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Meinhardt Raabe

1915 – 2010

 

As coroner, I must aver

I thoroughly examined her.

And she’s not only merely dead,

She’s really most sincerely dead.

 

[Confirmation that the Wicked Witch of the East was dead,

1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.”]

 

Parents Henry and Eleonora Raabe (pronounced Robby); sister Marion [Zieglemann]

 

Born on Sept. 2, 1915, in Watertown.  Growing up on his family farm outside of Watertown, town of Farmington, Raabe grew to the height of only 4-feet-7 inches.

 

Died April 9th in Orange Park, Fla., at 94, at the Penney Retirement Community in Penney Farms, Fla., where Mr. Raabe had lived since 1986.

 

At the time of his death Mr. Raabe was one of a handful of surviving Munchkins from the film.

 

After graduating from Johnson Creek High School Raabe went to the former Northwestern College in Watertown for four years.  He paid for his first year of college by selling the rabbits and ducks he and his sister had raised.  After that he spent his summers working at the Chicago World's Fair Midget City.  After Northwestern he went on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he graduated with an accounting degree.

 

With his ability to speak German he found a job at Oscar Mayer in Madison.  He soon heard that MGM Studios was making a movie starring Judy Garland and was looking for lots of little people to play roles in the film.

 

After being featured for all of 13 seconds in the classic 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” Raabe came back to Wisconsin and for more than 30 years worked as "Little Oscar" a marketing representative for Oscar Mayer.  He traveled the country in the Weinermobile selling Oscar Mayer products and during one of his travels he met his wife Marie, another little person.

 

Raabe became a member of the Civil Air Patrol.  After many trials and tribulations he received his pilot's license and worked as a ground instructor during the war teaching navigation and meteorology to young students.  During that time he said he flew every kind of single-engine airplane made.

 

 

click to enlarge

1939 August. Meinhardt Raabe, “Little Oscar” on bumper of Weinermobile, at the premier of the film The Wizard of Oz in Watertown.  He was here for an in-person appearance at the Classic Theater on Main Street.

 

 

After life as Little Oscar and the Munchkin Coroner he went on to receive a degree in horticulture which his sister said she believes is his passion in life.

 

His life's journey of growing up on his family farm outside of Watertown, going through college, searching for a job, becoming Little Oscar for Oscar Mayer and playing a role in "The Wizard of Oz," is portrayed in his autobiography book "Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road," by Raabe and co-authored by Navy Lt. Daniel Kinske.

 

A memorial service was April 20 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Farmington with the Rev. Richard Pagels officiating.  Burial took place in Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Farmington.  Hafemeister Funeral Home 611 E. Main St. Watertown

 

Meinhardt Franz August Raabe was born on Sept. 2, 1915, son of Henry H. and Eleonora Mina (Rummler) Raabe.  He was baptized and confirmed at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Farmington and remained in contact with the church and the community all of his life.

 

Meinhardt graduated from the eighth grade at Maple View School, a neighborhood, one-room schoolhouse.  He was a graduate of Johnson Creek High School and attended the former Northwestern College in Watertown for three years.  He then transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated with a degree in accounting in 1937.  While seeking higher education, summers were spent at world fairs and expositions to earn tuition money for the next school year.  Meinhardt went on to receive an M.B.A. from Drexel University in Philadelphia in 1970.

 

In June 1937, he began working for the Oscar Mayer Company in accounting and then as “Little Oscar,” promoting their products.  Then in November 1938, Meinhardt took a leave of absence to film “The Wizard of Oz” and was cast as the Munchkin Coroner.  He then returned to the Oscar Mayer Company and continued his career, billed as the World's Smallest Chef, traveling with the Weinermobile promoting Oscar Mayer products.  He worked a combined 30 years for the company. Meinhardt received his private pilot license in 1944 and joined the Civil Air Patrol in 1945 as a ground instructor, teaching navigation and meteorology.  He had also taught school in Delaware, Pa., and worked in various capacities for other food brokerage firms as well.

