GreeningFrogtownMarchApril19

greeningfrogtown

MARCH / APRIL 2019

Inside…

Long-time Frogtowner Denise Mwasyeba, above — and other neighborhood elders — have for-real advice on aging in place.

THE FROGTOWNER WHO IS A GAY RIGHTS HERO — PAGE 8

How Green is Green Enough?

Pushing beauty out the window in the gentrification battle

Gentrification and global warming are not funny, but if you're

looking for a few laughs, check out The North Pole. It's an

online comedy series that takes on these topics, following three

residents of Oakland, California in their "struggle to stay rooted

as their neighborhood becomes a hostile environment." The

series deftly delivers its mockery of

earnest green entrepreneurs, but ducks the

one of the questions it raises, namely, just

how green is green enough for lowincome

neighborhoods like Frogtown?

You might think, "as green as Summit

Avenue, for starters." But some ivorytower

folks disagree. They've coined the

phrase "green gentrification" to warn

about yet another way in which Frogtown

is in danger of being ruined. The premise,

broadly speaking, is that if people in

Frogtown enjoy the types of things that most people want in

their neighborhoods — trees, parks, flowers, gardens, and space

to enjoy them— things will end badly.

Other people, seeing this greenery as attractive, might

recognize Frogtown as a desirable neighborhood. They could

conceivably want to move here. They would then displace those

who are already here. Therefore, the solution is not to bring to

places like Frogtown the things that people in other

neighborhoods so strongly desire.

You could take this argument a bit further. If it’s a good idea not

to add amenities like a flower garden on Dale St., or the acres

of greenery at Frogtown Park and Farm, what about actively

working to make things around here a little bit worse? Maybe

strew more litter. Or cut down trees even faster than we already

are. Bring back a landfill or two. That would help to keep the

gentrifiers at bay.

Then again, maybe it's worth asking what everybody in every

part of this city deserves. We don’t call this newspaper Greening

Frogtown for nothing. It got its start when

we realized that this neighborhood has less

green space per child than any other

neighborhood in St Paul. Research shows

over and over again: people who have

access to green space are more physically

fit, less wracked by stress, less prone to

depression, and less likely to suffer from

asthma, to name just a few positives. We

believe people here deserve a healthful,

beautiful environment just as much as

anybody else, anywhere else in this city.

To those who would save us with a strategy of making this place

just wretched enough so others with housing choices won’t ever

want to move here: well, thanks for the thought, but maybe

you’d like to try that one out in your own neighborhood first. In

the meantime, here, let’s work on strategies that combat

displacement while growing a greener, healthier neighborhood.

Note: strategies, plural. It won't be one simple idea.

It may mean tax breaks for landlords who keep rents affordable.

Job training to boost the income of people who live here now.

Programs that subsidize home ownership for people who couldn't

otherwise afford it. Let's see where these strategies get us, while

at the same time we build parks, plant trees, grow food...and stop

to smell the flowers.

— Patricia Ohmans

The Artful

Version of the

Hmong Exodus

Cy Thao renders

the experience in a

new book — P. 3

Getting Across

that Freeway

The county's plan to

rebuild the Dale St.

bridge — P. 4

What Works (and

What Doesn't)

on University

Local development

expert Mike Temali

sorts it out — P. 2

Neighborhood

Happenings

Add your own

events to a new

online communiy

calendar. Get the

details — P. 6


BIG IDEAS

About that Green Line Business Payoff

Neighborhood developer Mike Temali on development to date and those empty storefronts

Three years after light rail trains started

running on University Ave., the

development picture along the corridor is

a mix. New retail/residential buildings

sprung up at Victoria and Western. But

elsewhere along this stretch, empty lots

and empty storefronts remain. We asked

Mike Temali, head of the Frogtown-based

Neighborhood Development Center, what

gives and what comes next.

What did you expect light rail would mean

for the future ofFrogtown?

I’m a small picture guy, so to me, I’m sort

of blown away by people who have the

audacity to put a billion dollar train down

the middle of University and think they

know what that will be like, because I sure

as hell don’t. I was more focused on three

years of disruption and construction.

What was your worst case scenario?

My fear was calamity but my hope was a

rejuvenated district that was mom and

pop, that was ethnic, that was not getting

wiped out or gentrified. And I would say

that is what has happened so far. Only one

percent of the 400 businesses closed

during the three years of construction.

But a bigger game changer than light rail

Neighborhood Development Center director Mike Temali on University Ave.

is national trends of gentrification and

housing choices. Location choices by

millennials, by seniors. Transportation

choices by all these folks.

The issue that intrigues me is, how do

you maintain small business space for

small businesses that hire local, that are

mom and pop, that are ethnic, that keep

the culture and feel of the neighborhood

exciting, diverse and interesting? And not

be wiped out by housing projects, because

that’s definitely a danger.

What comes next?

The Midway area is seen as more

happening, with the soccer stadium, the big

box stores, the Snelling Ave. A bus line.

That’s ground zero if you’re a for-profit

developer.

The next hot spot for bigger players will

be the St. Paul Sears location. But from

Lex to Rice, I’m guessing that bigger

developers will continue to see this as a

low income area. It’s congested in terms

of lack of parking. The parcels are small.

It’s hard to assemble land. So private

developers probably look and think there

are easier places to make money.

But there have have been a lot ofAsian

and African American business owners

who have bought their own properties in

the last five years. Johnny Baby’s,

Ashama Grocery, Bangkok Deli, Ha Tien.

A lot of these places will be here to stay

for a long time.

An important thing to look at on this

stretch is the mixed-use projects and why

they have mixed results. What we see too

often are mixed-use projects with

commercial down and housing above.

And the commercial takes years to fill up.

Why is that?

