Tim Layeux, like many other people, regularly haunts garage sales and estate sales for treasures. While most others look to add something to their own collections, Tim keeps an eye out for items for local historical societies.
Tim has brought us books by local authors, old yearbooks, Hornet and Cougar emblazoned clothing, advertising from long-gone local businesses and more. He also is a regular donor to surrounding historical societies.
A lifelong Edina resident, Tim can spot items that have local ties, even if the connection wouldn't be immediately obvious to others.
One of his recent finds: this tweed jacket. While it's in pretty decent shape, we would have no need for it in our collection except for one teeny thing: the label inside and the story that goes with it.
The label shows that the jacket was sold at Belleson's in Edina. Men's clothing doesn't change that much, at least to my female uneducated eye, but everything from the font to the wording on the label made me believe that the jacket was more than a few decades old.
Belleson's clothing store, 50th and France, 1948
I called Belleson's
, which is still going strong at 50th and France,
just a few doors down from its original location where Wes Belleson opened the store in 1948. He sold the business to his employees in 1975. Staff confirmed my suspicion that the store had long since quit using Wes' first name on its labels. My internet search and Belleson's also verified that
Griffon Clothes was no longer in business. I did see 1940s and 1950s vintage Griffon label jackets for sale on Ebay -- think "Mad Men" styled suits -- but nothing more recent.
The label's "Edina Minneapolis"
(rather than Minnesota
) reference is also telling. Before Southdale opened in 1956, many Edina businesses listed their location as Minneapolis, in part because of areas of Edina have Minneapolis zip codes and in part because Edina was not yet well-known. Until 1949, Edina didn't even have a high school to give it a unique identity in the metro area.
In my search for information, I found out that Wes Belleson took part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy..
I knew from our files that Wes opened his store after returning from the war, but I didn't know the details.of his military record that includes more than 30 missions as a tail gunner in in B-24 bomber.
Wes is now 90 years old and living in Florida. He just gave a great interview
about his war service, so I hope to chat with him soon about his Edina roots. I'm not done with my research, but I do know that a suit is just a suit. But a suit with a story -- now that's a garage sale find worth saving.
For more reading, see:
- "Thirty Missions Over Europe," interview with Wes Belleson as told to Abby Weingarten, Sarasota, FL Herald-Tribune,Sept. 26, 2008.
- "U.S. 8th Air Force saved Britain from Hitler during WW II old airman says," War Tales project, interview with Don Moore, April 19. 2013. Wes provided great photos from his war years.
- "The rag trade suits owner of Belleson's. Haberdashery has survived malls and tornado," by Dirk DeYoung, Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, Oct 4, 1998.
- "New Belleson's owner adds shot of youth to tradition," by Catherine Conlan, Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, Apr 21, 2002
It's baaaaaack... After a few weeks' lapse, I went into the files to scan more commercial photos we have from the tax assessor's office. In honor of the final days of Christmas shopping, I bring you Edina Card & Gift Shop at 50th and France.
Or more specifically, the store was located at 5004 France Avenue South, according to the ad in the 1960 phone directory.
I have to say the ad for L'Unique, a women's clothing store next door, was more... unique.
The shops are gone, the businesses as well as their buildings. This area of France Avenue
is now the new building that houses Sur La Table (if the old addresses are the same as the new ones.)Can anyone tell me more about these two businesses? The "rental library" (listed on the card shop sign) particularly intrigues me. What did the store rent? Certainly not cards or gifts. As always, feel free to comment here or email me.Happy shopping, everyone!
On Mondays, I turn the blog over to reader comments and add a few thoughts of my own.
Ask for a list of famous people in Edina, and people quickly mention sports stars and other residents who have achieved national fame, like movie star Tippi Hedren ("The Birds"), novelist Judith Guest ("Ordinary People) and Twins owner Carl Pohlad.
There is another category of famous people, who may not be famous on a national level but who are (or were during their lifetimes) very well-known within our city limits.
