In honor of the NFL season opener tonight, here's a great story from our files about former Vikings great Fred Cox, when he moved to Edina next door to Maggie Smith (now Stewart). If you have a great story to tell, submit yours by Oct. 1 to the Edina Reads writing contest, which is part of the official events for the city's Quasquicentennial, marking Edina's 125th year.
By Maggie Smith Stewart
Watching sports got us through the winter in Edina. My dad was a Sports Fan. Our family of five had four season tickets for every Minnesota sports team. We had tickets to the Minnesota Kicks before anyone in Edina knew what soccer was.
But my Dad’s true love was the Vikings.
These were the Fran Tarkenton years; the Bud Grant dynasty, and we didn’t miss a home game. Dad would have us loaded into the car for the short ride to the Met Stadium an hour and a half before the game so we could watch warm ups. Whoever was sitting out the game, went to a friend’s house to watch on TV. My mom always offered to stay home.
Our seats were in the middle of the Vikings’ office staff seats. This was a rowdy group, who talked and cheered the entire time. Being a kid, I didn’t listen to the gossip from the office. It must have been priceless. I do remember the sound of the massive down snowmobiling mittens the man in back of me wore. When the other team had the ball, he would start a slow, steady clap with these mittens that would incite the entire Met Stadium to start clapping along and screaming “DEFENSE!”
Maggie Smith and her two brothers.
By November, my brothers and I started offering to stay home with a friend. Winter games, it seemed, were better on TV. Trekking up the ramps to our seats was like walking up Everest. We carried “stadium bags” that most likely were purchased from some government Antarctica expedition catalog. Even the steam and the smell of the boiling brats couldn’t keep us warm. At home, before being rounded up into the car, we developed “Stall Techniques.”
My older brother, Martin, was good at walking slow. He’d meander out of his room while the rest of us waited, sweating profusely in woolens inside the Riviera, breathing in the exhaust fumes inside the garage. My younger brother, Paul, would hum the Mission Impossible theme song. Dad would pull out and start down the block when Paul would say he forgot the binoculars. We’d drive back and pull into the garage. I’d say I had to use the bathroom about the time we’d get to France Avenue.
The warmer games were great, even if we had to watch through binoculars to get a good look at the boy’s gym teacher, Mr. Fisher, who had a weekend job as a line ref.
Then something wonderful happened in Edina. Fred Cox, the Vikings’ kicker, moved in across the street.
At the time, he had three young kids and I was just at babysitting age. I had a job. I suppose I watched those kids while the Cox’s went to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with Alan Page, or maybe when they dined at Perkins with Gene Washington. The boys I knew at Southview Junior High were more than envious.
I remember the youngest Cox, little Freddy, had a passion for taking off his clothes and running out of the house and down the street. I would chase after that cute little naked toddler for what seemed like all night. Eventually, I lost the job to my neighbor, Sue Trussel. Apparently Sue would take the Cox kids up to the Valley View Drug Store and let them pick out any candy they wanted.
One day Mrs. Cox called me over and asked if I would like to do Fred’s fan mail for him. I was paid three cents a letter. I’d “autograph” the 8X10 of Freddy the Foot, put it in a big manila envelope and address the letter to the fan. Sue Trussel might have been an entrepreneur, but I was a budding writer. I would read letters that Fred Cox received from fans and I couldn’t help write back. It seemed I was a sucker for a kid’s scrawling, misspelled print and story.
Some kids would send football plays drawn out in crayon, complete with X’s, arrows, and lines. There were detailed instructions for Mick Tingelhoff and Lonnie Warwick and for Fred to play out.
“Great idea!!,” I’d write back, “I will show this to Bud.” (Thinking that Fred Cox probably was on first name basis with Bud Grant.)
One kid wrote that there was a mean kid at his school. He said that this mean kid told him “Fred Cox could care less about you. He’ll never write you back.” I sent him two autographed pictures (one for the bully) and told him to tell the kid that he was wrong.
On vacation one summer in El Paso, Texas, I saw the autographed photo “Fred” had sent to my little cousin, Timmy. It was framed and on his bedroom wall.
The years went by and I kept that job and my secret. But the highlight of having the Viking’s all time leading scorer across the street from us came one late August day when I was outside playing football on the street with my brothers and a couple of their friends. It was a typical game for the only girl in the neighborhood in the 70’s. No one was throwing to me. And then, out came Fred. Everyone froze and muttered shy “hi’s.”
He asked, “Can I play?”
Someone screamed, “You bet!!”
He said, “I’m on Maggie’s team. The rest of you over there.” And he pointed to the other side.
“We kick off," he said. Everyone lined up and I went up to the ball. He signaled for me to throw it to him. I passed it underhand and Fred Cox kicked. The ball rocketed over the boy’s heads. In slow motion, television style, it sailed down the block past three houses and the intersection. The boys laughed and turned to chase it. It took a bounce at the end of Ashcroft Avenue, and headed down the steep hill on 62nd street.
