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Remembering generations of lesbian history at Wisconsin's 'Old Timers Party'

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 An overhead shot of a large warehouse space with floor-to-ceiling windows on one wall and a room full of people talking to each other.
Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project

For four decades, the “Old Timers Party” united the women of Wisconsin's shuttered lesbian and women’s bars to drink and share stories at a much-anticipated annual gathering.

Before the yearly meet-up, women would frequent historic bars like Wildwood, Nite Beat, Castaways, Leaded Shade and Sugar Shack. But the party changed everything by providing a safe, welcoming, private space outside the bars that appealed to women throughout the region ... until the pandemic put an end to it in 2019.

"They came from Denver, Florida, Illinois, up north, wherever," organizer and founder Lois Ratzow said. "It was just seeing everybody once a year, whether you were 90 or 21."

Two people wearing glasses and nametags stand in front of a bar smiling at the camera with their arms around each other's shoulders.
Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project
Sharon Dixon (left) with Mary Connell

In this episode, you'll hear interviews from organizer Ratzow and Mary Connell, as well as patron Carole Pecor. Listen using the player at the top of the page, and be sure to subscribe so you don't miss our final episode of the season, plus a few bonuses we have planned.

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee