Morris Park



Morris Park Elementary School 
Photo:  D. Walter, 2003
3810 East 56th Street - closed
Minneapolis 17, Minnesota

~ ~ ~
Morris Park makes up the southeastern border of Minneapolis.  The neighborhood abuts the Twin Cities Air Force Reserve Base on the south, and 54th Street East is its northern extent. 
Morris Park is also bordered by 34th Avenue South on the west and 46th Avenue South on the east, the latter of which serves as the city border.

The neighborhood took its name from Mary C. Morris, daughter of Franklin Steele. 
Steele was the first European-American settler of the city of St. Anthony (on the east bank of the Mississippi River, in what is now Minneapolis), and he donated land to the University of Minnesota. 

A majority of the single-family homes were built from the 1920s through the 1960s.  A large reason for the development in Morris Park
during this time was the availability of streetcar routes and rail lines in this area that date back to 1865. 

Today, Morris Park is part of the Nokomis community and the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association (NENA). 
NENA encompasses a total of four neighborhoods. The other neighborhoods are Keewaydin, Minnehaha and Wenonah. 
Public and shopping amenities abound for Morris Park and the NENA neighborhoods
with parks, lakes, a post office, library and shops either in Morris Park or adjacent neighborhoods.

Today the school is known as Crosstown Educational Center.

~ ~ ~


                            
            Morris Park 10/4/1940                                      Crosstown Educational Center                           Morris Park aerial view foreground

 

Morris Park School Closing
Open House, June 2003
Photo Gallery


Photos:  Peggy Donnelly Tabbut

Click to enlarge each photo.  Use your "back" button to return to the gallery to select the next photo.
 



Morris Park Lutheran Church
Established January 6, 1926
5600 34th Avenue South
American Legion Wold Chamberlain Post 99 today



Today, I received this email from Steve Peasley, '73 who has contributed previously to this website:
"A year back I was asked by the patrons of the Wold Chamberlin Post 99 on 34th and 56th to find out what the name of the church was that is now the post.  If you were ever in the place (upstairs), you would know it was a church. 
This is what I came up with:  It was built in 1920, and this was an addition to the West and North corner for a back staircase from 1931.  The back stairs were an add to the church for another exit.  The p
hoto is looking South and is the front. 
Also a picture of the place from 1956 before the brick work was done in '62 or so.  May go well in the Morris Park section." - 4/5/14

Permit to Build Outside of Fire Limits

 



South Minneapolis Plane Crash of June 9, 1956
F9F4 jet crashed into a row of homes north of the airport (Wold-Chamberlain)

"I was reading online about the plane crash in 1961 at Morris Park.  I do have a vague recollection, but it's blurred by the crash that happened on our block
(what used to be 58th and 46th before the Crosstown was built) in 1956.  It took down four houses and 13 people.  Our roof was on fire.

I had Mrs. Erskine (Morris Park) for sixth grade and still remember the French and anatomy she taught us (wiggle your phalanges she said) and Mr. Gilbertson for fifth was my all time favorite teacher because he read to us the works of Edgar Allen Poe.  

I went to Nokomis Jr. High for 2 years before we moved.  My family moved away from the neighborhood in 1963 to New Hope, away from airports and I lost contact with all our friends.

I'm writing a book now that includes the Crash in 1956 and I'm struck by the number of times the 'smell' of the crash comes back.  It's a strong trigger for memories.

I'm including an article I have, though this was an early newspaper report, actually 13 people died as a result of the 1956 crash.   It was kind of weird, there was no therapy, we didn't even go to any funerals.   My dad's idea of therapy was, 'Did that one crash?' 'No.' 'Did that one crash?' 'No' 'Did that one crash?' 'No.' 'Did that one crash?' 'No.'  By the time the one hit Morris Park I think even he began to wonder.  

We moved two years later. . . .


Our address was 5836 - 46th Avenue South and we lived there from 1954-1963

Do you know anything about Mr. Gilbertson from Morris Park?  He taught fifth grade.  He was my favorite.
 I doubt Mr. Gilbertson would remember me but it would be nice to let him know that someone appreciated him."

