South Milwaukee In 1932: Videos Offer Glimpse Of The Past

YouTube is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Several months ago, I saw a couple of videos linked on NOW apparently showing South Milwaukee from 1932.

I wasn’t sure if they were legitimate or not, but, with images from up and down Milwaukee Avenue and across the city, they sure appear to be. And they’re pretty cool. What a great time capsule!

So I share the links here and here. They’re pretty long — 10 minutes each — but well worth watching.

It says they were produced for showing at the Garden Theatre. Does anyone know the history of that theater? And does anyone remember the Welbes Dairy in town, or the Eagle Soft Drink Company? Or Pete’s Palm Garden, or the Avalon Tavern, or Kaplanek’s, among the many bars shown in the piece? How about the A. Molthen Funeral Home, or George Logic’s chiropractic studio? And what about Panoff’s tailoring shop, and Saxler’s Clothing?  Those are just a few of the dozens places (and faces) in these videos.

Of course, I’d be interested to see what you notice in them. Post your comments below!

h/t to Ron Wieselman and Mary Johnson for sharing


Filed under Community, History

20 responses to “South Milwaukee In 1932: Videos Offer Glimpse Of The Past

  1. tony

    erik i have a copy of this film it was made for the garden theatre kaplaneks was in the building housing bullys now the eagle soft drink company was next to st johns the family that owned it is still in town dont know exactly where the dairy was but the cows were kept behind what is now piggly wiggly

  2. Joseph Todor

    tony, do you have the DVD or VHS ?
    I’d like to borrow it.

    part 1
    05:16 Aragon tavern
    05:24 Club Barber Shop 10th Ave.
    05:29 Pete’s Palm Garden
    06:29 Parkway Grocer 1335
    06:49 Deep Rock Filling Station 10th & Rawson
    07:14 I.G.A. Stores
    07:32 Sarro’s Quality Groceries
    07:42 Kaplanek’s Tavern & Sea Foods
    08:10 W. Sucharski Beer Distibutor (Pabst)
    09:33 P. Panoff Custom Tailor

    part 2
    00:25 C… Oil & Coal
    00:27 Sam’s Tavern
    01:36 Woodland Dancing
    01:54 Eagle Soft Drink Company (front of first truck: SO MILW WISCONSIN)
    02:11 Rail Road Tavern 1113
    02:50 A. Molthen funeral home now Molthen-Bell & Son Funeral Home 700 Milwaukee ave.
    03:17 Milwaukee Avenue Tavern
    03:34 Francis M. Dockery (footwear)
    03:50 Geo. Logic Chiropractor
    04:13 Saxler Clothing Co.
    04:29 Welbe’s Dairy 914 Madison Ave.
    05:09 Grand Coffee Shop (5c hamburgers)
    05:26 South Milwaukee Hospital
    06:27 Fire Department
    07:27 Hwy 42 Dedication Parade Sunday Sept. 10, 1933
    (Lake Dr. connecting South Milwaukee & Cudahy)
    08:43 Sheridan Hotel Palm Garden 5133 S. Lake Dr.

    Garden Theater South Milwaukee
    1007 Milwaukee Avenue, South Milwaukee, WI 53172
    now South Milwaukee Carpet Store
    (and the single small photo to the right)

    “After Thirty Years, South Milwaukee, 1892-1922, December 10, 1922”

    “A visit to South Milwaukee : a 1932 documentary”


  3. Being the current owner of the Garden Theater, I found the films delightful.
    Unfortunately, I know little about the history of the theater. If anyone has information, I’d be grateful for it.

    By the way, does anyone have information about the Milwaukee Avenue street clock near the train depot (Benkowski Builders?)

  4. Katie

    Iam part of the Welbes Dairy. My great Grandpa Frank Welbes and My great Grandpa Rupert Welbes Started the Welbes Dairy. They are actually shown in the video along with long time family friend Joe Veronic. Rupert Welbes Died in November 1997 at the age of 97. The welbes Family is still going strong today!

    Katie Welbes

    • Very cool. Welcome to South Milwaukee Blog! Would you mind providing some more information on the Welbes Dairy’s history in South Milwaukee, and where it is today?

      • Katie

        Hello Erik very happy to help the Welbes Dairy Started in in 1907 by Francis “Frank” Welbes his son Rupert also helped with the business so you have my great great grandpa ad Great grandpa. The Welbes Dairy Building is still there but it closed in 1947. The business was sold to Huebner Dairy Cudahy. The building stayed in the Welbes Family and was Bernies Lawn more Service and Repair.

    • Steve Slosarek

      Katie — My dad (still alive at age 89) remembers in the late 1930s and early 1940s that Welbes Dairy still did some deliveries by horse. This video shows just cars. Is my dad correct? He said it was remarkable to watch, because he said the horses were trained. He said the horses would go up the street and stop in front of a house, and the milkman would jump out and deliver the milk to that house. My dad said that while the milkman was doing that, the horses (on their own) would move up to the next house because they knew where it was, and would stop in front of that house. The milkman would fetch the milk and deliver it to that house. The trained horses meant that the milkman didn’t have to waste time driving the horses to each appropriate house. Do you know if my dad is right? He rarely is wrong about these things.

