The United States was on the brink of war in June 1941, but the local newspaper focused on simple pleasures, like fishing, golf, pets and horses.
The Town Crier started as The Crier in 1930, a monthly newspaper for the Country Club District. In 1941, the name changed as well as its format. Instead of focusing exclusively on Edina, it broadened its scope to the surrounding suburbs and changed from a newspaper to a glossy lifestyle magazine.
News stories might get a passing mention, such as the "Taxpayers' Headache" story (left). But the real focus was on feature stories with great photography.
I love the older newspaper when I do historical research, but you can't beat the magazine version for pure entertainment.
The photos of the fishermen (fisherboys?) caught my attention because I often see kids on the creek still today. I also think some of those youngsters probably still live in Edina. Judging by the year and the age of the "young lads" (I'm guessing 8 to 10 years old), those fisherman probably graduated in the early 1950s.
The story reads: "Some people say fish aren't smart, but the small army of Edina lads who turned up on Minnehaha Creek to open the season on that warm afternoon in May claim they are -- plenty. Herbert Anderson, Bill Wood, Tom McMahon, John Covell, David McGarvey, Herb Groettum, Chase Milsop, Jerry Dostal and Bobby Hale.... say that the fishes' spies, sunning themselves on the bank, saw their party coming, zoomed back into the water, and then scurried up and down the creek at top speed, warning the finny gentry not to make suckers of themselves by biting. Not even Johnny Rossiter, up in the tree above, untangling his line, got a bite.:"
The war might not have featured prominently on the Town Crier's pages, but there were subtle references. In the "Taxpayers' Headache" story, the final line bemoans the tripling of taxes but adds "feel sorry for yourself if you like, but remember the people of Europe are not eating." I even think the boys' description of the fish as spies shows that they were attuned to the war, if only through popular radio shows of the day.
In the end, the war could not be ignored. The Town Crier ceased publication in 1941 or 1942, most likely after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, when the United States was fully engaged in World War II and resources for printing lifestyle magazine were scarce.
Cover of April 1941 Town Crier
I don't know when the last issue was published because our Town Crier collection is incomplete. If you have some tucked away that you can donate, please contact me.
Assignment Edina: I'd love to do a "Then and Now" exhibit, featuring historic photos and a photographers' take on the same scene today. Here's your assignment should you choose to accept it: Take a photo of boys (or girls) fishing on the creek today and send it in. (Or shoot a modern day scene of any Edina historic photograph, either from our collection or your own family photo album.) If you'd like to work on this exhibit, please call the museum at 612-928-4577 or email me.
If you ever find yourself free during museum hours, stop in and flip through the Town Crier (and its predecessor The Crier). It's great entertainment... and all free.
Norma Smith Christopher's cascade photo in the previous post made me think of this essay submitted early this summer by Charles Brown, who lived near the cascade. The shortened story ran in the Edina Sun-Current as well as in our quarterly newsletter. After reading this, I had to wonder how many kids ice skate to school these days? If you do, let me know!
Charles Brown and his grandmother
By Charles Brown
We moved to Edina in August of 1944 from Minneapolis. My father worked for the school district then. He drove bus and did janitorial work for Wooddale School. I was in second grade and was nine years old.
Our address was 4652 Vernon Avenue, which was also known as Highway 100, or the “Beltline.” Our house was a small one right on the highway, and our driveway entered it! In those days, Highway 100 was two lanes wide! At the intersection of Highway 100 and 50th Street there was a four-way stop sign.
I had three sisters – Madeleine, La Donna and Janice – all younger than I. My mother’s name was Abbie. My father’s name was Elmer; he went by “Al”.
Where Edinbrook Lane is now, it was all fields up to about 49th Street West. At night in the summer you could see fireflies light up the entire field.
The corner store
Brookside Avenue went through to and connected with Interlachen Blvd. and Vernon Avenue. There was a service station and grocery store there where they met.
For years it was owned and operated by Robert Solberg and his wife Arlene. Their daughter’s name was Roberta. Prior to them, the store was owned by the Buckets and the Garners. This was one of the few stores around that time in the neighborhood.
Where the streetcar tracks were at Brookside and 44th, there was a store for a while owned by the Dockens. At Solbergs is where the kids hung out. The newspaper companies dropped off their papers for the paper boy carriers. Mr. Solberg always had cold pop, candy and groceries. Mr. Solberg was great with the kids and was always there for us.
As a matter of fact, he was great at repairing just about anything and ran the station for many years as Bob’s Phillips 66 Service. I ran a NAPA parts store for several years in St. Louis Park when I grew up and sold Bob parts for most of those years.
