Garver Feed Mill story by Mike Fuss and Terrence Tiedt

Dublin Core


Garver Feed Mill story by Mike Fuss and Terrence Tiedt


Industrial buildings
Feed mills


Copyright 2019, Mike Fuss, Terrence Tiedt, and Madison Public Library. All rights reserved. For more information, contact Madison Public Library.


Fuss, Mike
Tiedt, Terrence


Gurske, Jennifer
Lawton, Sarah
Wolff, Jane




Mike Fuss and Terrence (Terry) Tiedt talk about growing up on Madison's east side. Mike shares stories about working as a firefighter with the Madison Fire Department, and the many fires that took place in and around the Garver Feed Mill. Terry and Mike discuss various east side landmarks, including the toboggan run at Olbrich Park, fishing and swimming at Starkweather Creek and Hudson Beach.


Madison, Wisconsin





Sound Item Type Metadata




03:20 - FUSS TELLS OF FIRES AT GARVER IN 1946, 1964, 1981 AND 2001







25:32 - 1991 BUTTER FIRE, 1958 BASSETT ST. FIRE



Jennifer Gurske: Okay. And oh my gosh, make sure you're here. This is Jennifer Gurske. I'm at the Garver Building on November 2, 2019. I am speaking with Mike Fuss and Terry --

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Tiedt.

Jennifer Gurske: And if you both could spell your last names for me?

Mike Fuss: Okay. My name is F-U-S-S, double S as in Sam.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Mine's T-i-e-d-t.

Jennifer Gurske: Great. Okay. So, we can just start off with telling us about your relationship to this place.

Sarah Lawton: I'll just double check that this is actually recording. Is it? Okay, good. Sorry.

Mike Fuss: My name is Verizon. Can you hear me now?

Jennifer Gurske: Yes. (laughter) You're good to go. Sorry about that.

Mike Fuss: No. My relationship with Garver's goes back. When I played baseball back in 1958 to 1960, in the Little League, I would cut through here from Fair Oaks Avenue. There was a baseball diamond across, by the lake, a toboggan slide in the winter. We'd go over there. I'd cut through here to practice, and I'd go here every day that we started playing ball in the summer. Later on, I got fire trucks, and I had to have a place to store them. Madison Silo—Garver's owned the building, but Madison Silo was operating a silo company [in the building]. They said, hey, you can keep them here for a hundred dollars a month, and I had six of them at that time.

So, I stored them in the back here. I was in the process of trying to get Old Fire Station Number Eight on North Street. I finally got it. I moved those out of here in 1990, but we took a big photo. George Jackson of the [Wisconsin] State Journal took a photo of all the trucks outside, and he stood on this roof, just down a little bit, and he—his camera was down, and I was up on a ladder, aerial ladder, looking up at him. I had my elbow out—that hid the building. It was all open. That was his idea. Then I got the station, moved in there, and my two uncles and my stepdad had another building here at Garver's, one down farther.

There's all kinds of buildings around here, metal ones. They opened up a storage for cars and boats and everything; it was called CDC, Chamberlain, DeWeiss [assumed spelling], Chamberlain. That was that. Now, in the big history, I am the historian of the Madison Fire Department, have been since 1987. I got into all this, and I remember all the fires. The first one was on December 3, 1946, and that was in the far west side of Garver's, the small, first, one-story building. In 1964, they had another fire, and that was August 31 of '64. I came here on my little Honda motorcycle.

I was sixteen years old. I watched that fire, and Terry's uncle was here, on the aerial truck from Number Eight, my place, and he was operating that. His dad and uncle were all—they were firemen, too. Two of them were on the B Shift, one was on the A Shift at that time. The next fire was April 4, 1981, and that was in the back, here—it might have been right here, I think, in this building, this part of it. In 2001, May 5, they had the last fire, but the building was vacant. That—I came from the VFW on Cottage Grove Road because I was playing in a band.

