Bubbler Talk

What’s got you scratching your head about Milwaukee and the region? Bubbler Talk is a series that puts your curiosity front and center.

How it works: You ask, we investigate, and together we unveil the answers.

Ask away: What have you always wanted to know about the Milwaukee area's people, places, or culture that you want WUWM to explore?

Participate in the process and submit your question below.


Milwaukee County Historical Society

On this week’s Bubbler Talk, question asker Craig Steitz wanted to know about the history of music stores in Milwaukee.

Wisconsin Historic Society

A Bubbler Talk listener was curious about Black historical sites in Milwaukee. There are many, so I chose to look at one that’s had many lives: the Jones-Hill House in the Harambee neighborhood. The building on N. Palmer St.— and its owners — played key roles in the city’s Black culture, starting in the 1950s.

In the 19th century, Wisconsin’s Territorial Legislature divided Milwaukee County into seven townships. Five of them eventually became municipalities: Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Greenfield, Franklin, and Oak Creek.

Wikimedia Commons

The 1950s are seen as a golden age for the U.S., a time when the country was prosperous and the nuclear family reigned supreme. But the nation had another nuclear obsession — a looming, existential threat that seemed imminent, if not guaranteed. 

The country was embroiled in a war unlike any it had seen before, a Cold War with the nascent Soviet Union, a superpower fighting for its place on the world stage. 

The U.S. feared a nuclear attack. One solution? Project Nike Ajax — an anti-aircraft missile system surrounding every major U.S. city.

Wikimedia Commons

Milwaukee is known for being a city of neighborhoods. From Bay View on the south side and Washington Heights to the west, each neighborhood has a story — including the Borchert Field neighborhood on the city’s north side. The neighborhood got its name from an athletic field that spanned 8th Street to the west, 7th Street to the east, Chambers to the south and Burleigh to the north. I-43 now runs through the middle of what used to be.

Taylor Jackson / stock.adobe.com

This week’s Bubbler Talk clears up some muddled history of one of our favorite drinks — the Old Fashioned. In a question from listener Lea, she asked: 

Why is Wisconsin the only place that puts soda in their Old Fashioneds?

To answer Lea’s question, I found exactly the right person: Jeanette Hurt. She’s the author of 15 books, including most recently, Wisconsin Cocktails.

Chuck Quirmbach

Today, Bubbler Talk looks at the status of mental health care in the Milwaukee area. Our question comes from listener and Milwaukee resident Scott Bollen. He often drives by the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa and notices a disparity between one modern facility and one set of older buildings.

Courtesy of Kim Wilde Corben

For the kickoff of our new season of Bubbler Talk, I thought I would tackle a question from our listener Erin Christie.

“Can you do an appreciation segment on the prevalence of basement bars in Milwaukee?”

Ah, the basement bar. Raised in the Milwaukee area, I remember them well.

Screenshot / Milwaukee County

Over the past four months, lots of systems in Wisconsin have had to adapt due to the coronavirus pandemic. That includes the state court system, which was forced to halt jury trials and move most other business online.

Before the shutdown, lots of people had never heard of Zoom. Now, the video conferencing platform has become a part of our daily lives — including for some court hearings. They’re being held as Zoom meetings, which are broadcast live on YouTube.

Lakshmiprasad/Adobe Stock

Health officials say it’s possible we won’t see a vaccine or cure for the coronavirus for awhile. So in the meantime, they’re recommending testing and contact tracing as ways to help control the spread of the infectious disease.

Contact tracing is the process of informing people that they may need to self-isolate or get tested because they’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive for the coronavirus.

Jamie Taylor / Courtesy of Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer rose to infamy after human remains were found dismembered and preserved in his Milwaukee apartment. He murdered at least 16 people in Milwaukee. Fourteen were people of color and many of them had been part of the city’s gay community.

A Bubbler Talk listener wanted to know how much harm Jeffrey Dahmer’s crimes caused Milwaukee’s gay community. But to understand Dahmer’s impact, we first need to look at what life was like for LGBTQ Milwaukeeans in the 1980s.

Chuck Quirmbach

How many people in Wisconsin have survived a COVID-19 diagnosis?

That’s the Bubbler Talk question listener Gene Kelber, of Shorewood, sent our way. He says he and his wife are in a high-risk age group for the disease.

"We're both over 70 and we wondered how this is going to impact our life and relationship with our friends,  our children, and our grandchildren who live in Shorewood,” Kelber says.

Angelina Mosher Salazar & Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM

COVID-19 has disrupted many parts of our lives, but it’s also affecting us in death. For Bubbler Talk, WUWM investigated the toll the pandemic has taken on one of Milwaukee’s most vulnerable populations: the elderly.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic began to spread widely in America, doctors and public health authorities noticed that hospitals were disproportionately treating black patients for the virus. As local officials began to track cases, a national trend emerged: not only were black Americans more likely to contract the virus, they were also more likely to die.

Susan Bence

We’re living in an era when more people need a helping hand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We received several Bubbler Talk questions wondering how people needing help during the coronavirus pandemic can find resources. So, we spoke with three groups that are supporting people in the Milwaukee area — now and after the pandemic.

