Lifetime resident Keith Saeugling shares community memories

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Keith Saeugling shares his memories of growing up, raising a family and owning and operating his own business in Guttenberg. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Keith Saeugling, the son of Clarence and Alma Saeugling, calls himself a "lifetime resident" of Guttenberg.  He and his three brothers, Roger, Paul and Clark, and his sister, Mariann, were born and raised along the shores of the Mississippi River. 

School days

The 81-year-old recently sat down at the family's dining room table to share his story. "My mother was a homemaker, and my father was the city electrician. My brothers and my sister attended St. Mary's School and I went to public school," Saeugling said. "I must have been afraid of the nuns. My mom would walk me to school. When I got in the classroom I would wait for the nun to leave the room, and I would jump out the window and beat my mother home. My mom realized I wasn't going to stay put so she switched me to public school. Once I got there I was fine. I was six years old at the time."

Childhood memories

Saeugling remembered, "We made up a lot of things to do when we were kids. We went fishing and swimming. We would swim in the sand pit on the island. Lorraine Schweikert would give us a ride out there in her old car. We would make up our own teams and play ball at Turner Park, where the hospital is now. It had a baseball diamond and horseshoes." He continued, "We played cops and robbers and did a lot of hiking over the hills. We used to walk to Osterdock, just for something to do, and buy a three-dip ice cream cone for 15 cents. In the winter time we played hen and chicken." Keith listed his childhood friends. "I used to hang out with Al Troester, Billy Pape, the McGuine boys, Denny Wahler and Bud Friedlein," he said. 

Saeugling grew up during the recession. "I remember mom and dad going to the store with stamps to get flour and sugar. Things were rationed out at that time," he noted. 

"I did a lot of squirrel hunting and pheasant hunting with my uncle. He had a dog. That was fun with the dog. He would flush them out for us. It was better than stomping through the corn fields," he commented. 

"When I was 15 me and my friends were sitting in the park talking and eating candy bars we purchased from the store across the street. We heard a kid hollering for help down by the river. I jumped up and took three leaps down the terraced embankment and ran out on the dock and grabbed the kid by the arm. His name was Frank Tainter. Fifty years later at our class reunion he came up and thanked me for saving his life. I guess he never did tell his parents," he chuckled.  

Working man

"I started working when I was 12 years old at the Guttenberg Press for a dollar a week. In the winter I fired the stoker for them. Because of the extra duties I received a 50-cent raise. After they took out Social Security it didn't leave much, but you didn't need much in those days," he laughed. 

Saeugling followed in his father's footsteps and apprenticed as an electrician. He brought to mind, "I was probably 14 at the time. I would go with him and help out. By age 16 I was wiring things on my own. I helped him wire the new Guttenberg Press office. From there I went on to wiring houses and then started working for the city. They paid me $250 a month." He explained, "Back then there was no certification requirements. It wasn't until 2010 that you needed a state license to wire. The city always required a license to wire in the city." 

"Back in about 1956 or '57 I volunteered with the Corps and became a ground observer. We worked for the civil defense department and would sit in the observation tower on top of the Municipal Building and watch for suspicious planes. Any plane that flew over you had to identify what it was and who they were. If you saw something suspicious you had to call into Air Defense Force Filter Center at Grandview Air Force Base in Missouri." He continued, "We mostly volunteered on weekends or during the day for a couple of hours. I was young and single. We had a lot of fun. The experience inspired me to join the Air Force after high school graduation. I was only able to serve a couple of months before I was honorably discharged due to medical reasons."

Keith and Susie

"I met my wife, Susie, at a ball game. I was 18 and she was 15. We never went to dances but we liked to go to the movies. Tillie and Bucky Harris had the Princess Theater. You could see a show for 25 cents. We were married when she was 17 years old. Her mother had to sign for her. She turned 18 shortly after we were married. The priest that married us commented, 'Teenage marriages never work.' We have been married for 60 years," he shared with a proud smile.
The couple raised seven children. He listed, "Our children are Linda, Brian, Tina, Virginia, Cindy, Sarah and Janice. Linda lost her life in an automobile accident in 1978."

Saeugling has comprised a list of the businesses that existed in the 1950s. He stated, "There were 15 gas stations, 14 grocery stores, eight taverns, seven cafes, five auto dealerships, three implement dealers, five clothing stores, three hardware stores, a creamery, a dry cleaner, two jewelry stores, two appliance stores, two furniture stores, two plumbing shops, two lumber companies, three motels, one hotel, a fish market, bakery, and boat rentals."

Saeugling is a long-standing member of St. Mary's Church and was a volunteer firefighter with the Guttenberg Fire Department for 32 years. He commented, "I retired once after 25 years, at which time I refurbished the hose cart for them. I got talked into joining again after I retired for an additional seven years. I got roped into being the chief for a year. I couldn't do it for long – it interfered with my business too much.” 

“The house we currently live in belonged to my grandparents. My Uncle Cletus lived here for years. He left to build a new home, and we purchased the property from the estate for $5,000 dollars. After the flood of 1965 I saw the need to raise the structure. During the flood I built a dike around the house to keep the water away. I had six pumps running to get the water out that had seeped in. We had to move out and live in an apartment. We had three kids at the time. After the water receded I raise the house — it cost me $500. That was a lot of money back then,” he remarked.

“When we first started out I had about seven different jobs. I kept getting laid off. I started wiring on my own and a salesman told me, ‘If you can last three years you will be okay.’ Those were some lean years. The only vehicle we had was my work truck,” he said. 

“I tried to buy a new piece of equipment and a new work truck but the bank wouldn’t lend me the money. I went to banks in Dubuque and they also turned me down. I came back to town and talked to Dr. Palmer and told him my predicament. He asked me whether I had been to the bank in town. I told him I had. He said to give it another try. A couple days later I went back, and I could borrow all the money I needed. I was in business for 51 years thanks to Dr. Palmer,” he said with gratitude.

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