Meridel LeSueur Recalls Swede Hollow Before Prohibition

Keg delivery wagon, Hamm’s Brewery (Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society)

Patrick Coleman writes: "LeSueur was perhaps Minnesota’s most famous proletarian writer, so it is not surprising that she wrote about the humble people of Saint Paul’s Swede Hollow. The following selection was written during Prohibition, ushered in by passage of the Volstead Act in 1919." Extract from Meridel LeSueur, “Beer Town,” Life in the United States: A Collection of Narratives of Contemporary American Life from First-Hand Experience or Observation (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1933); pages 31–33, 40.

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Old Saint Paul

(Photo: Alex Lazara/Flickr Creative Commons)

Old Saint Paul, up and down your ripped up sidestreets,
kids roam, hands deep in pockets, snapping ice with each step.
Their mothers poke out of houses,
“Time to come inside,” they say,
waiting to hang blankets off shoulders
and brush the child’s hair from his face.

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The East Side—A Story of Tradition and Change

The family of East Side residents Pang Toua Yang and Mai Vang, about 2000. From the Minnesota Historical Society's Open House exhibit, which looked at the 50 families that lived in one particular house in Saint Paul's East Side over 118 years.

Follow the sounds of childhood laughter up and over the snowbanks and into Margaret Playground on the East Side. It is 1937, and as you near the hockey rink, you can see a small mob of adolescent boys and girls huddled together or sliding on the ice. They are joining the hockey goals into a small cage. Inside, giggling along with the others, are my grandmother and grandfather.

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A Fanatic's Guide to Getting the Most out of the Weather in Saint Paul

Double rainbow over Saint Paul (Photo: Bryan Kennedy/Flickr Creative Commons)

For those of us who think about, study, discuss, photograph, worship, and otherwise adore the weather, Saint Paul is a miniature atmospheric playground.

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Fiction: The Last Child to Sleep in Saint Paul

Illustration: Andy Singer

It's 8 p.m. at City Hall and the lights in the mayor's office are still on. He sets down the stack of reports he's been reading, glances at the clock in his office, and reaches for his briefcase and keys. It's time to make the rounds. He flips off the lights and walks down the echoing corridors of City Hall to the door. Everyone is long gone.

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Life seen through two windows on Payne Avenue

life-seen-through-payne-avenue

During the Saint Paul medallion search, the scene under my window was like a movie set depicting the Middle Ages. I saw hundreds of families charging through the park with pitchforks, spades, sticks, and lanterns. They looked like a mob of Viking pillagers.

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I (Heart) Swede Hollow

Swede Hollow houses

I had just arrived at my new house—the house I bought without ever seeing. In my life, at that moment, that decision made perfect sense. It was a time when things much more unthinkable than buying a house without ever seeing it in person made perfect sense too. An unthinkable world had been my reality for the last year: New Orleans AFTER. I was gone eight years and was just now returning to Minnesota, where I had grown up.

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