NOTE:  If anyone knows how to reach Mr. Gilbertson from Morris Park, please let me know and I will forward the information to Roxanne.
rhs62reunion@hotmail.com

Roxanne Swanson Currie
~ Cooper '68 ~

Update:  Note sent to Roxanne from info provided by Jerry Nisula, RHS teacher, retired.

Update:  "Mr.G passed away many years back"...........Steve Peasley, '73
 


Jet Hits House, At Least 6 Dead


9 Injured; 
5 Other
Homes Are
Set Afire


A navy jet plane crashed into a house and set fire to five others at the north edge of Wold-Chamberlain field at 9:30 a.m. today, killing at least six persons and injuring nine others.

The plane left a military formation to make an emergency landing and hit the street in front of 5804 and 5808 Forty-Sixth Avenue S., near the main gate of the navy base.

The plane then bounced into the home of Donald and Jane Garles, 5820 Forty-sixth, and shattered with a terrific explosion and flash which scattered the plane and its fuel over the neighborhood.



Firefighters rushed to extinguish a fire in one of the houses hit by debris. (Minneapolis Star photo)

Some 20 or more children were at play in that block when the plane crashed.  Some of them were littered with debris and flaming fuel.

Five of them, taken to Veterans hospital, were reported in “very critical” condition with burns.  One other child was taken to the same hospital with less severe injuries.

Two were taken to General hospital and three to the navy infirmary at the airport.

The pilot of the plane, Major George Armstrong, 33, 5808 Pearson drive, Edina, was killed.  The second body identified was that of Debora De Wolfe, 7, 5816 Forty-sixth Avenue S.

The child’s body was found on a couch in her home.  Alongside the couch was the landing gear of the plane.

The other dead were not identified immediately.

Glen Gould, chief of the veterans administration fire department, said six bodies had been recovered.

“We made a pretty close check of the burned homes and I don’t believe there are any more,” he said.

At a press conference at navy headquarters, Col. Frank F. Gill, commanding officer of the naval air station, explained that Armstrong and two other pilots had taken off on a tactical training mission.

The other two were Maj. O.J. Miller, Isanti, Minn., and Maj. Harold Slay, Somerset, Wis.  The three are navy reservists.

Miller, according to Gill, said Armstrong reported he was having some trouble with the plane and was breaking formation to head back to the airport.

“He didn’t explain what the trouble was, but he didn’t seem to be alarmed,” Gill said.  “Miller followed him toward the airport.

“Miller said Armstrong appeared to have made the airport and that he, Miller, then turned away from the airport before the crash.” …


Residents of the south Minneapolis neighborhood gathered to watch firefighters work the crash scene. (Minneapolis Star photo)

Children Playing When Jet Hits ‘Like a Bomb’

South Minneapolis residents who had been working in their yards, supervising their children at play or going about normal household tasks were shaken at 9:32 a.m. today by an explosion that some described as a “huge bomb blast.”

It was the crash of a F9F navy jet fighter plane into a row of houses in the 5800 block on Forty-sixth  S. Here are the words of some of the first to reach the scene:

Elmer Gustafson, 5841 Forty-fifth  S., was in his back yard when he saw the plane come in low and crash with a “terrific explosion and flash.”

“There were lots of youngsters playing in yards just before the crash,” he said.  “I took my own youngsters a safe distance, then went to the scene of the burning homes.  I saw people carrying injured children.

“It was so confusing, I don’t know whether the children had been in the houses or in the yard.  There was a terrible concussion that could have knocked them over.”

Gustafson said he tried to get into one house, but flames drove him back.

Frank Trybulec, Villa Park, Ill., and his wife had just arrived to visit the Albin Andersons at 5759 Forty-fourth Avenue S.

“I heard a terrific explosion and I ran to the burning house where the plane had hit,”  Trybulec said.  They were carrying out children.  One child had her clothing burned off.”

Mrs. Otto Mueller, 5854 Forty-sixth Avenue S., who lives at the far end of the block, spent a frantic minute following the “terrible bang” searching for her children, John, 5½, and Joan , 8, who were playing down the block toward the crash scene.

The two youngsters came rushing into the house. John was scratched by a piece of flying debris, but otherwise unhurt.

“Don’t come out, Annabelle,” Mrs. Mueller telephoned a friend across town as thousands jammed streets, alleys and lawns within minutes after the disaster.

