ABOVE, Princeton Historical Society President Marj Mlodzik flips through a book inside the Princeton Historical Society Museum. Left, from left, Tina and Jon Zodrow buy 50/50 raffle tickets from Karen March and Mlodzik at the Princeton Flea Market. Joe Schulz photos
by Joe Schulz
Princeton Historical Society President Marj Mlodzik isn’t your typical retiree.
Not only does she find time to make it to church every Sunday and help her historical society run a weekly 50/50 raffle at the Princeton Flea Market, but lately she’s been sharing her history with her grandchildren.
Each month they send her a question about her life, and she writes a little story about growing up.
Mlodzik’s story began in 1929, when she was born on a farm five miles north of Berlin.
As a child, Mlodzik played with dolls, and even dressed up her pets. While she had an enjoyable childhood, it wasn’t all fun and games.
“We milked cows; dairying was the principle part of our farm,” Mlodzik said.
Her mother had a big garden, where the family grew strawberries, beans, peas and corn. Mlodzik helped on the garden and tended to the chickens the family kept.
She went to school in a Berlin one-room schoolhouse that taught 1st to 8th grades.
“The nice thing about a rural school is you’re all in the same big room,” Mlodzik said. “Each class goes up to the front to do their lesson, but you can always listen to the older kids’ classes, and the stories they were talking about.”
School came easy to Mlodzik, because her mother taught her to read at an early age.
When she went to high school, Mlodzik rode the bus to school both ways and remembers getting off in Eureka some days to buy ice cream and candy.
High school was the first time Mlodzik went to school with city kids. She explained that the country kids would wear overalls and the city kids wore shirts and pants.
“We were country kids and city kids, until we all got to know each other,” Mlodzik said.
After graduation, she went to school to be a teacher.
“I just went one year because I had met my husband a couple of years before that and his parents had built a home in town,” Mlodzik. “They moved to Princeton and his mother said they wanted him to take over the farm.”
One year after leaving school, she married Mark, with who she had 12 children.
“The older ones worked with the younger ones; it wasn’t like I was raising each one of those children all by myself, all at the same time,” Mlodzik said. “They all kind of taught each other.”
Mlodzik’s children went to Catholic school and she began getting involved in fund-raisers and bake sales.
“My folks had always been involved in school and my dad was the local town clerk, so I was used to that community involvement,” Mlodzik said.
“My husband early on bowled with a group called the ‘Foresters’ and they were in charge of church picnics,” she said.
Mlodzik got more involved at church, joining the Council of Catholic Women, which raised money for the Catholic school.
She got involved with the historical society about 15 years ago, when a friend in the church choir asked her to print signs for an event because she had previously printed signs for a church picnic. Soon afterward, Mlodzik became a full-fledged member of the historical society.
Six years ago, she became president and gained the responsibility of running the society’s meetings and overseeing projects.
Princeton Historical Society President Marj Mlodzik turns a crank on a retro record player as music hums from its speakers. Joe Schulz photo
The historical society’s most recent project is converting the Doboy building into the Folklore Museum, which will feature interactive displays telling the stories of the people who watched Princeton evolve over the years.
When the project began, the historical society decided to target volunteers instead of monetary donations because the library was seeking funds.
Mlodzik also was involved with the Friends of the Library’s 50/50 raffle. When the Friends of the Library stopped holding raffles, the historical society began running the raffles to raise money for the Folklore Museum project.
Mlodzik’s passion for local history began when her father showed her the “Portrait and biographical album of Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara Counties, Wisconsin.”
“They had biographical articles on various families, and it was fascinating going through that,” Mlodzik said.
Currently, the Folklore Museum project has had more than 100 volunteers donate their time towards renovating the building.
Mlodzik added that it’s been rewarding to see so many people willing to dedicate their time to the project.
“There are a lot of people in this world who seem to live very shallow lives. I mean they live just for themselves and for their sense of satisfaction,” Mlodzik said. “But when you work with people who like what they’re doing and are interested in doing it, it’s a good feeling.”