Studebaker has been a
Milton plumber, fireman

By Leanne Lippincott-Wuerthele
Neighbor to Neighbor - Milton Courier

Harry Martin Studebaker was born in Pontiac, Ill., on Aug. 8, 1938, the son of Martin Francis Studebaker and the former Reba ("Laverne") Myer. Harry's older brother, Gale, died Jan. 28. His two sisters are Mary Lou Schultz and Teresa Maas, both of Milton.

According to his sister, "Lou," Harry was a fun-loving brother. "Harry had a goat that he milked and, every morning before school, he asked if I wanted a cup of hot cocoa. I said, 'Are you using the good milk?' [i.e. cow's milk] "Harry always answered, `Yes,'so I would take a sip of the cocoa and then spit it out. I hated the taste of goat's milk! Harry always thought that was really funny."

Lou also remembers when Harry and Gale went rabbit hunting one day."A neighbor came to our house and asked if we had seen his prize rabbit, which had escaped its cage. Later that day, my brothers showed up, very proud of the big rabbit they had killed."

After attending grade school and high school in Pontiac, Harry helped his father on the family's 120-acre dairy farm.When corning-picking time rolled around, Harry hand-milked 35 cows from 3 to 4 o'clock in the morning, then did it again at 5 p.m.

Harry rode a school bus, but if he was late getting out of school, he had to walk five miles home, even in the winter. "Not like kids today, with all their cars," Harry observed.

When Harry was 16, he briefly ran away from home to join his Navy brother in California. After staying there about four months, exercising polo ponies, he decided to return home for the holidays."When people are pickin' roses and mowin' yards, it just ain't Christmas," he declared.

When Harry was 17, he moved with his parents to a dairy farm on Six Corners Road, southeast of Milton. He worked for roofer Bill Nottingham during the day and helped on the farm in the evenings.

The first time Carol Rose Brown saw her future husband was when she joined her father, Jack, in delivering fuel oil and gas to the Studebaker farm. On June 23, 1962, Harry married Carol in the First Congregational Church in Milton. "That's when the 'sentence' started; I was shackled," Harry quipped. Their two children are Harry Martin Studebaker Jr. and Jacqueline ("Jackie") Rose Studebaker, both of Milton. They also have two grandsons. The couple drove to the Ozarks for their honeymoon. "Gas was 17 cents a gallon back then," Harry commented. The newlyweds moved into a little house on Madison Avenue, and Harry soon got a job at Wayne's Feed on Highway 14. A few years later, he decided to become a plumber.

Harry began working for Lukas Hardware and attended classes at Blackhawk Tech. He worked five years as an apprentice, three years as a journeyman, and finally became a master plumber. While still an apprentice, he bought Don Lukas' plumbing business and renamed it Studebaker Plumbing. Harry ran that business 30 years.

While still a plumber, Harry joined forces with Glen Getchel and started a business installing and fixing well pumps. He also installed septic systems with Ery Fry and Erv's son, Dick.

In the late 1980s, Harry began working as a pipefitter at General Motors in Janesville. "Harry's a generous man with a good heart, and he was always helping people," Lou shared. "Sometimes, he felt sorry for people and didn't give them a bill. Some of those same people took advantage of that and would have him do other 'free' work.

"When Harry received his first GM paycheck, he was really excited," Lou recalled. "I got paid for working last week," he said. "I got the check right here!" Harry worked at GM just short of 20 years, retiring because of health problems. He suffered two strokes, and later survived a leaking brain aneurysm. He also had two back surgeries but remains in constant pain. Plus, he recently had cataract surgery on both eyes.

Harry was a volunteer fireman for over 20 years. He still remembers when Jule Miller's tavern [near the Stagecoach Inn] burned down. "We had to ride on the back of the fire truck, and it was 16 degrees below zero. Jules' shotgun and rifle shells were goin' off, and the smells were terrible."

Harry is a longtime member of the First Congregational Church, and his favorite hymn is "Amazing Grace." His favorite foods are pork chops, chicken wings, and lemon pie.

Harry's "rescue dog," Maverick, likes to eat oranges and bananas. He and Carol also have three cats: Annie, Alley Cat, and Snickers.

Despite his medical problems, Harry still has a sharp memory and is a great storyteller. "My father used to make 85 gallons of wine a year –usually grape, chokecherry or elderberry - and applejack whiskey," Harry remarked. "Dad cleaned out the barrels and fed the mash to his 150 hogs, plus his geese and ducks. All of them got 'loopy,' but Dad just laughed and said, 'They'll be all right in a little bit."'

Harry's stories regarding Milton's "older residents" are endless. "Jack Faust, a Civil War veteran, was Milton's last lamplighter," Harry pointed out. "He walked around town carrying a little ladder, a small can of kerosene, and a rag to clean the globes."

Harry also related the story of a Miltonian who grew up in the South and used to fly the Confederate flag in her backyard. Her husband grew up out East, and the pair constantly re-fought the Civil War. Harry was working at their house one night, and the husband was sitting in a chair, with cigar smoke rolling up behind his newspaper. The three of them started talking about the Civil War, and the husband made some derogatory remarks about the Confederates. "The wife threw a fancy pillow at him and tore the newspaper right out of his hands," Harry stated. "With his cigar still hangin' out of his mouth, he shouted, 'Damn, it, woman! We beat your butt once, and we'll do it again.' [The husband actually uses' "stronger" language.]

Harry's a collector. He has hundreds of arrowheads, and his prized possession is a 1907 map showing the sites of local Indian encampments and burial grounds. The Studebakers yard on North Janesville Streel [they've lived there about 50 years] is home to such items as cast-iron bells, ship anchors, railroad crossing signals, a telephone booth, old farm machinery and gas pumps, and a full-size windmill.

For years, Harry drove a wagon in Milton's Fourth of July parade, pulled by a teal of mules or ponies. He was also active in the Rock River Thresheree. After his strokes he ran the water wagon, a task he stopped only just last year.

The Studebakers bemoan the fact that fewer and fewer Milton residents have "old-time Milton names," like Babcock or Dickhoff. Apparently, because of his strokes, Harry speaks more bluntly today than in earlier years. He especially doesn't mince words when it comes to Milton. "Milton used to be a likeable place. Now, too many outsiders have moved in and want to run the show," Harry -asserted. "I guess I don't have the proper finesse and class to fit in anymore." Then, without warning, Harry's softhearted side emerged. "There still are a lot of people in Milton I like."

Well, said, Harry. Well said.

 

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