I had my own band. I got done a little after—well, right around midnight. I took off, and I came this way, because I always go this way, back to my house. I could smell the smoke, when I got up by Sugar Avenue, right there. I thought, geez, that—and I go through the neighborhood and just, there was a strong smell, but I couldn't see anything. I drove around the neighborhood. I got home, and probably 15 minutes later, they gave the call for here. That's what I was smelling. I got over here, and the whole, that end again, down there, that was really going. That was the four fires, and my association with Garver's.

Sarah Lawton: What caused the fire in 1964? Like, was it a big fire?

Mike Fuss: Spontaneous combustion of the feed.

Sarah Lawton: Uh-huh. What did it look like when you got here, on your Honda motorcycle?

Mike Fuss: The smoke was coming out the two windows, where that one-story building, is on the west. It goes up like that, starts to—where the cafe is. They had two aerial ladder trucks, going up into those windows, and it's just pouring out of there. I mean, it was really going when we got there. We watched it. My Uncle Bob, he was a fireman too, and he was there. He worked with Terry's dad and uncle. I mean, it was black smoke. I've got all kinds of pictures of that fire, and I've got it from '46 and 2001, and I got one, but I can't find it, from '81. Otherwise, I've got all these pictures. If you need them for the library, I can make copies.

This metal building out here, it was real long, and Garver's had their trucks in there. I kept one of my trucks at the far end. They let me do that for nothing. This guy was building a ship, a boat, a sail boat in the other side, down here, right out in here, and he asked, because I knew him then, and he says, "Is your son—how old's your son?" I said, "Oh, he's like fourteen." "Oh, man, I could use him." He came and helped him do the ballast and some other stuff. That was neat. I got pictures of that ship coming—or that boat—when they were pulling it out of the building. They had to do a couple things—I'll have to look for those, too. That's another part of the history.

Sarah Lawton: Was the feed mill still operating then or was it—

Mike Fuss: Yeah. No, it was still—yeah. I knew guys that worked here. They'd help me, you know, if I had trouble with the trucks or something with a building. They helped me. I had a break-in one night, and they stole my—one of my speakers off the truck, some siren lights. I started setting booby traps, but I didn't tell anybody. I said, "Boy, the next time they come through this door, they're going to have a wonderful surprise." But they never —

Sarah Lawton: What kind of booby trap?

Mike Fuss: —came back. I had stuff, when you opened up that door, it's going to come down on you, if you don't know what you're doing. I had other things going on, too, where I had wires set where they could walk and trip. I thought, "You know, you're going to mess with us? Okay." But they never came back. Darn. Yeah, I had a lot of fun here. My uncle lived across the creek over there on—

Terrence Tiedt: Ivy Street—

Mike Fuss: Leon Street, Barry did.

Terrence Tiedt: Leon—I thought it was Ivy.

Mike Fuss: That's where my Uncle Bud lived, yeah.

Terrence Tiedt: That's the one I remember. Bud.

Mike Fuss: He lived right down the street here, off Fair Oaks. I had a lot of different things that I did over here.

Jennifer Gurske: What do you think about what's happened to the building now?

Mike Fuss: I think it's really neat. Did a great job. It's real, you know, this has to cost a lot of money on this. I don't know how you could do it. You had to—you'd have to be rich to even do it, to think about it. The way prices are these days for anything, your car or a building or anything, it's just ridiculous. But what are you going to do?

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: I, as a long-time member here, on the east side of Madison, I love to watch the way they're taking older buildings and reusing them. I'm going to use, for instance, that the—where the Goodman Community Center is, rebuilding that. Then, they went across the street and did the Brass Works and the Iron Works, and it's just good seeing all the older buildings being reused. Instead of tearing down. Because there's a lot of history in all that stuff. I have the pleasure of working over there, at the Goodman Community Center. So I'm in those buildings every day. It's just beautiful. I remember walking past it when it was the Iron Works and talking to the men working at the Kupfer Iron Works. Mike and I, we'd play in the park.

