Schools I’ve Attended – Osseo High School

My Life
Those Places Thursday
By Don Taylor

During the summer of 1965, my stepfather decided to sell the house in North Minneapolis and build a new home in Brooklyn Park. Brooklyn Park is a second-tier suburb about ten miles northwest of Minneapolis. I believe Budgar was the first to buy in a development called “Sager’s Acres.” In any event, as is often the case with new construction, building completion was delayed. The house on Bryant Avenue sold and we needed a place to live. We ended up renting a dwelling on Lowry Avenue in Minneapolis between Lyndale and Aldrich Avenue. I registered for school at Osseo with the expectation that we’d move to the new house before school started. No such luck. Somehow, we were able to find an Osseo teacher who lived in North Minneapolis and who would give me a ride to and from school until the house in Brooklyn Park was completed. I’m not sure, but I think I rode with the teacher for about a month, maybe two.  I wish I could remember her name and thank her for the rides.

Osseo Then

Osseo High School, New Wing – Source: 1967 Osseo Yearbook

Osseo was an old farming town that was experiencing the pains of massive growth. The school district (Independent School District #279) was an area consisting of Osseo, Brooklyn Park, Maple Grove, and parts of Brooklyn Center and several other towns. The original building was built in 1928. More classrooms and a lunchroom were added in 1949 and more classrooms again were added in 1957. In 1959 a gymnasium was added. In 1961 a major expansion was added and in 1964 another major expansion was added. With one of the expansions, the old part of the building was designated the Junior High portion of the school and the new expansions were designated the high school part of the building. I started at Osseo in the fall of 1965. As I recall, all of the high school classes were in the two new expansion wings of the school. The newly built gym and the cafeteria were used by the High School.  Osseo had the worst lunches ever. Just plain horrible. One meal I remember vividly was toast with a blob of spaghetti-like mix on top with a little cheese melted on top that they called “pizza.” They were also trying to be healthy, so they took chips and good things out of the machines and replaced them with apples, oranges, and other “healthy” foods. In my junior year, the Junior High students moved to a new building nearby and the old building became a newly established Junior College. Needless to say, our attitude changed greatly when we learned that they had student lounges and more adult facilities. They also had good food in their machines. Occasionally, we’d sneak around the building, enter the Junior College, and buy goodies out of their machines.

Foster Home

In the spring of 1966, I got into a big row with my stepfather. He and my mother had been fighting, which typically occurred when he had been drinking, and I broke it up and beating him until I got tired. He made it be known that he would kill me in my sleep for it, so I decided it was time to leave. After a few weeks on the street, I was arrested for trespassing (Two other runaways and I were sleeping in a model home at night.) Budgar didn’t want me back, so I was ruled incorrigible. I was lucky enough to be sent to a foster home in Brooklyn Center (not a group home) and I was able to continue at Osseo High. It was while living in the foster home I met my best friend, Doug, who lived a few blocks away from the Olson’s house on Perry Avenue.

Osseo Interests

Don Taylor junior class photo, 1967
Junior Class Photo – 1967

I was in the audio-visual group, chess club, computer club, and was seen as a generally geeky, nerdy, kid.  I was over six feet tall and under 150 pounds –skinny. I did well in high school and never needed to study to get a “B.” If I really liked a class and I decided to work for it I’d get an “A.”  At that time, they gave students two grades, the standard A to F letter grades for academics and a “Citizenship” grade from 1 to 3; three was a “misfit.” The vast majority of students received a “2,” meaning “Satisfactory.” Once, I receive an A-3. Academically superior but a misfit.  It was Spanish class. My teacher was from Boston and couldn’t trill an “r.” I, however, could trill my “r’s” and would correct the teacher’s pronunciation regularly. She was really frustrated with me. Basically, if I liked a teacher, I did well in school, if I didn’t like a teacher, I cut up constantly and did poorly.

Senior Photo – 1968

I didn’t do anything in the way of sports in high school.  Living in the foster home, I didn’t receive any type allowance or income, but my foster parents encouraged me to work to earn money. I worked at several different jobs during high school. I was a fry cook at a greasy-spoon restaurant in Crystal called Marty’s Grill. Doug worked there also. We were both stiffed on our pay when the place went out of business. I also at International House of Pancakes (IHOP), Sweden House, a smorgasbord (buffet) in Crystal and several different Embers Restaurants. I also worked at a large Holiday gas station in Crystal. (My best friend Doug worked there too.) Twelve years later, when I got out of the Navy, Doug and I also worked together at TRW in Arden Hills. So, we actually worked at three places at the same time over the many years of our friendship.

While I was living at the foster home, I really needed and wanted a driver’s license. In order to get one, I needed to get a copy of my birth certificate. That is when I learned that my birth surname was Taylor. A name I had never heard before. It was shortly after that when I changed my name. My foster parents couldn’t put me on their insurance, so in order to afford insurance, I decided to try to move back with my mother, who truly missed me. Budgar and I were able to co-exist for much of my senior year. However, once I graduated, Budgar want me gone so I moved into a small house in Northeast Minneapolis with a couple friends.

