Miracle Mile History In 1950 the firm of Sheldon-Thomas, Inc. bought the land from W.M. Livingston (Minneapolis) and S.F. Carmean (St. Louis Park) and requested a permit to build a 14-store shopping center, estimated to cost around $1 million. The plan was presented to the Village Council by a Phillip Neville. Despite a petition against the plan signed by 425 residents presented to the Village Council by attorney Hyman Edelman, the permit was granted on July 20, 1950. The subject of the objection was a 50-ft. driveway into Wooddale Avenue that was originally supposed to be part of a 100-ft. buffer strip between commercial and residential zoning. The President of Sheldon-Thomas was identified as Charles M. Redman (d. November 1, 1959).
Keefe’s Men’s (and Students) Wear 5301 Miracle Mile: 1951-67. This store (with W.T. Grant) was the second to open after Warner Hardware in June 1951. It was originally called John Keefe, Inc. Mr. Keefe, a graduate of the U of M, was described as having 20 years in the clothing business, the most recent at the New York office of the Dayton Company. He had also been associated with the Varsity Shop and Maurice L. Rothschild. The store was 20 ft. wide and 100 ft. deep, the last 40 ft. being storeroom space. The interior was decorated by Weidt Associates in white and pastels. In 1958 you could rent a tux for prom.
I remember going with my Dad and Mom on shopping trips to the store. While it was open, it was the only store my Dad bought his clothes at. I remember being very proud to see the Keefe name on the sign.
Our family visited the store on our visit in 1958, the first I can remember. The time before that was 1951 when I was only two years old. When we visited in 1958 it was called Keefe’s Men’s Wear. Byrne and John were both there. That was also the visit when your dad took the three of us and at least a couple kids from your family on a boat ride in a motorboat he borrowed from a friend. That was our first time in a motorboat so it was pretty exciting! My parents were probably delighted to get a few hours of free time without the kids!
I remember the store and the display window. I was born in 1950. We moved from 51st and Sheridan to Ashley Road in 1956. The drive from Ashley to the store, on Excelsior Blvd was single laned and canopied by elm trees on both sides of the road. The phosphates at the counter in Snyder’s were tasty. Later I “manned” the floor at the store, worked for both my Dad and Uncle Byrne, bought cigarettes at Snyders for 27 cents a pack, and found that girls my age tended to work at the dry cleaner’s a couple of doors down.
Ahh, memories! I worked in the store, too. Father’s Day was especially fun -all those ties! And wrapping them in paper. I don’t think I worked there after Byrne joined. I think I was living in Washington.
A little back story on the 1st prize Dick Keefe won at a dance contest hosted by the famous band leader Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights.
Family relations say a youthful Dick Keefe bore a resemblance to another Irish hoofer, actor Donald O’Connor.
The following is a brief excerpt from a dance routine with O’Connor and Gene Kelly from Singing in the Rain. As I don’t know of any film footage of Dad on the dance floor, I can only assume this was his skill level.
By 1950 Captain Richard J. Keefe was the dance chairman at the Armed Forces Officers Club near Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
Horace Heidt (May 21, 1901 – December 1, 1986)
Horace Heidt was an American pianist, big band leader, and radio and television personality. His band, Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights, toured vaudeville and performed on radio and television during the 1930s and 1940s. From 1932 to 1953, he was one of the more popular radio bandleaders, heard on both NBC and CBS.
Heidt and his band played on the NBC Pot o’ Gold radio show (1939–41). The 1941 film of the same title, starred James Stewart and Paulette Goddard, featured Heidt portraying himself with his band.
The following are two Minneapolis venues that Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights were known to have played.
The Minneapolis Auditorium
From Twin Cities Music Highlights: “Bandleader Horace Heidt hosted a 2 1/2 hour musical review from the Minneapolis Auditorium on October 22, 1950, that was broadcast nationally over CBS radio.”
The arena held 10,000 people and was built in 1927. It was demolished in 1988 to make way for the Minneapolis Convention Center.
The Orpheum Theater
Fom Twin Cities Music Highlights: “The format was to show a movie and then the band would come out for a 15 minute session and then back to the movie. This went on all day and was one hell of a treat to pay a quarter to get in and be treated to all this tremendous big-band music. Big bands that appeared were Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights with the Triple-tonguing Trumpeters; Artie Shaw with “Little Jazz;” Roy Eldridge, fresh out of the Army, wearing high-water trousers; Sammy Kaye and his “So You Want To Lead A Band?” show.
Sophia Keefe’s interview with her grandmother Dolores Keefe for a school assignment in May of 2009 regarding an important choice she had made in her life.
My name is Dolores Keefe and I was born May 14th, 1928. Here is the story of my choice in life.
The Great Depression
Since I was born right before the 1930’s you probably know that I lived through it. It wasn’t that hard for my family in particular, or really the whole neighborhood, because everyone had the same things.
Toys for us were either made ourselves or we didn’t have any. Our parents did not have the time or the money to be able to buy us simple playthings.
As for clothes, no one had that many things to wear. For girls, we had a school dress, a play dress, and a party dress. Boys had the same sort of thing except they had shirts and trousers.
Schools did not give out much paper homework because we couldn’t afford to print it much. Instead, we would take turns at the blackboard, one at a time, solving the day’s problems. Our subjects were arithmetic, English, social studies, and science.
After school we would go to the soda shop and buy a Coca-Cola, it was the new drink. The bottles were served ice cold and were glass, so you could see the condensation dripping down the sides. They tasted wonderful.