Wirth Court, playing there. Back then, the playgrounds weren't all loaded up with little rubber nuggets. They had a monkey bar thing, and I remember hanging on the monkey bar, coming across and doing things there and falling to the ground, and just getting back up. Lucky we didn't break our necks or something. It was just, different times. You know? But we—the old adage. We made it. Yep, we made it. Mike and I have been friends since, oh, gosh, since we probably got to know each other when we were ten years old.

Mike Fuss: Yeah. My cousins lived across the street from him.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Yeah.

Mike Fuss: So, I was over there a lot. Dunning Street.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Yep.

Mike Fuss: You know where that is?

Jennifer Gurske: Yeah.

Mike Fuss: Well, that's where he grew up. In fact, his brother still lives there.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Well, my—as I was saying, out there, my experience, not that I have—Mike has the fire aspect. I have the—when we were younger, one of the excursions that we would do back here, because of the Madison Silo [Company], back then, they mixed all the cement in cement tubs. Everything was done by hand. Then they poured it out into their molds. Well, the cement tubs were pretty neat, to kids. When the building was closed, nobody working, we'd come on the weekends, and we'd get into the cement tubs, and we'd go up and down Starkweather Creek in the cement tubs.

Mike Fuss: Build rafts. Mark McCormack.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Oh, man, yeah. That was one of the neatest rafts that we could see at that time. It was a two-story.

Mike Fuss: [multiple voices] Dick [inaudible] lived there on Fair Oaks. He was a captain on the Fire Department. He lived on Fair Oaks Avenue. He worked where I live. I used to be down there at my station. I was there since I was four years old. I went by there every day. I'd stop in, and finally, I just was there all the time. Grew up, finally got on the department, and been retired for twenty years, in January. I was on thirty-one years, and I'm only thirty-eight. [laughter]

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Mike related to something when we were young that we don't have in this town anymore, that was one of the things that we used to look forward to when we were young, during the winter, is the toboggan slide over here on Olbrich Hill. We used to have—get on, and race—not race, because you could only go down once, but the object was how far could you get your toboggan slide to go. There were certain toboggans that we learned were faster than the others. You'd try to get everything that you can—could to get your toboggan to go the furthest down. We would go all the way down the creek and almost to—halfway to where the beach house is, because they would stretch that ice out. The ice would come from—when it first started out, would come from the lakes that they put in to saw it out of the lakes and put down the thing.

Eventually, it became, I think, out of Oscar Mayer's, that they'd bring the ice for the toboggan slide. That was the neatest thing. We used to love that, coming over here.

Sarah Lawton: Was it a built structure?

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Yeah. They'd put it up every year.

Sarah Lawton: Okay.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Every year, Madison had—I mean, we'd have to walk up—you see that light post out there? About that height to the top, to get into the top of that—about that high. I'm not saying exactly, but very close. Walk up with your toboggan but you'd pull the toboggan up the side. There was— where you can pull the toboggan up. Mike, help me, how many did we get? Four, five on that sled?

Mike Fuss: Oh yeah, five, sometimes, six.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: What we'd do, is we'd be behind each other, then after they get done, they'd stand there. Once in awhile, the operator on the toboggan—"Let's put it down. Put it down now," because they had to lift all of us, because it was on a thing—a fulcrum, and it could go up, like a thing. There was help. They'd lift us, and when we were coming in right behind them, and if they didn't get off the tracks right away, we'd hit each other. Dumb, stupid things, you know? But it was fun. We just—like I said, no helmets, no pads, no nothing.

Mike Fuss: Yeah. Were you on—did you ever go on that East Side History on Facebook?

Sarah Lawton: No.

Mike Fuss: Well, they had a picture. There's three pictures of that on there today. Because I saw it, and I—if you go on there, East Side History site. It's right there, and you'll see it. It's really—a kid put it on there and said, "Here's what we used to do," and all these people around it.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Oh, yeah, that was a gathering spot. And the ice skating rink across—I don't know [inaudible] about it. Right over here, on the park. We used to all come there. Hockey—big old hockey rink in there. That was the place to gather for the kids during the summer.

