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Judy Spooner: 'The new people' came in the '60s

I've written about the early history of the Cottage Grove area, but this week, I'm jumping ahead to the time when "the new people," as longtime residents called us, moved in.

In 1900, there were about 800 residents in Cottage Grove Township. The population remained about the same, give or take a few farms, until the late 1950s when 'the new people' arrived.

Orrin Thompson, developer and prolific homebuilder, started building homes on the west side of Highway 61.

If you drive west on Belden Boulevard, and turn left at the end of the street, there is a small park with a plaque about Panorama City, the first name of new development near the first homes that were built.

Husband Gary and I, as newlyweds, moved into our first house on Hillside Lane in September of 1961. We lived in Pineridge Estates and the people on the west side of the highway lived in Thompson Grove.

For $14,000, with a wedding-gift down payment from my grandparents, we got a 20-foot by 40-foot rambler with a gravel driveway. A stove and oven combination came with the house.

All the homes had hardwood floors because it was cheaper than carpet at the time. There was no disposal, garage or dishwasher, but we thought we had everything we were ever going to need.

It didn't take us long to select what would be in our new house. There were only four model homes. There were only five or six paint choices and two or three bathroom tile colors.

In May in 1962, daughter Margie arrived nearly two months early. Gary and his buddies seeded our lawn while I was in the hospital. No one in our neighborhood could afford sod.

Most homeowners arrived with kids and proceeded to have more kids. Driving down streets was perilous because they were clogged with trikes and Big Wheels.

Thompson decided where elementary schools would be located and used the sites to hold mountains of topsoil while homes were being built.

When the wind blew during hot summers, the dirt migrated into every home. We used snow shovels to clear dirt from our driveways. No one had a snow blower or air conditioning.

The hub of local shopping was Snyder's Drug Store and Gambles located in the mall that is now Norris Square. Snyder's sold bags of quick-mix concrete. Why concrete, you might ask. We bought it to anchor mailboxes, swing sets and clothes poles.

For those of you unfamiliar with clothes poles, few of us had clothes dryers. Laundry, including cloth diapers, was hung outside to dry. Paper diapers were only used when grandparents offered to take babies and toddlers for visits.

Women stayed home to raise the kids until the 70s when some of us started to migrate to jobs outside our homes, but that didn't mean that husbands shared the work at home.

"Good" wives and mothers did everything they used to do in addition to holding down jobs.

My generation of women is unique in that we were the first ones to seek careers and the last one to know how to make piecrust from scratch.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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