A little about me. In 1974, my dad moved our family from Milwaukee to Spruce, Wisconsin to own and operate a little country tavern. Dad didn't remain in the picture for too long leaving Mom to raise me and my 2 younger sisters is this friendly establishment. It wasn't easy, but we made it.
Recently, the building - well over 100 years old - was put to rest. It was a sad and reflective day, but to my surprise, the home and tavern wasn't only important to us, but it was to the community too. My in-laws - who still live in the area - clipped out the following story from the local newspaper and sent it to me.
Old Tavern's Impact on the Landscape Considerable by Dave Polashek
The establishment ceased operating as a business in the fall of 1993, as we recall. The daily commute to work went right past the business, but perhaps because of just having moved to the community that summer, there was no time to take a break for a refreshment before the "Open for Business" sign was taken down for the last time. Passing the establishment on an almost daily basis, there was lots of speculation about what might become of the building. We had a chance one time to interview a prospective employee who grew up in the apartment above the tavern and got a little history at the time. Several years ago, an item or two was printed in the local paper about some county action or consideration of the former business, but not much happened.
Over time, one window was cracked and broken and then another as the ravages of time took their toll. Whatever stately beauty the old girl had, she lost it and was showing her age. The location of the building so close to the edge of the road made it a somewhat dangerous intersection. It was particularly bad for westbound buses coming to the stop sign right next to the tavern door. More than once, a driver would creep out past the edge of the building and hope that no one was coming from the north at a high rate of speed.
Due to the dangerous intersection, the speed limit on that section of County B had been reduced to 45 miles per hour, although many drivers ignored it. Occasionally the residents in the area would complain about the excess speed of traffic and the county law enforcement would intensify the monitoring of the traffic flow along that stretch of county highways. Even as recently as a month ago, this observer had a chance to experience the higher priority of vigilance next to that landmark.
A few weeks ago there was a little more activity at the building. Windows were removed, along with a number of other items. With no windows to block the view, there was a slowdown in traffic as people tried to catch a glimpse of what the interior looked like. Perhaps there might be an artifact or two connected with the history of the building and the generations of people who stopped to refuel themselves for the remainder of their particular journey that day. Over the years, the most valuable of those artifacts found themselves in new homes. We understand there were one or two beautiful examples of the woodcrafter's art over which stories will continue to be told even though the building no longer stands.
As noted in coverage on one of the Green Bay television stations, the Internet, and the front page of a regional newspaper, the building went up in flames on a recent night, but the sorting done before the match was lit suggested that it was intentional and perhaps done with the blessing of some authorities.
The change in the landscape at that intersection is remarkable. An unnamed county librarian who lives on Goatsville Road was asked last week what she was doing with all her extra time, now that her commuting time had been reduced. At that, she had to laugh, because she knew just what the inquirer meant. She indicated she had been able to find plenty to fill her schedule, even with the shorter commute to work.
Without the building blocking the view for southbound and westbound traffic, one might speculate how soon there might be a change in the speed limit on that section of County B, since the visibility hazard is no longer standing. The wheels of government tend to move slowly, unless the wheels belong to one of the vehicles of a county law enforcement agency monitoring the traffic flow. With that in mind, drivers will have to continue to throttle down on that stretch until a change is made, it is possible that a change might not be made, depending on the ultimate utilization of that piece of property that now is covered with three distinct piles, one an ash-filled building rubble, another with tin roof pieces and the third with an assortment of a variety of white fixtures that were once used in the building.
Perhaps someday there might be another Goatsville Tavern. After all, how many in this world can exist with a name like that? Perhaps the upstairs might again be used as a family-home where a young couple might raise a family. One thing for sure if that were to be the vision, the establishment would need to be set back some distance from where the original building was located. This would allow for better visibility when that bus pulls up to the stop sign and even better, when the bus driver turns on those red lights and welcomes a student or two to climb onto the bus.
David Polashek is superintendent of the Oconto Falls School District.