Call it “the siren,” “the whistle” or that “loud noise”; it’s staying.
Residents of Bangor, Wis., voted Tuesday to keep sounding the village siren four times a day — at 7 a.m., noon, 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. About 85 percent of the 273 voters elected to continue blasts, ending months of debate about the tradition.
“I’m ready to hit the table with the gavel at the next meeting and declare the whistle issue dead,” said Gary Althoff, the village president. “Done.”
For decades, the wail told workers at the old Hussa Brewery and nearby businesses that it was time to wake, eat lunch and head home. Long after those businesses closed, the siren remained as a reminder of that time. A fourth siren marked curfew.
After a few residents complained about the “loud noise,” the village of 1,470 shut off the siren last fall for what was meant to be a 90-day trial. But far more people lamented the silence: The experiment lasted just nine days.
Lorraine Fiet, a lifelong resident, grew up with the whistle and considers it an important tradition. The 91-year-old remembers the 10 p.m. blast as far back as the 1930s, when it announced curfew. She now appreciates the morning siren: “I know that it’s time to get going.”
Leading up to this week’s referendum, Fiet and other long-timers reminded residents that the question’s wording was funny. If you wanted to silence the siren, vote “yes” to “permanently end the nonemergent whistle blowing.” But to keep the siren, vote “no.” “We had to be careful,” she said.
As the village leader, Althoff regularly heard from residents on the street and at happy hour that they appreciated the tradition.
“Now, we can move on to actual issues that probably …” he said, trailing off, then changing his mind. “I can’t say they matter more to people, because apparently this matters to people a lot.”