Emily Day: Good Life, Good Neighbors
For many families the move to the suburbs meant an escape to communities that offered the best of all worlds: a safer environment in which to raise children, yet close enough to city and country to take advantage of what each had to offer. For most, having good neighbors was one of the most important and memorable aspects of post-war life in suburbia. Emily Day appreciated the many activities her family enjoyed together, and she still cherishes the close friendships made with long-time neighbors. Mrs. Day was interviewed by Thomas Saylor in 2007.
TS: Let’s talk about entertainment. Living here, what kind of things did you do for fun with the family?
ED: Well, we usually went someplace as a family in the car on Saturdays when my husband didn’t work, and we often went out to Farmington or went farther. And I remember just driving around the countryside doing things. Like there used to be a little Green Giant place farther south, because they canned peas. So there were a lot of pea farmers down there. And I remember a couple of times we drove along and saw these huge trucks loaded with peas, pea vines, and they would fall off of the truck onto the highway. And then we would pick them up and take them home and then we would all sit around shelling peas. Now I don’t know if that happened more than once. It probably didn’t. But it was such a fun thing for us all to do.
TS: Within Richfield or within Minneapolis?
ED: No. Well, in Minneapolis when we went as a family. But when the kids were going with the school groups swimming, then those would be places that Richfield had made arrangements. For example, before Richfield had a pool of its own, they would make arrangements out at the Army base or someplace for us to use their pool and then our kids would go on the bus out there for swimming.
...But we did a lot of picnics. We all went to Wood Lake Nature Center here in Richfield a lot. And as a family we would usually take some kind of a trip somewhere if the weather was decent. In the summers we always went away.
TS: Were there things in Richfield that you did? Restaurants that you liked to go to with the kids or without the kids. Or did you bowl, for example?
ED: We didn’t go to many restaurants and we didn’t do much bowling. I don’t know why we didn’t. I guess we were always watching our money and so we just didn’t. We used to enjoy in the winter going skiing around Wood Lake and other places.
TS: Now Wood Lake is sort of kind of a plum in the middle of Richfield. Is that a place that you could do things year around?
ED: Oh, yes. Wood Lake Nature Center would do things year around and we did then, too. We would go for walks and we would have picnics and we would take along our binoculars and we would try to find all the different kind of birds and everything like that. Of course, as the kids got older they got more into team sports and so forth, and then we would have to go and watch them.
TS: A little bit ago you mentioned the neighborhood and how people moved in that were pretty much similar in age. A lot of kids coming. How well do you feel you got to know your neighbors and how well do you think they got to know you?
ED: I think we were really very close and one reason we were very close is because one of our four kids, our number three child, is mentally retarded and this neighborhood around here took care of her. ...And they were so kind to her. If another little girl her age was having a birthday party, Mary would be invited, too. They all watched to see if she really did find her way home. Everybody knew everybody well in that we knew the things they were going to need help with. So it was really a close neighborhood, and enough so that for up until three years ago we had reunions of the neighbors on this corner every summer.
TS: No kidding. So really you developed relationships that lasted.
ED: Absolutely. We all went out for dinner every June 20th or something. The same old neighbors on this corner.
TS: So the people that moved in stayed a while and developed a sense of community, really.
ED: Absolutely. Taking care of each other’s kids.
Day, Emily; Thomas Saylor, Interviewer, Emily Day Oral History Interview, Richfield Oral History Project, Minnesota Historical Society Oral History Collections, 2007.