A boys’ paradise
In the summer we built “chugs,” a board with four wheels and raced down Brookside Avenue. In the winter, we had our sleds and did likewise. With good ice we could go almost to Division Street
We had a lot of fun on the creek, fishing and swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter. There are channels on either side of the cascade. I and my sisters learned to swim in the one closest to our house. From there we graduated to diving off the cascade itself. At one time we had a diving board rigged up on the front of it.
In the winter we shoveled off the ice on the back side of the cascade. It made a very large rink and a lot of kids came there to play hockey and speed skate. I used to skate to school down to the mill pond, change to my shoes and after school skate until dinner time, as they always had a warming house and a flooded rink at the mill pond. It was great! I did this up to sixth grade.
Wooddale School was great. All lady teachers in those days. My second grade teacher was Mrs. Moback, third Ms. Bertilson and Cuskey, fourth Ms. Lanore, and sixth Mrs. Felt. (spelling may not be correct on some) Bus drivers/custodians were Ed Glover, Al Brown, Leonard Dvorak, Scotty Cowsow, and George Halverson that I remember.
Our principal, Mr. Scarf, was a very firm man but a good man. I remember him well. We had a cafeteria which had several cooks and good food. I worked the kitchen clean-up for my lunches to help at home. They were tough times for some of us.
The Sunnylope Road development was not complete at the end of World War II. After the war when the men came home, building commenced again. Sunnyslope West and in between it and East Sunnyslope had barely any homes built yet. I watched them build those big beautiful homes.
Before they were built they put in the water and sewer lines. That whole area is sand and gravel and when they tried to dig the street up they had nothing but trouble! I watched as the big backhoes shovel machines tried to dig down 10 feet or so and the ground just kept falling! They finally got it done by putting in shoring planks then lay the pipe and remove the shoring.
I used to carry water to the operators for 25 cents a quart from my house so they had a drink. These were veterans of the “Sea Bee’s.”
When I got to be about 12, I started to caddy at the golf course. My mother used to sew pads in my shirt shoulders as I carried “doubles,” two golf bags. This kept the bags from tearing the skin off my shoulders!
I had a regular bunch of customers along Sunnyside Road. In the summer and fall I would take care of their yards and in the winter would shovel their driveway. I always had a few dollars to spend. I learned early that those who asked, got!
Interlachen Boulevard was a beautiful road. David Diehl, a childhood friend, still lives there in the same house. Another friend Floyd Olson, better known as Ole, lives on Bedford Avenue. It was open country here too with hardly any homes built on the majority of the land. It was a boys’ paradise!
Many of the kids I grew up with had streets and roads named after their family. Some I remember are: the Hansons, Bill and Ed; and the Tracys, Dale and Barbara. I went to school at Wooddale from 1944 to 1949. In 1949 to 1950 I went to the new Edina high school. We were the first students to go there. It was quite a change and we had the best of everything. I moved to St. Louis Park the following year, and graduated from there in 1955.
I made a lot of friends in those years at Edina, played sports against them in high school and still talk to some to this day over 60 years later!
Norma Smith took this photo of the new man-made cascade on Minnehaha Creek in 1934 of her father Gordon Smith and sisters Joyce and Carol and nephew Harold. The Smiths lived in the Country Club District at 4612 Arden Avenue. I wrote about the cascade here, and I have heard from several people since then about how much they loved the cascade when it was running at full power in the early days. Touted as the "Little Niagara" of Edina, the cascade drew residents for picnics and relaxation.
Norma (who grew up and married Bob Christopher from the neighborhood) describes the photo as taken from Highway 100 opposite Sunnyside Road. Highway 100 was just a dirt road back then; today's freeway obscures the view from that location. You can see the cascade in Google's satellite aerial view. Look west (or left) of Highway 100 and you can see the remnants of the cascade.
From time to time, a visitor asks, "Did Bridge Street ever have a bridge?"
Good question. As you can see by the above map, Bridge Street does not cross Minnehaha Creek. If there is no bridge, why the name? Did the street once have one?
When I was first asked the question, I had just started at the Edina Historical Society. Because our paper files don't have an easy finding aid to answer this question (unfortunately we can't type "Bridge Street" into a search engine and come up with 42,000 web pages with the answer), I asked a few long-time residents for information.
They quickly pointed to this photo of the Browndale farm.
Henry Brown operated the Browndale farm, famous for its shorthorn cattle, in what is now the Country Club District of Edina.
