Frank Mader Jr. 1882 – 1971

Frank Mader Jr.
1882 – 1971

Frank was the youngest of Frank and Rosa’s children born on the Mormon Coulee farm March 16, 1882. He received his education at Elm Grove School about two miles from home. (Located where Mormon Coulee Road meets Losey Blvd.) Frank reminisced about his school days in an article in the La Crosse Tribune, July 1, 1951.

“…the snow was so deep that it was necessary for the children to wait for some farmer enroute to La Crosse from some place farther out to break trail with team and bobsled before they could proceed to school.

“Air conditioning of the school was primitive but effective–the loose windows and door did the job. Heat was supplied by a stove.

“First boys to arrive in the morning were required to build the fire, knock the ice from the water bucket and fill it from the pump in the yard.

“Sometimes the teacher was late. This was a serious situation for the shivering youngsters and usually solved by boosting “the smallest kid” (usually Mader) to an opening near the roof. The youngster would crawl in, drop through a trap door to the floor below and release the door latch.”

After the family moved to La Crosse, Frank Jr. only 14 years old, went to work for the Hackner Altar Works on 13th and Ferry for $1.50 a week. The workday was from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. six days a week. Later his wages were increased to $2.00 a week.

He left Hackner’s to work for Ed Riley, a contractor. The hours were the same as before, but the pay was $9.00 a week. “For heaven’s sake, don’t let the rest of the crew know I’m paying you wages like that, ” Riley had told him. “They’d all want it.” One of the buildings he worked on was the Holy Trinity Convent.

Frank almost became a building tradesman but was determined to be a merchant. He left the good job with Riley to become a clerk for the Gaspard Shoe Co. on So. Fourth St. for a salary of $4.00 per week. (Site occupied by Popcorn Tavern.) His chief duties as “clerk” were sweeping the sidewalk, washing windows, stoking the stove, emptying ashes, running errands, and replacing the stock that customers took down from shelves. The work day was still nearly 12 hours long, six days a week.

Later he went to work for Volz and Reuter, clothing merchants located at 125 So. Fourth St. In 1904, at the age of 24, he bought the interest of Volz and the firm became Reuter and Mader. Ten years later with his brothers, Joseph and Henry, they bought out the remaining half and the firm became The Mader Clothing Co.

Coon hunting was Frank’s favorite sport, bagging a total of 866 raccoons, a record he was to regret in later years. He kept the coon dogs in the barn by the alley. One day a coon dog got loose and it went to Strassers who lived a block away. The coon dog took the beef roast right off their table. As a rifle shot he had several championships to his credit and once put a shooting gallery out of business by winning six rifles.

Before his marriage, Frank attended 53 weddings in Wisconsin and Minnesota and acted as best man in 13. Some being overnight affairs. After he married, his wife exclaimed, “This has got to stop!”

In 1906, he married Magdaline Weigel. She was the daughter of Joseph A. Weigel of La Crosse. Frank’s father converted the upstairs of his home into an apartment for them. They had two daughters, Viola born in 1909 and Florence in 1911. Around 1919 the family bought a house at 1227 So. 14th St. Magdaline passed away after a short illness in 1929 at the age of 47.

Frank was unhappy about his daughter Florence’s marriage to Olaf Hoff, a Norwegian, but later Olaf worked in the Mader Clothing Store. Never wanting his oldest girl, Viola, to marry at all, he busted up every relationship that she had with a boy by being rude to him or by talking to the boy’s father – and that was the end of that! Viola kept house for him and worked in the store without pay. One time his brother Henry who kept the books gave Viola a check but Frank found out and tore it up. Finally Viola couldn’t take being dictated to any longer. She went to beauty school in Milwaukee where she met her future husband, Ray Winkel. She came home and told her father, “Dad, I decided I’m not going to be single all my life. I have a boyfriend and I’m going to get married whether you like it or not!” And he had a fit! She was 36 years old.

Frank was the manager of the Mader Clothing Co. and an aggressive salesman. A firm believer on advertising, he never missed a stunt that would publicize the clothing store. The first game of the season, a La Crosse baseball player caught a bouquet of roses from a passing airplane. The attached card, read, “Compliments of Frank Mader.”

Another time a raccoon was discovered atop a downtown building north of the Mader store and a call went out to “Get Frank Mader.” Climbing to the top of the building, he caught the coon in a chicken mesh net but it wriggled out then plunged to the sidewalk. He took it to the Bodega to recover and the raccoon did an advertising stunt caged in the clothing store window.

In 1951, the Mader Clothing Co. was sold and Frank retired after being associated with the store for around fifty years. ” I have enjoyed every minute of my business life in La Crosse,” he said, “and the friendships I have made through the years are my most cherished possessions.”

Learned from his first job at age 14 at Hackner’s Altar Works, Frank enjoyed a lifetime hobby of woodworking. His home at 330 No. Losey Blvd. was filled with cleverly designed and executed items he made. The bowling alley in Leo Hall at Holy Trinity was built by him.

He lived to an old age of 89 years.