Schools I’ve Attended – 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade

My Life
Those Places Thursday

By Don Taylor

Parkview Elementary, Fridley, Anoka County, Minnesota

Photo of 5852 NE 2nd St., Fridley, MN
Fridley House, circa 1958

In August 1958, we moved from Anoka to Fridley into a tiny little house on NE 2nd Street. At the time the address was 5853, however, sometime during the ensuing years, the address has changed to 5881. Zillow says that the house was built in 1948 and is a 480-square-foot one bedroom home. My grandmother and my mother had the bedroom. I had the bedroom closet as my bedroom. It was a large closet for such a small house but was really small as a bedroom. As I recall, it was only inches longer than my bed. My clothes dresser blocked the side of my bed by my feet. Boxes under the bed contained most of my clothes and my boy things. I had model airplanes hanging from the ceiling. The Fridley house is the first house I lived in that is still standing. There are still houses that I lived in that were built before the Fridley House, but none of the places I lived before I lived in Fridley are still standing.

Photo of Sylvia Larson by side door of Fridley House.
Sylvia [Larson] in nurse uniform c. 1958 –     Patty Hopkin’s house in distance.
My mother was still working at Anoka State Hospital when we were living there. I have a photo of her in her nurse’s uniform on the steps to the house.

My grandmother’s ledger (From the Donna Darling Digital Collection) says we paid $55/month in rent. I remember life in Fridley as idyllic. A short block away was a huge open field that I played in. Later that field was where I trapped gophers (See “My First ‘Job’ – Trapper.” Down the street was “Melody Manor,” a new development. There was a park where I joined “Little League” and learned to play baseball. I was pretty much a bench warmer and only remember batting once or twice when our team was many runs ahead.

My best friend was a girl, Patty Hopkins, who lived on Main street. (I wonder what ever happened to her.) Her house was across a vacant lot (now Skyline Park) to a house no longer there. A few houses down 2nd Street was where Mark and Rodney Sabo(?) lived. If I was going to get into trouble, it would be with them. There were a couple derelict houses between where we lived that were a source of fun – mostly things like knocking down hornet’s nests and yellow-jacket nests. The derelicts are long gone and a 2-1/2 story apartment is there today.  Also, about a half a mile away was the Mississippi River and Chase Island. There was usually a tree down bridging the distance from shore to the island. Lots of fun playing there. Of course, I wasn’t supposed to go there to play – it was across both a busy highway (without any lights) and across multiple railroad tracks. Sometimes, I’m amazed that I lived through my youth.

My Mom and I with American flag at Fridley house

We lived in the Fridley house for two and a half years, by far the longest I had lived anywhere up to that point in my life. As I recall, we painted that house, fenced it, put on awnings, put up a flagpole, and did many other improvements to the house, yard, and property even though we were renters. My grandmother planted moss roses along the side by the side door – they are still one of my favorite flowers. I love how they open-up to full bloom every morning and close every night.

Parkview Elementary

Parkview Elementary was about six long-blocks away (nine long-blocks in a mile) and I walked. I don’t remember much about third grade. I know the school was new.  In fourth grade, I had Mrs. Peterson as my teacher. She, as I recall, was older and she saw something in me that she encouraged. Fourth grade was the year I shifted from “getting by” to one of the smart kids. She became an “Ancestor of Spirit” for me that year. She helped make me the person I am, today. Maybe it was also because it was the first school I attended two years in a row.  In any event, I excelled that year and carried on into the following year.

Photo of Parkview Elementary c. 1957.
Parkview Elementary – Fridley, MN c. 1957

I wrote about my 5th-grade memories previously. They are at Fifth Grade – Parkview & Spring Lake Park Elementary.

Today, Parkview Elementary is the Fridley Community Center and supports a senior center, adult education, and a youth hang-out center called “The Zone.”

 

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Franklin Elementary, Anoka, MN – 1958

My Life
Those Places Thursday

By Don Taylor

Sylvia and Donald Larson
Mom and I on the roof of the bakery; the Rum River is in background

There was probably no place we ever lived that was a cool as our place in Anoka.  First of all, it was upstairs of a bakery, so we woke up most mornings (6 days a week) to the smell of freshly baking bread. Our apartment was smaller than the bakery downstairs so we a large flat roof area we could go out on and be outside when we wanted to. Also, out back was parking. Today, the building is gone and is a parking area for “Walker on the River” apartments.

Next door to our apartment was a vacant lot and next to it was a bar. (Today, it is Atlas Staffing.) We didn’t have a television, but my grandmother used to bring me along to the bar which did have one.  I remember the awe of seeing the Tournament of Roses Parade in color at the bar.  My recollection is that it was the first nationally televised, live, color television program. The bar was packed in anticipation of the Rose Bowl also being telecast.

