If it were a fall afternoon in 1970, Stan Fiedler’s garage atop the Prospect Avenue hill would be packed with a dozen or more teenage kids.
Somebody would be racking billiards on a pool table in the large garage—a space finished enough that it could have been the coolest apartment a 13-year-old boy could ever hope for. In the background, Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover” would be playing on Fiedler’s jukebox, and popcorn would be bursting in a theater-style popper while pinball machines whizzed and buzzed.
A line of kids’ bicycles parked outside would give anyone who approached an idea of who was hanging out at Stan’s place.
From the late 1950s through the early 1990s, Stan Fiedler ran a teen hangout for junior high school-age kids—a bridge between their Little League years and their car-cruising days.
Fiedler died Sept. 6 at a Janesville nursing home. He was 87.
Fiedler’s days of running Stan’s—a de facto, mostly free youth activity center in his garage at 408 Prospect Ave.—were long gone, replaced in the 1980s by a video game arcade in the same garage. The arcade ultimately closed in Fiedler’s later years.
But locals who hung out at Fiedler’s garage clubhouse (known as “Stan’s” or “Stan’s Place” and later “Stan’s Arcade”) remember the outsize role Stan’s and its host played in their formative years.
“It was only two years, three years maybe, and then you were 16 and driving around. You’d gotten too old for Stan’s Place. But those couple of years, it seemed like a really long time. Lots of memories,” Janesville resident Rick Heck said.
Heck, who lived about a block from Fiedler’s house, was a Stan’s club member from about 1969 to 1971. He remembers Friday nights playing basketball on a court in front of Fiedler’s huge garage, seeing the bikes pile up as a few dozen club members poured in for sodas and pool.
He remembers leisurely afternoons after school when he and other students from St. Mary School would walk up the hill to Stan’s. Soda was 5 cents, and a game of billiards or pinball was 10 cents. A group of kids was always playing pickup basketball on the court.
Fiedler, who grew up at the house where he built the clubhouse, worked as a pressman for The Gazette and later for Rath until he retired in 2002.
He was a 1950 graduate of Janesville High School and, like many of the club members, a St. Mary School alum.
Pete Skelly, 67, recalls Fiedler’s human presence in the background. He was the quiet but ever-present pulse that kept Stan’s safe, functional and welcoming.
“Stan was pretty quiet. He’d sit on one corner of his couch and sort of police the area,” Skelly said. “Everybody had to behave.
“If some 12-year-old kid showed up and wanted to play basketball, and there were a bunch of 14-year-olds playing, you had to let the 12-year-old play ball. If you didn’t, Stan would see you cutting that younger kid out of the loop. You’d get banned from the basketball court for a week.”
Skelly joined Stan’s when he was about 14. It was the late ’60s. At the time, Stan’s was a boys-only club. Later, Skelly said, Stan’s opened to girls also.
Skelly mused that today, a private club for teenagers in an adult’s garage would raise eyebrows. But back then, Janesville parents knew where their kids were, Skelly said, and they were playing basketball, munching popcorn or tilting a pinball machine at Stan’s.
“Try to look at it through the eyes of a teenager or parent of the 1960s and 1970s,” he said. “It was just the first place—and at that time, the only place, actually—where you could go after school, relax, drink a pop, read a comic book. There were no Boys & Girls Club or things like that.”
In the early days, initiation to Stan’s required a permission form from parents, Skelly said. Each new member had to fill out an application form Stan kept on file, and they would get their portrait taken to add to the club’s wall of members.
“It was like the Elks or something like that. You had to apply to be in Stan’s, and you had to pass muster with Stan. Your attitude and everything had to be right to pass muster.”
Members said Stan’s in its early years did not seem conceived as a money-making enterprise. A 1964 Gazette news brief reported a theft that gives the scope of the club’s revenues: The till, a money box with $57 in paper currency and coins, was stolen.
In a post on a local Facebook page last week, Rebecca Farrell, a friend and housekeeper of Fiedler’s, announced Stan’s death.
When she read comments and memories tacked onto her Facebook post by dozens of men now well into middle age, Farrell said she began to understand the lasting impact Stan and his club had on local youth.
“Talking with Stan in the past, I’m not sure he knew what he and his club meant to the young people who went there, what he was to them,” Farrell said.
Janesville resident Rich Anderson, who once hung out at Stan’s, remembered having a special job at the club.
“A lot of good memories there. Stan used to send me and my buddy Al down to Dorothy’s Records to get new 45’s for the jukebox on occasion,” Anderson wrote.
Milton resident Dale D. Gosnell commented on the Facebook post that Fiedler was “an absolute genuine dude” who “always had a story, movie, and roll of quarters for the lost kids needing some real kid time.”
“Thank you, Mr. Fiedler. Your kindness will always be remembered,” Gosnell wrote.
Today, Fiedler’s home and garage have been converted to apartments. The garage where scores of young people hung out now has a red food truck parked in front.
When a Gazette reporter rang the doorbell at the house this week, no one answered.
Skelly said he thinks about Stan’s club every time he drives by Fiedler’s old house, which is the same color—pale green—as it was in the 1960s.
