There has been a progression of organizations and activities for Park’s senior citizens.
SIXTY PLUS CLUB
The Sixty-Plus Club met for the first time on September 6, 1949 with 25 members. The group met at the American Legion Hall and was organized by Recreation Director Dorothea Nelson. At the first meeting the new members learned to play canasta, “the new rummy craze.” Other activities included crafts and handwork, bingo, movies, card tournaments, folk and other dances, and picnics. By 1951 it had over 40 members, and in 1961 there were 55 members.
OLD SETTLERS’ CLUB
In 1951, Earl Ainsworth took on a project to write the history of St. Louis Park. He hired a young graduate student named Norman Thomas to write it, and convened a series of meetings with longtime residents to reminisce and provide material for the book. One of these events, attended by members of the Old Settlers’ Club, took place in July 1951 at the Colonial Inn, with 50 in attendance.
Another event, an Early Settlers (indoor) picnic, took place on August 23, 1951 at the American Legion Hall.
The beginnings of the St. Louis Park Senior Center go back to 1972, with the opening in the northwest corner of the Rec Center. A program shows that the Grand Opening and Dedication was held on April 16, 1972, and indicates that it is part of Community Education, sponsored by the School District. The address of the center was given as 5005 West 36th Street.
Among the festivities was the presentation of a plaque by a representative of the Charles F. Friedheim Family. The program noted that the Senior Center was made possible through the generosity of Charles M. Friedheim in cooperation with the Community Health and Welfare Council of Hennepin County. A contribution was also provided by the Rotary Club. A newsletter of the same vintage tells us that Karen Laing was the Senior Citizen Coordinator. Activities included movies, lectures, classes, arts and crafts, even ice skating. Lunches were provided at four elementary schools.
When the Lenox facility developed a Senior Program in 1979, the plan was to close the Rec Center site, but many folks who lived on the south side of town balked, so two sites were run for a period of time. The old Senior Center site was remodeled and expanded, and is now the Recreation Office.
LENOX COMMUNITY CENTER
The Lenox Community Center was dedicated on October 5, 1979. Membership was open to those ages 55+, and initial membership was 1,100. Activities included a wood shop, billiard room, card room, movie theater, art studio, music room, craft boutique, lounge, and a hospitality room equipped with hot coffee and baked goods. Facilities also called for a day care that would accommodate 20 pre-school children.
In 1987 the Lenox Foundation was presented with a Certificate of Commendation from Governor Rudy Perpich. The Foundation is the fundraising arm of the senior center.