South Minneapolis 1947-1955
The House We owned the place and lived on the upper level with the Hansens renting the lower from us. Norman was a bartender, Hildur was our babysitter and there were two teenagers, Bobby and Donny. Until we got our own TV I would watch Captain Midnight on the Hansen's. I remember a 5 piece chunky puzzle of a dog and a horse race game that used a spinner - and through the magic of the Internet I found it. There was just one bedroom and it didn't have a wall to the dining room, instead there was a curtain. Angi and I slept on a couch in the living room until I was older and then moved into the front and only closet. I remember sitting on the floor and staring out the window. Off of the kitchen was the bathroom. I have memories of heaving minstrone soup into that toilet. enlarge
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The Fire There was a pot-bellied stove in the garage and a pile of wood (shingles). Angi and I would start a fire in it as part of our playing "house". We would bring food and cook on it. Well, one night after we had come in, the garage caught on fire and burned to the ground. I kept quiet and didn't even go for a look. ;Fireman must have suggested to my mother that kids started it or she suspected. Angi told mom that I had done it. So I had to kneel in a corner that night. Thought it unfair at the time, that Angi didn't get punished, too.
The Observatory At the end of the block was a gas station who's lot was filled with all kinds of junk. One winter/spring day I dragged a topless wooden crate up the ice-rutted alley to our backyard.  The bottom had a hole in it, so that by turning the box up-side-down and putting a lead pipe into the hole I had an observatory. I just fit inside it and there on snow covered ground I would lay looking for birds and squirrels in daytime and looking at the stars at night.
The Ice Man We had an icebox (before elctric fridge) and once a week or so the ice man would deliver a block of ice and place into the the ice box. On summer days the kids would run along begging until he would chip off a chunk for each of us. enlarge diagram
Der Women A group of German speaking ladies would come around for coffee and a gab in German. I recall when my mother was pregnant they had her lie down and they held a coin or ring suspended by a string over her belly. If it swung back and forth it was a boy. Round and round indicated a girl.
The Billboard At the other end of our block ran a railway line and at the corner Bloomington and 29th on railway verge was a double v-shaped billboard. We used to climb to the top (inside the V so as not to be seen) and what made it even more thrilling was that the railway track was in a gully in order to run under the roads. So the distance to the bottom was basically doubled.
The Dentist I had rotten teeth (too many Austrian desserts?) and had a lot of baby teeth and a few molars removed. I remember the upstairs room, the old fashioned drill and the smells. I don't recall much else because he used 'laughing gas'.
The Haircut Apparently, I had a cowlick, or two - one on each side. Anyway my mom wanted it or they gone. So she instructed barber to do so. I had to wear a scarf for a long time which was suppose to force my hair out of the cowlick
The Shovel An elderly lady live in a very large house on a double lot which held an immense garden. We kids would help her in exchange for lemonade and cookies on her front porch. She had child size shovels and fork. I always hoped to get the new shiny red shovel that came to a point and not the old rusty one with a flat bottom. enlarge
The Rock There were a couple older boys who lived across from Strands and once in a while I end up with them, usually in their alley. I remember that they used that they used to tell "dirty" jokes. I don't know why, but one day they threw rocks at me. One put a deep gash in my left forehead which remained visible my whole life. I remember running home screaming bloody murder while blood gushed everywhere.
The Scar Just to balance things out one day I fell and hit my head on the corner of a low table. Very lucky in that I miss my right eye, but I now carry that indent around forever.
The Colds When we had a cold mom would put Vicks into a bowl of hot water and throw a towel over our head as we breathed in the vapor. Several times it was made into a game by placing the bowl under the kitchen table and covering it with a sheet. Angi and I would then sit inside the "steam tent".
The Paint One day Angi and I got into the store room of the garage and used the paint (back then lead based enamel) to make ourselves look like warpainted Indians. Don't really remember us doing it but I sure do recall how mom and Mrs Hansen had to clean us up using gasoline with plenty of words to go with it.
