Herbert Cassius Johnson, best know around town as "Herbie" was born November 19,1915 to John E. and Eva Johnson. He had an older sister, Estelle Marguerite Johnson, born, Nov. 7, 1912. His mother Eva died in 1921.
Herb was born prematurely and weighed only 5 pounds. He suffered from rickets as a child and did not walk until he was about 4 years old. He is said to have been rather sickly as a child, also suffering from scarlet fever.
Being the son of a successful Marshfield business man, Herbert grew up in relative financial security. At age 16 he bought his first ear, a used yellow Maxwell convertible. His love of big cars was evident throughout his life, driving Studebakers, Buicks and Pontiacs. One of his favorite cars was a Pontiac, purchased from Berg Auto in the early '70's. It was a 2 door Gran Prix but after owning it for almost a year, there was a knock on the door and 2 FBI men asked for the car. It seems that it was a stolen vehicle from Michigan that the thieves had sold through auction to an unsuspecting Berg. While the car was recovered for its rightful owners, it was replaced by Berg with a similar model at no cost.
Herb played the trumpet in the high school band and later with 135th Medical Regiment Band. He would also travel to Waupaca during the summer end was paid to play in the Waupaca Civic Band on weekends, staying either with his Aunt Lottie or Mattie, and hanging out at the Indian Crossing Casino on his time off. He told the story about coming back late Sunday nights and his father John calling up to his room very early on Monday mornings with “Herb - ya damn fool - wake up.”
Throughout his life, Herb was a “night owl.” He would stay up late, often reading, take naps during the day and not function well until several cups of coffee were consumed.
Had the sociological category of teenager been recognized at the time, Herb was a teenager in the modern sense of the word. Many stories of practical jokes and hi jinks have been told to his children by friends and high school acquaintances, but in short he was, both as a youth as well as an adult, a hale and hardy, well met fellow. One of the stories, told by life-long friend Ernie Collier was the night Herb and his friends were driving around. Spotting a manure spreader, they broke into a barn, harnessed a team of horses, drove the spreader to the edge of Arpin, engaged the gears and spooked the horses. Herb also talked about spending time at the Upham Mansion with Bill Upham Jr., playing pool and drinking beer, and on one or more occasions, sleeping on the pool table. When asked to confirm the story Bill Upham would only commented that "Arbutts" (Herb's nickname in High school) liked a "good time."
A story heard from several of Herb's friends :was the time he was at Camp Douglas with the 135th Band. Cruising the local town (unknown) he spotted a likely bar across the railroad tracks and made a sharp turn to across the tracks, blowing all four of his tires. Another car story was while on a fishing trip his friends jumped out of the car as it approached a lake, Herb jumped out also and the car, still in gear with motor running lumbered into the lake. They were able to get the car out and dry it off enough to run. He drove home in it with the windows open and then took all of the upholstery and rugs out in an attempt to dry it on the driveway, however the musty smell never left the car.
He went to Milwaukee with his cousin Don to be the best man at the wedding of Don and Floris Johnson. Floris worked at the time at the Ambassador Hotel on Wisconsin Ave. As a present, the hotel management provided the honeymooners with a free room. After a dinner Don and Floris went back to the hotel and after several hours, Herb went to the hotel and made as he was the house detective, knocking at the door which was answered be a highly embarrassed Don in his trousers and an equally embarrassed Floris covered only in a sheet. Later when Don and Floris' son Pat was married, some of the bothers and friends filled all of the sinks, tubs and toilets in the house with Jell-O. Floris was convinced that Herbie had put them up to it.
Herbert had sufficient prior service time in the 135th Medical Regiment to be excused from the 1940 call-up of the band, however he was drafted March 3, 1945, He trained at Ft. Sill OK, as a Radio-Artilleryman, Battery 34, 8th Regiment, Field Artillery Replacement Training Center. After basic training he had a short furlough and returned to Marshfield. Daughter Barb took him to her first grade class for "show and tell." After his leave, he went to Oregon to await transport to be in the occupation forces of Japan. He was ordered however to Fort Ord, CA. On his way he stopped at Ft. Lewis in Seattle WA. (Ft. Lawton was built in the early 1900’s by Herb’s 1st cousin, once removed – Capt. William Robinson, Jr.). While in Seattle he used his Elks membership to go to that club and there he won the "bloodstone" ring he wore the rest of his life in a poker game. At Ft. Ord he found that, although he had only been in the army less than 9 months, between the number of dependents (4 children) and prior service time he had enough points for discharge and he was discharged on his 30th birthday, Nov 19, 1945 from Ft. Ord, CA. He commented later on his service that they had stopped scraping the bottom of the barrel and were taking the barrels. He called home from Denver Thanksgiving day while the family, plus Sally & Eldor Seimers (Adele's sister and brother-in-law) who were living with Adele was having Thanksgiving dinner. Son Paul answered the phone. Herb arrived home while Adele and Barbara were vacuuming and cleaning in anticipation of his arrival. As an ironic sidenote, in anticipation of a high casualty rate, the US Army had ordered over 400,000 Purple Hearts. Because the invasion was unnecessary the medals were warehoused. Every Purple Heart awarded since the end of WWII has come from this stockpile, including the one awarded posthumously the Herb’s son, Charlie.
