MARCH / APRIL 2019
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
Version of the
Cy Thao renders
the experience in a
new book — P. 3
The county's plan to
rebuild the Dale St.
bridge — P. 4
What Works (and
expert Mike Temali
sorts it out — P. 2
Add your own
events to a new
calendar. Get the
details — P. 6
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
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
Become a Political Insider: Here's How
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
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
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
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
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
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
MARCH/APRIL 2019 PAGE 3
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
New Priorities at
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.
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.
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
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,”
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
but I wanted to
study my own
gay culture, not
the culture of
began to amass
gay and lesbian
materials of all
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
to be better
scholars of gay
and still serves
on its advisory
“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
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 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
“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
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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.”
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
“Volunteer! Do something for somebody
“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
“Go visit some old people who might
need cheering up.”
“Get together with friends. For instance,
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.
“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
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
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
AARP Experience Corps: (61 2) 708-5933, contact volunteer director Erin Simon,
firstname.lastname@example.org. Matches elders with kids who need reading help.
Wilder Volunteers: (651 ) 280-2504, contact volunteer director Grant Watkins,
email@example.com. 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
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
mornings as a
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
As Mary Weyandt Mangan recalls,
ritual for me
as a child. I
grew up on
call in the
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
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.
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
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
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
What can you say now about the effect of
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
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