Things That Matter: Santa potholder
La Crosse County Historical Society

Holiday advertisements are everywhere this time of the year, but this promotional potholder shows this is nothing new.

Carl Gegenfurtner, a local restaurateur, distributed this potholder to promote his businesses during the mid-1960s. The potholder, about 5 inches square, shows Santa warming himself on an old-fashioned potbelly stove. The text reads “Warmest Greetings. Carl Gegenfurtner’s Blue Moon-Onalaska Wis. Uncle Carl’s Oaks.”

Gegenfurtner was born April 27, 1912, in La Crosse, and he owned several of the most popular restaurants and bars from the 1940s through the 1960s. Gegenfurtner was a World War II veteran, and he was active in the community as part of Onalaska American Legion Post 336, the Winona Elks Club and the Goodview Lions Club.

Gegenfurtner opened his first business, a La Crosse bar called The Mint, shortly after returning from the service in 1944. The Mint, downtown in the space Qdoba occupies today, operated from 1944 to 1955. He also owned the famous Cerise Club from 1947 to 1959. After this endeavor, he opened the original Blue Moon in Onalaska in 1957 and the renowned Oaks Supper Club in Minnesota City, Minn., in 1959. During this later era, his newspaper advertisements invited people to come and join him for dinner. He operated both of the restaurants until his death in 1967.

Useful items, such as this potholder, were a popular way to advertise a business because customers would see the brand each time they used the item.

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