It's everyday life that keeps local historian fascinated
But the Hollywood- worthy moments aren't bad, either
If Stephen Hauser of Elm Grove should ever be accused of living in the past, it would be easy to see why he's doing it.
Because back when Brookfield and Elm Grove were not yet incorporated, life around here was a bit more exciting. At least that's how Hauser, local historian and college history professor, tells it.
And he has lots of stories to tell.
"There were no Elm Grove police, no Brookfield police; there were only county sheriff's deputies," Hauser said. "And the county sheriff's department in those days was a little shady itself. That was in the day when Bluemound Road was an adventure. Taverns were open 'till 4 a.m., and there were quite a number of enticing places."
There's the story behind the stone gates on the old Sleepy Hollow Motel property on Bluemound Road. The gates were once the entrance to Sam Pick's Club Madrid, a Vegas-style nightclub frequented by everyone from football players to singers, politicians and gangster Al Capone.
Pick was slick in his pinstripe suits, welcoming customers as if he were "everybody's favorite uncle," Hauser said, and when some customers stumbled upstairs for a round of gambling and assorted other vices, nobody objected.
Capone owned a home not far from Club Madrid, just north of Bluemound on the east side of Brookfield Road, known today as Capone Court.
"Al was part owner of a dog racing track located where the Bluemound Drive-In was (today it's Fuddrucker's)," Hauser said. Gangland cronies from Chicago occasionally gathered in Bishops Woods, he added, to decide how to distribute bootleg liquor and plan their next capers.
Hauser's love affair with local history is inspired by his own family's story. His maternal great-great-grandfather was a blacksmith and shoed the horses for what became the Pabst Brewing Co., and his father's uncle was secretary to Milwaukee's second Socialist mayor, Daniel Hoen.
"I tell my students that the last word in history is 'story.' And if you tell it as a story, you can't go wrong," he said.
Hauser is working on two projects at the moment. One involves Dr. John Maxwell, a Milwaukee naturopathic physician and vegetarian who advocated a raw, natural diet in the 1920s and '30s. Maxwell lived to be 100.
The other project is an article about Storybook Gardens in Wisconsin Dells.
"Local history is the history of average people, people who didn't even know they were making history just by living their lives, having their families and paying their bills," Hauser said. "That's history that touches your heart, because it's the history of us."
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JUST THE FACTS
NAME: Stephen Hauser
NOTED FOR: Elm Grove and Brookfield history expert; past vice president of the Elmbrook Historical Society; teaches history at Milwaukee Area Technical College and Marquette University
STEPHEN'S PEARLS OF WISDOM: "Local history is the history of average people, people who didn't even know they were making history just by living their lives, having their families and paying their bills."
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