In 1979 about half the residents in Menomonie were students at University of Wisconsin Stout. We spent 1979-80 there studying and
working. We learned about Stout because one of Annette’s colleagues at the University of Botswana received a US Government fellowship
for graduate work, and combing the college catalogues, she found Stout offered the most practical applied masters programmes.

WP Menomonie 01

This is the “main drag” through town.

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The town was big enough to have all the usual clubs and churches.

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Most homes were very large wooden buildings. This is a typical house.

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Winters could be very hard, and the lowest temperature when we were there was – 27 C. The poor insulation
of ceilings and attics showed when melting snow on the roofs filled the gutters and froze to icicles like these.

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We lived in a small apartment for students, only ten minutes walk from the campus. Typical US student car parking at the time.

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We had a furnished flat with living room and two bedrooms, plus large kitchen. We had to improvise book shelves with bricks and boards.

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We did not have a car, but two bicycles that we used in town as well as to go out into the country side.

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Grilling on the landing outside the flat, overlooking a canyon.

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The landscape was flat, and full of farms. There were many small diaries, and we often bought fresh cheese curds from them.
They are pale lumps of unaged cheddar – a local specialty – and lost their texture in the days it took to get to the supermarket.

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Countryside around Menomonie.

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Corn was a very common crop, both sweet corn and grain for animals.

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4th of July celebration, which included a competition between fire departments from small towns nearby.

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A half barrel, normally used for beer, should be “pushed over” by hitting it with water from the fire hoses.

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We managed once to paddle on the Red Cedar River, a tributary to the Mississippi.

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Lake Menomin, a recreation area at the edge of town.

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Bird apartments.

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Menomonie was hit by a tornado touchdown one summer evening. Winds came up to 55 m/s, and about one third of all trees in town were lost.

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We were at a lecture on campus and sheltered in the basement of a big building.

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There was no electricity and trees and power lines were down. It was difficult to get home in the dark
that night. We had no electricity for one day, but parts of town were out for many days. Some of the
supermarkets sold off or gave away their frozen food and the army came in to distribute fresh water.

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A trailer park was badly hit.

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No farm escaped damage, but most were not so serious.

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It was difficult to see how this old barn could be rescued.

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Worst hit was a community near Eau Claire. The wooden homes could not withstand the strong wind and many lost their homes.

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One kind of housing that became popular was earth sheltered housing, like this. It could withstand tornadoes
and was less likely to get burgled as the backside, where burglars most often break in, was protected by earth.

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A reflection of the landmark of the university, Bowman Hall.

22 thoughts on “Menomonie

  1. I’m not sure I agree with your census figures. When I went to Stout in 1969 I don’t remember the exact population of Menomonie but I know it was well under 10,000 and I can’t believe it more than doubled in 6 years. Also, the student population when I started was just over 5,000 and I don’t believe was ever 10,000.

    • You are right. We must have looked at the population of Dunn County. The population in 2000 was just over 16,000. The only student figures I can find are that 75% of the student population in 1978-79 received financial aid, so the total student population then was about 7000. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Do you know anyone who has pics from the 1980’s. I entered then and graduated in the early 90s.Thanks in advance.

      • You should create a blog page and post them. Many people are interested in old pictures of Menomonie. WordPress is free and not too difficult.

    • Lake Menomon was described as being on the edge of town. Now in 2017 it is in the middle of the town. My family and I moved here in 1973 and my husband worked at Stout. I remember the barrel competitions and wish we still had them. Thank you for bringing back that memory.

  3. I lived in Menomonie from 1980 until 1994. Thank you for this time capsule. I still remember hearing stories of the storm shortly from shortly before I moved there.

    I remember the population figure on the Menomonie city limits sign for most of my time there was 12,769. I presume that was the 1980 census number, which would not have included the UW-Stout student population. My parents were professors at Stout, and I recall them saying the student population was around 7000 in the late 80s and early 90s. So while not half, the student population was most definitely a significant portion of the population of the city, and defined its culture as an uneasy mix of college and agricultural town.

  4. Thank you so much for the pictures!! The only thing on the “main drag” that hasn’t moved is the State Theatre. My husband was born and raised just 10 miles south of Menomonie in the town of Downsville. He remembers the tornado very well.

  5. not trying to rag on you here: The lake is called “Lake Menomin”. source: 10 year Menomonie resident. I loved this though. I never knew that a tornado struck. The apartments pictured are indeed the same as in the pictures still to this day. Across the street from those apartments is where “The Smiley Face Bomber” was apprehended. link for those interested in the bomber (unfortunately[fortunately?] Menomonie is not referenced in the article): . The owner of the damaged farm pictured above found my wallet and made the effort to contact me and return it. Weird that those same buildings pictured were rebuilt in the same location or repaired. Thanks for this article!

    • I was a tornado that hit south of Menomonie, my grandfather was watching it before he joined us in the basement. Made a mess out of his farm.

  6. I currently live in Menomonie and I thought it was really great to see how much has changed and how much was still the same. A trait all towns share I know but it’s neat to see in the place I’ve lived these last five-ish years. Thank you so much for your story and wonderful photos!

  7. These pictures were wonderful to see. I have lived here all my life and it is always good to see this old pictures. Menomonie has changed a lot over the years.

  8. Pretty cool , however the tornado wasn’t a tornado they were very very strong straight line winds , worst storm I ever saw.

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