“Growing Up In Walker” — what a great idea! The old photographs on Facebook of those good old days sure bring back memories!
One of the photographs was the Walker High School Band, and someone asked how old the uniforms were. The photograph in the masthead shows Joyce Benson leading the band in 1949 when Erling Wallin was the director. That’s me, out of step, carrying my sousaphone and watching my wife-to-be instead of looking at the music and keeping in step!
Growing up in Walker — playing “knuckle-bonies-tight” during the marble games underneath the Walker Community Bandstand, which used to be where the Chase Condos are now. Every Friday night, we could listen to the stirring marches of John Phillip Sousa, Meredith Wilson and others.
Rather than listen to the music, however, we were much more interested in the numbers of steelies, cat-eyes and bowlers we could win!
Every Saturday night, we pushed and shoved our way through the hundreds of tourists, in order to get a front-row spot on the grass of the Conservation Building lawn, so that we could watch the Leech Lake Drum and Dance Group do the Jingle-Dance, the Chicken Dance or if we were really lucky, the very strenuous and extremely athletic Hoop Dance.
When we were very young, we ran down the aisle of Harry Simmon’s Grand Theater in order to get a front row seat to watch Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. When we were older, however, we would much rather have the very back row of Norm Bailey’s State Theater, so we could sit with our girlfriends and watch another Academy Award winner, like Casablanca. Of course, our girlfriends were always there to save us a seat, so we didn’t have to pay the dime to get her into the movie!
After the movie we would walk hand-in-hand across the street to Del Geldmeyer’s The Scoop for a Coke or a malt — “going Dutch,” of course!
Bill Saccoman’s Nickel Skillet was another favorite watering-hole for kids growing up in Walker. Everything cost a nickel — whether it be a hotdog, hamburger or an ice-cream cone! Another favorite spot for teen-agers was Babe McMurrin’s Teen Center in the basement of her Home Cafe. That’s where our girlfriends taught us how to dance to the music of Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and other wonderful, big-bands of the times.
I grew up up in Walker when the swimming beach used to be where the vacant city access lot is, between the Richmire home and General Trott’s vacant house that we used to say was haunted! Trott was a lieutenant in the Battle of Sugar Point and we always thought he was still in there with his Krag-Jorgensen rifle.
Jim Richmire was the lifeguard and swimming instructor. Later, the swimming beach was moved west where the Walker Marina is now, and just the other day, Kathy Ostlund reminded me of those days when I was her swimming instructor, making her swim all the way to First Point, while I sat in a row-boat and shouted out the different strokes for her to swim.
Spearing suckers in the spring in Lake May Creek with Jerry O’Connor, Newell Ellis, Tuck Geving and Bud Brault — when the rushing water was high, causing us to get our feet wet retreiving the slippery, wiggly, twisting fish — we did all that, growing up in Walker!
I also went hunting for partridges with Harold Mankenberg, Gene Wicklund and DeWayne Marshman in the woods behind Gordy Broughton’s little, two-bedroom home that housed him and his 13 siblings!
Growing up in Walker meant shooting hoops year around! Once in a while in the wintertime the school would let us use the gym, but if they didn’t, George Crow would persuade his dad, Doc Crow, who was the head doctor at Ah-Gwah-Ching, to let us use their gym, and we would shoot hoops for hours on end.
Friday, at the WHA-Bagley football game, the class of 1949 will be celebrating their 70th reunion, and some of the names mentioned above will be there! Ever since they graduated, the class has been active in community affairs, having contributed to the Walker Area Community Center, the Circle of Time, the Park Playground, the Rock Garden Pavilion, and the new statue called Unity. Come on out to the game and welcome back to Walker the Class of 1949!