Join this ‘stupid [but well-meaning!] white boy’ on a midnight tour of Chicago’s South Side . . .

Fellow travelers
Student Division

Gregory of the North: “With the recent discussions of class trips, I’ve been wanting to send you this recollection — but I hesitated, as it wasn’t so much a class trip as a mission trip.

“It was 1968, and those of us living and hanging out in Luther Hall on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus decided it would be a good thing for us to go to Chicago and learn about the Civil Rights movement. So arrangements were made, and buses contracted, and soon we were off to Chicago’s South Side.

“We arrived on a Monday evening, and the following morning began a series of discussions with various representatives of the Civil Rights movement as to what we could do to bring more support from the white population. We worked and discussed and argued throughout the day, and that evening, most of the group retired to a lounge or their sleeping bags. Not so, yours truly. I thought it would be a good idea to get out into the community and get to meet some of the folks for whose rights I would be advocating.

“It probably was about 10 p.m. when I decided to go for my walk. I wandered around until well after midnight. I came across a barbershop that, to me inexplicably, was open at that late hour. I waved at the barber and his customer, and then walked on. It was a warm autumn evening, and a surprising number of people were sitting on the stoops of their apartment buildings. I greeted each one I encountered and walked on.

“Finally, at about 12:30 or so, a couple of young black men in berets walked up to me and asked me if I was with the group of Lutheran students. Surprised that they would know that, I said I was, and they offered to walk me back to the church where we were staying. I thanked them, went inside, and quickly fell asleep in my bag.

“The next day, our first speakers were representatives of the Black Panthers. Rather than opening with their usual political positions, they told a story of a ‘stupid white boy’ who was wandering around the neighborhood late at night, whom they’d had to save from local residents who thought he might be a white supremacist seeking to provoke some trouble. They said they had to explain to many people, including a local community leader who was having his hair cut, that this particular white boy was just someone who is harmlessly stupid from Minnesota. The Panthers then went on to say how provocative this kid was, given the recent history of race relations in various parts of the country, and they asked — no, commanded — that no one else take ‘tours’ on their own.

“After their presentation, and during a break, the Panther representatives came over to me and told me that they knew I meant no harm, but — with exceedingly colorful language — left no doubt in my mind what they thought of my solo forays. With that, one of the men punched me in the shoulder and told me to stay safe. The other grabbed my head and rubbed his hand on my scalp, telling me I had to get something besides book smarts into my head. (He said it forcefully and with unique combinations of colorful commentary.) He released me and looked me straight in the eye. He told me that he knew a lot of white people feared the Black Panthers. He told me that when I met people like that, I should tell them about how a couple of Panthers saved the neighborhood from disruption, and probably saved a white boy’s posterior, although the actual choice of words was more distinctive. I thanked him for what they had done, and for my lesson. He said ‘Yeah’ and punched me in the arm in the same place as the other had. Then they were gone, back into their community.

“Although I haven’t thought about this event for a long time, I have never forgotten it. The lessons learned about respect and humility have served me well, throughout my military career, sports, and just life in general. Thank you for the opportunity to recount it.”

This ‘n’ that (responsorial)

Mr. Tulkinghorn (our Official Attorney) writes, un-Officially: “Subject: Long Time Gone — two stories.

“First, re: class trips —

“Our sixth-grade class trip took us on a scenic journey through Western Pennsylvania, from the little steel town of Sharon (across the state line from Youngstown, Ohio) to the big city itself, Pittsburgh, PA. We visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, to be suitably awed by the skeletons of the T-Rex, the Triceratops, and the Brontosaurus (since renamed, I know!). Then off to the Pittsburgh Zoo, which in those days was typical: keeping the animals in smallish pens without any real plants, so the poor display subjects mostly stayed grumpily indoors in the shade — impossible to see properly. Finally, to wrap up the day, we stopped on the way out of town at the Isaly’s ice-cream shop, a famous Pittsburgh landmark in those days.

“This was a ways back: 1964 or so. Fifty-five years? Seems like yesterday when my friend Bobby Johnson’s mom picked us up from the Blue Bird bus in her faded blue VW Bug.

“Second: the Hartford Circus Fire.

“My law firm in Hartford happens to be named for two formidable lawyers who were intimately involved in the aftermath of the Hartford Circus Fire.

