|Me in front of the childhood home of Mankato author Maud Hart Lovelace.|
Maud (Betsy) was one of my inspirations for becoming a writer. She wrote 24 books in all, and she inspired a children’s choice book award, the Maud Hart Lovelace Award, which is celebrating its 30th year.
|A plaque on the site explains Maud’s life. She died in 1980 and is buried in Mankato.|
One of the neat things about looking through the books now is that it helps me visualize what life was like for G. Oliver and his family in those years. My grandfather, Ronald, was born in 1901 and was closer in age to Maud’s younger sister, Helen, born in 1898. Through Maud’s stories, we learn the everyday details of life, like how children played, how women called on each other and left their cards, how exciting it was to see the first horseless carriage, and to visit the new Carnegie library.
|The Carnegie Library in Mankato opened in 1904 and is now an arts center.|
I was thrilled to visit the Betsy House, which was under threat of demolition when the Betsy-Tacy Society rescued it in 2001. Renovations took several years, and it’s been open for tours since 2009. Across the street, visitors can tour the Tacy House, the childhood home of Maud’s lifelong friend, Frances Kenney. This home also was purchased and restored by the Betsy-Tacy Society; it houses an interpretive center and gift shop.
|The childhood home of Maud’s friend, Frances (Tacy).|
Another building mentioned in the books that no longer exists is the Opera House. Built in 1893, the Mankato Opera House was the center of culture and entertainment for many years. John Philip Sousa’s band performed there on Nov. 11, 1898. The rising popularity of movies doomed the building, and it was torn down in 1931. Again, I was reminded of Crookston and its Grand Opera House, where Sousa’s band performed in 1899 and 1902. That building was destroyed by fire the 1980s.
When my parents and I visited Crookston, we found the house where G. Oliver and his family lived during their second stay in Crookston, from 1914-1919. My grandfather, Ronald, was living in this house when he graduated from Crookston High School; the family then moved to Bemidji, and my grandfather enrolled at the University of Minnesota (just like Maud!).
The house is located on Washington Avenue in a neighborhood prone to flooding, and it appeared to be vacant. I’m not sure it will survive. If I had an unlimited supply of money, I would consider moving it to a safer site, renovating it and giving it new life as the G. Oliver Riggs Music Museum.
|Dad and G. Oliver in front of the former Crookston home.|
|My grandfather, my dad and my uncle Bob visit the former Crookston home in the early 1950s.|