danish Brotherhood Singing Society which was composed of all the men. The Sisterhood, which also had a singing group, and the Lodge’s Danish Folk Dance group would also perform. Talented members of the Lodge would also provide entertainment and song or dance. I remember Carl Olsen, Jr., at the age of six or seven, singing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” The audience responded by throwing pennies and nickels to him on the stage. As a no-talent person, my only claim to fame could be that I ran out on stage to help him retrieve his small child’s fortune. Perhaps in the archives of the Danish Brotherhood, a musical score of one of the annual Reviews can be found. The original music was written by Carl’s Dad, and the Review was directed by him. A many-talented person, he would also write songs or poems for other special events such as anniversaries and weddings.
Under the stage was the storage space for chairs and tables. After a program requiring seating or tables, all the men and boys would quickly store them under the stage in preparation for the dance which would usually follow. Some chairs were removed to the sides for seating. Getting those chairs, and sometimes tables, off the floor quickly, seemed to be a challenge to the members, and it was fun to watch or to participate in the removal. Many records were set, only to be beaten at a later date.
Music for the dances was almost always played by a small group of musicians, usually numbering not more than four or five. There was a Dane named Lindstrom, who was a local insurance man. He was the group leader. The music played was a mixture of the currently popular American music. Every third or fourth dance, however, was music from Denmark. When these Danish songs were played, the Danes would quickly crowd the floor and dance and, sometimes, sing traditional songs. More than once, I have seen the tears of some of the participants as they remembered their earlier days in Denmark. Small children were allowed to wander or run around on the dance floor. There were never any restrictions, and I can imagine the irritation of the dancers as the happy children raced from one side of the dance floor to the other through the dancing crowd.
The Small Hall, as it was called, was located where the present upstairs bar is now located. It was used for the weekly Lodge meetings and contained all of the ceremonial chairs of office and the podium for the Lodge leaders. They were often pushed aside to provide room for current activities. The Small Hall was used most often for the serving of food during activities or dances in the Big Hall. A “dumb waiter” was the food elevator used to bring the food up from the kitchen and was operated by means of a rope. I shudder when I think of all the unauthorized rides we kids would take when adults were not around. Luckily, the rope never broke. Old timers will remember the kringle and other Danish pastries often served during Lodge activities by the Danish Sisterhood in the Small Hall. Proceeds were used to support their many social and community activities.
An annual event, using both the Large and Small Hall, was the Bazaar. Booths were constructed in the Small Hall and in half of the larger hall. The other half was kept for dancing. These booths would contain items for sale, food, games, and demonstrations of various Lodge activities. The Bazaar was put on for two nights, a Friday and Saturday, and during Sunday afternoon. Many people from Kenosha would attend. My favorite booth was always the “Aebleskiver” booth where completely round pancakes were served, covered with jelly and powdered sugar, and the second favorite was the booth where home made marzipan candies made to look like fruit, vegetables, or open face sandwiches were sold. Both the aebleskiver and marzipan Danish delicacies are still a Danish tradition today.
One of the most memorable of the Bazaar attractions was a merry-go-round. A complete circle wall with a center pole supporting it was constructed so that the wall could be rotated around seating which was placed inside. A person would enter through a small door, a part of the wall, which would then be closed and locked. The wall would then be spun around by men standing on the outside and people sitting inside the wall would have the illusion that they were moving around in a circle rather than the wall. I have seen more than one Dane, who had first imbibed a few beers before entering, leave the ride after it had stopped and not be able to stand up.
The Children’s Christmas Parties
One of the most looked forward to events by the children of Lodge members was the annual Christmas Party. A large tree which always reached the ceiling, was placed in the middle of the dance hall. Children would rotate in two circles in opposite directions around the tree as they sang both American and Danish Christmas songs. Parents seated around the hall would often join in the singing as a small band played. Santa Clause would always appear at the end of the circling of the tree by the children and would take his place in a chair on the stage. Children then, one by one, would go up to Santa. The gift was always a pound box of chocolates, a rare treat during the days of the great depression of 1929 and the early 30s. On leaving the stage, each child would also receive a bag from one of the Sisterhood women which contained apples and oranges, and sometimes a small toy or Danish Christmas ornament.
One of the comical things which would occur at the beginning of each children’s Christmas party was when the minister of the Danish Lutheran Church would arrive to say a prayer before the beginning of festivities. A lookout would be watching outside the Lodge for his arrival. When the signal was given all of the people holding beer or a mixed drink in the dance hall would hasten to conceal them by either placing them under chairs or by covering the drinks in some manner on their laps. Some would just run from the room into the smaller hall where they would stay until the minister left. Since most of the Danes were also members of the church they did not want to offend the minister who was not tolerant of drinking or dancing. I am quite sure the reverend, who was named Petersen, knew what was going on. During prohibition, when alcohol was against the law, members would bring their own home-made brew to the Lodge. My dad, who made exceptionally good beer, was a very popular fellow in those days. Bootleg beer was also often sold in the basement bar when the Police were being lax in enforcement.
