Suburban Pioneers

Members of the Bowen family were early St. Louis Park “settlers.”

I love this photo, taken in 1947, because it personifies the wave of World War II veterans who took that first step out of the crowded city and onto the dirt roads and open fields of St. Louis Park.

After graduating from Washburn High in Minneapolis in 1939, Richard C. Bowen traveled the roads and highways of the United States for the Burma Shave Co., selling products and negotiating leases with farmers to post the famed Burma Shave road signs. During World War II, Bowen was a tank commander in the Philippines. At Fort Sill, Oklahoma, he met Peggy Edyth Stephens, a USO entertainer and nurse, and they married at Fort Knox.

After the war, they decided to move from Richard’s family home at 66th and Nicollet. “They bought in St. Louis Park because it was out in the country, but Mound and Lake Minnetonka, where most of their friends lived, were too far out in the sticks,” says son Richard Jr. The above photo shows parents Richard and Peggy, with children Mike and Mary (Richard Jr.. hadn’t come along yet). The family is standing outside their new home at 3362 Louisiana Ave.; this section of Louisiana Ave. would later be renamed Library Lane. Through the window of their 1936 Chevrolet, you can see the pasture where the high school would be built—kids remember it as a wonderland of forts and tunnels.

It must have been an exciting time for these newcomers, who then, as now, found the Park to be a perfect combination of suburban living with easy access to the city.

Jeanne Andersen is a trustee on the board of the St. Louis Park Historical Society.