Madison Magazine

Wisconsin's Real-Life Scrooge

Because we can't all love winter.

While there is much to admire in the die-hards who embrace Wisconsin's snow and cold, the state was also once home to a man who refused to get out of bed in the winter.

Instead, Arthur Gehrke hibernated. Gehrke, who died in 1942, lived in Watertown and owned a tavern called the Turkey Roost. "Turkey" was Gehrke's nickname.

Gehrke suffered from some physical ailments that worsened in cold weather, so for several decades he spent November through March in the second-floor apartment above the bar, mostly underneath the covers. His wife ran the tavern and sent up food to him on a dumbwaiter.

A 1935 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel feature story on Gehrke went worldwide on the news wires, and suddenly he was famous. The Times of London called. People traveled to Watertown to have a photo taken with him.

When Gehrke's wife died, Time magazine reported the following year that Turkey Gehrke worked behind the bar at his tavern for the first winter in more than two decades. The next year, he hired a manager.

Time also provided a nice obituary when Gehrke died a few years later. The magazine reprinted a bit of his wisdom: "If more folks went to bed all winter, there wouldn't be so much trouble and confusion in the world." 

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