Brookside Custodian Axel Peterson was as much a clown, father figure, and protector as custodian, and was famous for holding naughty kids by the feet with their heads in the wastebasket. He worked at Brookside School from 1948 to 1973.
Axel was born on July 8, 1907, in Bellingham, Minnesota, the son of Anna Peterson. Ben Brown remembered that he came to the St. Louis Park area in the 1940s with his brother Art, and first worked at the Interlachen Country Club. He married Helen Ginsky on April 5, 1944, while he was on leave from the Navy (he was a coxswain). Helen had a son Willard Ginsky and daughter Donna Ginsky Martin.
When he retired, an “Accolades for Axel” was held at the school on May 24, 1973. The Minneapolis Star reported that the City of St. Louis Park named the day “Axel Peterson Day,” the school renamed itself “Axel Academy,” students performed a play and drew a mural, and teachers wrote songs and danced the “Axel Square Dance” in his honor. He was presented with a “gold” mop and dustpan, and a collection was taken up to rewire his house so he could have a kiln to fire pottery. The auditorium overflowed with former students, teachers, and parents.
With his water pistol, practical jokes, and just plain “fooling around,” Axel created warm memories for many Brookside kids. He passed away in a nursing home in Apple Valley on December 20, 1999 and is buried at Fort Snelling.