The TV We got our own TV and I recall Saturday mornings watching the kids shows with Dad lying on the couch/bed. I had a Winky Dink Kit and would apply the plastic sheet to the screen and color in as instructed. And I faithfully watched Andy's Gang. Shows were sponsored by cereal companies and my mom let me send away for Snap, Crackle and Pop puppets. enlarge
More TV After school I watched "The Pinky Lee Show" and "Howdy Doody" and I seem to remember Gabby Hayes hosting a show that played cowboy shows.
The Trains Back then trains were steam powered and quite a few would make there way to the main Sears store on Chicago and Lake. The slopes under the bridges were sand and fun to play in. But the big thrill was to see how long you could stay under the bridge when a train approached. The black coal smoke would fill the whole area, so what we do is run for the open and duck into the box elder saplings so as not to be seen. enlarge
The Theater Just two blocks away on Lake Street was the Avalon Theater. I went there on Staurday mornings to watch cliff hanger series. I also remember watching a 3-D movie in which flaming arrows came straight at me. Shorty after we moved away in 1955 it became the first theater in the TC to show porn flicks. It has been restored and is doing regular movies again. enlarge 1950
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The Neighbors Next to us in the upper duplex were a couple old ladies hat visited us once in a while. Next to them was a lady in a large house with an attached section that was filled with gardens. Down at the end by the bridge were the Strands - a plumber and his son Loren who was my best friend. Across the rood in a ramshackle house was Dianne, Angi's best friend. Several houses to the north on our side lived Carol Altendahl, who was a classmate. enlarge diagram
The Bridge The concrete bridge over the train tracks had a wide top ledge and was therefore a challenge for walking upon. Almost everyone could do the section where the fall wasn't all that far, but no one ever dared to walk all the way across. Even more exciting was when the Hansen teenage boys would dangle us small kids by the feet over the edge. enlarge
there weren't trees or guard rails
The Forest As mentioned above, one side of the train ditch was overgrown with saplings. We created paths and "forts" within the greenery then play Robin Hood and similar make believe games. We made bows and arrows from the treelings and would shoot them at the passing trains. See photo at "Shakes" - now full grown trees.
The Book One of the most intriguing books we had was my mother's childhood book: Little Peter's Journey to the Moon. It was written in German, but my mother read it to me so many times that I was able to "read" it myself. The pictures entrigued me. Most were just drawings and I colored them in with colored pencils. Here is a video of it with Eglish subtitles: View. enlarge
The Chores I am sure there were others but the one that I remember is dusting the lower rungs of the dining room chairs. Probably because I was small and could get under them.
The Slide On the other side of the tracks, the hill was covered in grass that was never mowed. In the summer the long dry grass was perfect for sliding down on cardboard or simply rolling to the bottom.  In the winter we used our wooden sled whenever we could get away with it. 2013 - no grass just trees.
The Street Car We lived a block off Bloomington Ave which had street car service. Anyone who travelled on one will remember the sound of the rails and at night the way the lights dimmed when there was a momentary loss of contact with the overhead power line. And the signal to the driver was a bell that jingled unlike the modern bus with its buzzer. I was a young boy and I recall one time when we got off through the rear door that the driver closed the door too soon (he couldn't see me, being so short) and my arm got caught. enlarge
The Tripper One day Loren and I spent a very long time creating a trip line at his place. Next to his house was a large hydrangea. We tied a rope to the house and laid it over the lawn into the bush.
The Drowning My mother tells me that when I was little boy we were at Lake Nokomis. She went out swimming and that I walked in to get to here and almost drowned, having been saved by a man. And that is why I feared water and nver learned to swim until we had the pool in Waiuku. Mind you, my mother told my sister the same story about her.
The Bakery On the way to and from Church Angi and I would pass a very large bakery and boy did it smell great.
The Prayer In Sunday School we had to recite The Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary. I would stop at "thy womb, Jesus" Sister would then say "Holy Mary" and I would then finish. You see I thought they were two diferrent prayers. It was many years later that I finally put "2 and 2" together.
