Memory time with Dr. John G. Brundin

Published 8:30 am Friday, September 5, 2008

One part of the “Echoes From the Past” presentation at Graceland Cemetery on the evening of Aug. 20 featured Gary Schindler portraying the role of a dentist who actually lived in Grand Forks, N.D. However, Dr. John G. Brundin (1892-1963) was born and grew up in Albert lea and is now buried here.

As I mentioned in my article in the Aug. 17 Lifestyles section of the Tribune, Dr. Brundin was part of the Swedish-American family that actually started the meat processing industry in Albert Lea. Also, I mentioned that Gary would be quoting some of the doctor’s memories of life in Albert Lea as part of his presentation in the “cemetery walk” program.

Here’s what Dr. Brundin wrote in 1955 for the introduction to his list of memories:

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“Albert Lea, Minn., the place of my birth, my childhood and my salad years hold for me many fond recollections and happy memories which have left an indelible impression on my mind. Now fleeting time dims my memory. I am going to jot down some of the impressions of the events, happenings and the people who lived in Albert Lea during my younger years between 1898 and 1915. I hope these notations can be of some value, and afford a measure of pleasure to anyone interested in the life and events of Albert Lea during those years.”

One of his memories is based on Broadway Avenue before it was paved. He wrote, “How muddy it was in the spring and rough when it froze overnight. Wood blocks were the first pavement and how we loved to drive up and down the street after it was finished.”

Wood blocks and later bricks really didn’t work out too well for pavements. Concrete and asphalt are so much better. Incidentally, the last wood blocks I‘m aware of which were used for pavement use where right in front of the Western Grocer Co. building on East Pearl Street. In fact, I even took a photo of this small segment of old pavement. The city’s last known reminder of the wood black pavement era was eliminated with the construction of the present Freeborn County Government Center.

Here’s another of the doctor’s memories based on “the big woods east and south of the present fairgrounds where we used to go after wild apples, thorns and hazel nuts every fall.”

I’m not sure at all why anyone wanted to go after inedible thorns.

One local summertime activity he mentioned in his recollections was explained this way: “The fun of going swimming at the ‘Sand Bar’ near Bancroft Bridge. How cool that water was!”

There have been several popular places around Fountain Lake where folks, especially the younger generation could go swimming. One place I can recall is Shoreland Beach. This Sand Bar place may have been eliminated with a dredging project. Anyway, the lake as a swimming place has been thankfully replaced with the city’s cement pond.

Albert Lea was a much smaller community in size when John Brundin was growing up. Proof of this is with his comment: “We thought the creamery on Bridge Street and the tracks on South Broadway were for out in the country.”

The creamery he mentioned was near the Marshall Street corner. Incidentally, a few folks still call Bridge a street. That may be true up in Owatonna; here in Albert Lea it’s an avenue.

Another summertime memory he mentions is based on “following the ice wagon on a hot summer’s day and being thankful for a chip of ice.”

We have room for one more memory. The Brundin family, as mentioned earlier, was involved with the local meat business. He wrote: “At the meat market, three rings of bologna for a quarter. Round steak, three rounds for a quarter. Free beef liver. Hamburger chopped up by hand cleavers and onions chopped into the meat if desired. Quarters of beef hanging outside the shop in the fall. Window displays of fish, oysters and lobsters. Oysters, 50 cents a quart. Lutefisk in dry stacks in front of the grocery stores.”

Those memories, “Do You Remember?” were typed out by this dentist in 1955 and are now in the archives of the Freeborn County Historical Museum Library.

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.