Memory Lane: Rehabbing vacant buildings to help neighborhoods recover

Gorman & Co.'s Northside Housing Initiative in Milwaukee features an extensive job training program to teach local residents in construction and demolition work.

For about 8 years I was proud to serve in Gov. Walker’s administration (and about 8 months in Gov. Evers’) as Public Information Officer for WHEDA, the WI Housing and Economic Development Authority.

It should be noted that WHEDA is a self-supporting public corporation that receives no tax dollars for its operations. 

WHEDA enjoyed many wondrous accomplishments when I was there, including one I’d like to share, but first this news from the Milwaukee Independent:

Milwaukee is home to one of the oldest known Juneteenth celebrations in the country, and this year marks the 50th annual Juneteenth Day festivities in the city.

As part of the celebration, Northcott Neighborhood House and the Juneteenth Planning Committee hosted the 50th Juneteenth Anniversary “History and Heritage Meets Legacy and Promise” reception on June 11.

“As we look at our golden 50th anniversary and working through a pandemic, we have so much to celebrate. We are thankful for those who have paved the way to make sure Juneteenth is still here in 2021,” said Tony Kearney, Executive Director of Northcott Neighborhood House. “We honor 23 individuals who have been pioneers, trailblazers, and those who started Juneteenth with vision and courage. These members of our community have kept the historical significance of Juneteenth alive and made it a holiday. We remain thankful to those who have added and led new components of Juneteenth down through the years, and those who have made a difference with their commitment and dedication.”

Back in 2013 while at WHEDA I worked with the above-mentioned Tony Kearney (far right in above photo) on a collaborative effort, a project to transform troubled inner city neighborhoods and build employment. The experience was very rewarding.

I wrote an article for a WHEDA publication that was also picked up by the Milwaukee Courier.

The project also received national attention.

60 years ago today, Milwaukee Braves slug their way to a record

On this date, June 8, 60 years ago, the Milwaukee Braves made baseball history. I blogged about it in 2010. Here it is:

One of my fondest recollections that I’ve had the privilege to share on my blog and on WTMJ and Newstalk 1130 WISN is how, as a kid, my dad would sneak me into Braves and Brewers games when he worked as an usher at the old Milwaukee County Stadium.

When discussing the Braves, one has to remember that the team had an almost Packer-like grip on the city that savored a love affair with a ball club never seen before. That’s why their departure to Atlanta was so devastating.

I recall my Uncle Harry, my mother’s brother buying an album for my brother, Greg:

GO GET ‘EM BRAVES

The album was ahead of its time, a documentary chronicling the team’s success and popularity from the minute it left Boston. Braves announcers, the beloved Earl Gillespie and Blaine Walsh were the narrators on the recording that featured a ton of play-by-play clips.

One of the memorable portions was a day the Braves made baseball history.

JUNE 8, 1961.

The Braves were on the road facing the Reds in Cincinnati at Crosley Field. Hard to believe, but Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn was getting battered 10-2 when the Braves stepped to the plate in the top of the 7th inning.

Four batters. Four consecutive homers. It had never been done before in major league history.

If you listen to GO GET ‘EM BRAVES, with the Braves playing away, the silence is deafening as each blast is hit out of Crosley Field (The Braves still lost 10-8).

Several more times the record was tied after the Braves sterling performance, and then last night (August 11, 2010) at Miller Park, the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks were in town to face a Brewer squad that desperately needs pitching. However, its management decided to make zero moves prior to the trading deadline, ensuring the team will not make the playoffs.

The Diamondbacks teed off on Brewer pitcher Dave Bush, and how.

The D-Backs made franchise history Wednesday night with four straight home runs against the Brewers. Clockwise from top left: Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds, Stephen Drew, and Adam LaRoche.

Adam LaRoche, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds and Stephen Drew all hit solo homers with one out off Brewers right-hander Dave Bush.

It just doesn’t seem right. Adam LaRocheMiguel MonteroMark Reynolds, and Stephen Drew being mentioned in the same breath as Eddie MathewsHank AaronJoe Adcock, and Frank Thomas. But they made us reminisce once again about those great Braves teams and the huge emotional attachment they had with our city.

A young Henry Aaron. Earl Gillespie on the radio. The tepee in the bleachers. Our last World Series title. Sneaking under the turnstiles and roaming through the stadium. Getting autographs.
—-Kevin Fischer, This Just In, August 12, 2010.

