Archive for the ‘Minneapolis Park Memory’ Category

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

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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: Meetings with Grandpa

I feel so fortunate having our parks in Minneapolis. My late husband, Bob, used to tell how his mother saved her coins until she could buy a toboggan for the family to use in Minnehaha Park. I have used the tennis courts at Nokomis.

My family has a personal interest in the park system, as my grandfather, William Lohff, was on the park board with Francis Gross and others. I remember Theodore Wirth and Gross meeting with Grandpa at his home in south Minneapolis. They had a hard time convincing people that the parks and lakes should be for all the people and not allow park land to be sold. We have all benefitted from those decisions.

Mary Thompson

Minneapolis Park Memory: The Park In My Back Yard

It’s the smell of wet wool socks against a hot stove that I remember. Skating at Pearl Park in the late 1950s. I grew up two blocks from Pearl Park — a lovely open space that the Park Board created out of a swamp. My dad, bless his heart, created a skating rink in our back yard, going out (in his business suit before heading off to work in the morning at General Mills) with a hose to flood the little rink banked with snow. But our little ice sheet was tiny — the rink at Pearl was big, and full of lively skaters from all over the neighborhood. Flood lights lit the place up in the dark of winter nights, and seeing sparks of snow drift through those lights while we skated around (and fell, whump, hard on the ice, jittering bones) was heavenly. And then, when you were cold to the core, ankles turned to clammy oatmeal, you clumped up the blade-scored stairs into the wooden warming house, a dark cave-like enclosure where the community center now stands on the south end of the park. And it was warm and it was close and I remember it as dark and kids were laughing and maybe there was a little counter where you could get candy bars and hot chocolate, but the real center of the place was the stove, with a railing of metal pipes around it so you didn’t get too close and burn your feet. Off came the skates — dark brown leather, yellow laces about a mile long, we got them at the skate exchange at Nicollet Hardware, run by a neighbor, Mr. Larson.

And when the skates came off — always a tough pull, because by that time everything was wet and sticky — you’d put your wet-sock feet up against the railing and I swear you could see the steam rise off the ice blocks formerly known as feet. I remember the smell of heat — don’t recall if the stove was wood- or coal-burning or something else — but the scent was warm and enveloping and as comforting as a mom-made hotdish.

Pearl, as any park, was a neighborhood center. In summer we’d go down there and play whiffle ball in the tennis courts, trying to whack homeruns over the fence as we imagined ourselves batting cleanup for the Twins. In those days in South Minneapolis, mothers weren’t concerned about their kids roaming in the evening several blocks from home, to go to the park, to pick up a friend at his house, to wander around and see what was up. Park Board baseball teams crowded the diamonds. I remember being sent in as a pinch hitter for my older brother’s team when one of their players had to go home early. I was three years younger than all the other players, skinny and weak. My brother said “Just go up there in a crouch, you’re short and the guy will walk you.” I did that — and the pitcher fired a ball so fast I never saw it but I felt it burn across the tops of both thighs. I got my base, and my baseball career started and ended right there. Fastballs — who knew? I played Park Board football at Pearl one year — something my wife can’t believe, as I’m so not a football type. But we had a wonderful coach nicknamed “Sparky” who was inspirational. He was a vitamin salesman and had a trunk full of Flintstone vitamins — we were doping before it was cool. Also in his trunk were little gilded dog bones that said “Hero” on them, some sort of sales reward, I’d guess, and he would hand those out after the game to almost everyone. I earned one by putting my arm out to try to block a kid twice my size in one game, also earning a greenstick fracture of my arm. And my football career was over. Back to whiffle ball.

Pearl Park also claimed the spleen of a friend of mine. We were sliding down the hill from Hampshire Drive toward the tennis courts one winter afternoon, our sleds whipping over the snow. And my friend Jay met an immovable pole at the bottom of the hill, smashing his body and requiring an operation. No Olympic luge in his, or our, futures.

But those skating nights, hundreds of them, were part of my growing up. I can hear the “slish slish” of skateblades still, as I type this in Florida, where I now live, seeing from afar yet another December snowfall drop on Minneapolis.

By the late 1960s I had pretty much left skating behind as I headed into high school. But the Minneapolis park system was part of my life, every day. We lived a couple of blocks off of Minnehaha Creek, and most of my friends’ houses were located up or down Minnehaha Parkway from my house. The bike paths along the creek were my highway. And Lake Harriet was where friends and I would get away from family and school, walking around the lake, sitting in trees, mooning about, a peaceful place to let the tempests of the Sixties and of crazy high-school years pass over. The parkway and the lakes were Minneapolis to me — my back yard, my retreat. For my first marriage, my wife and I had our invitation photo taken as we stood on stepping stones in the Creek by the Parkway at 50th Street.

