Thanks for Asking | Dec. 27, 2012

our local Jack-of-all-Facts tells you how it is

Frank Smoot

What do you know about the Modern Book Bindery that once operated downtown?

Thanks for asking! In 1936, Victor Mattison opened shop at at 208½ S. Barstow St. Victor was born right here in Eau Claire, the son of Norwegian immigrants. In 1918, after he came back from World War I, he married Louise Johnson, the daughter of Norwegian immigrants. Victor had several jobs as a younger man: clerk, trucker for the Milwaukee Road, auto mechanic. But once he opened the bindery, he never looked back. He moved to 209½ Graham Ave. about 1950 and retired from the biz and turned it over to his son-in-law in 1966.

That son-in-law, Bob Jones, was born here, too. He graduated from Eau Claire Senior High in 1957 and married his childhood sweetheart the next year – Karen Mattison, Victor and Louise’s eldest daughter. Right out of school, he spent four years with the Air Force, and I suspect right out of the Air Force he went about learning the bindery business.

Except for the charming transom sign still visible on Graham, Modern Book Bindery kept a pretty low profile. Over the years, it bound blank books –  to be used as ledgers and journals if I understand it right – and also repaired and rebound books for institutional clients, such as the Eau Claire Area School District. That seems like a much-needed service: I don’t know about you, but I was kinda hard on my schoolbooks.

You might be surprised that the bindery didn’t close shop until 1991. Bob moved on to Worzalla Publishing in Stevens Point, and he and Karen spent their last years together in Combined Locks, an Appleton suburb along the Fox River.

What is the history of the Barland Family, as in Barland Street and a lot more?

Oh, there’s way too much to ever tell in this space. If we simply stick to street names, we’ve got a half-dozen marking one generation.

Rev. Thomas Barland arrived here in 1852. His wife Margaret William (Wilson) and eight of their 10 children made it here two years later. (Their eldest, Janet, died before they came, and the youngest, George, wasn’t born until after they arrived.) Thomas and Margaret met and married in Scotland, but all their kids were born in the U.S. Agnes, Birney, and Margaret are now the names of streets. Agnes married John Keith, now a street. Margaret married Dr. Charles Hogeboom, now an avenue.

Rev. Thomas walked from one Eau Claire County rural neighborhood to another, preaching at “meetings” – sometimes walking 20 miles in a day. They were also a farm family. The “home farm” spread out southeast of what’s now the junction of Highway 12 and U.S. 53 (Robbins Elementary, Otter Creek, that turf). So why the street names around Regis High? Answer: That was the farmstead of son John C. and daughter-in-law Dora Schlegelmilch (yep, of the Schlegelmilch House downtown). We’ve got a photo of John driving cattle across Altoona Avenue, a dirt road in 1925.

The Barland saga continues through missionary work in Siam and being at Pearl Harbor on, well, they call it Pearl Harbor Day now. Depending on how much more you want to know, come down to the museum. We’ve got something like a thousand Barland family letters, and at least 165 photos – not to mention documents, artifacts, and oral histories. I could literally tell you what various family members had for lunch on various days. UW-Eau Claire’s Area Research Center has more yet.

Lessons for V1 readers: Wanna be remembered? First, write it down; second, save it; third, give it to your local museum or archive.

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