Patrick Coleman writes: "LeSueur was perhaps Minnesota’s most famous proletarian writer, so it is not surprising that she wrote about the humble people of Saint Paul’s Swede Hollow. The following selection was written during Prohibition, ushered in by passage of the Volstead Act in 1919." Extract from Meridel LeSueur, “Beer Town,” Life in the United States: A Collection of Narratives of Contemporary American Life from First-Hand Experience or Observation (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1933); pages 31–33, 40.
Follow the sounds of childhood laughter up and over the snowbanks and into Margaret Playground on the East Side. It is 1937, and as you near the hockey rink, you can see a small mob of adolescent boys and girls huddled together or sliding on the ice. They are joining the hockey goals into a small cage. Inside, giggling along with the others, are my grandmother and grandfather.
It's 8 p.m. at City Hall and the lights in the mayor's office are still on. He sets down the stack of reports he's been reading, glances at the clock in his office, and reaches for his briefcase and keys. It's time to make the rounds. He flips off the lights and walks down the echoing corridors of City Hall to the door. Everyone is long gone.
I had just arrived at my new house—the house I bought without ever seeing. In my life, at that moment, that decision made perfect sense. It was a time when things much more unthinkable than buying a house without ever seeing it in person made perfect sense too. An unthinkable world had been my reality for the last year: New Orleans AFTER. I was gone eight years and was just now returning to Minnesota, where I had grown up.