 

Meinhardt married the former Marie Hartline on Dec. 15, 1946, in Akron, Ohio.  She preceded him in death on Oct. 22, 1997.  As “The Wizard of Oz” gained popularity, so did Meinhardt and the other remaining Munchkins.  He appeared at Wizard of Oz Festivals throughout the country and was present when the Munchkins were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Meinhardt co-authored a book, “Memories of a Munchkin” with Lt. Daniel Kinske, USN.  He was a member of Little People of America.

 

He is survived by a sister, Marion Ziegelmann of Watertown; other relatives and friends.

 

Meinhardt was also preceded in death by his parents.

 

___________________________________________________________________________________

1934

Watertown Daily Times, 09 22 1934

WATERTOWN’S MIDGET,

FOUR MONTHS AT FAIR,

RETURNS TO STUDIES AT COLLEGE

 

Meinhardt Raabe, the 19-year-old midget at Northwestern College, is back at his studies here following almost four months in the Midget Village at the World Fair.

 

Meinhardt, who is only 48 inches tall, and a son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Raabe, Johnson Creek, route 1, entered the village on May 20 and remained until just a short time ago.  He would have liked to stay longer, but he already had missed two weeks of school work and felt he should return to his studies.

 

While in the village, Meinhardt had three different jobs. When he arrived, he was placed on the "barker" stand, where he stood for several hours each day urging, in the usual professional lingo, fair goers to see the sights in the village. After serving as barker for a couple of weeks, he was assigned to a bookkeeping position at one of the restaurants in the village. There his job was to keep track of what the midgets ate.  The restaurant, as well as other concessions on the grounds, was operated privately, but the meals the midgets ate were paid for by the "boss," S. Graham.

 

After seven weeks of this kind of work, Meinhardt was placed in a souvenir stand.  "Of the three jobs, which did you like the best," a Daily Times reporter asked him when he was being interviewed in one of the news rooms on the second floor of the Times' building.  With a flash in his eyes he quickly replied, "I liked the bookkeeping job the best." And this was only natural, for Meinhardt is taking a business course at the local college.

 

Many Countries Represented

 

Nearly every country in the world was represented by midgets in the village, Meinhardt states.  There were midgets from Sweden, Scotland, Austria, Hungaria, Ireland, Italy, France, Poland, Russia, England, Germany and so on. 

 

When asked how many midgets there were at the village, Meinhardt did not give an immediate answer.  "That all depends on how you figure it.  By actual count there were about 100 midgets on the grounds, but according to the press releases, there are 150."

 

Germany was represented by a professional troupe of midget dancers and entertainers considered to be the finest in the world.

 

This year all the concessions were operated by outsiders, renting the space from the owner of the village, Mr. Graham.  Last year Mr. Graham ran all the concessions himself, but with the village larger and many more other things to take care of, Mr. Graham leased the concessions.  A large number of the midgets, however, were employed in the stands.  The stage performances were in charge of N. Eagle.

 

Has Many Memories

 

Many amusing memories fill Meinhardt's mind.  He never knew that people could ask so many foolish questions.  One incident, in particular, he found very amusing.  Two midgets were standing on a stand beside a giant, who was eight feet and one-quarter inches tall.  The giant was 19 years old, and so were the midgets.  An inquisitive woman came up to the three, and much in earnest, asked the giant: "Are you the father of these two midgets?”

 

Meinhardt also found that people are poor judges of height. "The smallest man in the world was supposed to be one of the features of the village.  The public was told that he was 18 inches tall."  Actually, Meinhardt states, he was 25 or 26 inches in height.  When people saw him they actually thought he was 18 inches in height.

 

Strictly speaking, Meinhardt states he is not a midget at all.  He found that a real midget is not more than 42 inches in height.  He is 48 inches tall, so technically speaking he is out of the midget class.

