About The Artist
In Progress...as of April 16, 2023
We didn't know his real name when we first discovered him in 2009, but Uncle Louie was the leader of a large troupe of entertainers at WTAQ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin back in 1944 or so. They were known as the Town Hall Players. When Uncle Louie wrote his letter to the editor in 1944, they had already been at WTAQ for over three years. We later learned thanks to a relative his name was Leo Reeths. Further research uncovered some interesting aspects to this entertainer's career.
Leo Reeths was the son of Fred and Mary Reeths, born in Marshfield, WI. He married fhr tormer Helen Crago of Merrillan, WI. An article announcing their marriage noted that Leo was just out of McKinley High School and was working mainly in stage shows. At the time of the marriage, he was working with the Crago Shows, which was owned by the father of his new bride. Their marriage took place at Sacred Heart Church on May 4, 1927.
The Crago Players put on regular shows in the area.
On May 28, 1938, the circuit court granted a default divorce to Helen Reeths based on charges of desertion and nonsupport. She was granted custody of their one child (Walllace Lee).
On December 24, 1938 at the age of 32, Leo married the former Mae Joan Erickson of Minneapolis, MN, age 22, in Decorah, IA. She was born in Missoula City, MT on May 25, 1914 based on a copy of Montana birth records found in ancestry.com.
Uncle Louie told the editors that prior to their arrival at WTAQ, they worked in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. And before that, they entertained audiences in LaCrosse, Wisconsin for three years.
There were ten people in the troupe. They put on three act comedy plays. And musical entertainment was provided by the group they called "The Rangers".
Uncle Louie told the readers that their personal appearances took them just about everywhere and then some and would sometimes work seven days a week. They had their own radio show that aired every morning at 7:00am for half an hour except on Sundays.
Uncle Louie said they loaded the group into a large Chrysler station wagon that pulled a trailer that had all their equipment and wardrobe. He mentinoed their car was painted in a 'maroon color' that made for a 'flashy appearance'.
Uncle Louie mentioned some of the group - there was Slim and Curly, who were formerly known as The Drifters; The Gillis Boys and himself of course. He mentioned they had a steel guitar, spanish guitar, accordion, drums, buck fiddle and a 'few novelties'.
Uncle Louie had a bar located on East Mason Street in Green Bay. It was formerly named the Irish's Bar. The grand opening under Uncle Louie was on July 2, 1943. Promotional ads were run during World War II holding a farewell party for the servicemen that were about to be shipped out overseas for service to their country. A review of some of the names listed seems to indicate they returned home from combat safely.
However, promotional ads for the Colonial Bar show that on July 13, 1945, the grand opening of "Bill Adelbush's" was advertised for the East Mason street location. One promotional ad indicated a farewell party was held on Saturday July 7, 1945 with entertainment provided by the C. S. Orchestra from Humboldt.
Uncle Louie may have went back into the tavern business as research shows he was approved to sell liquor or licensed to operate such a business.
In May of 1948, a short article told readers that Leo Reeths, well known as Uncle Louie, announced he was seeking the Republican nomination for Sheriff in the primary election on September 12, 1948.
The Green Bay newspaper published the list of candidates for Sheriff in the Republican Party on September 9, 1948. They were Orville DeBaker, Elmer A. DeNamur, Albert F. Gill, Clarence S. Crognet, Herman E. Hansen, ReubenJ. Lasee, Clarence Mahn, Frank J. Micheils, and Leo M. Reeths.
The Sheriff and District Attorney's races were expected to draw the most attention in the primary vote. In a surprise, the incumbent Democrat Sheriff, Merle Streckbenback lost his bid to be the Democratic nominee for Sheriff to Gordon Zuidmulder. On the Republican side, Clarence S. Grognet, chief of the county highway police won the nomination for Sheriff.
Vote totals for Republican nominee for Sheriff of Brown County from September 21, 1948:
In 1950, Leo changed party affiliation and became a Democrat. He entered the race for Sheriff in the September 1950 Democratic primary for Sheriff, opposing the incumbent, Gordon Zuidmulder and Edward Bodart.
The 1950 primary was held on September 19, 1950. Turnout was reported to be light. In the race for Sheriff, the incumbent Mr. Zuidmulder handily won the Democratic nomination over his two opponents. Vote totals were:
Nic Bur of the Milwaukee Journal wrote an article about the Town Hall Players. They had just played in Denmark, WI (a town of just 1,012 people) and had an audience of 550 paying customers who "...cheered the hero and hissed the villain enthusiasticlly — as usual. They had a fine time at the show, and a lot of them stayed for the dance. These actors really double in brass."He went on to write that the troupe played to over 161,000 people in 55 communities while putting on 303 performances in northeastern Wisconsin and upper Michigan. Did they take time off? Only during Holy Week and a part of Christmas week. The plays were written and adapted (and directed) by Eddy Jason (who usually took the role of villain). Year round they do five three-act comedy melodramas. But each month, they discontinued one old play and a new or revised one put in its place. And even then, only after five days of study and three rehearsals.