Herb had a love for tools and collected many of them, though it was difficult for him to use one without the risk of injury. One day while using a large drum sander in the cabinet shop of the Ebbe Co. he got the all of the fingers of both hands caught between the drum and the edge of the sander. Fortunately, a friend came looking for him just after it happened and was able to shut the machine off before any major damage was done. There were other trips to the emergency room prompted by Herb slicing his hand on a can and a broken wrist suffered when he tried to adjust a hay loader during haying season on the farm. Most earlier of the trips Herb took to the hospital was to await the birth of his children. At a time when men did not go into the delivery room, he would patiently sit in the father's room. One time, Sister Emericka, the head OB nurse came flying into the room (she was never known to walk) and grabbed him. On the way down the stairs she explained that a baby was dying and they were going to baptize it and needed sponsors. At the end of the stairs she stopped, turned and exclaimed "And Mr. Johnson, you're not even Catholic." While Herb could wait patiently for many things, patience was not his long suit. He had an explosive temper. Fortunately for all, especially his children, his temper would explode and that usually was the end of it, except often for an apology. One day he and Charlie got into an argument about Charlie's dress and hair style. Chuck was in 8th grade and wore a leather jacket and a "DA" type hair-do. Herb lost his temper and they ended up wrestling on the living room floor. Herb stopped, got up and said that he didn't think fighting was a way to solve anything, apologized for losing his temper, said it was up to Charlie what he wore and then commented that Charlie was getting too big for him to beat anyway.
Another incident involved his daughter Carol. Carol had come home from high school in tears saying that one her teacher's had told her that she was not as good a student as her older sibling. Herb went to the school and told the principle, Fr. Richard Rossiter, in no uncertain terms that he didn't compare his children and that the school shouldn't either. Years later, Fr. Rossiter told son Paul that he had never been told off and reamed out as throughly as he was on that occasion. Fr. Rossiter also said that in spite of the incident, Herb's concern and caring for his daughter gained him a greater respect in the eyes of the school.
It was Herb's custom to come home for lunch and take a nap. He would lay down with Barb and Paul on the living room couch and tell them stories about Timmy and Winnie, a set of characters he apparently made up. He'd tell the story until the children would fall asleep and then doze of himself.
Herb’s sense of humor was well known and could not be described as subtle. Among the treasures distributed from the house in 1996 was Herb’s dribble glass, fake ice cubes with flies encased in them and other such practical joke stables. The “whoopie” cushion was never found. His love of practical jokes lead him to take the family into a gag shop in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada. The family was nearing the end of a two week trip “out east.” David was about 3 and left a puddle on the floor. Grabbing Dave, Herb rushed out of the shop, guffawing that he had played a good trick on the tricksters. The incident seemed to be a trip highlight for Herb. He had a standing joke with one of the girls employed in the house as a mother’s helper. After supper the girl, Lorraine, would gather up the dishes. Herb would offer to wash the dishes after a coin flip “Heads I win, Tails, you lose.”
The house at 307 E. Third was a very large house, into which the family grew. No matter the number of children, Herb always maintained a den. It was a place he could retreat, conduct business or allow the children to use for their own retreat. The den was also a gathering spot for many of the mementos, gadgets and antiques Herb and Adele both collected.
Herb was active in the community in a variety of ways, but best known to most is their involvement in scouting. Herb served in several capacities on the scout district and council levels as District Activity chairman he developed such activities as the Klondike Derby, the Cub Scout Kite-O’Ree, Skit O’Ree and other events. Such was his fondness for naming events an “O’Ree” that became one of his several nicknames. It was a source of considerable pride that 3 of his boys, Paul, Charley and David, became Eagle Scouts. Another honor the scouts bestowed on Herb was his induction into the "Order of the Arrow." Part of the initiation involves a day of silent work. E. Richard (Dick) Paul, the field scout executive and good friend was in charge of the scout camp where Herb was inducted and did his service. The amount of time Herb would spend in the bathroom was a standing joke, not only in the family, but also amongst his friends. Dick Paul’s work assignment for Herb was for him to dig a pit for a new latrine. While Herb was busy digging, Dick was busy himself, painting a new sign naming the latrine “Johnson’s Function Junction.”
While in some projects Herb took a very public role, there were other projects in which he worked very much behind the scenes.