Cooper Retires


One of the two earliest landmarks, the former First Congregational
Church, was demolished on March 3rd to make room for a filling station, later occupied by Pilgrim’s Cleaners and other shops. The area had become commercial.  The other landmark, Haakon Christensen’s blacksmith shop had been replaced by the First Robbinsdale State Bank in 1950.

A bank robbery at First Robbinsdale State Bank occurred Sunday, April 30. The thieves had hidden in the bank and drilled a hole about the size of a plate into the night depository from inside the bank. About $60,000 was taken due to the Saturday and Sunday deposits of businesses and churches. Mrs. Gertrude Vilandre, deputy registrar, had deposited $21,000 from auto licenses Saturday evening. Robert Berglund, assistant cashier, interrupted the burglars at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, but the thieves escaped before the police arrived. Two other robberies have occurred. One was on December 20, 1978. That robber was caught in Florida. Another was on November 5, 1982, in the new bank building. A suspect, identified by camera pictures, was apprehended and pleaded guilty.

Suddenly the calm of the cloudy afternoon of May 6 was pierced by the continuous wail of tornado sirens and the radio announced “all of North Hennepin take cover.” Cars came up Highway 100 at nearly 100 miles per hour as workers hurried home to their families. Radio coverage was excellent, reporting where tornadoes were sighted. Finally, many Robbinsdale residents could hear the “railroad train sound” coming up Highway 100, so took cover. Those tornadoes, two in a row, veered, doing damage to North Memorial Hospital and Olivet Baptist Church before cutting across North Minneapolis to Fridley where extremely heavy damage occurred. Altogether, 22 tornadoes were sighted in the metropolitan area. It was a wornsome evening for everyone.

Edwin J. Cooper, Superintendent of Schools for the last 35 years, retired. He was born in Massachusetts in 1897. When he was three years old his family moved to St. Paul, near the Hamline University Campus where his father was Dean of the English Department. “E.J.” as he was called by his friends, served as a pursuit pilot in Europe in World War I. After getting his Masters Degree at the University of Minnesota, his first teaching position was at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Later, he served as Superintendent in a couple of Iowa towns before coming to Robbinsdale in 1930 to assume the position as Superintendent. He also served as Commander of the Westphal Legion Post and of the Tenth District of the Legion in 1937.

Ruby L. Nash outside her family’s 1880’s farm house on Crystal Lake in 1965.

The Diggers Garden Club had a vision of making and beautifying a park area on the north shore of Crystal Lake. Early members of this Civic Beautification Committee were Rosella Feffercorn, Agnes Wright, Elaine Simonich, Helen Gerlach and lone Strandberg.

Actual work was delayed until Shoreline Drive was rebuilt, the “park to be” was sodded, some trees put in and asphalt pathways were laid in 1969. Then work had to be done on the lake itself to see if the water loss problem could be solved.

In June, the salt level in Crystal Lake was found to be 96-100 parts per million. This, compared to a 29 ppm level many years earlier, reHected the increased use of salt on the highways. Robbinsdale alone was using 500 tons of salt per year, most of which was running into Crystal Lake via the storm sewers. The alkalinity was high, 286 ppm of calcium carbonate, thought to be from drainage from the Culligan softening plant. The nitrogen was high, from lawn fertilizers and possibly active and old cesspools. All this caused great growth of algae. As the algae die in January and February, they consume oxygen, thus causing the annual “fish kill. This led to concern and the development of a Lake Water Study Committee in 1967.

This post is part of a series loosely based on the book Robbinsdale Then and Now by Helen Blodgett. E.J. Cooper is featured in the photo at the top of the post.

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