I'm talking about people like:
I think these big fish in our small pond played bigger roles in shaping our community history than any national celebrity ever did. What do you think? Who are the people we should remember within the Edina Historical Society collections? Please comment here or email me.A recent reader comment had me thinking about this topic. John Shepherd wrote about public servant Harold Schwartz. While I have not yet met Harold, he's a well-known name at the museum. Inevitably, visitors reminiscing about growing up in Morningside recall the man who "was the saving grace in our community," as John put it. Thanks for writing, John!
- George Weber (above), who not only served as Morningside's lone police officer until he was about 80 years old, but also was the school janitor, water meter reader, church deacon and foster parent.
- Pharmacist Doc Gregg, who owned Gregg's Pharmacy at the northwest corner of 50th and France for several decades.
- Mildred Carlson (or better known simply as "Mrs. Carlson"), who owned Carlson's Odd Shop at Sunnyside Road and France Avenue. The store was filled with treasures -- everything from buttons and bows to paper dolls and jumping beans to antique glassware. Mrs. Carlson was famous for her ability to find any item on her overstuffed shelves. If she didn’t stock it, she would purchase it for you on one of her shopping trips to New York and Chicago.
- City Manager Wayne Courtney, who was a well-known basketball and baseball coach in addition to his role in city government. He also hosted "The Wayne Courtney Show," broadcast on local cable television.
Harold Schwartz, Morningside's Public Works employee
By John Shepherd
Time to remember Harold Schwartz. I lived in Morningside, MN, from 1954 to 1965. My parents lived at 4045 Sunnyside ave. Harold Schwartz was the saving grace in our community. He took care of snow plowing, sewers, pot holes and much, much more.
When it snowed he would lift his plow blade so that the drift wasn't left in front of your driveway. When there were garbage strikes through the years, he was there to pick up the refuse. If there was a problem during heavy rains, he was there to clean the gutters and make sure that the water flowed freely.
Harold took care of the Ice rinks in the winter and made sure you had nice clean ice, that wasn't bumpy. I don't even know if he is still living, but If he isn't I am sorry I waited to long to give him his dues for the wonderful job he did for us in Morningside.
In 1966 when we became part of Edina I was very disappointed. Even though I went through all of the Edina School systems programs and played in all the sports systems, I was sorry to see us lose our Independence from the much larger and more wealthy community. It is time that we celebrate the people that made Morningside so strong and Independent.
Harold, my hat of to you and thank you for the wonderful years of SERVICE.
Who made a big impact on Edina? Share your thoughts by emailing me
or commenting here. Help us make sure we gather information about the people who had the biggest influence on Edina.
Yes, you've seen a few photos of the Edina Theater. Every book about Edina history contains at least one photo of the iconic landmark shining from 50th and France. But you probably haven't seen this one.
Edina Historical Society Collection, 1996.065.0001.
At least, I hadn't come across the photo in my eight years as director. I "discovered" the tiny two-inch by three-inch photo, hidden away in its proper archival storage sleeve, when I was pulling another photo from the envelope. I say "discovered" because the snapshot was never lost; it just hasn't been published (as far as I can tell) since it was donated in 1996.Arguably, there are better photos of the theater. When only one photo is used to illustrate a story, writers invariably pick one that shows the theater among the other businesses along 50th Street for context.I will date myself and say this photo is the B-side of our theater's photographic record: good but not as commercially successful as the A-side.
I love the details in this little snapshot, like the original fancy marquee, and the movie title "Meet John Doe,"
which tells us this photo was probably taken in 1941. You can also see "AIR CONDITIONED" on the Brown Derby Cafe
window (lower right) and "COOL" on the ticket window (lower left)....
You know, .just in case you missed the huge sign hanging front and center that proclaims, "IT'S COOL INSIDE."
Do the signs tell you that air conditioning might have been a big deal at the time? It was. The theater was one of the only, if not the first, places in town to offer a cool escape from the summer heat and the problems of the Depression and then World War II.