“I was kind of a nerd. I’m a book nut, but I met two other guys at Stan’s. They dragged me out of being a nerd and into playing basketball. You know, Stan just gave you a place,” Skelly said.
“Two of my friends and I who hooked up at Stan’s, we went separate ways for a while, the military, college. But we’re still close. We talk about it all the time. Kids can run around and get in trouble. How might we have turned out if we hadn’t had Stan’s?”
Paige Diehl let out an excited giggle Tuesday at her makeshift desk in the kitchen as she used markers to color and count scoops of ice cream on a worksheet.
“Mommy, I like math,” the kindergartner said.
“Vanilla ice cream is yummy. What flavor should I do for this one?” she asked her mother, Bethany, as she pointed to another scoop.
Paige settled on cherry and reached for a red marker. Down the hall, her sister, Abigail, studied for a math test in her bedroom.
The Diehls are learning this year at the Janesville School District’s online school, ARISE Virtual Academy, along with other students and families who shifted to online learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
The online school’s enrollment has exploded from 243 students last year to 3,097 full-time students and an additional 786 hybrid students this fall.
Abigail is a freshman who takes classes at Parker High School in the morning and returns home for afternoon classes at ARISE.
Bethany and Abigail say the online learning curve has been steep.
“For me, it hasn’t been great with the transition from middle school to high school and being online. It’s been challenging, and I haven’t been getting the best grades,” Abigail said.
“I thought there would be more teacher involvement, and if I need help I need to set up a meeting online just to get an answer to a question. You can send an email, but you can get a response in 30 minutes or it could be a couple hours,” she said.
But ARISE has been a great fit for Katarina Dries, a sophomore at Craig High School who is also learning via the hybrid model.
Dries is taking classes not offered at ARISE at Craig, such as AP physics, Chinese 4, symphony orchestra and AP calculus.
She said a lot of her friends and classmates tell her that they have a hard time learning online because they struggle to stay motivated.
“For me, though, I really like being online. It’s just easy for me,” she said. “There’s no time between classes that I have to pass from one class to the other. I can just go straight, click the tab, go right there; it’s just a lot more efficient for me. I can learn well online because I’m a visual learner, and I know that I can just read and then I can retain that information.”
Dries said she likes the flexible schedule at the online school.
“The main thing is that I can work ahead and set my own pace. I don’t have to worry about the school having the pace set with other kids, and I can adjust it to my needs.”
In the Diehl home, learning at ARISE has been more complicated because Paige needs her mother’s help with her kindergarten activities.
Bethany took a picture of her youngest daughter’s math assignment Tuesday, emailed it to Paige’s school email and placed the photo in Google Drive before submitting the photo to Paige’s teacher.
At 5, Paige can’t read yet and is still learning how to use a computer. Bethany works evenings, so she is around to help with school. If she worked during the day, Bethany said she doubts that ARISE would work for her family.
“So far, I haven’t really found anything that is working well,” Bethany said. “We thought it was going to be totally different than what it is. I feel like there is no teacher involvement.”
The Diehl family thought more teacher video lectures and hands-on learning would be offered at ARISE instead of computer-generated work.
“I really thought that it was going to be a little bit more. I mean, I went into it knowing that I was going to need to be a facilitator and that I was going to need to help her. I did not realize I was going to be the teacher in my mind. That is what I feel like I am. I am the teacher,” Bethany said.
She said she sometimes worries whether Paige is receiving the same level of education that her peers get in person.
“Is doing it this way, where I’m just regurgitating what is on the screen to her, is she really having an understanding?” Bethany asked. “Next year, when I send her to school, because that is my goal, is she going to be at the same level as the other kids?”
Students have optional Google Meets with their teachers each morning, but contact is up to the students for the rest of the day. If Katarina or Abigail need help, they must set up a virtual meeting or send questions via email.
For the Diehls, that hasn’t been a smooth process. Bethany said she didn’t know Abigail was struggling until the first weekly report. She wishes teachers would have reached out when they saw Abigail having trouble, but she noted they have been helpful when her daughter reaches out to them.
When students log in, they can see assignments due for that day and the entire semester. Both families’ students say they have enjoyed being able to work ahead in some classes so they can focus more attention on others.
“It’s been really nice. I really like being able to set my own schedule and just being able to work when I want,” Katarina said.
Both families experienced early issues.
The Dries family still didn’t have access to the online textbooks for Advanced Placement courses this week, but teachers are working around that issue. Katarina wishes she could interact with her classmates at ARISE, but being at school part time alleviates some of that concern.
The Diehls have seen quirks with the learning platform. During a history lesson, one of Abigail’s teachers told her that her answer was correct but the system wanted it to be framed in a different way, so it was wrong.
During a kindergarten reading lesson, Paige was asked to pick a word that started with the letter “S.” Two words started with “S,” so she picked one of them, but the system had the other word as the correct answer. Despite picking a word that started with “S,” Paige got the answer wrong.
Shannon Concord has three elementary students enrolled at ARISE. Her middle school-age daughter has severe cerebral palsy and is in the district’s Homebound Learning program, in which specialists and teachers educate students with health challenges at home.