After the Children’s activities, a dance would always follow. Children would race around for a short time but one by one would disappear. Some would be taken home, but the majority would be taken down to the women’s lounge or reading room where they would fall asleep on the many benches or chairs which had been placed together. This was common at most Lodge activities. I remember being awakened many times to be carried out into the cold weather for the drive home. The Danes, who were family oriented, would not leave the very small children home alone. We were always a welcome and tolerated part of the Lodge.
The Basement Bar
Still in existence today, the bar is almost exactly as it has been for many years. Just a few years ago, the Danish paintings on the walls were carefully restored to their original luster. Visitors to the bar should take the time to carefully study these paintings by a Danish artist.
The barroom has always had the tables and chairs as they are still placed today. For many years, when this was the only barroom in the Lodge, it was always open from noon and into the evening. Older retired members of the Lodge would gather in the early weekday afternoons to play cards and talk. After 4:00 p.m., the patronage would increase. Lodge members, done with their day’s work, would gather for a few beers or drinks and to socialize with other Lodge members. Slacking off for a short period during the supper hours, the business would again increase during the evening. On Tuesday, Lodge meeting nights, the barroom would always be filled before and after the meeting. The small bar, as it is today, was never large enough to accommodate but a few members. Members would stand if the tables were all occupied, and sometimes elbow to elbow. As a small child, I can remember pushing my way through the legs of those standing men, looking for my father. Often some member would pick me up and hold me high for my father to see me. Children were permitted in the bar if our parents were there. If we got lucky we would be given pop in large glass bottles. If not, we were told to go play someplace else. In those days of courtesy to the fairer sex, the women would always be seated at the tables with the men standing or seated at the bar.
To the back of the bar was a small storeroom for bar supplies, and the keg beer which was tapped and piped into the bar. Nelson’s bakery was next to the hall and the bakery goods were made in the bakery basement. Between the bar and the bakery was a small opening which had a hinged door with a lock on the bar side. The Danish bakers would rap on this door and the bartender was often seen drawing glasses of beer to be passed through the opening to them. This, of course, was understandable as they had to clear the flour from their lungs.
On the nights that the Men’s Singing Society would meet upstairs to practice their singing, most of the men would adjourn to the barroom after the meeting to socialize and water their parched tonsils. Often, one or two members would start singing a Danish or American song and soon everyone would join in the singing – – all except my father, who supported and enjoyed the Singing Society but could not sing a note. I know, he would sometimes sing a Danish song at home and I can attest that the Society was better off without his singing talent.
From time to time, slot machines would appear in the barroom, to disappear for a time and then to reappear. Owned by the Lodge, the money was used for Lodge activities.
As there are today, there were “smokers” once a month as well as Fish Nights, where sardines or eel would be served. That was one part of the Danish culture I never took in. That, as well as the open face goose lard sandwiches which were served with smorgasbord. My taste buds just reject them.
Card playing was always a Saturday morning and afternoon activity in the barroom. The room was always crowded and members would play various card games, including poker. The stakes were never high and it was mainly a social gathering. The men would get so involved that they would often forget the lateness of the afternoon. Sometimes, when there was an evening activity, my father would arrive home just in time for supper and to get ready, with the family, to return for some evening activity. One time, as a joke, my mother brought a supper down to the barroom and fed all of the men my father usually played cards with, so they would not have to go home for their suppers.
When I was about 16, I drove to the barroom one Saturday afternoon to pick up my father. It was filled with card players and my father told the bartender to give me a Coke as I waited for him to finish. Bored, I saw the juke box and decided to put a nickel in it to play a song. The music started, and when it did, there was an instant complete silence as everybody stopped their card playing and looked at me. One Dane stood up, his face filled with anger. He walked straight toward me. I thought he was going to strike me as he was looking so intently at me, but, instead, he passed me and walked to the wall where he pulled out the cord for the jukebox, stopping the music. “We do not play music when we are playing cards,” he said, as I also heard words of approval from other players. Almost as instantly as the silence had started, the men were again talking and laughing and playing cards. No one seemed to bear me any ill will, but I had learned my lesson that Saturday.
A most memorable occurrence at the bar one evening happened when my mother walked up to a man she knew and who was standing at the bar. His name was Torvel Jensen, and he was well known and admired as a successful administrator for a major factory in Kenosha. Torvel was a heavy set man and, as my mother passed behind him, she pulled on the back of his belt to get his attention, saying in Danish “How is it going Torvel?” At the moment his belt was pulled, Torvel pulled in his stomach and my mother released the belt. Torvel’s pants fell to the floor, revealing the brightly colored shorts he was wearing. The people in the barroom immediately went into long and uncontrollable laughter, as an embarrassed Torvel quickly pulled up his pants. Later, that incident was to be acted out in one of the Reviews on stage. Danes enjoyed that sort of humor and Torvel was not offended.