As I lost sight of the boys running down 62nd, I turned and looked at Fred. He smiled, nodded, and walked back into his house.
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.
Today is a perfect day to go to an amusement park, don't you think? Beautiful blue Minnesota skies, high 70s, cool breeze... If only we all could play hooky and ride on a roller coaster or four and eat a funnel cake for lunch.
Besides the summer like weather, I can attribute my mood to the serendipitous coincidence of finding out that Valleyfair is now open for the season on the same day I saw this 1948 ad for Excelsior Amusement Park in our files.
I wasn't researching Excelsior, but the ad appeared alongside a news clipping from the June 17, 1948 issue of the Edina-Morningside Suburban Press.
If you grew up between 1925 and 1968 in the Twin Cities, you probably went to Excelsior for summer fun (unless you were the children of my parents, who thought the place was too run down in the late 60s for little kids.)
They may have been right. Excelsior was a teen hangout in the 1960s, thanks in no small part to its Danceland, that booked such big name acts as the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. You can read more about the history on the sites listed below, but let's just say cops were called out to the place with some regularity to establish order.
Even if you can't sneak out this afternoon, why not take a virtual trip to the bygone days of Excelsior Amusement Park by checking out these links:
As always, I love to live vicariously. Tell me about your fun days at Excelsior Amusement Park or any other memory this story brings to mind. Comment here or email me.
Today's sweet story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about soldier fathers being separated from their babies during war ("A bond between fathers from one war to another") made me think of a story in our "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit, now on display at the Edina History Museum.
Bonnie Ott England grew up on 5524 Brookview Avenue built at the end of World War II. "My parents Bill and Helen Ott built the house at in 1940, one of the first on the block. We had a neighborhood full of kids on that block once other young families moved in. We played outside in all seasons, mostly in our yards, but also roaming the open fields in search of adventure," Bonnie wrote.
All of those children were war babies. Her father deeply missed being home to see the first years of his daughter's life; Bonnie didn't realize how much until after his death when she came across a letter he wrote to her on her first birthday.
"In the 1940s many American families were greatly impacted by World War II and ours was no exception. My Dad Bill Ott served in the U.S. Navy, Pacific Theater. He entered service in September of 1943 when I was just 9 months old. He returned home in November of 1945 as I was approaching 3 years of age.
This was a time of difficult separation, but also of great love and longing, as evidenced by the letters he wrote daily to my Mom Helen. Among those letters is one written to me on my first birthday. It is a gift from him I will always cherish. I read it for the first time at age 59, following my Dad's passing in 2002."
Bonnie was too young to remember her first birthday without her father, but she still has a mahogany child's chair that was given to her as a gift from her family.
And now she knows the gift of a letter, sent before she could read but something she will treasure the rest of her life.
Like the fathers featured in the newspaper this morning, Bill imagined his daughter as she grew: "I still am able to picture you in memory. And more than that, for I can think of you in so many ways, and like for hours to imagine you at different ages ---right up to the time you are twenty-one. But you must know how poor a substitute this is to actually holding you on my lap or in my arms!"
What stories do you have about being a war baby in Edina? Or what letters have you saved that tell a piece of history? Comment here or please email me.
I found this on my doorstep this morning.
I'm hoping that at least some of you know that this is a May basket, although it's much grander than the paper cone of violets and penny candy I left on the doorsteps of my neighbors when I was a kid.
Shockingly (to me, anyway) not everyone grew up with this tradition and my online research tells me that the practice is on the wane. May baskets were a big part of my childhood -- we even made our own little baskets in school. One year, we wove strips of construction paper to make a basket; other years we decorated those green plastic strawberry baskets or tin cans.
Joan Gage remembered May baskets from her Edina childhood in the 1940s and 50s, and she continued the spring-time ritual with her children. "Some sixty years ago, when I was a little girl in (first) Milwaukee, Wisconsin and then in Edina, Minnesota, on the first of May we would make May baskets out of construction paper and fill them with whatever flowers we could find in the garden or growing wild," she writes on her blog, A Rolling Crone. "We would hang the baskets on the doorknobs of neighbors—especially old people—ring the door bell, then run away with great hilarity and peek out as the elderly person found the little bouquets on their door."
The practice has a long history, stemming from the European pagan festival of spring, Beltane. The more raucous elements were toned down after the continent became Christianized, but the May pole dance and May baskets survived in a more G-rated form.