 

Broadcasts

 

About half of the midgets were not professional, he says; that is, they did not earn their livelihood by virtue of the fact that they are much below normal in height.  A postmaster from a town in Michigan was at the village during the summer; a midget who ran a big dry cleaning establishment in Texas also was there and a real estate man and his wife from New York also were present.

 

During his stay at the fair, Meinhardt broadcast twice — once over WGN in Thompson's restaurant at the fair and another time over WCFL in the administration building.  Each time he told the world about the Midget Village.

 

Meinhardt not only found his almost four months at the fair educational but a real experience.  Financially, the summer was a success also. "I earned enough money to pay my board and room at the college, and that's more than I could have done if I stayed home."

 

1937

05 26       “Meinhardt Raabe, former Northwestern College midget, who spent the past year at the University of Wisconsin, has secured a position with the sales department of the Oscar Mayer & Co. at Madison.  Meinhardt, who stands four feet high, is well known to a large number of Watertown residents.  One of his ambitions always has been to secure a position in the business world.  He has spent some time in midget villages at four different expositions, and while he enjoyed the experiences, he determined that he never cared to earn his livelihood by going on exhibition . . . At the university this past year, he has served as a page at the Loraine Hotel.   WDT

 

___________________________________________________________________________________

1950

Watertown Daily Times, February 9, 1950

MEINHARDT RAABE VISITS IN CITY

AFTER MIDGET WEDDING

(Picture)

Former Student At Northwestern Now is Salesman

 

Meinhardt Raabe, who during his student days at Northwestern college became known as the Northwestern college midget, was in Watertown yesterday, enroute with his wife from Ashley, near Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to their home in Wausau.  They were among those who attended the wedding of two other midgets, Mrs. and Mrs. Jospeh Kotalik, which was solemnized in Holy Rosary church in Ashley last week.  More than 2,000 persons attended the wedding, which also included many of the “little people” from different cities.

 

The Daily Times published a photograph of the wedding party in its issue on Tuesday of this week . . . Mr. and Mrs. Raabe were among six midgets who attended the couple at the wedding . . .

 

. . . Mr. Raabe told the Daily Times that the wedding was an event he and his wife would cherish a long time.  His wife, the former Marie Hartline, and the bride appeared in shows together and both the bride and groom and Mr. Raabe appeared together at the Midget Village at the Chicago Century of Progress exposition.

 

Mr. Raabe, who now is a salesman, with headquarters at Wausau, is employed by a food brokerage concern.  He travels as a salesman throughout northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.  He formerly worked as a salesman for the Oscar Mayer Co. of Madison and Chicago.

 

He attended Northwestern college and then went to the University of Wisconsin where he majored in business and accounting.  He received his B. A. degree from the university.

 

Some years ago he went to Hollywood to appear in the film “A Wizard of Oz” with Judy Garland and Bert Lahr.

 

He is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry A. Raabe of Johnson Creek.  He and his wife reside in Wausau at 1016 ½ South Fourth Avenue.

 

Drives Own Auto

 

Mr. Raabe drives a standard car, which is equipped with special attachments which enable him to operate it.  He likes driving, but says the highways are getting too unsafe for comfort and that the territory he covers has had a lot of snow and driving conditions have been rather hazardous this winter.

 

He mentioned many of his old classmates at the college here and says he would like to be remembered to his teachers and professors.  Whenever he has time he looks some of them up, but on this trip he was in too much of a hurry to spend time here.  He said he and his wife had been away from home for over a week and they had to get back home and he was preparing to resume his business on the road.  They like Wausau and the people there.  But he always finds a warm welcome in Watertown and enjoys coming here, he said.

 

He posed [for the accompanying picture] at the Daily Times yesterday.  Not until he had left did the Times learn that his wife was waiting in their car not far from the Times building.  Had this fact been disclosed earlier, she too would have been in the picture.  She is as cute as a little doll.

