My Wisconsin travel memories go back many years. One of the first is driving south on the old Highway 41 to the Illinois border to buy oleomargarine. In those days, the state outlawed the sale of colored margarine so that became one of our family's regular Wisconsin trips. Now that I think of it, that probably classifies as an Illinois trip, so forget that, I'll go on to the next big family outing: the Wisconsin Dells. This involved, as I remember, a big nighttime Indian powwow and cruising across the lake in a converted WWII amphibious landing craft. It made for a thrilling experience, and of course, a lot safer without having to face German machine gun fire.
But the trip that I made the most times was the one from Milwaukee to Madison, where I attended the University of Wisconsin. Even before that, while in high school, I used to travel there on weekends with my high school rock band, "The Chevelles," (all the good cars were taken) to play at fraternity parties on Langdon Street. Aside from all the beer we could drink, I remember the fun of bunking in the frat bedrooms or the old Cardinal Hotel, one of the great flophouses on the Square. But my fondest memory is that morning-after stale beer aroma in the frat house basement bar. Nothing like it. Still can't figure out why my parents ever let me go there.
In between gigs, we'd be content to stay in Milwaukee and tour the Schlitz Brewery, after which free beer was always served to the guests. I remember going on that tour a lot, and eventually, it came to occupy more of our time than going to Madison. Other great in-town excursions were to County Stadium for the Braves and later Packers games. My brother and I used to bring sleeping bags downtown and enjoy a pleasant summer night sleeping on cots on the sidewalk outside the Journal building, waiting for Packer season tickets to go on sale in the morning. This turned out to be a great preparation for the brief homeless period we went through before hitting it big in the movie business.
Even today, after many years away, I always look forward to returning to my home state for a welcome, fun and relaxing vacation, stale beer smell and all.
David Zucker is a film director, producer and screenwriter whose notable works include The Naked Gun trilogy, Airplane!, Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4. A Shorewood native, David is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Madison.