Highland News Leader

A Thought to Remember: Clarence “Tabby” Stocker was Highland’s mayor for 14 years

The “Oriole Serenaders” play at the Masonic Temple. On trombone was William “Bill” Vaupel; coronet, Ray Schmetter; drums, Rolla “Kink” Neudecker; sax and clarinet, Clarence “Tabby” Stocker; piano, Frank Hauck; accordion, Felton “Boots” Willhauk; and violen, Reuben “Rube” Hebrank. Thanks to Willis Draper, who turned 100 this year, for this photo.
The “Oriole Serenaders” play at the Masonic Temple. On trombone was William “Bill” Vaupel; coronet, Ray Schmetter; drums, Rolla “Kink” Neudecker; sax and clarinet, Clarence “Tabby” Stocker; piano, Frank Hauck; accordion, Felton “Boots” Willhauk; and violen, Reuben “Rube” Hebrank. Thanks to Willis Draper, who turned 100 this year, for this photo.

Clarence “Tabby” Stocker was mayor of Highland for 14 years, 1931-1945.

Clarence Stocker and his brother, Harry, worked for their father, Fred Stocker at Stocker Gravel & Artificial Stone at Main & Chestnut streets, plus the gravel pit. In 1916, they changed the name to Stocker Gravel & Construction Co.

They also had five sisters, Nellie Stocker, Helen (Gilbert) Tuffli, Jane (Dr. John “Jack”) Renfro, Bernice Stocker (R.J.) Kamm and Florence (W.G. “Rascz”) Knoebel. (Rascz Knoebel was an architect with Knoebel & Pabst and helped design the Highland grade and high schools at Lindenthal and Poplar and the Highland Centennial Fountain on the Square.) All were the children of Fred and Ida Zobrist Stocker. Their father, Fred Stocker, died in December 1930.

“Clarence H. Stocker (1901-1971) was able to play the piano at the age of 2. He became a great musician, all without lessons, and could play almost any instrument.”

(I will have more about his orchestra and his music. His niece Pat Kamm (Thomas) Wehrle of Highland has given me much information, including how he was given the nickname of “Tabby.”)

“The family went to school on the Square. The house was just south of the school, on Broadway at the Square. It was Grandma Schiettinger’s, and she had a tabby cat. At recesses and noon, Clarence would walk across the street, put the tabby cat on his shoulder, and there it would stay until school started again. That tabby cat started the nickname, “Tabby,” and it remained his trademark with his friends.

“By 1921, Tabby Stocker had his own orchestra, called Stocker’s Oriole Serenaders. This orchestra played for dances in the area dance halls at Lindendale Park and the Highland Masonic Temple.

“Clarence married Dorothy Schott on Aug. 30, 1930. He had previously been elected an alderman, and in 1931, he was elected mayor of Highland.

“The new school was finished on Sept. 15, 1935. The city repurchased the block from the school district and wanted to make it the focal point of Highland.

“Many City Council meetings were held to finally come up with a plan for a fountain in the Plaza. Knoebel & Pabst was the architectrual firm and Briner Brothers, formerly of Highland but owing Briner Electric of St. Louis, built the fountain at a very reasonable price.

“The Stocker Gravel and Construction Co. laid the side walks and built the concrete, three-tier band stand.” (This has been replaced twice, first by the Highland Jaycees’ Swiss Gazebo and now the present pavilion.)

They also built present-day Centennial Fountain. It’s just as beautiful as ever, but with all new interior piping, valves and a computer.

“During Stocker’s years as mayor, he also served as the leader of the Centennial Band, which played for the dedication of the Centennial Fountain on Friday, Aug. 13, 1937 and played at Lindendale Park and for the pageant, which was held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, August 13-15, 1937. They also played in the German/Swiss beer garden, called “Alpine Inn,” during the Centennial and were known there as The Helvetians. Clarence was also the conductor of the Highland Concert Band (today called the Highland Municipal Band), which had weekly summer concerts in the Plaza or Square, which have continued every summer except during the World War II era. Clarence and other members of the city band helped New Glarus, Wis., with its celebrations.

“Clarence Stocker also served two terms as president for the Helvetia Sharpshooters and Lindendale Park, where he brought back many old Swiss documents and papers. (Many of these are still on display in glass cabinets in the bar room.)

“Music was important in Tabby’s life, and he had his most fun playing in his ‘combo’ with his friends, who could play any song that was requested. Clarence composed many pieces of music and during World War II wrote Blue Star in Your Window.”

(My mother did have a blue star in her window for me, and I still have her copy of Tabby’s song, Blue Star in Your Window. Mom played this almost every evening on her piano. Tabby also wrote the Highland Rotary Club’s Greeting Song.)

Clarence H. Stocker died Aug. 25, 1971 at the age of 70. (I had the privilege of having his funeral at the Harris Funeral Home and hearing all the great things that he had accomplished for the city of Highland.) Tabby had closed his business at the northeast corner of Chestnut and Main. His office manager, Reuben Hebrank, went to Marine to manage the Community Lumber Co. of Marine. Reuben’s wife, Violet Myers Hebrank, was my father’s cousin.

Just a note: I was going to write about Fred Stocker, Clarence’s father, this week. However, due to some computer issues, I was forced to jump ahead a week. We will go back to Fred next week, assuming no more technical difficulties.

(Quotes from the 1912 Madison County Centennial book, the 1987 Highland sesquicentennial book, Clarence’s obituary, my column of Jan. 3, 2005, plus information from Willis Draper and Pat Kamm Wehrle, Clarence’s niece.)

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