Anyone who has grown up living in Milwaukee would know that the city, itself, has had a troubled past. There have been distinct neighborhoods that were settled by different ethnic groups. For instance, a lot of Polish immigrants settled on the south side, Italians more on the eastern part of the city, etc. There were German, Irish, Jewish neighborhoods, you name it, Milwaukee had it.
In the 1970’s a federal judge ruled that the Milwaukee public schools were segregated and African American students were not being given equal opportunities to receive a quality education. His “brilliant?” plan of recourse? He ordered that students start being bused all over the city, from north to south, east to west to achieve a “balanced” mix of ethnicity in every school! Students were forced to spend enormous amounts of time riding around in buses all over the city to get to class. So began the “white flight” exodus from the city to the suburbs which has been going on for more than 40 years. Most of the rest of the country outside of Wisconsin would be shocked to know what Milwaukee homeowners pay in property tax, much of which goes to support the failed public school system! Now, most all of the system is in ruins and responsible parents that do not have the means to leave are almost forced into paying for private school educations for their kids. My own brother and his wife felt they had to do this with all three of their daughters (and it was a financial struggle!).
My point in the preceding is that a lot of the city has been in a downward spiral with many areas not safe to be walking around in at night “some, you better stay away even during the day!”. A lot of crime, violence, drugs and gangs are the newer norm. Gas stations and takeout pizza joints in many neighborhoods have cashiers behind bulletproof glass with a sliding tray to pass items through. Not everything is that bad, some areas of the city have been rebuilt and revitalized, like the downtown area, but much of Milwaukee is not in good shape.
I spent a couple years as a gas station attendant and about 12 years as a franchised gas station operator from the late 60’s to early 80’s in Milwaukee. During that time, I was robbed twice, once with a knife and once with a gun. Two of my employees were held up. I was also involved in a knock down, no holds back street fight with some punk one night at the station (that’s another story). The thing is, it was a big deal back then when you were robbed. Police came from everywhere, business stopped, and you put everything on hold while they investigated.
So from that long winded perspective, I began my day on Sunday, November 20, 2011. My wife and I awoke at my brothers house on Milwaukee’s northwest side that morning. Our plan for the day was to leave for Crivitz (a 3 hour drive) while listening to the Packer game (of course, the Packers won!), go to my buddy’s house and get to Shaffer’s Resort for their amazing chicken that evening. If you’ve ever had Shaffer’s chicken, you know what I’m saying, my mouth waters at the thought. See the link for the John Shaffer story below.
Packing our stuff into the rental car, we decided that we needed to bring a lunch along so that we didn’t need to stop during the game, which started at noon. Just so happens, one of my favorite all time sub shops “Suburpia” from back in the 70’s is still operating with a store at 108th and Bluemound Drive. So, we decided to drive down there, pick up a couple subs to eat on the way north. As, I wasn’t happy with their drink menu (Pepsi), I decided to stop at the Citgo gas station on 104th and Bluemound to get a couple bottles of the “real thing” (Coke) to take with us.
So, I turn into the station and park the car. After asking Mary what she would like to drink, she hesitated and I said to come in and look. We entered the station, chose our drinks and as we turned to go to the cashier station, the door burst open and a uniformed police officer came storming in. The cashier, who looked to be of Indian descent with a strong accent was engaged in a casual conversation on the phone with someone as he was taking payment from a customer. The police officer looked at him and asked if he had just called in a robbery. I couldn’t believe it as he nodded his head yes and waved the officer to the side while he stayed on the phone and continued working the cash register! As the stunned cop stood there, a couple of other squad cars came screaming into the station with tires squealing, looking for suspects. Meanwhile we were standing next to the first cop when he just lost it, loudly stating something to the effect “ Sure! I’ll just stand over here in the corner while you do your business and when you get a minute, we’ll talk!” I was half expecting to hear some racial comments come out, but he refrained from doing that, although I wouldn’t have blamed him! He was kind of muttering something under his breath and I could see the anger in his face. There had just been an armed robbery! The dumb ass cashier just continued taking money and talking on the phone, so I gave him our cash while looking at the cop and shaking my head. The other two cops came storming in and I can only imagine what took place afterwards as we turned and got the heck out of there!Seeing what those officers went through that day sure gave me more reason to be happy I don’t live there anymore. I left that city in 1981 and have never regretted it! Of course, I have some good memories of good times and there are many good people living there. Having lived in Salt Lake City for the past 19 years, comparing the two cities, the good people of Milwaukee deserve so much better! To really see how bad a city can get, click the link to the Detroit post below. It's an unbelievable scene of desolation and waste!
Link to the Shaffer story:
Tribute to John Shaffer and his Chicken
Link to a post on the city of Detroit:
Detroit - A Dead City!