Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Notable Northsiders - Frank R. McDonald

There had been a city workhouse just south of where I lived when I was a child. I have a very dim (or was it imagined?) memory of it being demolished; I was transfixed at seeing such a large building in ruins. My father must have brought me over to the field on the edge of the grounds to watch the demolition- I do know that some of those bricks ended up edging our petunias. A few of the outbuildings remained for many years, along with an enormous brick chimney. We played in the field, lit firecrackers inside large sections of storm sewer pipes- the City used the land as a storage area- and climbed hills of "clean" fill. Around the turn of the 20th century Frank R. McDonald was the superintendent, he was evidently a progressive who wrote extensively about the role of a workhouse as a true "reformatory." He believed it was a viable alternative to prison and also an effective way to treat the disease of alcoholism. In the nineteen-thirties there were several shanty-towns along the nearby river; I imagine that some of the workhouse residents didn't travel far upon their release. There were still a few "shacks" remaining near the river as late as the 1967.

We children were always warned against talking to "bums," those drifters who would pass through heading into or out of town. Lyndale Avenue ran between my house and the river. It was based upon an old Indian trail that had been used for hundreds of years, long before the white man and his liquor: the vice which would land many poor souls in the old Minneapolis Workhouse, so long ago.

Minneapolis Workhouse, 1902

By Professor Batty


Anonymous Jon said...

My wife grew up by Bassett Creek near the rail yards and the "hobo jungle." She was also warned about talking to the "bums" that resided there.

wv: suble. A little less than subtle?

Blogger Professor Batty said...

I lived near Bassett's Creek but it was underground (10th Avenue and North 5th Street) when I was a bum.

Anonymous NormanLake said...

Ah, yes, the hobo "jungle". Where I live(Northeastern Michigan) the old tannery property on the North side of town, a hobo camp was located in a thicket near the tracks. When yer parents tell you to stay away from those bums, of course, you had to go there. One guy, Leonard P. was in need of a haircut. A "bum" with a comb and scissors offered to cut his hair for spare change. Not a bad cut, per se, but of course, there after, Leonard was known as "Baldy". Those hoboes were just like us, and treated the kids with stories and occasional hobo stew. Pure Americana.

Anonymous NormanLake said...

A Notable Northsider from my neck of the woods, "Butch" Irwin, was a barber in the days of brush cuts (I was required to get one every ten days),and kids could get their hair cut for 95 cents. We called it a Butch cut. For one dollar, you would get the cut, and a pack of Juicy Fruit. He also had THE best comix.

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