Skip Navigation

Gimme a Break!

Spring break, summer break, even the ten-minute break between classes — Badgers are always eager to find fun (and sometimes even productive) ways to fill their off days and hours.

John Allen
July 05, 2012
Photo Courtesy UW-Madison Archives

Spring break, summer break, even the ten-minute break between classes — Badgers are always eager to find fun (and sometimes even productive) ways to fill their off days and hours. We asked you, the members of WAA, to tell us your favorite UW break stories. The responses we received show just how far Badgers will go (even if they stay at home) to make the most of their free time.

I had to work summers to keep toothpaste in the cabinet and socks in the drawer, but I have to admit that my “job” was as close to cushy as you can get! For three summers, I was a recreation department playground supervisor in my small hometown — crafts and kickball, caroms (remember those?), and jungle gyms. Days off when it rained. Life was good.

—Lynn Jindra '63
Jefferson, Wisconsin

I was a student from 1956 to 1960, as an ex-GI with a wife and one son. We lived in a mobile home. I went to school during the day and worked nights finishing computer data-processing projects from the day shift as a one-man crew. In the summer, I enjoyed swimming, golfing, taking the family on trips, and total relaxation. We also had many other student friends living in the mobile-home park, so we would get together for barbecues and parties. It was a great reprieve from the studies/work pressure of the nine months of school.

—Gerald Elmer '60
Fullerton, California

Photo Courtesy UW-Madison Archives

[I enjoyed] taking day trips to Devil’s Lake and other opportunities for hiking and enjoying the outdoors that Wisconsin has to offer. Of course, there was also plenty of opportunity to drink a beer on the Terrace and enjoy the good company of friends. Summer in Madison was the best!

—Bruce Hentschel '82
West Des Moines, Iowa

I was at the UW during the Second World War. Time off from school meant that I was available to help my dad in his logging/sawmill operations. Other young, fit men were in one of the armed services. I was deferred due to my attendance in an engineering program. Working in the woods in central Wisconsin, cutting and peeling timber piling, and cutting saw logs for veneer or lumber to be used in projects that would produce something for the military, my coworkers were mostly old, retired guys who had come back into the workforce to aid in the war efforts. The results were that I stayed in good physical condition and learned skills that would come in handy during my construction career of forty-five years, which followed graduation and late-1946 discharge from the navy.

—C.A. Knoke '46
Oak Ridge, Tennessee

I went to two summer schools, and they were heavenly. I played with a traditional “jass” band called The Saints of Dixieland at Madison’s famed Shuffle Inn, which was quite a gathering place. My instrument was piano. I studied since the age of eight, segued from classical to jazz at fourteen, and was playing dates at the age of fifteen — the first with my brother Roger at the Tri-Delt sorority house at Northwestern. It is hard to believe, but I have been a pianist for sixty-five years. After school, musically, I worked and studied continually with all types and sorts of influences to “stretch out” stylistically. Music was always a nice additive and soulful friend to my corporate life. The University of Wisconsin has been a very wonderful experience, and I have been very grateful and proud attending this unique, wonderful institution. During the past fifty years, I have missed only two Homecomings and get to Madison for many special events. I have been an active member of The Founders in Los Angeles for 35-plus years and also very active with the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity since 1588, just before the Spanish Armada!

—Alan Andrews “Rags” Ragland '61
Playa del Rey, California

I applied for a job playing piano at Ishnala, a fine-dining restaurant in the Wisconsin Dells, owned and operated by the Hoffman House of Madison. It was a unique experience for a young college gal — and I still treasure the experience. It is still there, and quite charming, but alas, no piano! Maybe a talented pianist (who can play old favorites and new) could revive what was a successful time at Ishnala! I played there three summers, and followed my engineer, soon-to-be husband to California.

—Heidi Elmer Wilbert '60
Greenbrae, California

I took a dorm-sponsored trip with my roommate to Fort Lauderdale the spring of 1980 — twenty-four hours on a Greyhound, stopping in every major city on the way to change bus drivers. There was a keg in the back of the bus — what a party. I was extremely burnt after the first day at the beach — brought my books to study, but never opened them, partying every night. I came back with a great tan after the long bus ride home.

—Jennifer Otto Wade '83
Grafton, Wisconsin

Photo Courtesy UW-Madison Archives

From the standpoint of experience and income, my favorite summer break was in 1957. I needed to earn the money for my final year of civil engineering studies. In the spring, I had secured summer work with an engineering firm that provided the design, surveying, payment calculations, etc. for the construction of the U.S. Air Force base outside of Glasgow, Montana. Since I owned no car, I arrived at Glasgow by train and secured lodging in a rooming house with two other young men who worked for the same company. Fortunately, one of these (Jerry) had a car. The work was good — a challenging experience in my chosen profession. Montana was exciting for a Wisconsinite, and the work paid my way to graduation. The end of the summer of 1957 was a bonus. My roommate Bill was from the Swan River Valley of western Montana, south of Glacier National Park. He invited Jerry and me to his parents’ home on the slope of the Mission Range for a few days of relaxation before the fall semester began. Bill’s father, a carpenter, had grown tired of the big city of Billings several years earlier, and moved his family to the Swan River Valley before it was settled. He had built a beautiful log lodge and dammed a river to install a 25-cycle generator for their electricity. The area was so remote when Bill was growing up that the family made a 150-mile round trip on logging roads twice a year to buy basic supplies in Missoula! In 1957, there were a few additional people in the valley, but it was still a near-wilderness area — a sharp contrast in its magnificent solitude to the teeming Madison campus that I returned to.

