We want your stories for the Edina Reads writing contest. Deadline is Oct. 1. To inspire you, here is a wonderful story from our collection. We shared Chuck Gilbertson's essay about his horse Copper with Edina Sun Current readers during our past "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit, but for those who missed it, here's a sweet boyhood tale from 1950s Edina.
By Chuck Gilbertson
I was eleven years old in 1951, and I wanted to be a cowboy. About a mile from my house in Edina was McNellis Riding Stable at 66th and France Avenue. I rode my bike out to the stables one day and asked Mr. McNellis if I could have a job. “Yes,” he said. “I cannot pay you, but if you want to go riding after you are done working, you can.”
When I got home from work the first day my mother would not let me in the house as my tennis shoes and jeans were covered with manure. Mom hosed me down. My dad asked me all about it and was pleased that I had a job.
I spent the entire summer working for Mr. McNellis. At that time, 66th and France was about the end of Edina, as far as residential communities were concerned. Southdale shopping center did not exist.
(Editor's note: See Historic Aerials website for a view of the dramatic changes at 66th and France from 1947 to 1957. Southdale and related development changed Edina from a rural area with riding stables, chicken coops and dairy farms to a thriving suburb. The image below is from 1947, but use the slider tool at the website to compare and contrast two years. This site is not affiliated with the Edina Historical Society, but it's a great resource for researching land changes over the years and you can purchase prints from them.)TV cowboy Roy Rogers in 1951
Copper was my favorite horse. He was good humored and easy to ride. Mr. McNellis taught me how to bridle and saddle the horses. Quite often he would let me go with him on trail rides. Sometimes Mr. McNellis would let me ride Copper out to the fields in the morning to bring the other horses back to the stable. I felt like a real cowboy.
Summer vacation was coming to an end. Mr. McNellis told me he was going to sell Copper for $75. I rode my bike to the bank and withdrew $75 of my paper route money. Then I went back to the stable and gave Mr. McNellis the money. Riding home down France Avenue I was proud as could be. When I turned on to Brookview Avenue where I lived, all the neighbor women came out in the yards to watch me. My mom came out the front door with her fist in her mouth, which she did when she was nervous. She said, “Oh, Chuckie, what have you done now?”
I put Copper in our one car garage and left the door open. I tied rope back and forth across the opening. A small crowd gathered by my homemade horse stall. My plan was to keep Copper in our garage and ride him to deliver papers down Lakeview Drive and Golf Terrace. When school started, I would ride him to school and tie him to the bike rack.
I am quite sure that dad must have noticed the minute he turned the car onto Brookview as he was coming home from work. He got out of the car and walked toward me asking mom what was going on. She told him.
I was sure he would be proud of me because of his farm background. Instead, he said to me, “Get on that horse this minute and take him back to Old Man McNellis. He is blind in one eye and older than the hills.” Tears started rolling down my cheeks, but I did what I was told. When I got back to the stable, Mr. McNellis was laughing. “I figured you’d be back,” he said as he reached into his pocket for my money. I never saw Copper again.
Chuck Gilbertson lived just over a mile and a half from the McNellis Stables. His trek with Copper back in 1951 took him through a much less populated area than it is today.
If you have any doubt that there was a Baby Boom following World War II, you need to look no further than this Edina Park and Rec film footage from the 1950-60s. More than 100 kids took part in a summer playground program at Concord Elementary -- yes, just at one playground -- in 1959.
That was the first thing that struck me as I watched this film footage. The parade of kids was never-ending for the Circus Day program, one of the many themed events happening every Friday in Edina parks. Bob Kojetin, then Park director and now a member of our board of directors, pointed out several kids who have gone on to achieve state judge office, start successful businesses and, well, grow up and now retire some 50 years later.
Another themed program shown here is Costumes of the World. Prizes were awarded for best in show. Other theme days were Park Olympics, Bike Day, a cowboy and Indians day, and more
The second segment shows a 1963 Camp A Night, an overnight camping trip on the old Hayes Farm, which later was developed into Braemar Park. The dozen or so young boys were chaperoned by just one man, Bob himself. He grilled them dinner (looks like kabobs) and mixed up pancakes for breakfast.
The third segment (circa 1964) shows volunteer playground leaders at a week-long camping trip at the YMCA Camp Menogyn in the Boundary Waters.
Grab your popcorn and watch some or all of this approximately 14-minute film. I'd love to hear your reactions to Edina's park past. Did you attend the playground program -- or perhaps see someone you know in the film? What was your favorite activity? Please comment here or email me with your memories.
On Mondays, I post comments submitted from readers and add a few thoughts of my own.