“There was a ‘poof’ and then a real smell of smoke and I saw fire in my living and bedroom.”

Mrs. Doris Kieffer, 30, sat in Veterens’ Administration Hospital after treatment for cuts and described the impact of the jet plane crash that wiped out six houses today.

“I had just gone into the bathroom to comb my hair,” she said.

“It is on the west side of the house and the plane hit on the east side.

“I heard the plane and you know jets whistle. But this time it was just a poof and I realized the smell of smoke.

“I saw fire in the living room and bedroom and there is a hall separating it from the bathroom.  I started down the hall and realized I couldn’t make it.’  “I shut the door of the bathroom and broke the bathroom window to get out.

“I saw my two little girls – Jennie, 2½, and Cassie, 5. I got Jennie.

“My husband was painting the back fence and he picked up Cassie.

“We ran across the alley to my neighbor because I knew she was a nurse.

“I said, ‘help me, please.’ 

“Then I saw an ambulance and we took them to it. They were crying. I don’t remember much after that.”

Mrs. Kieffer had stitches taken in her right forearm and first aid for other less serious cuts and bruises on her legs.

The Kieffers moved into their homes four years ago.  She said they had never worried about aircraft activity.  “It is just one of those things you never think happens,” she said.

“After all, the landing strip is over the hill and not really by us.

“You don’t worry to the point where you ever think that it would hit you.”



Before the 1960s, numbers and arrows were sometimes added to photos to help explain what happened. Here’s the original caption from this Minneapolis Star photo: Jet plane struck the ground (1), bounced and struck again (2), then crashed into house (3).
 

 

Morris Park Plane Crash of April 27, 1961


Here is a thumbnail photo to enlarge the photo.
Photo can be enlarged twice.  Click once to open thumbnail, then place cursor at right bottom corner and click once again.
 
"I have enjoyed your web site so much and check back frequently for new things.  You have done an amazing job and this site brings back lots of memories for me. 
Although I graduated from Roosevelt in 1967, there are many things on this site that trigger those memories.  It is always so enjoyable just to browse through the photos and see some familiar names. 
I recently found a photo on a web site for Morris Park.  I was in sixth grade when a plane crashed into the school and for many years I wondered if there even was a photo.  I thought I would share this with you. 
It was April 27, 1961.  My classroom was Mrs. Erskine's 6th grade and is the second floor room in the photo. 
It was so fortunate that there were no students injured by this crash as it was just a few minutes after school was out for the day.  Unfortunately, the pilot did not survive.
Thanks for the great site and all the work you have done on it."  (7/17/11)
~ Linda Syverson Stinar, Class of 1967 ~

 

~ ~ ~

~ The Milwaukee Journal - April 28, 1961 ~

~ ~ ~

 

~ St. Joseph, Missouri News-Press - April 28, 1961 ~

Plane Crashes in School Yard
"Debra Lambert, 7, Minneapolis, a student at Morris Park School (background),
stands near the wreckage of a small two-engine plane that crashed in the school yard just ten minutes after classes had been dismissed. 
Firemen said one body was removed from the burned wreckage of the plane.  The plane narrowly missed children in the yard.  A home and some parked autos were damaged.  (AP)"

~ ~ ~
The pilot's name was Oscar Lakin of Glencoe, Illinois.  His daughter, Sharon Lakin Goldman recently emailed me, as she is interested in finding more information about this tragic plane crash of April 27, 1961. 
If anyone can provide details, please email me at:  rhs62reunion@hotmail.com and I will forward them to her.  (9/7/11)

~ ~ ~

Recollections from the plane crash, April 27, 1961

#1
"I do however remember the crash at Morris Park Elementary School in '61.  I had just left the school and was about three blocks away when the plane hit…  I finished my walk home and my father picked me up in his car and we drove back and saw the plane…  It was a private Cessna type aircraft.  Single prop I would imagine.  It dove straight into the parking lot and into the first floor school rooms on the northwest side of the building.  It was not a pretty sight.  I am not sure but I think we had no school for a few days after that, while they cleaned it all up".

