If you’re in the mood to take a trip down Memory Lane, by all means check out a wonderful website called “Remembering St. Cloud.” The “website” is, more accurately, a Facebook posting entitled “St. Cloud Remembered.” To find it, go to Facebook, sign in or sign up, then type “St. Cloud Remembered” into the search text box. It should pop right up.
It’s a nostalgist’s dreamsite. For those born and/or raised in the greater St. Cloud area, visiting that website is like opening a big, long-locked memory trunk. It’s like stepping into a time machine and pressing the fast-backward button. The site contains hundreds of photos and comments from site browsers, not just of St. Cloud but about virtually all the towns in the central Minnesota area.
I’ve spent hours wandering through that site, relishing things I thought had long been erased from my memory bank.
Here is just one example: I was raised in a house on St. Cloud’s 5th Avenue S near Barden Park. Every weekend in the 1950s, we kids would walk up 5th Avenue to downtown to go to the movies at one of the three theaters: Paramount, Eastman, Hays. Adjacent to the east side of the Hays was Grundman Motors where my dad worked as a mechanic. In fact, I was named after Denny Grundman. We kids would stop there to weasel money off of Dad and get candy from those old clunky-nifty dispensers. What a thrill it was to put nickels into them and then turn the red knob to watch the candy bars or Planter’s salted peanuts in their window-boxes take an “elevator” ride down to the dispenser window. To this day, the smell of mechanic’s grease-gasoline-concrete floors reminds me of that candy machine.
When we’d leave Grundman’s and the Hays Theater after the movie, the first thing we’d see is the big used-car lot across the street with its line of colorful plastic pennants fluttering on the breeze, flapping in the wind. That lot was where the Radisson hotel is now.
I’d forgotten all about that car lot and the hundreds of times I’d seen it – that is, until I saw a very old photo of it on the “Remembering St. Cloud” website. I was stunned. It was like seeing a glimpse of a forgotten vanished world come back to life.
It’s odd but wonderful how an old photo can instantly unlock the sweet-deep past. That is why “Remembering St. Cloud” is such a treasure trove. Most of its photos are from people who found them in photo albums, attics and elsewhere. What’s really neat is people keep adding photos all the time.
Here are some favorite memories sparked by the photos on “Remembering St. Cloud.”
Walking to the east-side quarries every summer day to swim and lounge around on the hot flat granite slabs with friends on soggy towels, listening to our cool transistor radios (“KDWB! Channel 63!” was the station’s jingle).
Walking every night in below-zero weather to Lake George for ice-skating. Putting our skates on in the warming house blazing with warmth from its red-hot stove, then zipping onto the ice to play crack-the-whip and tag while from the warming house wafted corny, rinky-tinky organ music. That warming-house smelled of old wood, wet woolen socks and a metallic-hot-steamy smell when skaters would spit on the big stove to watch the spit sizzle.
Going to the municipal swimming pool every day in the summer, putting our clothes in wire baskets, pinning the basket-number safety pin onto our swim trunks, then getting the courage up to dash through the shock of cold-shower water in a walkway that led from the damp-cement locker room to the sun-drenched, sky-blue pool. Afterwards, red-eyed, clutching our wet towels, we’d stop at the concession stand for frozen Snickers, Old Dutch potato chips and Orange Crush pop.
Walking across the old rickety 10th Street bridge after stopping at Gussie’s Grocery next to it to get some candy. The bridge had a wood-plank walkway through the cracks of which you could see the brownish swirling water. There was the smell of fish and creosote. On the other side of the river, we would hike along to the Beaver Islands where we would fish happily all day long.
Nowadays, when I visit south St. Cloud, it’s so utterly altered from the magic past. And yet, beyond the changes, beneath them, I can still see and hear the happy ghosts from a vanished world.
I urge my readers to visit “Remembering St. Cloud.” I can bet you’ll find many of your own good memories awaiting you therein.