Friday, December 8, 2017

Wilson Wisconsin 2017

I thought it might be interesting to have a look at Wilson Wisconsin.  From reading the Ryan & Scott saloon ledger book I had formed a mental picture of the town.  So on a sunny mid November day it was off for a look.  Here it is.

The ledger book returns to downtown Wilson.  It does not look like a very busy place, does it?  In fact I actually did drive through and missed it.  To find the place you need to turn off of the highway and go over some rail road tracks.

The less than vibrant economy of Wilson seems to have always been tavern based.  So, are either of these the Ryan and Scott tavern?

No and probably no.  The white building in the foreground is a former "meeting hall" now a VFW post, where a drink can always be had.  The brown building down the street has been a tavern until fairly recently.  It is now defunct.  But I think that is too modest a building for a brewery owned tavern.  They wanted to look good.  So they tended to go for things like this structure across the street:

Maps and such are hard to come by in micro town America but this sure looks right.  Perhaps the structure to the left is a heavily remodeled version of the barn that is mentioned in saloon records.  The back of the tavern is a residence, this would fit with the suggestion that Riley and Scott had some room and board facilities.

In the background you can see the only other two signs of commercial life in Wilson. A tiny little post office in a trailer.  And beyond that a white brick building that is currently an auto repair shop but I can guarantee you, it got its start doing horseshoes not oil changes.

The saloon was not open when I visited at mid day on a Saturday.  There were some lights on inside.  It had that peculiar look that one encounters on occasion.  Has it been out of business for a short while or is it open when and if the owners feel like it?  To be fair this was opening day of Deer Hunting Season, which in Wisconsin is a Holy Day on which all non hunting activity ceases down to the sub atomic level.  Out behind the tavern was a nice ball field that looked to have seen recent play.

The outfield fence, deep center field.  Is there a more succinct description of The American Dream than this?  I assume that any home run through the slot gets free drinks for the team all night.

So what would Ryan and Scott think of their town a century and change later?  Well it was probably sleepy then and remains so.  I think they could relate to the simple reality of business moving off of Main Street and over to the highway a quarter mile off.  This process has been repeated many times.  Probably Wilson got its start when the railroad went there instead of through some other now extinct hamlet.

On the highway there are two more taverns.  Honestly, Wilson is listed as having a population of 176, and not all of them are of legal age.  So if we assume the former Ryan and Scott tavern is still open - when the owners feel like it - that gives us four active and one recently defunct watering holes.  

Competitive business I guess, tending to the thirst of rural Wisconsin.  I am sure the long ago saloon keepers would approve of the sentiments on display at one of the modern places.....

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