Mike Fuss: They still have a hockey rink, a skating rink, but not like it was. That skating rink was pretty big. Obrich—the gardens took some of it over. Now, it's not as big.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Well, where the gardens is over here, used to be—used to have Quonset huts that people could store their boats in. Then, all of a sudden, they—the garden kept growing, and they expanded, and they knocked that down. Basically, you'd come in here. You rent this storage unit out from the city, and you'd put your boat in there. You pull the boat out, and you'd go down to the creek, Starkweather Creek, and put your boat in, and go out and go on out on the lake.

Mike Fuss: Used to fish in the creek all the time.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Yeah.

Mike Fuss: Over here, and down here. There, everywhere.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: The mouth of the Starkweather Creek was my dad's favorite spot for northerns.

Sarah Lawton: Really?

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Yes.

Sarah Lawton: What era was that?

Mike Fuss: Fifties, forties.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: My dad—this was probably in the fifties. I can remember going fishing in dad's boat with me and Tom, my brother, Tom.

Mike Fuss: Yeah.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Tom cast out, we were fishing, and he threw, you know how they go back like that, well, on the back swing, he hit Dad in the head with his hook, and the hook got planted in the—now, get this. This is how tough some of these firemen were. And I mean, all these—we went home. Instead of going to the clinic, Dad took a pair of side cuts, cut the hook, and pulled it out of his head himself.

Sarah Lawton: Oh! (laughter)

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: True story.

Mike Fuss: Tough guys, them.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Yeah. And another—and fishing out in that same area, I don't know when, but we were casting, and me and my brother probably got into a little bit of an argument, and the boat and his rod fell over, in the lake. Two weeks later, my dad's out there fishing, and he pulls that rod in.

Sarah Lawton: Wow.

Sarah Lawton: What was the creek like in terms of the water and the banks of it—pretty undeveloped?

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: The water never turned over until late August, late August. We always called it the dog days of summer.

Mike Fuss: Yep.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: We used to swim over here, at Hudson Beach. We would go up and down the Indian trails. Because Hudson Beach was up, and when they'd throw in new sand, we'd come off of the top and just jump right down into the sand. You could go in there, and the water was clear. You wouldn't get—you wouldn't have the muck that's showing up as early as it is, with the water.

Mike Fuss: Yeah, the gardens weren't here. Nothing was here. They had a little—those two brick things out in front, that's the only thing that was Olbrich—the gardens—for years. Then they kept developing it. That's our story, and we're sticking to it.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Yeah. Over here, off of Fair Oaks, I don't know—maybe you've come across this in your thing, but what they have now is the Madison-Kipp building there at the railroad tracks. That used to be the old Madison Bus Company, which is now—that was all tore down. They tore that all down, but that is where the bus—that I remember, during my youth, that was—at that time, was Madison Bus Company, which was not owned by the city of Madison.

Mike Fuss: Right.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: They went bellied up, and the city bought them. Now, prior to this, the city of Madison required all the employees that worked in the city of Madison to live in the city of Madison. However, when they got the bus company, those men driving the bus lived outside the city, so that opened it up, through negotiations—

Mike Fuss: Police, Fire.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: —for the Fire Department and the rest of—some of the people in the city of Madison, to be able to live outside the city of Madison, working in the city of Madison.

Sarah Lawton: Did that change the composition of the Fire Department a lot?

Mike Fuss: No. To me, if you're in this city, you should live in the city. That's the way we always felt. Because we had guys living in Milwaukee. There still is. It used to be—second alarm fire, third alarm—they'd want to hire guys back, well, it would take them an hour. If they were out of the city, it would take them so long to get back. Now it's all changed. It's all different, a lot different.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Like Mike says, it's just water over the dam, so to speak. Some of that politicking that went on. We used to ride the bus for what—a nickel?

Mike Fuss: Yep. A nickel. The apartments over here, that used to be a Red Dot Potato Chip Company. They had one on East Washington Avenue, by the tracks. Then, it was Kessenich's. Remember when it was Kessenich's? It was Red Dot first. You could get potato chips there.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Then Frito-Lay.

Mike Fuss: Yeah.

Sarah Lawton: Could you smell potato chips back here?