It’s because a lot of it has been developed

by housing developers. Or the housing

developer part of the development team

dominates. The architect is a housing

— Continued, Page 12

PAGE 2 JULY MARCH/APRIL / AUGUST 2019

6


Become a Political Insider: Here's How

FROGTOWN NEWS

Want to be a big shot in the 201 9

elections? Show up for the DFL Ward

One party caucus. It's the kick-off to the

political season, giving you a chance to

raise issues that could become part of the

party platform, and to be selected as a

delegate to the ward convention, where

the delegates will vote to endorse a

candidate for the Ward One city council

seat. Now held by Dai Thao, the post is

up for grabs in the November 5 election.

The DFL Ward One caucus is set for 3-5

pm, Sunday, March 1 0, at Capitol Hill

school, 560 Concordia Ave. A Republican

convention occured in late February, and

the only voting delegates, according to

GOP Senate District 65 Chair Mitch

Berg, were chosen in the previous party

convention.

After years of claiming that this year was

going to be their last, Frogtowners Larry

and Sharon Paulson have passed the torch

on organizing the annual garage sale that

underwrites local senior activities.

“I just turned 80,” says Larry, who ran the

garage sale for 22 years. “You get tired

after a while.”

The garage sale is both a major social

event and a chance to pick up household

goods and clothing at ridiculously low

prices. Run from the Paulson’s Blair Ave.

garage and backyard, it attracted dozens

of bargain-hunting neighbors and a crew

of volunteer workers. The annual take,

which sometimes reached $2,200, funded

monthly senior lunches, National Night

MOVIN' ON UP: Frogtowner Muneer Karcher-

Ramos is the new head of the City of St. Paul's

Office of Financial Empowerment. Karcher-Ramos

will be in charge of coordinating financial literacy

and anti-poverty drives intended to boost the

incomes and stability of low-income families. The

new office also includes coordinators for college

saving accounts and fair housing initiatives.

Karcher-Ramos served for five years as director

of the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood, a

parent/child program that works to improve

education and career outcomes in the Frogtown

and Summit-U neighborhoods.

The Torch is Passed: Annual Frogtown

Garage Sale Under New Management

Out celebrations, Christmas and

Halloween parties, plus a horseshoe

league.

The new garage sale boss is another Blair

Ave. resident, Lynn Byrne, who is already

deep into planning. She says this year’s

sale will be held from 8 am - 5 pm,

Friday, May 3, and 8 am - 3 pm, Saturday,

May 4, at 411 Blair. She’s ready to take

donations now, and can be reached at 651 -

488-7390 to schedule a drop-off

appointment.

What’s wanted? Washed, gently used

clothing, household and kitchen items,

tools, working flat-screen TVs. What’s

not wanted: computers and printers.

SHE'S ON THE NEIGHBORHOOD HONOR ROLL: Nura Ahmed (third from left,

above, with family) joined the ranks of Frogtown heroes when she received the

Neighborhood Honor Roll award at a January 25 ceremony at St. Thomas

University. The city-sponored event recognizes community members who have

made above-and-beyond contributions to the neighborhood. Ahmed made the list

for her intern work at Frogtown Farm. Other Ward One winners included Walter

Battle, a Frogtown Neighborhood Association board member; plus Liz and Dave

Colwell, long-time neighborhood activists and members of the Tree Frogs, the

resident-led group that maintains a Dale St. tree nursery and offers free trees to

Frogtowners.

From the Hmong Diaspora, Art

At the age of 28, Cy Thao started work on

50 paintings recapitulating over 5,000

years ofHmong history. The paintings —

completed in 2004 and now in the

permanent collection ofthe Minneapolis

Institute ofArt—have just been published

in a book, The Hmong Migration.

It’s a bloody and fearsome chronology,

with flashes of beauty and humor

leavening the gore. The first painting in

the series, which depicts a Hmong myth

about the birth of the

world, features butterflywinged

women and a

muscular tiger. Other

paintings represent Hmong

village life in idyllic

fashion. But many images

are graphic scenes of war.

Women weep and beg for

the lives of imprisoned

men, about to be executed

after they have dug their

own graves. Flames rage

through thatched roofs.

Helicopters strafe fleeing villagers.

These are scenes that are seared into the

memory of a generation of Hmong

refugees who fought against communist

soldiers in Vietnam and Laos. Thao’s

style is simple, even childlike; the artist’s

conscious choice. “If it was realistic, it

would be so gruesome it would be tough

for the viewer to see,” he explains.

“I wanted to bring some closure and

acknowledgement to my parents’

generation, about the suffering they went

through,” Thao says. Thao’s own father, a

war veteran, has yet to see any of the

paintings. “It would be pretty traumatic

for him,” says Thao, who was eight years

old when he came to America as a

refugee with his father, mother and

siblings. “Now that there’s a book,

eventually I think he will see them.”

The book was published in January by

HER Press, a small publishing house that

distributes books relevant to the Hmong

experience. The volume is for sale via the

HER Press website, but Thao does not

expect to make his fortune from the work.

“Making money off it is not a big deal to

me. I just want to have it out there,” he

explains. “The paintings are already all

over the web—they’re on YouTube,

Facebook, you can google them. I gave

permission to some people to use them,

but not everybody, but that’s okay. My

artwork is to be shared, not boxed away.”

Thao’s energetic and open-handed

approach to his artwork is reflected in

other aspects of his life.

With a degree in art and

political science from the

University of Minnesota

at Morris, he helped found

CHAT, the Center for

Hmong Arts and Talent,

and was its first director.

In 2002 he switched

directions, running a

quirky campaign to

represent District 65A.

Frogtowners who voted

for Thao may have been

charmed by television ads featuring him

as a caped crusader, who vowed to banish

bad guys.