—James Christenson '57
Osseo, Wisconsin

It was the summer of ’70 — yeah, that’s right: the same summer that ended tragically with the Sterling Hall bombing by the New Year’s Gang, causing the death of researcher Robert Fassnacht. But earlier that summer, just after the end of my sophomore year, I moved into a furnished, five-bedroom, off-campus house on Keyes Avenue, along with one of my five roommates for the next school year and two French graduate students. It was a pretty good house for a student house — much better than some of the places in “Miffland,” the core of the student ghetto. It included the iconic, ratty couch on its closed front porch. I found a job working for the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad as a gandydancer. The tracks had to be moved a couple of hundred yards north at the place near Camp Randall where they built Campus Drive to relieve University Avenue traffic. I made $3.25 an hour (if memory serves) laying track almost exactly as it was done in 1870. We used levers and crow bars to inch the rails into place and spike mauls to drive the huge nails into the ties. It was hard work, but I really enjoyed it. We would have contests to see who could flush a spike with the fewest swings of the sledge. We found out that the contest was more a matter of luck than either strength or skill, because one would occasionally work on a soft tie that readily accepted the nail. Other times, one would find a knotty piece of wood that stubbornly rejected the nail. I sweated, got dirty, and got strong. I enjoyed my dinner and savored the ice-cold beer or two that I thought I had earned. It was a good summer.

—Tom Alt '71
Lake Bluff, Illinois

Photo Courtesy UW-Madison Archives

Spring 1962 found Bob Listecki, Tom Nederman, John Wing, and Brittingham Viking Scholar Stig Stendahl from Finland — all Chi Psis — driving down to Miami and taking a flight to Nassau, Bahamas. Driving in the ’59 Chevy convertible four-on-the-floor, the Lodgers had one overnight in Georgia to replace an engine valve before proceeding to Miami. In the Bahamas, we stayed at the Ocean Spray motel, rented a car, and toured the island, including Oaks Field, the home of the Nassau Speed Week. Finding the converted air field open, we took a few laps.

—Bob Listecki '62
Oak Brook, Illinois

I was in school from 1980 to 1985. My last three years, I worked at the University Book Store. Even as a part-time employee, I got vacation benefits. I worked full-time each summer and got in twenty or more hours during the school year as well. Come spring break, I’d take a week’s vacation from the Book Store, cash my tax return, and go somewhere sunny with my friends — Florida twice and Texas once. There were always surprises and adventures to be had!

—Christine Sandvik Johnston '85
Oregon, Wisconsin

I danced seven nights away and slept at the beach in Acapulco with my Chi Omega sisters!

—Annette Van Veen Gippe '69
Chicago, Illinois

I spent my summers in Madison (1958 through 1965) taking seminars and classes, working on research in the State Historical Society library, or reading for my prelims. In the summers of 1963 and 1964, my wife and I stayed in a dorm for married couples near Van Hise. We took one class each and had to write a paper (on which her grade was better than mine). While she relaxed with a lot of the other women, I read tons of books getting ready for the prelim exams. During the p.m., she would type my notes on a typewriter (remember that?) so that they would be easier for me to review later. It was the closest to country-club life that I ever experienced. In the evenings there were softball games, a student chorus, concerts, lectures and lots of good times discussing almost anything and everything. Many an evening closed with a good deal of beer being downed in a tavern on University Avenue. The most amusing situation was that in an adjacent dorm, there was a cohort of U.S. Army officers taking a course on public relations. Their dorm R.A. was a conscientious objector. They got along famously!

—Albert Erlebacher PhD'65
Dolores Adler Erlebacher '62
Skokie, Illinois

Photo Courtesy UW-Madison Archives

In the spring of ’64, six or seven of us piled into a friend’s dad’s new Oldsmobile and headed non-stop to Florida. We hit the sunny Jacksonville beaches in the early afternoon. Noting that people were parking on the beach, we did likewise. Then we changed clothes, jumped into the ocean, and thought we were in paradise. While there are not a lot of tides on Wisconsin lakes, we discovered that there were in the Atlantic. By the time we figured out what was happening, the water was up to the wheels. No problem, of course: just get in and drive to higher ground. Not. Wheels turned, and the new Olds went right down to its frame. Fortunately, high school had just let out, and some local kids who knew what they were doing helped us extricate the car from its potential watery grave. Not to be deterred, we continued on down the road to even sunnier climes, with a death pact that certain parents would never hear the story.

—Bill Ricker '67
Stover, Missouri

We would gather up a group of friends, climb into a loaner vehicle, and drive north to Devil’s Lake. Nothing as stimulating as an overnight camp-out, day hikes along the ridges, and then a refreshing swim off the rocks (sans clothes if adventurous at early evening). I can still feel the electric shock of hitting the surface of the spring-fed water, and the soothing warmth of the sun while drying.

—Joel Andrews '79, MS'81
Glen Allen, Virginia

Spring break 1961 in New York City as a grad student: [used tickets] a fellow Haresfooter provided to see Camelot; talked to Ayn Rand at her seminar; saw Dag Hammarskjöld conduct a UN General Assembly meeting; had lunch in the delegates’ UN dining room as part of research for a UW Model UN conference as a guest of the Belgian ambassador; attended an Easter sunrise Quaker peace vigil in Times Square; walked in the Easter Parade down Fifth Avenue; and observed diamonds being cut at a jewelry store — the most unusual week of my life.

—Thayer Thompson ’60
Sedalia, Missouri

Related News and Stories

The ice — and the skaters — have shattered! Piece them back together in this jigsaw puzzle of a frozen moment in time.