If I had any self-control whatsoever, I would wait to publish this post until the dog days of summer. But this fabulous picture has waited long enough to see the light of day, don't you think?Many thanks to
Bob Moore, who donated the photo from his grandfather Ben B. Moore's collection. Ben lived in the Country Club and was an active neighborhood and community booster and served on the Village Council. (If the name sounds familiar there's good reason. He donated home movie footage of St. Stephen's Church construction, mentioned here
. He was also involved in the Minnehaha cascade project, described here
.) His grandson Bob also is involved in Edina, serving on both the Heritage Preservation Board and the Edina Historical Society Board.For more reading:
- See Joe Sullivan's story on Edina's movie theaters in the Fall 2001 issue of the city's quarterly newsletter, About Town.
- For a history of the theater sign and its designation as a Heritage Landmark, see the Heritage Preservation Board description on the city's web site.
The Hasty Tasty was "among the most charming cafes in Minneapolis during the '40s and '50s," according to the authors of Minnesota Eats Out: An Illustrated History
. The Edina location didn't have the famous glass staircase of the Lake and Hennepin location, or the chalet-style charm of the 3601 Lyndale store, but its proximity to the Edina Theater made it a popular spot for students. The menu offered a vast selection of sandwiches from A to Z.
As noted in past posts, this photo is part of the historic City of Edina tax assessor records, now housed in our museum.
Quiz: The Hasty Tasty was two doors west of the theater. The Norm Cleaners stood between them. What other restaurants operated from this location? First correct answer wins an Edina Mill shirt.
I love this photo. Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall's The Mating Game
is showing at the Edina Theater. Arthur Murray's Dance Studio
, a 50th and France institution still going strong, is on the right. Guy standing in the Brown Derby doorway looks like he's wondering why someone is taking a photograph.
The answer: the photo was taken to document buildings for tax assessment purposes. We have the documents at the Edina History Museum. I will (try to) post photos from the collection every Friday because they're so great and deserve to see the light of day.The original 1934 architectural drawings for the Edina Theater show the Brown Derby in that same location.
I'd have to do more research to find out when it closed. Many people have told me that they never set foot in the door because the restaurant served beer (probably of the 3.2 variety), and their parents didn't think children belonged in a bar. (I'm guessing a few parents visited the place out of sight of their youngsters.)
If this photo sparks any memories, please comment or send me an email.
Susan Hawthorne with puppy Rover
I have been exchanging emails with Susan Hawthorne Plank, who helped organize the Edina-Morningside High School Class of 1959's 50th reunion. As we talked about life on 50th and France, she wrote about some of her memories. With her permission, here's one that may spark your own reminiscences.
"My favorite Clancy's story --and every word is true: We had a dog named Rover (1/2 collie, 1/4 lab, 1/4 Chesapeake). This was before dog-leashing laws. Rover was a fairly big dog and not an "inside dog." He stayed fairly close to home or in the garage until about 4 p.m. Then he'd stroll over to 50th and France and begin his evening by going into Clancy's and lying in the entry, observing all his friends who would come and go.
My mother would feel a responsibility if they were going out for the night to track down Rover and perhaps pick him up and bring him home.
She'd call Clancy's and ask if Rover was there. Whoever answered would typically say, "I'll look.....yes, he's in the lobby." Or perhaps, "No, Rover's left. He's probably gone to the theater."
That was the next part of the night. When the theater opened, Rover would go over there and lie in that lobby through both shows. Sometimes we'd hear him come home after the second show. But sometimes he didn't.
We knew then that he had gone home with the cashier. She loved Rover, and occasionally would take him home overnight, shampoo and spiff him up, and then return him on her way to work the next day. I think she lived in a small home or apartment in Minneapolis. and loved his company. As I said, Rover was an outside dog and never got the shampoo and perfume treatment at our house!!!!
When dog-leashing laws came in, it was hard on Rover. Many's the time my mother had to go to the dog pound to bail him out. I'm sure he missed his 50th and France social life and especially that nice theater cashier!"
Rover's primary home was with the Hawthornes, who lived at 5301 Minnehaha Boulevard: parents Bower and Jane and four daughters Susan, Sarah, Priscilla and Prudy.
Please share your stories with us! What do you remember about 50th and France businesses and life in Edina?