Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lake Phalen

It wasn’t a big lake as some of Minnesota’s Ten Thousand Plus lakes go..... but it was our lake. Me and my buddies. It was about a mile, as a young boy bicycles, from his home on St. Paul’s East Side. A.K.A. - the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood. The Minnesota DNR describes it with just the facts.
"LAKE PHALEN: ON THE EASTSIDE OF ST. PAUL, BORDERING WITH MAPLEWOOD. • Main fish: Bluegill, perch, sunfish and northern pike • Size: 198-acre • Max. depth: 91 ft. Clarity: 17 ft. Source: Minnesota DNR."
I have many fond memories of that place. Each summer we traveled the short distance with our fishing poles and swimming suits. Well, there was one summer when I wasn’t allowed to go. My mom was terrified of me catching polio. Something about staying away from crowded beaches, I guess. In spring time the little creek connecting Phalen with several other lakes was full of crappies. We just filled our buckets with them. In summer, the beach was crowded with swimmers of all ages. I loved to swim and dive though one awful memory remains of a young girl pulled from the water not breathing. Then watching the lifeguards try to revive her.
My dad was a 2nd generation German/American who grew up in the same neighborhood as I did. In those days canoeing was a popular activity on Lake Phalen and I’m quite certain he took a certain girl (my mom) from North St. Paul there as well. They both told me stories of the fabulous Ice Palace that had been built on the lake sometime in the thirties.
The lake is still there, of course, but different and yet the same. A recent article in the St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press best describes it.
"The crush of urban life sometimes bumps up against nature at Lake Phalen, enveloped over time by St. Paul's blue-collar East Side. In many ways, Phalen is where old St. Paul and new St. Paul meet, where the bustling city gives way to a green, watery oasis. Swimmers flock to the sandy beach, and the playground pulses with wriggling kids and babies in bucket swings. Families picnic at rustic wooden tables in the shadow of a giant pavilion. But wander down the walking path encircling the lake and surprisingly tranquil stretches await beneath a canopy of gnarled oaks.
Lake Phalen is popular with fishermen and boaters, but of the quiet, old-school variety. Canoes, kayaks and sailboats slice through the water, while motors are restricted to electric trolling models. Anglers cluster at the pier and dot the shore, casting for panfish and filling plastic buckets with sunnies and crappies.
Next weekend, that gentle scene from St. Paul's past gives way to more recent traditions: a two-day Dragon Festival, a free and popular Pan-Asian expo of food, crafts, music, dancers, martial arts and dragon boat races."

At Lake Phalen vintage 1945 with my Aunt Pearl (left) and my Mom (right) Fond memories indeed....

13 comments:

  1. Nice post. I lived far away from my growing-up area for several decades, moving back here about 12 years ago. I have a few places (like your Lake Phelan) that easily re-established me into small town & farm country life. I would run into old friends at the old community ball park,for exmaple. My big-city veneer slipped away as we watched their grandkids playing ball as we, ourselves, used to.

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  2. Some good memories, I am surprised the ice will be off enough to boat.

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  3. What a lovely tour of your favorite lake..lots of good memories and I really enjoyed that last photo.
    My best to Mrs. Troutbirder..you have not mentioned her lately..I hope her recovery from the surgery has been uneventful:)

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  4. Great post! Ah yes, there's nothing like fond memories . . . Love the last photo.

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  5. I am sure you have read E.B. White's great essay "Once more to the Lake." There is nothing like a lake to bring back nostalgia for youth- I remember the lakes of New Hampshire fondly!

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  6. Looks like a great place to shape those memories at.

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  7. Great post! I especially love the little Troutbirder already learning to work the water.

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  8. The lake sounds like a wonderful place that is full of memories for you. I'm glad it is there, even though some things do change. There may not have been dragon festivals 'back in the day', but the memories will always be there.

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  9. I love looking at old photos. Looks like you have some very fond memories. Is that you in the water? Knee deep? Looks like you have a pail. You must have been trying to catch tadpoles, bugs, snails or minnows to take home. Typical little boy. Adorable!
    xo Catherine

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  10. Nice memories posted here. My father was from St. Paul before he joined the Marine Corps in 1940 and moved to California. I was brought to the Minnesota lakes as a child as we visited cousins and Grandfather. Having only experienced swimming in the Pacific ocean, I thought it a trea to swim in a real lake. I've been putting together new pictures albusm of late, going through all those black and white family photos makes me want to preserve for my children the memories, but alas, so many details gone from these photos with the passing og the people in them.

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  11. What an ideal childhood you had (sans polio)! I love the old photos and postcard.

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  12. Those favorite family spots hold a special place in our hearts.
    Interesting to hear all of the memories that you associate with your lake.

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  13. I love the picture of the ice palace on Lake Phalen. I remember going there on a bitter cold night and walking with my daughter & husband for a mile to get to it. But it was worth it! I have a nice picture of it somewhere--I should try and find it. I live by Lake McCarron which is OK because I don't fish. On the subject of the polio years, you might want to check out this blog for February 7th about the Salk vaccine testing in 1953
    http://www.cuponthebus.blogspot.com/ I remember those days too!

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