#2
"On a whim I decided to search recently for info about the 1961 plane crash at Morris Park Elementary, and happened upon this site.  It’s interesting that there’s not much else out there.  Since I was in the school building at the time of the crash, I thought I’d contribute my memories of the incident, for what they’re worth…

As I recall, it happened about 20 minutes or so after school let out for the day.  I was still there feeding the fifth-grade hamsters, in a second-floor room across the hall from the rooms that were damaged.  I heard a loud boom and went to the door where I found teachers hurrying kids out of the east side door – the plane had hit on the west side (38th Avenue), in the small front parking lot where teachers parked their cars.  I don’t think the school building itself was directly hit, although there was some fire damage to some of the rooms on that side.  I remember bumping into the crabby teacher (Mrs. Olson?), and when she didn’t yell at me I knew something serious was up, and that frightened me more than the noise – but this might be a later interpretation rather than a real memory.  From the playground/parking lot on the east side of the school I could see a large column of black smoke on the other side of the building, but didn’t know what had happened yet.  I ran across the playing field to 40th Avenue and saw a fire truck coming from the station on 40th or 41st and about 57th or 58th Street.  It seems unlikely there would be only one, but that’s what I remember; and back then neighborhood fire stations didn’t have the large array of equipment they do now.

We lived four houses down from the south corner of the school, across the street.  My mother said when she looked out the front door after hearing the sound, she saw a wall of flame obscuring the whole front of the school.  I don’t know how much of that was the exaggeration of panic.  I recall a distinct column, not a wide extent of smoke.  When I was told my mother was looking for me, I went to the front of the school.  The fire was out by that time.  I don’t remember seeing the plane, or when I learned that was what had happened, there were many people milling around.  There was also fire damage to the house immediately to the north of the school.  At least into the 1980s, you could still see the vertical scar in an elm tree on the boulevard that was also damaged.  Google streetview now - It shows a new young tree there.

Rumors started immediately – the pilot was with a woman who wasn’t his wife.  He had radioed in that he was going to deliberately crash in the parking lot because he was afraid he couldn’t make it to the playing field on the other side, and didn’t want to hit the school.  An engine had landed in a backyard half a block away and a wing had landed on the roof of the school.  I think the last may have been true, because from the upper floor of a house 2 houses away I remember seeing something sticking out past the edge of the school roof on the western part of the south side.

I don’t recall if school was cancelled the next day or not.  I was probably was kept home since my mother had gone into shock.  I seem to recall it was near the end of the school year, April or May.  Certainly there were no counselors to go to in the schools those days if something traumatic happened.

For some years, I had a shoebox of bits of metal parts I picked up from the parking lot area in the next few days – little springs, bolts, etc.  It disappeared long ago – probably a good thing, because it smelled of whatever the fire department had sprayed on the fire.  In the mid-'90s I found the letter the Metropolitan Airports Commission (I think) wrote in reply to a letter from my father.  It was short, a basic thanks-for-your-concern sort of thing; and as I recall said only that the single-occupant plane (so much for the mystery female rumor) had developed engine
trouble shortly after take-off.  I don’t recall if it said the pilot was trying to return to the airport or not.  That letter has long gone, also."

#3
"I was standing on the corner waiting for a friend when the plane crashed in front of me.  I actually saw it crash.  It did happen after school was out.  I was a “safety patrol” crossing guard.  I remember everyone saying it was a miracle it happened after school was out.

It did crash into that little parking lot.  School didn’t close because of this.  My classroom (Mrs. Erskine-6th grade) and the downstairs classroom (Miss Monroe) were damaged.  For a week or two we had class in the library.  I vividly remember the SMELL of our classroom.  I also remember all the rumors that were flying while the FAA was raking the wreckage:  They found another arm, a hand, a finger…all to make the whole thing scarier.  The pilot was the only one on the plane."

#4
"History of Minneapolis Plane Crashes" - Google search

#5
"The date of the plane crash that happened in the parking lot of Morris Park Elementary School was April 27, 1961.  It was a beautiful day, until that crash.  It was one of the first warm days of the Spring season, and it was a good day to be outside after school."