>>Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

Hunger Task Force

Julian Hayda

WUWM reporters and producers have been working hard covering how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting southeastern Wisconsin. We received a Bubbler Talk question about how WUWM staff are still bringing you the news while working from home. So, we thought we'd share how we're making it all happen.

>>Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

Courtesy of John Berges and Erica Young

School closures triggered by the coronavirus are especially hard on students with disabilities and their families. These students often get one-on-one help at school, along with services like speech and physical therapy. In March, students and families suddenly lost all of that support. 

“Our new normal is barely coping,” said John Berges, whose son Theo is a special needs student at Shorewood High School. Berges sent WUWM a voice memo describing his family’s experience. 

Alesandra Tejeda

At the Milwaukee County House of Correction in Franklin, 94 inmates have COVID-19 as of Thursday – out of an on-site population of about 600. There are three cases at the jail in downtown Milwaukee. To help prevent the coronavirus from spreading among people incarcerated, some key players are trying to limit the number of people in custody. 

Steffaville / Wikimedia Commons

Updated at 1:03 p.m. CT  

According to Gov. Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s safer-at-home orders are intended to protect “vulnerable communities.” Many vulnerable populations fall directly under the state’s care, like public school students, people who receive social welfare, and much of the elderly population. Perhaps one of the most vulnerable communities, though, is the state’s prison population. 

Teran Powell / WUWM

People across the globe have been showing support for health care workers on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19. That includes at the Aurora Medical Center in Summit, where parade of fire engines and law enforcement vehicles blared their sirens in salute as hospital workers watched and waved from the lawn.

Angelov / stock.adobe.com

For Bubbler Talk, Diane from West Allis asked us how she should handle food deliveries to her door during the COVID-19 pandemic. Can the coronavirus be on those items, and if so, what’s the best way to wipe them down? Diane resides in independent living and says the pandemic has sparked fear in her.

“The virus thing yes, has scared me to death because of my underlying chronic lung condition, which is under the umbrella of COPD,” she says.

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Although conversations about the coronavirus are really inescapable, there are still a lot of misperceptions and questions about the disease. For Bubbler Talk, we've been asking listeners what they want to know about the disease and how it's spread.

Dr. Joyce Sanchez is an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin who specializes in infectious diseases. She is here to help answer some of your coronavirus questions: 

Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM

For this Bubbler Talk, we look into health care services for non-COVID-19 patients. A listener reached out to WUWM to tell us her health care provider had canceled her surgery, leaving her in pain.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association and individual health care outlets have talked about delaying elective or non-essential surgery to save resources for patients with the coronavirus. Medical groups say they don’t make the decision lightly, and it’s based on a team review of patients.

Audrey Nowakowski / WUWM

Updated on April 28:

Gov. Tony Evers announced that 34 Wisconsin state parks, forests and recreational areas will reopen on May 1.

The parks will open with new conditions designed to minimize overcrowding. Bathrooms, towers, shelters, playgrounds, nature centers, headquarters, contact stations and concession buildings will all remain closed. Camp sites will remain closed until May 26.

For Kids And Teens, The Coronavirus Means No Sleepovers

Mar 27, 2020
Michelle Maternowski / WUWM

For this week's Bubbler Talk, we answer a question from a mom of two teen kids. She wanted to know if she could send her kids to their friends’ houses, including for sleepovers. Her take was no, but friends and family members thought it could be fine.

So did her kids, although to them she may have sounded like a character from the Peanuts comic strip.

The mom asked us to investigate. Turns out, she was right.

Chuck Quirmbach

For the latest Bubbler Talk, we respond to a listener question about the city of Milwaukee's plans in the event of a widespread, local outbreak of COVID-19. That's the disease caused by the coronavirus, which has now killed more than a dozen people in the U.S. and more than 3,000 worldwide.

The Bath Tiles Of Milwaukee's History

Feb 28, 2020
Milwaukee Athletic Club

A listener wondered if it was true that there were underground baths in Milwaukee where powerful men once met in secret to do powerful things.

To answer this Bubbler Talk question, Bonnie North met up with OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo, who tends to know this stuff, and Eric Nordeen, of the Wells Building, to find out.

Michelle Maternowski

You’ve probably driven by The Domes many times and even visited them. Whether you love them or hate them, their future’s been hotly debated — should Milwaukee County restore or destroy them? To have a better understanding of their future, let’s take a look at their past.

Pat Faherty is fond of The Domes, officially called The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, but has one lingering question. So, Pat and reached out to Bubbler Talk:

Lauren Sigfusson

Heading into the library is a dazzling form of adventure. And with nearly 6 million books in circulation in the Milwaukee County Federated Library System, there are a lot of places to go and people to read about. 

For your browsing pleasure, our latest Bubbler Talk aims to find out the most sought-after books in the Milwaukee area. 

Steve Weinstein, our questioner, wonders: 

"What is the most checked out item from the Milwaukee Federated Library system? ... 

Chuck Quirmbach

On Tuesday night, the Waukesha Common Council may decide whether to OK tearing down a key part of the last intact resort from Waukesha’s springs era. It’s a controversial proposal. But before we get into that, let's share the story of how Waukesha became known as a 'Spring City.'

READ: Former Hotel From Waukesha's Springs Era Survives Demolition Request