Back in the Brainerd Lakes area

Aug. 25, 2017
by Mark Ollig

Greetings from the Coco Moon Coffee Bar, located in the heart of downtown Brainerd.

Once again, your humble, vacation-traveling columnist has found himself back in the city where he graduated from high school.

People are surprised when I tell them this, since all my siblings graduated from Winsted.

It has been nearly 10 years since I last visited the coffee shop on Laurel and 6th Street.

This morning, I’m writing from the same wooden booth as I had done in September 2006.

Of course, I feel somewhat nostalgic being back at the Coco Moon, here in the much-vacationed Brainerd Lakes Area.

The coffee bar still has Wi-Fi, which is now connected to my laptop computer.

My coffee preference has changed since 2006; instead of ordering a French roast, today I’m having a light roast, with a double espresso shot, and a splash of heavy cream.

While typing, a message notification from a relative suddenly popped up on the screen.

My sister was responding to the Facebook video I posted early this morning in Nisswa of two deer wandering on the edge of a wooded area.

She posted the comment, “Awe!”

A few minutes later, another relative sent a Facebook Instant Message asking where I was staying while in Brainerd. We ended up messaging back and forth for a few minutes.

It’s funny – I didn’t have online interruptions 10 years ago while seated in this booth.

I guess it’s true. We are all networked together and living in an instant-access world.

Glancing out the window, I see cars and trucks slowly traveling up and down 6th Street.

There’s also a tall pine tree swaying in the breeze across the street next to the “1922 Lively Building.”

Until 2005, 6th Street used to be the stretch of Highway 371 which ran through downtown Brainerd – until the bypass; now, 371 traffic routes slightly westward and north through the city limits of Baxter.

Of course, Baxter now has many new businesses sprinkled along this route of Highway 371.

When I lived here during the 1970s, much competition took place between Brainerd and Baxter.

Brainerd citizens at that time were hotly debating whether to add fluoride to the city’s drinking water, and rumors of a state-planned downtown bypass were being discussed.

Opened in 1950, the famous Paul Bunyan Center (with the 26-foot-tall talking, arm waving Paul Bunyan statue) was advertised as being in Brainerd, but was actually located within the city limits of Baxter.

Sorry about that, Baxter.

In the late 1970s, the former owner of the Paul Bunyan Center lived in the same townhome association as my family, which was across the road from the Bar Harbor Supper Club.

It was not uncommon for us to hear loud whirling rotating blades, and look out our living room window to see an amphibious (pontoon) helicopter landing in the bay with the owner of Paul Bunyan Amusement Center, who would then get into the boat which came out to pick him up.

The free tickets to the amusement center he occasionally gave my sisters and I were much appreciated.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end.

The original Paul Bunyan Amusement Center closed in 2003.

However, it wasn’t the end of the much-loved Paul Bunyan talking statue.

Tall Paul was not yet destined to enter into Log Cabin Heaven.

He and his faithful partner from the original amusement center, Babe the Blue Ox, were moved to a new location; six miles east of, and within the city limits of Brainerd.

There, both continue to entertain and provide memories for new generations of children and adults visiting the Paul Bunyan Land amusement park.

Paul still welcomes the children by name, which once mystified this 7-year-old the first time I saw Paul wave his hand at me and say, “Hello, Mark from Winsted, Minnesota!”

But, I digress.

After heavy rainfall last night, I awoke this morning to clear blue skies and a chilly 52 degrees in the City of Lakeshore, south of Nisswa, MN.

The Oct. 2, 2006 column I wrote featured the DemoFall (DEMO) technology business conference taking place in San Diego.

I haven’t written about this conference since, and I wondered if it was still being held; so, I did some investigating.

The last DEMO conference took place, in Boston, two years ago.

Today, “unique” DEMO conferences showcasing a company’s products and services take place throughout the year in various venues for the public and the press.

After 10 years, the website remains http://www.demo.com.

It was great being back in the Brainerd Lakes Area.

I won’t wait another 10 years before returning.

Follow my other nostalgic memories on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

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