Here you can tell YOUR story of how you came to be in Brainerd, and your experiences here, perhaps as a kid. Tell us about the changes you've seen, good or bad, or what you'd LIKE to see. If I get enough entries here, I may break it down in to age categories, so we can detect a feeling based on different eras. Warning: I may get a bit carried away here.
FAUST, CARL (Brainerdite since 1955):
The first thing I remember here was crying for days because my folks didn't bring along from Des Moines my "little red wagon", a dandy early 50's steel pedal car station wagon, now likely worth $1000 or more! Apparently to console me, or shut me up, they got me a Radio Flyer wagon. This started my collecting career. For some reason, we kids in the neighborhood thought the drippings from the city street dept. hot tar boilers was valuable stuff, after cooling on the pavement. It didn't stick too hard, and made the neatest big, flat and shiny cow pies you ever saw. Some barely fit in the wagon. If one broke, it was worthless. The best ones were so shiny you could see your face in them. We collected WAGONS upon WAGONS of these, yet I have no clue where we stashed the stuff. Some day I'll go on a WALKABOUT, IN SEARCH OF. Likely a thousand years from now the stash will be discovered, and they'll think some early flying saucer had a leaky oil pan. Or in 2 thousand years, they'll think our economy got so bad that this was our currency!
When we were REALLY little, we were restricted to just OUR block. The only house having no kids was the Kinders'. We never saw the Kinders, they must have gardened at night, I think they were elderly then, and all other houses had kids my age. Their garden was a thicket of raspberry bushes and asparagas, not regular stuff like carrots or peas. It was a great hiding spot, but prickly. The neighborhood was a block full of 30 or so kids, and we did everything as a group. No one else from another block was invited to ours for some reason, except Andy MacArthur to the north, don't know why. We battled to keep George Ackerson out but he managed to weasel his way in. The 2 games we played were Russian Piglets, and Wolf. How they went I do not totally recall, but one was a catch me if you can and tag you're it deal. We played it every night until the Arnolds on the corner sounded their model T push-operated horn at 9:00. ALL kids went home at 9, period. In Longfellow's back yard was the Jungle Jim, a basketball court...John L. was 9' tall, and you could hear him dribbling the ball around the block until midnight. There we played Four Square, no spinning allowed, Duncan Tops and I suppose, basketball! We about lived in Gregory Park, but were not allowed there after dark.
When we were WAY older, our allowed territory back then was a short radius from our house on N. 5th. St., across from Gregory Park...my other home. We were stopped by the river on the west and north, and the football field and cemetery on the east. The only time I got to the top of cemetery hill was during the annual Soap Box Derby. We were too terrified of the nearby cemetery anyhow to go in that area alone, without a large crowd. To the south, Washington St. was it...absolute! So, on a typical Saturday, we'd load up the wagon in search of tar pies, stop at the Midway grocery (now Brainerd Insurance Agency area) for two-for-a-penny candy. Then east on to Little Farm Market where Don would always split a PopSickle in one of those neat splitter devices. Lick-M-Aid was a favorite, too, as well as shoestring red licorice. Before the ice-pop would melt, we'd be at Turcotte's to pick up some Fizzies for home. Having spent our entire quarter, we went to a little corner store on Cemetery Hill and _____, where we could exchange ordinary buttons for candy. I suppose by the time we got there, she figured these poor kids can't even afford candy. We always made the tour in that order, never in reverse, so I'm wondering if we dropped off the booty of tar pies at the hill going down to the pump house on 7th.. I notice somebody removed that building, by the way. Maybe THEY got all the pies and sold them, and retired.
Apparently we were easily lead back then by this big kid, Randy O____. He talked me in to a few things, like our excursion out on to the RR bridge (later, in another section, like BRIDGES, for the true story). Just east of the Depot (now Midtown Center) and by the tracks was the RR watchman's, or switchman's tower. This troll up there always fell asleep, so we'd help him out by pitching a few stones at the window. That's where we heard our first profanity. No wonder Mom didn't want us that far south. I don't remember ever crossing the tracks, since Mom must have had something etched in our minds on the subject. Maybe she thought we'd get run over by a train? At any rate, we had a lot of fun hanging around the depot and seeing the passengers get on and off. Trains are still cool! The other little thing I got talked in to by that darn Randy was rooting in the junk yard across from the Moose, to the north, now a city street dept. storage lot, I think. Once I found an old German WW 2 helmet, signed Helmut Schmidt or something. I figured that in order to be issued a helmet you had to be named Helmut. Randy somehow got that off me, likely as hush money or he'd tell. Say, come to think of it, that WAS across the tracks a few yards. Now I remember that Randy showed us how to go under the Washington St. and RR bridges, to avoid the "don't cross the tracks" rule. I'd better quit writing for a while, for fear of what might come back. Gosh, I hope Mom doesn't read this part, or I'm going to be in deep doo-doo. The remainder of our time was spent on the river's flood plain, building forts and exploring. I'm still exploring.