Archive for the ‘Minneapolis Park Memory’ Category

Prospect Park Memories

Joan Pudvan’s comment on the previous post reminded me to share a wonderful image of Tower Hill that she sent to me.

Tower Hill, by Opal Raines, in about 1944. This is the cover illustration of Memories of Prospect Park, edited by Joan Pudvan. (Image courtesy of Joan Pudvan)

Tower Hill, by Opal Raines, in about 1944. This is the cover illustration of Memories of Prospect Park, edited by Joan Pudvan. (Image courtesy of Joan Pudvan)

For more memories of a neighborhood, Prospect Park in southeast Minneapolis, and two parks, Tower Hill and Luxton, I’d encourage you to have a look at the book Joan put together, Memories of Prospect Park, in 2001. The book is a compilation of memories from many people covering the years 1910-1950. The book is available at the Minneapolis Central branch of the Hennepin County Library and the Minnesota Historical Society Library in St. Paul.

David C. Smith

BPC: Board of Park Commissioners or Buttered Pop Corn?

I recently received a note from Marge Siers who wrote about her memories of growing up in Minneapolis parks. Her dad, Earl Baker, was a park board employee from 1952 into the 1980s. She wrote of her father:

He took care of Marshall Field and Bottineau Field in northeast Minneapolis and later was in charge of Webber Park in north Minneapolis. My dad loved his job and took great pride in caring for his parks. He remembers when the guys would get on a wagon going from park to park to cut the grass and rake leaves when all that work was done by hand and there were about 5000 acres of lawn. When we were kids, many Sunday drives were spent checking out the parks and how they were being kept. Dad could tell by looking at the grass if mower blades needed sharpening or if they were cutting unevenly or cutting too short. And, yes, Monday morning those problems were taken care of (he still does this today).

The dam on Shingle Creek next to the old pool and library at Webber Park, where Earl Baker worked. The wall at right surrounded the pool. The pool was built originally to be filled with water from the creek, but as the creek became more polluted, city water was used. Marge Siers didn't know when the photo was taken or who took it, but remarked that in her childhood "photo taking cost money so they were reserved for special occasions."

The dam on Shingle Creek next to the old pool and library at Webber Park, where Earl Baker worked. The wall at right surrounded the pool. The pool was built originally to be filled with water from the creek, but as the creek became polluted, city water was used. Marge Siers didn’t know when this photo was taken or who took it, but remarked that in her childhood “photo taking cost money so they were reserved for special occasions.”

Marge wrote that she and her siblings remember going to work with their dad and playing all day in the park or ice skating all day during winter vacations.

Two of her dad’s vivid memories were of an older colleague who told about maintaining the Minneapolis airport in its early days — yes it was owned and operated by the Minneapolis park board. His colleague told of planes buzzing the maintenance building to get someone to turn on the runway lights. Earl also recollected a frantic, but successful, effort to keep an oil spill out of Shingle Creek when vandals damaged tanks in the pump house at the Webber Pool.

Marge also recalled the times when she and her siblings would help set up folding chairs for events at North Commons. Stencilled on the back of each chair was “BPC”, which they pretended stood for “Buttered Pop Corn.” In fact, it was the mark of the “Board of Park Commissioners”, the official name of the park board from 1883 until it was changed in 1969 to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board or MPRB. When the BPC was created, active recreation — things like running, jumping, climbing, swinging or playing ball games — was not considered appropriate behavior in parks. Parks were for quiet rest and relaxation in beautiful surroundings.

The memories of Marge and Earl put in context the park board’s current efforts to secure needed funds for maintaining and operating neighborhood parks throughout the city. TImes change, needs change and we constantly ask for more and better services at facilities that play central roles in so many of our lives. Now we have incredible public spaces for many types of recreation from the most active to the most tranquil — even if the park board no longer owns an airport.* Those spaces, which were created to meet needs, often demands, expressed by us, can’t be maintained without funding.

Thanks for the memories Marge and Earl.

David C. Smith

© 2015 David C. Smith

* The latest calculation from Renay Leone, park board real estate attorney, is that the park board still owns about 35 acres of land under the runways at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Memories of Lake Harriet

The following letter, dated July 9, 2014, was addressed to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board:

On July 4, 2014 my daughter sent me pictures of two of my great grandsons enjoying the holiday at Lake Harriet. I recently celebrated my 95th birthday and those pictures brought a deluge of memories to me. My two sisters and I grew up on Bryant Ave. So. in the 4100 block, just a few blocks from Lake Harriet, Lyndale Park and Lyndale Farmstead.

