by Ex Fabula Guest Blogger: Lane Burns
Sherman Perk sits quietly at the corner of 49th street, Roosevelt Drive, and Keefe avenue in a building that was once a 1939 gas station. It’s a cozy coffee shop that is a crossroads of past and present, as well as a meeting place for the wildly diverse community of Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee.
And on November 5th, Sherman Perk was the stage for the fourth Ex Fabula Terminal Milwaukee event with the fitting theme of “Intersections”. Packed to the gills, stories of the culturally and religiously varied history of the area were framed by the aroma of fresh coffee prepared by Sherman Perk proprietor, Bob Olin.
John Gurda acquainted us with the history of Milwaukee’s largest neighborhood and the city’s first neighborhood park, drawing a connection between past and present; Sherman Park was an area that symbolized the achievement of the American dream –growth and a sense of arrival. Attendees heard history of the local architecture, the nationally recognized Jewish community and rise of Conservative Judaism, Washington High School, and the neighborhood’s ever-changing cultural mixture since the 1840’s.
All Photos: © Kathrine Schleicher 2011 – www.ellagraph.com
Andre Bosseau began the night describing the choice to dedicate himself to keeping his family of ten children together and the sacrifices, along with overwhelming joy, that has brought him. Andre spoke very frankly about his challenges encouraging others to have faith in their decisions, faith in their children and remember the fun in dysfunctional.
Alan Borsuk, a local Rabbi, dislikes coffee, but his story recognized the bitter brew’s power for facilitating connections between people. Describing his work as a journalist many years prior, a cup of coffee was the ticket to an inside scoop that he might not have otherwise been able to get. To this day, the coffee shop allows Rabbi Borsuk to intersect with people of varied backgrounds, a common connection shared.
Similarly, Harriet McKinney marked the passage from Chicago to Brookfield to the East Side and finally to Sherman Park, delineating how all the stops in her life were a part of a divine plan, connection to the blessings she felt her life had given her. Ultimately the journey led her to this neighborhood where she “could look out her window and see the fabric of humanity”.
Local colors were vibrant and ready to be woven into that fabric: Jerry McInnes enumerated the many intersections that had cropped up in his 71 years, and how each of those twists and turns had led him from being a Looper to being a welding trainer, to crossing the intersection to be at Sherman Perk and tell his story. Sheldon Solochek detailed his connection to the neighborhood and how great it was to grow up in Sherman Park. Michael Heider shared a perspective of the neighborhood from the window of the hospital room at St. Joe’s where his father was dying, a snapshot of 90% of his life surrounding him.
Russel Stamper II grew up in Sherman Park too, working at a Laundromat owned by a blind man with a very developed sense of his business – to the point where Russell decided to test whether he was truly blind. Cindy Grover brought everyone to a crossroad in Costa Rica where she had to find a way to get back to town after missing the only bus. Marco Everett’s intersection was with love, beginning in New York, through the military, and into Wisconsin where he met a girl with whom he would reunite, marry and raise a family, years later.
Family was a prominent topic in a number of the stories. Bill Lange, another Sherman Park native, describes a day when his son, unaware of how late his father already was for work, had a provoking question –and a unique theory – regarding how each person’s culture and birthplace is determined. Mavis Roesch grew up at the intersection of Sherman and Center, attended Washington High School, and appreciated how easy it was to integrate both her school and faith in this neighborhood. Ryan Schleicher had a story only two hours in the past: while driving to pick up alcohol before the liquor stores closed, he saw the hospital where his first child would be born and was struck with profanity-laced awareness that he would be a father in six short weeks.
Tom Crawford closed the evening with a story as a series of vignettes that painted a picture of how an energetic, imaginative child was nurtured by his experiences in Sherman Park growing up, as well as how his connection to the neighborhood continues to enrich his life through music and amazing friends.
The next stop in Terminal Milwaukee is at Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall with the theme of “Generation Gap” on Saturday January 28 at 8 pm.