I always look forward to reading reporter Curt Brown’s Minnesota history article each Sunday in the Star Tribune. He always has an interesting story about some aspect of life in Minnesota from the past, whether long ago or the not-too-distant past. There is an endless string of stories to be told, filled with interesting characters. That said, the headline in last Sunday’s paper “Quiet plumber lives on in letters” grabbed me and the first paragraph explained why. “Bob Knutson of Granite Falls never said much. Out loud anyway.”
The article explains that, although he was a quiet man, he kept a daily diary as a boy and wrote letters later in life. That diary and many of those letters were saved and shared by his daughter Dorothy (Knutson) Ellerbroek. She graduated from high school in Granite in 1962, is a nurse and lives in Waconia. Although she was full of conversation when we visited with her a week ago at a funeral at Granite Falls Lutheran, she didn’t say a word about this article that we would be reading in the Sunday newspaper a week later. No doubt she was well aware of it at the time.
The story mentioned that Bob Knutson had been elected mayor of Granite Falls in 1954 and the Knutson Brothers plumbing and heating business (owned by Bob and his brothers Howard and Paul) struggled to fight the high water of the flood of 1969, which was, at that time, the highest recorded flood in Granite Falls.
A curious person, also known for writing, asked me where their business was located. The answer to that question tells the tale about their need to fill sandbags and provides some interesting history about business locations in downtown Granite Falls, so here we go:
The Knutson Brothers Plumbing and Heating business office and shop was located in the lower level of the former Granite Medical Center building, along the river, next door to the old city hall. The Knutson brothers owned the building and leased the first floor to the Granite Medical Center as well as other first floor space to Dr. John Lundquist for his dental office which was later occupied by dentists Dr. Richard Anderson and Dr. Judd Copeland. There was also office space leased to Lester Steen for his accounting office. The Knutson brothers also leased space downstairs to Dr. Wayne Taylor for his dental practice. The second floor of the building was remodeled into apartments that had a wonderful view of the Minnesota River.
That two-story building, immediately adjacent to the old city hall, was originally Olaus Lende's garage and later a Dodge car dealership. It was re-purposed and extensively remodeled by the Knutson Brothers to accommodate the newly formed Granite Medical Center for Dr. Paul Schmidt, Dr. Carl Lundell and Dr. Olin Odland after they broke away from Dr. M.S. Nelson’s Granite Falls Clinic in 1955. That clinic was located across Prentice Street, a half block to the north in the building that was at one time also the location of the dental practice of Dr. W.W. Atcherson and later Dr. Jerry Hanson.
In the early 1960s, as the Medical Center added doctors and other medical staff, the Knutson Brothers built a one-story addition onto the north side of the building to accommodate the growing need for more clinic space.
That addition to the Medical Center required the purchase and demolition of a small, one-story, wood-frame, stucco-covered building that housed John Schaffran's Tip Toe Inn tavern. That little watering hole, which inspired a favorite local saying, "Tip Toe Inn and stumble out", sat a few feet back from and two or three steps below the Prentice Street sidewalk. When the Knutson brothers bought his property to expand the clinic, John moved his tavern operation north on Prentice Street for a number of years. Later, after much remodeling, it became the location of Mike Seeley’s Nook and Cranny restaurant and is now the location of the Granite Floral flower shop.
After the Granite Medical Center (now ACMC) moved into the lower level of the new hospital, their space in the building was occupied by Dr. Karl Erickson’s dental practice, Mark Henderson’s insurance office and Dr. Gary McGowan’s chiropractic office. Dr. Judd Copeland remained on the first floor. Dr. Wayne Taylor retired but the Knutson Brothers’ operation remained downstairs until the property was purchased in the flood mitigation buyouts that cleared that land and the city hall location as well.
The article about Bob Knutson and his brothers is a fun read about industrious farm brothers, three of the 14 kids in their family, who built a business that expanded and touched a lot of lives in the community. It’s good that Bob enjoyed writing down his thoughts and observations and it’s nice that his daughter Dorothy shared them.
Minnesota’s quick descent into wintery weather grabbed me by the ankles and put me in motion this past week. If we were going to dispose of this year’s harvest of leaves we had better get rolling. So the durable leaf blower came out last week and the annual leaf long windrow of leaves in the lowest part of the yard took shape. Saturday was a day of action with several pickup loads of leaves getting hauled away, although not as many as in years past. Although the big storm on July 16, 2016 took away some treasured shade trees, it also reduced the number of available leaves to haul away which is a bit of a blessing. However, there were still plenty of leaves and we hauled them out just in time. The icy snow on Saturday night escorted in a winter feel we can only hope it doesn’t stick around.
It seems like November snow that stays on the ground makes for a long winter. When I mentioned that, Community Ed Director Tim Knapper replied that even a mild November keeps winter plenty long. I guess anyone who has coached high school basketball knows how long winter can be.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for some warmer weather yet this month and in early December. And let’s give the river a chance to settle down some more so that next spring we don’t have to do the kind of sandbagging that the Knutson Brothers did in 1969 or that many of us did in 1997 and again in 2001.