Bay View, much like anywhere else in Milwaukee, is changing. Many of the dining and nightlife haunts, shops, residents, and even the landscape of the neighborhood itself are virtually unrecognizable compared to what Bay View offered even 10 years ago. Fortunately, places like Puddler’s Hall, Rush-Mor Records, and the largely untouched lakefront remain to give Milwaukeeans a glimpse of Bay View’s rich past amid both rapid and drastic change.
Another longstanding neighborhood staple is Bay View High School. While the school, too, has experienced its fair share of changes through the years, it has stood prominently since 1925. Recently, a reader stumbled upon a record called Sounds Of Bay View at a yard sale and was kind enough to share it with us. Based on the names of the faculty and students mentioned, the red LP was likely recorded in the late 1950s, during one of Dr. Bernhard Korn’s final school years as principal.
The album is a blend of spoken material from the narrator (director of music Merl D. Williams), music, and field recordings of classes. On Side A, Williams guides a tour of the school day, with brief aural stops at swim class, track practice, woodworking class (“What a quiet place to work!”), typing class, and shorthand class. Later, the vice principal checks excuses from students one morning in room 225, and an air raid alarm sounds during a drill so students are “ready for an air raid in case it should come.” The harshness of the alarm is eventually offset by the pleasing sounds of dance band rehearsal, the “Star-Spangled Banner” being played by the school band during an Armistice Day assembly, and “On Wisconsin” riling up students during a pep rally.
Side B begins in a rather special way, as Dr. Korn administers the oath of office for the the new student council president. The student being inaugurated into office is none other than Lance Sijan, who would go on to be posthumously awarded the Medal Of Honor for his courage and selflessness during the Vietnam War. Sijan died in Hỏa Lò Prison (also known as “Hanoi Hilton”) in 1968, less than a decade after this record’s release. The album ends with the school’s a cappella group’s annual Christmas program, which includes all the expected winter classics.
Williams concludes this crackling half-century-old artifact with a lofty-yet-accurate message: “Bay View High School will live on and on. And these are but a few sounds of a wonderful school.” You can listen to Sounds Of Bay View below, only on Milwaukee Record.