Voices of Janesville

This section features prose written about the people who inhabit Rock County, Wisconsin. It can be written by anyone who lives in Rock County.

“Steve” by Rebecca Tracey

Steve was the fifth of ten children.  His parents were high school sweethearts who started a family after Steve’s dad was in WWII.  Steve’s dad worked at his family’s business, a gas station.  His mom was a stay at home mom.  He and his brothers and sisters attended St. Williams school and then Parker high school.

An influential person in Steve’s life was one of his grandfathers.  Three of his grandparents lived with Steve’s family when they were elderly.  After Steve’s grandmother died his favorite grandfather moved in.  Steve spent a lot of time with him because he was a very nice old man.  He was a cement contractor who enjoyed making things out of cement.

Like his grandfather Steve wanted to go into the trades.  His mom wanted him to be a priest or a doctor.  She signed him up for Latin class at Parker.  He switched it to agriculture and she was not happy with him when she got his report card and saw he had not taken Latin.  She went to meet his agriculture teacher and she ended up really thinking he was a good teacher so she let Steve continue taking agriculture and shop classes at Parker.

Upon graduation he wished he could be a farmer.  He didn’t really know what to do for a job other than that he liked the trades.  He was hired at a lumber yard.  Since he wasn’t making much money he decided to go to Blackhawk Technical College to be a carpenter.  He graduated from their carpentry program.

He worked for himself or with his brothers or other carpenters for a job.  He bought an old farm.  The house he had to take down because it was in bad condition.  He moved into the garage and moved his carpenter tools into the animal’s barn since he didn’t have any animals except his cat.

When he was twenty three at a bar he met his wife.  He was there that day because he was moving his friend’s girlfriend and they were taking a break.  His wife was there because she was celebrating her brother’s birthday with him.  He and his wife dated two years and then were married.  They had a daughter and a son.  His wife got breast cancer and died.  He became a single parent.

In his free time over the years on the farm he turned the garage he was living in into a four bedroom home, he built a garage that he later turned into a studio apartment, he took down the animal barn and made a building to be a carpenter’s shop, and he built a three car garage.

He has volunteered in the community as a woodworking 4-H leader, a religious education teacher, and a Habitat for Humanity worker.  His daughter is a singer songwriter.  His son has a construction business called Center Construction and Roofing.  One of the things Steve still enjoys doing the most is building and remodeling things.  He works for himself, other contractors, and the University of Wisconsin to make frames for their printing press.

His hobbies are fishing, cooking, and gardening.  He has a girlfriend named Nancy.  He enjoys spending time with his family and his family’s dogs.

“A Blast From the Past” by Leah Jackson

Her name, Debbie. She was born in fort Atkinson in 1963 though she spent most of her time in Janesville. She remembers her first day in Janesville: she thought “it was bare; there was a drive in theatre when the current famous Dave’s is located and Woodman’s was where the post office was.”

Her father, Walter, was an auctioneer, who had a lot of business here in Janesville, from estate sales to automobile auctions, but his favorite auctions were antique auctions. He was a very well known man in town since all the auctions he had were for the townspeople. This is why Debbie had spent so much of her time in Janesville; she would accompany him to nearly all of his auctions.

Her two favorite places to go were Donutland and Dave’s Frosttop. At Dave’s Frosttop, there were women who brought your food to you via roller skates who wore short skirts and dress shirts. It was similar to A&W. She recalls her favorite meal there “the Maid Rite burger: loose, fried, hamburger meat on a bun, with French fries and a root beer.”

For stores, there was a K-mart, same location as the current K-mart. Downtown there was a Ben Franklin, which had a soda fountain where they would make your sodas for you. Ben Franklin was probably one of the cheapest stores in town to her memory. She remembers when the mall came to town, there weren’t many stores, J. C. Penny, Bergners, Montgomery Wards were some of the firsts then it had just expanded from there.

For fun, Debbie and her friends would go roller skating at Tanglefoot down at Riverside Park. She said, “It must have been fairly cheap because we went ALL the time.” The drive-in movie theatre was another hangout for her and her friends. After seeing movies, they would go downtown and drive the circuit. There were also a handful of bars that people could hang out at; in her time Debbie says that the drinking age was only eighteen. Her boyfriend at the time spent a lot of time out at the bars because he was “too cool for things like roller skating”.

Debbie is impressed with how Janesville has improved over the years. There are more places to shop, a variety of places where people can get food, although she does think that there could be more of a selection of things to do for younger people. She misses some of the things that Janesville used to offer, but she made many wonderful memories over the years with things constantly changing.

“You never realize how much changes until you really stop to sit down and think about it.”

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