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1974 Hortonville Teachers strike Meyer Theatre

Alli Rivera, Entertainment Writer
April 24, 2013
Filed under Entertainment

Let Me Be Frank Productions set the stage at the Meyer Theatre for its rendition of the “1974” Hortonville Teacher Strike.  The musical runs until April 27. Tickets for the final shows are on sale for $29 through Ticketstar.

The production takes audiences on a time warp back to the ‘70s. It features musical renditions from ‘73 and ‘74 linked together by comedy that is full of energy.

“The ‘74 Hortonville Teacher’s Strike’ was like taking a bottle of NoDoz,” said Dennis Callewaert, resident of Redgranite, Wis., “We talked and laughed the entire ride home.”

The disco and singer-songwriter era was in full swing, but the teacher’s strike in a small Wisconsin city was headlining national news.

LMBFP has been producing shows for 14 years. The leader, Frank Hermans, graduated from Preble High school, attended UW-Green Bay and now runs LMBFP with Pat Hibbard.

“I have never been to a LMBFP  that I didn’t love,” said Deborah Scovronske, resident of Menasha, Wis., “The singing, jokes and the characters always make for a fun time.”

Hermans and his close friend Joe Kiedinger created its LMBFP troupe with friends and classmates from UWGB and St. Norbert College. There are 10 original performers  with the troupe today.

Their latest project took the historical strike to the stage for a comedic rendition with accurate facts, but highlighted with musical twists and humor.

The production follows the 1974 teacher strike, one of the most prominent strikes in Wisconsin history. It included more than 30 teacher strikes in Wisconsin alone during 1972 to 1974.

The strike began March 19, 1974, when the Hortonville teachers had not received a raise in their base pay in three years.  More than 500 Wisconsin teachers formed picket lines outside the schools until the Hortonville Vigilante Association opposed picketers by breaking lines and escorting more than 240 replacement teachers to class.

The teachers in Hortonville continued their strike to win a new contract to raise their pay. After 10 months of debating and stalling, the school board declined any new contract to the teachers.

After the strike had ended, the Hortonville School Board fired almost all the teachers in the district.

“Strikes were extremely common during my teaching career,” said Lynda Pettit, retired kindergarten teacher from Milwaukee. “The idea that teachers were not getting paid fairly for their hard work and dedication was mind blowing.”

Even though the strike ended, the hardships continued for the teachers also known as the Hortonville 84. The teachers were unable to find teaching positions in other districts across the state. Eventually they had to change their career paths or move to another state in search of employment.

“I love the idea of a comedy about a tough situation with music based on this era,” Pettit said.

LMBFP took the tragic 1974 event and revived it by adding humor, while maintaining accuracy to Wisconsin history.