The Pot Holders I remember going to Carol Altendahl's grandmother's place near Sears. The reason we went was potholders, only I can't remember if she made them and we bought them or the other way around. Anyway I do recall them being bright red and yellow.
similar
The Library Mom and I would take the trolly to the Franklin Street library. I rememebr going done exterior stairs to the childrens library. Mom would fill a shopping bag with her books and I did the same with mine. I picked up my strong reading habits from her.
The Pipe Mr Strand, in the house next to the tracks, was a plumber. His son, Loren, was my best friend. One day he was melting lead (guess they made their own pipes in those days) and he had to go into the house. So he left me in charge of holding the crucible over the flame. Unfortunately, at some stage when I was alone I grasped the pipe a little too close to the hot end (probably cause it was getting heavy).  That brilliant move caused an immediate scalding of my hand. I dropped the pipe and ran screaming down the alley to my home and mother. Can't remember anything after that, but close inspection of my hands today doesn't reveal any serious damage.
The Shakes Those large steam engines went along at a decent clip and the vibrations from the trains would cause our plaster to fall down from walls and ceilings. Happened often enough for me to recall a couple episodes. There would be a sheet hung across the kitchen door because we couldn't go into it, but we needed to do so to get to the bathroom, being a kid I would walk slowly and hope that a piece would fall off while I was in the room. The other one I remember was when the front stairwell wall came down - spectacular since it was a two story house.
Tracks now a road!!
The Bike My first go on a bicycle was on the Hansen boys'. They put me on it at the railway bridge and pushed me down the hill. It was great until I neared the end of the block and realized that I was going too fast to turn at the corner. Then I realized that I wouldn't be able to stop, so I sort of jumped off of it just before it went onto the road. We learnt from that and my next lesson was at Powderhorn Park. There is a sidewalk which encircles the lake. They pushed me off and I then had a marathon of a peddle (its a big lake) up and down the hills, only this time they were waiting for me when I completed the circuit to stop me. enlarge
The Stamps Gold Bond and S&H Green Stamps are two that I remember and have in my posession. I used S&H stamp books to get my Samsonite suitcase in 1969. I used a lot of saliva putting the stamps into the books. It was brillant when they came up with a larger stamp representing 10 smaller ones. One day I found that the gas station, mentioned above, had tossed out 100's of Gold Bond books. So I brought a pile of them home. Not so much to use properly, but as coloring books. They featured Sandy, a Scottish cartoon fellow on every other page, with a short saying. enlarge
The Stores At the corner of Bloomington and Lake was Kellers Drug Store. Entering from the corner I remember seeing the most beautiful flowers in so many colors. You had to go through to the back to get to the diner and I recall sitting at the counter and having a sandwhich with potato chips and a sliced pickle. You could go through to Gambles Grocery store. It had weekly prize. My mom always entered and we would go down for the draw in the evening. Since she never won, she claimed it was rigged. Supposedly, an entry had pin inserted and the drawer would fish around until his finger was pricked. We rarely went upstairs which held furniture and appliances. But I was often sent to the store to buy bread or milk and sometimes it was in the evening. I would enter through the back alley doors. enlarge
Oatmeal - 1 Back then you could buy oatmeal in cardboard cyclinders which made great tom-tom drums amongst other things. When we moved back in 1980 the old familiar containers were still on sale albeit with updated picture and our kids also found them to be a splendid creative item. enlarge
Oatmeal - 2 Angi and I used her very small plastic kitchen utensils and dish set to cook oatmeal on top of our gas space heater. Never real boiled but the oats did get mushy.
The Handle Bars I am guessing that a bike shop on Lake street was having a grand opening and Casey Jones was there. He had a local kids TV show. So we got to meet him and he gave me a pair of red handle bar grips with plastic flyers to put onto the ends. enlarge
The Bath Angie and I bathed together and I must be OCD because I did a step-by-step routine with her. Take the washcloth, fold in four, wet it and apply soap. Then wash our face. Squeeze soap out and re-wet the cloth and rinse the face. And this would continue working our way down the body. enlarge
The Beans The house next to the Strands had an Asian family who we never saw. On the fence between they grew large beans. Purple and white but not very tasty raw. enlarge
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