Memories: It was a different time back in the 1950s

Published 8:45 pm Friday, February 23, 2024

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Memories by Bev Jackson Cotter

We walked. It was the mid-1950s, and for most teenagers our mode of transportation was our legs. It was a time when families had only one car, and Dad drove it to work every day. So, it didn’t make any difference if we lived two blocks from our destination or two miles. We walked.

Bev Jackson Cotter

Living on Albert Lea’s south side gave us ample opportunity for exercise and fresh air — fall, winter, spring and summer. Carrying books and supplies for nine months (no backpacks) when the junior and senior high school was on West Avenue across from Central Park, and towels and sun lotion to the beach on the north side of Fountain Lake for the other three months, or even carrying our pajamas and a pillow and blanket to each other’s homes for a Friday night slumber party — we walked.

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During the school year our friend who lived on Frank Hall met me on the corner of Seventh Street and James Avenue, and we proceeded north, meeting other friends on designated corners. Then we moved over to Broadway, meeting others until all seven of us walked together to the high school. Every morning and every afternoon we made the same trip, often times stopping on the way home at the Big Dipper for a nickel coke or a 15-cent ice cream sundae.

On Saturday mornings we walked to church for confirmation classes. On weekends we walked back up town to the Broadway or Rivoli movie theaters to watch Hollywood extravaganzas. With our high school passes, admission was 35 cents. I remember us all singing “Old MacDonald had a Farm” as we climbed the Broadway hill, and on cold winter days stopping in the Albert Hotel lobby to warm up before we continued on to the high school. We wondered about the kids living on the north side of town. Walking around the lake in the spring and fall would have been fun — in the winter, Brrr! I remember going home from school, picking up some extra money saved from babysitting, then walking back up town to Penney’s to purchase fabric so I could sew a new skirt for the dance following the Friday night football game.

Of course, there were times when parents provided rides or when we joined friends who had cars cruising Broadway. Back and forth, north to the turnaround by Fountain Lake Park and then south to the section near Seventh Street where South Broadway and Highway 65 divided, then north again, waving at friends who too were cruising Broadway. Gas was 25.9 cents a gallon, so we were often expected to chip in on a refill.

I smile as I write about my teenage years. Times are so different for today’s young people. Their schools and parks and skating rinks and football fields are miles apart, and their opportunities and experiences were undreamed of in the 1950s.

Today we walk around the lake or on nature trails for exercise and fresh air, and I don’t know when I last heard of anyone cruising Broadway. We live in a different world.

Bev Jackson Cotter is an Albert Lea resident, who writes based on her own memories, as well as research from books, dating from 1882 to 2005, written about county history. We are interested in your memories and invite you to share your own at