Mr. Jason noted that "We've tried serious plays, but the audience would sit on its hands and squirm in the seats. They want to be entertained."
The group arrived in Denmark in a blue car that also pulled a yellow 6 foot by 5 foot by 4 foot trailer. In that trailer, were the costumes, props, microphones, lights and curtains - both for the stage and for privacy for changing. The prop boxes were also used as seats and tables.
Also in the troupe was Earl McNellis who then was a songwriter and arranger and took on the character role of a rustic fool — Fuzzy. Eddy and Fuzzy met by chance when their two stock companies crossed paths in Minneapolis in the late 1930's. When those companies broke up, Jason and Fuzzy became two of the original Town Hall Players. They were first based in LaCrosse (1940), Beaver Dam (1941 and 1942) and Green Bay (since 1946).
After the curtains fall on their play for the night, the musical instruments of Cousin Fuzzy and his Cousins along with the Milkmaids provide the music for dancing. However, Eddy Jason did not participate in that aspect. Eddy himself said he can hardly carry a tune and noted, "Actors don't make good musicians, but musicians make good actors." Jason had written or adapted "70 zany parts for Fuzzy" over the years. Around 10:45pm or so, after the floor has been cleared of chairs and sprinkled with wax, kids dash about showing off until Cousin Fuzzy starts to play "old-time, good time music—polkas, waltzes, and modern numbers. This continues until about 1:00am.
Town Hall Players Information
Leo's widow, Mae Joanne Reeth passed away on October 20, 2010 at the age of 96.
Leo and Mae had five children. Frederick (Fritz) (Fred) Reeths (drowned at the Pamperin Park Quarry in June 1955), Donald, Patrick, Judith, and Terry.
Uncle Louie and the Town Hall Players were known for putting on three-act plays then providing music for dancing afterwards as part of their appearances. Numerous promotional ads give the reader some insight as to what audiences saw and heard in those days.
|Date||Play Title/Subject||Venue Information|
|August 12, 1937||Uncle Louie Meets The G-Man||Portage, WI; Big Spring Town Hall;|
|March 25, 1938||The Governor's Lady||Fox Lake, WI; I.O.O.F. Hall; w/Harmony Huskers|
|June 23, 1939||Uncle Louie Goes To Chicago||St. Nazianz Opera House; Sheboygan, WI; w/The Rangers|
|June 30, 1939||Scandal Mongers||Turner Hall, Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|August 19, 1939||Let's Get Married||Schmitz Ballroom - Mt. Calvary, Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|September 1, 1939||Uncle Louie's Nightmare||Turner Hall; Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|September 8, 1939||City Wives and Country Relations||Turner Hall; Plymouth, WI; The Rangers; Sheboygan Harmony Boys|
|September 15, 1939||Uncle Louie's Murder Case||Turner Hall; Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|October 13, 1939||Back To The Farm||Turner Hall; Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|May 3, 1940||The Old Cowhand||Terrace Gardens; Manitowoc, WI|
|May 9, 1940||The Old Cowhand||Terrace Gardens; Manitowoc, WI; w/Music by The Rangers|
|July 5, 1940||Uncle Louie Meets The Bride||Turner Hall; Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|January 29, 1941||Uncle Louie Takes The Cure||Green Bay, WI; WTAQ Farm Hands|
|March 20, 1943||Uncle Louie On A Dude Ranch||Turner Hall; Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|April 2, 1943||Don't Tell Mother||Turner Hall; Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|May 29, 1943||Uncle Louie Strikes Oil||Turner Hall; Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|September 18, 1943||Know Your Groceries||Turner Hall; Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|October 27, 1945||Uncle Louie's Big Dam||Turner Hall, Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|November 17, 1945||Uncle Louie's Hotel||Turner Hall, Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|January 19, 1946||Bell Bottom Trousers||Turner Hall, Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|January 30, 1946||Double Wedding||Soutside Danceland; Manawa, WI; The Rangers|
|March 19, 1946||Cabin In The Pines||Soutside Danceland; Manawa, WI; The Rangers|
|April 12, 1946||Why Mothers Strike||Turner Hall, Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|May 4, 1946||Uncle Louie Goes To The Fair||Turner Hall, Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|June 15, 1946||Uncle Louie Rings The Bell||Turner Hall; Sheboygan, WI; The Rangers|
|April 12, 1947||Why Did I Leave Wyoming||Playdium; Sheboygan,WI; New Town Hall Band|
|May 3, 1947||The Unexpected Husband||Playdium; Sheboygan, WI; New Town Hall Band|
|May 24, 1947||Out Where The Tall Corn Grows||Playdium; Sheboygan, WI; New Town Hall Band|
|June 4, 1947||Back To The Farm||Playdium; Sheboygan, WI; New Town Hall Band|
What was he like onstage? Perhaps Eddy Jason, his longtime sidekick friend sums it up best in a 1982 interview by Warren Gerds:
"He (Leo/Uncle Louie) had a knack. People would just laugh. I can still see them, how they would hold their sides. He was a perfect comedian. Red Skelton and all those fellow were nothing compared with him."
Credits and Sources
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