/ Letters / Minocqua’s noon whistle

Minocqua’s noon whistle

April 17, 2020

To the Editor:

Often called the noon siren, Minocqua’s familiar signal has been around since at least the 1930s. In the late 1950s it additionally served as a Civil Defense warning device.

Many people worked outdoors in the early 1900s, and relied on the noon whistle. If you couldn’t count on the sun or your watch, the noon whistle was it.

Before firefighters carried pagers, the fire department needed a way to bring them to the fire station when there was a blaze. In those times, most people lived and worked in town, so a loud whistle was the best way to get their attention.

The whistle, sounding more like a siren, still blares daily at noon in Minocqua and as a tornado warning. But the whistle has served a broader purpose, too. Years ago not everyone had a watch, so it became a public duty to help people keep track of time. Like the clock in a town square, the whistle was the town’s watch.

Another signal, exclusive to Minocqua, was “Casey’s Cannon.” Summer resident Stafford “Casey” Lambert would fire his black powder cannon around 5 p.m. every evening to signify the end of the normal workday.

Technology has bypassed the whistles and cannons. Today, clocks and watches surround us — on our computers, cell phones, in our cars.

Still, many towns still sound a whistle, siren, or horn at noon. Some people might call it a nuisance. For others, the whistle sounds a note of nostalgia. Either way, when you hear the noon whistle, you know it’s time for a break. And who could have a problem with that?

Fritz Hennig

Camden, Del.



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