“Immediately after the horrifying devastation and hundreds of deaths caused by the Ringling Brothers’ Big Top being set ablaze by an errant candle, dozens of members of the Hartford County bar (the oldest organized bar association in the country, by the way) set about financially protecting the families of the victims. First, they asked the local probate judge, Louis Nassau, to appoint a receiver for the Circus so that it would be under Connecticut court jurisdiction. This Judge Nassau did, naming the rough-and-tumble lawyer-about-town Ed Rogin to that role. Attorney Rogin, as Receiver, promptly met with the prominent members of the local bar, and they reached a consensus that Rogin effectuated immediately: On behalf of all of the victims’ families, he asked Judge Nassau to enter an order that the Circus had to stay put in Hartford indefinitely and not leave town until it posted a sizable cash bond for the settlement of any claims by the decedents’ families. Judge Nassau issued that order right away. In effect, this was one of the first class actions (if not THE first) ever commenced anywhere in the world. As a result, the Circus has to suspend its tour for several days, costing it tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. John Ringling tried to argue with, cajole and coerce Rogin into letting the Circus move on, but Rogin was a stubborn and clever card player who refused to fold under enormous financial (and likely political) pressure. He insisted steadfastly that Ringling post a large cash bond before he would agree to have the order lifted. Finally, after several days of unsuccessful wrangling, Ringling conceded and posted the bond. Lou Nassau and Ed Rogin were rightly hailed as the two critical cornerstones of the novel settlement plan and John Ringling’s comeuppance.

“Soon afterward, Rogin and Nassau joined each as law partners and formed the law firm of Rogin & Nassau, which still exists today.

“For more info in the Hartford Circus Fire, see author Stuart O’Nan’s best-selling book on the subject: ‘The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy.'”

If the shoe fits . . .

Donald: “Subject: Not exactly the response I anticipated.

“I drove up near the mailbox located outside my community’s city hall and prepared to walk to said box. As I was opening my car door, a voice from behind me said: ‘I’ll take that.’

“I looked back to see someone from the city hall approaching with a basket full of mail.

“‘Thanks,’ I said, as I handed her my two pieces of mail. ‘You’re a good ambassador for the city.’

“‘Yes, I am,’ she replied.”

Vanity, thy name is . . .

Semi-Legend: “License plate on a café-au-lait-colored Lexus in the CHS Field parking lot Thursday during a concert there by the Long Odds: ‘UM HCKY.’

“Um, hickey?

“Nah.

“U.M. HOCKEY is more likely.”

The Lowest Common Consumer

Dennis from Eagan: “My wife and I went to the Saints’ opener on May 16. CHS Field sells $1 beers (in the center-field concourse) on Thirsty Thursdays, and the closest restroom to that bar has a hilarious sign over the urinal.

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“I personally didn’t need the reminder, but maybe somebody tried doing just that since the park opened in 2015.”

Life as we know it

Dragonslayer of Oakdale: “I once told a friend that I thought as you get older, there are more things to do. He said he didn’t think so; it just takes longer to do them. So that’s my excuse, for any accusations of neglect of purpose.

“Some time ago, I sent information and possibly pictures of wood carvings I had completed, and announced my intent to enter one of them in the Minnesota State Fair, in 2018. I did, the first time I ever entered anything in the fair or any other exhibition. I won first place, along with an American Swedish Institute award for carving excellence.

“My wife and I will have been married for 59 years this September, so when I found a statement on Facebook that we could both identify with and laugh at, I thought I should share it with you: ‘Doctors have identified a food that can cause grief and suffering for years after it’s been eaten. It’s called wedding cake.’ Someone who has not had the experience of years of marriage might not think this is funny.

“Here is a picture of my deep-relief carving of an African mask. Carved on a glued-up, live-edge basswood plank, two inches thick and nominally 18 inches square.”

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The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division

Our Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: Something to aspire to.

“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:

“‘BE THE PERSON YOUR

“‘PET THINKS YOU ARE.’”

Our birds, ourselves

Bulletin Board’s Official Ornithologist, Al B of Hartland, reports: “As each year, I saw many yellow-rumped warblers this spring. (Auto-correct wants them to be yellow-rumpled warblers.) I heard the song of the bobolink. The bird sounded pleased with the world. I saw a good number of black-winged redbirds: scarlet tanagers. The bird of happiness comes in many colors. As a tanager fed on a window feeder, I made a wish. It seemed like the right thing to do.”

