ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Otto Heyn


Former Newspaper Dealer,

Enjoying Solid Comfort in Retirement


Watertown Daily Times, March 20, 1945

   [article includes picture]


Solid pipe-and-slippers comfort, that’s what Otto Heyn is enjoying these days.  Otto, who will stride into his 80th year of life on June 24, was better known as Watertown’s hustling downtown newspaper distributor until illness felled him last winter.  He spent 12 days in the hospital getting cured of a lot of ails that had plagued him for several past winters, then hustled over to the home of his niece, Mrs. Ella Gorder, on Dewey avenue, and is having a good time catching up on some of the comforts of living.


Otto’s life has been as interesting as it is long.  When he was a youngster in the province of Saxony, Germany, he learned the book-binder’s trade.  Apprenticeship was a long and arduous period in those days and Otto spent 14 years learning the art at Grafenthal.  While Otto was winning his title as a full-fledged bookbinder his brother, Emil, sailed for America and settled in Watertown where he opened a bakery.  America was then the land of opportunity and as soon as Otto had completed his apprenticeship, he also embarked for the new world.  That was in 1892, and he was just 27 years old.


It took him a week to cross the Atlantic, but a flagon of “rugged” German schnapps kept him healthy on the crossing.  Two and a half days by train brought him from New York to Watertown.  Soon thereafter he opened his first bookbindery in the city at 217 North Fourth Street.


Life in those days was marked by true gemuetlichkeit and business was good for the young merchant.  The so-called “dime stores” were still to come, and Otto’s business in school supplies, greeting cards and stationery boomed.  He did much bookbinding for the city’s churches and for Northwestern College.  Newspaper distribution was a sideline.


Most of the town’s buildings were wooden single-story structures, Otto recalls, with an occasional two-story one interspersed along the main stem.  Hitching rails lined the streets, since the oat-burning horse had still to be frightened by the first horseless carriage.  Watertown was a good business town then even as it is now, Otto says.  German-speaking people were numerous and Otto had no difficulty in getting along on his limited English vocabulary.  Otto soon needed room for business expansion so he moved to a place near the present Piper Leather goods store on Main street, and later slipped farther downtown to 410 (sic, should be 411) N (sic, should be E) Main.  His final move was to 5 Main street, the place he occupied until illness forced him to retire last winter.


The wily little “Dutchman” recalls that the Daily Times was one of his best sellers right from the start.  People used to line up at his stand waiting for the paper to come off the presses, and he had a large group of newsboys distributing throughout the city.  His earlier businesses had such volume that he had to hire four clerks, but in more recent years he attended to the work alone.


Never one to travel much, though he did make a few vacation trips to northern Wisconsin, Otto’s circle of activities grew smaller as the years went by and he found himself spending more and more of his spare time with intimate friends in his Main street business house.  They’d have a game of sheepshead, or just smoke a few pipefulls and talk things over.  With his wife, a son and his brother deceased, he found little interest in other social activity.


This life close to his friends and his daily stint of newspaper distribution along Main Street is what he misses most.  His health, however, has been coming back fast and few are the days that pass without an afternoon visit to the downtown area.  He’s waiting, almost impatiently, for warmer weather so he can spend more time with his friends chatting on a park bench or strolling around downtown.