Queen of the Lakes


In July, 20 year old JoAnn Melberg (pictured above courtesy of Sheldon Smith), the Sweetheart of Sigma Chi fraternity at the University of Minnesota and Robbinsdale’s Queen of the Lakes candidate was crowned as the 1953 Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen. JoAnn grew up on Abbott just to the east of Crustal Lake. She was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and was planning a career as an elementary school teacher. JoAnn told the Minneapolis Tribune that she was not engaged, pinned or having any steady beaus. Crowns were nothing new to JoAnne. The previous year she had been selected as “Miss Sparkle” of the Minneapolis Junior Chamber of Commerce clean up week.

The terrific Terrace Theatre, owned and operated by Sidney and William Volk. received the International Award in 1952 for “having the outstanding theater in the United States that year.” The theater included a television lounge, two “crying rooms” (for parents with infants), a coffee lounge, and deep, roomy, soft-cushioned seats. Sidney Volk said they picked this location because “it is adjacent to large, growing communities.”

According to Dave Kenney, author of Twin Cities Picture Show, movie theater attendance peaked nationwide in 1946 and, between 1951 and1953, a dozen theaters in Minneapolis and St. Paul shut down. The Volks were undeterred. “Let’s face it,” Sidney Volk said, “the theater business has changed, and we’ve built a place to take care of the needs of today. We now have what the public wants. The box office tells the story.” The Volks were confident that the Terrace would continue to draw plenty of customers—especially women. “If a woman has been at home tending her kids all day, washing, ironing, and cooking, it’s going to take more than television to keep her there at night,” Sidney Volk observed. “As long as we have women in this world, people are going to go out. Nobody ever bought a mink coat for his wife to keep warm.” In addition to targeting female customers, the Volk brothers saw the theater as a community gathering place. In another news article Sidney Volk said, “There are so many wonderful people in the world! And you can’t meet ‘em by the television set. You have to go out and talk to them.” A 1952 guest register showed signatures from 25,000 people from all 48 states plus Canada and other countries outside the US.

Robbinsdale grieved over the death of Lt. John W. Cooper, age 23, son of School Superintendent and Mrs. E. J. Cooper, killed in a jet plane crash in Kansas. John had graduated from West Point and was a student pilot at Bryan Air Force Base in Texas at the time of his death. A memorial fund was contributed to the American Legion Boy Scout Troop 234.

Hervey Morse, Mayor of Robbinsdale m 1926-27, a founder of the Lions
Club and former president of the Charter Commission, retired after serving the Northside YMCA for 25 years. Reverend Dale, of the First Congregational Church, spoke at the “honoring” ceremonies.

This post is part of a series loosely based on the book Robbinsdale Then and Now by Helen Blodgett.