Sawmill and eventual fire part of White Lake’s history from 1946-55
White Lake’s History – Decade # 4 1946-1955
By Judy Peterson for the Antigo Times
Each decade has a variety of different happenings. The decade 1946-1955 in White Lake’s history is no different and has a number of interesting happenings.
On March 19, 1946, the Yawkey-Bissell Lumber Company sawed its last log in the sawmill and discontinued operation. The flooring mill located next to the sawmill continued in operation and on April 1, 1946, a new organization was formed called the Yawkey-Bissell Corporation. The flooring mill was enlarged and modern equipment was purchased and installed. Flooring became a product manufactured and sold all around the U.S. In 1950, the company name was changed to Yawkey-Bissell Hardwood Flooring Company.
Changes started in ownership of the homes and businesses in the community. Many local residents purchased homes in the community that had been owned by the company. In 1945 and 1946, homes were sold to individuals by the company and some were moved outside of the community. The look of the village changed. The new owners remodeled the houses, painted them a different color and added enclosed porches and a garage or two replacing the old wood sheds. In 1949 Roy Peters bought the gas station from the company and operated it as a gas station and auto repair shop for many years.
In 1941, a locker plant was built at the rear of the meat market which was part of the store. The first floor of the store was remodeled in 1948 for “self-serve” services. Myron Oatman became manager of the general store in 1949 and during this time the store became a Red Owl Agency. In 1955, Leo and Ruth Pomasl purchased the store from the company. In 1950, a warehouse that had been built to the rear of the store was remodeled into a feed mill to serve the area farmers.
Tragedy struck in February of 1950. It was a wintery day on a weekend when the sawmill started on fire and burned to the ground. Local volunteer firemen, with help from Antigo firemen, fought the blaze while village residents wondered if the whole village would burn. Many village and area residents came to assist. Luckily, there was heavy snow from an earlier snowstorm on many of the roofs of the houses and other community buildings and the wind was predominately blowing the burning debris across the lake. Debris was found a mile or so south of the village and several village residents found debris on the roofs of their houses.
Diercks & Sons constructed a large potato warehouse alongside the railroad tracks in 1948 in White Lake. They shipped over 300 carloads or more yearly of potatoes grown on their White Lake area farms. Many White Lake area residents were employed during the potato harvesting season and some had year-round employment. It was the time where potato farming began having more modern equipment, not the hand-picked potato processes of earlier years.
In 1948, a hot lunch program was introduced into the White Lake School. The basement of the grade school building was used for this program.
In 1947, the first fire engine was purchased for the village. It was also at this time that the wooden sidewalks were removed and replaced with cement sidewalks. Some remember running down the wooden sidewalks barefoot in the summer and getting splinters in their feet. It could be a painful memory if the splinter wasn’t removed promptly.
After World War II, the Anderson-Sather American Legion Post #524 was chartered on January 11, 1947. In 1951, the Post published “A Household Guide” as a fund raiser. It contained household hints, business laws, holidays, state capitals, etc. Local advertisers were: Red Owl Agency, White Lake Electric, Bill’s Cabins, Kaplanek’s Tavern & Grocery, White Lake Bowling Alley, White Lake Service Station, Corcoran’s Gift Shop, Jantz Lunchroom and Ken Peters, Standard Oil Agent.
Watch for next month’s article on the 1956-1975 decades of White Lake’s history.