Archive for the ‘Webber Park’ Tag

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.

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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