Next door to us on the other side was a small, neighborhood drug store.  I don’t have a lot of regrets in my life, but probably my biggest regret did start in Anoka at that drug store. In those days, both my mother and grandmother smoked (though my mom didn’t inhale).  It was common for an adult to write a note allowing a kid to purchase cigarettes for them.  Mom and Grandma wrote notes so often that the Drugstore didn’t question me if I asked to buy cigarettes without a note and just said it was for my mom or my grandma. As long as I bought Winston, they didn’t think anything of it.  Sadly, that is when I began smoking. I then smoked most of the time for the next forty years. (Although as Mark Twain said, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”) I quit for about ten years then started up again and smoked for another eight years.  I quit smoking again last August (2016) but I still really miss it.

Photo of Stone structure in Rum River in Anoka, MN
Stone “fort” in Rum River

It was only a few hundred feet to the Rum River. The river was a great place for a 7-year old to play (albeit dangerous). There were these old stone buildings that acted as forts. I wasn’t allowed to play amongst them by myself, and I was supposed to always have a buddy with me, but…  They were so much fun to play in and around. I stayed away from the river side and didn’t hang out there when the river was up. It appears that only one of them remains today. The internet suggests that the stone buildings were part of a house, but I always thought they were footings for the first bridge across the Rum River. In either event, they were a lot of fun.

One of the worst experiences in my life also occurred in Anoka. Things were always financially tight in our house. But my mother somehow found the where-with-all to buy me a brand-new bicycle for my 8th birthday. Of course, I rode it all over – around town and down to the Mississippi River, about a half a mile away. Then, after having the bike for only ten days, I failed to follow my mother’s directions; I didn’t lock it up.  Sure enough, it was stolen. I was devastated; my mom was so disappointed in me. The bike theft was reported to the police, and we went to the police station a couple times to see if it was in their recovered items, but it was never seen. I don’t believe I have ever had another brand-new bicycle.

Franklin Elementary c. 1958

Another great feature of living in Anoka was school. Franklin Elementary School was about two blocks along Main Street from where we lived. Although Franklin Elementary was an old school, it had a modern addition that was only five years old, or so, when I attended. So, it seemed like a new school to me. My classroom and the gym were in the new section.

I’m not sure why we moved from Anoka to Fridley.  I know that my mother worked as a “nurse’s aide” at the Anoka State Hospital both when we lived in Anoka and after we moved to Fridley in August 1958. The Anoka State Hospital was a huge facility and deeply disturbing. My mother never talked with me about her time working at the hospital. Years later, she did speak with my wife somewhat about her experiences. Apparently, there were several babies with extreme brain abnormalities. My mother used to hold them and cuddle them to give them peace during her off time. My mom told my wife that sometimes she felt guilty that she didn’t come home right away to take care of me, but she knew that these babies needed her so much more than I did.  This story reminds me of what a wonderful, caring person my mother is and that she never spoke of it speaks volumes about her humility.

Cambridge Elementary School – 1957

My Life
Those Places Thursday
By Don Taylor

I attended Cambridge Elementary School for about half of my second-grade school year.

1928 photo of the Cambridge State Hospital.
My mom worked at the Cambridge State Hospital in 1957. Photo c. 1928 courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

We moved to Cambridge during the summer of 1957. My mother had gotten a job at the Cambridge State Hospital. We lived several miles outside of town in a place almost ideal for a seven-year-old boy.  It was an old farmhouse, about a quarter of a mile off the road. There was fallow farmland surrounding the house and woods, with a creek, behind the house, maybe an eighth of a mile away. I would go down to the creek and play with the turtles and other critters I found there. We had an electric pump for water indoors, an eight-party telephone line where our ring was two longs, a short, and a long, and an outhouse. An old hand pump was still there for a backup, but we didn’t use it much. We did keep a jug of water to prime it just in case.  We had yellow-jackets in the attic; luckily, they didn’t seem to come into the house too much.

I didn’t have any friends to play with there.  I remember there were a couple of kids who lived in a farmhouse about a mile or so away. So, Cambridge was a place where I learned to play by myself. My mom went to work to bring home a paycheck, and my grandmother did the housekeeping.

Photo of Cambridge Elementary School
Cambridge Elementary School – Photo Credit: Cambridge Isanti Schools

After a summer of being mostly along, I was excited to meet other kids at Cambridge Elementary School. I remember walking a couple hundred feet to the farm parameter road then down to the school bus stop at the paved highway. The school was an old brick building.  I recall it had a huge school-yard for kids to play in.  While there, we were playing tag and some kid tagged me too hard; I fell, hitting my shoulder and breaking my collarbone. The collarbone didn’t heal properly and was growing wrong. As I recall, they said in another few weeks the bone would grow out of the skin. Anyway, a month or so after the initial break I went into the hospital, had the bone rebroken and then set surgically. I think I spent most of my time at Cambridge Elementary in a sling.

