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DuPre’, Mike / Century of stories : a 100 year reflection of Janesville and surrounding communities
(2000)

Preface,   pp. VIII-X


Page IX

Janesville and Rock County have pasts more interesting than I and probably most Gazette readers realized. The
fact that the city was a bustling rail center made for plenty of visits by politicians, entertainers and celebrities.
Many presidents and presidential candidates stopped, spoke and visited here. Some of the most prominent
musicians of the 20th century performed here, including composer and bandleader John Philip Sousa, cellist Pablo
Casals and violinist Jascha Heifetz.
And because it was a rail hub, Janesville attracted hard-working immigrants to tend to the engines, rails and
switches. The city also lured gamblers, drifters, prostitutes and thieves intent on relieving rail workers, merchants and
anyone else of their money.
The celebrities and leaders, crooks and creeps spiced up life already fascinating because of local folks' ideas,
inventions and endeavors. George S. Parker's Lucky Curve pen is just one example.
Janesville, Rock County and the rest of southern Wisconsin kept growing before my eyes. More people.. .and all
that goes with them: more industry, more commerce, more schools, more churches, more entertainment, more
politics. More of what was then news, good and bad, and what became history to us.
The research required focus and limits. That's why most notes and stories on business and industry concentrate on
Janesville. It's why I could not list all of Janesville schools' conference championships or name every city council and
school board member.
I made mistakes, big and small. We think we've caught them all... at least those we realized or were made aware
of.. .in this book.
What I learned and, I hope, the readers learned was that Janesville and the area were as integral a part of the 20th
century as London, Berlin, Moscow or Washington, D.C. What happened here reflected and affected what was
happening elsewhere. People from here were changed by the world, and they changed it.
Janesville was no worse.. .and often much better.. .than many other American cities.
Janesville was prejudiced against immigrants, blacks and other minorities. But, while the Ku Klux Klan poked its
ignorant, hateful head out here in the 1920s and 1990s, no one was lynched because of race. Janesville was the site
of an ugly lynching on July 12,1855, but the reason was a brutal murder, not skin color.
Those prejudices were reflected in the Gazette's reporting and writing, and therefore, some of the Century Notes
contain language-always in quote marks to denote the material is exactly as originally published-that is
objectionable today. Such terms and phrases were included to show the biases of past eras. In the 1990s, the city's
enlightened residents denounced racism and rejected racists.s.
For decades, women could not be legally served at bars in Janesville as the city moved away from a boozing, bawdy
reputation. But women played strong, constructive roles in civilizing the brawny, brawling railroad town... even
before they could vote.
Crime. Greed. Gangs. Alcohol and drug abuse. Janesville was not exempt from society's ills. But Janesville also
stood up for itself and what was right.
The United Auto Workers' 1937 sit-down strike at the General Motors plants in the city showed intelligence and
courage.
The bravery and patriotism of southern Wisconsin's sons and daughters in the century's wars stand as shining
examples of what Americans can do when faced with horror and hardship. No one can know the World War II story
of The Janesville 99 without feeling admiration and sorrow. Local people proved generous.
They helped each other and others, whether victims of the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906 or the Rock County
tornado in 1911, whether soldiers far from home in Europe and Vietnam or refugees fleeing the fighting in their
home countries, whether to renovate the public library or build a new Boys & Girls Club.
As you read this book, I, the reluctant historian, ask you to reflect on the past, hope for the future and live in the
present.
- Mike DuPre'


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