Kids appreciated old public library [UPDATED]Published 5:12am Monday, June 10, 2013 Updated 7:17am Monday, June 10, 2013
Many of us in the baby boomer generation have fond memories of taking part in 1950s summer reading programs.
Those of us who grew up in Fergus Falls walked to and from the old public library near the intersection of North Union and West Cavour.
“I loved that place with the back staircase,” said Carlton Bjerkaas, a 1966 graduate of Fergus Falls High School who spends summers at Otter Tail Lake. “In the summer of 1960 I read every book by James Fenimore Cooper that the library had on its bookshelves.”
Cooper is best remembered as a novelist who wrote numerous sea stories and historical novels known as the “Leatherstocking Tales.”
An incentive to take part in the Fergus Falls summer reading program was a wooden pin that each youngster received after reading at least 10 books over the summer months.
Examples are a clown from 1950, cowboy from 1953, Liberty Bell from 1955, canoe from 1956 and wooden earth (globe) figure from 1957.
Others included book worms and other wooden emblems, with FFPL denoted on some of the pins.
“My favorite was the orange and black book worm,” said Bjerkaas.
He recalls other fun times as a kid growing up in Fergus Falls during the 1950s and 1960s.
“We neighbor kids used to play pick up baseball in the vacant lot behind my house and Roger Sampson’s house on West Bancroft near Adams School,” said Bjerkaas. “It was across the alley. I’m amazed that we didn’t break any windows but then, maybe, we weren’t as good as we thought we were. We played until dark. When the streetlights came on you had to go home.”
Among others who fondly recall the old public library from the 1950s are Mary Jo Melby Christenson and Marlene Nelson Rupp.
“Entering the public library at the lower children’s entrance was really fascinating for me,” Christenson said. “We walked down into the children’s area and on the side walls along the stair casing was the mural depicting the book ‘Paddle to the Sea.’ I loved looking at it both entering and leaving.”
Rupp says her fondest memories were the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. She can clearly picture Miss Grina, to whom she would give a short book summary.
“Then she would record the book title on a given card,” said Rupp. “I still remember the unique architecture of the library prior to the addition in the early 1960s. The tiled roof made the building stand out from the other public buildings in Fergus Falls.”
Of all the books I read during the 1950s, the one that stands out is a text called “Engineer’s Dreams.”
Willy Ley wrote “Engineer’s Dreams” for kids in 1954. One dream was building a tunnel under the English Channel. That dream became a reality 40 years later. The tunnel was officially opened on May 6, 1994.
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David D. “Deacon” Jones, who died this past week at 74, played for the Los Angeles Rams against the Minnesota Vikings during a Monday Night Football game in 1970 at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. I attended that game and, close to 43 years later, still have the game program.
Jones, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, specialized in quarterback sacks, a term attributed to him. He was nicknamed the “Secretary of Defense” and was considered one of the greatest defensive players to ever play pro football.
The Los Angeles Times called Jones the “most valuable Ram of all time.” His coach George Allen called him the “greatest defensive end of modern football.”
Jones was 6-5 and weighed 250 pounds, considered a big man in 1970. Some of his teammates included quarterback Roman Gabriel, defensive tackle Merlin Olsen and safety Richie Petibone.
By the way, the Vikings won the game 13-3 during a rainfall at Met Stadium.