Pershing Field Scrapbooks

Pershing Park recreation supervisor Marc Holtey recently pulled out some old scrapbooks at the park. One scrapbook was a collection of “guest books” from the Southwest Activities Council’s (SWAC) Annual Meetings, Open Houses and Winter Carnivals in the 1950s and 1960s. Among those who signed the books were many former park commissioners and park board employees. I noticed that Felix Dhainin and his wife signed the guest book for a few events. Dhainin was the park board’s landscape architect for many years beginning in the 1940s. Many guests added their addresses after their signatures, from which I learned that the Dhainins lived barely a block from the park.  Another park board employee, Alice Dietz, one of the leaders of the recreation department since the early 1920s, also attended several 1950s events. If anyone can tell me more about Dhainin or Dietz, please do. They are two of hundreds of park board employees who were instrumental in building our park system.

Another signature that caught my attention in the Guest Book for the 11th Annual SWAC Winter Carnival, January 25 & 26, 1964: Mrs. Ray Rybak and children. We can surmise that the present-day Mayor of Minneapolis was in attendance at about the age of eight.

A second scrap book contained clips about SWAC from 1957-1959 from the Lake Harriet Courier. Some highlights:

  • Attendance at 1958 Halloween parties sponsored by SWAC. Linden Hills: 250 children at an afternoon party; 225 teens for a dance that night after the Southwest-Roosevelt football game. Pershing: 350 children.
  • Attendance at Pershing Field for a Friday night dance in January 1958: 130 junior teens and 200 senior teens. Live music was provided by the Jazz Knights.
  • Attendance at the SWAC football banquet at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church: 320

I suspect that parks across the city had similar, staggering attendance at big events. Those may have been the glory days of park-sponsored activities for children. If you attended events like these in any park in Minneapolis, tell us about it.

Dick Yates was for many years a recreation supervisor at Longfellow, then Lynnhurst Park, before he became the head of special services for the park board in the 1970s. I interviewed Dick when I was researching City of Parks in 2007When the book came out I asked Dick what he thought of it. He had one complaint: he didn’t think I captured the robustness of the dynamic playground programs of the 1950s and 1960s. I had to agree with him. The number of kids who participated in playground programs in those years was truly incredible by today’s standards. So help me correct that shortcoming of City of Parks. Let’s capture here some of the vitality of playground events in years past. Tell us the story.

A third scrapbook at Pershing was a book of photos. Most of them were of unidentified children and didn’t provide much information of historical interest. The two that I found most interesting were these.

Goalies weren’t protected then as they are now. Photo from 1958 Annual Report of the Southwest Activities Council (SWAC) (Photo courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)



Memorial Day 1961, Pershing Park (Clair Peterson, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)


David C. Smith

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