As the blog Old Fashioned Living describes it: Handing out May Day baskets is a charming and gentle activity for children and adults. It's a tradition that Louisa May Alcott wrote of in "Jack and Jill" (Chapter 18): "The job now in hand was May baskets, for it was the custom of the children to hang them on the doors of their friends the night before May-day; and the girls had agreed to supply baskets if the boys would hunt for flowers, much the harder task of the two. Jill had more leisure as well as taste and skill than the other girls, so she amused herself with making a goodly store of pretty baskets of all shapes, sizes, and colors, quite confident that they would be filled, though not a flower had shown its head except a few hardy dandelions, and here and there a small cluster of saxifrage." (a type of herb called Greater Burnet).
I like the May basket tradition for a number of reasons:
For more about May Days past, take a look at the Minnesota Historical Society'sonline photo database. If you can share stories or photos of Edina May Day celebrations, please contact me or comment here.
Happy May Day!
1. Memories of a Creston Hills kid: A 2010 post on the Nelson dairy farm located near today's 78th Street and Highway 100 had Jeff Strate remembering growing up in the Creston Hills neighborhood in the 1950s.
For me, this photo is hip and cool because it shows a landscape that was part of my youth. We rode bikes to the ends of Dewey Hill Road, Cahill Road and Bush Lake from our Creston Hills neighborhood. I recall the cornfield where Southdale was constructed. Thank you for posting it. Keep 'em comin'.
Jeff also commented on the gas station post from last week.
I recall this Pure station and the one kitty corner from Clancy's Drugs. We lived closest to the one pictured here. My dad John would stop there for gas and air. In the background on the right side of the station to the west is the Southdale residential subdivision. Further west and of sight was the Creston Hills subdivision. Note the display piles of new tires for sale and the S&H Green Stamps sign ... both common enticements offered by local gas stations back when the price of a gallon of regular was posted for years on signs at 29.9.
For anyone reading this post years from now, today's gas station prices are between $3.49 and $3.55 per gallon.
Jeff wrote a short memoir "Paradise Lost" about growing up in Creston Hills. The Edina Sun Current published an excerpt (a hilarious story about Jeff's encounters with a bull in his newly built subdivision) in its Oct. 27, 2010, issue.
3. Trading stamps history. Most Generation X and younger folks probably don't remember trading stamps. Like the "Buy 10, get one free" type punch cards, trading stamps were designed to build customer loyalty, but on a bigger scale. Spend more money, get more green stamps and get free gifts like sewing machines and row boats. (At least, a Brady Bunch episode from 1970 had the boys wanting the boat and the girls wanting the sewing machine. They compromised and traded their stamps in for a television set. However, I remember my mom earning only enough to buy a few place settings of dishes.)
Edina's Curt Carlson, who began his entrepreneurial career as a newspaper carrier in the Morningside neighborhood, created Gold Bond trading stamps. His success with the business helped him launch the multinational Carlson Companies and make him one of the richest men in Minnesota.
For more on Curt Carlson, see this transcript of an interesting MPR interview with him. For more on trading stamps history, see this article from Studio Z-7, a publishing company in Minneapolis.
3. Ray's Dairy Store. In response to this post on Edina's corner stores, Jeff Thompson wrote:
I grew up in the sixties near 60th and France Avenue and our "corner store" was Ray's Dairy Store on 54th Street just west of France. It was operated by Ray and his wife Dorothy. I remember Ray always seemed fond of us kids but his wife did not seem very happy whenever we came in. Ray was a small man but his wife was a rather large woman who with one look told us we had better behave while in the store. They lived in an apartment above the store. The building still stands today as a craft or needle point shop.
From Jeff's description, it sounds like the store is now the Picket Fence, 3907 West 54th Street, Edina. Am I right?
Did you know: Author Nancy Carlson, who grew up in Edina, wrote Arnie and the Stolen Markers, based on her childhood experience of shoplifting a candy bar from Ray's Dairy Store. (Perhaps Ray's wife had her reasons to give kids the stink eye, huh?) The book is currently out of print, but is available through the Hennepin County Library system and is on display in our current "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit.
I would love to have photos and more information about the owners of Ray's Dairy store, as well as the other many small mom and pop stores in Edina (Tedman's, Cameron's, Docken's, etc.) If you have information to share, please email me or comment here.
On the last day of school, did your friends sign your:
a. autograph book
b. a "slam shirt"
d. something else
Your answer likely depends on when you grew up. Even elementary schools publish yearbooks these days, so children of today typically sign yearbooks, or autograph booklets created by their teachers, or both.
If you grew up in Edina in the 1970s, you probably wore your dad's big white shirt on the last day of school and asked your classmates and friends to sign a cuff, a sleeve or a collar. Patricia Bender donated this shirt to the Edina Historical Society with writings from her classmates at Cahill Elementary.
Popular band teacher Hal Freese signed the collar.
This photo, posted on the Cahill Elementary Facebook page, shows the signing party in progress.
