At an Intersection in My Life

I was on a ride yesterday when I found myself waiting for the light at the intersection of France Avenue and Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington. I was only a mile away from where I grew up from 1966 to 1975. As I sat waiting for the light, I quickly surveyed the area and noticed that there was very little left from when these were my stomping grounds. I thought to myself that I should come back to take a slow walk around and do some reminiscing.

I got up this morning and drove my truck back to the same intersection to have a closer look; my camera in hand.

I pulled into McDonald's parking lot and went inside. I ordered my usual: Egg McMuffin, Cinnamon Melts, and a large decaf coffee. I recalled when this McDonald's first opened in the early '70s. Before then, the nearest McDonald's was off Nicollet and I-494. Maybe once a month a couple of us would go there and bring back dinner for our family of eight. I can still remember holding the warm bags of food on my lap for the 10 or 15 minutes it would take to get home and the smell coming from within. It was all a kid could do to not reach in and grab a few fries that had fallen to the bottom of the bag. Sometimes the temptation was too great.

I left my truck parked where it was and walked across the parking lot to Valley West shopping center. I remember riding my bike here with Miles Harvey while it was still under construction in the late '60s. It was through this parking lot where Doug Orman, Kurt Langer and I were chasing each other on our bikes when I suffered a nasty spill. The pedals disengaged on my bike and I went down hard, breaking my wrist. I was on my sister's three-speed and the problem with the gears/pedals slipping was a known one, in fact, my dad had told me not to ride it for that very reason. I should have listened.

After my crash, I was walking home through Jefferson high school ball fields when my sister came running up behind me asking me what was wrong. I was no longer riding the bike but pushing it. I showed her my wrist. I wasn't sure if it was broken, I just saw a big lump and knew something wasn't right. My dad was between jobs for a few weeks during that time and he had no health insurance for our family. He wasn't happy with me, especially since he'd told me to stay off the bike. I don't think two minutes went by on the drive to Southdale Fairview hospital where he didn't express his disappointment. I got it.

On the other side of the parking lot is what remains of the old movie theater which opened when the mall opened. After the theater closed I believe it became a bank but now the building stands empty. I remember going there on a double date with Sandie Jacobson, Kurt Langer, and Colleen Morrison to see John Wayne in Cahill, U.S. Marshal. I have no idea why we went to see a John Wayne movie other than that must have been all that was playing.

I walked through the mall and tried to picture some of the stores which used to be there. Of course, none of the originals remain. I remembered the bank where I had my first savings account and the Radio Shack where once a month you could get a free transistor battery. Its spot was vacant. There are some military recruiting offices toward the back section which weren't there before.

I stepped outside behind the mall to see if the bike trail through the woods was still there. It was a scenic shortcut for us. The woods don't look much different but any access to whatever was left of the trail was now blocked off.

I walked back across Old Shakopee to what used to be a happening place: Andy's Tap. It too is now closed and from what I hear, that was a fairly recent closing. I only went there a handful of times over the years. I recalled a lunch I had there with my dad and Keith in the early '90s when my dad was in town. To the right of Andy's Tap was The Sweet Shop (long since closed) which sold all sorts of penny candy. We'd sometimes take our bikes there after school and for 50 cents you could ride away with a nice stash of sweets.

To the left of Andy's Tap was a drug store but the space is vacant now. Beyond that and south is what is left of Bloomdale. There used to be a grocery store there which I remember going to with my mom as a kid. I'm not sure but I think it was Red Owl, or maybe it was Country Club. Several other stores have come and gone in the same space since, most recently a True Value Hardware store but now there's no longer anything as it too stands vacant.

The one shop in Bloomdale I remember most of all was an indoor golf range where you could hit balls against a screen in an animated setting. There was nothing else like it. For a few dollars you could play 18 holes of golf against the screen in the dead of winter. I never had the money or my clubs to play there but the shop always intrigued me. It was sad to see what had become of a place which as a kid was always so alive with activity.

I left the intersection which brought me there and walked south along France Avenue to the ball fields of Westwood Elementary school where I attended 4th grade. I thought about the time my dad came to one of my ball games. I sucked. I knew nothing about batting. I remember being at the plate and looking over my left shoulder to where my dad was sitting on a small hill as he watched me strikeout. I recalled his advice later to get my bat cocked and ready to swing rather than have it resting on my shoulder. It sounded like a good idea.

The modular units outside the main school building which served as classrooms for many of us were now gone. I think 4th grade with Mrs. Struve was probably one of my more enjoyable school years. It was also the year I would get to take one of our lab rats, Retta or Gretta (I can't remember which) home for my very own pet. More about that later.

I approached the front entrance and saw a sign of the times. The security didn't amount to much as the receptionist simply had me sign my name to a sign-in sheet and put on a visitor's badge, then I was free to roam. I didn't go far. I found the east entrance which was the one I used to enter and I used that as my point of reference. The door to the right was where we used to get our singing lessons. I must have totally failed that class as I can't sing a note. I have vivid memories of being in that room and singing a song with the lyrics "Ahdoray-oh! Ahdoray-boomday-oh! Ahdoray-boomday-retsetset, awsay-pawsay-oh!" I have no idea what the words mean.

Down another hall, I found the lunchroom. It doesn't look like much has changed. Again, I have distinct memories of being in this room as well over forty years earlier. Maybe had I stepped inside the room and looked around it would have evoked even more memories. I do have one odd recollection from here: whenever I hear the song, I Think We're Alone Now by Tommy James and the Shondells, I'm taken back to this lunchroom. I have no idea why.

