DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Two years ago, as his father and grandfather were being inducted into the American Society of Baking Hall of Fame, Tim Trausch was struck with an idea.
“I heard a voice in my head that said, ‘Tim, you go to Dubuque, and you get ahold of all of our old employees and tell them Dad and Grandpa are in the Baking Hall of Fame because of them,’” Trausch said.
Last week, he did just that. About 100 former employees of the Trausch family’s Dubuque baking company gathered at Louis Murphy Park to get together and share stories.
The Dubuque Telegraph Herald reports that Trausch Baking Co., known later as Sweetheart Bakery, was owned and operated by Arthur Trausch Sr. and Arthur Trausch Jr. in Dubuque for decades, until they sold the company in 1976 to G. Heileman Brewing Co.
Since then, the baking company has undergone several more changes in ownership. The Trausch baking factory built in 1931 and restored after flooding in 1965 is still operating under the ownership of Bimbo Bakeries USA.
But the focus during the Trausch/Sweetheart employee reunion was on the early years of local ownership.
John Woller started working for the company in 1973, though he remembers visiting the company during a field trip led by Arthur Trausch Sr. when he was in elementary school.
When the Trausch family left the business, Arthur Trausch Jr. took Woller with him and got him a job at Dubuque Golf & Country Club, where Trausch was president.
“The man was just like a second father to me,” Woller said.
Ken Anglin, one of the event’s organizers, started working for the company when he was 15. He had caddied for Arthur Trausch Jr., and one snowy day, he pulled up in front of Anglin’s house.
“I was shoveling my dad’s sidewalk when he slammed on the brakes and yelled, ‘Anglin, can you come to work?’” Anglin recalled.
Anglin hopped in and worked all day. Over the years, all six of his brothers spent time working for the company. Anglin stayed for more than 30 years, ending his career as plant manager.
Many other attendees told stories of working with friends and relatives. Juanita Gansemer worked at the company before she had children. Her husband, Fred Gansemer, joined the company the week before the wedding, taking his second week off to get married.
“He loved working there,” Juanita Gansemer said. “He constantly talks about it.”
Lloyd McGrath, who told stories of answering a call to deliver bread through a tornado, worked for the company, as did his son Dennis McGrath.
George Pemsl came to the reunion prepared with pictures of his father, also named George Pemsl, in his pocket. The older Pemsl moved to Dubuque from Haag in Oberbayern, Germany, in 1929.
The day he stepped off the train, Pemsl worked his first shift at the baking company, starting a 42-year career. The younger Pemsl worked at the bakery in high school.
In the 1930s, the older Pemsl, then a U.S. citizen, went back to Germany for a three-month visit.
“Imagine a company giving you three-month leave,” Pemsl Jr. said.
Mike and Phil Neyens were the second generation to work for the company.
“The Trauschs who owned the bakery, whenever someone died or a family member died, they drove in the funeral,” Mike Neyens said.
Phil Neyen reunited with Tim Trausch several years ago. Trausch had moved away from Dubuque, but one day, he visited and stopped by the baking plant, which his family was no longer connected to. Phil Neyen was the only person he still recognized.
Neyen gave him a tour of the bakery. When Trausch moved back to Dubuque last year, he contacted Neyen and Anglin about getting everyone back together.
They chose to have the picnic at Murphy Park, in a pavilion with a view of the bakery down near the Mississippi River.