After leaving the legislature in 201 0, Thao

recreated himself anew, this time as an

entrepreneur, starting a successful

business with his wife, Lee Vang. “I used

the skills and confidence I got in the

legislature to build a business, providing

housing,” he says. “We now have a 69-

unit assisted living facility on Western

Ave. in St Paul. We’re opening a new

place in Florida in spring. I have plans to

open another place in Georgia. My wife is

still my partner. I find the land, get the

money, get it built, and she makes it run.”

In Florida, his business is preoccupying,

leaving little time for other diversions like

the deep sea fishing he enjoys. But Cy

Thao has his eye on the day when he can

stop working altogether and return to his

first love. “I’m comfortable financially, so

pretty soon I will stop with what I’ve got,”

he concludes. “I’ll take the money I’ve

got invested…and do some more

painting.”

Cy Thao

MARCH/APRIL 2019 PAGE 3


W

FROGTOWN NEWS

The current plan for the Dale St. bridge over I-94, looking north from Concordia.

That Dale St. Remake: Plans Unveiled,

and Hard Questions about Jobs

What’s the latest on the re-do of the Dale

St. bridge over I94? More than a 1 00

people crammed the Rondo Library in

early January to get a rundown from

Ramsey County traffic engineer Erin

Laberee.

The old bridge will come down in

January, 2020, and is slated to reopen that

autumn. Dale St. will remain open during

construction, though the span between

Carroll and Iglehart will be closed for

several weeks, Laberee said. The new

bridge will feature upgrades for

pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

For pedestrians, sidewalks on both sides

will be 1 6 feet wide, with art integrated

into the walkways and rail treatments.

Poetry in multiple languages and other

decorative notes will be underfoot, while

images of old Rondo housing will be

melded into light post pedestals. The

lighting itself will be old-school double

lanterns. A simulation of the natural

world will appear in the form of 1 8-foot

tall metal trees on the northwest and

southeast corners of the bridge.

The walkways will be protected from

traffic by a 20-inch tall concrete barrier.

Medians, planted with trees and grass,

will give pedestrians a refuge when

attempting to cross Dale. The east side of

the long slope leading from the bridge

toward University Ave. will feature a

switchbacked sidewalk at a gradual

incline, rendering the hillside

handicapped accessible.

There won’t be a bike lane on the bridge.

But cyclists will get their choice between

riding on the sidewalk or on a four-foot

wide shoulder. The safer option: crossing

the freeway on bridges at Grotto or

Mackubin, both of which are identified as

bike routes in the city’s biking plan.

Your District Council: Organization Sets

Workplan, Will Address Housing Issues

The Frogtown Neighborhood Association

unveiled its 201 9 work plan at a January

forum attended by four of its board

members and 1 0 residents.

The FNA is a community participation

organization intended to link residents to

city government.

For drivers, improvements include a left

turn lane in both directions that spans the

length of the bridge. At present backed up

left-turning traffic can clog a lane in each

direction. Right turn lanes, however, will

be axed to reduce the crossing distance

for walkers.

WHAT ABOUT JOBS? The $1 4

million-plus project will be funded by a

combination of federal and local money.

At the library meeting, the hard questions

from the audience concerned who will get

the construction jobs.

The answer: trained workers. The days of

showing up at a work site with the hope

that the boss will hand you a shovel are

over, said John O'Phelan, Ramsey

County’s Construction Hiring Connection

program manager. A glance at the website

that lists current construction job

openings — chcconstruction.net —

reveals that even general labor positions

have recommended qualifications that

include skills such as welding and

electrical fabrication skills, or the ability

to read blueprints.

O’Phelan says the key to getting

construction work is to get training now.

The same website lists dozens of free

training and union apprenticeship

programs in a variety of construction skill

areas, including carpentry, iron work,

maintenance, commercial driving and

much more.

The good news, according to O'Phelan, is

that bids on the bridge project won’t be

awarded until January, 2020. There’s time

to get training. His larger point, however,

is that training isn’t about a specific,

short-term job. It’s about acquiring skills

that allow workers to build a career that

pays well.

At the top of the job list for the

neighborhood group was the fight against

displacement. Among the strategies to do

so: lobby for a tax freeze on Frogtown

property. “Not impossible,” opined FNA

co-director Caty Royce. The organization

also plans to collaborate with the Summit

U community and Asakura Robinson, a

PAGE 4 MARCH/APRIL 2019


FROGTOWN NEWS

consultant group, to develop a plan to

find ways to avoid displacement as local

housing costs and taxes rise.

The neighborhood group will also work

with 11 other cities organized through the

California-based group, PolicyLink, again

to fight gentrification.

FNA says it will also continue to organize

Wilder Square Town Homes residents.

There it wants to “rebuild and strengthen”

the cooperative that owns and manages

the 1 63-unit complex near Victoria and

Minnehaha. Town home residents became

involved in a sometimes angry battle

when a local firm, Real Estate Equities,

made an offer to buy them out. Residents,

who now own their units, would have

become tenants. Faced with ongoing

contention, Real Estate Equities retracted

its proposal.

Also in the housing sector, FNA says it

will work with residents of scattered site

housing now owned by St. Paul’s Public

Housing Agency that PHA plans to sell

off. FNA proposes to re-establish the 38

units in Frogtown and Rondo as

cooperative or land trust-owned housing

to preserve affordable housing.

FNA says it will strengthen Feeding

Frogtown, the food giveaway that occurs

each Friday afternoon at City School,

located at Western and Lafond, expanding

it to other locations.

The organization also proposes a

radio/newspaper media strategy. It wants

to continue working with WFNU, the

local low-power radio station (94.1 FM),

to explore neighborhood issues. In

addition, FNA says it will start a

neighborhood newspaper that will speak

from “the community’s voice.” A first,

and perhaps sole issue will examine the

Wilder Town Home controversy, the

workplan states, with possible subsequent

issues to be produced by youth and

volunteers.

