Northside history – an introduction

Old photo of John Hay Elementary School. You can see part of Lincoln Jr High behind it.

Since I am now going to be writing the Northside History column for the Camden Community News, I thought you might want to know a little bit about me and my connections to the Northside.

I grew up at 421 Queen Ave N in a part of the Northside that my family and neighbors referred to as “Near North” but who some referred to as Finn Town. I went to elementary school at John Hay School which was on Penn and Oak Park Aves. Like other kids in the 1950s and early 1960s on the Northside, I walked to school in the morning, walked home for lunch, walked back to school after lunch and then back home at the end of the day. I guess I must have crossed the intersection of Penn and Olson Highway hundreds of times. In those days there were businesses there — Block’s Ice, Shink’s drugstore, Pudas Hardware, a shoe store, the Highway Book Nook, Rudy’s market and more. There was a median in the highway then and a statue of Floyd B. Olson and some benches stood in that median on the east side of Penn Ave. The statue now sits south of the highway a little east of Penn Ave N.

My family moved to St. Louis Park and I went to junior and senior high there. I wanted to go to North High like my older brother but there was no “open enrollment” in those days so my parents would have had to pay tuition for me to go to North High. My dad was already working two jobs to make ends meet so that couldn’t happen. I was often back on the Northside though because I still had friends here and for a while in high school I was dating a guy who worked at Plittman’s Deli on Plymouth Ave.

I moved back into the city after high school and lived in the West Bank area which is where I met my husband Pat, who was from Texas via Farmington. Our first apartment was part of a triplex on 4th St N just south of West Broadway (about where the Wendy’s and Taco Bell are now). We then lived on the Southside for a year and Nordeast for three years, but when we  decided to buy a house it was back to the Northside for me. We moved into our house in Camden 41 years ago, and I still live in the same house. We raised our son here and he went to Northside schools and graduated from North High. I retired this summer after a 33 1/2 year career with Minneapolis Public Schools, all but two of those years were in Northside Schools.

I love the Northside and its history! In non-pandemic years you can often see me at Live on the Drive or other community events sitting at the Camden Community Historical Society table chatting with community members about local history. I’m also a big North High Polars fan so you’re apt to see me at Polar games. I support the Henry Patriot’s too, except when they’re playing against North!  

I’m hoping I can help peak your interest in the history of the Northside.

** I am also the admin for the Camden Community Historical Society FaceBook page and I encourage you to check it out.