Schools I’ve Attended – Jordan Jr. High

My Life
Those Places Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.We rented the house on Fremont Avenue for only a few months in 1962. During the summer of 1962, Budgar[i] bought a duplex at 2419 Bryant Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN and we moved there. We lived downstairs and had renters living upstairs. Grandma Kees lived with us for a short time. Budgar and her argued all the time. He called her a liar and she knew he was an abuser. In any event, Budgar threw Grandma Kees out before Christmas, 1962.  It is interesting that I have no photos whatsoever of anyone at that house. Not me, not my mother, not Budgar, not even my sister Sharon, who was born in the fall of 1962.

Budgar wouldn’t give me an allowance. He said I needed to earn my way. So, while living on Bryant, I had a paper route most of the time. I always delivered the morning paper. I’d get up about 3:30, get my papers about 4 am, and have my route delivered by 5:30. I’d be home by 6 for breakfast and to get ready for school.

Photo of 2419 Bryant Ave N, Minneapolis, MN in May, 2013.
2419 Bryant Avenue – Today (May 2013)

Across the street from where we lived on Bryant was the Franklin Junior High attendance area. Likewise, two blocks south was also Franklin Junior High attendance area, so we lived just about as far away from Jordan Junior High as was possible and still be in the Jordan attendance area. During the winter, some of my friends and I would hop on the back bumper of the city bus. It was really dangerous because the bumpers on the bus only stuck out about a half an inch and the sign on the back of the bus wasn’t sturdy enough to rely upon.  Better than the city bus, we learned the route a postman took and could hop the back of his mail truck for several blocks. We’d also just hop the back fenders of moving cars occasionally.  I think all of us could hop off the back of a car moving at 30 miles per hour without falling. On really snowy days we would just grab a passing vehicle and slide on our shoes for blocks on the snow-packed streets. Budgar hollered at me a couple of times about my needing to walk and not shuffle my feet as I was going through shoes way to fast. Little did he know…. I remember putting linoleum inside my shoes to make it through the summer and not need new shoes until winter.

I attended all three years of Junior High at Jordan starting with 7th grade in 1962 and completing 9th grade in 1965. It was the longest I ever attended a school. There were a couple of excursions during that time, but more about them later. I remember school lunches at Jordan (after my grandmother moved out) or any other school I ever attended.

Photo of Mr. Goodrich in 1963
Mr. Goodrich in 1963 Source: Jordanian 1963

By the time I got to the 9th grade, I was pretty much incorrigible and continually battled with Budgar and with my teachers. I had a Home Room teacher named Mr. Goodrich. He and I didn’t get along at all. I think I received the paddle from him every day for two weeks straight. I am sure I was the bane of his existence in 1965. Within the 20-minute homeroom period, I pretty much always smarted off. Sometimes, I’d be sent down to the Vice-principal’s (Mr. Carlson’s) office, but mostly, Mr. Goodrich and I would step out into the hallway, and he’d give me from one to three good swats with a paddle, depending upon what I had done. For me, it was something of a game and a mark of status in the school.

Music Room, Jordan Jr. High (c. 1937)

During junior high, I learned that I was good at almost everything scholastic and I didn’t need to study. I did great in science and math, very good in history, civics, and social studies, and about average in English. I was a klutz in sports. Even though I once did 1000 sit-ups without stopping, I couldn’t climb a rope up 20 feet in gym class. (I had core strength but no upper body strength). I did well in the shop classes they had, particularly well in print shop but I still did okay in woodworking and metal shop as well. I got a few stitches in my head because in woodshop someone came around the corner with the base for a soapbox derby car and smacked me in the head by accident. I was also in the school orchestra and learned how to play the cello using a school-owned instrument. I had enough skill that my orchestra teacher suggested I try out for the Minneapolis Junior Symphony Orchestra. I asked Budgar to buy a cello for me. Of course, he wouldn’t. I had to have my own instrument to be considered for the Junior Symphony and couldn’t afford one on my newspaper delivery income, so I never had a chance to try out. I wonder how different my life would have been had he purchased that cello… I still love the sound of the cello; it is my favorite instrument.

Jordan Junior High School, Minneapolis, MN (1924 photo)

I remember gaining some “cred” when a school bully was picking on skinny little me. (I was probably over 6 foot and under 135 pounds in 9th grade.) We were to meet in the alley behind Frank’s Grocery store, a half a block from the school.  He and I fought; there were probably 50 kids there to see the fight. My first punch was a lucky punch that broke his nose; after that, I kept hitting on it whenever I could. Blood everywhere. Don hit me a few times but nothing damaging. After a few minutes of fighting, the police showed up, and everybody ran. Neither Don nor any of the other school kids messed with me after that. I didn’t look for fights, and they didn’t look for me either.

Jordan Junior High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Photo of Jordan Jr. High during demolition, 1985
Jordan Jr. High during demolition, 1985.

Jordan Junior High was at 29th and Irving Avenues in North Minneapolis. It was named after Charles Morison Jordan, a Superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools. The school opened in 1922. It was razed in 1985. Today the school location is Jordan Park. Next to it is the Hmong International Academy.


Endnotes

[i] Budgar is a combination of “Bud” my step-father’s nickname and “Edgar” his actual first name. In the 1960s, I always called him “Bud,” and I learned to call him “Budgar” later in life.

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.