Issues that the group recognizes as

important but says it has "no current

capacity to address" include gun violence

and other safety issues, workforce and job

development, elder and youth

programming, litter, alley lighting and

healing from trauma. In a subsequent

board meeting, the group considered

diverting some time and energy to

liveability concerns. Asked to identify

their priorities, the 1 0 residents assembled

listed safety, trash, lighting and loitering.

“The Art of Food is designed to support

the local food economy, and to use art

and food to bring people together,”

explains Draughn. It’s a coalition of

organizations, including Frogtown Farm,

Public Art Saint Paul, Asian Economic

Development Association, Urban Farm

and Garden Alliance and the Twin Cities

Agricultural Land Trust.

Planning for a building on the Farm site

that could serve as a “community food

center” has begun, Draughn says.

Dunwoody College students are working

on possible designs for the food center,

which could include space for kitchens

and community meetings. The coalition

has funding from the Kresge Foundation

for a feasibility study that will tell how

much funding might be needed to

construct the building.

Colling reports that upping the Farm’s

production capacity and selling more

vegetables is top priority. “We’ll be

changing our Saturday farmers’ market to

once a month, and probably taking some

sales out into the neighborhood. We’ll

also be changing our educational focus to

be more representative of the

neighborhood,” Colling said. Since 201 4

the non-profit Farm organization has

leased its land—five acres within the 1 3

acre Frogtown Park—from the city of St

Paul.

A community meeting to hear more about

the food center is planned for March 30

at City School 643 Virginia Street from

1 2:30 to 2 PM. For more information,

contact Tonya Draughn,

artoffoodstpaul@gmail.com

Four in Race for

Ward One Seat

The election is eight months off, but the

race for the Ward One city council seat is

already underway. Among incumbent

Dai Thao's challengers:

Anika Bowie: vice president of the

Minneapolis NAACP, Rondo resident and

201 0 Central High School graduate.

Liz De La Torre: advocate in the Sexual

Violence Services division of St. Paul-

Ramsey County Public Health. The

Summit-U resident has previously worked

in the office and on campaigns of US

Rep. Betty McCollum.

Find the complete work plan at

frogtownmn.org. Navigate to About/What

We Do.

New Priorities at

Frogtown Farm

As spring approaches, Frogtown Farm’s

new executive director Dave Colling has

made staffing changes that reflect new

priorities. In addition to welcoming new

farm manager Tiffany LaShae, a native

Texan, the Farm is now providing office

space for Tonya Draughn, a long-time St

Paulite who coordinates the Art of Food in

Frogtown and Rondo initiative.

MARCH/APRIL 2019

Lucky Rosenbloom: inheritor of the

Tiger Jack shop at Dale St. and St.

Anthony that is festooned with signs

offering classes for concealed carry

permits, legal help and more.

Rosenbloom has previously run for state

rep and senate seats.

Thao won the 201 3 election to replace

then-councilman Melvin Carter, who

resigned for a state government position.

Thao was re-elected in 201 5.

CORRECTION: In our Jan/Feb issue,

the Faith in Frogtown article on St.

Paul Fellowship was written by Carlo

Holmberg and Ally O'Neil. Our

apologies for the error.

PAGE 5


WHAT'S HAPPENING!

PAGE 6

MARCH/APRIL 2019


Frogtown Food: Too Good to Waste is a project of Health Advocates Inc., supported by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

MARCH/APRIL 2019 PAGE 7


FROGTOWN FIGURES

The Archivist of Gay History

Frogtowner Jean Nickolaus Tretter amassed a vast special collection, now at the University

Jean-Nickolaus Tretter (who everyone

calls “Gene”) lives with his beloved cat

Maximillian Alexander and a huge stamp

collection in a small apartment on Dale

Street. His now-quiet existence hides a

life history brimming with achievement

and untold secrets. After all, how many

St. Paul seniors have a library collection

named after them?

Born in Little Falls, Tretter lived in St.

Paul as a teen before joining the Navy

during the Vietnam War. Although by his

own account he tested out of many

college classes, he never formally

received a degree. Nevertheless, Tretter

speaks several languages, including fluent

enough Russian to serve as an interpreter

during secret missions to Laos and

Cambodia. “I had a top-secret

cryptographic code word security

clearance, with presidential access,”

Tretter recalls.

That wasn’t the only secret Tretter was

keeping. As a closeted gay man, he hid an

identity that could have ruined his career.

Once out of the Navy, “I started coming

out of the closet as well,” he says. That’s

when the collecting started.

“I was always

interested in

studying

anthropology,

but I wanted to

study my own

gay culture, not

the culture of

some remote

island,” Tretter

explains. He

began to amass

gay and lesbian

materials of all

kinds, anything

he could get

his hands on.

Eventually, the collection filled his

apartment; thousands of books,

photographs, posters and other

memorabilia. “It was floor-to-ceiling in

every room. I had a sleeping bag in front

of the television, and that’s where I

rested,” he recalls.

Tretter donated his collection to the

University of Minnesota Libraries in

2000. Moving the materials to the

University

allowed them

to be better

preserved and

made

accessible to

scholars of gay

history. Tretter

visits his

namesake

collection

offices often,

and still serves

on its advisory

board.

“There aren’t a

lot of people

like Jean in

this world,” says current Tretter collection

curator Rachel Mattson. “He was

persistent and enthusiastic and amassed

an unusually large collection, on his own

salary, with no support most of his life.”

Tretter is proud of the collection’s vast

holding of safe sex posters from

Germany, as well as the historical papers

of the Minnesota AIDS Project, and an

extensive series of videotaped interviews

with gay, lesbian and transgender

activists. A prized item is a book Tretter

believes was burned by Nazis in 1 933.

