Serving as an unofficial ambassador of good will and thanks for the Waupaca Historical Society, I stopped in at Park Vista on March 3 for a visit with Tom Godfrey.
He was a longtime member of WHS, a great monetary supporter, and had donated the fine hitching post that now stands in front of the Hutchinson House Museum.
Tom assured me that he was a true native who was born, raised, worked and lived in Waupaca all his life. I learned that from 1950 to 1986 he owned and managed the Godfrey Equipment Company at the site where Matthews Tire and Auto Service is presently located. His grandfather had owned Sam Godfrey Implement Company, formerly located located at the current site of The Paint Store on the corner of Fulton Street and Washington Street.
The Godfrey men were all involved in business: Tom’s father, Myron Godfrey, owned the Godfrey Auto Company, which sold Studebakers and was located on Union Street, and his son, Brian, is a recently retired owner of Godfrey Insurance Inc. Four generations of Godfreys, as businessmen, civic leaders, and contributors to the community, have helped keep Waupaca a thriving city for over 70 years.
We talked about Tom’s farming relative, Thomas Godfrey, whose 80 acres of farmland, according to the 1874 plat map, was on the west side of Farmington Township; about his watching Gusmer Enterprises develop into a vital industrial company of Waupaca; about the remarkable growth of the Waupaca Foundry and how he was a part of the Waupaca Industrial Development Corporation that helped get financing for the partnership of the sales executive Clifford Schwenn and engineer Donald Brunner, during the foundry’s start in 1955; about the days he witnessed life in the Children’s Home on the Bethany campus; about the moving of the Hutchinson House Museum from Fulton Street to South Park and also of moving the Heritage House from one of the Veterans Home Cottage Rows in King. He also talked about about his first cousin, Helen Godfrey, who owned and shared a family cottage on Round Lake, was on the Board of Directors for Bethany Home, and was the Dean of Women at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
So, if you want to learn about Waupaca’s rich history in a pleasant and interesting way, just find yourself a native, sit down together, and go to it. Nothing is more rewarding than learning history from the mouth of a person who has lived through it.