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


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: 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

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