The volume—a biography of the Marquis

de Sade—was owned by the Hirschfield

Institute in Berlin. The institute and its

libraries were destroyed by Nazi youth

brigades, who burned its books and

documents in the street.

“Street sweepers called in to clean up the

mess picked up the book, and eventually

it made its way to a book collector in

Switzerland, to another collector in Los

Angeles, and finally to me,” Tretter

explains. The book, with its scorched

cover still intact, is kept in a “clamshell”

archival box to preserve it from further

damage. It can be viewed by special

request.

On a recent visit to the Tretter collection,

Jean-Nickolaus Tretter handled the

burned book carefully, but with obvious

pleasure in its existence. “The fact that it

was saved; that’s what makes it

important,” he observed. Secrets become

valuable history when they are openly

shared, acknowledged, and saved.

PAGE 8 MARCH/APRIL 2019


Denise Mwasyeba

Denise Mwasyeba has some nuts and

bolts advice for seniors staring down

retirement. Get your house in order now.

“I didn’t want to be living in a dump when

I retired,” the 64-year old says. She’s been

on a prolonged fix-up campaign since she

bought her Frogtown house in 1 992. New

furnace, new windows, new doors, a new

garage, plenty of paint and a newlyinstalled

first floor bathroom.

“I didn’t want to reach retirement and be

looking at a house that needed a $30,000

upgrade,” she says.

Second on the list: get to know the

neighbors. She and her next door neighbor

are so tight that the when the neighbor

fires up her giant snowblower, Mwasyeba

knows her sidewalk is going to be cleared,

too. In the summer she looks forward to a

cup of coffee in her bathrobe while sitting

on the across-the-street neighbor’s porch.

Another key to happiness: keep it positive.

Lots of people find lots to complain about

regarding Frogtown. What Mwasyeba

keeps in mind is how drastically it’s

improved since she landed.

The prostitutes, the drug dealing,

University Ave. porn shops — all that is

barely a shadow of what it was.

Improvements like the light rail line and

related development have made it easier

to feel good about the neighborhood. “You

can’t understand the present if you don’t

know the past,” she says.

Finally, look for ways you can contribute.

“If you’re going to live here, then what

are you going to do to make it better?”

Mwasyeba has been involved in

numerous neighborhood initiatives over

the years, including the Victoria Theatre

restoration project, what was then the

District Seven Planning Council, St. Paul

Public Schools policy making and more.

“You want to feel connected to feel good

about yourself and feel like you’re making

a difference.”

“As a senior especially, your family might

be far away. Maybe your friends don’t

drive, so you don’t see them. You get

isolated.” The result, she observes, can be

depression and other health issues. “It’s

really important to stay connected, even if

it’s just with the people on your block.

You’ve got to have some kind of

connection.”

AGING IN FROGTOWN

Back in 1970, when the life expectancy was 68 years, you

could watch your parents get the retirement gold watch, plunk

them on the porch and figure they’d be gone in a couple years.

That’s changed.

Less than 50 years later, the average life expectancy is 79

years — a difference that researchers describe as “a

demographic revolution. ”

“When in human history have we got to the point ofdesigning

a new stage oflife?” asked Linda Fried, dean ofColumbia

University’s school ofpublic health at a recent University of

Minnesota forum on aging.

You can look at this as a disaster, said Fried — all those ailing

seniors gobbling up resources as they stumble toward their

graves. Or you could look at it as a tremendous opportunity to

put the assets ofthe elderly to work.

Seniors as a group possess valuable skills, experience and

habits ofmind, said Fried. They want to leave the world a

better place, and figure ifnot now, when? Their emotions are

more measured, their sense ofaltruism and optimism greater.

They tend to have improved reasoning about social conflict

and considerable creative problem-solving skills.

How are Frogtown elders managing to age gracefully and

happily in place? We asked some high-profile neighborhood

seniors what they’ve learned about creating a third stage of

life that’s engaging for them and useful to the greater

community.

Larry Paulson

Larry Paulson and spouse, Sharon

Paulson, have been fixtures in the lives of

Frogtown seniors for decades. Just turned

80 himself, Paulson can still say with only

a slight touch of irony, “I hope somebody

helps me out when I get old.”

The Paulsons have run a monthly senior

potluck lunch, now located at the Nickel

Joint (details below) for years. Lunch

costs, plus the expense of an annual senior

Halloween and Christmas party, are

deferred by a yearly garage sale the

Paulsons ran from their garage and yard.

In addition, Larry has been a one-man

chore service for his fellow elders,

shoveling, mowing and making simple

repairs for those who aren’t able to do the

work themselves.

To hear him tell it, there’s been plenty of

upside. Helping others has helped him

out as well. “All those things kept me

active,” he says. “I want to get out and

about. I don’t want to be stuck in the

damn house all the time. And I enjoy

meeting seniors and helping them out.”

His social engagement and activity level

has kept him acting younger than his 80

years. But he sees plenty of other

neighborhood seniors who either by longstanding

habit of mind or increasing

infirmity, are prisoners in their homes.

Part of the problem, he acknowledges, is

brought on by a curtain of isolation that

elders pull over themselves.”It’s hard to

get people out of the house. They’re

afraid to meet new people, to get up and

introduce themselves to each other. But

once they get going, then they enjoy it.

Last month at the potluck I had someone

tell me, ‘I hope this never goes away.’”

His prescription for getting them out into

the world again? “Give them my phone

number,” he says. (651 224-2456). “Tell

them about lunch at the Nickel Joint.”

(The monthly pot luck is set for the third

Friday of the month at the Nickel Joint,

501 Blair Ave. It starts at 11 , food served

at 11 :30, bingo from 1 2:30 - 2. $1

donation if you bring a dish, or $2 to $3 if

you have not brought a dish to share.)

