By Mildred Nelson

"Under the spreading chestnut tree"--no, there wasn‘t a special tree, but the pungent aroma of the blacksmith shop located on the north side of Peterson Park brings back vibrant memories. There was Louis Skifstrom ?ailing away at the plow share he had just lifted from the burning forge; the sparks were ?ying. In the background was Charles Osbeck busy at another "smithy” job. Nearby were two other blacksmith shops, Charley Larson and Oscar Anderson.

Going up Millard on the corner was a cream and egg station, owned by Snodgrass. Someone had brought in a coaster wagon for sale here and this little girl became the happy owner. The next business place was a carpenter shop owned by Otto Nelson. J. W. Beckrnan was the owner of a feed and seed store. In the fall of the year crates of wild blueberries were brought in here from northern Minnesota for sale. They made wonderful pie and sauce, but what a tedious job to get them ready.

On the corner of Millard was Elmer Bergstrom's Corner Grocery. A sometime clerk was his nephew Gordy, who years later became Cokato's postmaster. Andrew (Andy) Anderson had a butcher shop in the rear of the store. Today this is the Pizza Factory.

On Saturday night Wally Peterson would have a nice business going by his popcorn wagon which was parked on the southeast corner of A. L. Thelander's store. A. L. Thelander, proprietor and owner of the Leader Department Store was a native or Sweden who became a successful businessman. Ole, his brother, was ever on hand wearing a hat. He became the owner following his brother's death.

The south wall of the store was lined with bolts of cloth for home sewing. Toward the back was the women's apparel. Signe (Nyquist) Lundeen and Manda Hoard were the efficient clerks. The "Delineator" magazine was ordered here and supplied some stories for this hungry reader. Later Christine Knutson and Esther Zander took over clerking duties. Christine married the boss, Ole.

Shoes, rubbers, and overshoes were sold under the direction of Harold Tellgren and also John Olson. The men’s section was to the right front where Victor Lundeen, Magnus Breitholtz, and later Alfred Larson were at your service.

To the back of the store was the grocery department where the bananas hung and the big round cheese was in the glass case. There was the salt herring and anchovies in brine in green wooden pails. Many grocery items were in barrels, boxes, or bags. The clerk filled your order, ground the coffee, and maybe filled your kerosene can. Often butter churned at home would be exchanged for groceries. ,

Some years later a door was opened to a storage area on the north side and the grocery department was moved there. However, it did not last long--too much competition. This small area was taken over years later by Elmer Burkstrand where he sold Maytag washers. _

The Leader was a likely place to wait for a ride home.

Eric Anderson (stor nasa) had a butcher shop; Hans and Ann Jorgenson, a small cafe, H. G. Engstrom, a jewelry store, and Art McChesney, a barber shop.

Elmer Burkstrand‘s hardware store later became a grocery store when he went out of business. That gleaming white kitchen range was purchased at Elmer's. Thomas Store (first chain store in Cokato) was operated by William Muller. Gladys (Nelson) Dahlin was the clerk. llstrup was another grocer.

The Johnson Produce Company, with N. F. Johnson (another Swedish native) at the helm, was a prosperous business dealing in eggs, chickens, and turkeys. Many people in the area found employment here. A. M. Anderson, the e?icient bookkeeper and his assistant, Signe Heed, were “hermetically” sealed in the small office away from the chick aroma.

Not on Millard, but a bit to the northwest, was the Cokato Depot which is now in Dassel. There were many passenger trains going east and west on The Great Northern each day. Sitting in the depot waiting for the big locomotive coming from the west on its way to Minneapolis and grandma's house was a many-time “fun experience." There at the window where the tickets were purchased was Mr. Corkins, keeping close tab on the "clicking" telegraph. It was a “princess-like" feeling when the conductor brought out the little step-stool, hand on arm with assist in getting on the coach. The puffing smoke, the whistle blowing, and the screeching to a stop are so memorable!

Continuing on Millard, now on the other side of the street, was a nondescript building which was used as a plumbing and heating establishment. A new brick building housed the George Phillipe Hatchery. Here was the movie house--the Cecile Theatre, presided over by Esle Larson and sometime later by Devore Gustafson. It was the most enticing place where this interest was never satis?ed.

Guy and Sam Redmond owned a barber shop. Sam knew just how to gently cut a little girl’s hair.

The Cokato Post Office was located on Millard for quite a few years. Nighttime young folks would gather here with an ‘eye and ear‘ open for the cop, Pickruhn and his dog, to possibly come by.

The Farmer's State Bank, a stately brick edi?ce closed its door in 1926 when "nest eggs" and more were lost. George Borg, Frank Carlblom, and Francis (Heed) Hagglund were directors. This building now houses the Enterprise-Dispatch newspaper office.

The drug store on the corner of Third and Millard was under the direction of Adler and Clarence Peterson who had taken it over from their father, A. P. Peterson. A door on the east side of the store led you up the stairs to Dr. O. L. Peterson's office.

Across the street on the corner Ted Swan was ready to ?ll prescriptions at the Eureka Drug. Later this became a variety store where cosmetics, including blush for the cheek, could be purchased. Mrs. Corkins was the courteous clerk and owner.

This was main street Millard Avenue in that long ago and very busy time.

Next time we'll walk another street in Cokato.

This article first appeared in the Fall 1992 edition of In The Midst Of. (c)1992, Cokato Historical Society.