Interview with a woman who knew Buddy

I finally found someone who knew Buddy Schumacher.

The following is some of the information I gathered while talking to Dorothy (Belongia) Prothero on Dec, 27, 2012. Dorothy is 92 years old and knew Buddy Schumacher, having lived right around the corner from him when her family was near 74th Street (then Alice Street) and St. James Street. She has lived since 1950 just two properties north of where Buddy lived when he went missing in 1925. Those two properties have since been torn down.

Dorothy is the longest continuous member of St. Bernard Catholic Church in Wauwatosa. There is one lady older than she who attends, but Dorothy has been going there since 1921, when her family moved to Wauwatosa from Oconto.

When she got married and moved to the house on 74th Street, the home immediately to the south was owned by the Yunks, whose son, Arnold, was one of the boys who was with Buddy when he disappeared. Through the years, she didn’t see Arnold Yunk much. He’d be home for a bit, the be away. At some point, he went to prison.

At the time, she didn’t realize he was one of the boys who was with Buddy, she said, finding that information out when she started reading “Murder in Wauwatosa.”

The triangle of land bounded by Blanchard, 74th Street, State Street and Wauwatosa Avenue was all one big piece of property back in the early 1920s, she said. There was a lumber yard at the southeast corner. Buddy’s grandfather’s old horseshoeing business was at the corner of 74th and Blanchard, one block north of State Street.

When Buddy disappeared in 1925, “it really upset the neighborhood. Everybody got together to do their thing,” she said. Dorothy said she was too young to help, but her parents searched for the boy.

Sgt. Adolph Hedtke of the Wauwatosa Police Department lived next door to her back then. Her parents’ kitchen and the Hedtke’s kitchen window were across from each other. She used to watch him eat dinner. She said it was a big deal because he wore a uniform.  He was one of the officers who went to get Buddy’s body when it was found. Hedtke was with the department from 1918 until his retirement in 1954.

Edwin (Cardy) Armstrong, Buddy’s uncle, and Dorothy’s dad were friends. They’d play cards and drink beer.

She recalled Gordy Wolf, another of the boys who was with Buddy that day, as very athletic. A younger brother, Ed, was Dorothy’s age. The Wolfs lived on State Street around the corner from the Yunks and Schumachers at what is today Colonel Hart’s bar.

Dorothy recalled the county institutions west of the Village having just one building, in addition to corn fields, cows and pigs to feed the people housed there. She went to St. Bernard’s through 8th grade and the nuns used to walk the children all the way to that building to sing. The County Institution’s superintendent, William Coffey, and his family also attended St. Bernard’s. His son, John, graduated from St. Bernard’s and ended up in Chicago as an Eastern District Court judge. William Coffey began his reign on the institution’s board in 1915 and continued to serve the county until his retirement in 1952.

Back in those days, residents weren’t very afraid of where they allowed their children to go, although Dorothy said the children never went anywhere alone. “We’d go pick flowers – violets or trilliums – and we went wherever. We never were alone. The boys dug caves (on the hill separating lower Alice from upper Alice Street) and it was all wooded.”

Her son Jim, who was with her during the interview, said “We were told not to go there (Menomonee River/railroad tracks).”

Kids used to sled down the Alice Street hill (before the city put in the stairs and before an apartment building was erected there. The kids would sled all the way down to State Street with police blocking off the streets. Back then, there was a stairway down the Alice Street hill to the east side, which took people behind the pumping station toward 72nd Street.

Dorothy said that Blackridge, the old swimming hole that Buddy was headed for when he was abducted, was a “mud hole.” We walked all along the river up to Hoyt Park. It was just a hole in the ground; it was a mess.”

She remembers watching trains pass by and “we’d just watch hobos sit there on the train and jump on and off.”

For a while (after Buddy disappeared), she said “everyone tried to solve things. Naturally, we were all just horrified. Then it starts to fade away and you go on.”

“It was a real hectic time,” she said of the Schumacher case. “Then, the Lindbergh kidnapping (in March 1932) was a real big thing, too.”

We talked about a lot of things, including former Wauwatosa High School teacher Waldemar M. Heidtke, who served as an interpreter at the Nuremburg Trials.

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