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Oh, yeah.

Mike Fuss: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Like Gardner's.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Yeah, Gardner's.

Mike Fuss: Now, that's gone. That's the sad part. I like it when they do this, like Terry said, just use the structure that's here. Don't rip them down and build some—the buildings, to me, that they're building, especially apartments, are ugly. Their colors are terrible, and they don't even look right. But this, this is the way it should be. This—just leave it alone.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: I agree.

Mike Fuss: You know?

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Totally.

Mike Fuss: Yep. I didn't do anything to my station. I kept it all original, and I did put a fireplace in it, and knocked one wall out, but you wouldn't know it. Otherwise, it's just like it was. I got the trucks that were there when I was a kid. I got them all back.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: You got that truck that went through the Tip Top [Tavern], don't you?

Mike Fuss: Yep. Yep. And then, the FWD and Engine Five, that your dad drove.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Yeah, my uncle was driving the one that went through the Tip Top, avoided that car.

Mike Fuss: A big accident, right where that—I'm trying to think of the name of the—restaurant at North Street and Commercial, that new restaurant. I'm trying to think of the name of it. [Ogden's North Street Diner.] I haven't even been in it yet, but it's busy. It's a busy place. It used to be a grocery store when I was a kid, Jensen's [phonetic]. Now, it's a neat place. I just got to go in. It's busy, all the time; they're doing good. That's what you like to see. You like to see that stuff in this city. Uptown, which I don't understand, is the Children's Museum, Historical Museum? Okay. The Historical Society wants to rip down all the buildings that—all the way to Grace Church. They got the first—highest building in Madison, still standing, and they want to rip it all down and put a Historical Association. Now, does that make sense?

Sarah Lawton: Were you guys around during the Butter Fire? That was more recent.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Oh, yeah.

Mike Fuss: Oh, yeah, I was working.

Jennifer Gurske: What year was the Butter Fire?

Mike Fuss: '91.

Jennifer Gurske: '91? Yeah. That was the huge fire, right?

Mike Fuss: Oh, yeah. Biggest fire we've ever had, and the butter and the lard—everything was just floating down the creek.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Yep.

Mike Fuss: It was bad. All our equipment was nothing but that smell, and it was terrible. They had to steam clean everything, and it still—in the engines and all the equipment, you could smell it for a year. It was bad. We got some canned hams, though, out of it. They said, here, just take those. I'll take them. Oscar Mayer canned hams that was stored.

Sarah Lawton: And that started down Cottage Grove Road, right?

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Right. Central Storage.

Mike Fuss: Right.

Jennifer Gurske: What was it called?

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Central Storage.

Mike Fuss: Yep. Big warehouse. Two of them, they burned. Three days, we were there. What time is it?

Jennifer Gurske: It is 10:07.

Mike Fuss: Okay. I think I'm last.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Another one--you remember the Bassett Street Fire?

Mike Fuss: Oh, yeah. I'll tell you that—this—you'll like this. They had two explosions in 1958, January 4th. The first one was on East Main Street, where those new buildings they built—there's a restaurant in one, on like the 700 Block, East Wash, right by Breese Stevens. Behind there, on East Main, this Hansen Body Shop blew up. And five minutes later, on Bassett Street, a whole block blew up. So, we had eight stations then, and everybody went, and they called—this was the thing. If the guys would have been in Milwaukee, lived there, it would have took them forever. Well, our guys came right away.

I remember, I was eleven years old, and my mom and dad and my brother and myself, lived upstairs. My grandma and grandpa built the house. They lived downstairs. I can remember waking up, and this was like at midnight, and I'm going, what's—I can hear my mom, and they're all kind of—and I came downstairs, and I looked at my grandma's stove, gas stove, and the pilot lights were jumping that high. They were that high. Because the pressure gauges in the city, a couple of them failed, and that threw all this—they had like two or three other explosions in the city, but they were minor, luckily. They were fighting this fire out on Bassett Street. The one on East Main went out pretty fast, but Bassett Street, the manhole covers, it blew them up, and the flames were shooting right out of the street, like that.

