In the summer of 1955, the life of a “summertime shop girl from Uptown” was changed forever. Judy Penney, a 19-year old language student at the University of Minnesota and a retail clerk at the Purple Door gift shop (then located at Lake Street and Holmes Avenue), was crowned the Aquatennial’s 1956 Queen of the Lakes. While representing the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis as the Uptown Commercial Club’s official Miss Uptown Aquatennial candidate, Judy lived with her parents in nearby St. Louis Park.
Being chosen as Aquatennial Queen was often a major life-changing event for young women like Judy. Suddenly plans to find a full-time job or return to school were placed on hold; being a queen was a full-time commitment itself! All the hard work came with exciting perks and opportunities, however — including a tour through Spain with Minneapolis journalist Barbara Flanagan.
The photo here, part of our extensive historic Aquatennial collection, was taken during a hot week in August. The members of the Minnesota Apparel Industries had provided Judy with an entire wardrobe suitable for such international royal travels. Selected by a stylist with air travel in mind, the wardrobe “features the type of packable and versatile clothes that make the American girl’s apparel the most envied in the world.” (Picture, September 4, 1955) During this extensive, multi-day photo session, Judy patiently tried on and modeled the extensive contributions from the state’s apparel industry; a month later, she took her new ” special air-travel wardrobe” with her to Europe.
We will be featuring materials from our Aquatennial collection throughout July! Please check back often (and follow our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages) for more #HistoricAquatennial.
Hennepin History Museum is home to an extensive historic Aquatennial collection. Please click here to help preserve and to share this valuable local historical resource.
This Soap Box Derby car is called “Tinker Toy,” and was the winning Soap Box Derby car in 1959. It went on to compete in the All American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio. The car was built by the Minneapolis Jaycees, which is a youth engagement and leadership organization founded in 1934 and still active today.
The Minneapolis Jaycees are a group of young people, ages 16-40, committed to becoming stronger leaders by making positive change in their community through social action, personal growth, networking, and fellowship.
Soap Box Derby, which is a racing program involving unpowered, handmade cars, officially began in the United States in 1934. At first a boys-only sport, girls were allowed to compete starting in 1971. Historically, derby cars were made of a variety of materials, including soap or orange crates, sheet tin, and baby-buggy wheels. Today, they are made of streamlined materials such as aluminum and fiberglass, and can reach speeds upwards of 30 miles per hour!
The first record of a soap box derby competition in the Twin Cities is in 1936 in St. Paul’s Highland Park. The prizes for first place a few years later included a $50 wristwatch, suit of clothes, gold medal, and an all-expenses paid trip to Akron, Ohio to compete in the national finals.
By Heather Hoagland, HHM Collections Manager
Bob Dylan’s Chair
In 1959, a 19-year-old University of Minnesota student finally got his first gigs playing his guitar and singing the tunes he wrote himself—and for which he would later win a Nobel Prize for Poetry.
Bob Dylan sat in this simple chair at The Ten O’Clock Scholar coffeehouse during those gigs. Though he was only at the U of M from 1959 to 1961, Dylan and local legend John Koerner played together there, nurturing each other’s love of folk and blues.
The Scholar was located at the corner of Fifth Street and Fourteeth Avenue in Dinkytown, a historic student neighborhood adjacent to the University of Minnesota. The décor at the Scholar was simple: small chairs and tables where people gathered to talk, listen to music, or read. The building was burned to the ground in the late 1960s.
The chair was a gift of the Minnesota Historical Society.
By Heather Hoagland, HHM Collections Manager
This chair was made to suit the special needs of a disabled child who attended the Dowling School in Minneapolis. While we don’t know what those needs were, the desk lifts on a hinge and the high back raises. It likely dates from the 1940s or 1950s.
Above: child using similar chair
The Dowling School, established in 1920, was the first school for the disabled in Minnesota and one of the longest continuously operating schools in the area. Today it is an urban environmental learning center, serving students of all ability levels.
Above: Dowling students outside the school
The school opened with just 17 students in January, 1921, but quickly grew to fill a needed gap in the Minneapolis educational system, serving handicapped children throughout the region. In 1923, the school moved to its current location on 21 wooded acres overlooking the Mississippi, which was a gift from Minneapolis mayor William Eustis. In the 1930s, Dowling was the recipient of WPA funding to build an aqua therapy school. President and First Lady Roosevelt visited the school to dedicate the pool, which is still in use today.
The school’s founder, Michael Dowling, lost three limbs in a blizzard at the age of fourteen but went on to graduate from Carleton College—my alma mater!—and have a successful career as a businessman and speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Above: Michael Dowling
Hopkins, like the rest of the Twin Cities, changed dramatically in the decade following the conclusion of World War II. In addition to the many new single family homes built in this period, the city’s first rental apartments were constructed. The Elmo Park Apartments opened their doors in 1950. Located on the north side of Highway 7, these apartments still stand today, now known as Brentwood Park Townhomes.
Notice the boy on the bicycle on the right, and the tricycles on the sidewalk on the left: signs of the post-war baby boom.