What sounds and smells immediately transport you to childhood? The clang of the trolley as it rattled down 44th Street? The smell of peat burning in what is now Weber Park? The unmistakable scent of the purple mimeograph paper at school? Chlorine from the swimming pool?
I want to include items that engage the five senses in our upcoming exhibit "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit. Scents might be a tough thing for our little museum to pull off. (Anyone got a mimeograph machine?) But there's a whole sound library out there, thanks to the internet.
When I came across the video below of WCCO radio hosts Boone and Erickson, I immediately thought of my childhood.
Every morning as I ate my bowl of cereal at the kitchen table, I listened to WCCO radio. I'm sure I would have rather tuned into Top 40 music, but my mom controlled the radio dial and she loved Boone and Erickson.
She would sing the radio duo's "Good Morning Song" to get me out of bed in the morning, and I would hear it from the radio again at breakfast. (The song kicks off the video below.) The real-life longer version had the announcers adding, "Good morning, Chaska! Good morning, Minneapolis!" or other names of towns in their listening area.
I was not (am still not) a morning person. I hated that song. The unwavering cheeriness made me even crabbier. Still, I felt like I was ten years old when I listened to the Boone and Erickson song again.
The rest of the video highlights Boone and Erickson's 50 years on WCCO. Even if you don't watch the whole thing, tune in at the 6:56 mark to listen to the weather and part of a school closings announcement.
Again, the short video doesn't portray the agonizingly long list of schools you had to sit through to get to your school. If you lived in Edina, you may have tuned in just as the announcer was reading Fridley or Glencoe -- which meant you had to sit through the rest of the alphabetical listing of school districts until he got back to the Es.
Now school districts send out an email or a pre-recorded phone message. Tsk. Today's students get instant gratification. I have one small consolation: my kids have experienced just one snow day in their entire elementary school career. Living in the suburbs, they don't get to experience the open countryside where blowing and drifting snow makes travel unsafe.
But I still sing the "Good Morning Song." And they love it as much as I did. (Hey, I have to have some compensation for getting up at 6:15 every morning.)
Tom Oye as a young soldier in World War II.
Every year at this time, the City of Edina asks for nominations for the annual "Tom Oye Human Rights Award." Until we put together our current exhibit "Edina's Greatest Generation: On the Home Front and the Front Lines," Tom Oye was just a name to me.
The man behind the name has a great story worth telling. The lessons learned in World War II affected his whole life and inspired him to work for human rights. Edina benefited from his experiences.
Tom, a second generation Japanese American or Nisei, grew up on a celery farm in Salem, Oregon. On the day before Tom was drafted to serve in World War II, his family was among the Japanese Americans rounded up and incarcerated in crowded, tar paper barracks.
Although the United States had treated his family like criminals, his father told him, "I want you to always remember that as a citizen of this country you owe everything to preserve your status as a citizen."
Tom served as a member of the 100th battalion of the 442nd regiment, a segregated all-Japanese unit that became the most highly decorated unit in military history. "Rarely has a nation been so well served by a people it so ill-treated," said President Bill Clinton, as he presented Medal of Honor awards for acts of bravery not recognized during the anti-Japanese sentiment following World War II.
Tom's unit fought bravely in the battle to save the "Lost Battalion" of Texas soldiers trapped behind German lines. The story of the 442nd's heroic efforts is movingly told by the Go For Broke National Education Center. ("Go For Broke" was the 442nd's motto and they lived up to their word.) The 10 minute video below is worth your time; no one can tell the story better than the men who were there.
The battle was devastating for both sides, with as many Japanese Americans losing their lives as those they saved in the Texas unit. When later asked to recount the most important lesson learned during World War II, Oye said, "In the heat of War, one must wear humanity as a shield to ward off those forces that seek to destroy those qualities that make us the species that we are."
After the war, Tom attended law school and worked for General Mills, a job that brought him to Edina. In addition, Tom was in the Army Reserve for 20 years, retiring at the rank of Lt. Colonel.
Tom actively volunteered in his adopted community, for both the school district and the Human Relations Commission, which established a hate crimes response plan and worked with the under-served. Tom also shared his experiences with racism with Edina Public Schools classes.
"Tom is a student of racism and has spent his life learning as much as he could about it," said then Human Relations Commission Chair Betsy Flaten in 2003. "he takes his knowledge and teaches those that surround him."
In 2003, Tom was named "Volunteer of the Year" for that work as well as activities for Meals on Wheels, Edina Resource Center and his church. He also was awarded the 2003 Prize for Humanity by the Immortal Chaplains Foundation. In 2006, the city created the Tom Oye Human Rights Award. Past recipients have included the founder of the Child Advocacy Coalition, an organizer for advocacy work in Darfur and two Edina High School students who fought for human rights causes within the school, the community and beyond.
Note: We have an interview with Tom done by cable television around 2003. It's on our list to digitize to make it more widely available to researchers.