That fall, my grandmother, Donna, was sitting in the outhouse when a snake came crawling out from down below.  She freaked out totally.  The yellow-jackets in the attic were bad, but snakes in the outhouse were just too much (even if it was only a garter snake). My mother got a job at Anoka State Hospital, and we moved to Anoka. Thanks to a journal found in the Donna Darling Collection, I learned that we were definitely in Cambridge by June 1957, so I know we spent the entire summer of ’57 there. I also learned that the house rent was $35/month.

 

My First Grade – Emerson Elementary

My Life
Those Places Thursday

By Don Taylor

Westminster Presbyterian Church – I lived in the apartment building to the right of the church.

We must have moved back to Minneapolis during the summer of 1956 because I don’t remember changing schools during the school year that year.  We lived at 1221-½ Nicollet. It was an old hotel, right next door to Westminster Presbyterian Church, that had been converted to apartments. It had fire escapes on the front of the building that was really cool at the time. Once we popped popcorn and went out on the fire escape to watch the Aquatennial Parade go by. It turned about a half a block away (on 12th Street) but we could see it just fine from our perch on the 3rd floor.  My mother told me that we lived in the same building a couple years earlier, but I don’t remember that.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary, Minneapolis, MN – Photo from “Minneapolis Public Schools History”

I attended Emerson School, named after Frank Waldo Emerson, about four blocks away. I remember walking to school with a girl. I think we were the same age and just watched out for each other. On the walk to school, we crossed Nicollet Ave, one of the busiest streets in the city in those days. We only lived there for a couple months, as I recall. Then we moved to a place on Spruce Place, only about a block from the school.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School was originally erected in 1886. It was demolished and a new building was erected in 1925. An addition was added in 1926.[i]

A 1963 study indicated that the school attendance had 663 students in 1952 and only 223 students in 1963. The decline was mostly due to infrastructure changes in the neighborhood, particularly the building of Interstate 94 through the city. (I-94 runs 4 blocks to the west and 2 blocks to the south of the school.) Additionally, the report cites change of land use in the area.[ii]  I had seen the shift over the years too.  The apartment I lived in on Nicollet Avenue was demolished and made into a parking lot in the late 1950s. Likewise, the building we lived in on Spruce Place was torn down and a wing to Eitel Hospital was built.

The school was smaller than I remember.  That same 1963 study indicates the school had 7 classrooms plus a Kindergarten as well as four special education rooms and one special use room for use by K-6.  I guess things just seem so much larger when you are only six-years-old.

My Soup Disaster

One of my most traumatic school events ever happened at lunch at Emerson.  I, like most kids in those days, brought my lunch. I had a new thermos and it was filled with my favorite soup – Chicken Noodle. I poured out about half of it and it was all broth, and that was okay. Then I poured out the second half of it and it too was all broth.  I couldn’t get the noodles to come out of the thermos. I was frustrated and cried a bit. Why wouldn’t the thermos release the best part of my “Chicken Snoodle Snoop.” Finally, a teacher came over to me and was successful in getting the thermos to release the noodles. I only brought tomato soup after that.

What happened to School

I am surprised to learn that the school building is still there, 91 years later. Today it is “The Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center.” It provides a language immersion program for native English and native Spanish speaking students serving students Pre-K – 5th grade. Students learn to read and write in both languages.[iii]

 


Endnotes

[i] Minneapolis Public School History – Schools & Facilities – K-8 – Emerson http://mpshistory.mpls.k12.mn.us/emerson 

[ii] Minneapolis Public School History – Emerson – Planning for the Future – http://mpshistory.mpls.k12.mn.us/uploads/pff-1963-emerson.pdf

[iii] Internet:  Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center Bienvenidos/Welcome page. http://emerson.mpls.k12.mn.us/

Scheffer Elementary School, Saint Paul, Minnesota

 My Life, My History, My Schools
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor circa 1955.
“Donnie” (Larson) Taylor  circa 1955

I’m not positive why we moved from Hastings to Saint Paul, MN. I know that my mom was working as a nurse’s aide when we lived in Hastings and she was working for another hospital when we lived at the Capital Apartments in Saint Paul. I think she was a nurse’s aide at Gillette State Hospital for Crippled Children, but I’m not positive. My grandmother was working at the time also, but I don’t recall where.  I think it might have been a laundry. My mom took a bus to work every day and I believe my grandma walked.  The two of them tried to make sure one of them was home whenever I was home.

