Some of the streets in Fergus Falls were paved with bricks until around 1960. At that time the bricks were removed in order for a gas main to be installed, after which the street was resurfaced with asphalt. The bricks were relocated to a massive pile where they were available for purchase at 1 cent each.
My uncles and dad, with “help” from my sister and I and some cousins (ages three to eight), participated in extracting bricks from the huge pile. They were loaded into the bed of a red 1960 Ford F-150 pickup truck that my grandfather had bought from a neighbor, and hauled out to the lake cottage property. The bricks were used to construct a “road” from the yard down a bank, so that vehicles and equipment could get down to the lake shore. Bricks were also used to line the floor of a boathouse my grandfather built, which was the size and look of a double garage, painted red like the cottage.
An earlier construction project my grandpa undertook was a tiny cabin on the lake shore. It was just big enough for two bunks with flimsy mattresses, one above the other, and a small side table and chair. From the ages of about 10 until 18, my uncles slept there to get away from the chaos of the crowded cottage. The next generation of cousins in the late 1960s and early 1970s sometimes used the beach cabin for sleeping, but more often as a fort. Mostly it was unoccupied except for spiders and mice.
The main purpose for the boathouse was to store a classic old 1948 Palmer wooden racing sailboat. My grandpa had purchased the sailboat from someone in Minneapolis after it was badly damaged in a storm. He rebuilt it with white oak and applied a new coat of fiberglass. After one season on Lake Harriet the renovated sailboat lived at the lake. The boathouse also was used to store other beach-related items, including a canoe, duck boats, life jackets, paddles and yard tools. The sailboat rested on a makeshift flat trailer with wheels. There were tracks under the trailer that went on out into the lake, allowing it to be easily wheeled into the water. At that time the beach was wide enough to drive the truck between the boat house and the water, and there was plenty of space for games and lounging on the other end of the property where the dock and swimming area were located.
My mom’s younger brothers spent many happy hours on that sailboat. In later years when I was growing up the sailboat was sometimes anchored in front of the swimming beach, where it was used as a swim raft. I remember sunbathing on it, or climbing on and jumping off with my cousins.
The lake water has been rising steadily since the 1980’s. The brick road down to the lake is still there, but the boathouse and beach cabin are long gone. Most of the land where they were placed is now under water. The shoreline has receded back 25-30 feet from where it was 40 years ago. Some 20-inches of rain this summer threatens even more lake shore as water levels continue to rise.
My parents used some of the bricks leftover from the boathouse project for landscaping their yard when they lived in Edina, between 1972 and 1999. There were borders around gardens and a walking path on the side of the house.
The bricks that had been the floor of the boathouse became a beach patio after the boathouse was torn down. Over time as the water got higher, my uncle moved the bricks and used them to make a patio behind his lake house, which had been built on the south end of the property next to the cottage.
When my parents built their retirement home at the lake in 1999, my dad dug all the bricks out of the yard in Edina and brought them to the new property. The bricks were relocated a few at a time on the floor of their dodge minivan, so it would not be too heavy. You can see them now on the walk and patio in front of the house, where we live now.
When this house is eventually sold, we may have to dig up the bricks and move them again. We may also want to cut out the ceramic tiles my mom hand made for two fireplaces, but that is another story.