I was talking with some Edina folks today about what toys we should include in the upcoming "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit that we're planning.
The answer is obvious, one person joked. Cake-eater children certainly made their first cakes in Easy-Bake ovens.
Well, didn't we all? I didn't grow up in Edina, but I got one of these turquoise miniature ovens under my Christmas tree and churned out tiny little cakes and cookies in the light bulb heated oven.
I still have it among my box of treasures from my childhood. Your Easy-Bake Oven may look different that this one - apparently 11 models have been made since the first one debuted in 1963 for $15.95. Design followed national trends, with avocado and harvest gold taking over as the color of choice in 1969 and 1970 respectively.
Today's models look more like microwave ovens. Read Hasbro's fun history of the toy and, if you're a child of the seventies like I am, you must view the 1972 commercial below. The moment I heard that announcer's mellow voice, I was immediately transported back to my childhood.
Volunteers were reminiscing today about the model airplanes they bought at the store located next to the Edina Theater, and the bathtub boats (powered by the heat of a birthday candle) purchased from Carlson's Odd Shop in Morningside. Two people owned toy steam engines that were powered by burning pellets. (Apparently, the combination of boys and fire did not scare toy makers of the 1940s and 1950s.)
Some favorite toys were not bought from a store. A walnut, tooth pick and a paper sail made a great boat. Paper made many kinds of airplanes. Hollyhock blossoms became ballerinas with beautiful pink skirts.
What were your favorite playthings from your childhood? If you have treasures that you can loan or donate for our exhibit, please contact me. We'd also love photos of Edina children playing and having fun or send us a story about your childhood memories of growing up in Edina. For more information, contact me.
The Edina American Legion Post 471 entrusted the Edina History Museum with a few items for past exhibits: loaning us the national championship baseball trophy and flag from 1983 for an exhibit on Edina's early suburban years, and scrapbooks and photos for "Edina's Greatest Generation" exhibit currently on display.
The organization recently decided to hand over its entire collection because members felt we had proven we would take care of the items for future generations. I am honored by their trust, and credit our volunteers who cleaned and restored the trophy and reviewed unlabeled photos to identify former Legion officials and events.
In the museum business, we not only work to preserve the artifact, but we also spend a great deal of time preserving the story. For example, among the items were two award folders presented to the American Legion State champs. The folders include a nice black and white photograph (below) and the Code of Sportsmanship - but surprisingly no year or names of the players.
The Edina Legion web site lists state titles for 1955, 1969, 1982, and 1983. This photo has to be from 1955 or 1969. Legion members are now trying to hunt down people who remember those players and can provide names to those faces, as well as any information about the teams. If you know these athletes, please contact me.
Update: Our readers came through with names for all the players. Back row L-R: Kent Larson, Tom Moe, Larry Johnson, Dick Siebert Jr., Bill Strout, Tom Kelly, Bill HIbbs. Front Row L-R: Don Myers, Jay Diebolt, Butch Nielsen, Dave Sehlin, Tom Mulcahy. Bat boy Fenn George. Thank you to the following for their help identifying the players: Pat Barker, Charles Brown, Tom Kelly and Ray Hibbs.
I am finding all sorts of great treasures in the Legion scrapbooks. This aerial view by photographer Dick Palen (photo below) shows the 1940s Village Hall (on the right) and the American Legion hall (left). Fiftieth Street runs left to right at the top and Eden Avenue is in the foreground.
For those good with directions and maps, you will have noticed that today's City Hall is in this approximate location. (I'll save the city hall story for another day. In the meantime, you can read Joe Sullivan's column on Edina's village halls in the Summer 2003 issue of the city's quarterly newsletter "About Town.")
Isn't it a cool photo?
Here's another great photo, below. Memorial Day, year unknown, in front of the Minnehaha Grange Hall, which was just to the west (left) of the Legion hall. One of our visitors saw this photo on the wall and said, "I bet with a magnifying glass and some time, I could name most of the people in this photo."
He was a little taken aback by how quickly I suggested he do just that.
All I can say, don't make idle suggestions around museum staff with a stack of photos needing identification. We get a little desperate.
Despite the amount of time involved, I do enjoy documenting the photos. Our visitor, a former Grange member pointed something out in the photo below, that I may not have noticed. Take a look at the windows.
Did you notice the shutters? The Grange - like the Masons or the Elks and the like - were a secret society and kept the meeting hall's windows covered so that passersby couldn't see their activities. (Maybe Dan Brown could write his next book on those farmers in the Grange, huh?)
These three photos are just a tiny sample of the Legion records. We are happy to have them in our collection.
George Fortwingler (seated, right) is pictured with his second wife Ursula (seated, left). Their children are Emma (standing between them) and Ethel Mary seated. Ursula is pregnant with their third child, Hazel. George's children by his first wife A. Reisslei, who died, are two sets of twins (back row): Julian, George, Julius and Caroline.
