Friends from lemonade stand Gazette photo reunite after 60 years
JANESVILLE George “Whatson” Whiteside knows you sometimes have to write off a person, knowing you’ll never see him again.
Whiteside thought that was the case with one of his childhood best friends, John Wilcox, who moved away when the boys were in sixth grade.
Wilcox, Whiteside and Charles Touton were neighbors and best friends growing up in Janesville in the 1940s. Their families lived on the same block between Jackman Street and St. Lawrence Avenue.
Wilcox said the three boys were inseparable growing up and described them as the three musketeers. Touton used a different word: the three terrors.
Wilcox’s family moved to Spokane, Wash. Except for a brief visit by Touton the following year, he had no contact with his two friends for 50 years.
Whiteside and Touton stayed close even after Whiteside moved away from Janesville and were best men each other’s weddings.
The three men look back fondly at their boyhood and remember the good old days when they played hooky from school in the ravine near their houses, riding around in their homemade soapbox derby car and talking to each other with string and tin cans that ran to each other’s bedrooms.
Other than the warm memories, the trio also had something else to remember each other by: a photo that ran in The Janesville Daily Gazette in August 1948 of the boys selling lemonade on the street in front of Wilcox’s grandmother’s house.
All three still have a copy of the photo 63 years later.
“I’ve kept it in a frame on my desk ever since I had a desk,” Wilcox said.
Even though Whiteside thought he had lost touch with Wilcox forever, he didn’t give up looking for his old friend. About 10 years ago, Whiteside went online and began searching through phonebooks on the West Coast, the last place he knew Wilcox had been. He began calling every Wilcox he found.
After a dozen misfires, Whiteside found who he had been looking for.
“I got a call from Whiteside, and he said he was looking for the John Wilcox who lived in Janesville. I said, ‘Well you just found him,’” Wilcox said.
Whiteside said he melted when he realized he had found the right John Wilcox.
The three men exchanged emails and messages for the next 10 years, and last year Whiteside had the idea to bring them back to Janesville to recreate the photo they all had kept for so many years.
Wilcox, who lives in Seattle, and Touton, who lives in Fort Myers, Fla., flew to Oshkosh and stayed at Whitehouse’s home Thursday night. The men Friday drove to Janesville to visit their hometown and to set up the lemonade stand Whiteside had built.
“It’s been 60 years since I was here,” Wilcox said. “I’ve been tearing up at every corner.”
The men visited their old elementary school, stopped by the Rotary Gardens and set up the lemonade stand on Jackman Street, where it stood 63 years ago. One women passing by asked the three if they were a little too old to be selling lemonade.
As the three men stood near their old homes laughing and reminiscing, it was easy to picture them as boys racing down the street in their soapbox racer. As they told stories about old pranks and neighbors, they said it took them only a few minutes together to slip back as if no time had passed.
Touton, who described the trip as the “Great Lemonade Stand Reunion Adventure,” laughed and said all he wanted to do was sell enough lemonade to pay for the trip.
The three men planned on going out to eat at the Janesville Country Club on Friday night and stopping by an old farm in Delavan, where Touton and Whiteside attended a summer camp.
Even after so many years, Whiteside said, the three share a bond that is hard to explain. It was their bond and a little luck that helped Whiteside find his lost childhood friend.
“It’s a grown up tearjerker,” Whiteside said.
Charles P. Touton was born Jan. 15, 1939, in Chicago. He was adopted by a family and moved to Janesville when he was 4 weeks old. He graduated from high school and went to school at UW-Madison. He finished his college career at Milton College with bachelor’s degrees in English and business.
He worked for his family’s ice cream business, Shurtless Ice Cream, until the company merged with another in 1969. Touton then moved to Fort Myers, Fla., his current address, where he worked as a charter sailboat captain, in the food service industry, and at a preschool. He now is retired and volunteers with children in the foster care system.
He was married in 1961 to Linda Touton. They have three children—Charles “Chet” Touton III, Ruth Anne Azvedo and Bob Touton—and five grandchildren.
George 'Whatson' Whiteside
George “Whatson” Whiteside was born Feb. 24, 1939, in Chicago. His family moved to Janesville when he was 1 year old. His father was a sales executive with Parker Pen in Janesville. Whiteside graduated from high school in 1958 and moved to Brooklyn, N.Y.
He made a living in Brooklyn working at an antique and theatrical props store before moving to Florida. While in Florida, Whiteside met his wife, Gail, and they married in 1962. Whiteside worked as a sales manager for an airline in Florida. He also spent some time working in the tourism industry in Tennessee before returning to Wisconsin in 1968.
Whiteside moved to Oshkosh, where he now lives, and worked for Air Wisconsin for more than 20 years. He currently works for Bergstrom Auto.
Whiteside has three children—Debra Whiteside-Engle, Michael Whiteside and James Whiteside—four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
John Wilcox was born Mar. 20, 1939, in Janesville. His family moved to Spokane, Wash., in 1951. He graduated from high school in Spokane and attended the University of Washington. He received a bachelor’s degree in history.
Wilcox served two years as an Army first lieutenant, working in military intelligence in Little Rock, Ark. He moved to Seattle, his current residence, where he worked for Author Young and Company management services. He started his own company and merged it with a larger firm called Howard Johnson and Company. He retired in 1991 and has stayed active by writing and volunteering in the community and at the University of Washington.
Wilcox is married to Kathline Wilcox. The two have four children—T.J. Wilcox, Betsy Moskowitzk, Christopher Wilcox and Noah Wilcox—and five grandchildren.