Winston Nguyen

Winston Nguyen embodies the old

country-western song, "I've Been

Everywhere, Man." At 81 , the former

soldier who fought in the US Fifth

Division in Vietnam has lived "in

Washington DC, Alaska, California,

Texas, New Jersey, Florida; many

places." He's been a Frogtown resident

for over 30 years, lured to Minnesota by

the promise of work for Honeywell.

The number of places he's been gives

Nguyen perspective on the neighborhood

where he and his wife Dianna Bui raised

a large family of 1 6, including four

adopted children. "People say this is a

very bad place, but no place is worse than

where I fought in the war," he observes.

Retired from Honeywell, as well as from

interpreting for the Vietnamese

community in the Ramsey and Hennepin

County courts, Nguyen still keeps very

busy. He stays abreast of world affairs

and local politics (his daughter, Jennifer

Nguyen Moore, a recent candidate for

county commissioner, was vigorously

supported by her dad.) He goes to Rondo

library nearly every day to catch up on

the news online. "I read many news

media, like CBS, NBC, Time, and

Vietnamese newspapers," he notes.

Nguyen and Bui are familiar figures at

the Midway YMCA, visiting the gym

nearly every day. "I take zumba classes

and ride the bicycle, go swimming and

use the treadmill," he says.

All that exercise helps with one aspect of

Frogtown life that's less enjoyable for

Nguyen: shoveling snow. "I wish there

were volunteers who would shovel for

older people," he says. "Right now I am

shoveling out my neighbors!"

— More Elders, Next Page

MARCH/APRIL 2019

PAGE 9


AGING IN FROGTOWN

every Friday I get together with friends

and we all chip in together for lunch.”

Weber’s level of activity has helped to

keep her healthy while she’s also

contributed to the health of her block, and

the broader community.

“You’re not going to stop me,” she says.

“You’re not going to get rid of me.”

finding retired electricians or plumbers

who are reliable and do work for

reasonable prices.”

Shopping: “I’ve got Alexa connected to

Amazon Prime. I can get just about

anything delivered, store to door. I got

help at the Vision Loss Resource Center

to learn how to use an iPhone and get

connected to the internet.”

Val Weber

It’s not necessarily easy making an

appointment with 85-year old Val Weber.

She’s a member of the St. Paul Police

Reserve, so some afternoons she’s out

with a partner, checking on the houses of

people who have alerted cops that they’ll

be gone on vacation or business. Then

there are also the days that she volunteers

at the Red Cross, checking in blood

donors. Not to mention the lunches with

friends, church and shopping excursions.

“I can’t just sit at home all day,” she says.

If you’re a Frogtown senior, she doesn’t

think you should either. Here’s her

laundry list of advice on how to approach

the retirement years without retiring from

life:

“Volunteer! Do something for somebody

else.”

“Get out of the house every day. Get out

of the car and walk around a store even if

you don’t intend to buy anything. Talk to

people. They say you shouldn’t talk to

strangers, but as a rule people want to talk

to you if you say something to them.

You’ve got to get out and see some

people.”

“Go visit some old people who might

need cheering up.”

“Get together with friends. For instance,

Bill Heinl

Frogtown elder Bill Heinl could write the

book on hunting down resources that

allow seniors to live an independent and

fruitful life. Blind since 1 981 , he’s keyed

into multiple sources of help that help

him stay in his tidy Englewood Ave.

home.

“A lot of sighted people say, ‘How does

he do that? How does he stay in his own

house? It’s a matter of looking up the

resources that are out there. You have to

do a lot of research to put it all together.”

Here are a few of the solutions he’s found

to the problems of day-to-day living: (See

contact information and more details in

the resource guide, at right.)

Transportation: “I use Metro Mobility six,

seven, eight times per month. It’s better

than it used to be. You don’t have to wait

and wait and wait. The drivers are getting

better at knowing where they’re going.”

Meals: “I get Meals on Wheels. That’s

another wonderful program. They deliver

five days a week, and you can get frozen

meals for the weekend. You pay

according to your income. They do a

really good job of presenting a good

meal.”

Groceries: “I don’t see why so many of

the elderly are afraid to ask for help.

There are a lot of people out there who

will help you out. For groceries, I have a

friend who’s the grocery manager at Cub

in HarMar. If I give him notice, he’ll find

someone to help me shop. I get up there

with Metro Mobility and just whip

through to get the things I need.”

Home maintenance: “I call Hamline-

Midway Elders. They’re good about

Yard work: “I’ve had a friend through

church who has been shoveling for me for

the past 30 years. It’s just another of those

areas where you need to reach out for

help.”

Socializing: “I go to the Hamline-

Midway Elders lunch each month. It’s a

great meal prepared by an excellent cook.

There’s a program and a chance to talk to

other seniors. I’m also involved with

Faith Lutheran Church. They have a hot

meal every month and a little sermon.”

While Heinl has been an all-star at

hooking up help for himself, he has also

put in his time helping out others. For 25

years he cared for his mother, who

suffered from dementia.

Senior Resource Directory

Aging-in-place help, volunteer opportunities & more

Hamline Midway Elders, Living at Home Block Nurse Program, (651 ) 209-6542,

hmelders.org. Serves Frogtown from Lexington to Dale St., and from University to

Pierce Butler. Services include a monthly lunch with program, second Tuesday of

the month (upcoming: 11 :30 am, March 1 2 and April 9), at St. Stephanus Church,

739 Lafond. Other programs include Tai Chi, chair yoga, knitting and crocheting,

exercise classes, film documentary series, tax help, connections to home

maintenance services, transportation.

North End-South Como Block Nurse Program, (651 ) 487-51 35, nescbnp.org.

