Friday, August 5, 2016

Trek to Tiny Tim's Tomb

In 1968 Tiny Tim released his first album, God Bless Tiny Tim, and his falsetto Tiptoe Through the Tulips became a worldwide phenomenon. In 1996 he had a heart attack on stage at the Minneapolis Women's Club, and was pronounced dead at the nearby Hennepin County Medical Center.

It seemed strangely appropriate to start my hike to Tiny Tim's tomb outside a factory that makes jingle machines for ice cream trucks. On the way, I would pick out other points of interest, including the former home of a pathologist whose name is known to millions of men around the world, the home of an elf, and a former fast-food outlet which is now on the National Register of Historical Places.

Interactive map.
74th Street and Lyndale
Nichols Electronics

I stared at a bland commercial building in Richfield, Minnesota, an inner-ring suburb of Minneapolis. I had taken the number 4 bus from near my home to this point on 74th Street. Starting from here, I planned to walk back towards our home.

The building had only a few windows. The three cars in the parking lot at 9:00 a.m. on a weekday suggested that whatever went on in this building is not labor-intensive, or that business was slow. I was staring at the the only facility of Nichols Electronics.

Nichols Electronics.

A few days earlier I noticed an article on the main news page of The title was sufficient clickbait for me: The Weird Tale Behind Ice Cream Jingles. I was reminded of the Mr. Whippy truck that plied its trade around the estate where I lived as a kid. I would wheedle a few pennies from my mum to buy a Mr. Whippy cone. If we felt rich, it would be a "99"--a cone with a small Cadbury's flake oddly sticking out of the ice cream.

The jingle back in that housing estate in Newcastle upon Tyne was "Greensleeves" played at sufficient volume to stop a conversation. The BBC article identified Nichols Electronics as a company that has been manufacturing music boxes for ice cream trucks since the 1950's.

Nichols Electronics is discreetly embedded in a neighborhood of homes built after World War II. This suburb is typical of the suburbs that were popping up all over the United States in response to rising middle class prosperity and the desire for a little plot of land outside the core city.
After taking in my fill of Nichols Electronics, I walked past well-maintained ramblers towards a house that helps this suburb to claim that it is more than a post-war suburb.

69th Street and Lyndale
Riley Lucas Bartholomew House
The 1852 Bartholomew House was built before Minneapolis was even a city. Today it's a museum that opens two afternoons each week. That morning, it was firmly closed.

I walked around the exterior before the need for morning coffee overtook me. In a commercial district a few blocks further north I searched in vain for a locally owned coffee shop.

In common with so many American suburbs, all the restaurants were chains or franchises. I abandoned my quest for local color and walked into a Caribou Coffee. At least this chain is headquartered in Minneapolis.
The community grease board provided evidence of the above-average education level of the residents of this area. According to latest US census numbers, 87% of Richfield's residents twenty-five or older are high school graduates; 33% have at least a bachelor's degree.

My next quest was the home of a person who has more than a bachelor's degree: the modest former home of a famous pathologist.

62nd Street and Logan
The Gleason House

Freeway construction in the 1950's and 1960's made suburbs like Richfield possible, but they cut communities off from one another.

I followed a tortuous route along roads with no sidewalks to get beyond Interstate 35W. The house I was seeking stood next to a freeway sound barrier.
I was looking at the former home of the Gleason family. Dr Gleason was a pathologist at the Veterans' Administration Hospital who also taught at the University of Minnesota. In the 1960's, he developed a grading system for prostate cancer. Today a version of his scheme is used worldwide.

Millions of prostate cancer survivors can tell you their Gleason score. The score helps determine treatment options and is an indicator of survival chances. (Mine is 3 + 4 with a bit of 5 = 7.)

Dr. Gleason died in 2009. As far as I can tell, he lived here between 1975 and 2006.

57th Street near Penn
Garden Party Sculpture

It was time to get back within the Minneapolis city walls, or at least the freeway that follows the Richfield/Minneapolis boundary.

The streets counted down as downtown got closer. At 57th Street, I walked through Armatage Park where I stared at a sculpture.
It did not seem like high art, but why should it be? It stands near a children's playground and a community center. It is clearly intended to be taken lightly.

I didn't have the patience to pick out all the objects represented in the structure, including "a bird, a whale and a large swirl that the artists calls 'a great big lollipop'.” [Reference.]

53rd Street and Penn
Minnehaha Creek
Between 53rd and 52nd I stood on a bridge and looked down at Minnehaha creek as it flowed towards the Mississippi. At this point there is a little park. Further downstream there are bike and pedestrian paths that I know well.

51st Street and Penn
Patterned Abstracts House
2004 report "Art or eyesore?" on Minnesota Public Radio discussed this 1915 house and its yard. Much to some neighbors' chagrin, artist Mari Newman had filled her yard with found objects which she had carefully painted. Not everyone appreciated a carefully painted supermarket cart.

Today, the yard lacks art, so perhaps individuality lost out to the neighbors' desire for conformity. The roof and sides of the house continue to be covered with what Mari describes as "patterned abstracts."

I stared, wondering how Mari could ever sell this house. Later, I checked Hennepin County's property records and learned that she still lives here.

"48th Street" (Lake Harriet Parkway)
Mr. Little Guy

The road came to an abrupt end at Lake Harriet where I searched around for Mr. Little Guy's tiny home.

It was easy to locate using Google Maps.
Mr. Little Guy has lived in the base of an ash tree since 1995. He has never been seen, but he does answer the hundreds of notes kids leave for him every year. He has a Web site.

42nd Street
Lake Harriet Bandshell

I walked along the west shore of Lake Harriet. At the bandshell, Bread and Pickle supplied me with a welcome toasted ham and cheese sandwich. The cheese was real, and the ham had a fresh, smoky flavor.
After lunch, I admired an old streetcar.
The early streetcar system opened up this area to city dwellers who came here to enjoy the lakes. Some built little summer cottages.

40th Street
Loren L. Chadwick Cottages
In 1902 Loren L Chadwick built two small cottages. They have been thoughtfully combined into a single family home that still retains some charm. The cottages are in the National Register of Historic Places.

36th Street and Hennepin
Tiny Tim's Tomb

I could've taken the streetcar to my next destination, Lakewood Cemetery, but I was enjoying the walk.

This huge cemetery is beautifully maintained. It's the final destination for many notables as well as everyday people. My destination was the lower floor of one of the mausoleums.

The well-maintained building and furnishings surprised me: there was nothing shabby here. The air conditioning was welcome after the summer heat. The almost complete silence reminded me of all the sounds I had been ignoring on my hike.

I walked silently down a wide, carpeted corridor to the last room on the left.where I found Herbert B. Khaury, Tiny Tim, 1932--1996.
I sat for a few minutes, but my mission was now accomplished.

It was time for mission creep: a final, bonus point of interest.

33rd Street and Lyndale
White Castle Building Number 8

I first noticed this building in the 1980's when it housed the offices of a construction company run by two women. Today it's a jewelry store.
This was one of the White Castle fast food chain's first buildings. Dating back to 1936, it's now in the National Register of Historic Places.

I'd walked over ten miles, it was a hot day, and it was exactly three weeks since I'd had significant surgery. I checked my phone and noticed a shared car, a car2go, was parked just up the block. I tapped a button on my phone to unlock the door, and drove the last two miles home.

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