Unknowingly, Sussex had a little part during World War II in the manufacturing of the atomic bomb, as two local businesses supplied made-to-order parts and pieces of equipment for the effort.
Just immediately after the dropping of the bombs, the Waukesha Freeman ran a little feature about the Schley brothers, Gil and Milton, who ran a little shop in what is today Paul's Service Station on the southeast corner of Maple Avenue and Main Street in Sussex.
Meanwhile, Elsie Mae Wileden (later married to Elmer Weyer of Lannon) was a graduate of the two-year Sussex High School in 1943. Then following her sophomore year at Sussex High School, she went on to complete her high school career at Waukesha High School. She was only a little older than 16 when she caught on as an office girl for the Schley brothers, a business about a block west of Elsie's lifetime home. She eventually married and had two sons, retired and moved to Sussex senior citizen housing and is in retirement at a Greenfield home on 92nd Street and Layton Avenue in Milwaukee County.
At this plant, Elsie Mae processed payroll, the office billing and company bookwork — normally a job well beyond her teen age at the time. Later on, she would do a couple decades of work at the Sussex Mills and Lawns and Garden as the company bookkeeper.
I personally worked with Elsie at Sussex Mills and over the years she told me of her youth years working for a small machinery parts maker at the 1917-built multi-use, formed concrete structure. It once sold farm machinery, Nash cars and even sold the Sussex Fire Department a firetruck during the multiple lives of the structure that is now 100 years old.
Among the businesses that evolved was the Schley Brothers machining of small parts business that took hold during WWII. According to Elsie, the company got a piece of business making small parts for more than a year to exacting specifications. The war parts were shipped to the Clinton Engineering Works company at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Then when the bomb was dropped, and a second one later that week, the Clinton Engineering Works was tied in with the secret atomic bomb efforts of WWII.
The specialized small parts were made of heat-treated metal to very exact specifications, to a very high number shipped.
As a side story, Elsie told me that in November 1944, the Gib Brothers hit upon the idea to make a quick sale product for the Greater Milwaukee Area Christmas trade, and in-and-out construction of a unique children’s coaster wagon, using some excess steel they had acquired, and using wood slats as side boards for the Christmas market. The little red Christmas wagon had a unique handle attachment, as they used what they had — it sold out quickly, and was never repeated. When Sussex started its community museum, historical society member Sonny Mehringer saw a "Sussex Wagon" at an estate sale, and eventually purchased it for $85, and today it is on display at the new Sussex Museum in the Community Building. It is believed to be one of only two that are left from the November 1944 production cycle (as some years ago someone in Maine called me about having one of them).
There was a second atomic bomb production parts business in Sussex, the Plein Manufacturing Company, headed up by John and the leader Adam. John would become a member of the Sussex Fire Company in 1932, serving until 1960 (28 years). The Plein brothers had their little fabricating business in the backyard livery stable at present day N62 W23431 Silver Spring Drive, Sussex.
During WWII, the West Allis-based Allis Chalmers got into building a secret plant off of Hawley Road, that Oak Ridge ordered them to make "super chargers" to filter out Uranium particles that were needed for the bomb. Allis Chalmers asked the Plein brothers to make a series of carts and handling equipment for the Hawley super charger plant, which they dutifully did, not knowing that they were a small part of the multi-million dollar search for and completion of the atomic energy bomb that introduced the Atomic Age, and dramatically ended WWII's war with Japan.
Today, the late John Plein in his alternate life with the Sussex Fire Company is considered one of the all-time heroes of the department in a July 24, 1951, incident.
But that is another story.