Holiday event celebrates release of historic book, hand-painted ornaments, toys from long ago

Anoka County’s longest-serving sheriff Ralph “Buster” Talbot signs a copy of the book, “Keepers of the County; Crime and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.” Fellow former sheriffs Larry Podany and Bruce Andersohn and current sheriff James Stuart also added their signatures to copies of the book, written by Anoka County Historical Society program manager Vickie Wendel. Photo by Sue Austreng

The Anoka County Historical Society celebrated the holiday in historic style with a special event Dec. 3.

First a squad of sheriffs – former sheriffs Ralph “Buster” Talbot, Larry Podany and Bruce Andersohn and current sheriff James Stuart – signed copies of the historical society’s book, “Keepers of the County; Crime and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.”

The book, written by historical society program manager Vickie Wendel, who also signed copies of the book during the holiday event, tells stories of bootleggers, murders, politics and even a loose alligator that “terrorized” the community.

“I had so much fun digging up these old stories,” Wendel said.

The book, funded with a grant from the state Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and a $10,000 contribution from the historical society, sells for $30.95 and can be purchased online at

“It’s kind of a day in the life of law enforcement,” said historical society executive director Todd Mahon. “And Vickie’s got a very deft touch in writing it. She really takes you back to stories of crime and law enforcement in the county, all the way back to 1857.”

Also part of the historical society’s Dec. 3 holiday event was the presentation of Spring Lake Park’s holiday tree ornaments.

Longtime Spring Lake Park City Councilmember Barbara Carlson presented a pair of hand-painted glass ornaments to adorn the holiday tree on display at the history center.

The bulbs are truly one-of-a-kind, Carlson said, describing her search for glass bulbs and the delicately designed and hand-painted illustrations on each bulb.

Creating unique holiday bulbs has been a longtime artistic task for Carlson.

“I was on the council for 22 years and every Christmas I gave each council member and city staff a handmade ornament,” she said. “I’m happy to present these to the county.”

One of the bulbs is a representation of a child’s eye view of all things Spring Lake Parkian. The other is adorned with cardinals, trees and poinsettias, and is inscribed, “Happy holidays from Spring Lake Park, 1953-2013.”

Mahon shared some historic information about Spring Lake Park before the ornaments were presented.

“What we know as Spring Lake Park started out as a neighborhood, really, and was incorporated as a village in 1953, then became a city in 1977 or 1978,” Mahon said.

And at just two and a half square miles, Carlson wanted to give the little city giant representation on the county’s holiday tree.

“These two glass bulbs – each must be six to eight inches round – will be quite a presence on the tree,” she said.

Also part of the holiday event was the opening of the history center’s newest exhibition, Toyland, featuring toys from the historical society’s collections – many given and received as Christmas gifts  – and dating back to the 19th century.

The historical society, organized in 1934, is headquartered in the Anoka County History Center and Library at 2135 Third Ave. N, Anoka. For more information on programs and activities there visit or call 763-421-0600.

Sue Austreng is at

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