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“Memories of Linda Young from her long-time friend Lorena Weaver”

Linda Young (Nov 12, 1948 – Mar 28, 2018)

 

Linda Young and I became fast friends at the age of 13 while working at the Parker House in Mendota. Even though both of us lived in the small town of Mendota, we didn’t know each other because I went to a Catholic school while she went to public school.  The friendship grew as we both started 9th grade at Grass Jr. High School as she helped me adapt to my first year in a public school.

The small petite blond next to the tall rubenesque brunette was quite a sight.  Some people, including my mother, Delores LeClaire, would refer to us as Mutt and Jeff, a cartoon about two mismatched tinhorns.

We would walk the streets of Mendota, sit next to each other on the school bus and meet up whenever we could at school or when we weren’t working.  We could find something funny in any situation we found ourselves in.  We bonded over things like being poor and having to work as much as we could, living in Mendota with all of its bars and characters, the love of music, singing the popular songs of the 60’s, loud and off key, dancing the lindy in our living room, dressing up for Halloween and sharing our dreams.

Her first dream that came to fruition was owning the Parker House.  She predicted it when she was  14 years old.  It was on New Year’s Eve and we were dishwashers.  With the dirty dishes piled high over her head, the boss yelled at us, “hurry up you two and quit goofing off.”  As Bob walked away, Linda said loudly, “Someday I’ll own this place.”  I said, “Yeah and treat the employees a lot better.”   Those busy nights we would still be doing dishes at 2:00 or 3:00 AM.  Too tired to talk, we’d slowly walk to our respective homes, smelling like garbage.

We eventually moved up the ladder to salad girls and second cooks.  This reminded me of the day Linda cut her finger. It wasn’t a bad cut but she quickly wrapped a band-aide around it.  About an hour later she noticed the band-aide was missing.  We looked everywhere for it until the waitress angrily shoved a salad at Linda and there it was covered in dressing laying amidst the partially eaten lettuce.  Chagrined, Linda could barely hold back her giggles.

Linda ultimately learned almost every job at that restaurant.

As teens, we were naïve about a lot of things.  On one of our walks we found an unopened pint of gin.  Being daring we opened it and took a sip.  It tasted awful, like pine needles.  We thought it might taste better if it was frozen, so we buried it in a big pile of snow.  We would check it every day for weeks to see if it became slushy.  We finally gave up on it and gave it to one of the boys in town.

The summer of ‘64, Linda’s mother, Jeanette, thought we needed to learn some etiquette.  She signed us up for a class at the Golden Rule, a popular department store in downtown St. Paul.  The first day we walked into class we each had our hair in curlers carefully wrapped in a big scarf.  The instructor had a horrified look on her face as she told us to take our seats.  We immediately became the examples of what not to do.  Whether it was chewing gum, how to eat properly, dressing alike wearing men’s white dress shirts, untucked, and cut-off blue jeans or wearing white lipstick and bright blue eye shadow, we always got the full attention of Miss Prim and Proper who, I’m sure, thought we were hopeless.

As homework, we did think it was funny when we had to practice walking, balancing a book on our head. We never did master that walk.  Linda’s mom just watched us and shook her head.  I’m sure she was thinking, what a waste of money!

When we were 16, Linda got a second job at Burger King in West St. Paul.  I quickly followed.  I worked the register while she greeted the guests and took their orders.  We made $1/hr. but Linda soon got a raise to $1.10. She was beaming with pride when Rollie, the boss, told her about the raise in front of all of us.

Linda liked decorating, even as a teen, so she decided we would redecorate my house located on the main street of Mendota.  We certainly couldn’t buy anything new to attempt a fresh look so she decided to make the living room into the dining room and vice versa.  We moved all the furniture from one room into the other.  It was heavy pushing and shoving but we got it done before my mother came home.  Boy, was she mad!  We had to move it all back and afterwards we laughed about the look on her face.

We weren’t sure what we would do once we graduated, other than probably get married.  There was never any talk of college.  I thought that maybe I would go to beauty school, so I practiced on Linda, most often ratting and styling her hair in a double bubble, the fad at the time.  It turns out she was cute in any hairstyle.

We never got in much trouble, but we had a few scares, like taking the bus too far and ending up going in the caves in St. Paul, having to run away from some strange teenage boys or wading in the river, not realizing how strong the current was.

As we grew older it didn’t matter if we didn’t see each other for a week, a month or a year, we would pick up where we left off.  We would go for walks and discuss what’s new in our lives, spouses, children, relatives, work or the afterlife.

Whether we were on a train ride to Duluth to see the Glensheen Mansion or an airplane ride to France or a boat ride on the Key West Express, the trips wouldn’t have been the same without Linda.  She made everything fun.

She remained in the restaurant business learning as much as she could while raising her three boys.  Her focus on the ambiance, the service and the quality were foundations that made her successful.  When Linda and her partner, Charlie Burroughs, decided to reopen the Parker House as Axel’s (named after her dad), they took a huge risk financially. Their hard work paid off and was the start of many restaurants to come.

She would fill a room with sunshine and laughter, as people gathered around her to say “hello” get a heartfelt hug.  Her legacy and memories of her will live on for many years to come.

Lorena Weaver