March 16, 2010

Relics from the Not-so-Distant Past

Today my friend Sue and I spent the loveliest day in West Bend, a city about 45 minutes southeast of Fond du Lac.  It's a little gem that I have surprisingly overlooked many times in my tenure here.  They have a wonderful downtown with cute little shops and many fun restaurants, one of which we tried for lunch - Cafe Soeurette (in case you're wondering - I had the Maple Beet & Spinach Salad with a side of the Tomato Provencal soup.  Absolutely delicious!).

After lunch, however, is when we discovered the mother lode at a place called Winkler's Office City (I would've put the link here, but they're not online, alas).  My oh my, what a fabulous place.  When you first walk in, you're met with the rather distinct odor of, well, time.  That's the only way I can describe it (I've smelled the same scent before, and I'll get to that in a minute.).  To the right of the entrance, up a few steps, is the "art supply" area of this store.  They had a nice selection of acrylics and pencils, but it was pretty sparse otherwise.  I did pick up a few paintbrushes that were on sale.  Sue didn't find much either but then we ventured into the "office supply" part of the store.

Now, I didn't spend much time in office supply stores as a kid, and I came of age (in the corporate world) in about 1993.  I think 100 years from now, 1993 will be a very interesting year to study, sociologically speaking.  We were right on the cusp of the "Information Superhighway" (ha!) and no one really knew how to deal with it.  I was still using a DOS-based computer system that would sometimes overheat and they'd send us home because the mainframe would go down for hours at a time.  I was at the Green Bay Press-Gazette then, and there was still a "composing" department (all digital now, of course.  These were the people who "laid out" the paper).  But the Internet completely changed our world, and a great place to realize how much has changed in the last 15 years or so is an office supply store.

At Winkler's, we found the following items, amongst the thousands:

Graphic tape
Typewriter ribbons
Dry transfer sheets (today known as rub-on transfers, but these are vintage 1985 or so; see above)
Dymo labels
Key tags
Dixon-Ticonderoga pencils from about 1950
Rubber cement (with "erasers")
Printing sets (the kind where you set the teeny-tiny rubber letters yourself)

These were all legitimate supplies only a few short years ago.  Now, who uses any of this stuff, besides artists?  And did anyone see this coming, the end of the need for all of these items?  I wonder.  But wow, were we ever glad to discover these amazing goodies today (and it's very good to know that we now have a transfer connection)!

I wonder what is going to happen to this kind of office supply store in the future.  Surely, there will always be a need for a Staples, for example, but I'm talking about this particular kind of place.  In fact, we have something very similar in Fond du Lac called Wegner's Department Store (they're not online either), where you can still pick up an electric typewriter and ancient flash cards.  It too is a gem, and it too smells of "time".  I've found labels and tags and items there, such as old stencils, that I know are from the mid-Sixties.  It is a living, breathing time capsule.  And I'll be terribly sad to see it meet its inevitable end.  Until then, I will gladly do my part to keep it going.


  1. Wow, all that old stuff is GREAT PERFECT for collages. Glad it's found a home with you.

  2. Thanks Pam! And half the fun yesterday was digging for it - I could've spent all day there! :D