An old story

Maybe you hesitate to begin writing because you think your story is dull and unexciting?

Life may seem mundane, but when you look back at personal details after many decades, they are not boring.

In a ‘Personal Account Book’, apparently issued to students by the Minneapolis Public Schools in the early 1920s, my mother-in-law dedicated several pages to her first diary entry. Paragraphs dated Saturday, March 27, 1924, recorded her earliest memories. Fourteen-year-old Violet Ellison, who lived with her parents and sister at 4211 Fremont Ave N, described the neighborhood:

My dear father and mother were one of the first builders in this neighborhood. Of course the place was just like a wild country at that time. On the left hand side of our house was empty, which served as my dear old playground. Here, clover and daisies bloomed in plenty. Mother and I when we were alone used to take our lunch and eat here. In back of our house (were) 3-4 empty lots all in one where we dug out caves and played different games. I remember the first game that I played in the dark with someone else was “Hunt the Greyhound.” I also remember when gypsies were plentiful. When we saw two or three gypsies we ran and hid.  Kennedy’s owned the store where we traded, and we used to associate with them quite a bit. Every time we went over there and had a cup of coffee, I had to have a certain cup which was a cup 3-4 inches high, no handle and cracked in many places but I always was satisfied…

My first birthday party was my first year in school, Jan 16, 1917. The following were to my party: Harriet and Mabel Swanson, Helen Carlson, Katherine Hagman, Marcella Turner, Dorothy Parks, Ione Anderson, Helen Hawkinson and Vivian Carlson. At this party Mrs. Swanson came in and said. “I wish you a Happy Birthday.” I answered, “The same to you.” I remember distinctly. I got a blue voile dress from my parents.

School went fine and I played with the children. And then they started to build a house on my favorite playground, (which has been) occupied ever since..

I remember very plainly the first wedding I went to which was Adele Swanson, now Mrs. Samuelson. It was held in the Swedish Mission Church. The first funeral I went to was when little Harold Gustafson died, who lived 3rd house from us.

Violet drew a diagram of her neighborhood showing who lived in each house on Fremont and Girard Avenues. The muddled word “Us” at lower right shows the location of the Ellison home, between the Hodells and Nelsons.


Looking through the rear-view mirror of Violet’s story, I was able to confirm several facts:


1) An online search of Hennepin County real estate records shows the house at 4211 Fremont Ave N was built in 1907;

2) records indicate Adele Swanson married Walter Samuelson in June 1918;

3) An Ancestry family tree included a picture of “little Harold Gustafson,” who died in 1915 at the age of 2 years, 10 months.

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