Only 5,100 fans were in the stands that day in Cincinnati. It was a Thursday afternoon game. Joe Torre eventually grounded out to end the string of homers.  Eddie Mathews hit another round tripper in the eighth inning, but the Reds held on to win the game, 10-8.

FLASHBACK: My proud Irish Mom

St. Patrick's Day: Green Wine Alternatives to Beer – The Armchair Sommelier

The Year of My Mother: Erin Go Bragh
Posted by Kevin Fischer on March 17, 2010


“THE YEAR OF MY MOTHER” IS A YEAR-LONG SERIES OF BLOGS DEDICATED TO MY DEAR, SWEET MOM WHO DIED IN EARLY JANUARY OF THIS YEAR. I PLAN TO DEVOTE SPECIAL BLOGS THROUGHOUT 2010 TO MY MOM WITH SPECIAL REFLECTIONS AND MEMORIES THAT I HOPE WILL INSPIRE READERS AND CAPTURE THE TRUE SPIRIT AND CHARACTER THAT WAS THE GREATEST WOMAN I HAVE EVER KNOWN.

It was Christmas Eve, 1991.

The Fischer family was gathered at my brother’s house. Dad had been gone for several years.

No one knew what was coming.

We alternated from person to person, each opening a present from his/her stack, one at a time, in order.

Eventually, my mother opened up a relatively large gift from #2 son, me. It was one of those large coffee table books featuring brilliant photos of Ireland.

“Go ahead, Mom. Look inside at some of the pictures.”

And she did, paging and paging until she got to an envelope containing a card informing Mom that yours truly had already made arrangements to take her to Ireland in March.

My mother was extremely, extremely, extremely proud of her Irish heritage. And being the unselfish way she was, had I not made all the arrangements ahead of time, she would have never been satisfied and insisted that the trip she wanted for a, lifetime, her first to her beloved Emerald Isle, be totally on her.

No way.

I have so many wonderful memories of that 1992 trip.

On St. Patrick’s Day, we headed out that morning in Dublin to find a spot for the parade. There is no green beer and acting bonkers on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. The day is reverent, a national holiday. Everything is closed, schools, businesses, banks, restaurants, pubs while the 3-hour plus parade winds its way through the Dublin streets.

Following all the advice from the travel experts, Mom and I had dressed appropriately with winter coats.

Wrong.

Bright sunshine and temperatures around 65 degrees.

I asked the natives if this was unusual. Highly unusual was the response. Normally, a gloomy, cloudy sky greeted parade-goers with rain or even snow, 42 degrees if you’re lucky.

Don’t ask me what street my Mom and I found us on, but it was in some financial district. Irish kids and teenagers and adventurous adults found their way up to the second and third story windows of bank and office buildings and perched themselves for ideal parade viewing spots.

I was struck, but not surprised by the families in attendance. Mom and dad didn’t have one or two children. No., they had 4, 5, 6 or more. Talk about your Catholics!

The parade was amazing. It had everything and lasted, as I mentioned for hours.

At one point, my mother and I heard exclamations from the multitude of children on either side of us:

“Look,” they shouted.

“Here they come! Here come the Americans!”

Hanging from the upper story window perches on those bank buildings you could hear and see the excitement that someone (in this case, Americans) was making its way closer.

Naturally. Mom and I trained our gaze down the street to, in this instance, our left. Who is coming? Who has created all this buzz?

They marched in rows, dozens and dozens of them.

They were beautifully uniformed in orange and blue.

And then, I made them out and looked at Mom and said, “Oh my goodness.”

There I was on Irish soil, a red-blooded American filled with native pride. I have never felt since that time the tremendous love for the University of Illinois Marching band that I felt that morning in Dublin on March 17, 1992. Here I was, thousands of miles from my home, and nearby friends and neighbors approached. The Irish folks around me applauded loudly. So did I.

And then, as the band got right on top of us, you know what happened. Parade roadblock. The Fighting Illini band stopped dead in its tracks right in front of Mrs. Fischer and me. So I did what I do best. I started talking to the young kids who were like statues right in front of me.

