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Weekly Column

Each week a small segment of Vernon County history is published in the county papers.


For the week of 6/23/2019
by Kristen Parrott, curator

100 years ago, U.S. soldiers returning home from France after the end of the “Great War” were reading the last edition of The Stars and Stripes. This final edition of “The Official Newspaper of the A.E.F. [American Expeditionary Forces] by and for the Soldiers of the A.E.F.” was dated June 13, 1919. The majority of the A.E.F. was gone from France by the end of June.

To help prepare the soldiers for their return to civilian life, the newspaper printed a humorous column called, “Facts About America: Interesting and Pertinent Information for Those Who Contemplate Traveling to the States”.

The advice included, “Don’t grumble too much about the high price of cognac over here. There won’t be any price for it at home. Neither will there be any cognac.” (Prohibition was just about to begin in the U.S.)

Soldiers were also advised to “Go easy on the I-was-there stuff. There are about 2 million other members of the A.E.F. in the States and one of your listeners might want to know the exact location of a popular café that none had missed who visited the same place.” Also, “Save your old automobile tires. In the event of another war, they can be profitably converted into Army bacon.” (And of course there was another war, WWII, which began just 20 years later.)

The final advertisement on the back page of the newspaper is especially interesting to see today. It is an ad for Fatima cigarettes: “Victory…and cigarettes helped to win it! What a part the cigarette played! In those grim, tense moments, waiting for the word to “go”; in that blessed lull, hours afterward, just before the relief party came; in those other, sterner moments when his spirit fought to smile, what was the thing he wanted most? A cigarette! And now, with the big job done, what so much as the cigarette will help “keep him smiling” until he’s home again?” Well, we all know how this love affair with the cigarette turned out.

A complete set of the WWI-era Stars and Stripes is available at the museum, if you would like to learn more about the war in France from the American soldier’s perspective.

Just a reminder that Independence Day is next week, and you are invited to celebrate the occasion by attending the annual Strawberry Shortcake Social at the historic Sherry-Butt House. The House, built in 1870, is located at 795 N. Main St. in Viroqua, near the fairgrounds. The social will take place on the House’s beautiful green lawn on Thursday, July 4, from 1 to 5PM, with music starting at 2PM.

For an admission of $5 each, you will receive homemade strawberry shortcake, vanilla frozen custard, coffee or lemonade, and a tour of the House. Also included in the price is the opportunity to enjoy music provided by the Viroqua Community Band and the Viroqua Area Men’s Chorus. All proceeds from this event will go to the Vernon County Historical Society, to help us preserve and promote local history.


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For the week of 6/16/2019
by Kristen Parrott, curator

Floods and the threat of floods have been with us here in Vernon County all spring and early summer. Flooding has long been a part of life in this region, but it has become more extreme in recent years. The Driftless Writing Center, in partnership with several other organizations including our Vernon County Historical Society, continues to collect flood stories from local people.

Why share your flood story? The Driftless Writing Center offers these reasons: “To see that your individual experience is part of a bigger picture. To reflect on what you’ve experienced and what you need going forward. To help our communities make smarter plans to prevent future flooding – plans that take the interests of local residents into account. To educate local, state, and national decision makers about what our region needs to survive and prosper in the face of increasingly variable weather. To document our area’s unique history and way of life for your neighbors and future generations.”

The next story collection dates in Vernon County are Thursday, June 20, from 3 to 5PM, at the Readstown Public Library, and Thursday, June 27, from 6:30 to 8:30PM, again at the Readstown Public Library. Just show up, and someone will help you record your story. Recording options include writing, audio, or video, whichever you are comfortable with. Learn more about the project at wisconsinfloodstories.org. (You can also submit a written story through this website.)

July 4 will soon be here. Are you making plans for the Independence Day holiday? Be sure to include the Marcia Andrew Memorial Strawberry Shortcake Social at the historic Sherry-Butt House, located at 795 N. Main St. in Viroqua. This community event is held on the House’s beautiful green lawn every year on July 4, from 1 to 5PM, with music starting at 2PM.

Admission is $5 each and includes homemade strawberry shortcake, vanilla frozen custard, coffee or lemonade, musical entertainment, and a tour of the House, which was built in 1870. Thank you to Culver’s for donating the custard, to the Viroqua Community Band and Viroqua Area Men’s Chorus for providing the music, and to the Marcia Andrew family for providing supplies. All proceeds benefit the Vernon County Historical Society.


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The previous two articles:

June 9, 2019

June 2, 2019