My Memories

Photo of Sylvia Larson (later Matson) in nurse's uniform - circa 1955
Sylvia Larson (later Matson) in nurse’s uniform – circa 1955

I don’t remember any great excitement about my first day in school when I began kindergarten at Scheffer Elementary. It was just something that a kid did. I do remember that the school was nearby, maybe three blocks away or so. I also remember it had a huge playground but there was something dark and foreboding about the school building itself. Of course, I walked to school. On most days, I walked with other children from the apartment building I lived in; sometimes I walked with kids from the buildings nearby. I don’t recall ever having a parent walking me to school. I don’t recall school crossing guards or anything like that. Kids just sort of took care of themselves in the mid-1950s.

That winter, somehow, I attracted the attention of a bully named Cynthia. I didn’t do anything to her, but in true bully fashion, she began rubbing my face in the snow whenever she saw me.  I was in kindergarten and she was in second or third grade. Much bigger than I was. I grew afraid of Cynthia. She was the bane of my existence. I told my mother and my grandmother about it, but they both worked and neither were about to intercede. They talked with one of the neighbor kids, a fifth grader I think, who agreed to keep an eye out for me and step in if I was getting picked on.  I think that worked for a while, but then I was walking somewhere alone and Cynthia spied me. She rubbed my face in the snow again. I came home cold and wet, the tears and melted snow indistinguishable on my face.  I had been taught by my mom and grandma to never, never ever, hit a girl.  My grandmother told me that this girl, who was acting like a bully and like a boy, needed to be responded to like she was a boy. She gave me permission to smack her. A few days later Cynthia saw me again, knocked me down and began mushing my face into the snow.  I round-housed her with a big one in the face. She stopped for an instant, surprised, even shocked, then her face turned to anger. I had really angered her. I think I got the worst “snow mashing” of my life that day. She ground my face into the snow and ice with all her might. The good news is, however, that was the last time she pushed my face in the snow. I saw her many times before spring arrived and the snow piles vanished, but she left me alone after that.

Scheffer Elementry School

Photo of Scheffer Elementary School - Saint Paul, MN
Scheffer Elementary School – Saint Paul, MN

Scheffer Elementary was an old, forbidding beast of a school when I attended it in 1955. It was built about 1900 and felt old. It had large windows with a top portion that could be opened to provide ventilation in the summer. But in the winter, the windows were drafty beyond belief. I remember two floors but I don’t remember a top floor containing dormers. Scheffer was built without a gym, as was typical in its day, but did have a large playground outside. That playground was Como Playground, which was the first city playground created in 1903.  Before Como Playground, parks were typically public squares and not active places for children. I only attended Scheffer for the one Kindergarten year, so I don’t have many recollections but, looking at photos activated a memory. Scheffer Elementary was demolished in 1970 and replaced by a Scheffer Recreation Center.

Other people recall the school’s bell as being significant. I don’t recall it. The school’s bell has been preserved and is now in the current Scheffer Recreation Center. The center of today has a baseball field, two softball fields, the center building housing indoor facilities.

A Memory Activated – Baking!

Photo of Kiindergarteners learning bread baking, Scheffer Elementary - c. 1950
Learning to bake bread at Scheffer Elementary

While I was researching Scheffer Elementary School I ran across an amazing photo that triggered memories. The photo was a St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press photo from 1950 of kindergarteners at Scheffer Elementary learning about baking bread. I saw the photo and gasped out loud, “Wow! I remember that.” I remember the tall paper chef hats and making bread. Before I saw that photograph, I would not have remembered when or where it happened but I would have remembered having had a very similar experience. It is so fantastic to see the photo.  Thank you, Minnesota Historical Society, for allowing the photo to be shared.

The Future

Plan for next generation recreation center.

The City of Saint Paul is planning and designing a new Scheffer Recreation Center to replace the existing 1970’s building. Yikes! Talk about something making you feel old.  Not only has my first school been demolished and replaced, that replacement building is undergoing replacement and should be gone in the next couple years.  It is so ironic that the next generation Scheffer Recreation Center, planned for 2018-2019 will have a gymnasium, a walking track, and other sports features that the original school did not have.

Further Research

Research the Capital Apartments that were behind the Capital during the 1950s. 

Sources

  • Internet: Saint Paul // Departments // Parks & Recreation // Design & Construction / Current Projects // Scheffer Recreation Center Project – (see: https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/parks-recreation/design-construction/current-projects/scheffer-recreation-center-project – accessed 23 Jan 2017.  Also see CAC Meeting #2 Presentation
  • Internet: Saint Paul HistoricalKindergarten children baking bread at Scheffer School – ID: 433. – Date: 1950 – Image courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.
  • Internet: Saint Paul HistoricalScheffer School – ID: 431 – Date: c. 1900 – Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society.
  • Photos of “Donnie” and “Sylvia” are from the “Don Taylor personal photos collection.” Photographer unknown.