The wisdom of the people — their stories told so well in Dave Smith’s book — who saw into the future and set aside park land for everyone to enjoy, and truly live in, is amazing. And the current stewards of the parks are just as dedicated and doing something just as crucial to life in Minneapolis as they try, with scant resources, to maintain and expand our parks to serve more future generations.

I don’t miss the snow as I see it on television from Florida, where we just moved months ago. But I cherish the memories of Pearl Park and all the Minneapolis parks — they are part of what formed my views of environmentalism and urban design and just being alive and open to the world.

Bruce Benidt, Port Richey, Florida

Editor: Thanks, Bruce. Distant, but still here — and forever eloquent.

Minneapolis Park Memory: My Park

When I was a child, my family lived at 42nd Street and 33rd Avenue. My parents and brother often walked to Minnehaha Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon. We usually made one stop, at 46th Street, so my brother and I could ride the ponies. They had three pairs of ponies that went around and around and around. Mother packed a small lunch; we never took liquids because there were several water fountains in the park. The lower part of the park was fenced in for deer; it was called the “deer pen.” I have a picture of me standing on thh bridge in front of the falls dressed in my Sunday best. Mother had curled my hair to look my best for a trip to the park.

In teen years we ice skated on the lagoon above the falls. We had a warming house, as well as an iced toboggan run. A park employee monitored the run. In the summertime, my family would walk the trails on either side of the creek all the way down to the river, where we would wave to the people across the water. Every year we had our fall church picnic at the park. We used the wonderful pavilion with its restrooms, stoves and lots of picnic tables. This is most of my life. What would I have done without my park?

Gladys Wangstad

Minneapolis Park Memory: A Wonderful Gift

About two years ago, when our son-in-law was in the North St. Paul Library, he saw David Smith’s book about Minneapolis parks. He bought one and gave it to me for Christmas. We have enjoyed reading it and looking at the pictures.

Jim became acquainted with Minnehaha Park and Parkway when he came to freshman orientation at Hamline in 1948. He particularly remembers the beauty of the lilac trees. When we lived in Rosemount, we came to Nokomis Park to picnic, swim and sail with friends. When we moved to Columbia Heights, Jim started to bike daily, and a few times each summer, he biked the Grand Rounds. We biked it with a church group a time or two. We continued to do that when we lived in Champlin and in north Minneapolis.

The house we owned since 1985 was near Lake Harriet and we biked around that lake and  also Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. We slid in the snow and watched our grandson’s rugby games at Columbia Park. We enjoyed many picnics near each of those lakes and the Rose Garden, Hiawatha, Nokomis, Farwell, Powderhorn and Wirth. Sometimes there were only two of us; other times it was a family gathering. We celebrated many birthdays and events by having picnics at a park. Following Thanksgiving dinner at our house, most of the guests enjoyed a walk around all or part of Lake Harriet. A recent memory is walking with our five-year-old granddaughter to a bridge over Minnehaha Creek and dropping sticks into the water and watching them float away. We are glad that our new home is near the Parkway, Minnehaha Park and Lake Nokomis, so we can continue to enjoy our wonderful gift of parks.

Phyllis Minehart

Minneapolis Park Memory: Logan Ice

My park was Logan. In winter, there were hockey rinks, a beautiful skating area and a pavilion that featured many programs. In summer, many musical programs took place on an outdoor veranda. My favorite winter sport was ice skating, so I visited Logan Park almost daily.

Charlotte Brisley

Community sing at the Logan Park Fieldhouse (City of Parks, Minneapolis Park and Recreaton Board).)

Minneapolis Park Memory: Treasure

How I have enjoyed the Minneapolis parks: watching fireworks at Powderhorn Park; concerts at Lake Harriet, with picnics on the hill; swimming and canoeing at Calhoun; walking in Minnehaha Park and eating crab cakes at Sea Salt; walking and biking at Nokomis; watching my children play hockey at various parks, and baseball at McRae and Diamond Lake; teaching the children to skate at Diamond Lake; my sons in their early teens taking the bus from our home at 48th and Clinton all the way to Theodore Wirth Park to play golf; my boys golfing at Hiawatha and telling us that they played with two really nice “old guys.” (These “old guys” happened to be friends of ours from church and were our age, in their 40s.)

My son Glen would leave the house in the summer early in the morning, bike to Lake Harriet with his fishing equipment, climb on a tree branch overhanging the lake and stay until suppertime. He enjoyed being outdoors even if he didn’t catch fish.