Serves Frogtown seniors from Dale St. to 35E, University to Pierce Butler /

Pennsylvania Ave. Offers exercise classes, social outings, help with transportation

and shopping, connections to resources such as Meals on Wheels, plus in-home

nursing including medication management, foot care, therapy, home health aides.

Senior LinkAge Line, (800) 333-2433, phone answered from 8 am - 4:30 pm

weekdays. mnaging.org/advisor/SLL. Free advice and connections to help dealing

with Medicare/Medicaid and related forms, prescription drug expense, long-term

care planning, home/companion services, volunteer home and shopping help,

chronic illness and medication management, advice to family members of elders.

Rebuilding Together Twin Cities: (651 ) 776-4273, rebuildingtogethertwincities.org.

Home livability and repair services to help homeowners in need live

in safe, healthy homes. Safety and fall prevention modifications, aging-in-place

remodeling, plumbing/electrical repair/replacement in addition to other services.

Services provided at no charge to qualified homeowners.

Brush with Kindness/Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity: 651 -207-1 700,

home.tchabitat.org/home-repair. Offers exterior painting, roofing, siding, flooring,

door/window repair, tree trimming, accessibility modifications, and

plumbing/electrical/heating repairs. Must be below 80 percent of the area median

income ($50,350 for a single-person household). Most slots filled for 201 9, but call

for availability of interior handyperson repairs.

NeighborWorks Home Partners: (651 ) 292-871 0, nwhomepartners.org. Frogtownbased

organization with a variety of home loan programs that can be used for repairs

and aging-in-place improvements on owner-occupied homes. Low- or no-interest,

depending on the income of the homeowner (capped at $79,300 for a one-person

household).

AARP Experience Corps: (61 2) 708-5933, contact volunteer director Erin Simon,

esimon@expcorpsmn.org. Matches elders with kids who need reading help.

Wilder Volunteers: (651 ) 280-2504, contact volunteer director Grant Watkins,

grant.watkins@wilder.org. Offers a variety of opportunities, such as Meals on

Wheels drivers, adult day care and Mobile Market assistance, flyer delivery, more.

Meals on Wheels: (61 2) 623-3363, meals-on-wheels.com/get-meals/sign-up.

Complete freshly-made meal delivered to your door weekdays between 11 am and 1

pm. Need-based pricing.

Metro Mobility: (651 ) 602-1111 . Shared ride public transit for riders unable to use

regular bus service because of a disability or health condition. A recommendation:

complex application forms may make it simpler to apply with assistance from

Hamline Midway Elders or North End-South Como Block Nurse staff.

PAGE 10 MARCH/APRIL 2019


FORGOTTEN FROGTOWN

How Sausage Got Made

From the vanished Pioneer Sausage, gastronomical and family memories.

By Jennifer Gascoigne

Isn’t it funny how the businesses we visit

every day become an important part of

our lives? So much so, that when they

disappear forever, we mourn their loss

and treasure the memories of the products

they offered, the staff we came to know,

the smell, the physical space, even the

role they played in our daily routine.

Exhibit A: Pioneer Sausage. A business

that is fondly remembered by many St.

Paulites, more than 20 years after the

butcher shop and sausage maker came to

a grinding halt, so to speak.

“THE BEST.” The best beef jerky, the

best beef sticks, the best venison steaks…

the best, the best, the best. When asked to

share their memories of Pioneer Sausage,

located at 61 6 Rice Street from the early

1 950s through the mid 1 990s, members

of the Frogtown History Facebook group

consistently chose one adjective to

describe Pioneer Sausage — the “best.”

“We always bought our lunch meat there,

but our real main objective was the beer

sticks,” recalls Dot Johnson Drake. “They

had the BEST bologna! My dad would

bring some home as a treat every so

often” adds Julie Otto Simanski. “They

had the BEST beef jerky!” echoes James

Ghiloni.

Linda

Gaynaw

reminisces, “I

remember

going there,

usually on

Saturday

mornings as a

young girl

with my Dad

and after he

died, with my

Mom. Every kid who went in got a hot

dog, one of the best I ever had and always

in our shopping bag. The other item we

would buy were the rings of liver

sausage. We would take the sausage home

and almost always that night my folks

would remove the casing and fry it. Never

found a good replacement for that

sausage and miss the hot dogs.”

While the descriptions of the products

make me wish I could go back in time

and take a nibble of a legendary Pioneer

beefstick, I noticed a theme that shows up

in most of the memories shared. It has

little to do with tasty meats and free

hotdogs for kids, and more to do with

family.

As Mary Weyandt Mangan recalls,

“Pioneer

Sausage was

a weekly

ritual for me

as a child. I

grew up on

Virginia and

Van Buren

and every

Saturday

morning my

mom would

call in the

order. My

younger brother and I would take the

wagon and walk to Master Bakery across

the street from Bethesda Hospital and

pick up the bread. Then over to Pioneer

sausage to pick up the meat order. Loved

getting my free hot dog. Then home to

eat an early lunch so we could take a

lunch to my Dad who was at work. Oh,

and the smell of the smoking... it is

ingrained in my brain.”

Pioneer Sausage first appears in the St.

Paul City Directory in 1 950, with the

first license application for the company

filed on Jan. 3, 1 951 , by Joseph

Knoedgen, a German-born US citizen.

The 1 940 census shows 32-year-old

Knoedgen and his family living at 803

Sheldon Avenue in St. Paul, with his

mother and father in law, Albina and

Julius Maurer, his wife, Lottie, and twoyear-old

daughter, Marianne. Knoedgen’s

profession was listed as “sausage maker,”

meaning that by the time he began his

own business 1 0 years later, he was

already an experienced meat man.

Pioneer Sausage occupied 61 6 Rice Street

for the next 44 years or so. The modest

brick building at the corner of Rice and

Winter Streets was built in 1 950,

specifically to house Knoedgen’s new

Pioneer Sausage Company. Today it is

home to Moua Lor Chiropractic and

Acupuncture Clinic, and Linda Kay Salon.