Men’s Singing Society & Summer Retreat at Lilly Lake
I do not know when it was built, but the members of the Brotherhood Singing Society had a large clubhouse on property they had purchased on the northeast side of Lilly Lake. The clubhouse was built by the members and had the outside markings of a Danish style which made it distinctive from other buildings and cottages on the lake. The property was at least two acres large, with a beach and a small pier built out on the lake. In early years, a number of cottages had also been built for members to rent. Those cottages were no longer in use when I was a small child. They were later removed from the property.
A nice sandy beach was maintained and there the families would enjoy swimming and playing in the lake. There were also horseshoe playing areas, and swings were attached to some of the limbs of the many trees which were close to the waterfront. There was also a single outdoor wooden bowling alley where wood pins were set to be struck by small wooden bowling balls. The balls contained no finger holes but the alley even had a return ball track. It was a popular place near the beach. Those of us who were lucky enough to be pin boys earned a few nickels and would send the balls back to the bowlers along the inclined track.
The clubhouse was a large one, with combination meeting and dance hall. A very small bar, where only four persons could stand was in a separate room next to the hall. Most purchasers of drinks would return outside or to the hall to enjoy them. There was a woman’s lounge to the back of the building and small living quarters for the person who would take care of the property and tend bar during the summer months. There was also a large well-furnished kitchen, where meals could be made for any occasion, including banquets.
On the outside of the building was a screened porch area, which traversed the entire south and west side of the building. Chairs and tables could accommodate many people. There were also a number of rocking chairs and porch swings. It was here that guests, especially the women, would sit for hours. During inclement weather all activities would take place on the porch or in the hall. Bad weather would never deter any planned event.
The upstairs was a large loft-like room, whose walls were the tapering roof. The room was originally used for sleepers. There were still some beds up there, but it was mainly used as a dressing room for those who wanted to put on their bathing suits. The upstairs had not been popular as a sleeping room because of the summer heat and because privacy was lacking.
Although owned by the Singing Society, the Lilly Lake camp was used by all members of the Danish Brotherhood. Many Brotherhood activities took place there in the summer, including the annual picnic which was the highlight of the summer season. All sorts of games and events were put on for the children and there were events for the adults. Women’s races of all types were popular and there was a beer drinking event to see what man could drink a certain number of beers in the shortest time. Ice cream and pop were in abundant supply for the children. In the evening there was dancing for the adults. At that time, children would be put onto the back seats of cars to sleep into the night while their parents danced.
Another popular day was the Fourth of July, when the Singing Society would sing patriotic song out on the lawn. Fireworks were not outlawed at the time and the use of fireworks was an all-day event. In the evening, sparklers would be held by the children as the adults fired firework aerial displays out onto the lake. It was exciting to see the rocket bursts of many colors from all around the lake.
To get to Lilly Lake you had to drive west from Kenosha on Highway 50. It was over 20 miles to the camp and over hilly roads which were not too wide. Shifting to first and second gears on the hills was often necessary. After passing the Old Settlers Park in Paddock Lake, there was a steep grade to be climbed to reach Brass Ball Corners. My mother would instill fear in us children as she started to yell when we slowly climbed to the top of the hill in our Auburn automobile. We always made it but, more than once, my mother threatened to get out and walk. Speed was also very slow at the time and “going like 60” was a familiar phrase used for speeders. The trip to the Lake would take an hour.
Next to the Singing Society camp was a large home owned by a man named Oscar Peterson, a Swede. He owned a tavern in Kenosha and also had a bar in the basement of his summer home, which was only open from June to August. It was patronized by many of the Danes as a second place to go for a drink. During prohibition, it was a popular place because bootleg beer could be bought there.
In the back of Peterson’s place, his son had a refreshment stand and shuffle board courts. It was a popular place for us kids because penny candy and other refreshments could be bought there. Fireworks were also sold there for a few days before the Fourth of July. My brother, Kay, met the daughter of Peterson at the stand. Her name was Ruby and they were soon married. They had a long life together until there recent deaths. They were also active members of the Danish Brotherhood.
The 50th Year Celebration in 1942
I was a teenager at the time and the occasion was marked with a number of celebrations prior to the actual anniversary date. On the anniversary, a big banquet was held up in the Large Hall. Many of the teenagers of members served as kitchen help or waiters. My sister and I both worked as waiters. On the night of the celebration, tables in the Large Hall were beautifully set with center pieces of crossed American and Danish flags. Members were all dressed in their finest clothing with some of them wearing old Danish costumes. Many dignitaries were there, including a representative from the Brotherhood’s national headquarters and many city dignitaries. The stage was used for entertainment and for skits depicting the history of the Lodge. The dinner ended with the singing of the Danish and American National Anthems. There was hardly a dry face as tears flowed down the faces of the revelers. It was an unforgettable evening.