One of my early memories is from the early 1920s when dinners were served in the old pavilion where the modern band shell now stands. It was July 8, 1925 and my father decided it looked too stormy to go to dinner at the pavilion. That evening a tornado struck the area and the pavilion was devastated. Several lives were lost when the pavilion collapsed. I was 6 years old but I remember walking around the lake several days later and seeing the damage to the trees and the lake shore.

A storm destroyed the Lake Harriet Pavilion in 1925, resulting in two deaths. (Minnesota Historical Society)

A storm destroyed the Lake Harriet Pavilion in 1925, resulting in two deaths. (Minnesota Historical Society)

There is no continuity to these memories as I write them down. Walking to the lake in the early spring and the scent and beauty of the lilacs along King’s Highway. The rose garden in summer which still looked the same in the pictures with the boys. The walk through the woods on the bridle path with the sounds and sights of the birds in the bird sanctuary.

The many picnics we had as a family by the lake and the band concerts that climaxed the day. The salt-water taffy, popcorn and balloons, the walk home along the lake shore through the park where it seemed there were always fire flies lighting our way. Often we left before the end of the concert and if the wind was right, we could hear the band playing the Star Spangled Banner and we knew the concert was over. All summer we swam at the 48th Street beach

I also recall when the launch on Lake Harriet was part of the Minneapolis Street Car Company and made stops at the docks at Penn. Ave., Morgan Ave., 48th Street and 43rd Street. We enjoyed coming from downtown on the Oak Harriet line and transferring to the launch at the pavilion for a cool ride home on a hot summer day, and a short walk home from the 43rd Street dock.

In the winter our sleds were on the easy slopes in the park adjacent to the rose garden. When we grew older, we advanced to Lyndale Farmstead and dared to slide on King’s Hill. At that park we skated all winter, played tennis in the summer and enjoyed the chrysanthemum gardens in the fall.

Another memory of Lyndale Park was the annual pageant with acts from every park in the city. The pageant was magic in the eyes of children.

Over the years I have made many trips back to the Bryant Ave. home. My mother and I would walk around the lake and my children and grandchildren would enjoy the same things I did as a child.

Theodore Wirth’s dream of a park within 6 blocks of every home in Minneapolis has been perpetuated and I, at 95, can from my home in Alaska live these memories.

Margaret J. Hall, Kodiak, Alaska

Note: I was given this letter recently at a meeting at the park board, so I wrote to Ms. Hall to ask her permission to reprint it here. Because the letter was nearly a year old and Ms. Hall was 95 when she wrote it, I wasn’t sure if I would get a response. I was delighted to receive a letter from her this morning granting permission to publish her letter.

She added:

When I got your letter I went to my computer and looked at your blog. (Yes, I do have a computer, but I still prefer letter writing.) More memories immediately came. My letter only included the parks within walking distance of our home and didn’t include the street car rides to Minnehaha Park and all its magic, Sunday rides to Loring Park, and to Powderhorn Park for the fireworks.

As I approach my 96th birthday on June 15th, I think of an ideal celebration: a picnic at Lake Harriet, a ride on the launch, and a band concert in the evening.

Thanks for sharing your memories with us, Margaret. So much has changed in the last  century, yet some things endure.

David C. Smith

More Edith Cavell School and Park

Virginia (Dregger) Dantona sent a note a few weeks ago about my post on Edith Cavell Park and School. She included two photos and a recollection of the school and playground that I thought other readers would appreciate.

Virginia wrote: “I could not resist sending you two pictures of my classmates who enjoyed the playground before it became a park. The one taken on the steps of the school dates to 1944 or 1945, the other, by the side of the school, a few years earlier.”

An informal class photo at Edith Cavell School from 1944 or 1945. (Photo courtesy of Virginia [Dregger]Dantona)

Edith Cavell School classmates in 1944 or 1945. (Virginia [Dregger] Dantona)

Edith Cavell class in early 1940s. (Virginia [Dregger] Dantona)

Some of the same kids a few years earlier. (Virginia [Dregger] Dantona)

 She also had this recollection of an event in the school hallway:

Hardly a man is still alive, who remembers this catch in ‘45.
Bad weather meant indoor recess, held in Edith Cavell’s long hallway. We were playing volleyball, and the ball struck the ceiling fixture! As it fell, the fixture turned over, so the light bulb was on top, with its open glass shade beneath. It fell safely into my waiting hands, and became a vivid memory.

Thanks for the memory, Virginia. Other readers have commented on the original post, so you might check there to see more recollections of former Cavell students.