But the best part were the tin bottle caps that we collected. We would save them up until we had five of them, and then we would give the caps to the man behind the counter and he would give us a pad of paper, which said Coca-Cola in big letters on the top. He would also give you a pencil. Everyone wanted one of those. It was the way that the company got money.
After school, a child was selected to clap the blackboard erasers. We had a schedule to find out whose turn it was to clap the erasers.
I remember that I was in the school orchestra. I played the violin and loved it immensely. I loved the sound it made and smell of the wood and everything about it.
We had concerts a few times a year, and once a year, we would put together a record of our songs and of us playing them. That was very exciting. And all of the children looked forward to the time of year when we got to record ourselves.
We did not have any city busses, but we used trolleys, which had tracks all through the neighborhood. Because the trolleys could not turn, it was a drag to get home because the engineer would have to get out of the trolley and pull the cables to turn, which took quite a long time.
The dentist in our city was one of the first dentists to use fluoride for mouth hygiene. A bunch of children would get our teeth cleaned, and then we would parade in a big group all around the neighborhood and smiling at everyone to be able to show off our beautiful white teeth. The dentist used us to advertise his new way of cleaning teeth. The people who saw our beautiful teeth would send they’re children to that particular dentist, and maybe even go to see him theirselves. That was basically the depression for me.
World War II
Then came World War II. It was much different than the depression was. I was in high school during the war. High school was 9, 10, 11, and 12 just like it is today.
It was true that girls did not listen to all the information about the war. We had no telephones, but we did have radios. Boys listened way more than the girls and all the time. This is because right after they got out of high school, they would be drafted to go and fight for our country.
As a matter of fact, three boys quit high school early. They went to the army lied about their age, and were sent overseas to fight. In a matter of months all three of the boys were killed while fighting. All of my schoolmates and us were shocked because we had known and been friends with these boys. And this was a very weird feeling to hear that one of your schoolmates was dead, killed in battle.
After high school the girls had a matter of three career choices. One was marriage, which I was not considering at all at the time. Nursing and secretarial work were the other two choices. When I got out of high school I signed up for the Navy. But, just on the boat going in, I got sick on the water and had to go back to land. So the Navy was out.
The next job I applied to was an airline stewardess. I also failed in this attempt because my eyesight was not perfect, and I had to wear glasses. You had to have perfect eyesight to be able to work on the airlines. After that, I applied for the job as a nurse and finally got in.
I was a surgical assistant for a doctor. I did that job for a pretty long time. It was strange that I could get on a boat, turn green, and start vomiting, but I could perform a surgery and cut some one open no problem. I spent years as that and still I did not think once about marrying. But then I met Richard Keefe.
Remember my saying that I wouldn’t get married? Well I lied. I have to admit that it was a conflict to make this decision. I loved Richard with all my heart, but I did not know if wanted to get committed. Well I decided that I did want to do this.
So I got married, and had ten kids. Julie was the first, and my only girl.
A few years later I was pregnant again with twins. But something went horribly wrong. They were five months premature. The doctor got them out of my stomach, but a few hours later they died. I was heartbroken.
It was very hard for me. I think what made that easier was the fact that I still had Julie back at the house waiting for me.
Years later my first son was born, Mike. And after Mike came Paul. After Paul, Tim was born. A few years later after Tim, Tom arrived, and then Jim soon followed. Nick was born then, and finally Greg, the youngest.
Although he is years younger than all of his siblings, Greg grew to be at LEAST a foot taller than all of them.
What everyone enjoyed were all the birthdays we had. We had a thing called “Treats Around the Table” so everyone would get a gift even though it was only one person’s birthday. We all liked that. It also kept everyone from complaining.
Most of my kids were born during the Korean and the Vietnam War. To tell you the truth, I paid little attention to the wars because I was very busy raising a family and taking care of the house. To tell you the truth, I don’t even remember which one happened first! I did not even know anyone that was in it. It was nice to be able to ignore a war when it is going on, and pretend that people aren’t getting hurt every day.
Since Julie was the only girl, she moved out soon after she was married and she lives in Colorado. Mike married Liz, and they now live in Delaware with 10 kids of their own. Paul married Jodie, and has 4 kids. Tim married Diane and has 4 kids also. Tom has two daughters, Heather and Crystal. Jim married Deb, and has 4 kids. Nick is not married and has no kids. Greg has two daughters. So I have many grandchildren.
I simply decided that I could not live without my husband. I stopped working when I married.
As for the twins, they would have been in their 50’s today.
Victoria Wegner is Dolores Keefe’s Grandmother on her Father’s side of the family.
Chris Keefe’s translation – 12/14/09
The first line seems to be in Polish. The second line on…
nata die vigesima Decembris anno millesimo octingentesimo sexa- gesimo octavo in Wenecya (sp?) paroccia Wenecya Archidiocesis (…) Victoria filia legi- timatori Martini Wegner et Dorotheae (….) mari- torum religionis catholicae bapti- zata est in ecclesia (Venetensi) die vigesima secunda Decembris anno millesimo octingentesimo sexagesimo octavo 1868 in fidem etc. etc.
Translation of the preceding follows.
Born on the 20th of December in the year 1868 in the parish of (Wenecya); Wenecya of the Archdiocese of (?). Victoria, daughter of legitimately married Martin Wegner and Dorothea… was baptized in the church of (Venetensi) on the twenty second day of December of 1868. In faith, etc. etc.
I think the rest is in Polish. I’m not sure about the stuff in parenthesis – or the spelling! Hope this helps!