anoka county history

From May through Halloween my fellow docents from the Anoka County Historical Society and I guide brave and curious souls through the darkened streets of Anoka relating the history of the homes and places of business we encounter during our 1 mile walk — and speculating about some of the unexplained phenomenon that has occurred within those premises.

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Throughout history there have been times when social custom or law allowed people to hate. I’ve lived long enough to see African-Americans, women, gays, and Muslims have to fight for the rights that should automatically be theirs as Americans. Hate usually goes hand-in-hand with fear, and throughout history it has been difficult to determine if hate is the cause or the effect of war.

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I cleaned out a storeroom last month and found a box of letters that my husband had sent to me while he was in the army in Viet Nam. The thin paper envelopes held the hopes and dreams of our youth, scrawled in cursive handwriting on pale blue stationary. I wrote him every single day of his one year tour, just to let him know that he was on my mind. He often told me how very much those letters meant to him when home seemed so far away.

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Some years ago, we had a coupon book that offered, among other things, two meals for the price of one at the Ramblers Inn. I’d never heard of the place, and, according to the map, it appeared to be in a neighborhood where you wouldn’t expect to find businesses. In fact, I hadn’t known there was a neighborhood there at all, off Lexington Avenue, north of the Carlos Avery turnoff, nestled against the south shore of Coon Lake. Every time I’d been on Coon Lake, I’d gone in on the north side, at the public access off of Highway 22.

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In May of 1914, a new set of advertisements appeared in the Union. Readers were advised to “begin laying plans” for a “festival of joy.” A week of “first grade educational entertainment” was on its way. These “seven glorious days of clean enjoyment” would include orchestra, opera singers, alpine yodelers, a Shakespeare play, a scientific demonstration, and daily lectures on such topic as the Panama Canal, the story of New Zealand, love and brotherhood, and the future of America.

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In 1953, television, a recent addition to many homes, offered a handful of channels in black and white and displayed a test pattern at night. Disneyland was just beginning to take shape in Uncle Walt’s imagination. Most families had only one car, and many of them piled in the kids for long, desinationless weekend drives. If they’d driven Highway 10, 2 or 3 miles west of Anoka, they might have come upon a venue that in many ways embodied the decade. Santa Claus Town, the summer home of the jolly old elf, opened for visitors in June of that year.

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