Wandering through the images on the Hennepin County Library Digital Collections looking into City Hall, I came across this most awesome image:
Note the arrow, in case you missed the problem. I go through this door on a daily basis and I think of this every single time.
When running to catch up with his friends, Barron’s foot got stuck in the door. Police, an ambulance, the fire department and finally a rescue squad worked to free him. Eventually they did and he got an ambulance ride to the hospital — he was okay in the end.
The Star Tribune office was just a couple blocks away, and I imagine someone calling for a photographer as soon as this kid got jammed in the door. So poor Barron is stuck in the door and now there are people taking photographs of him. And the next thing you know there’s a whole article, followup photo in the wheelchair and all:
Here are some more pictures:
But what happened to that kid? Normally people get one article in the paper and that’s the last you hear of them — 15 minutes of fame and all. But of course I won’t stop at that. It’s the stories of the every day people that are the most interesting to me. So I kept digging. And luckily for me (and you, dear reader) we have so much more information about young Barron and his adventures through life!
By the time he’s in high school he’s boxing in the bantamweight division (I had to look it up, good luck clicking on that link and not spending some time learning about boxing.) His is the “Citizen’s Club” (2010 Minnehaha), a rather imposing looking building, but the organization hosted boxing teams, basketball, baseball, and it seems to have been an event center as well.
In this fight in 1943, have lost the bout, but he won the picture:
By 1944 World War 2 was in full swing, and the Marines had just taken the Marshall Islands. This is a newsreel from 1944:
That’s the kind of thing Barron potentially had in his future, because in early March he headed off to San Diego to begin recruit training in the Marine Corps at age 17.
He achieved at least the rank of Corporal, and served in World War 2 but I couldn’t find a record of the unit or locations he served in. When I joined the Marine Corps, I trained in San Diego and stood on the same yellow footprints Barron would have enjoyed.
By 1946 World War 2 was over, and he was listed as getting a marriage license in Minneapolis:
Barron and Evelyn spend years in Waterloo, real estate records show. Barron was on a jury in 1963 for a trial regarding a bar fight. He and Evelyn have children and in 1972 their daughter Debra gets married, though each parent has a separate address:
Evelyn eventually moves on and dies in 2015 in Topeka.
Barron would apparently spend the end of his life in Arkansas, he died in 2014 at age 87.
Here is a link to his obituary — and there’s a fairly recent picture:
And that’s that, eh?
Oh hardly! Nowhere near enough rabbit holes, distractions, and random connections so far. While it’s really satisfying to have found so much information about this poor kid who got his foot stuck in a door, I was chewing over all the information I had accumulated. One of the things I like to do it look up all of the addresses I come across. Sometimes they’re interesting because the location is still there. Sometimes they’re interesting because the location isn’t there anymore. But when I looked at his home address for those City Hall pictures something seemed familiar.
Barron Gottry lived at 1365 Spruce Place. This had been an address I had researched for an entry in “What Used To Be,” my YouTube channel.
In the lower left of the building, you can see the entrance to a grocery store. Much easier to see in this present-day image:
And just for fun, how about a 1920 view:
As a large apartment building, it has many lives passing through it. As such, it’s likely that interesting things will happen. First up, we have the death of Cecil M Linklater, age 33. A war veteran, Cecil’s parents reported that he had been suffering from “leakage of the heart.” On August 11, 1927, Apparently, Linklater and Henry Morley were calling on two women in the apartments and there was a disagreement that caused the women to shout. That’s when Martin Tobin stepped in to intervene. Tobin was reported by the papers as a notorious bouncer for clubs and roadhouses – and was known to “talk with his hands.” After taking Linklater into the hall, there was a scuffle and Linklater fell down a flight of stairs, fatally injuring his head. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Tobin is cleared within a week:
Tobin, however, would be dead within 3 years:
While that incident predates Barron Gottry, it’s quite possible he was there in 1940 for the big fire:
And again in 1976, a similar scene;
It strikes me as interesting how the photos from the fire in 1940 and the fire in 1976 are so similar:
But the event that had me remembering Spruce Villa was the Aagaard grocery incident. In July of 1941, the Aagaard Grocery was held up. While the Aquatennial parade was happening downtown, a thief used the congested traffic as cover and yelled “THIS IS A STICK UP!” at Frances Aagaard. She had been cutting meat and had a knife in her hand, which he ordered her to drop – but fired immediately. She was hit in the abdomen, and the snarled traffic in the area made it difficult for police and ambulance to get there. She was eventually taken to Swedish Hospital. She died early the next day.
It’s this image from the article that haunts me:
There were various theories about the robbery. There was a similar holdup that same day down the street, and police even had an extortion plot to sort out. This article outlines three men who had been blackmailing Mrs Aagaard for some time – but they were cleared with alibis.
Later in July they thought they had the culprit when they caught another robber in the act, but that was a false lead as well.
Chris Aagaard continued to run the grocery but died in 1943. The store continued in name only in the following decade though it moved eventually to 8th and LaSalle, converting finally to a music store.
Police thought they had a break in 1944, when a woman from the building confessed to the robbery and murder, though upon hearing the confession they submitted the woman to the hospital for evaluation:
Eventually dismissing the confession, though since there were no living witnesses, it was impossible to determine if if was true or not.
And in 1949 a query in the newspaper confirmed that it was still unsolved. There are no more mentions of the crime in papers after that.