Osseo Today

Image of Osseo High School Today (from air) source Google Maps.
Osseo High Today – Source: Google Maps

Today, Independent School District 279 serves Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Corcoran, Dayton, Hassan Township, Maple Grove, Osseo, and Plymouth. It has 19 elementary schools (K-5), four middle schools (6-8), three high schools, including Osseo, and an area learning center (9-12). Osseo High School is a four-year school with a huge campus. The old 1924 building with the 1935 and 1948 additions were demolished for a new gymnasium. The 1959 gym was converted to a new cafeteria in 2002 along with adding new office spaces. From 2002 to 2005 the exterior was renovated. Finally, in 2014-2015, more classrooms were added along with a choral rehearsal room. Frankly, I don’t think I’d recognize the school today as the same one I attended 50 years ago.

It has been 50 years since I graduated from Osseo. I hope there is a reunion. I’d love to see the old school and possibly catch up with some old friends.


Social Networking for Genealogy

Title slide for
“Social Networking for Genealogists”
I’ll be giving a presentation on “Social Networking for Genealogy” to the Greater Portland Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society on August 1. This will be the first presentation I have done since moving from Smyrna last year; I am really looking forward to it.
I attended a “Social Networking” presentation a couple years ago (in Georgia) and felt that I could do a much better job than that speaker did. The biggest issue that I had with that presentation was that the speaker talked about his family tree excessively and he didn’t tie his findings to social networking. In other words, he didn’t keep to the topic – an issue I often have with speakers. Anyway, I’ll be talking about some techniques I use and will speak of some of my social networking successes. I will stay on topic and, hopefully, people will enjoy the talk.
I’ll probably post my slides to “Social Networking for Genealogists,” my Pinterest board sometime after the presentation.
————-  DISCLAIMER  ————-

I Switched to Heredis

Frustration strikes again…

My continuing problems with Family Tree Maker (FTM) for Mac 3.0 occurred again. I saw that my synchronization to my on-line tree was broken once again. In addition, I found that several of my sources were corrupted. Therefore, I decided to give up. Interestingly, the same morning I made that decision I received an email from Heredis letting me know that their new 2015 product for the Mac was now available. It is also on sale for 50% off until July 19th. It seemed like a sign, so I purchased it.

Heredis Installation & Import

Heredis give you to option to purchase from their site or purchase through the App Store. I purchased from the App Store. It downloaded and installed automatically. I used Time Machine to restore my FTM to a version before it corrupted. Then opened up FTM and exported my file in GED 5.5 format. 

Next, in Heredis, I opened a GEDCOM file, selected the file I had exported and it imported successfully. Then Heredis asked if I wanted to import my media. I said yes and selected the appropriate Media folder. It pulled in all the media that it knew about. Very easy to do.

Heredis Features

I then began looking at some of the features of Heredis. I was immediately impressed with the way it handles sources. When you open a source, besides the expected basic information that you would expect, a huge note area allows you to format the text you write nicely. I like using the “vertical display” which puts the image on the left and the note text on the right. I found usage to be smooth and easy. For example, I went to Family Search, found a record I was looking for. On Family Search, I selected copy and I downloaded the image. When I went back to Heredis, I just pasted the copied information into the note, and then dragged and dropped the image into Heredis. I added the header information based upon what I had copied — Just a series of copy & pastes.

Title: 1940 Census – Document: [Head of Household’s Name] – Repository: Family Search – Author: NARA – Date: [Today’s date] (‘cause I found it today), Website: I entered the exact URL. I was done. I did add the address of the individual, which the person rented, and a couple other items but it was good to go.

Although the source page does show what events are associated with it there isn’t a way to add an event through that page, however, I went to the Head of the household in my people entry form and input a Census record for 1 Apr 1940 with the key information for the head. A really cool feature is to share that event with other individuals. That feature keeps you from needing to reenter the same information on the records for everyone in the household. In a comment line, it is easy add the information that is different from the head, such as wife, son, daughter, or mother-in-law as appropriate. I like the system.

Heredis default on-line
search locations.

Another very cool feature is the Search. They populate several popular web search engines, Ancestry.Com,, Find-a-Grave, etc. You can add more or disable them as you wish. On the next tab over from the Search is “Research Note.” It is a great place to enter notes regarding what you have searched already. I like it.

I found the selection criterion for finding people is flexible. For example, you can select by surname individuals whose parents are unknown.

Another awesome feature is to work on a branch. Select a person then you can select ancestors or descendants of that individual. It is kind of like an automatic filter system. You can also show just the treetops, which can give you a visual look at individuals you may want to spend more time researching. Reports are everything you would expect or want. It is very impressive software.

It is perfect, no. There isn’t a way for an individual to have multiple surnames. In my family, there are several (male) individuals who had multiple surnames and for whom the surname wasn’t related. Using a “nickname” or considering it an alias doesn’t work well. My grandfather was born Clifford Brown, Married and had children as Richard Durand, and went by Richard Brown in his later years. I’ve never encountered a reasonable explanation for the name changes. In addition, of course, he did have the nickname of “Dick,” as do many Richards.

