You can go home againDo you remember when President Eisenhower came to Red Wing to dedicate the new bridge? Did you make taffy in Van Loon’s chemistry class? Did you shop for clothes at Spurgeon’s, Ehlers, the Dahl House and Creola’s?
By: Jane McGough, The Republican Eagle
Do you remember when President Eisenhower came to Red Wing to dedicate the new bridge? Did you make taffy in Van Loon’s chemistry class? Did you shop for clothes at Spurgeon’s, Ehlers, the Dahl House and Creola’s?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be one of the more than 1,000 members of a Facebook group named “You know you’re from Red Wing if you remember … .”
Jenifer Nichols started the group in August. But the Facebook system mistakenly spelled the name out as “You know your from Redwing MN, when you remember.” Her attempts to get it fixed have been unsuccessful.
Grammar and punctuation aside, the chat board has taken off, with more than 6,000 messages and comments posted in just three weeks. Members are sharing memories mostly from their young childhood and high school years.
A class of 1980 graduate wrote on the site: “This has to be the world’s largest virtual all school reunion!”
Nichols moved to Red Wing when she was 6 years old. She hoped to graduate with the Red Wing High School class of 1993, but in 1989 her dad took a new job in Washington state.
Nichols never forgot Red Wing. “I haven’t been back to visit once,” she said over the phone from her home in Idaho Falls, Idaho. “I’d really like to go back, but I don’t have any family there.”
And she hoped that Red Wing hadn’t forgotten her.
“After I joined Facebook two years ago,” she said, “I remembered some names (of childhood friends) and found them online. They all said they remembered me.”
“I have no roots there, but I have a lot of memories of Red Wing,” Nichols said. “As a kid, I didn’t talk to a lot of people, but I remember them. When Facebook came along, I wondered what life would have been like if I’d stayed there. I thought, ‘How neat would that be if I could talk with my old friends about the pool, the haunted house, the seesaw and the candy store?’”
One woman wrote that when she was a naughty girl, her mom would drive her to the Training School and threaten to leave her there. Her sister told her, “Don’t worry, they only take boys.”
In late July, Nichols was busy with her life in Idaho (she has four teenagers) and was modest in her online activity, when a doctor’s diagnosis prompted her to start a Facebook group about growing up in the Minnesota river town she loved.
Nichols wasn’t feeling like herself. “I started having memory loss,” she said. “I was scared. I went to the doctor, who thought it might be multiple sclerosis, but they did an MRI and found a tumor in my brain. Now I’m waiting to get in to see a specialist.”
Nichols activated the Facebook group the afternoon of Aug. 5. Initial membership was five of her Facebook friends.
“I never expected I’d get more than 10 people in the group,” she said. But within an hour, one of those friends had added 15 more members.
The first message Nichols posted was “Going down to Colville Park in the summer.”
By 10 p.m. that same night, comments and membership request were coming in so fast she couldn’t keep up. By midnight there were over 300 posts about cruising the loop, climbing and painting Barn Bluff and eating at the Donut Hole, the A&W Root Beer stand and Hardee’s.
Red Wing natives are sharing memories of ice skating at South Park, shoplifting from mom-and-pop stores and failing their driver’s tests. They help each other recall who owned gas stations, music stores and cafes. A photo of Larry’s Broiler prompted 24 Facebook “likes” and 15 follow-up comments, many of them about employees named Lois and Blondie.
A class of 1992 graduate wrote: “I’m pretty sure that for at least 30+ years we all did the same things and hung out at the same places, places that kids now will never understand.”
Reading the early posts made Nichols feel that she’d missed out on a lot of fun by not attending high school in Red Wing, but she said that now she’s able to “take a peek into peoples’ lives and see how they turned out. It makes me feel like I’m still part of Red Wing.”
“People are recounting how much fun they are having with the group,” she noted. “They are remembering so many businesses from their childhood, and they remember the employees at those businesses.”
They recall their waitress uniforms at Big Ben (and the full pie list), working for the Noreens at Liberty or for the Magnusons at Super Valu and the recipe for Nybo’s dressing. They remember when snowplows cleared mayflies from the bridge, drinking and dancing at the Skyline and the Pines and a memorial concert for a friend killed in Viet Nam.
Burnside was a distant suburb and Nybo’s had two levels of bowling. Downtown had two movie theaters, high school seniors could go anywhere for open lunch and the Party Line show played on KCUE radio. Every student had at least one quirky teacher. The Ben Franklin store burned one March 17, and people are still sad about the birds and the fish that perished.
Someone wrote: “If you roller skated at the old Armory on the wooden floors, you know what ‘cat the loop’ means or you bowled upstairs at the old Nybo’s on Main Street!”
Nichols said that a recurring topic about a disabled man who played checkers at Colvill Park, and known by his first name, Grant, is the one she finds most endearing.
“He was a hometown man who touched all generations,” she said.
“I have children. What if I forget about their childhood?” Nichols worried. “Starting this group was like making a digital journal for them. In case something does happen to my health, I want my kids to know about Red Wing.”
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