I introduced myself as their neighbor to the north. God bless these kids, they didn’t turn in rejection once they learned my homeland. These nice youngsters told how they paid their entire way in order to march in this amazing parade. I wasn’t that much older than the band members I was glad to speak to, and yet I felt fatherly. Shy Mom was listening to every word of the exchange, and just when we were having a good ol’ time, the logjam broke, and my new friends from Champagne, Illinois, my only friends from Champagne suddenly started walking.

No, it wasn’t Michael Leckrone and the Badger Band. But it was darn close, and it made that day even more special. For one day, I was oh so fond of the Fighting Illini.

AFTER the parade, the doors of every pub in town fly wide open, and it’s a celebration.

BEFORE the parade, in our hotel the night before, Mom and I had settled down to what we thought would be a quiet, pleasant dinner.

I was amazed at the Irish cuisine and its high quality, especially their beef, seafood, and the freshness of their vegetables.

When in Rome, do what the Romans do. I learned early that if you order a hard boiled egg with shaved onions and some cream on the side with your Guinness, the Irish will think you know what you’re doing. That was my hors d’oeuvres every night.

Back to our dinner March 16, the night before St. Patrick’s Day. As huge as the hotel dining room was, I didn’t imagine it would fill up. Suddenly, an outburst erupted and every table was filled with an adult or two accompanied by a host of American teenage girls, all of whom were marching in the next day’s parade.

Our waiter, who bore a strong resemblance to Gopher on The Love Boat, was in seventh heaven.

It was great to see fellow Americans having a great time after they had scrimped and saved to make it all possible.

That night, I discovered my mother had developed Ireland-itis. All of a sudden. My Milwaukee mother was speaking with an Irish brogue.

Gopher would ask her how she’s doing.

“Oh, fine, fine.”

Except my mother didn’t say, “Fine, fine.”

My mother said, “Foo-ine, foo-ine.”

You know what I’m saying?

I almost dropped my Guinness.

“Mom,” I said after she did this about 100 times. “Do you know what you’re doing?”

“No, what?” she answered in the most perfect Dublin accent.

When I told her, she laughed so hard and so did I, and I’m so glad.
Mom was amazing. Back home, on trips to Irish fest, this lady would get so excited that despite possessing not the best of legs, she’d find herself 25-30 yards ahead of the rest of the pack.

On our Irish trip, my mother was like a 16-year old in Blarney. She was all aglow at a bubbling brook leading up to the famed Blarney Castle. Heading up the, and I forget, is it 132 steps to the top to kiss the Blarney Stone, I asked Mom if she needed to stop and rest because those steps were so narrow. Some 20 steps ahead of me, my Mother shouted back, “Did you say something?”

“No, Mom. Just keep going.”

“Well, of course.”

“Are you alright?”

“Oh, yes, yes,” said Mom with not an ounce of huffing or puffing.

My mother was always afraid of heights. At the top of the Blarney Castle, she wanted to sign up to give tours.

You can see Mom waving at the bottom of the castle.

Audrey Fischer was a treasure trove of Irish goodies. She had Irish sweaters, Irish jewelry, Irish perfume. Saturdays meant watching Fighting Irish Notre Dame football. She cried every time she watched the Knute Rockne Story.

Mom was buried with Irish Connemara rosary beads.

Her immeasurable Irish pride has been passed down to her children and grandchildren.

If she were here today, she’d be watching QVC for all their 24-hour Irish special programming. She’d open the St. Patrick’s Day cards she’d receive, even from friends and family that aren’t Irish, but know all too well that she is. My brother and his wife would no doubt get her Bailey’s and I’d get her some soda bread. And my mom, even if she’d never leave the house would be ok because it didn’t matter. Wherever she was, usually in the warm confines of her very own home, she was far more than content knowing she was, indeed, comfortable in her own home, Irish, and darn proud of it.

There is but one and only one whose love will fail you never. One who lives from sun to sun with constant fond endeavor.

There is but one and only one on earth there is no other. In Heaven a noble work was done when God gave man a Mother.

Irish mother’s blessings:

With the first light of sun …Bless you. When the day is done …Bless you. In your smile and in your tears …Bless you. Through each day of all your years …Bless you.

America needs to read Dr. Seuss Tuesday

May be an image of text that says '"The more that you READ. the more things you will KNOW. The more that you learh, the more places you' GO."'

Tuesday is National Read Across America Day, celebrated on March 2nd, the birthday of Dr. Seuss. 

