Minnesota's Greatest Generation

Emily Day: "It Was An Event To Go Downtown"

Life in the suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul brought changes in everyday activities to those families that lived there. Shopping was done closer to home, often in stores within walking distance. When Southdale shopping center opened in 1956, suburbanites living in nearby suburbs found a convenient alternative to shopping downtown. Emily Day of Richfield remembered shopping at a neighborhood Red Owl store for groceries and at The Hub shopping center for clothing and other items. She was interviewed for the Richfield Oral History Project by Thomas Saylor in 2007.


Emily Day Oral History Interview


TS: Let me ask, when you moved in here [to Richfield] in 1949 there wasn’t much around here. I’m wondering, where did you do your shopping for everyday necessities?

ED: Well, right. We went to the Hub shopping center most of the time. And there was a good grocery on Lyndale at 67th, I think.

TS: The Red Owl? That one?

ED: Yes. And so we went over to Lyndale or to the Hub for almost all our shopping. Of course, 494 wasn’t built yet, and that was just plain 78th Street. There were good groceries and hardware stores. Hardware stores were much more important in those days. ...They were right on Portland off of 78th. So for small things we could go there and then for bigger things we could go over to Lyndale. And for clothing, something like that, we always had to go to the Hub.

TS: Now would you estimate when you moved in that first five, ten years, how much of your shopping did you do in Richfield and how much of it did you, say, go to Minneapolis for?

ED: Oh, I did all my shopping in Richfield except for special events like Christmas and things when you had to get special clothes or special gifts. Then we would go down to downtown Minneapolis.

TS: I see. So downtown Minneapolis became almost an out-of-town destination in a way? ...That you didn’t go to very often.

ED: Oh, no. No. It was an event to go downtown to Dayton’s [Department Store].

TS: When you went from your house here to do any shopping in Richfield, how did you get there?

ED: Most of the time we had two cars. My husband worked for the state and he had a state car. We never owned two cars, but then I could keep the car at home and I could use it.

TS: So for you it wasn’t a case of being isolated here.

ED: No. But we had only a one-car garage so we had to leave one of them out. We never did build onto the garage. But that way I could use our car most of the time.

TS: Right. So if you needed to do shopping that wasn’t within walking distance – and none of it was, the way you described – you could go do that.

ED: That’s right. Yes. I was pretty lucky.

TS: A few years after this, 1956, Southdale Mall in Edina opened. How much did that impact your patterns of what you bought and where you bought it?

ED: After that, we didn’t go downtown, usually. We went to the Southdale Mall. We went there for special things that we had gone downtown for before . . . I never was very much of a shopper. I did a lot of clothing shopping in resale shops, which weren’t big places then. They were more like an individual family or a woman would have a resale shop in her basement. That was quite common in Richfield. There seemed to be more of them over on the west side, which is understandable because there were more older homes on the west side. On our side it was all brand new homes so nobody had anything much. ...Then we would go to Southdale, but not as much. We went to JC Penney in the Hub. Because Penney’s was in the Hub before it moved out to Southdale.

TS: ...So Southdale, it sounds, may have replaced your trips to Minneapolis, but didn’t really change your pattern of every day shopping in which you...

ED: Not a bit.


Day, Emily; Thomas Saylor, Interviewer, Richfield Oral History Project, Minnesota Historical Society Oral History Collection, 2007.