ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Watertown Centurama



Watertown Daily Times, 06 28 1954


Historic highlights of Watertown, as a settlement and a city, effectively telescoped into   a pageant-spectacle that runs for 73 minutes comprises what is the most ambitious outdoor show ever undertaken in this city. It is the Watertown Centurama.


It was given its initial performance before a large audience at Riverside Park athletic field Saturday night and was repeated Sunday night. It has two more performances to go - one on Tuesday night and the other on Wednesday night. It employs a vast cast - 700 the official announcement has it. It is believable.


The Watertown Centurama is staged with great beauty. It consists of 15 scenes and is augmented by a group of narrators, a sound track and recordings and boasts some splendid outdoor lighting. The stage is vast, 300 feet in length, with a large part of it raised above the level of the rest.


Admittedly, the sound system was not always up to par at the initial performance and the audience missed much of the narration, but the scenes were there and the action was unmistakable. It is presumed that by now the bugs have been ironed out and it should sail along at a smooth clip.


The opening night's audience proved highly appreciative and showed it with prolonged applause during the course of the historical presentation. Many of the scenes were greeted - and rewarded - with hearty applause that rolled in waves across the vast field.


The Watertown Centurama is a John B. Rogers production with Tom Chatham as director-producer. Miss Marcella Killian of the Watertown Historical Society prepared the historical outline which was edited and whipped into shape by Mr. Chatham. The centennial chorus, which takes part in providing some of the choral backgrounds, is directed by William Guyer.


The prologue to the production offers a salute to the centennial queen, Miss Carolyn Seefeldt, with a mounted guard of honor, numbering 20, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, the Watertown High School Band, the Jefferson Drill team, township ladies-in-waiting, the ladies of honor, trumpeters and the princesses of her court of honor and their escorts. At Saturday night's performance the crowning of the queen topped the opening proceedings.


The pageant itself begins with the scene showing the French missionaries, first white men known to have visited the site of Watertown, followed by a scene which involves Black Hawk, last of the great Indian chiefs and warriors of this region. The scene dissolves into an Indian council between the Sacs and the Winnebagoes. Other Indian incidents are included, all going to make a dramatic and beautiful series of living pictures. The glowing camp fires, the dance and the movement of half naked savages all combine to make the Indian scenes outstanding and among the most effective and truly beautiful of the entire evening.


The pageant skips rapidly to the arrival of Timothy Johnson, first white settler, and other pioneers whose names are recorded for all time in the annals of what is now Watertown.  There is a hint of the celebrated "Latin Farmers" and other early arrivals and this is followed by what is perhaps one of the simplest, reverent and truly impressive scenes, the religious meeting, which helped establish a manifestation of faith in the early settlement. This scene, with the tiny congregation, the minister, the song and words of "The Lord's Prayer," one of the greatest religious utterances of all time, is splendidly done.


As this scene dissolves into darkness, it is followed quickly by one of a lighter - but vital nature. It is the first kindergarten in America, established here in Watertown in 1856, by Margaretha Meyer Schurz, wife of Gen. Carl Schurz. This scene brought chuckles to many in the audience.


The coming of the "Iron Horse" to Watertown, and a scene touching on Watertown's part in the Civil War follow next and these have been effectively brought into the pageant without a waste of action or narration.


"The Gay Nineties" with its tandem bike and the "Belles" of the 1890's and Concordia Island - now Tivoli - provides an amusing scene, what with its old time bathing beauties, its muscle men, the early automobile, and other incidents of a vanished era.


The era of World War I and World War II are touched on briefly by means of effective tableaux.


There is also an amusing scene called "The Roaring Twenties" with its flappers, the get-rich crowd, the "modernized" motor car and some dancing that is recalled as the Charleston.


Hall of Fame


In "Hall of Fame," men and women who have been outstanding in Watertown are brought to life, all with brief references to their work and influence here. Those mentioned and depicted are the Timothy Johnson family, John W. and Luther Cole, pioneer merchants; Patrick and John Rogan, farmers and civic leaders here; Mr. and Mrs. Edward Johnson, Mr. Johnson being the city's first druggist and also its first "doctor"; Gen. Carl Schurz and Mrs. Schurz; Mr. and Mrs. Emil C. Gaebler, Mr. Gaebler being an early day music store operator and pipe organ builder here. One of his children Sophie, survived in Milwaukee until this year, when she died on March 15 at the age of 91, being the last surviving pupil of the great pianist and composer, Franz Liszt.


Others mentioned in the Hall of Fame scene and depicted are the senior Henry Mulberger, who along with  his three sons, Henry, Arthur and Charles, each served as mayor of Watertown; Lt. Gov. Jesse Stone, banker and manufacturer here; Mr. and Mrs. Edward J. Brandt, Mr. Brandt being the investor of the Brandt Automatic Cashier and founder of one of Watertown's major industries and whose contributions to music and things culturally were outstanding; Prof. August F. Ernst and Dr. John Ott, whose names are forever associated with Northwestern College; Miss Ida Kopp and Miss Mary Crangle, two of the city's outstanding teachers of past years, the Rev. Peter Brooks, S. J., a farm boy who grew up here and graduated from Watertown High School and rose to the presidency of Marquette University; the Rev. Christopher Brooks, missionary to India; Joseph E. Davies, former ambassador to Russia and founder of the Joe Davies scholarship for Watertown High School students at the University of Wisconsin; Ralph D. Blumenfeld, Watertown-born editor of the London Express; and Edward Broennimann, New York stock broker and for many years associated with the Globe Milling Co. and other interests.


Atomic Bomb


The pageant closes with a gigantic "salute to the Future" in which the entire cast is on stage. There also are fireworks, including what it certainly the most realistic atom bomb to be seen this side of the Bikini Atoll.


It is virtually impossible to set down here the names of all the characters and persons in the pageant. Suffice it to say that it is a tremendous undertaking and considering the time allowed for its preparation and rehearsals, the results are far better than are achieved by most such groups.


It is also impossible to list all the people who had a part in its production, who furnished materials and who gave of their time, energy and talent to bring it about. All, from the top to the bottom, deserve a word of commendation.


The pageant is a spectacle in which residents can which Watertown take pride. It is a spectacle worth taking in. And there are just two more opportunities to see it - Tuesday and Wednesday nights.