Editor’s note: Folks, our long time columnist of the Behind the Victory Flagpole is stepping down. Barbara Meyer Bistodeau has written her monthly column about our local history for more than 16 years. She also donated the proceeds from her book, Behind the Victory Flagpole to the Camden Community News. This is her last column. We can’t thank her enough for her service – we will all miss her.
I so enjoyed writing this column, but at age 95 it’s time to put away my pen and paper.
It’s been a great run! I started writing Behind the Victory Flagpole in April of 2005, thinking it would be one or two articles, but it turned out to be over 100. Back in May of 2004 my sister, Lorraine Leavell, saw an article in the Camden Community News about how the Victory neighborhood, which is the northwest corner of Minneapolis, was cited by Mpls. St. Paul magazine as one of six “Hidden Gems” in the Twin Cities.
My sister was inspired then to write an article about the first people who lived around the Victory Flagpole, which was the Albert Nordby family, who had an 80-acre farm in that area. I sent in pictures for the article, which came out in November 2004. I became aware of the fact that no one ever mentioned where that flagpole property came from. Never once had I heard it stated or read that Albert Nordby was the one who sold the flagpole property to the Park Board That part of history was left out.
So my main reason for writing at first was to pay honor to my grandfather and to give him credit for once owning that property. Along the way I enjoyed the fun pastime of digging up history and renewing friendships with people I asked to help supply information. This included cousins, shirt-tale relatives, high school classmates and new friends referred to me by others.
So, that’s how it all started. Now, a little about my history. I was born in 1925 in the house behind the Victory Flagpole. My mother was Lu Nordby, my father Art Meyer. I graduated from Patrick Henry High in 1943 and the U of M School of Nursing in conjunction with the Cadet Nurse Corps in 1946. After graduating I did polio nursing at Wold Chamberlain Airport. The polio epidemic was in full swing and they converted one huge hangar into a field hospital. There were patients on rocking beds and in iron lungs, which were used to treat the condition.
In 1947 I married a boy from North High, Ronnie Bistodeau. His folks had the Bistodeau Market on West Broadway and Irving. He worked there at first, then became a meter reader for Northern States Power Company. In 1952 we moved to El Cajon, California where I did private duty nursing and my husband worked for San Diego Gas & Electric Co. From 1948 to 1958 we had five children. My hobby was raising, training and showing boxer dogs. Travelling to shows near and far, I was lucky to have finished three American champions and a Canadian champion. A handler showed my dogs part of the time. That hobby plus my nursing career was cut short in
1970, when my husband passed away.
In 1971 I met and fell in love with another man, Bill Harrison, and we lived together for 38 years until he passed away in February of 2009. We made good use of those years owning first a sailboat and then a cabin cruiser on San Diego Bay, going on many ocean cruises, gold dredging on the rivers of northern California, and finally, raising chickens at a house we had in the mountains east of San Diego.
So that’s about it. I feel I’ve had a good life, especially having three sons and two daughters. It may seem weird to have been writing a history column from several thousand miles away, but the truth is, no matter how far away I am, my heart has always been “Behind the Victory Flagpole.” So, thank you for letting me write for you! Barbara Meyer Bistodeau