If you have memories of your favorite park or playground—or school playground that became a park—send me a note.

David C. Smith

 

 

 

Alice Dietz and Bea Dunlap in 1939 Playground Pageant

I received this note and photo today from Bea Dunlap of Dallas, Texas, under the subject line, “Alice Dietz and me 75 years ago.”

“This picture was taken about 75 years ago (I am now 85 years old) when I was in a Park board pageant representing Farview Park. Me and almost ever kid in my block were Raindrops in a skit called Umbrella Man. The little ones were turtles who hid under a big umbrella until the “sun came out”. Our costumes were made of silver and blue crepe paper. My Mom sewed most of the costumes for our group.”
Alice Dietz, creator and director of the playground pageants, with ten-year-old Bea Dunlap from Farview Park in 1939. Bea is dressed as a raindrop. (Photo courtesy of Bea Dunlap.)

Alice Dietz, creator and director of the playground pageants, with ten-year-old Bea Dunlap from Farview Park in 1939. Bea is dressed as a raindrop. (Photo courtesy of Bea Dunlap.)

The playground pageants, held at the end of summer, included children from every park in Minneapolis. They were presented on the hillside above the Rose Garden at Lyndale Park. The pageants were created and directed by Alice Dietz. This was one of the last playground pageants. With the creation in 1940 of the Aquatennial, that became the focus of summer celebration in the city and the pageant was discontinued.

Thanks for the wonderful photo and information, Bea.

David C Smith

Minneapolis Park Memory: Ode to Webber Pool

I am an ex-competitive swimmer. I bought my house in 1996, a half block up the hill from Webber Park on Colfax because it was close to the pool. At that time I was working second shift, so I was able to swim laps at their morning time slot. For two and a half months in a glorious Minnesota summer I was able to swim my laps outside! It wasn’t summer until the pool opened and I was always sad to see it close. I bought a season pass each summer, often being the first one to do so. I’ve made some great friends through swimming at Webber Pool. Even made acquaintances there, people I only saw at the pool. I taught my son how to swim there.

This was my view as I started my laps each morning. I could sit there at the edge of the pool just thinking about whatever, usually not the swim I was about to do. Water is a thought provoking substance. Chris Norman

Most of the time, the park was not safe to be in, especially in the evening. I was once in the middle of a shooting with my son in a stroller, returning home from the baby pool near the community center. But the big pool was always safe.

After the city made Rosacker and North Commons into water parks, Webber Pool was the only ‘real’ pool left in the city. Water parks are fun, but they don’t allow for swimming. Webber had three diving boards, a shape that allowed for lots of wide open fun. Twenty-five meters for laps. It could get pretty wild and crazy on hot afternoons. Weekend mornings were perfect peaceful times to relax, enjoy the sun and water.

Outdoor pool water sparkles. I can dive under, lay on the bottom, look up at the sky and see prisms. It’s a magic world.

I moved after eight summers, to raise my son in a safer area, but we came back every summer on an almost daily basis to swim. Each summer we were thankful it was opening again. I know it was old and I know how expensive it is to repair, and I know the city didn’t make money on it. But some things are priceless and this pool was a gem.

I fail to see how the city couldn’t update the park and keep the pool intact.

Chris Norman

Thanks for the memory, Chris
David C. Smith

Minneapolis Park Memory: Ski Jumping at Wirth Park

I have received several very interesting comments from Jim Balfanz on my post about the history of ski jumping in Minneapolis. Today he sent me this photo of him (left) and his brother John, both champion skiers, in a double jump at Wirth Park in 1956. Jim copied the photo from the West High School yearbook of 1956. The original photo was “courtesy of the Minneapolis Tribune.”

In his comments, Jim has provided the names of many people who were important in Minneapolis ski jumping at a time when Minneapolis was producing national champions and Olympians.

If anyone else has memories, stories or photos to add either as comments on that post or in e-mails to me, I’d be delighted to post them.

Thanks to Jim and also to Jay Martin for his comments.

David C. Smith

Minneapolis Park Memory: More Folwell Football

In September of ’63 dad dropped off Mike Boe and myself at Folwell for Pee Wee football.  We were coached by Bob Shogren a corpulent but athletic looking guy who showed up at our practices in a big yellow cab. Word was that Bob had signed with the Cowboys, but had a knee problem that ended his career. Bob seemed to know what he was doing, and taught us about ‘dives’, ‘cross-bucks’, ‘sweeps’, and ‘reverses.’ We learned the idiosyncrasies of the ‘safety’ and the ‘on-side’ kick.

