50 Years in Minnesota

by James Park (revised 11-17-2000)

It has been 50 years since a good part of the Park family migrated to the United States. Here are my recollections of that move, which are open to additions and corrections by all my siblings. I was only 8 years old at the time, so especially Betty and Douglas may have more accurate memories.

Most of the Park family immigrated from Deep River, Ontario to Minneapolis, Minnesota in December 1949. [1949 family photo] These were Wilford and Catherine Park, parents of Robert, James, & Warren. Betty stayed behind in Deep River. But Wilford and Catherine later went to Deep River to fetch her. Betty lived with the family in Minneapolis in 1950-51. Then she returned to Deep River to pursue Murray Nielson, who had stopped answering her letters. Betty and Murray were married and they joined the family in Minneapolis in 1955, after the death of Catherine from breast cancer. Betty and Murray lived on the third floor of our home at 1804 Humboldt Avenue South, a house built about 1900, which still stands.

Douglas stayed behind in North Bay, Ontario, in order to finish out that year in high school. He joined the rest of the family shortly after, and he completed his high school education at Vocational High School in downtown Minneapolis. [Note 1]

We crossed into the United States in the dark of night at Sault Saint Marie, Michigan, traveling by train, which was much more common in those days. In fact for several months after coming to the USA, the Park family did not have any car. The green Pontiac (1940's something) was left in Canada. That first winter, because we had no car, we flooded the floor of the garage for an indoor skating rink. Wilford commuted to work by bus. And we had groceries delivered to the house by Ruff Brothers. Robert and James walked to school, which was Douglas School at the corner of Dupont and Franklin, just a few blocks away. [Note 2] Warren was still too young to go to school. He was just 3 years old when the Parks came to America.

I remember being finger-printed as we crossed into the USA, which seemed rather strange. We were not criminals. But all immigrants were registered in this way, just in case we later turned to criminal activities, I guess. I also remember being questioned by the immigration officer about why I was two years behind Robert in school, even tho he was only 14 months older. (Robert remembers the explanation: [Note 3])

When we first moved into 1804 Humboldt, we had roomers living on the third floor, which came as a surprise to us children, since we had not been told about this. [Note 4] And one of the bedrooms on the second floor was also rented out for a number of years, the bedroom that eventually became Warren's.

I remember staying up late on the night of December 31, 1949, when we marked the turn of the half century. I had set alarm clocks behind the couch in the living room to ring at midnight, but they were off by several minutes, so they gave a false indication of when 1950 began. But the radio told us the true turn of the half century.

Younger members of the Park family may need to be reminded that television hardly existed at this time. The Park family did not get its first black-and-white set until after 1955, when Wilford remarried. And Robert recalls that watching TV on a school night was always totally out of the question. But it seems to me that Warren was often watching television while I was trying to do my homework just upstairs. The television set was put in the recreation room below my bedroom. Both my bedroom and the television room were surrounded by windows on three sides. These rooms were attached to the back of the house. [Note 5] And the television room had its own entrance from the outside, off a back porch with steps down to the back yard. Warren was the first child of our family who had television as an almost daily part of his life, as now happens for all children in the Western world.

From these early beginnings a very large family has grown, mostly in the United States. Betty and Murray returned to Canada after Murray got his PhD. from the University of Minnesota. But their daughter Linda was born in Minneapolis.

I invite Betty, Douglas, Robert, and Warren to add their recollections of these early days of the Park family in the USA. Your thoughts can either be integrated with what I have written, or you can write a complete account from your own point of view. I am open to further input and suggestions for revising this account.