Joseph Knoedgen died on June 21 , 1 977,

at the age of 69. Family members

remained involved in the business

operations in some capacity until Pioneer

Sausage closed up shop in 1 994.

Thanks to the Frogtown History Facebook

community. Special thanks to former

Frogtowner Judy Lambert, and Rich Arpi,

Ramsey County Historical Society

Research Center Associate. • Jennifer

Gascoigne works for the Minnesota

Historical Society and is administrator of

the Facebook Frogtown History group.

She can be reached

at jennifergascoigne@gmail. com.

Pets & Older People

Ask the Animal Humane Society Outreach Trainers

What pets might be best for seniors? There’s no doubt that pets

and people are great together. Even so, it can be tough for older

folks to keep up with active pets. If your physical capacity has

changed but you still want a pet, consider a cat!

Feeding, playing with a cat, and cleaning litter boxes can provide

benefits of routine, structure and

companionship without being physically

demanding.

How about a Guinea pig? Guinea pigs are social

animals and do best in pairs. Their cage needs

regular cleaning, but they are relatively

inexpensive to keep and easy to care for.

If having a pet isn’t an option for you, maybe you can share one.

Many people who are away from home all day feel guilty that their

pet is home alone and would love to know they are getting some

extra love! Offer to let a neighbor’s’ dog out, or give the cat some

extra cuddles (if it enjoys cuddles!) at lunchtime.

If cost is a concern, the Animal Humane Society Community

Outreach Program offers free wellness events several times each

year that can minimize vet bills. We also partner with

neighborhood food shelves to offer free pet food. Follow us on

Facebook: Animal Humane Society Community Outreach: Frogtown

and East St. Paul or call 651-788-4685 for more information.

MARCH/APRIL 2019

PAGE 11


Temali, Continued

architect and the building ends up being

developed from a housing perspective.

They haven’t built into the basic design

and cost structure the things a business

needs to succeed. The parking, for

instance. Or business visibility. A

business needs to really pop out as people

drive by. It needs to read subconsciously:

this is a business. People need to know

where the parking is. It needs to have

clear glass down to the ground. There’s a

whole series of design elements that read

retail rather than housing.

Housing developers don’t have programs

to find and support commercial tenants

the way we do. It’s not their mission.

They tend to do it because they’re being

pushed to do it.

So you've got a low-income population,

businesses that want customers with some

money to spend, and the desire not to

gentrify — how does all this fit together?

The kind of business owners we deal with

don’t rely typically on outside customers

— the type of people who have what I

would call the gentrification level of

income.

Bigger businesses have formulas about

where they locate, the demographics,

where their competition is, where their

other locations are. A Panera, a Caribou

Coffee, even a Dunkin’ Donuts; they’re

clear, they want a higher income. Not a

ton higher, but more. But for Los

Ocampo, or Grooming House, or Big

Daddy’s (all University Ave. businesses)

these demographics are just fine.

Okay. But what explains the number of

vacant store fronts between Lexington

and Victoria?

I don’t know that any amount of traffic

can support an endless number of really

small businesses. Payne and Arcade is

another study in this issue.

But those streets are lined with small

businesses. They look busy and relatively

prosperous, Whereas Lex to Victoria in

places looks like a death zone.

I don’t think you’re wrong. Payne and

Arcade has more character than here. It’s

quaint. You’ve got a strong Hmong and

Latino population there. And I think the

quaint, old school look does attract some

of the hipsters. It is more hip there than

here. But I don’t know if that matters.

There are a few handsome but empty old

buildings along University.

A few. But far between. It’s more broken

up. The Hubbs Center, the Super

America, the U Haul lot, these all break it

up. Plus the two big Hmong markets

sucked a lot of businesses off University

Ave. Shoua Tailor, for example, moved

from Dale and University to the market

on Phalen and Johnson. That’s where

their customers are. And it’s safer. They

got robbed once here in Frogtown at

gunpoint. That wasn’t fun for them.

What’s your idea ofan action plan that

would make the area from Lexington to

Dale look like it was thriving?

First is commercial corridor

revitalization, because that changes

perceptions and behavior. So you start

with stuff we’ve done on a lot of

individual buildings, which is facade

improvements. But that’s a challenge

because of the nature of the buildings.

The ones that are attractive are pretty

isolated. Second is micro-enterprise

development. Third is workforce

development. The last is growing

neighborhood jobs.

What can you say now about the effect of

light rail?

The light rail project was really designed

to move people from one downtown to

another, or from Frogtown to Eden Prairie

for jobs out there. I don’t know that

anyone working on funding and designing

light rail gave a thought to the impact on

this corridor.

The car dealerships moved out long ago

and nothing came in its place. Now we’re

in an era where brick and mortar retail is

dying because ofAmazon. The next thing

you know you’re going to have drones

delivering your underwear. Things change.

What you’ve got to keep in mind is, it’s a

hundred year investment. What’s

happening in the first three years? That

won’t be the case in year 30 or year 70.

is published six times per year by Health Advocates, Inc. ,

843 Van Buren Ave. , St. Paul MN 55104, and is distributed door-to-door from

Lexington Parkway to 35E, and from University Avenue to Pierce Butler Route.

Publisher: Patricia Ohmans • Editor: Anthony Schmitz

651. 757. 5970 • patricia. ohmans@gmail. com

651. 757. 7479 • apbschmitz@gmail. com

Ad rates and more at GreeningFrogtown.com

Next issue, May/June, ad deadline April 22.

Health Advocates also sponsors Frogtown Green, which promotes green development.

PAGE 12 MARCH/APRIL 2019

More magazines by this user