Now & Then (responsorial)

Friendly Bob of Fridley: “For those who enjoyed the story of The Good Doctor’s Clock, I have a recommendation.

“Over 50 years ago, I had the good fortune to be able to visit the Bily Clocks Museum in Spillville, Iowa. There are not enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe the mind-blowing works to be seen there in this tiny town of 367 (2010 census) about 75 miles south-southeast of Rochester, Minnesota. I was a young lad when I visited, and am quite sure I was not mature enough to fully appreciate everything.

“At this museum, there is also a fascinating display about Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, who spent the summer of 1893 in Spillville.

“Guided tours are available to fill curious minds from everywhere. Use your favorite search engine to find lots of information about the Bily brothers, the museum, and Spillville. Some pictures can be found as well, but these marvels really need to be seen in person.”

In memoriam

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “My high-school Shop teacher passed away a couple days ago.

“Back in the ’50s, I had a booming nightcrawler business and needed a sign for out by the street. I found a nice board — 1 inch by 4 inches by 48 inches — in the wood-storage room during class that looked good and went straight to the bandsaw. I cut out a long arrow shape from it and painted it white, with red ‘NIGHTCRAWLERS’ lettering. He found me about half done and explained in very carefully restricted language that Honduran mahogany was not a good fit for the project. Bless his heart; he let me finish it. I hope he never drove by my house and saw it nailed to the telephone pole by our driveway.

“R.I.P.. Mr. Grandprey.”

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede: “The sun came out late-afternoon Thursday, after some showers, so I went out to see how things looked. I enjoyed the water drops on the different hosta plants.

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“The bleeding hearts are blooming nicely . . .

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“. . . along with some other garden plants I haven’t identified yet.

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“There was one cluster of plum blossoms left in my neighbor’s yard.

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“And my front-yard maple tree has real, maple-shaped leaves now . . .

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“. . . as does my front-yard oak tree.

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“The fresh leaves look their best now.”

Our community of strangers

Duchess Kathy writes: “I hope you can pass on to Mounds View Swede how much I appreciate the photos he sends in to Bulletin Board.

“I winter in Arizona and love keeping up with ‘home’ while away by Bulletin Board postings. To see the beauty found in frost/snowfall/winter survival, and now the blooms of spring, makes one really appreciate the beauty that is around us! Nature is my psychiatrist, and Mounds View Swede certainly is a joy!”

Spoilers, advertised

Jim Fitzsimons of St. Paul: “I’ve been watching old ‘Law & Order’ repeats on the WE TV channel lately, and during the commercial breaks, in between ads for horrible-looking ‘reality’ shows, dietary supplements making dubious claims, telephone psychics making even more dubious claims, and ads for actual medicine, there are ads for one of WE TV’s other crime procedural shows: ‘Criminal Minds.’

“The gimmick for these ads is to show a ‘six seconds “Criminal Minds” solution.’ Then comes a heavily edited episode. It’s a series of quick clips that take the viewer through an entire episode in a mere six seconds. And then the announcer says: ‘If they can do all that in six seconds, imagine what they can do in an hour!’

“Sigh.

“They do that!

“They do in an hour what you cut down to six seconds! The story is just a bit more filled out, that’s all.

“I tell you, it’s hard out here for a pedant.”

This ‘n’ that ‘n’ the other

The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield: “Subject: Great photo.

“Update: We survived the graduation party! Now, graduation (and parties for everyone else, it seems) this weekend.

“As a lifelong Twins fan, these last nine weeks have been extraordinary. I’m just going to enjoy the ride while it lasts. I keep thinking of that scene in ‘Caddyshack’ where the Bishop is having the best golf round of his life [Bulletin Board notes: Spoiler Alert!] (until he’s killed by lightning). Either the apocalypse is upon us, or this is payback for a really awful winter of nine (or was it 10?) snow days and a tornado day. Go, Twins!

“Also, this: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48360559.”

Found & Lost
Local History Division

Deuce of Eagan writes: “Subject: Birthplace of St. Paul . . . Bulldozed Under.

