“I spent my formative years (ages 4-21, 1950-1967) one block away from the original Lilac Park and Rock Island, which we called “Monkey Island”. I lived at 2716 Toledo Avenue. I spent oodles of time at this park. Not only did I and friends play there, but annually our elementary school classes (both the former Fern Hill at 28th/Joppa and the former Ethel Baston (now Groves Academy) would trek there every spring for our annual school picnic outing. In those days, the ‘entrance ramp’ from Minnetonka Boulevard to Highway 100 was not what we think of them as being today. In fact, I don’t think YIELD signs had even been invented, which meant that when one got to the bottom of said ramp, one had to stop for a stop sign before proceeding on to NB 100.

Further, in those days, West 28th Street was actually a cross street of Highway 100! The ramp entrance reference above was to the east of Monkey Island, and it separated Monkey Island from a triangular shaped park area between the entrance ramp and Toledo Avenue, where many great ‘sandlot’ baseball games were played.

I think I even recall a time when Monkey Island’s water features (water streaming down the rock façade??) were functional, and I always thought the actual little island in the middle, accessible by crossing the little footbridge was quite exotic.

Rock Island Park and the south section of the original Lilac Park across Toledo Avenue from St. George’s Episcopal Church (with its ‘beehive’ fireplace for cooking) were key elements in the wonder of growing up in St. Louis Park in the 1950s. Great times and great memories!”

Submitted 5.26.17 and 4.4.20

Paul Linnee with his wife Jane, married since 1969.