  5. Carol

    Hi Katie just found this today. My great aunt was married to Elmer Welbes cIty treasurer for years. I lived in one of the houses in front of the dairy until I was 3 and Billy Welbes lived down the block next to the church, just found out the dairy was there last summer. Benkowski own it. I saw the inside of the upstairs unit and what a wonderful job he has done restoring it the claw foot tub is still in the bathroom and in excellent shape

  6. I stumbled across these videos by accident. I grew up in Cudahy and spent a great deal of time in South Milwaukee in the late 50’s and 60’s because that is where Grandma and my Aunts, Uncles, and cousins lived. Spent many a Saturday inside the Garden Theatre watching movies for $.25. and another dime got you a drink, popcorn, and JuJubies. It was an easy ride on the bus from Cudahy if Dad couldn’t drive cause he was working overtime at Kyle Company which also was in South Milwaukee. He usually got out in time to give us a lift home. I also remember getting my little cedar chest from Dretzka’s in South Milwaukee as a senior gift. It was a keep sake box. Anyone else remember that? The other place I remember most is the old Dairy O. Best ice cream in town. It isn’t there any longer. Nona’s café used to be a Grebe’s Bakery. Best hot ham and rolls. When it closed, my brother started Nona’s a few years later but it also has since closed after seven years so my brother could finally retire. Cudahy and South Milwaukee where the best places to grow up. Thanks for the memories.

  7. Sandra

    I also stumbled across this video on you tube. My Great Great Father is shown in Part 1. He was Police Judge George Anderson.

    It’s a fantastic find. I could watch it over and over again.

    Thanks for posting.

  8. Marv Cummings

    Very nice but I question the date of the video. Prohibition was in effect until December 5, 1933 and there are a couple of taverns featured in the videos. They would not have been open in 1932.

    • Nels Monson

      While Wisconsin did vote for prohibition in 1919, by 1923 the voters of the state decided they had enough. In 1926 Wisconsin voters approved a referendum amending the Volsted Act to allow the manufacture and sale of beer with no more than 2.75 percent alcohol. In 1929, Badger Staters voted to repeal the Severnson Act – which effectively ended Wisconsin’s enforcement of Prohibition Laws here. So yes, while Prohibition technically existed till early 1933. Wisconsin had already decided not to enforce any federal laws in that regard.

      • Marv Cummings

        We can agree to disagree on how and when the Volsted Act was enforced in Wisconsin and the Milwaukee area. Chicago certainly had issues with it as well and gave rise to Al Capone. Maryland largely ignored prohibition. However, it would not have been as blatant as shown in the videos with open bars and open consumption. Large brewers shown in the video such as Schlitz, Miller, and Pabst didn’t even make beer during prohibition. They made the 2.75 “near beers” you referred to. Blatz made one called “Barma”. Anheuser Busch called theirs “Bevo”. Schlitz and Miller simply called theirs “brews” and not “beers”. Many brewers made soda, candy, ice cream and anything they could to survive. And yes, some made beer.

        I still believe the video CAN NOT be from 1932. At least many portions of it. If you don’t buy into my prohibition argument in dating the video how about this? In the second video at the 1:03 point and again at 3:21 there are scenes of bar and store windows with National Recovery Act (NRA) posters displayed. The National Recovery Act Legislation never began until June 16, 1933. I believe these videos, or large portions, are probably from 1934.

      • Jennie

        Mary, you are right. After looking At the video,, the sign is for “ National Recovery Act” and that was created in 1933.

      • Jennie

        OK I solve the mystery this video is from 1933 on the second video at seven minutes 32 seconds there’s an ad for dedication ceremony for Sunday, September 10th. In 1933 September 10 fell on a Sunday. NRA already started in 1933 and only lasted a couple of years until it was deemed on constitutional. The next Sunday, September 10 wasn’t until 1938 so it must be 1933. How did I get sucked into this? I blame it on not being able to sleep.

      • Nels Monson

        Good sleuthing Jennie!

      • Nels Monson

        You know what the funny thing really is? After all this, if you look farther up this (5 year old!) thread to the post that lists the timeline for the video parts 1 and 2 you will see that in part 2 at the 07:27 mark it says “Hwy 42 Dedication Parade Sunday Sept. 10, 1933.” D’Oh!! I guess sometimes it does pay to read the “directions.”

  9. Marv Cummings

    I would say outstanding! Even when I don’t sleep, I am not as clever as Jennie.

  10. Marv Cummings

    Nels, you are quite the sleuth yourself. I never noticed the date in the timeline until you pointed it out. They are great videos and for the sake of historical accuracy, I thought it was important to get the year correct. I just didn’t believe the 1932 date in the presentation of the videos. Hats off to you and Jennie for getting not only the year but portions of the video right down to the day! They will have to relabel the videos!

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