I walked outside and headed back toward France Avenue. I had to take a photo of the chimney which rises above the school. I always thought it was a cool looking chimney—not round like all the others I'd seen but with corners. I also appreciate the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

I walked back up France avenue to the southeast corner of Old Shakopee where the Dairy Queen used to be. The building is gone and has been replaced with a Bruger's Bagel shop. They rebuilt the DQ at the other end of the parking lot next to Mount Hope Lutheran Church where we attended for one year before we left the area.

I headed back toward the intersection on the northeast side. There was never much on that corner, at least for me. A gas station and an assortment of small shops. One of those shops was a coin dealer where for one summer (maybe longer) my brothers and I (mostly my brothers) were into collecting coins and filling up the little blue coin holders with our rare coins. We never found the holy grail of pennies...the 1909-s vdb.

Across the street on the northwest corner used to be Harold's Skelly gas station. It's where my dad would take our cars to get worked on. When my folks moved away in my senior year, my dad bought me a 1970 Ford Maverick. We brought it by Harold's and paid him a few dollars to give it the once-over. I remember gas being pumped at his station for thirty-something per gallon. His shop is gone and so is the building. They've turned the corner lot into a small park with some benches.

Just beyond the park is Penn Cycle. It's been there for probably close to 30 years but before it became a bike shop it was a hardware store. I recall going in there with my dad as a kid and looking around. I think the owner died of cancer.

It's surprising that the bike shop seems unaffected by time as does the McDonald's next to it but most everywhere else you look it's been either totally renovated or it sits vacant. Bikes and burgers—maybe that's where the smart money is at.

I could easily write a dozen blog posts about memories from this little intersection from my youth. Maybe someday I will. I got back in my truck and drove to my old neighborhood to continue my stroll. I'll post about that later.

To be continued: part 2


Anonymous said…
Interesting read, Kev!

I would like to do the same and jog and recount some of those childhood memories for myself, but unfortunately my childhood took place in cities far removed from where I currently live.

Maybe someday when I'm retired and have more time...
Anonymous said…
Man are you old! ;-)

I drove by that intersection less then two weeks ago and noticed that Andy's Tap was gone. Whenever we were in Bloomington for softball or hockey we would take our kids there.

Ole Piper Inn in Lakeville is the spot that I have my earliest memories of going out to eat as a family. The old 8mm movies and the greesy pizza.
Kevin Gilmore said…
pdog...where've you been?

Ole Piper...we used to go to one of them in high-school but I can't remember where it was. Is the food any good? Beer is beer.
Anonymous said…
The food is great! As long as your into thin crust, lots of cheese, fresh mushroom, greasy pizza. The fried chicken is outstanding and the hoagies are top notch.

Your right. beer is beer.
Anonymous said…
This is so fun to look back on. I remember going to Westwood and I recall some of the inside but this brought it all back. I do remember the lunches were 25cents but we were never able to afford hot lunch. I never attended Hubert Olson Elem. The Jr high opened as I went into 7th grade. ?I do recall your teacher in the 6th grade was Mrs. Burzlaff. She actually lives in my area noe and on occasion I run into her. She has a couple of girls adopted from Korea and one son. It was really different to see her so many years later. She had not changed a bit. They have made some big changes to the Barbours house and I think I'd be safe to say you have met a challenge in the lawn care dept. Thanks for the memories!
Anonymous said…
Strange, I grew up near there about 15 years later. I still think that intersection has changed a lot whenever I'm in Minnesota (my parents still live nearby).

I regret never going to Andy's Tap (I was too young when I left for college and now it's finally not there).

Oh well.
Sarah Olson said…
Brings tears to my eyes and actually makes me want to pack up and move back to Bloomington, which I so desperatly wanted to leave from! Been in San Diego since I graduated in 1999, but I could go on for hours about that intersection! Truly thankful for those memories!

I'm quite late to the game here (like 8 years late) - but this was also MY stompng grounds from 1977 (when we moved to Bloomington from Minneapolis) to when I was married and moved out in 1993.

Valley West has seen MANY transformations - the theater used to be "stand alone" but was finally connected - the bank (at least when I banked there) was BEHIND the theater... Got my first car loan there for a used 1984 Ford Ranger! I remember going in and making my final payment!

I also spent nearly 10 years working in the Coast to Coast Hardware Store that was bought out, and bought out again - and is now a Jerry's Do it Best - but still has some of the same fixtures inside the store from when I worked there (1985-1993)

So many people were so disapointed to see Andy's Tap leave - but if you have not been back since 2008 - you really need to do so again!! There are several new buildings on the SW corner - a new burger joint is there - Willy McCoys...

I loved reading through your post - especially trying to imagine what life was like when this photo was taken (back in 1967!)

When we moved - Bloomington still had farm fields west of Normandale Boulevard - and in my time living in the area - we watched the whole south west corner of the city develop.

My "biking around the construction story" comes from what we (as kids) used to call the "new house area" (111th to 113th and Stanley to Utica - just west of Southwood School) - while those houses used to be under construction - my buddies and I used to ride our bikes all around the dirt and make jumps and such!

Hey - thanks for the great memories! Bloomington was really a great place to grow up, eh?
Kevin Gilmore said…
Thanks for your comments, FoF. I have been back several times since I posted this as the area is still on my "north of the river" loop I'll occasionally ride on my bike. That's quite a transformation that's happened on that little corner of the world over the last few years.

I was back there this spring and strolled around my old neighborhood including Hubert Olson school grounds. I hopped the fence that surrounds the pond and walked a lap through the overgrowth. I paused to see if I could figure out as closely as I could where I'd buried my pet white rat from 45 years earlier. I have so many memories of our time there -- about 9 years total.

We watched so much construction happen in the first few years we were there but most exciting for my friends and me was the construction of the schools and all the fun we had exploring there once the workers had gone home for the day.

The photo you linked to was actually from 1971. Thanks for that. I'll spend some more time going over it more closely.

Again, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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