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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Idyllic Elkhorn preserved in '50s TV program

The Christmas card displays have returned to the courthouse square in downtown Elkhorn, a reminder of the city's prominence as the Christmas Card Town.

The brightest spotlight may have shone on our county seat in the 1950s.

If there was a poster city for idyllic, small-town middle America, Elkhorn was it.

As contributing writer and former editor of The Week Herb Moering reports in this week's cover story, Elkhorn's fame was born through the paintings of artist Cecile Johnson.

Johnson had painted the scenes she had noticed during a visit to the city in the early 1950s.

Then, in 1958 several of the paintings were reproduced in the December issue of Ford Times magazine, bringing national attention to Elkhorn.

The city had already gained national prominence from a March of Time documentary about Elkhorn that was broadcast on national television in 1952.

We've posted an excerpt of the broadcast here, and it's fascinating to watch, even 54 years later.

Stars of the program include Elkhorn Independent editor Mud Eames, shown making the rounds of downtown Elkhorn looking for news tips for his column.

(Moering, by the way, was editor of the Elkhorn Independent until joining The Week in the early 1980s, making him another in a distinguished succession of editors at the Independent.)

Many of the landmarks and businesses mentioned in the 1952 film are still with us today.

Elkhorn Chemical is mentioned, along with both the Getzen and Holton band instrument companies. At the time, Frank Holton was the biggest factory in the area, employing 165 workers.

The high school band, under the direction of Ted Binger, who also leads the Elkhorn city band, is in rehearsal for the Christmas show.

The program pays a visit to the home contractor Robert Magill, along with his wife, Mary Jane and two children, Kirk and Diane.

And be sure to check out the landmarks downtown. The building that is now Moy's can be seen on the corner of Walworth and Wisconsin streets.

There's also a shot of the old courthouse-no, not the one that's downtown now, but the one that preceded that.

Times do change, and a few things in the program didn't ring a bell. For example, the new agricultural school, which was to be built the following year. Does anyone remember what happened to that school?

If you do, you can add your comments here.

In the meantime, check out the program online to see how much has changed and how much has really stayed the same.

~Dan Plutchak, editor


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a nice documentary. My father was in it, how nice to see it, I had asked for a copy a couple of years ago as my father had passed away 12 years ago. If you can let me know how to get a copy I would greatly appreciate it. It was a nice tribute.

Colleen Cook (Tomaszewski)

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The band director's name was Ted Buenger (not Binger). He was a trumpet player and was the Brookfield Central High School band director for many years till his retirement.

6:19 PM  
Blogger James said...

How delightful to recognize my uncle Howard even before his name was mentioned. I remember visiting him at the Holton Company and watching him turn the bells. Wow, what nostalgia. I was eight years old in 1955.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Dan Plutchak, editor said...


Thanks for the comment. This video has always been one of my favorites.

I'd like to get your comments on growing up in Elkhorn and your uncle Howard in the video. (I'm also looking for others with memories of the film.)

Feel free to e-mail me at


Dan Plutchak
The Week

10:21 AM  

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