Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr
Members of Local 688 of the Boot and Shoemakers Union have walked off the job at the Weinbrenner Shoe Company in Merrill. The estimated 455 employees left their jobs mid-morning today as part of a wildcat strike. The union was involved in negotiations with the company after their contract expired July 31. The group agreed to a temporary extension until Aug. 5, but the company stated they now would not be able to sit down and talk until at least Aug. 12 prompting the walk out. A union spokesman stated he hopes to find the company back at the bargaining table yet today.
The City of Merrill Legislative and Action Committee is working with the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce to solve what is anticipated to be a parking crunch in downtown Merrill. The Merrill Area Housing Authority plans on building a seven story high rise apartment building on the current Scott Street parking lot. If that happens, downtown merchants will lose the parking spaces in that lot, spaces normally used by employees who then walk to work. Dan Burk, Executive Vice President of the Chamber stated he is afraid if the employees cannot park in a municipal lot they will start using metered stalls and soon the downtown will be parked full of employees instead of customers. Burk went on to say if downtown businesses run out of parking spots and customers they may flee to a shopping center type setting which likely would be built outside of the city’s downtown. Burk said the Chamber would go on the record as opposing the high rise apartments if the city cannot find a fix for the anticipated parking crunch this will create.
John Eckman is featured on the business page. He is the store manager at Bob’s Food King, Merrill’s only 24 hour grocery store located in mid-city. Eckman is a Merrill native who has been involved in the grocery business since the age of 15. Now at 37 he manages the Food King where he and his 30 employees live up their moto “We’re here when you need us.” Eckman lives in the city on Court Street with his wife Ann and their three children; Bob’s Food King has been serving customers for two years now.
If you are a member of Faith Lutheran Church you are reminded that the cornerstone laying ceremony is this Sunday; Pastor Allen Behnke will lead the congregation at their new site on the south side of Lincoln County.
The 99th annual Lincoln County 4H Fair is now underway at the fairgrounds. Jeff Krueger, 15, of Merrill, is pictured on the front page with his prized pig. Belle City Amusements is on the midway with unlimited rides as the special for $6 this Sunday from noon to six. The Jackson’s, Rebel & Roses, and Kentucky Blend will all be in front of the grandstand along with the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Next week at the Wisconsin Valley Fair in Wausau the lineup includes The Judd’s, Randy Travis, Sawyer Brown, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Reiny Wessing has an interesting article from Tomahawk this week profiling the Tomahawk Fire Department and their Chief Lester Hanke. Les has been a member of the Tomahawk Fire Department for the past 41 years and has served as chief the last 15 years, one of only six chiefs in the department’s history. Hanke enjoys serving as the departments chief and doesn’t plan on retiring soon, but he does wish the growing paperwork and new requirement that all underground storage tanks be inspected would not be part of his duties. Les credits the 26 men on the department for the dedication and response that his community enjoys. How does Les know how good his firemen are? A few years ago while he was vacationing in Texas his own home started on fire but the fire was quickly put out by Tomahawk’s bravest. Hanke reports the most spectacular fire in his career was when Tomahawk’s City Hall burned down. Hanke had just plated his Christmas dinner when the alarm was sounded and needless to say the dinner was cold by the time he was able to return home that frigid day in 1948.
The man who donated the land that Merrill now calls Gebert Park has passed away. Paul Gebert died on Saturday at Good Samaritan Health Center after a short illness at the age of 83. Gebert’s loves of the outdoors was well known, he claimed to have fished every creek and river in the area and knew them all by name. His interest in nature was put to good use by Lincoln County who made him the representative to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress for a number of years. At his land in Newwood, Paul would feed the fawns apples right out of his hand and during harsh winters he and his son John would snowshoe in three miles to cut down hemlock for the deer. Gebert donated the area known as Gebert Park to the city with the understanding that it be maintained as a natural wild life habitat that would be used by people of all ages to observe and study nature. Gebert was the owner and operator of the Lincoln Mill from 1920 until his retirement in 1967. He had been secretary and director of the Page Milk Company and was past director of the Lincoln County Bank. After a funeral service at St. Stephen’s United Church of Christ Gebert was laid to rest at Merrill Memorial Park.
Merrill Area Public Schools has a new leader, but don’t expect him to be an expert on every subject just yet. Frank Harrington comes to Merrill from Phillips where he served as superintendent. He states that he expects to take at least a year to figure out the ins and outs of Merrill before he has the system down, and for now he plans on being a leader and facilitator as well as a coordinator and a cheerleader as the current MAPS staff moves forward with its projects, the biggest being the ongoing school remodeling and construction. Harrington stated he was working with outgoing superintendent Dr. Ralph Neale and new school board President Joe Fink to learn the ropes. The biggest priorities for Harrington are to see through the full implementation of all-day kindergarten, keep the facilities projects on track and under budget, keep the communication technology at the same top notch level, and maintain the current high level of curriculum review.
Work is steady at the future home of Merrill High School, currently known as the Junior High building on North Sales Streey. Merrill Sand and Gravel is ahead of schedule when it comes to earth work and has tennis courts already taking shape on the south side of the school. Next the contractor will be constructing three large parking lots on the east side of the school as well as a student drop off area on the west side of the school. Plumbers, electricians and heating people are working in the first floor academic areas as well as on construction of the auditorium and field house which began in June.