Joe Jenn (1907-1999)

By David Schleper

Joe JennJoe was orphaned as a child. He worked on road construction crews and for Union Carbide before he became in charge of maintenance for the K-12 Shakopee school. He lived in Shakopee for 66 years. Clifford Thibodeau remembered, “Joe was a great guy! I remember being in 5th grade, if I remember right. Me and some other boys were asking him about his job. I don’t know if he was supposed to, but he showed us areas of the school that may have normally been off limits to students, like the boiler room, and the pretty big basement the school had. In all the years I went to that school, he was always such a good humored guy!”

Barb Stein also remembered Joe. “He was so cool, he would let us play with his retractable key chain, zing, zing, zing, the patience of a saint.” “When we talk about Joe I always smile. I remember when we moved to Shakopee my sophomore year, my parents just had me walk to school and register myself. Joe was out cleaning the sidewalk and could tell I was lost. He took the time to walk me to the office,” said Marilyn Rein.

Joe Jenn recalled growing up in Shakopee. “Shakopee was really a community by itself, cut off by the Minnesota River and the river bottoms. Back in the 1930s, the town was a little Las Vegas. We had 33 beer joints at one time and notorious nightclubs like Rock Springs and the Riviera. People, including gangsters, came here for booze, women, and gambling; the mayor, sheriff, and city councilmen went along with it all.”

Joe said, “A garage was established on Lewis Street. In the rear door off the alley was a receiving depot for boxes of liquor.” According to Joe, “There was also a bottling works in town; they’d delivered bottles of pop to St. Paul and return with bottles of whiskey.”

(Some information from Midwest Highways and Byways by Alice M. Vollmar, Summer 1999.)

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