I suppose it was difficult to pen a poetic saying on a cloth shirt -- many sported a "kick me" request in the back middle or simple signatures. The same could not be said of the decorative autograph books in the 1880s that contained poems, clever puns or hand-drawn sketches along with the signature.
In addition to Ella Grimes' book (top photo), we also have a 1889 autograph book (below) that was found at a garage sale. The owner is unknown, except for a first name of Katie, but many of the signatures are daughters of prominent Edina farmers of the day: Bull, Fortwinkler (also known as Fortwingler), and Slye, among others.
Mary L. Bull wrote:
"Whether the tempest lull or blow
Whether the waters ebb or flow
In fortunes high or fortunes low
In days of weal or days of woe
This be my motto for friend or foe
Gather the roses as you go.
Your friend and teacher
Mary L. Bull
Edina, Feb. 26, 1889
If a child today has an autograph book, he's most likely collecting signatures of Mickey Mouse or Cinderella at Disney theme parks or autographs of celebrities, rather than his buddies in homeroom
These artifacts are on display in our exhibit "Growing Up in Edina: A Show and Tell Exhbiit." I like them because they show despite changes over the years, many aspects of childhood remain the same. Whether you grew up in 1880 or 1980, you most likely collected signatures of your classmates.
Are we missing anything? Do you remember slam shirts or autograph books, or did you sign something else? I'd love to hear your story - please comment here.
Remember Queen Anne Kiddieland?
If you grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, you no doubt spent some time at the small amusement park located at the southeast corner of what is today Interstate 494 and Highway 100. Although it was just over the border in Bloomington, Queen Anne Kiddieland was a popular destination for Edina youngsters with its pony rides, kiddie rides and miniature Rock Island Rocket, a children's sized train driven by popular children's TV host Casey Jones (played by actor Roger Awsumb.)
Queen Anne had a party room, which was a popular spot for children's birthday parties.
Ron Danly, who grew up on 3 Spur Road, with his brothers Rob and Todd, celebrated one of his birthdays below.
Patches the Clown, nearly as famous as Casey Jones among the elementary school crowd, made an appearance.
These photos were taken from a video donated recently by the Danly family that features riding on homemade go carts, playing in the back yard, and celebrating holidays. I wanted to show you the video, instead of the above still photo clips. And let me assure you that I spent waaaaaaay too much time trying to do just that. I successfully edited it, and can see it on my computer but I get an (deep sigh) error message when I try to upload it to the blog. Take my word for it, the movie is very fun. I will seek help and try again... because, I assume you would rather see it yourself than just take my word for it.
Note: I wrote about Queen Anne for Edina Magazine. See that story here.
If you grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, your childhood was recorded on 8 mm film or Super 8 film... and if you're like most people, you haven't looked at those home movies for years. Even if you have a projector, who wants to haul it out, set up a screen and run those short reels in the dark?
You don't have to go through all that work, if you transfer your movies to DVDs. Our friends at the Peggy Kelly Media Arts Studio at the Edina Art Center can help you get your movies out of storage and onto your TV and computer screen. The Studio is open to the public for do-it-yourself media projects. You don't even need to take a class; staff will get you started and are available to answer questions along the way. In an hour or two (depending on much film you have), you can have your entire movie collection transferred to DVD.
Appointments are required. For more information and fee schedules, call 952-903-5782.
The Art Center recently helped us transfer some home movies of Nancy Carlson, featured in our "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit. The movies tell more than the history of her family - Christmas mornings, birthday parties, summers at a lake cabin -- they also tell the history of Edina. The film shows images of her newly built Chowen Circle neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s, swimming at the new Edina pool, climbing onto the school bus on the first day of school, and skating lessons at Pamela Park (below).
Nancy recalls that she was about 7 years old in this circa 1960 film. She is seen leading the line of skaters in a tan skirt and red sweater.
I want to note that the full-size video looks much better in real life. Blame me for any quality issues; I'm just learning how to upload and edit photos to the web. I hope to get better with practice, as I hope to upload more images from our "video vault" in the coming months.
Do you have old film gathering dust in a closet? Transfer those movies and you might be surprised at what you find. If you see anything that tells Edina's history, please consider sharing a copy with us.
The most frequently asked question lately at the Edina History Museum: Is it too late to get something in the "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit? The answer: you can submit your stories, photos and childhood treasures at any time, and in fact, we hope you do. Several visitors, inspired by what they've seen, have promised to participate.
Our exhibit room is pretty packed, but we can still make room for additional items. We also hope to continue to publish stories here on the blog and in our newsletter, so keep 'em coming.
Here's one story recently submitted by Bob Herman, who recalled childhood in Edina in the 1950s and 1960s.
By Bob Herman, Edina HS Class of 1969
(Married to Karen Gaasedelen, Edina class of 1978)
I am now 60 years old and I spent 1951 to 1974 and 1991 to present time in Edina.
I have great memories growing up in Edina....
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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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