~
Does anyone remember this Morris Park Plane Crash of April 27, 1961?  If so, please let me know: rhs62reunion@hotmail.com ~


More recollections from the plane crash, April 27, 1961

#6
"I hope this will add a little more light on the subject.  I was in the school when the plane hit.  My second grade teacher made me stay after for not paying attention in class.  When the plane hit the tree and spun into the parking lot we heard the explosion and were told to leave the school out the east side.  I could see the smoke coming up from the west side as I left.  Running around the 56th Street side I got there before the fire truck did.  One of the engines was between the school and the house to the north that was damaged in the crash; the second was under a car in the parking lot up against the school.  There was a pretty big crowd by this time.  I was right up front.  The next thing I remember is my mom grabbing the collar of my shirt from behind and jerking me over about ten rows of people with my little brother in one arm and dragging me home with the other, telling me I had scared her to death by not coming home right away.

To back up now just a little, my older brother had already come home after school, got his ball glove, and was headed back to the park to play ball.  We lived right across the street from the school.  As he got to 56th Street, he saw the plane going down.  He was the one that ran and turned in the alarm on 56th and 38th by Meyers store.  What he said he saw just before the crash and others said they saw the same thing, was they saw the pilot looked as if he was trying to wave at the kids to get them off the ball field---as if he was trying to put the plane down on the ball field.  We still to this day think the pilot realized there were too many kids; and instead of risking their lives he went to plan B.  Things could have been much different that April day if it had not been for the pilot's heroism."

Roger Johnson, Gunnison, Colorado -  11/7/11


#7
"I was in Morris Park School when the small plane crashed in the parking lot.  I had been at an after-school Science Club in Mr. Tomlinson's classroom, directly across the hall from the room that overlooked the crash site.  When those windows blew out, teachers escorted us out of the building to safety.  I remember waiting in the playground area until we were able to leave.  I'm not sure why, probably curiosity, but I walked around the north end of the building.  I suppose it was the way I always went to go home.  That route led directly into the parking lot.  I still can 'smell' the air that day.  A fireman escorted us out and around the crash and it seemed, in part, to keep us from seeing more detail.  It was horrendous.

Cathy "Casey" Chase, RHS'67, was a close friend.  When the plane went down on 46th Avenue, we must have been hanging out at her house, which was across the alley, on 45th Avenue, from those that burned, because I know we were part of the group huddled around watching. I remember picking blueberries with her.  So driving by when I'm in town, I think of blueberries, baseball, plane crashes, and Casey.  Casey died in a car accident on 494, near the Eden Prairie/West Bloomington border in about 1977".


Linda Woods - 1/26/13
 


#8
"I
was a 6th grade student at Morris Park School in 1961 when the plane crashed into the west side parking lot.  Several years ago, I decided to write down everything that I could remember about the crash.  Attached is my rather lengthy account of what happened that day:

March 10, 2012  Morris Park Plane Crash - 1961
The following is my account of the plane crash that took place at Morris Park Elementary School in 1961.  I was in Mrs. Erskine’s 6th grade class that year and our classroom was located on the 2nd floor in the northwest corner of the building.  The parking lot where the plane crashed was directly below our classroom.  School had already ended on the day that the crash occurred and most students had left the building.  My recollection is that we normally got out at 3:15 p.m. (we used to say life begins at 3:15) so I am guessing that the crash occurred about 3:30 p.m. that day:

I usually left school through the entrance on the east side of the building.  In those days, we were told to always enter and leave the school through the same door and the east side door was assigned to my classroom. 

From there, I usually walked along the north side of the building to the front side of the school.  Then I would cut through the parking lot (the one where the plane crashed) and walk south along the sidewalk to the school crossing at the corner.  From there I walked west along 56th Street to 33rd Avenue which was the street where I lived. 

However, on that particular afternoon, I did not go directly home after school.  That day I decided to go to the home of a fellow classmate who lived on the east side of the school.  So instead of walking west that day, I walked east along 56th Street with my friend, Mike Danielson. 

Mike lived close to Beno’s Grocery Store and that was where we stopped that afternoon while on the way to his house.  While inside the store, we heard yelling and the sound of running feet outside so we quickly left the store to see what was going on.  We ran along the sidewalk back toward the school and immediately noticed a huge column of black smoke rising up over the school.

My first thought was that the school had blown up and that I would no longer have to go to class.  However, a closer look revealed that the smoke did not actually seem to be coming from the school (darn) but instead seemed to be coming from the west side of the school.

