I don't often read a person's diary over their shoulder, but this time I had permission. Carolyn Loechler Smith, who grew up at 4637 Casco in the Country Club, kept a diary, which she brought to the grand opening of "Growing Up in Edina: A Show and Tell Exhibit." In the spirit of that title, she showed me her diary, and told me a little about it.
In this 1932 entry, Carolyn writes about the Edina Mill, located at 50th and Browndale on Minnehaha Creek. Long closed, the empty mill drew local children, including Carolyn, who played inside and along the creek banks. She describes the interior and calls it "sacred to Betty A (a friend) and I."
Although many people considered the building an eyesore and a danger to children, many Edina residents -- both long-time pioneer families and new Country Club residents -- fought to save the mill. You have only to drive by the location to know how that battle ended. Carolyn, of course, wrote about it: "25 Nov. 1932 They are tearing the Old Mill down - one of history's wonderful mills. About 85 years old. Miss Swenson fought to save it."
Miss Swenson was one of the teachers at Edina's Wooddale School. Carolyn also brought a list of her Edina school teachers. She also has architectural plans of her family home on Casco that her father drew.
Here is Carolyn (left) and her childhood friend Grace. (I wrote about Grace and the sweet story of how she met her husband of 67 years here. Her husband told me the story when we were gathering material for another exhibit, "Edina's Greatest Generation.") The two "90-plus year olds," as Carolyn put it, decided to see this exhibit together.
We do exhibits as part of our mission to interpret Edina's history, but this story illustrates two other reasons:
1. People contribute to our collection and add to our understanding of Edina history. Sure, we do educate the public, but often, the public educates us!
2. The museum provides a gathering place for the community. In this social media world, it's still important for people to hang out face-to-face. I love seeing people meet up with people from their past: Grace and Carolyn ran into other Edina acquaintances. One of our exhibit participants, Bonnie Ott England, re-connected with Betty Gustafson (of Nelson's Dry Goods), who sold her some of the very doll clothes Bonnie and her sister Sherry have on display. Former Boy Scouts of different generations talked about their experiences over our Scouting artifacts.
We had a great exhibit opening. Although the party is over, the exhibit will run through next fall. So come on in - "show and tell" your own treasures and reconnect with old friends. We are open Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays, 10 a.m. to noon, and by appointment for groups. Admission is free during regular hours; we request a donation of $5 per person (minimum $25) after hours. Please allow at least two weeks before scheduling an appointment: 612-928-4577.
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