Schools participate by having volunteers read to children in classrooms, usually but not always from a Seuss book.

For a few years I was invited to read to Kyla’s class when she attended St. Anthony’s School in Milwaukee.

When I got “political” one year (note the title) Kyla was in the front row.

Sadly, we live in a ‘cancel culture’ world. So it comes as no surprise that the Loudon County Public Schools in Virginia is dropping the annual Dr. Seuss celebration. 

“Realizing that many schools continue to celebrate ‘Read Across America Day’ in partial recognition of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, it is important for us to be cognizant of research that may challenge our practice in this regard,” Loudoun County Schools said in an announcement. “As we become more culturally responsive and racially conscious, all building leaders should know that in recent years there has been research revealing radical undertones in the books written and the illustrations drawn by Dr. Seuss.”

Learning for Justice, a liberal education advocacy group, pressured for the cancelation, citing a study by St. Catherine University that claimed Dr. Seuss’s books are covered with “orientalism, anti-Blackness and White supremacy.”

In 2017 to celebrate “National Read a Book Day,” First Lady Melania Trump sent out a collection of 10 Dr. Seuss books to one school in each state across the nation. The titles included: “The Cat in the Hat”; “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”; “Wacky Wednesday”; “Green Eggs and Ham”; and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

She followed in the footsteps of her predecessor, Michelle Obama, who often read Dr. Seuss books to children. Former first ladies Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush also read to children at Dr. Seuss-themed educational events.

A Massachusetts elementary school librarian claimed the illustrations in Dr. Seuss’s books — usually cartoon animals or fantastical creatures — were examples of “racist propaganda” and that her school would “not be keeping the titles” for their collection.

Stephanie Grisham, director of communications for the first lady’s office, said in a statement to that the response was “unfortunate,” and Mrs. Trump wanted to use her platform “to help as many children as she can.”

“She has demonstrated this in both actions and words since her husband took office, and sending books to children across the country is but one example,” she said. “To turn the gesture of sending young students some books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the First Lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere.”

The website “The Art of Dr. Seuss Collection” writes:

Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) created thousands of cartoons, illustrations, paintings, sculptures, and stories over the course of his 70-year career. While the vast majority of the works he produced are positive and inspiring, Ted Geisel also drew a handful of early images, which are disturbing. These racially stereotypical drawings were hurtful then and are still hurtful today. However, Ted’s cartoons and books also reflect his evolution. Later works, such as The Sneetches or Horton Hears a Who!, emphasize inclusion and acceptance. Ted would later edit some of his inappropriate images, depicting his characters in a more respectful manner.

Congrats to those schools reading Dr. Seuss to kids on Tuesday.

This place is on my bucket list. Photos from 2017:

The new Amazing World of Dr. Seuss museum opened to the public last weekend in the author and illustrator’s hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, and it’s like walking into one of his beloved children’s books. John Simpson, left, project director of exhibitions for The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, and his wife Kay Simpson, right, president of Springfield Museums, unwrap a statue of “Cat in the Hat.” Photo: Steven Senne / AP

The entrance to The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, now open in the children’s book author’s hometown of Springfield. (Steven Senne/AP)

man walks past a mural with the character “Sam-I-Am” from the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham” at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum. (Steven Senne/AP)

Cortney Thibodeau, a senior at UMass Amherst, paints a mural based on artwork from the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!” (Steven Senne/AP)

Leagrey Dimond, stepdaughter of Theodor Seuss Geisel, stands among objects and memorabilia at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum. (Steven Senne/AP)

mural of Theodor Seuss Geisel, or rather Dr. Seuss, rests on a wall near an entrance at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum. (Steven Senne/AP)

My daughter is clearly not listening

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and indoor

September 2020

WHEN I’M LOVING MY LITTLE BABY GIRL AND BEING A DAD, PLEASE DON’T SAY, “JUST WAIT”
By Kevin Fischer
August 25, 2009

Words cannot describe the joy of being a new father of a beautiful little baby girl. I now fully understand that which so many in the massive society of fatherhood have had the pleasure of appreciating before me.

You wish time could virtually stand still so this tiny little miracle could forever retain her angelic innocence. That being impossible, you try to soak in every glorious baby moment. Pondering what lies ahead, however, is part of the deal. The focus on the present is often broken by well-wishing friends and relatives with those two now oh-so familiar words: “Just wait!”