We ran past the school playground toward the front of the school to see what was causing all the smoke.  When we reached the front, we saw that the fire department had already arrived and was spraying water and foam on something that was burning furiously in the parking lot.  Someone in the crowd told us a small plane had crashed.  There was debris strewn all over the street and parking lot and chunks of wreckage appeared to be lodged against the boulevard trees.

Despite all the fire and smoke, the school looked largely undamaged. Most of the windows had cracked from the heat but had remained intact.  Most of the cars that had been parked against the school had been blackened by the fire but they had not caught on fire themselves. I looked up at my classroom and noticed that some of the ceiling tiles were on fire.  This was quickly noticed by the firemen who entered the school and used fire extinguishers to put out the small blaze.

The main fire was also rapidly doused and the flames and smoke were replaced by a horrible smell.  Once the fire was out, there was not much else to see. I headed home to tell my parents what had happened.  It didn’t occur to me that they might be worried.  News traveled more slowly in those days and I don’t think they knew about the crash before I told them about it.

The next day I headed off to school thinking I would probably end up in another classroom or if I was really lucky, be sent home.  Such was not the case.  Despite the bad smell, there was very little damage to my room.  Some of the ceiling tiles next to the windows had burned.  Most of the windows were cracked but not broken.  One book had been sprayed with a fire extinguisher so that was tossed in the trash.  The only major casualty was Mrs. Erskine’s poinsettia plant which she kept by the window.  It had been pretty well cooked by the heat and was now completely wilted. 

We spent some time that morning telling stories about what we had seen and heard the day before but there was not a sense that anyone had been in any real danger.  The pilot of the plane had been killed in the crash but there was not much discussion about it. If the crash had happened 15 minutes earlier, the parking lot would have been filled with kids which would have been a disaster.  All things considered, there was the feeling that the school had really dodged a bullet.  I don’t remember feeling traumatized by the event but it must given some parents a great scare.

Eventually, all the damaged window panes were replaced with new glass.  Each window frame consisted of single panes of glass mounted in 2x3, 3x3, or 3x5 patterns.  When the glaziers weren’t looking, we would grab small blobs of putty and play with them like clay.  For the most part, we continued to use our classroom during this time.  We did have to move next door to the library a few times but once all the windows were replaced, the classroom was pretty much ready for us to use. 

Over the next few days, the wreckage of the plane was cleaned up and taken away.  Many small pieces of metal remained in the parking lot and I remember picking them up and looking at them.  Here and there were small puddles of melted metal that had evidently formed during the fire.  The nasty odor of the fire remained for a long time afterwards along with the melted metal which had fused itself into the asphalt

During the crash, the engine of the plane had separated from the fuselage and lodged in the chain-link fence next to the parking lot.  One of my classmates told me that at the time of the crash, he had been walking along the north side of the school toward the parking lot when suddenly the plane’s engine went flying by in front of him.  He was lucky that day.

All of the damaged cars had to be towed away.  The paint on most of the cars had been really messed up and the metal underneath had already begun to rust.  The boulevard trees had also been damaged but I don’t recall if any of them had to be cut down and removed.  The fire certainly didn’t do them any good which was evident by all the burn marks and dead leaves. 

Signs of the crash persisted for many years.  Later, when I had moved on to Nokomis Junior High, I used to come by to see if I could find objects left from the fire.  Over time, the forces that modify and alter urban landscapes removed all traces of the 1961 plane crash.  Today, the school looks much like it did 50 years ago when I was a student there."


Dean Eisfelder 3/21/15 RHS Class of '67


~ Sixth Grade ~
Graduation, 1956

Does anyone have the Sixth Grade Graduation photo that can be scanned and displayed below?
If so, please email the webmaster for details.



No, this isn't the entire class!


Row 4:  _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
Row 3:  _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
Row 2:  _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Front:    _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Source:  Unknown at this time.  If you can identify any of the students' names indicated by the underscoring, or if there are errors, please contact the webmaster.


Until a graduation photo becomes available, here is the beginning of an album of Morris Park alumni.

 
MORRIS PARK ALBUM

         School Colors:  _____ and _____ 
 
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Names Names Names Names Names
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Names Names Names Names Names



~ Interesting Links ~

Planning for the Future

Fire Protection Engineering Report


 

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