Sunday, October 08, 2006

Elm Tree - A Story

I'm supposed to be out priming the wood trim surrounding my front door, but it's raining. So, instead I'm going to relaying a short story that was told to me. First some background....

Minneapolis was once filled with elm trees. Elms were planted on both sides of many of the city's streets forming a nice canopy. In the summer, it kept the streets cool and in the autumn they gave a nice display of color. Elm trees grow quite tall and unlike other trees form a nice arch.

Interestingly, elms were chosen to line Victory Memorial Parkway, a tribute to those from Minneapolis who died in WWI, because the branches form large "V"s.

Enter Dutch Elm Disease. Beginning in the early 1960s and quickly spreading through out the Twin Cities, this disease has caused thousands of trees to be cut down. Streets that were once lined with elms have been now given another "designated" replacement tree (my street is maple). Every spring you see old elms with a bright orange spray paint circle around their truck and you know they have been scheduled for removal.

A few weeks ago I discovered a garage sale (where I bought my salvage screen widows). Outside of the garage sale site bungalow was a big old elm tree. One of the last remaining on that street. There was a big hole in the trunk of the tree.

I started chatting with the woman that owned the house and it turned out her parents had built the house back in the early 1920's and she had lived there (and the house next door to it) all of her life. They are planning to sell the house soon and move to Florida. She mentioned that she has so many memories of the house and the neighborhood. She pointed to the old elm tree and told me she remembered when that tree got its gash.

The woman was 5 years old in 1949 and getting ready for kindergarten, when she heard a loud crash in their front yard. When the family got out to the front yard they saw a 46th Avenue trolley (long gone) had jumped it's tracks and crashed into their tree.

It struck me that the tree will probably be hit by Dutch Elm in the coming years and cut down, and the woman is going to move to Florida and take with her some of these memories of the city. It's weird to think of the little bits of history that get lost this way. It may be a busy body thing to do but when that house sells, I may drop a note with the story of the tree in the mailbox for the new owners.


Greg said...

Good story. There was a piece on TOH last year about Elms and the Dutch Elm Disease. It pretty much went all over North America wiping out Elm trees. In that episode they were planting new Elm trees that are resistant to Dutch Elm Disease. Maybe you'll see them back on your street someday.

Mike said...

Dutch elem disease was a very unhappy memory of my childhood, it seemed like all the big trees I knew of in Iowa City were cut down in the space of three years. I'm surpised there are any left up there!

ben said...

perhaps with a little digging, you could find a newspaper article about the incident. That would be cool.

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