One guy retired from Control Data. Another wound up playing bagpipes and selling leather mugs at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. And the fellow crouching like a catcher in the long-sleeved, checkered shirt in the center of the 1950s photograph? That’s Ron Triemert. He died in April on a Seattle tennis court.
“It was his turn to serve and he suddenly collapsed surrounded by his friends,” his daughter Trish Triemert said. “If he could have chosen how he would die, that would have been at the top of his list for sure.”
Trish lives in Oslo, Norway, and said her father ended up with the photo six years ago after attending the annual Glenwood Avenue reunion. This year’s get-together for folks from the old neighborhood on the north Minneapolis-Golden Valley line is set for noon Friday, Oct. 7, at the Chester Bird American Legion Post 523 in Golden Valley.
When Ron died last spring at 74, his daughter’s curiosity grew about the photograph snapped in the mid-’50s. The photo features a dozen boys known as the Diablos and their adult leader with a cigarette dangling from his lip. A 13th boy might be hiding in the back, lifting a whisk broom and a “V for victory” hand sign.
If the Diablos were a gang, they weren’t too notorious. After Trish posted the picture on Facebook, her Aunt Carolyn Baldwin sent her a short, yellowed Minneapolis newspaper clipping.
“Nine Glenwood area boys are enjoying the fruits of their winter’s labor this week as they canoe in northern Minnesota and Canada,” the story said. “The Diablos club (Spanish for devils) held car washes and other fundraising events last year to earn money for the 16-day camping trip … by canoe and portage over 180 miles of Minnesota and Canadian rivers, streams and lakes.”
It’s unclear precisely when the photo was taken, but the Diablos ranged in age from 15 to 17. Triemert was born in 1941 — so the image was captured around 1957. From its array of hair styles to the rolled-up sleeves of Lenny Sell in front, the photo has a mesmerizing quality that vaults viewers back 60 years.
Trish says she hit the jackpot this summer when the photographer surfaced on Facebook. Bill Finlayson commented that he not only took the picture she posted on the Old North Minneapolis page, but “printed it in my darkroom years ago when film was king.”
Finlayson’s brother, Bob, is standing second from the right, with thick, dark hair parted over his left eye. Bill Finlayson said the Diablos were working at a fundraising carwash at a gas station near Olson Memorial Highway and Knox Avenue North.
He identified the whole gang, from the left, where Tom Hokkanen leans in with his thumb hooked in his cuffed jeans. His mother owned Milda’s Cafe on Glenwood. Mike Eastman wears a white T-shirt. Vince Forsman dons a captain’s hat next to Don Anderson, Denny Moen, Jim Woodruff, Bob Finlayson and Jerry Hokkanen. Jeff Hammel has his hand on Bob Kangas’ head. Then there’s Lenny Sell, Ron Triemert and Harold McMillen, their group worker at the Wells Settlement House.
Most of the boys went to Minneapolis North High School, while some attended now-defunct Vocational and West high schools. Ron Triemert went to West. Despite his clean-cut aura, he told his daughter that he got into plenty of trouble as a teenager — something Finlayson confirmed.
“He was a tough kid, good fighter and had an interest in bomb making — all very innocent back then,” he said, shrugging off the Diablos’ devilish ways. “We were not angels. But we weren’t that bad either.”
After the canoe trip, Trish said her dad grew up to become an avid sailor — first on Minneapolis lakes and later around Lake Superior. Kangas docked his sailboat near Triemert’s in the Bayfield Marina in Wisconsin.
Trish said her father “burned a lot of relationships as an adult, but other people found him to be charming, though a pain at times.” He spent his last 20 years in and around Seattle, playing tennis for hours every day — while drinking beer and smoking cigarettes on the court.
The boy in foreground of the photo, maybe clasping a carwash rag, was the first one to die. A brain hemorrhage killed Lenny Sell on Sept. 2, 1960 — a few years after the photo was taken. He was 18.
Dennis Moen, standing in a light shirt under the “o” of the Firestone sign, outlived Lenny by 48 years. According to his 2008 obituary, Moen was 67 and lived in Crystal. He joined the Navy for three years just after the photo was taken and retired from Control Data.
Their cigarette-dangling leader has also died. McMillen became an artistic leather worker — fashioning belts, wallets and even beautiful saddles. “He also was quite an accomplished bagpipe player,” who often played and sold his leather goods at the Renaissance Festival, Finlayson said. He was best known for his leather mugs.
Trish Triemert joked on Facebook that she has a crush on the 1950s-era Tom Hokkanen, the guy on the left leaning jauntily with the curlicue of hair down his forehead.
Another commenter, Cindy Prince Cavanaugh, was among those moved by the fellows in the old photo. “So handsome,” she wrote, “look at the hair, the style, oh my. I would love to see these guys do a re-pose of this photo.”
Sadly, Trish Triemert said, “Not sure how many are left.”
Some of those who are still around, no doubt, will have some stories to swap at the neighborhood reunion Friday at the Legion post in Golden Valley. Who knows? They might even pose for a picture.
Curt Brown’s tales about Minnesota’s history appear each Sunday. Readers can send him ideas and suggestions at email@example.com. A collection of his columns is available as the e-book “Frozen in History” at startribune.com/ebooks.