 

2005

06 05       Marion Ziegelmann, resident of Highland House of Watertown, thought something was up when she recognized a vehicle outside Tuesday morning.  It was her dear brother “Meine” Meinhardt Raabe, famous munchkin coroner actor in the classic 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz.”  The two haven’t seen each other for two years.  Raabe, 89 years old and about 4 feet, 7 inches, lives in Florida at a retirement home but has been driving across the country and into Canada signing autographs for his recently published autobiography book, “Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road.”  The book is co-authored by Navy Lt. Daniel Kinske, and Kinske’s mother, Patricia, has been driving Raabe from place to place for the book.  Raabe played the coroner in the film confirming the Wicked Witch of the East was killed.  His famous quote was, “As coroner, I must aver, I thoroughly examined her, and she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead!”  WDT

 

2006

  

William F. Jannke III with Meinhardt in 2006 at book signing at Books & Co. in Oconomowoc.

 

2015

08 26       100th ANNIVERSARY OF RABBE’S BIRTH

         Theme of the celebration” “There’s No Place Like Home.”

 

The Towne Cinema will be hosting a four day celebration of the life of Meinhardt Raabe, who was the Munchkin Coroner in “The Wizard of Oz” with free showings of the iconic movie to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Rabbe’s birth.  Raabe was born in Watertown, raised in Farmington, went to high school in Johnson Creek, attended the former Northwestern College in Watertown and went on to graduate from the University of Wisconsin- Madison.

 

There will be four free showings of the “Wizard of Oz” on Wednesday, Sept. 2 and Thursday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 4 at noon and 7 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 5 at noon.  On Sept. 2 before the 6:30 p.m. showing there will be a birthday cake celebration.  Sept. 2 would have been Raabe’s 100th birthday.  He was born in 1915.

 

A birthday cake with 100 candles along with some group singing will take place.  One hundred cupcakes from Sweet Talkin’ Treats will be given away in honor of Raabe. Oz costumes are encouraged.

 

The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile will be in attendance at the event on Wednesday.  Raabe toured the country for 30 years in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, promoting hot dogs as Little Oscar, the Worlds Smallest Chef.  He retired in 1971.

 

  Image Portfolio  Classic Theater Event

 

09 10       BETHESDA TO CELEBRATE RAABE'S LIFE

Meinhardt Raabe will be celebrated at Bethesda on Saturday.  The celebration will honor "The Wizard of Oz" actor who played the munchkin coroner and was known as Little Oscar the World's Smallest Chef.  He retired from that role in 1971.  Raabe, who was born in Watertown, died at the age of 94 in 2010 and is buried in Farmington.  Raabe was an avid supporter of Bethesda during his life. The event is timed to coincide with Raabe's 100th birthday, which would have been Sept. 2.  The celebration includes a picnic, hot air balloon rides for $10, an opportunity to see a collection of Meinhardt Raabe memorabilia, a scavenger hunt, a costume contest and a showing of "The Wizard of Oz."

 

 

 

Cross References: 

There's no place like Main Street to remember Meinhardt Raabe.   Madison.com article

Munchkin coroner recalled on 100th.   Daily Union article

TMJ-TV 5 min interview 

 

 

Additional Cross References:

Watertown Daily Times feature article of 05 07 2005

Watertown Daily Times article of 04 12 2010

New York Times obit, 04 09 2010

Huffingtonpost.com  posting on death of Meinhardt

Wikipedia reference

Wienermobile returns to Watertown, 2000

'Little Oscar' inducted into Meat Industry Hall of Fame, 2011

 

RAABE TOURED OCTAGON HOUSE:  Meinhardt Raabe, a graduate of Northwestern College, played the Munchkin coroner in the classic film and pronounced the Wicked Witch of the East, “Really most sincerely dead.” You can read all about it in his recently published autobiography entitled Memories of a Munchkin, written in collaboration with Lt. Daniel Kinske, U.S.N.  The book tells of his life growing up in nearby Farmington and Johnson Creek and of his career as “Little Oscar” for the Oscar Meyer Co.  Many years ago, one of our guides had the pleasure of giving Meinhardt Raabe and his equally diminutive wife a tour of the Octagon House while they were here for a visit.

 

 

 

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