“As most BB readers are aware, our saintly city was once known as Pig’s Eye. It seems as though a gentleman bearing that unbecoming nickname staked a claim to a nice little piece of real estate in 1838. Included in his purchase was a year-round dwelling featuring running water, air conditioning, a river view and boat access — a real man-cave. It probably wasn’t on the market long, I understand it was not overpriced when compared to other caves in the area.

“As it turned out, it may have been Minnesota’s longest natural sandstone cave — up to 1,500 feet in length. (An 1800s military exploration report claimed it was at least two miles long.) It was known as Fountain Cave, and it was referred to as In Yan Ti Pi by the Dakota. Did he purchase it as an investment? Apparently that was the case, as he had a good eye for business opportunities. He proceeded to build a tavern at its entrance. Why there? It was a few hundred feet from the Mississippi, at an elevation high enough to be easily seen by all river traffic, consisting of fur traders, military going to and coming from Fort Snelling, settlers, Dakota and Ojibwe paddling their canoes. A clear-water creek flowed gently from the cave and continued downhill through a gorgeous narrow ravine to the river. The ravine was carpeted with multi-colored Columbine and Bluebell flowers. What great curb appeal, and remember in real estate it’s location . . . location . . . location!

“Settlers were soon attracted to the ‘Pig’s Eye area’ and began building cabins, beginning closest to the river and eventually platted lots farther inland. Mr. Parrant had a booming business for a couple of years before the military shut him down in early 1841 and ran him farther downriver. It seems soldiers from Fort Snelling were some of his loyal customers, and the commandant had finally realized why his precision marching formations had deteriorated into a wavering zig-zag mess.

“Following, the cave became a national tourist attraction for the next 30 years. A pavilion was built along the shore and served refreshments, picnics, and offered hand-held rental lanterns to the tourists. To the tourist, it was a delightful short hike up the flower-clad ravine, across a small arched bridge to take them over the creek, then to be greeted by a grand 16-foot cave entrance. There were a couple of underground waterfalls to provide a southing sound, and several passages leading to several large (50 feet) circular chambers within. Fountain Cave was featured in the ‘Tourists’ Guide to the Health and Pleasure Resorts’ in the Golden Northwest magazine. Ladies and gentlemen visited and toured in striking elegant finery, men in top hats and carrying walking sticks.

“Appallingly, the Omaha Railroad shops, located a few blocks away at 600 Randolph, dug for a sewer in the late 1880s, intersected with the cave’s underground route, and filled the cave with gross filth over the years. The historic Fountain Cave became polluted — irreparable beyond hope. Are you feeling some outrage about now?

“In and around 1915, the cabin settlement extended inland about two blocks from the (defunct) Fountain Cave entrance. It was built on lower land adjacent to the same sandstone cliff line as the cave. About a dozen homes in total were built along the base of a 30-foot-high cliff, creating a quaint hamlet hidden and protected from the hubbub of the city. This small community was referred to as Barton-Omaha by its squatter residents. Each had their own cave along their backyards. All the caves were enclosed and had their own doors. As these folks had no electricity, they logically used them as coolers to help preserve their food. Some of the residents worked for the Omaha Railroad shops, about three blocks away.

“Only the adventuresome ever located Barton-Omaha. Let’s begin at an unimproved dirt road accessible from the Upper Levee Road (later Shepard Road, now Randolph) near the James Street intersection. Chances are you would have never located it years ago, and it was bulldozed under in the 1960s. If you had asked the kids swimming in the lagoon, they would have directed you in. Deceptively, the road appeared to go only to the Island Station power plant (razed) next to the river. Remember its tall smokestack?

“First let me mention that one would have needed a conveyance that rode high enough above the ground to avoid all of the obstacles. There were large rocks extending far above its intended dirt surface, tall weeds growing down the middle, and potholes almost as deep as those in a typical St. Paul street. As you approach a high railroad right-of-way, turn a sharp left and now you are on Richmond Street, proceed downhill to the railroad trestle, turn right to go under, then another hard right and you are now on Omaha Street, and the settlement begins to reveal itself. For some unknown reason, Omaha Street becomes Barton Street at one point. (See diagram.)