The bottom line is I’m really happy (so far) that I made the switch to Heredis.

————-  DISCLAIMER  ————-


My First “Job” – Trapper

I was recently catching up on some videos I have long wanted
to watch.  One of them was the Friday Keynote speech as
the 2014 Roots Tech conference.  In the speech, Judy G. Russell, JD, CGSM , CGLSM ,
spoke about many of the day-to-day things that we don’t know about our
ancestors. She reminded us that unless our ancestors proactively left stories about their lives, any such information is lost in three
generations.  She also reminded us that
our stories will be important for our great-grand children and later
generations and that those stories will be lost unless we pass them on, in an
intentional and accurate way, to future generations. A day or two later I was speaking with my
wife and told her a story of my youth that I hadn’t told her before and
probably haven’t thought of in decades. 
I then realized it was the kind of story that future generations might
like to know about.  It is a story that
I’m certain neither of my sons know about, let alone my grandchildren or my

Fridley House abt 1958
From personal photo archives.
When I was nine or ten years old, we lived in Fridley,
Minnesota, in a tiny little house on Northeast 2nd Street. The house
was a 480 square foot, one bedroom house that still stands today. It did have a
large closet in the bedroom. That closet acted as my bedroom. There was just enough space for a single bed and a small dresser.  The actual bedroom is where my mom and
grandmother slept.  I had to walk through
it to get to my “bedroom.”

My mom was a “single mom” and the sole support for
herself, my grandmother, and me. Needless to say, a woman working in 1959-60
America didn’t earn much. We certainly
had enough food, were warm in the winter, and the times were good, but there
just wasn’t much money.  Certainly, not
enough for me to have an allowance or a way to buy Christmas presents or
birthday gifts for either of them.

Gopher Mounds
Photo Courtesy: Minnesota
Wild Animal Management

Across the street from us was an empty lot, beyond that was
Main Street.  As a developing suburb,
Fridley had a problem with gophers.  Although Minnesota is nicknamed the “Gopher
State,” gophers are not particularly loved and are destructive
varmints. It is the mounds that pocket gophers create that are the biggest
problem.  They are typically much larger
than molehills and destroy lawns.  Also,
in fields where cutting machines try to manage growth, which was done in
Fridley to reduce fire threats, the cutters would hit mounds and be damaged or
at least dulled. As such, the City of
Fridley put a bounty on gophers.  Bring
the right hind foot of a gopher to City Hall, about a mile away, and they would
pay 15 cents per foot.

In those days there was nothing build west of Main Street
all the way to the railroad tracks. The area was several blocks wide and many
blocks long of nothing but scrub grasses and sand burrs, which we called “Fridley Strawberries.” To earn money I took up trapping gophers. At first, I
trapped across the street and a few neighbor’s yards and just a few traps. Then I expanded to the
large field across Main Street and used my earnings to purchase more and more traps. To trap a pocket gopher, first you find a fresh mound. Then use a probe to find
the tunnel near that fresh mound and dig out the area to access those tunnels; there
are two tunnels at each mound.  Then, you place
the traps into the tunnels one in each each direction so that when the gopher crosses
over the trap and presses the pressure plate when they come along that tunnel. Stake the
trap so it won’t move if you get a poor hit or if a dog or raccoon tries to take away your catch.  Cover the mound back so it
is dark again. Come back the next day, or
two at the most, and pull out the dead critter. Sometimes, you’d even get two, one in each
trap in each of the tunnels.
Gopher Trap
Courtesy: Garden
Web Forum

At my peak of trapping I had about 35 traps and during the
summer I spent many hours tending my them, gathering the feet, and about once
a week going to City Hall to collect my bounty. 

One summer the man who counted gopher feet and paid the
bounty went on vacation.  While he was gone,
a woman was supposed to count the feet and pay the bounty.  I don’t think she like being tasked with the
job and apparently she didn’t know the right hind foot from the left front foot.
One of the other kid trappers figured out that she didn’t know the difference
and would pay for each foot brought to her. So instead of getting 15 cents per
gopher, you could get 60 cent’s per gopher. 
It didn’t take long for all the kids trapping to learn of it. Kids were
stealing other kids traps, raiding traps for the bounty and doing all kinds of
things to exploit the poor woman’s lack of knowledge.  Today, I feel guilty about exploiting her and the
bounty system.  I know it was wrong, but
at the time, I felt everyone was doing it so it was okay.  I know better now.
In relating this story to my wife, I recognized that
trapping gophers was the first work I did where someone other than a family
member paid me. It dawned on me that is the definition of a job and
I then realized trapping was my first job.
The following year, I got my first (of many) paper route and
gave up trapping. 
We lived in the Fridley house longer than anywhere else when
I was growing up – about 2-1/2 years. 
All of third grade, all of fourth grade, and about half of fifth grade.
The next house we lived in was in Spring Lake Park. Another one bedroom. My
bedroom was an unheated “breezeway” but that is another story….