NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Thursday October 19th 2017

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9 Cent Movies and Sugar from Minnehaha Fire Station

Bill Nelson, Director of Correctional Services at Volunteers of America, shares some of his many Lake Street memories. Go to www.youtube.com/visitlakestreet to watch his whole story, and those of others.

By Joyce Wisdom and Chris Oien

My name is Bill Nelson, and I showed up in the neighborhood of March 1941, which was just a few months before Pearl Harbor. Some of my earliest memories go back to shortly after the beginning of World War II, when I and my mother, along with my brother who was an infant at the time, would make the trek from 36th Ave. to the old fire station on Minnehaha [the current home of Patrick’s Cabaret]. And of course, you take a kid my age, she could hardly drag me away I was so fascinated with the fire engines. But the reason we went there was to get our sugar rations. Those were the days of austerity and World War II.

I grew up at 36th & Lake, just a half block off from Lake. In the vicinity were businesses like Peterson Drug, Lubiss Hardware, Supervalu, and of course everyone knew Liberty Grocery, which was on 35th & Lake. When we went to the movies, we went to the matinee usually, and paid nine cents to get in. We went to the El Lago Theater, but also in the area on 27th was the Lake Theater, and further down was the East Lake. That’s how we spent our time, it was quite a treat to go to the movies. I can only remember once that we went out to eat. It was always that you ate at home, and that was it.

My dad worked for the tractor factory known as Minneapolis Moline [where Target is now]. Many, many people in the neighborhood also worked there. He worked the second shift. There was a point when he got a better spot at Moline, but it did involve running a drill press for eight hours a day. In those days at least, he was not allowed to wear any protection on his hands, so I have memories of him waking up in the morning, having coffee, and looking at his hands. His hands were full of burns from metal, hot metal, that went in there and so forth. He worked at Minneaoplis Moline for quite a number of years.

For transportation, those were the days of the streetcar. The trolley was a strange beast. It had a basket in the front, always referred to as the cow catcher. My perception now is that if the streetcar ran into somebody, they’d fall into the basket. There was an operator, but also early on, there was a conductor. The conductor had a box about three-quarters of the way back on the streetcar. It costs us ten cents to ride, and I remember our particular streetcar was called Plymouth-East 25th Street. It came up 36th Ave., made a turn on to Lake Street, and continued on.

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