Recollections of Rudge Park and the Cottonwood Tree

From Penny Schmuecker:

“My family moved across the street from Rudge Park in December of 1970. Moving from Cortland, NE to Lincoln was an adjustment for my two sisters and me. However, the Park soon became the hub of my social life, if a 7 year old has a social life. I learned to ice skate that winter. In the spring, after the water was drained from the lake, friends and I caught jars and jars of tadpoles, in various stages of development. We had school Field Days in the park and in the summer, we played baseball and kick soccer. The cottonwood tree on the island was always there, a focal point of my world as I got older and started to notice the change of seasons, especially in the tree’s vibrant yellow autumn leaves that marked the passage of time. My mom would use her Kodak Instamatic to take pictures of the tree in every season. The pictures, like my mom, are gone now, and I am saddened that this majestic tree will be gone in the very near future.”

From Jackie Vivier:

Some of my best memories of “Lake Street Park” as we fondly referred to it, were the summer afternoons, the winters with all the skaters, and the school picnics.

My mom had an in-home daycare, and after lunch all of the school age kids she cared for, would head down to the park while the little kids napped.
We’d spend the whole nap time (a solid 2 hours) sliding on the searing hot metal slide, finding creative ways to not scorch the back of our legs. Swinging as high as we could on the swings and seeing how far we could jump off from them, and spinning mindlessly around and around on the merry-go-round. We’d be holding on for dear life, or trying to manage not throwing up because my brother, or his friends were spinning us around at warp speed. The park seemed so big! We’d run and jump from the large blocks into the “pond” area, run the whole oval and do it all over again!
We had a group of probably 10 kids down there at any given point, and those that were readers would make their way over to the grand isle to read in the shade of the leaning cottonwood.
In the winter, the park was teeming with kids ice skating!
I didn’t know how to skate, but hung out in the fire pit and watched all the other kids.
It was a central hub of our elementary years at Saratoga, and every spring we got to make the annual walk from school over to the park for our class picnic, I LOVED this tradition so much!!
It didn’t matter that there weren’t elaborate play structures, we were creative and made stuff up as we went along…so many wonderful memories were made in this park❤️