But here is my most treasured memory: In 1945, my future husband took me canoeing at Calhoun and then into Lake of the Isles, and gave me my engagement ring.

Alice Streed

The Romantic Route (from City of Parks, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

Minneapolis Park Memory: A Hike Down Memory Lane

The Minneapolis Municipal Hiking Club celebrated its 90th anniversary this year. On the first Saturday of January every year, we do an anniversary hike, starting at Rarig Center on the West Campus and continuing on West River Parkway all the way to Minnehaha Falls. The hiking club was started by Theodore Wirth in 1920, and they hiked from Minnehaha Falls to Riverside Park, where they cooked coffee over an open fire and enjoyed donuts. The club has done this hike every year, but in reverse. I have hiked this route many times, even in bitter cold weather, as cold as minus 16 degrees. We end up with dinner at one of the churches. I believe the hiking club has hiked in every park in Minneapolis over the years. The club has also donated over $21,000 for flowering crabapple trees and other tree varieties, also benches by the rose and peace gardens. I recently helped edit a history booklet highlighting some of the activities and trips taken by members.

Edith Johnson

Editor’s note: For more information on the history of the Minneapolis Municipal Hiking Club, or Minnehikers, visit the Special Collections department of the Central Library in Minneapolis. The collection includes hiking club yearbooks for almost every year 1924-1999. The Minnesota Historical Society Library has a more limited collection featuring the earlier years.

We would enjoy reading more memories of club hikes in these pages.

Minneapolis Park Memory: Best Days of My Life

I grew up in South Minneapolis and enjoyed all the parks especially Minnehaha and the Falls. I have a picture of my Girl Scout Brownie Troop taken there (that would be along time ago). My family has had many wiener roasts at the “deer pen” and several family reunions attended by 80+ people from many different states. We just had one this past August at Wabun Park at the east end of Minnehaha Park. It has recently been remodeled and is a wonderful park.

My best memories have to do with our local neighborhood parks that aren’t necessarily on a tourist’s list, such as Keewaydin, Brackett, Longfellow, Hiawatha and many others. My favorite park was Longfellow, where my husband spent his childhood years skating and playing hockey, football and baseball. He was president of the Longfellow Activities Council for seven years and was a baseball coach. Those were the “good old days” when you could send your kids to the park without worrying about kidnapping and the like.

Activities at the park brought kids and parents together; we were one large family that would be known as a “village” today. Those were the best days of my life.

Shirley Adler

Minneapolis Park Memory: North to South

Minneapolis truly is a “City of Parks” for everyone — north, south, east , and west. As a ten-year-old tomboy in north Minneapolis, the neighbor kids and I would hike three miles to Glenwood Park, where we hunted for golf balls at the golf course, climbed the ski jump, and went wading in the creek until the golf workers would yell at us, “Hey, you little brats, get the heck out of that ‘crick’ NOW!” We would find a shady spot and dry off, giggling while eating our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Or we would hike along Victory Memorial Drive to the Camden Pool, where every kid in north Minneapolis came to swim or get a bath. It was jam-packed with grubby young bodies all day long! When I was twelve, we moved to south Minneapolis, the Nokomis Lake and Lake Hiawatha area, another neat area for having fun in the parks.

After marriage and four kids, it was my kids who kept up the “fun in the parks” tradition, especially at Minnehaha Park. They investigated every nook and cranny, often ending up at the Falls, where they would crawl down the steep banks to the bottom of the Falls and work their way behind the water falls so nobody could see them and then make scary sounds and howls when little kids came to look at the water falling. Down the path from the Falls to the river was a large tree on a high bank. My son found a sturdy branch to which he tied a long, 2″-wide rope. Then he crawled to the top of the bank, holding the rope firmly an gave a bloodcurdling “Tarzan” yell, swinging form the top of the bank to a small island in the river where he landed. All the kids had a good time with the “Tarzan tree.” There weren’t so many park police or restrictions to keep kids from getting into mischief in the 30s to 60s, but I don’t recall any accidents occurring.

Thanks to Theodore Wirth and the Minneapolis Park Board for their foresight and wonderful planning of our great park system. There is so much for our enjoyment, and it’s free.

Judy Knutson

Webber Pool, year unknown. From the time it was built in 1910 until 1927, water was diverted form Shingle Creek to fill the pool. Beginning in 1927 the pool used filtered and chlorinated city water. In the early years, boys and girls used the pool at different times. One reason for the high wall around the pool was to prevent boys and girls from watching each other swim. In the 1930s, more than 1,500 children under the age of 14 used the pool every summer day. (City of Parks, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)