That program is being conducted virtually this year.
“This year, Mom is being the extension of our kiddos’ team ... following through with their direction during virtual therapy times in particular, being their hands,” Concord wrote in an email. “The workload will take some adjusting to as all is being done at home with Mom filling in for each therapist/teacher role.”
The support staffers for Concord’s daughter, including a physical therapist and assistive technology specialist, have worked with the family before and have made the transition to online school easier for her daughter, she said.
“As odd as things are right now, delving into virtual learning and therapies, and as overwhelming as things could be, we are fortunate to have an incredibly knowledgeable supportive team working with us,” Concord wrote.
Concord said her kids have also experienced system quirks with grading and getting district answers to questions or issues, but teachers have been helpful.
Despite their early concerns and struggles to manage the new learning model, the families say they plan to stay at the virtual school.
Katarina said she would continue to take hybrid classes if she has that option.
“I really like the schedule that I have right now,” she said. “And even though the AP classes are pretty hard online, like the AP U.S. History class—that’s pretty hard—but my teacher is really nice. The teachers all work with me, and they always keep me updated and send emails every day.”
Katarina’s mother, Alenka, acknowledged that ARISE is not for everybody. The virtual school works best for those who are “intrinsically motivated,” she said.
She said the school has been a blessing for her daughter in the past and this fall, and she hopes others will give it a chance.
“We’re just on the journey, and I have no complaints because I understand that they’re (new teachers) learning, too, and I think people just have to chill,” she said. “There will be mistakes made on each part.”
Bethany said her family will continue to adapt. She said she appreciates that help is there when needed.
“It is challenging, but it is something that every day we learn something a little bit more to deal with and how to adapt it to our family’s needs. We just have to keep learning.”
Lawrence Ernest Brooks Jr.
Thomas Robert Burman
Betty J. Chrisinger
Debra Lynn Cox
Robert C. Giese
Rocky S. Piccione
Russell Gene Sharp
Janesville police are meeting with school officials to take a “deep dive” into how they can connect children with services without involving the juvenile justice system, Chief Dave Moore said Thursday.
A Gazette analysis of school and police data published June 26 showed that Black kids in Janesville public schools face steep racial disparities in enforcement. They have been cited, arrested and referred to juvenile authorities at a rate that is more than seven times higher than the rates for other races.
At the July meeting of Rock County’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, members were tasked with moving beyond the data and coming up with goals for their individual agencies to reduce racial disparities.
Law enforcement leaders, lawyers and human services officials returned to their next meeting held virtually Thursday afternoon and shared their goals, which include body cameras and recruitment.
But the juvenile justice system was an area of focus for some of the speakers.
Black students made up 6.2% of the student population within Janesville public schools, but Black kids were one-third of all citations, arrests and referrals from the previous two school years, The Gazette analysis showed.
“My sense is that to get some of the services, we use a referral to get there,” Moore said Thursday. “I’ve asked them to take a hard look at how we can get these services without a referral to juvenile justice.”
Faun Moses, who heads the local state public defender’s office, said two of her office’s attorneys who handle juvenile cases meet quarterly with other stakeholders. There have been discussions about the formation of a task force or committee to examine racial disparities.
She also said her office is working on sharing information, such as “know your rights” materials, in schools. But those actions are in the early stages.
Moses also said her office would be willing to share the implicit bias training her office has with other agencies.
Ryan Trautsch, of the Rock County Human Services Department, said his staff has quarterly conversations about cultural competency, how their decisions affect racial disparities and other matters on this topic.
For example, he said they are examining if lower-risk people can have shorter periods of supervision instead of the more traditional periods such as six, nine or 12 months.
Juvenile matters did not come up when Sheriff Troy Knudson spoke Thursday.
Instead, he said his office will find out in October if they will get a grant that would cover half the costs of acquiring body cameras. If they are successful in getting the grant, he said “it sounds like things are already in place to push that forward through the county board.”
They might also need to try and get the body cameras if they do not get the grant, he added.
He also said in the past the sheriff’s office has had “very rigid, routine” ways to find new recruits. He said they will take a look at their advertising practices.
District Attorney David O’Leary said in the next year his office will have about five new attorneys, and he said training on matters of race would be a “high priority” for those new prosecutors and current ones, too.
He also wants prosecutors to participate in community listening sessions, but COVID-19 has “kind of shot that down.” But it could come together in the future.
At a meeting Thursday, criminal justice officials agreed that more data can help reduce racial disparities. But some warned against getting stuck in an endless cycle of looking for more numbers.
Marc Perry, executive director of Community Action of Rock and Walworth Counties, said he was encouraged by what he heard Thursday because the underlying understanding was that everyone acknowledged the data on disparities is real.
“I feel like maybe we’ve turned a corner,” he said.
Steve Howland, another council member, said he hoped everyone will work to implement their goals instead of just providing “lip service.”
Perry wanted to keep getting regular updates at later council meetings.
“You can count on it,” said Kelly Mattingly, a defense attorney who chairs the council.
The council next meets at 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15.