Johnson Family Farm.jpg

The Johnson family farm dates to 1864. Photo circa 1940s. (Submitted photo)

The 1945 fire that destroyed Hotel Del Otero...the public lives of the Andrews Sisters...“Roundhouse Rodney” taking kids on a tour of the old Tonka Toys factory...maybe even that 1985 “Cranberry House” fire set in Mound by Marjorie Congdon Caldwell (she of Glensheen fame): the big stuff gets a lot of play, and sometimes it’s the smaller quirks of history and the everyday memories that are harder to preserve.

The Westonka Hisorical Society (WHS), in partnership with the Lake Minnetonka Communications Commission (LMCC), is now looking to chronicle these memories through a new video project that will record interviews with people who have long been connected to the area.

“Our interest is in the history as well the people,” said Pam Myers, a long-time volunteer with WHS. Myers has taken the lead on the project.

“Westonka Memories” is a 10-part series that already has documented some of the childhood memories of Independence Mayor Marvin Johnson, Becky Thorpe and Joy Grundeen.

“Even with family members often times we don’t talk enough about the history,” said Johnson, speaking to Myers over Zoom in the series’ first episode. “There’s several questions I should have asked my mother and dad over the years about this or that that I don’t have an answer for, and nobody can answer them for me now.”

Johnson said he remembered a schoolteacher staying with his family when he was a child but that he doesn’t have any recollection of her having dinner with them or of any of the conversations they had.

“We don’t ask enough questions,” Johnson later told Laker Pioneer, adding that his brothers and sisters had told him they learned a lot from his interview with Myers.

Myers said the video project aims to capture the experiences of local residents who have memories to share about the schools, the old homesteads and, importantly, everyday life in Westonka.

The historical society has worked with LMCC on numerous productions over the past five years; many of these have been recorded talks that took place at Lake Minnetonka Shores senior living facility over the cooler months of the year. Those productions, though, were suspended with the onset of the coronavirus pandemi.

“But you still want to do what you initially intended to do,” said Chris Vogt, LMCC’s productions manager. That means educational community production for LMCC and, for WHS, actively telling local history.

The historical society’s brick-and-mortar location at Mound City Hall was closed back in March because of the pandemic, and its volunteers have largely been working individually and closed off from the public, readying new displays on schools days, family life and prehistory. “Westonka Memories” has become a way to engage with people again and to begin a living record of Westonka’s smaller and more personal histories.

“Westonka Memories” is available through the WHS’ and LMCC’s YouTube channels, as well as at westonkahistoricalsociety.org.

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