Saturday morning, 45 minutes before kickoff we would assemble in the Folwell pavilion, a strange salmon-colored stucco structure built into a hillside in the middle of the park for the weigh in. Pee Wees could weigh no more than 100 lbs without equipment.  A couple of the guys, had a heck of a time making weight.

We then slipped into our gear, a helmet, jersey, and shoulder pads. Football pants were optional, and if they did appear they were the tan canvas ones right out of Norman Rockwell.

This left the game, which consisted of 4 seven-minute quarters, played on a hard pan field marked with powdered lime or pea gravel.  We played with a yellow Penn Rubber Co. black striped football, which I never saw any where else.

Two high school-age refs and a volunteer chain gain kept things in order as the assembled parents on the sideline cheered us on and we all enjoyed what at that age was a simple and nonviolent game.

Jim Krave

Thanks for the memory, Jim.

Yes, there was a Clarence Triangle.

I just received this note from a reader who remembers Clarence Triangle in Prospect Park, which I wrote about recently. Thanks for the story.

Oh, there was a triangle there! I lived at 79 Bedford, across the street from the Triangle, at the foot of the hill that is Clarence. My parents bought the house in 1948, and sold it in 1975. Some time later, Dutch elm took most of the trees on Bedford, and they took out the curve at Bedford and Orlin (NOT an improvement in my opinion). I suspect when they modified the street, that is when they took out the triangle. I am guessing the late 1980’s?

It was a wonderful neighborhood to grow up in! As kids, we’d look out our living room window when it snowed, and watch the cars try to make it up the Clarence hill. They usually would, unless they met a car going downhill that would not move aside :) Cars were rear wheel drive then.

Lloyd Mann

Minneapolis Park Memory: Coach Marv Nelson

I was at a Patrick Henry Foundation ‘doings’ a couple of weeks ago and Marv Nelson’s name came up. Marv was a milk driver for Ewalds or Clover Leaf, but his passion was sports. He coached baseball, football, and hockey and the Cootie VFW was the sponsor, so his teams were the ‘Antsinpants’, but also called Marv’s Boys. It’s not like there was just one team. There were peewees, cubs, and midgets and Marv would have players on the midget teams coach the cubs and the peewees. Marv followed the Henry thing, so everything was red and gray. He always wore a sweat shirt, khakis (work pants, not dockers) and a red ball cap. He had glasses, a snarl and a cauliflower ear. He was ancient in 1965 and coached several more years. He was at Folwell, Bohanan, Shingle Creek. Any given spring there were at least 100 kids on Marv’s Boys teams. The northside never saw anyone like him.

The VFW also sponsored a “Cootie Bum Band” which would march in parades far and wide all through the 70s.

Jim Krave

Minneapolis Park Memory: Lake Hiawatha

Living on the south side of Minneapolis for fifty years, the park at Lake Hiawatha is part of my memories, especially because my children were able to swim and enjoy picnics. The south side of the park was the setting for several family reunions, and we used several picnic tables set on a small hill. Here the kids could toss a few balls and the young tots could run freely and, of course, some could swim. It was a beautiful place to get together. A relative from California loved to walk around Lake Hiawatha, and she was so complimentary about the park and how well it was maintained.

Rose Trachy

Minneapolis Park Memory: Sparks, shetlands and a muskrat

I lived at 3040 Longfellow Avenue South until I was nine years old, and I have fond memories of Minneapolis parks and lakes. We were a walking, rail-riding family, often hurrying to Cedar Avenue to catch the streetcar. Do you remember the overhead sparks?

My dad and his younger brother Bobby, who often stayed with us, would pull me on the toboggan all the way to Powderhorn Park to slide down the “big” hill. Family legend has it that I didn’t trudge up the hill hand-in-hand like most kids: I had to be carried. My mom took me by streetcar for ice skating lessons at the Minneapolis Arena, and Dad and I would carry our skates to Powderhorn Park to practice on the lake. Do you remember when it was so cold you could hear the ice all the way across the lake?

Of course, Minnehaha Falls was a fascination for the young me. Remember the pony rides? I’m sure I thought I was Dale Evans as those Shetlands made endless circles. A family outing at the Falls always included a long walk down (and up) the stairs built by the federal work-relief crews. I have pictures of me and Dad posed at those beautiful stonework rest stops.

Other bits and pieces of my Minneapolis park and lake memories include the swans of Loring Park, the Aqua Follies at Theodore Wirth, and canoeing in a borrowed canoe on Lake of the Isles, with my fellow paddlers trying to hit a muskrat with their paddles.

Pam Schultz