Recollections: A great first impression
By Thom Gerretsen
When I moved to Marshfield in 1978, I left a one-person newsroom at WPDR/WDDC in Portage. I wanted to work with a team in a larger community, and I joined a two and one-half person full time news staff at WDLB.
I was given a great first impression on the day of my job interview when I drove by a seven-story building on Marshfield’s Central Avenue – much taller than you’d see in Portage. It was then Central Plaza, former headquarters for Figi’s, Inc. at Seventh & Central. It used to be Marshfield Clinic, and City Hall and Wood County offices moved there in the 1980s, when Figi’s moved to the south edge of town.
Tucked along City Hall Plaza is Strohman Park, a small walkway with trees, plants, and a small waterway dedicated to Fire Lieutenant Marv Strohman, who died in the line of duty just a few years after I arrived.
The old City Hall remains at Second & Maple – now Tower Hall, which has apartments and businesses. The clock tower remains among Marshfield’s best-known landmarks.
The police department was still at City Hall when I moved here and moved to its own building in the early 1980s. The agency was embroiled in controversy when I moved here, as a John Doe investigation targeted several officers suspected of illegally entering businesses late at night and stealing various items. The scandal resulted in a large number of new officers who eventually returned Marshfield Police to public respect and credibility. That group has retired within the past decade.
Marilyn Hardacre was just starting her eight years as mayor in 1978. The Chamber of Commerce and the city industrial group, Greater Marshfield Inc., merged in 1986 to form MACCI – the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Hardacre was its first director.
Back in 1978, Marshfield had stop-and-go lights – a unique Wisconsin term – at only five intersections, all on Central Avenue – State Highway 13 at the time – at 14th, Seventh, Fourth, Second, and Arnold, where State Highway 13 turned. Now, there are about 25 corners with lights – most on Central and the relocated State Highway 13 boulevard.
The building that houses Edward Jones Investments and Heinzen Printing at Sixth & Central was a bowling center in 1978, Hub City Lanes. JC Penney was in the 200 block of South Central before moving to Northway Mall.