Desnoyer Park

Our home in the Desnoyer Park neighborhood was at 2470 Beverly Road. This was the home of my childhood. I vaguely recall our Highland house, but this was truly the first house that I could call home. It was a stately home perched atop of Eustis hill. It was on a corner where five streets came together. The home was large, builds of white stucco with blue shutters, and had a huge yard. Though the address was on Beverly Road, the front of the house faced Eustis Street. It had a front overhang that was held up by four magnificent pillars. A hedge surrounded the extra-large corner lot, making it appear a bit like a mansion.

The house consisted of two useable stories, plus a full walk-up and voluminous, albeit unfinished and rustic, attic. It had the normal kitchen, living room, dining room, and three-season porch on the first floor. The second floor included a master bedroom, three good-sized bedrooms, and a bathroom. All bedrooms had more than adequate closets. A single-car garage was attached. The basement was large and housed the furnace, a laundry room, and a “workshop” area (as if my dad had any use for a workshop!). Soon after moving in, my parents updated the kitchen, added a full first floor bathroom, and turned the porch into a real “family room,” complete with bar seating through a kitchen opening.

The neighborhood was very quiet. This small triangular neighborhood was bordered by railroad tracks and interstate 94 to the North and Northwest, the Mississippi River to the South and Southwest, and the Town & Country Golf Course to the Southeast. It consisted mostly of small homes with families. It was just our parents, me, and my sister Pam when we moved in. Brother Jon came very shortly after. In fact, he might have been the reason to move into the larger home.

Pam and I quickly became acquainted with the neighborhood kids. Pam started kindergarden at the Desnoyer Park school. A year later, Mom enrolled me at a nearby Montessori School. I remember something about me being too smart for “normal” school, but I’m sure that was just Mom’s idea of explaining why I wasn’t in the same school with Pam. I just remember that I felt like I got cheated out of nap time, something that was NOT in The Montessori curriculum. Perhaps that is why I am such an advocate of good naps even today!

Because of the advanced learning at Montessori school, Mom, Dad, and teachers suggested it might be a good idea for me to start regular school in the first grade rather than kindergarten. The only problem with that is that I was a very young first grader, turning five just after the start of school. It certainly was not a problem with the academic rigors of the first grade, but I believe it later hurt me on various levels. Not only was I always one of the youngest in the class, but I suspect that I was perhaps a bit more immature than my classmates. From an athletic perspective, it definitely hurt my prospects. I was already of small stature, but was a year in growth behind many of my classmates.

Despite being the youngest, I very much enjoyed Desnoyer Park school. It was a great place to start since it was an old “temporary” schoolhouse with only three classrooms. There was a kindergarten room, a first grade room, and a combined second and third grade room. There were always a number of second graders in the first grade room as well, but these were likely the slower kids. We never knew a difference about it since even the second graders in the first grade class inevitably ended up in the third grade the following year.

The first grade teacher was very strict. I think her name was Mrs. Mudge. She got the kids in line from the very start. She was also the one who really controlled things during recess. Recess was what I remember the very best about the school. We had a blast playing every game imaginable. In addition to controlled games like Red-Rover, we played king of the hill in the winter and had a giant slide, a huge jungle gym, and a now-banned and dangerous merry go round. I recall playing a game similar to king of the hill where the last person left on the merry go round was the winner. It was pretty scary, but I won a few times. I was also ruthless when it came to spinning the thing as fast as I could, and likely contributed to some injuries. We all got up and walked away, though!

I had a very sweet, older teacher in the second grade. I don’t recall her name (maybe Ms. Abby), but I remember wanting to please her. As a result, I did quite well in school that year. My report cards were excellent (one of the few times in my life!). Unfortunately, she was retiring the following year, so she co-taught with a new teacher when I was in the third grade. The biggest thing I remember from third grade was that was the year my Grandpa Grewe died. That occurred shortly after my sister Jenifer was born. It was a complete shock – and my first experience with death. I was crying in school one day and my former second grade teacher kept me after school to ask about it. When I told her about my Grandpa, she gave me a hug and told me she would have to help fill the void. She made me feel much better. It was an act of kindness and compassion that I’ve never forgotten. Even thought I don’t remember her name, she had a profound impact on me. From that point on, I suspect that I “felt” compassion for others more than most of my male friends.

Immediately behind the school there were several large skating rinks in the winter – one for general skating and one for hockey. There was also a warming house adjacent to the general rink. It seemed that most kids (and a lot of adults) hung out on the rink during winter months. Many times we needed to shovel the ice before we could skate. Unfortunately, I could never skate well. Part of this was because my dad was not a winter sports aficionado. I don’t think I ever saw him on skates. That is probably due to his parents being transplants to Minnesota from South Carolina. Since I didn’t really take to winter sports, I suspect felt the cold more than my peers, something that would never change. I remember that from a very early age. Even if we were at the rink, I spent way too much time in the warming house as opposed to on the rink. I’m sure it also had to do with embarrassment for not being able to skate as well as the other kids.

The summer months, though, were wonderful. I could run and play with anyone. Most of the time it was Tommy Boehm, my sister, and Tommy’s sisters. There were a few other kids that joined from time to time, but I feel like our group sort of ran the neighborhood. We certainly ran, walked, and biked all throughout the neighborhood all summer long – and from sunup to sundown every day. We lived the life of Riley! Tommy was a year behind me in school, but because I was young for my class, we seemed to click together quite well. Tommy, though, was the adventurous one. He taught me to stretch boundaries. Most of the time that was okay, but it was during one of these adventures that I received my first stitches.

My new stitches!

Another bad lesson was when my sister and I locked our mom in the basement. Mom had told us we could NOT go out to play at the Boehm’s house. I have no recollection why, but she had been quite clear about it. When Mom was in the basement doing laundry, Pam and I locked the basement door and left. Bad decision! Not only was Mom livid, as we should have expected, but she had to crawl out a small basement window. As this was a rather old home, the screen was nailed to the frame. As Mom was crawling out, she stepped on a rusty nail. The nail went right through her sandal into her foot. After her trip to the ER, we were grounded for WEEKS! We learned, albeit a little late, NOT to mess with Mom!

All in all, Desnoyer Park was a wonderful neighborhood to grow up in. Unfortunately, after sister Jenifer was born, Dad decided our house was too small. Our growing family soon ended up in a grand new home on Summit Avenue in Saint Paul. That home would lead to even more fine adventures, but I consider our home on Beverly as my childhood home. It contains not only the stories listed above, but many more fond memories.

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