By Richard A. Willson, M.D.
Edina High School 1954
My sisters (Marianne and Nancy) and I were born in Edina and lived at 5440 Normandale Road (the house was moved in the late 1960s for the expansion of Highway 100). Our parents were Mildred and Edwin Willson. Our mother was a housewife and our father was an executive with Northern States Power.
On the north side of our property was the Willson farm at 5340 Normandale Road. (See Google maps). Our grandparents (Mabel & Fred) lived on the farm. It was largely a vegetable farm that provided produce for Minneapolis.. We often played around the farm buildings and watched our grandfather milk the cows. The large farm property at one time extended to the Edina Country Club golf course (currently, Willson Road passes along the golf course), and part of the original property is now Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church and School.. The remainder of the property was divided into a housing development west of Normandale Road.
Our grandparents were very active in the Grange, and we often attended Christmas gathering at the Grange Hall located at 50th and Normandale Road.
Our grandmother's father (George Millam) was a miller at the old Edina Mill on Browndale. He was part of a group of Scotsmen who emigated to this region from Edinburgh. Their home was near 50th and Wooddale, not far from the original location of the Grange Hall.
On the south side of our property at 5444 Normandale Road lived George and Mary Emma Willson (George was our grandfather's brother). George helped my grandfather run the farm, and was also very active for a number of years on the Edina Village Council.
In the 1930s and 40s, this part of Edina was mainly rural and there were not many houses in the neighborhood. Some friends we played with include: Arvid and Tom Anderson; Bob and Gloria Bodlund (Windsor Ave. area), as well as, John Cardle, Paul Schmitt, and Bob and Kent Larson (Golf Terrace/Harvey Lake area).
We built forts in the woods, played "war games" in the vacant fields, and swam in the Larson pool. Harvey Lake was not a place for swimming, but we did ice skate a lot there in the winter. We would make a bon fire out of old Christmas trees and skate at night. We went to Edina Elementary school at 50th and Wooddale from kindergarten through 6th grade, and then onto the new Junior-Senior High school at 57th and Normandale Road.
During grade school, we took the school bus from our home. The ride in the morning was very short as we were the last ones picked up, but the ride home in the afternoon was long and more exciting.. The bus went through Rolling Green, Indian Hills, Hansen Road out to ValleyView Road, and then back to Normandale Road. School mates dropped off on the way were Blanche Cooper, Lynette Borey, and Irma Young.
I very well remember the recesses at grade school playing with Peter Purdy and Betts Dvorak. Betts Dvorak's home was right next to the school play yard and Peter Purdy's home was next door to hers. My favorite teachers were Miss Bemis (Kindergarten), Mrs Schneider (4th grade), and Mrs Barkla (6th grade). I certainly had favorites in between, but my memory has faded there.
At age 10, I started being a paper boy and had a route that extended from 54th and Normandale out to 57th, including neighborhoods on both sides of Normandale Road. Over time the route included 75-100 homes. Some houses that I delivered papers to were homes of Jim Joslin and Lee Pertl, as well as, the Anderson home on Harvey Lake ( Anderson Windows).
Growing up in Edina was a very special time. I left Edina and Minnesota in 1962 after graduating from the University of Minnesota Medical School. My postgraduate training took me to many locations, but I have been living in Seattle, Washington for 39 years, and am now retired from the faculty of the University of Washington Medical School.
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