Nobody seemed to have any tangible remnants from any of Peter Litzau's favorite Milwaukee haunts. So, he decided to make his own.
A Milwaukee native in his mid-40s who lives in Kentucky, Peter Litzau has found himself yearning for the Cream City of his youth.
He grew up on the East Side on Shepard Avenue. Almost every day he would find himself at Riegelman’s Downer Pharmacy, buying candy or a malt (or both). Or he’d end up at Hayek’s Pharmacy in Shorewood, doing the same.
“Hayek’s Pharmacy — it was like a family member,” he recalls.
Being away from the city he loves, Litzau wanted something more permanent to commemorate the locales that had been constant presences in his formative years. In spring, he started designing t-shirts and sharing them on RememberTheTees.com, a website selling (for $26 apiece) Milwaukee-institution-inspired apparel.
“It was like an epiphany. It opens up all the memories,” he says of the nearly two-dozen shirts he’s designed thus far. “Everybody goes down memory lane … We’re constantly trying to think about different places that we can remember.”
We’ve picked a few of our favorite tees from Litzau’s site. If one sticks out to you — or you want to request a design — visit rememberthetees.com/pages/get-in-touch to let Litzau know your thoughts.
The story behind this one is kind of cute. A teenager messaged RememberTheTees.com, wondering if Litzau could make an Atwater Beach shirt commemorating the iconic cable cars: Able Cable and Twinkle Tow. The teen’s father had loved riding them as a kid, but they haven’t been operational since the ’70s. Even if the soon-to-be-operational streetcar soothes some of that longing for rail-based transport, this tee will let cable car devotees display their love.
“We not only love the t-shirts, but it’s great to see other people who love the t-shirts,” Litzau says.
Litzau went to Rufus King High School, but a number of his friends attended Messmer. Many of them frequented Pig ‘n Whistle, a restaurant on Capital Drive in Shorewood that perfectly captured the old-school, Americana vibe with offerings like “Tasty sandwiches, delicious sundaes, tempting sodas.” We bet Richie Cunningham, Chachi and Fonzie would’ve liked the joint.
“We’re capturing real cultural institutions that really made an impact,” Litzau says. “That’s what we based [Remember the Tees] on.”
Love Rock wasn’t so much a rock as it was a concrete slab, used to protect a pipe out on Lake Michigan. For many years, you could see it from Bradford Beach.
It wasn’t all that notable until the 1960s when somebody painted the word “LOVE” in big letters on its side, a graffiti job usually attributed to hippie culture.
After about 20 years of spreading the message of “LOVE,” the Love Rock was destroyed by Milwaukee Water Works — the pipe it protected hadn’t been used much since before World War II and the concrete slab no longer had a functional purpose.
Love Rock has since been commemorated as a lager from Milwaukee Brewing Co. and a no-longer-served sandwich from Alterra (now Colectivo Coffee). And now, a t-shirt.
Modern Milwaukeeans know 1901 E. North Ave. as Beans & Barley, but those who were around from the 1940s through 1977 probably remember Frenchy’s. The uncreatively named French restaurant specialized in exotic meats you probably can’t get anymore (it literally served LION) and had an iconic logo of a big-haired, bigger-skirted waitress serving a platter. That very logo is featured in Litzau’s tee.
New meets old with this one.
Milwaukee got its first gay bar (and it’s still in operation — This Is It!) in 1978, and now PrideFest Milwaukee is a yearly staple at Henry Meier Festival Park. In this design, the building covered in the rainbow of gay pride colors is Milwaukee City Hall, which was Milwaukee’s tallest building from 1893-1973 and the tallest (habitable) building on the planet until 1899 thanks to its 353-foot tower.
Litzau called the two City Hall-inspired shirts “a tribute to what is the true icon of Milwaukee.”
Other designs include an ode to Brass’ Hi-fi Lounge, a second City Hall tee, a rustic Century Hall shirt and a whole bunch of others. Litzau tries to upload 2-3 new shirts to the site each month and will often announce new designs on the Old Milwaukee Facebook group — unrelated to the beer.
All images courtesy of RememberTheTees.com and Peter Litzau.