A Northwoods Moment In History

Every Wednesday at 6:45 a.m., 8:45 a.m., and 5:45 p.m., we turn back the clock on WXPR with local historian Gary Entz to find out what life in the Northwoods used to be like. This is part of a new initiative by WXPR to tell the history and culture of northern Wisconsin.

You can keep track of A Northwoods Moment in History and all of WXPR's local features on the WXPR Local Features podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.

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Thanksgiving traditionally is a time when people celebrate the harvest and other blessings of the year gone by. It is a time when extended families gather with one another to give thanks for good health and, in some cases, to watch football. The Thanksgiving season of 1933, however, had an element of good cheer that had a lot of people in the Northwoods in a celebratory mood. Historian Gary Entz has the story.


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Many people in small towns take parking for granted. Except for the height of tourist season, finding a parking spot in most Northwoods towns is not a problem. But it was not so long ago that parking in small town business districts was regulated by parking meters. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

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Today is Veterans Day in the United States, but prior to 1954 it was known as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War One. To honor Northwoods veterans, historian Gary Entz has a story of two soldiers from Tomahawk who distinguished themselves in the Great War.

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A WXPR listener noted that several dogs had been mentioned in past episodes of a Northwoods Moment in History, but no cats. This cat lover was curious if there were any stories from the past about cats in the Northwoods. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

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Halloween night is a special time for children across the Northwoods. Many people have fond childhood memories of Halloween traditions, but a lot of those traditions are more recent than most of us realize. In the not so distant past, Halloween in the Northwoods meant mostly tricks and very few treats. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

Ed “Strangler” Lewis

Oct 21, 2020

Professional wrestling is a popular form of entertainment in the United States for many people, and this includes many fans in the Northwoods. Modern wrestling is a choreographed entertainment rather than a true sport, and the individual most responsible for that distinction had a Northwoods connection. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

Wisconsin Historical Society

Today many people take the Oneida County Airport for granted. In the past, however, generating interest in aviation and air travel was an important goal for local civic boosters. In 1930, Rhinelander participated in an air race that significantly advanced this objective. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

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Today people living in Wisconsin’s Northwoods and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula look to each other as neighbors who share common interests. No one questions the boundary between the two regions, but in the past the border between the two states was a serious concern. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

Red Dot Potato Chips

Sep 30, 2020
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Many people of fond memories of Red Dot potato chips. While Red Dot was headquartered in southern Wisconsin, the company did have significant ties to the Northwoods. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

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David Collins, a student fulfilling a writing assignment in Ocie Kilgus’s English Comp class at Nicolet College, was curious about a bank robbery that took place in Laona during the 1950s. As it turns out, the robbery had an unusual twist. 

In past the Oneida County Fair brought in some of the biggest names in Country & Western music. These acts always drew the biggest crowds for the fair, but one year a particular singer brought her very own Rodeo to perform with her. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

Wisconsin Historical Society

Many young people today cannot name a Supreme Court Justice or identify their own Congressional Representative. Voter participation is lower in the U.S. than in any other Western Democracy. It was not always this way, and in the past Rhinelander made certain its young people were aware of their civic responsibilities. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

Pioneer Edward Walsh

Sep 2, 2020
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There are many stories of early Northwoods Pioneers. Most of us recall the lumbermen as being the first, but the tourist industry developed simultaneous to the logging industry, and early resort builders like Edward Walsh were key in the economic development of the Northwoods. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

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The Lac du Flambeau band of Lake Superior Chippewa have been an important part of Northwoods cultural history since the early eighteenth century. However, the tribe has not always been treated with the respect it has earned, and the era of allotment is a particularly painful memory. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

Wisconsin Historical Society

Most Rhinelander citizens take the Davenport Street Bridge for granted. It is simply something we pass over on our way into town. But the current bridge is not the first structure to span the river, and the first bridge in that location met with a tragic end. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

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