Ah, yes.

So much to look forward to.

So much to worry about.

I was reminded about my future father role working backstage at the Main Stage at the Wisconsin State Fair during the Demi Lovato concert. Lovato is the latest Disney Channel star.

Prior to the show, I joked with some of the handful of fathers who looked less than thrilled to be on hand.

“Do you have any idea what you’re in for?” I asked them, knowing that 5,000 screaming prepubescent girls can shatter eardrums a mile away.

“Oh yeh I do,” chuckled one dad. “I’ve seen Britney Spears.”

Britney’s path from cute bopping teen to adolescent tramp is legendary. Following such a transformation, there’s always another young girl to step in and play the part, selling mega tickets, CD’s, videos, and merchandise. The latest is Miley Cyrus who has grown out of her sweet, Hannah Montana character.

Miley Cyrus, 16, shows off her pole dancing skills at Teen Choice Awards |  Daily Mail Online

Cyrus stunned moms all across America recently when she performed a pole dance at the Teen Choice Awards.

What would Mickey say? Miley Cyrus pole dances during performance at 2009 Teen  Choice Awards - New York Daily News

Lest we forget, Cyrus is 16 years old. Doesn’t matter to her big lug, achy breaky heart father, Billy Ray Cyrus who defended Miley’s stripper-like routine:

“You know what? I just think that Miley loves entertaining people. She loves singing and songwriting. I always tell her to love what you’re doing and stay focused for the love of the art and not worry so much about opinion,” said the proud papa.

So, is this the only way for young girls to “make it?” Dress and behave as provocatively as possible? That certainly is the message they’re getting.

Then there’s the music.

When I was growing up, parents (the ones that weren’t cool) were having heart attacks about anything even remotely more exciting than Pat Boone.

I’ve never understood what all the fuss was about. Elvis simply wanted to be your teddy bear. The Beatles just wanted to hold your hand. Today, almost every song is scandalous in its sheer obscenity.

The Culture and Media Institute provides the breakdown that would make any parent panic:

“From June 10 to July 22, 29 songs were listed on the top 20 airplay charts as posted by Mediabase. An astonishing 69 percent of the songs made at least one reference to sex, alcohol, drugs, or contained profanity. Nearly half (46 percent) of the songs contained sexual lyrics and 31 percent of the songs referenced drugs or alcohol. Profanity occurred in 41 percent of the songs.

Despite these troubling numbers, the media has been generally indifferent to the obscenity, and often praised the artist. Some of the artists even performed on the networks’ morning shows.”

Great.

Let’s move to the computer.

The London School of Economics reports nine out of 10 teens who go online will view pornography. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 70 percent of those who viewed porn stumbled across it – many while innocently doing their homework – and had not been looking for it.

That’s the current state of affairs.

Who will be and what will the teen tramp star be like when my daughter is 12, 13, 14?

What kind of trash will be on the radio, on the Internet and other outlets?

I trust my wife and I will be up for the challenge.

And we haven’t even discussed boys!

I’ve already addressed how I’m going to handle that whole issue. There will be two simple rules young males will have to follow:

1) The young lad will have to get out of his car, walk up the driveway, ring the doorbell, expect to enter and meet me face to face where he will be subject to a series of probing, not so subtle questions about himself, his family and just about any other topic I choose for interrogation.

That’s rule #1.

Rule # 2 is even easier.

2) The young lad is not allowed anywhere on or near my property.

I can always turn to this gem, a column by one of my favorites, Doug Giles:

“The Ten Commandments for My Daughter’s Potential Boyfriends”

Here is a sample:

“Thou shall not touch my daughter, or I’ll tear your hands off and you’ll have to ‘whip the bishop’ with a stub. Not only am I not cool with your being around me, I’m sure as heck not down with your touching my daughter. Therefore, when you’re in my space (and in my absence) you’d better treat my daughters with the utmost respect.

Do not under any circumstance hang all over my daughter, fondle my daughter or soul kiss my kid until you have a wedding ring on her finger, a joint checking account and MMA at Wachovia—or I will shove your Justin Timberlake backside off my 3rd floor balcony first chance I get, capisce?”

Here’s the rest.

Happy 5-month birthday, Kyla.

Please.

Please, sweetheart. Please don’t grow up so fast.

—August 25, 2009