Hey! Lauren here...
Growing up, when my mom was out of town, my dad would treat us kids to a special dinner. Specifically, the Menomonee Falls McDonald’s Playplace (comeon’, didn’t every kid play in the ballpit?) I remember the drive took us past the “iconic towers” along the freeway (I-41/45 and Good Hope Rd). I vaguely remember dad telling us about how his mom, Grandma Ditscheit (Gross), grew up in this area before the freeway was put in. Stories like this would slide into conversation through the years as we drove past this same spot.
Later on, I’d come to learn that Great Grandpa / Grandma Gross originally had a vegetable farm on the Northeast Corner of 107th and Good Hope, now the home of those towers we drove by. This was the original “Happy Day Farm”, which makes us the fourth-generation in farming.
Growing up and hearing that farming was a part of our family’s history was confusing. My whole world as a kid was our suburban schools, parks, friends, bike rides to get ice cream and running around the neighborhood. How did we find ourselves in the City, while there’s this completely different world that us kids had not experienced? There was this desire even back then to know more, which brings me to the history. Below is the story of Happy Day Farmhaus, as shared by my dad.
My dad’s grandparents, William and Julia Gross had a family of 12 children (9 boys, 3 girls), and lived on a farm in the Fussville township (which was later incorporated into the Falls). Johann Henry Fuss and other German immigrants of the Trier and Cologne regions of Germany founded Fussville in the mid-1840s. This settlement was at the intersection of Appleton Avenue and Good Hope Road and included businesses, crafts, residences and St. Anthony Catholic Church.
The family story has it that a tractor gave birth to the name. One day my dad’s Uncle Lawrence came home to find that his dad had bought a tractor. He was so excited that they finally got a tractor, meaning they didn’t have to use plow horses anymore, that he yelled it’s a “Happy Day” and painted a smiley face on the barn. And soon, throughout the community they were known as the “Happy Day Farm”, because of that smiley face.
As time went on, my dad’s Uncles carried on the family farm. Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Marcella grew vegetables such as potatoes, corn, tomatoes and musk melon on Maple Road in Menomonee Falls. They sold on stand on Appleton Ave and Pilgrim and Town Line Road. His Uncle Eugene and Aunt Dorothy went into the dairy business, buying a farm in Pewaukee. My dad’s brothers would visit their Uncle Eugene, spending their time playing in the hayloft, carving their initials into barnwood and collecting arrowheads.
The sign still standing at the old location in Menomonee Falls
When Bryan and I decided while still living out West that starting a farm was our big end-game, we knew Wisconsin would be the location. With family and friends much closer by, we wanted to start a new tradition for our present-day family, knowing full well there’s a history to this practice that we’re jumping into.
Now, I have a stronger understanding of why my dad’s phone voicemail signed off with “Have a Happy Day”. And we hope that our little vegetable farmhaus, also located on a Maple Road and just a stones throw from the Menomonee Falls location, can live up to the history of farming in the community, but of course with a new twist!
The new sign on the corner of Maple Rd. and Rockfield Rd. in Germantown.