by Nan Royce
HOWARD LAKE Ted Brown and his family moved to Howard Lake in 1971. He has fond memories of the city from that time forward, but also has a problem. He can find very few photographs of Howard Lake businesses and scenic views from his growing- up years.
“Good morning, Howard Lake”
Brown doesn’t want that scenario to happen to today’s Howard Lake youngsters. The grandfather of seven has taken it upon himself to volunteer as Howard Lake’s unofficial photographer.
He multi-tasks, taking photographs while walking his dog, usually close to sunrise or sunset.
Brown captures quiet and colorful moments around the downtown area, and by the water. He didn’t think it was any big deal until he started to share a few of his images on social media.
Brown was pleasantly amazed by how many people responded to his work.
Typically, he doesn’t write much to accompany the photos he shares. Many of the people who enjoy his photographs know that if they read “Good Morning, Howard Lake,” as the photo caption, it is a solid bet that it is Brown behind the lens.
“Just walking around”
Brown said he used to take photographs every day, “just walking around,” but has slowed down a bit. He still believes that preserving images of today will be appreciated in years to come.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes,” he said. “And a lot of towns are shrinking.”
Youngster Brown’s town
When Brown was a young boy, Friday nights were a big deal in downtown Howard Lake. He remembers the Scheer family selling popcorn and snow cones, and area farmers bringing their families into town to shop. Merchants stayed open late on Friday night, and Brown loved the spirit of community that naturally happened on those evenings.
He has strong memories about when Mr. Custer built the grocery store, and when Lions Park was just a swampy area. “It was a fun time,” he said.
Brown, like many teenagers, itched to get out of his home town. He was so anxious to leave Howard Lake in his taillights, that he left Howard Lake High School and joined the Army.
He learned to be a mechanic, and spent his military career fixing “anything with wheels.” Most of his time was devoted to truck repair.
Brown’s army career moved him around the country a few times, but eventually, he was compelled to come back to Minnesota.
A young lady from Dassel, named Mary, may have had something to do with that decision. Brown met Mary before he high-tailed it out of Howard Lake. After their first meeting, Brown recalled telling his buddies, “I just met the girl I’m going to marry.”
Brown said it took a little convincing on his part once he returned to Howard Lake, but his prophetic statement came true when he and Mary tied the knot in 1982.
Life’s ups and downs
The Browns raised three children in Howard Lake. During those years, Brown worked construction, building houses for 25 years. When the economy soured, he took a job changing oil at a local Ford dealership. He was injured on the job, and endured back surgery, which kept him out of work for eight weeks.
When nearing the end of his recovery time, Brown was dealt another blow. His vehicle was broad-sided in an accident, and, after the rescue squad extricated him from his vehicle, he was taken to an area hospital. “I was hurt pretty bad,” he said.
The last thing he remembers from that day is hearing someone tell Mary that they were bringing in a helicopter to transport him to a more specialized medical facility.
“I woke up 21 days later,” he said.
Brown said it took him a year and a half to recover from his injuries. But he didn’t spend too much time just sitting around.
Tonka Ted’s Restorations
Brown began puttering around in his garage, restoring old toys. He began refurbishing a few pieces for his grandchildren. It didn’t take long before people were requesting that he restore their old toys. And, although his restoration work still has a sizeable number of fans whom he has met in person and online, he’s turned his creative attention elsewhere. “I turned down 50 jobs this fall,” he commented.
Once a mechanic. . .
Currently, Brown is restoring a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle for his daughter and granddaughter.
He said he has the car completely torn apart, the engine is at the re-builders, and he’s preparing to paint the car turquoise - a color his girls picked out. In his spare time, he is also helping rebuild a dune buggy.
What matters most
Brown enjoys hanging out with his grandchildren. He is also a longtime fan of Howard Lake’s annual Good Neighbor Days celebration.
He said his favorite part of the big festival is the kiddie parade. Brown and his grandkids have built all sorts of entries to escort down the kiddie parade route. The proud grandpa said his grandkids received second-place honors once, and have taken first place twice.
Locals may also recall that during last season’s Good Neighbor Days, the traditional medallion hunt started and ended rapidly. That’s because Brown and his granddaughter Viola, were out adventuring, and the 10-year-old uncovered the medallion two days into the contest. Brown smiled at the memory of her excitement.
“Someday, I’ll be just a memory to my grandkids,” he said. “And I want to be a good one.”
Best wishes for the future
Brown believes Howard Lake’s future can be bright, if things are handled correctly.
Right now, he said he is encouraged to see derelict buildings being razed within the city.
He also thinks the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board is “moving right along.”
“The school is a lot better than when I was in,” he laughed.
Brown is also pleased to see business growth happening around town.
He has definite ideas about how he would like to see the city gain more momentum in its progress.
For example, he knows swimming pools are expensive, and the algae in area lakes makes swimming there difficult. Brown would like to see a splash pad come to town as an additional amenity to bring in and keep younger families in Howard Lake.
For the moment, however, he is happy to remember, restore, and preserve all types of things.
“It’s important to document your town and your time,” he said. “Somewhere down the line, another old man will be able to say, ‘I remember that!’”