1. Ray's Dairy Store
Paige commented on Photo Friday: Ray's Dairy Store, 3907 W. 54th Street, 1959, My memory from the early 70's was the rotating chicken roasting in the window.
In response for requests on what other businesses to feature, I received this email: REALLY enjoy the blog. At some point you should do something on 50th and France and old merchants. There was Marty's barbershop...where they had....PLAYBOYS. Big deal when you're 11. Red Barn. Le Petit Cafe'. Gim Loong. Fanny Farmer. A Christian Science reading room. And then the apartments ABOVE the strip where General Sports was.
Anyone remember any of these businesses? I'll see what I find in the collection, which is incomplete for commercial buildings but still has some gems as you've seen from past editions of Photo Friday. Stay tuned....
In the mean time, check out Joe Sullivan's article in the city's quarterly newsletter About Town on the YMCA. I know he's written one on Marty's barbershop, but I couldn't find the story online. Here's a past Photo Friday on Fanny Farmer.
2. Docken's Store (Brookside, Browndale and more)
Daniel Grobani wrote following the post on The corner store: Docken's family served Brookside neighborhood: Great research! Great write-up! Great post!
Normally I view complimentary emails with some suspicion that they're spam. I never approve them for the blog because they usually link to some fraudulent web site. (For example, here's one that I'm sure must be: I have viewed so many blog post but yours are different. I like to ask how you composed your articles for it really leaves an excellent impression on me.) Besides the odd wording, it doesn't reference anything specific in the blog or Edina.
But I know Daniel (despite never meeting him). He's the out-of-state researcher who set this whole research project into motion with his questions about the Brookside neighborhood. The topic is near and dear to the heart of St. Louis Park HIstorical Society trustee Jeanne Anderson, who even created a whole web site The Brookside Timeline devoted to the neighborhood. She agreed to do the legwork and inspired me to do some online research. Together we looked through our files and compared notes. Daniel found more stuff online.
We have had a flurry of emails going back and forth about this and other topics that include:
For example, I found newspaper articles on real estate developers George Dartt and Frank Mackey (Streets bear their names in the Browndale neighborhood.)
Mackey, a Londoner, built the famous Leamington Hotel before turning his attention to developing in Edina. His wife was a Minneapolis woman whose parties and outings both at home and in London made Society column headlines. (See image at left from Feb. 6, 1910 story in the Minneapolis Tribune, via ProQuest news service.)
Given the city's current effort to identify and name neighborhoods, I am now hooked into finding out more. Thank you to Daniel and Jeanne for their contributions!
3. Biltmore Drive-in
Rick commented on Photo Friday: Biltmore Drive-in, 5001 Vernon Ave, 1959: Wow.... I remember the old Biltmore Motel off of Vernon but this was before my time!
A look through old phone books would probably confirm my hunch that the quaint drive-in didn't last that long. Our visitors typically reminisce about favorite childhood haunts, and not a one has mentioned the drive-in. I can see never hearing about an insurance company or investment firm. (No disrespect intended; they're just not places a child remembers.) But a drive-in? That sells malts and rootbeer floats? It seems strange that I have never heard about it.
4. Growing Up in Edina, 1970s memories
Brad Taplin emailed that the blog prompted a number of memories: I attended Cornelia, and Edina East and West, through the 1970s. I remember the Hedberg and Sons sand pits being a great place to off-road with my banana bike, long before mountain biking was popular.
I also remember one of my first restaurant jobs, washing dishes at Marc's Big Boy in about 1978 (now the Tavern), and other jobs at whatever TJ's was called, Roche Bobois, Karmelkorn, the YMCA, and York Steak House... all to pay for roller skating at Saints, for gas and car parts, for skiing at Hyland Hills, and for movies at the Southdale Cinema.
The best thing about Cornelia for me was math teacher Jim Fesenmeier, who realized when I was in about third grade that I needed glasses and wasn't just slow. I cried when I could finally see the blackboard and understood division.
When I emailed Brad for permission to post his stories, I told him that glasses changed my view of the world too. In third grade, I couldn't read the big E at the top of the eye chart. When I got glasses, I was surprised that trees had individual leaves instead of the big green cloud on a stick that appeared in the typical elementary school drawings. (I often wonder if Impressionistic painters weren't revolutionary as much as they were near-sighted.)
I like to hear from readers. Do you have a question about Edina history? Does this post prompt any memories? Please comment here or email me.
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.)
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.
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Jennifer Adam is the Executive Director of the Edina Historical Society. She welcomes your contributions. Comment on a post or send an email (see below). Traditional mail, of course, can also be sent to:
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