Memories come rock’n’rollin’ back

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 8, 2002

With Eddie Cochran Weekend and a visit by Marion Ross coming in June, memories of growing up in Albert Lea in the 1950s come &uot;rock ‘n’ rolling back.&uot;

Many of our high school traditions are still with us — football games, homecoming, the AhLaHaSa and Tiger, slumber parties. Some things never change, but…

When I tell my grandchildren that in the 1950s, 50 cents could get you a great evening out, they look at me like I’ve lost it. The explanation just leaves them shaking their heads.

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With a high school student pass, movies at the Broadway and Rivoli theatres were 35 cents, then 10 cents for gas collected by the driver when the gauge was registering near empty, and 5 cents for an A & W Root Beer.

Junior and senior high days in Albert Lea in the 1950s usually meant walking, almost everywhere we would go, and living on the south side of town gave us plenty of opportunity.

Single car families were the rule, so if we could borrow the car on Friday night, then Dad and Mom stayed home. Only a few of the high school boys owned a car, so cruising Broadway for most of us meant pooling our money for a little more gas. When a gallon of gas was 25.9 cents, and there were six kids in the car, if everyone chipped in 10 cents, those two plus gallons could add a lot of drive time for the evening.

Downtown provided for almost all of our needs.

In the 1950s, Albert Lea had two bakeries, almost directly across the street from each other, Brownies Bake Shop and the Albert Lea Bakery. How much fun it was to stop for a special treat on the way home from school, or maybe we’d hit Gretchen’s Sweets for a nickel bag of golden yellow popcorn instead. Sometimes we’d stop at Shea’s for ice cream or Morlea Dairy, or even Walgreen’s Drug Store or the Big Dipper.

For that very special Sunday dinner with the family, we might go to the Banquet Cafe, the Canton, or Tuttles or even the Albert Hotel Spanish Dining Room.

That was the time when most shopping was taken care of at Woolworths and the Ben Franklin Store, and prescriptions were filled at Lueck-Sanders or Spicers. You could buy shoes at Plymouth Shoe Store, Brills or Bisgaards, and furniture at Wolf’s or Anderson’s or Palace Furniture. Your hardware needs were met at Gulbrandson’s, electrical needs at Bailey Electric, jewelry at Braaten’s, or Wolf’s or Schultz’s and you could become beautiful at Wallaces, Wolf’s, the Powder Puff, or Moderne Shoppe.

Without leaving Broadway you could go to the dentist, or doctor, or lawyer, or a wake, or play pool, or buy groceries, or insurance, or exchange your Hutchinson Green Stamps on Skinners third floor.

You could go roller skating, or even visit the Young Women’s Christian Association.

Shopping for clothing was all done downtown too — J.C. Penney, Skinner Chamberlain, Montgomery Ward, Wallaces, St. Paul Clothing, Spurgeons, Buttreys, Gildner & Lagesons, Webers, or Leutholds, and hats at the Shattuck Hat Shop.

You could buy a Desoto or Plymouth at Seligers, or tires at Firestone, pay your utility bills at Interstate, and purchase paint or wallpaper at Sullivans. You could catch a bus out of town at the Albert Hotel, or catch the time on the courthouse clock, or pause to reflect at the Civil War Statue.

Our only radio station, KATE, was downtown less than a block from the Albert Lea Tribune where, on a cold winter day, you could stand over the sidewalk grates and let that warm rising air warm your cold toes.

The 1950s in Albert Lea was a wonderful time to grow up. And that growing included self assurance, and caring, and understanding of how life should be. Maybe that’s why we so enjoy the remembering that comes with Eddie Cochran Weekend and those &uot;Happy Days.&uot;

It’s nice to know that for one weekend out of the year, we can enjoy our memories, and share in the excitement of the younger people who are learning just how much fun it was to &uot;grow up in the ’50s.&uot;

Bev Jackson is executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum.