Thanks for Asking | Nov. 18, 2010

our local jack-of-all-facts tells you how it is

Frank Smoot |

Did a roller derby team ever exist in Eau Claire before the current one?

Thanks for asking! I don’t know of one (I hope astute readers will correct me). And I further think the history of roller derby makes it unlikely that there was. Roller Derby has several distinct eras. In this era, matches are held on a flat track, and a warehouse-type space will do. In the 70s and 80s, matches were held on a banked track. Places like New York and San Fran had their own teams, but in places like ours (let’s call them “smaller markets” if only for the sake of this discussion), derby was an exhibition sport, where the track, competitors, and tech equipment were all hauled in.

Wausau and Green Bay hosted exhibitions in the mid-80s, but I don’t remember any here (and I think I might have since I admire women on roller skates). In a recent news story, Z-100 noted that it’s been “decades” since there’d been roller derby here, so maybe they know something I don’t.

The Town of Drammen cemetery has only 3-4 headstones from the late 1800s or very early 1900s. How come more people weren’t buried there and no one’s been buried there since the early 1900s?

When the Genealogical Research Society of Eau Claire (GRSEC) did a survey of Drammen Cemetery in 1996, they found 18 graves. Ten years later, a fellow named James Seidelman went through and photographed the stones – all 11 of them. Now there are six. Probably goes without saying, but for graveyards this is not a typical trajectory. (Of those six, four stand upright, one’s tipped over and broken, and one was designed as a “ground-level” stone; incidentally, that one’s dated 1958.)

About 15 years ago, Gary Isaacson, then the Drammen town chair, said that, actually, more than 100 burials took place there, but that, over the years, vandals have destroyed most of the markers. No cemetery map or records date back (the stones were the record), and my guess is that, without knowing who’s buried there, or exactly where – and without resources to do any ground-penetrating radar (GPR) or other investigation – the Town of Drammen doesn’t want to start digging for fear of disinterring anyone. So a hundred souls are lost to the mists of time, and the cemetery is useless for new burials. Grr.

Still, I’d say this sounds like an excellent real-world project for the local but still internationally renowned UWEC GPR Research program. Paging Harry Jol ...

 I heard a rumor that a man was murdered in what now is the House of Rock, maybe back in the early 80s. The story I heard is that a jealous husband/boyfriend shot another man to death with a shotgun. Thank you for maybe clearing this ugly rumor up.

Your source maybe got the details wrong, but sadly, it’s no rumor. The owner of the Oar House, Albert Morgan, was murdered with a .38 revolver as he was climbing up from the cellar with a roll of pool-table felt in his hand. Noonish on April 15, 1981.

The gunman, Gerald Jacobson, fled up State Street hill with a squad car already in hot pursuit. He pulled into his father’s driveway, shot his dad (not fatally) then killed himself in front of the pursuing officer. Police found a list of names in Jacobson’s possession, including his dad, Morgan, and some others, who were obviously very lucky. I just happened to be on Water Street – heading toward the now-dearly-departed Camaraderie for lunch – when the squad cars and ambulance roared up.

Got a local question? Send it (17 S. Barstow St.) or email it ( and Frank will answer it!  Frank has lived in Eau Claire for most of the past 43 years. He is an editor and researcher at the Chippewa Valley Museum, which is open all year just beyond the Paul Bunyan Camp Museum in beautiful Carson Park. You should go there.