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“There was a time when this was as quaint a small community as you were ever to discover, and as secluded as they come — yet right in the heart of St. Paul. Any visitors were greeted by a charming postcard-like scene. There were terraced yards with multi-colored gladiolas, iris, geraniums, hollyhocks and rows of bright red staked tomato plants. Flower boxes were filled with colorful blooms, and some homes featured beautiful morning glory vines clinging to taut horizontal strings, to shade their screened front porches. Romantic picket fences and gates in various shades of white crossed the front yards. Lilac, honeysuckle and bridal wreath bushes, along with apple trees, were common and in nearly every yard. Behind a couple of homes was an old rusted, broken-down vehicle used by resident chickens for shelter. The residents seemed to have had a fascination for various types of yard art, wind socks, cute little signs on sticks, ornate bird feeders, and hanging plants suspended by wooden trellises.

“Besides the tranquility, another benefit to living in the community was the natural protection from the elements: a tall cliff line to the diffuse the winds, and mature elms and tamaracks for shade. You can bet they had their share of songbirds, eagles along the cliffs and great blue herons in the wetlands. Nearby was a lagoon for kids’ swimming, the river for fishing/boating and plenty of hiking opportunities through the woods. The kids would exchange waves with the railroad crews as trains entered a nearby swing bridge to cross over the Mississippi. You somehow feel Huck Finn could have lived in Barton-Omaha. (While doing research for this story, I located a list of residents in a 1930s City Directory. A Finn family was not listed.)

“Reliable sources of facts include my brothers, who hunted the area; friends (amateur spelunkers in their day); two former residents; and historical articles. I will count myself as a resource, as I first entered the hamlet in 1956, riding with some buddies in a 1932 Ford sedan. I recall a school friend (Tom B.) finding a very old 44-inch cannon with wood base buried in mud at the bottom of the lagoon while diving in 1958. They managed to remove it, somehow.

“The residents were evicted about 1960, and the bulldozers followed shortly afterward. Hundreds of tons of fill dirt were dumped over the cliffs, obliterating any trace of Fountain Cave and the Barton-Omaha neighborhood. They were in the way of progress: the route of Shepard Road, constructed to save commuters a few minutes on their drive between downtown St. Paul and the MSP airport.

“Sometimes history proves painful.”

Dumb (?) Customer Jokes

Rusty of St. Paul reports: “Xcel came this morning to swap out my gas meter up here in Northern Wisconsin. What they do is randomly select homes or businesses in areas to replace the meters and send them to the Cities for analysis. If they find that one is failing, then they replace all of the meters in that area.

“The young gas tech pulled up in his huge Xcel truck, walked up, introduced himself and said: ‘I am here for your Periodic Random Sample Check.’

“I said to him: ‘Does that mean I have to pee in a bottle for you?’

“He got all red in the face as he processed what I said, then chuckled and said: ‘Ah . . . no.'”

Gee, our old La Salle ran great!

The Astronomer of Nininger writes: “Subject: My Old Chevy.

“Memorial Day marks the quasi-official start of the summer season, whether we’ve reached the Summer Solstice or not. It is the time when many communities close down a street or two, or a parking lot, and host an old-fashioned car show. Young men and old guys alike, in shorts and other summer attire, walk the streets, often with a beverage in hand, and see what collectors and restorers have preserved from the past.

“Old guys grew up when cars were king and muscle cars ruled the road. Big block engines were fitted onto old frames, and big-throated carburetors that sucked high-test gasoline like it was going out of style became the norm. Today, the newer generation can see what made old guys ‘tick.’ This is the time of year that I get my old Chevy out of its garage stall.

“Maybe it just means that it won’t snow anymore, or maybe it symbolizes a rebirth of freedom from the chains of winter that held us down. After I disconnect the trickle charger from the battery and check the fluid levels, I start it up. That sound of the engine rumbling through the tuned headers after so long a winter is music from heaven. Once around the driveway loop, and then out on the road.

“How can you think of anything troublesome when you are behind the wheel of an old friend like this? Out onto the highway, and let ‘er rip. This eager old Corvette moves with grace and agility. Up the hills she climbs, and tops them with grace that could only be matched by the soaring of a herd of impalas on the African plains. I reflect momentarily that it is so neat to run my old Chevy again. And I’ll appreciate every drive in it until she goes to sleep for the winter. Old guys rule!”

Band Name of the Day: Harmlessly Stupid

Website of the Day: Bily Clocks Museum and Antonín Dvořák Exhibit