The street was on fire, you might say. All these guys—they were brave firemen—were there, and they stopped it. They all could have got blown up. That was the worst one until this. It was kind of a different thing, too. That was a gas explosion. That, out here, was from a forklift. The battery shorted out. There's a lot of stuff that—

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: What I remember, Dad was off, but they called him in. We had to take—like you said, back then, was the gas and the pilot light was always—if you had something covering the pilot light. We were told to take that off, so the pilot light could be at that height, so that it didn't go whatever on the stove. I don't—again, I was probably, like Mike said he was eleven. I was probably twelve or thirteen at the time.

Mike Fuss: Yeah, you're right.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: I remember dad being called in. What they did is that at first, he manned another station, because everybody was up at—let's say the A Shift was all at the—

Mike Fuss: Fire.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: —fire station, so they called all the B Shift in. Then, the A Shift got tired, and the B Shift went on to replace the A Shift, so the guys could get a little break. They had it all coordinated pretty good. I remember being careful, like Mike was saying, because of the concern that there might be other explosions coming. That was probably—in my life, as a young person, that was probably one of the scariest moments that I had, with my dad being a city fireman.

Mike Fuss: Well, then Sterling Hall blew up. I remember hearing about that.

Terrence (Terry) Tiedt: Yep.

Jennifer Gurske: When was that?

Mike Fuss: That was 1970. I had just come on the job in '69, and I switched with a guy, to go to a family reunion on a Sunday. I was working at Number Four Station on Dayton and Randall, where the Camp Randall there. That night, these guys, the Armstrong brothers, and two other ones, well, they blew it up, and they killed a guy, which was—I was really sad that that happened. I heard that thing—it blew the guys out of bed, because they were only like three blocks from there, in the station. It literally blew them out. I would have been working, but I had switched. But I heard it blow, and I lived on Pflaum Road. I heard it echo across that lake. It went boom, boom, boom, and it was like, oh, man.

I heard them give the call, because I had a scanner. They blew that up. I went back to work. They blew up about four or five other buildings. They set fires to them. We had the riots; that's when we had the riots. We'd be on the back of an engine, and we had our riot shields on and that. The cops were throwing tear gas. They'd throw it at the kids and that. Here we are on the back of the engine, nothing there, and it come up, and it's getting to us. We'd be yelling at the officers, the lieutenant, hey, get us out of here, let's go. That was kind of a scary thing, too. They liked us, the students did. They hated the cops, but they kind of liked us. At first, they didn't, and they were throwing rocks, anything they can get their hands on, at us, too. That was quite a thing. It's not on the east side, but there's a lot of fires here on the east side, too, over the years.

When I was a kid, I went to a lot of fires. Because they were my heroes. When I got on the job, I had a lot of fires. McCormick Lumber on Milwaukee Street, right over here. That was going one night. I was driving the engine, and we could smell that. We moved to new Number Eight—when I had old Number Eight—on Lien Road. And when we hit the apron, when we were going to take off, you could smell it. The wind was blowing right. You could smell that fire, all the way out East Washington Avenue from Milwaukee Street. It was unreal. That's about all I've got, because we'd be here all day.

Jennifer Gurske: We could talk to you all day. It's an amazing history of Madison. Thank you so much—

Mike Fuss: You're welcome.

Jennifer Gurske: —for providing this.

Mike Fuss: If you need anything, let me know.

Jennifer Gurske: A lot of information.

Mike Fuss: I can make pictures up. I'll make pictures of the fires that I got here.

Sarah Lawton: We can give you some contact information. As part of this project, there's the oral history recordings, but there's also photos that we like to scan and upload. We have all the equipment to take photos in whatever form and digitize them, so—

Mike Fuss: I mean, if there's somebody on Facebook, I can send them right from my Facebook page to—let me know, because I can do that. Because I've got them all right there. I won't even have to make them.

Sarah Lawton: I'll see.

Jennifer Gurske: Great.

Mike Fuss: All right?

Jennifer Gurske: It sounds pretty--



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