“Our family lived at 3108 Salem from 1955-68. It was and still is a lovely neighborhood. I was a “nature girl”, and back then our alley between Salem and Toledo led to a large wooded area. Lilac Way was like our backyard! The area around Highway 7 and Minnetonka Boulevard on Highway 100 was all woods, lilac bushes as far as the eye could see!

Those were very special times. I would sneak out of the house before dawn and wander along Lilac Way through the woods, checking on all the birdie nests. Then cross Highway 7 and explore the ponds by the St. Louis Park Roadside Park (now restored and renamed Lilac Park) next to the railroad tracks.

Back then the Lilac Way parks still had the old limestone picnic tables and beehive-shaped fireplaces. There was also a wonderful old hand pump that I loved drinking from!

Many times, there would be small groups of drifters/hobos taking a break from traveling the rails, filling their canteens from the pump. I had no fear of them, and they were always so kind and almost protective of me, a little towheaded girl of 5-8 years old, out wandering around at the break of day. Some of them would show me pictures of the family they left behind and tell me how much I reminded them of their little girl back home.

Our block ended at Highway 7, where a large group of pine trees still stand. At the time they were part of the woods between Salem Avenue and Highway 100. They are now condominiums, but some of the old farmhouses are still on the west side of Salem.

When you crossed Highway 7, you’d see Viking Lumber, Nordic Ware & Maid of Scandinavia. Behind those buildings was an old, beautiful farmhouse next to the railroad tracks. I spent many hours with the old widowed farmer who was so kind to me.

All that was left of his once, very large farm was the house and a large chicken coop. I would help him feed his chickens and collect eggs. He would always send me home with a basket of fresh eggs, which my mom loved.

Many times, he would invite me in to have milk, cookies or fresh biscuits and show me photos of the farm when he had cows, pigs and two beautiful horses. Oh, how I loved to listen to his stories and would dream about living there! He was a quiet, lonely, sweet old man and I believed he enjoyed my company as much as I did his. The old farmer would often offer the drifters food and let them help out around the farm.

Such days of innocence, and no fear of people or the elements. I didn’t intend to make this into a small story, but it stirred up so many wonderful old childhood memories.💖

Thanks for allowing me to share one of the many stories I have from those St Louis Park days of long ago.”

Submitted 11.7.19

Janet Lehmann Nielsen

Patricia Harriet Benson Lehmann, mother of Janet Lehman Neilsen, passed away in 2019. From Mankato, MN.