I grew up in this neighborhood — corner of East Wash & Second St. — with my first apartment as an adult being on Helena Street. The neighborhood was entirely blue collar, working class at the time. My father worked at every east side factory before they closed down and left town. I left too — for rural Wisconsin in 1978.
Fast forward to year 2000. I move back to Madison — to Helena Street, of course. The entire neighborhood is professional and educated now, except for the very few remaining working class inhabitants who are now elderly. I am stunned at the change. It is an entirely new place.
I thought this transition from working class to professional class happened over the 22 years I was gone. I just found out yesterday, that the transition happened right before I moved back — in fact, I learned I was part of this new transition!
I also learned that SASY was considered an at-need neighborhood at the time SASY formed, and that was right before I returned to town. This was shocking news.
We all need to be informed of the role that SASY has played in rejuvinating our neighborhood, how young SASY is, and where we might be headed. The shortness of our council’s existence is especially important, as it explains why we are not more well known. It shows we have barely gotten started as a group. Fifteen years is not long. It shows we have much more potential than I had imagined.
Each individual neighbor might have their own account of the history of the neighborhood. I moved here in the late 1970’s when I was 30. I’d done a lot of moving around in my 20’s–now wanted to stay in one place. There were some older neighbors– less educated, working class (though they wouldn’t have used that term) — like Ollie, across the street, who worked at Lindsay Paint near First Street-East Johnson after WW 2. Changes came fast in the 1980’s: With more late 20- and 30-ish neighbors moving in, and out, and babies being born. In the late 1980’s there were 17 children at the corner of LaFollette-Dunning alone.
I would trace the transition of the Schenk-Atwood Neighborhood to the mid-1970’s–to my friends Terry Cohn+Michael Johns (still married! After all these years!) who moved to Linden in the mid-1970’s, had two daughters–and are still there. To me, they were the real pioneers. To my knowledge, they were the first of this new breed of younger neighbor moving in, as the older neighbors got sick, moved or died. When Julie ran for Dane County Board in the 1980’s, in her 30’s, the split between the older ‘working class’ neighbors in their 60’s-70’s and the younger neighbors was quite stark. Julie’s opponent came from that older generation; Julie won.
I think what Terry+Michael might tell you is the single most significant change was the porn theater turning into The Barrymore. That, more than any other single thing, signaled the new day in the neighborhood. My impression is the transition was more or less complete by about 1990 or so. Terry Cohn was the original politically-active Atwood neighbor. She was part of a Marquette-(part of)Atwood (up to Division) city neighborhood plan committee in the 1990’s. Atwood didn’t have its own neighborhood plan–It was part of the Marquette neighborhood plan. When Census Tract 20 Neighborhood Plan [Sheila Guilfoyle, Eric Schramm, Karen Faster, Tim Wong, Mike Barrett, et.al.] met in the late 1990’s, one of the committee’s recommendations was that Schenk-Atwood, for the first time, form its own neighborhood association.
[Former Alder] Judy Olson encouraged a number of individuals to start a neighborhood association. She was anticipating that there would be major developments in our neighborhood and there was no real neighborhood association although there was a business association. My memory is that the group who actually met off and on to do so were Dan [Melton], Sheila Guilfoyle, Bret Hagemeyer, Eric Schramm, Karen Faster, Mike Barrett, Mark McFadden, Lou Host-Jablonski, David Leucinger and myself. Was Michael Jacobs? Can’t remember. We met in the Art House Cafe, Betty’s kitchen, Atwood community center, etc. wherever……. and hammered out our boundaries, principles of governance, seats on the council including those tied to geographic representation as well as special reps.
We had our inaugural meeting on a week night to form the Association and fill the council seats at the old Atwood Community Center. It was packed. Attendees were not only people from within our boundaries, but also included the leadership of MNA who demanded that we not form. Good friends from MNA who had been on my babysitting coop were yelling this was illegal. I was facilitating and hung onto the microphone. Several representatives were observing including Judy Olson and Mark Miller. There was an exciting sense of democracy in action when we divided up into geographic groups to nominate representatives to the council. After their selection of regional reps we came back together and voted.
It had been a tumultuous meeting, but at the end we elected a council ultimately headed by Eric Schramm and people adjourned to the Harmony no worse for wear.