A couple of weeks ago we wrote in this column about the Watertown Redevelopment Authority's effort to purchase six properties on the south side of Main Street from the Rock River bridge west to Water Street as part of a major redevelopment project in that area, including a new hotel and a commons area along the river.
One of the properties purchased was owned by Linda Doerr and is the current home of Images Hair Studio. That property was the first one to be acquired by the redevelopment authority. Our column of a couple weeks ago was about the Stapleton Drug Store which was operating back in the early 1900s and how the new Edison phonograph was sold from the store. That was quite a story how the demand for the phonographs was high and it was a "prestige" item to have back in that era.
At the end of the column we mentioned Charlie Doerr and the many years he operated the drug store at that same location. We said we'd get back to the Charlie Doerr topic soon, and today we'll work on that a bit.
We knew Charlie Doerr quite well years ago and we wrote about how we'd visit the store sometimes after delivering our paper route. Several of us carriers would stop by and have a "custom made" soda and of course some Pagels potato chips, and as an added bonus we'd get some banter back and forth with Charlie. As they say, "Those were the days."
First of all, the drug store was first opened back in 1844 by Dr. Edward Johnson, four years before Wisconsin became a state and just eight years after Watertown was founded by Timothy Johnson.
One year later Johnson installed the first soda fountain in Wisconsin within this building. Years later when Charlie Doerr purchased the drug store he was proud of the fact it housed the first soda fountain in the state. At the top of his stationery he proudly had the following statement, "The Cradle of the Soda Fountain in Wisconsin, 1845" and at the bottom he had the statement, "A drug store four years before Wisconsin became a state."
Charlie was a graduate of St. Mark's Lutheran School and Northwestern Preparatory School, which at the time was the Wisconsin Synod's prep school that shared the campus with Northwestern College. Later the college was joined together with Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, and the school moved to that Minnesota campus. The prep school remained on the campus and since that time has been known at Luther Preparatory School.
After graduating from Northwestern Prep, Charlie went on to University of Wisconsin-Madison where he received his degree as a pharmacist and practiced his profession from the Main Street location for decades.
In addition to the soda fountain, there was a small area at the rear of the store that had booths where people could enjoy a soda and/or some sandwiches. Off to the left was "Postal Substation No. 1." That was a real post office, complete with the iron bar window from which Charlie would dispense stamps, mail packages and other duties of a full service post office. The bars were probably there for imaging purposes only because to get around to the postal area, all Charlie had to do is walk a couple steps toward the back and, bingo, he was right there. So, he could go from making a soda (syrup, carbonated water and an ice cube or two) to filling a prescription and then on to selling stamps, all in a matter of a couple minutes and by walking just a few feet.
There was a special charm to that place, no question about it.
Behind the building was a parking area where Charlie had a car for delivery of prescriptions. The car was brightly painted with the name of "Doerr Drugs" and "We deliver" posted right below that.
Looking through some archived photos from the collection of Carol Sinderman, Charlie's daughter, we also found a photo of an airplane which proudly displayed advertising for his pharmacy and the big, bold letters spelling out "We deliver." We doubt Charlie ever delivered prescriptions by airplane, but it was a good promotion idea.
Many of the community's young boys learned about baseball from Charlie. He was a highly successful coach for little league teams. He worked the boys hard in practice and was even out on the field hitting balls to the fielders, making sure they picked them up correctly and then threw to the base.
One of his former players, Rick Feder, dropped a note to us recalling his years playing for the Webster School team in the city softball league.
He said Joe Checota was the principal and he made Rick captain and then told him, "I want to win this league," and the team did.
Members of that team included Jim Hoppe, Mike Manthey, Ron Wolf, Frank James, Larry Feder, Tommy Brom, Dick Knope and Charlie Jr., among others.
Rick said, "Charlie came out to watch every game. When we finished the season undefeated, the whole team was treated to an ice cream sundae. Then, we won the city championship and everyone on the team got a banana split from Charlie. These are memories not to ever be forgotten."
Rick is not alone on those memories. There's all kinds of young boys who knew Charlie and his abilities as a coach, mentor and "cheerleader" for those formative years.
As an aside to all of these Charlie memories, Wednesday we carried a letter to the editor from Linda Doerr, daughter-in-law of Charlie, in which she wrote about several different memories of Charlie, and that was an enjoyable trip down memory lane. She also strongly supported the redevelopment efforts underway in the downtown area.
We're out of space on this topic for now, but we'll continue this story with a little more information next week before moving on to something else.
WE MOVED A HAMLET!
In last week's column we wrote a bit about some of these small hamlets around the state that have a name but are not an incorporated city or village nor are they a township. One of them we mentioned was Sugar Island, a hamlet located on County Highway O, east of Watertown. We mistakenly mentioned that it was in the town of Ashippun, but it is and always has been in the town of Lebanon. So, it was moved only in print and not in reality!