Although Brown made his home in Minneapolis, he did entertain in Edina. His house was on one side of the creek, and his barns on the other, with the bridge in between. That bridge was thought to be the predecessor of Bridge Street.
It made sense at the time. I now think that story is the stuff of suburban legend.
Let me explain with a photo. Take a look at this photo below taken after Brown's land was developed into the Country Club District.
Now take a closer look. I have to admit, I hadn't taken a careful look at this photo until a regular researcher, a fan of aerial photography, pointed out the footings of a bridge in the creek. See the two lines in the creek just off the driveway on the creek side of Edgebrook Place?
To help you out, I labeled a few landmarks. (You're welcome.) Although this photo dates from the 1930s, it looks essentially the same as it does today with a few changes: Wooddale School is now Wooddale Park, Sunnyslope has yet to be built, and more houses fill the Country Club District.
Henry Brown's home was located at the Edgebrook Place loop, according to author Jane King Hallberg, who interviewed contemporaries of Brown for her 1988 book Minnehaha Creek: Living Waters: "Henry Brown's home near the creek and the mill was an especially nice place. It had a big front porch to the east and a porch on the south side, also. It faced Browndale Avenue, which was 'dedicated,' or laid out, by Henry Brown and the farmhouse and farm yard were in the semi-circle formed at present by Browndale and Edgebrook Place..."
The bridge footings in the picture must then be from the old Browndale farm; they're not close to lining up with today's Bridge Street. So the mystery remains: was there another bridge that gave Bridge Street its name?
I think it's likely the Bridge Street was intended to cross Minnehaha into the Sunnyslope Addition, which was developed later. For some reason, the bridge was never built. My guess is that neighborhood residents didn't want to encourage traffic through their neighborhood. After all, they opposed extending Bridge Street into the White Oaks neighborhood. "Opposed" might be too gentle of a term: a Country Club resident reportedly stood with a shotgun at the east end of Bridge Lane in White Oaks to bar trucks from coming through, according to a story in the city's Spring 2001 quarterly newsletter About Town. Author Joe Sullivan wrote: "Eventually, an agreement allowing limited, temporary access for vehicles was reached, but only for construction on Bridge Lane. Even today, there is only a narrow walkway -- much too narrow for automobiles -- connecting Bridge Street and Bridge Lane."
(Check out the east end of Bridge Street and you can see how it narrows after Arden Avenue.)
That's my best guess, anyway. Ignore my hypothesis though, for now, until I have more evidence to prove my claim -- I don't want to start another suburban legend.
What do you think? And, more importantly, do you have any facts to support your claim? Contact me or comment here.
Note: For more information on Brown, see the St. Louis Park Historical Society web page on the Browndale neighborhood. While much of the information came from us, SLP wrote up the nice, concise summary.
"What is that thing in the middle of Minnehaha Creek just west of the Highway 100 bridge?" asked one blog reader who grew up on Sunnyslope and used to go rafting in the creek, from the Browndale bridge up to and past Hwy. 100.
Although it doesn't look like much today, the stone structure set off quite a celebration when it was completed in 1935 to create a cascade at the north end of the mill pond.
"Some call it Edina's own Little Niagra -- others thinking closer to home refer to it as the Country Club's little Minnehaha falls..." the July 1935 issue of Country Club's newspaper The Crier proclaimed proudly.
While either term was a wild overstatement, Edina residents celebrated the sight of rushing water as much as any tourist at the grandest waterfalls in the country. After years of drought and low water in the mill pond at the west border of the Country Club District, the new cascade meant the return of ice skating in the winter and waterside picnics in the summer.
To restore water levels (and property values), Edina used $17,000 in Civil Works Administration (CWA) money to drain the pond, line it with clay and install a pump to bring groundwater from a 400-foot deep well instead of relying on water flow from upstream.
When a half-million gallons a day began tumbling over the man made cascade in July 1934, "hundreds of persons" gathered at the site and took home souvenir bottles of water. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was invited to attend the week-long festivities celebrating the project. (The Crier did not report on her attendance, however.)
After the drought ended, pumping groundwater was no longer necessary, nor deemed a wise practice. While remnants of the man made wall remain, the Minnehaha Creek merely gently flows, rather than gushes, into Edina.
Do you have a history mystery you'd like solved? Contact me with your question and I and/or volunteers will put our intrepid investigating skills to work.
Note: This story first appeared in the July issue of Edina Magazine, where we have a regular back page history featured called "Last Glance." For a free subscription, see the magazine's web site.
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