Shattuck, S. F., et. al (ed.) / A history of Neenah
The impact of science and invention, pp. 21- PDF (1.6 MB)
A HISTORY OF NEENAH the first decade of the century. In i9oo the local Kimberly-Clark office had a single wall phone with a crank to call "Central!" A private line provided contact with its mills at Appleton before the Wisconsin Tele- phone Company had strung its wires. Radio and television were as far from the mind of man in the '8os as the modern guided missile was from soldiers of the Civil War. The shift to thermostatically controlled oil and gas heat, displacing the coal stove and the hand-fired furnace, is within the memory of citizens in their thirties. The Saturday night bath was a luxury until 1936. Rain water from the roof conducted to a cistern in the basement and pumped by hand into a tank in the attic was doled out sparingly to members of the household. During dry seasons Will Wing, Will Pearson, Herman Vogt and others did a thriving business of replenishing dry cisterns with raw river water. In 1893 our city fathers, pressured by a rising tide of desire for a city water system, dug an artesian well adjoining our lake shore and laid water mains throughout the principal streets of the city. The belief was deeply rooted that pure drinking water could be obtained only from an underground supply. This belief was probably justified, for water analysis and purification, as we now know it, had not been perfected. Joy and satisfaction over Neenah's new water system was destined to be short-lived. WVater from the deep well carried an ab- normally high content of mineral salts (6o grains or more per gallon); cooking utensils, even water glasses, were promptly coated with cal- cium and lime. Boiler tubes and water lines became clogged. Neither dishes nor clothes could be washed in it. It curdled the soap. Water softening devices for home use eventually helped some, but their use was limited. Almost everyone kept their basement cisterns. No one will ever know how many families seeking a new home decided to set- tle elsewhere because of Neenah's impossible city water. Neenah voted overwhelmingly in April 1936 for a soft water system, using treated water from Lake Winnebago. A year later pure soft water flowed into the city mains. That interesting story is told in Part II. Less dramatic but of equal interest is the story of the origin and de- velopment of Neenah's sewer system. See Part 11.
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