My mother can make a claim no one that I know can make. She’s the only one I know, maybe the only one ever, who grew up living in a football stadium. Her father was born and raised in rural Goodhue County, Minnesota. He went to Northfield, in neighboring Rice County as a young man, looking for work. He helped build some of the stone buildings at St Olaf College in Northfield before taking a job at Carleton College building Laird stadium. He found more than work in Northfield. He found his future wife, my grandmother. When the stadium was finished, Carleton needed a caretaker for it and my grandfather got the job.
Along with the job went a rent free apartment inside the stadium on the second floor. Cement walls, floors, and ceilings were not much to look at but they made a comfortable home there. In the picture above, there are steps on the right side end of the stadium. Inside a door at the top of those steps was my grandparents apartment. My grandmother filled their home with carpets and furniture, and literally thousands of knick knacks and curiosities on shelves and in cabinets of all kinds. It was a wonderful place when I was young. The college’s first trophy cabinet, a six foot high curved glass and wood cabinet made in 1900, was filled with over 300 pairs of salt and pepper shakers. My mother who is now 83 still has it in her home.
Needless to say, my mom loves football. As a girl she attended nearly all of Carleton’s games and still watches college and pro football on television. When she was younger she would leap up and shout when her team made a goal or screwed up somehow. She would yell at the TV and get mad when her team was down. She’s a bit calmer now but still loves her football.
As the caretaker of the stadium, my grandfather was in charge of all the athletic equipment for football, baseball and track. There was a cinder track around the field and my grandpa had to maintain it and the football field and baseball diamonds. He would water the fields with big sprinklers and drag and lime the track with a tractor for track meets. Never having any set hours, he would work whenever he was needed. Honored time and again by the college for his work, he was friends with everyone from the college presidents to the guys in the wood shop. He worked there for more than 50 years and is one of the very few honorary alumni at Carleton. When he passed away in the late 1980’s his funeral was held at Skinner Memorial Chapel at Carleton.
So, my mom grew up living in a football stadium. She enjoyed her childhood very much, having an entire football field for a front yard. I think that her life there has to be one of the most unique childhood experiences ever. As an adult she worked as a switchboard operator at the college for 29 years. Maybe there are others who lived in a stadium like my mom did but I will probably never know.