Book on city’s colorful history hits shelves
LAKE ELMO — A book bringing the personal side of Lake Elmo history to life is about to hit the shelves.
Gloria VanDemmeltraadt spent the last couple of years working on collecting stories of Lake Elmo residents who have experienced the community’s transition from village to city for her new book “Memories of Lake Elmo.”
She’d been intrigued by the city since she and her family moved there from St. Cloud in 1987 and started her project with the encouragement of the late Gloria Knoblauch from the Oakdale and Lake Elmo Historical Society.
“She told me that we needed a history of this town, and then asked me when are you getting started,” said VanDemmeltraadt with a laugh. “She passed away about a year into the project and she is greatly missed in the community and I kept on doing it because of her and the support of the historical society.”
The book is a collection of memories, collected word-for-word with recordings and transcriptions of more than 100 people. During the project, VanDemmeltraadt said she conducted 100 interviews by phone, in-person or via email. Some persons interviewed had family who lived in Lake Elmo for five or six generations.
“The most important thing I’ve learned through this project is respect and love for all the people who have lived here and loved this town.” VanDemmeltraadt said. “They’re just thrilled to have their memories collected and recorded and it’s been an absolute joy for me. I’ve met so many people, two 100-year-olds and many people in their 90s, and they’re just so excited asking me whenever I see them, “When is the book gonna come out?’ It’s a thrill for them and it tells their story. And it includes both exciting and ordinary family stories too.”
Stories VanDemmeltraadt mentioned included tales about farming, living without electricity and indoor plumbing, differences between boys and girls in the families when it came to education and school, and stories about residents who have been gone for quite some time. VanDemmeltraadt said the stories have all been vetted by historical documents.
One of VanDemmeltraadt’s favorite real-life characters she discovered was a Ms. LaRue. Vandemmeltraadt said she passed away years ago, but really made an impact on the community as many of the subjects for her book still talked about Ms. LaRue.
“She was a neat lady who ran an ice cream shop and the kids just drooled over her candy counter. She was a pretty fiesty gal. There was a gangster once that came in and plopped their gun on the counter and she grabbed him by the nape of the neck, marched him out of her place, pocketed his gun and told him he wasn’t welcome in her store.” VanDemmeltraadt said. “Ms. LaRue fascinated me. I’m told she was a little, bitty, skinny woman. Think of her taking on a gangster! But this is how society lived. They were strong upstanding people that didn’t allow silliness to happen in their city.”
The book includes many historical photos and maps and talks about the development history of the town and VanDemmeltraadt hopes that people take away a respect and richer understanding for Lake Elmo as a whole.
“People worked really hard to keep the town growing and building it the way they wanted it. It started with the farmers and kept on from there. They had the wealthy tourists come during the summer, but the farmers are really the ones that built it all, and there’s been a lot of transformation.” she said.
VanDemmeltraadt hopes her book helps people grasp the importance of the past.
“We need to remember our past to do well in the present,” she said. “The past is the root in all of us. It’s important for the younger generation to understand where we came from.”
The book will be sold at The Washington County Historical Society, Oakdale Lake Elmo Historical Society, Curves at Lake Elmo, Valley Bookseller in Stillwater and through the author at [email protected]
VanDemmeltraadt will appear at several book launching events
- May 9 A reception at Lake Elmo Curves from 7-9 p.m. for members and guests
- May 11 from 10:30 to noon at the Lake Elmo Library
- May 14 from 6:30-8 p.m. at The Lake Elmo Library
- May 25 at Valley Bookseller in Stillwater
- June 16 at the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater