My first flash of a Lake Street memory was riding the streetcar. Frank and Helen O’Rourke, beloved uncle and aunt, had a house on Wilder in St. Paul, making for a short walk to catch the streetcar on Marshall Avenue.
The Reusses often lodged with O’Rourkes on visits from Fulda, Minn. A streetcar ride with one of the O’Rourke youth was a special occasion.
Generally, the journey was east toward St. Paul, but there had to be a couple of times when we God-fearing Catholics rode across the Lake-Marshall Bridge and risked being proselytized by the Lutherans populating Minneapolis.
The streetcar lines were rendered extinct by 1954, so I was 6, 7, maybe 8, when clattering along happily in this big-city mode of transportation.
A more specific memory is eating lunch at the President Café before a Millers game at Nicollet Park. The President address was “Nicollet at Lake,” and advertised itself as “Opposite the Ballpark.”
My father, Richard, was usually a Murray’s guy, but we were in the President, and either the owner or manager — a big fellow — was shooting the bull like he was Richard’s best friend.
This had to be 1953 or ’54, when Al Worthington was a Millers starter. My dad recruited and managed when Big Al pitched for the Fulda Giants in 1950. He met the beautiful Shirley Reusse, my cousin. They were married not long after and remain so.
The final game at Nicollet was Sept. 28, 1955. As American Association champs, the Millers played the International League’s Rochester Red Wings in the Junior World Series. The Millers won that seventh game 9-4.
Stew Thornley, Millers historian, said: “They started tearing down Nicollet very quickly. Northwestern Bank put a branch on the site and billed itself as the ‘Ballpark Bank.’ ”
On Friday night and into Saturday, that bank, now a Wells Fargo, was torched by marauding arsonists.
My love for Lake Street has remained strong — slow drives just to take in the timeless funk. Watching its ruination is numbing.
• Thornley raised money for a plaque honoring Nicollet Park to be installed in the bank. “I’ll try to get in there later and see if it survived,” he said Saturday.
• The right field fence in Nicollet was 279 feet. The President was behind that fence, across Nicollet between Lake and 31st, and lost many windows to home run balls.
• Joe Hauser hit 69 home runs for Millers in 1933. Ted Williams hit 43 home runs in 1938, and he befriended a young man named Sid Hartman as his unofficial valet.
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