The Fortwingler name is probably not as familiar as most other pioneer families, such as the Bulls, Bairds, McCauleys and Delaneys. Unlike those families whose many descendants stayed in Edina, the Fortwinglers made their home here for one just generation.
Still, the Fortwinglers owned one of the larger properties in Edina for 22 years. From 1876 to 1898, the Fortwinglers owned a 267-acre farm bordered by Highway 100 to the west, 70th Street to the north, 78th Street to the south and West Shore Drive and Kelllogg Avenue to the east.
Yes, the Edina History Museum, Arneson Acres Park and Lake Edina of today are located within those boundaries.
Here is the Google map of the property today:
Here is the 1898 map. 70th Street is at the top border. Cahill Road is the street running north and south at left. Nine Mile Creek is shown to the left of the Fortwingler property.
Thanks to a Fortwingler descendant David Cassin, we have the photo and story of the family. Patriarch George R. Fortwingler had a circuitous journey that took him from Baden, Germany, to Edina.
Born on Nov. 28, 1823, George most likely fought in the German Revolution of 1848. In that conflict, he was seriously injured and left for dead when slashed across the forehead by the saber of a mounted horseman.
He immigrated to the United States in 1854 and lived in Ohio for a one year before moving to St. Paul, MN. He had two sets of twins with his first wife A. Reisslei: George and Caroline in 1856 and Julius and Julian in 1860.
According to Cassin, one day while Mrs. Fortwingler was working at home, she became frightened by some Indians and accidentally overturned a kettle of boiling water, which scalded her to death.
In 1864, George married a 19-year-old mail order bride, Ursula O. Renz, from his home of Baden. He had four children age 8 and under at the time.
The family moved in 1866 to Bloomington, MN, where George owned the "Half-way House" hotel, which was at the intersection of Old Shakopee Trail and Nine Mile Creek. The hotel was so named because it was located halfway along Old Shakopee Trail between Fort Snelling and Shakopee. Likewise, Nine Mile Creek got is name from being nine miles along Old Shakopee Trail.
Two years later the couple bought an 80-acre farm where Washburn Elementary is now located (bordered by 8th Street, 86th Street, Xerxes Ave and Penn). They had three children: Emma (b. 1870), Ethel Mary (b. 1871) and Hazel E. (b. 1878).
In 1876, the family moved to Edina and lived there until 1898. By this time, the oldest son George Jr. had died in a farming accident, Julius had moved to New York -- apparently to further an acting career -- and the other children had married. George and Ursula moved to Minneapolis until their deaths. George died on Aug. 1, 1916, at age 93. Ursula died on March 4, 1935, at age 90. They are buried at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.
Anyone who has even casually studied Edina history has seen this photograph: a man standing tall with one thumb looped in his suspenders, speaking at town meeting at the Grange Hall.
The locally famous photo appears in two history books about Edina and in the Edina History Museum’s main exhibit hall with captions explaining that the Edina Village Council met at the Grange.
True. But the Edina Historical Society later discovered that the photograph is not of an actual meeting of either the Grange or the Edina Village Council. Instead, the subjects were carefully posed by an Edina photographer for a national advertiser.
“I think it was for an insurance company and it appeared in Time magazine,” said Don Broderson, a former resident who is the little boy in the circa 1942 photograph.
At age 8 or 9, he posed with fellow Morningside residents for neighbor Don Berg, a Minneapolis Tribune photographer who also ran his own studio, Don Berg Photography.
Among those pictured are Morningside Constable George Weber, peering over his glasses at a piece of paper. Others include another Tribune photographer Powell Krueger (third from left, behind Weber) and his wife (left, front row).
The photograph is reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting of the same era, “Freedom of Speech,” one of four images inspired by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union address. In his speech, Roosevelt promoted the concept of the four basic freedoms to which all people are entitled: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
Interestingly enough, the Morningside photographers may have mimicked Rockwell’s practice of recruiting neighbors as models. The painter wanted his subjects to look like real-life people, and some of his friends and neighbors appeared in several of his paintings.
Morningside photographers Powell Krueger and Don Berg relied on their neighbors for many photo assignments.
Krueger recruited Broderson and other local children to pose as angelic-looking choir boys in a photo shot at Edina’s Colonial Church. One boy was singled out to look like a rascal, with his hair mussed and his eye blackened with burnt match sticks.
Krueger’s photos, many on file at the Minnesota Historical Society, range from Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to Minneapolis in 1967 to sports figures to Hubert H. Humphrey and his family. (To view those photos, follow this link) Don Berg's photos, also at MHS, include those of industry, political figures and news events. (To view those photos, follow this link.)
Krueger was always with a camera, whether on assignment or not, Broderson recalled.
One day when he and his good friend Deming, who was Krueger’s son, played in a newly dug basement in the neighborhood, a wall collapsed and crushed Deming’s leg. After the ambulance was called, Powell Krueger took out his tripod and took pictures, Broderson said. “I’ll never forget that.”
The Edina Historical Society continues to research these local photographers and their work.
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