I was living on the street . . . had used up all my clean undergarments . . . and did not have any money or place to wash. One day I was taking what is called a “sponge bath” in the White Castle on University and Lexington, feeling really low . . . hours passed, 2 p.m. . . . traveled down to the Loft Teen Center and filled up on penny candy, sitting on the corner of Oxford and Carroll Avenue. A grey four-door car pulled up slowly . . . right next to me . . . my head was down, very close to the street gutter entrance . . . I could smell the stench of whatever was down there. I heard a deep, smooth, radio personality voice saying, “What’s the matter, man?” I was like, “What?” I couldn’t believe it. “I need some clean draws . . . and socks!” I answered. This voice replied, “Get in.” Wow! My angel on Earth. Steve bought me a pack of clean boxers and socks. Then he allowed me to shower at his house so I could go to school . . . clean.
Because this street initially ran between the University of Minnesota and Hamline University, it was given its name in 1874. The establishment of the Minnesota Transfer Yards, however, blocked the street, and it was necessary to shift the eastern end of the avenue one-half mile south. University Avenue appropriated the name of what had been Melrose Avenue, and the original University Avenue became part of Minnehaha Avenue.
In 1889, University Avenue was first paved with tree trunks about six to eight inches in diameter, cut to half-foot lengths, and set in the street on a cement base, the space between the blocks being filled with asphalt and cement grout. In the first half of the twentieth century, University Avenue was the busiest street in the city.
—Excerpted from The Street Where You Live: A Guide to the Place Names of St. Paul by Donald L. Empson, University of Minnesota Press, 2006. With more than one thousand entries and over one hundred photographs, The Street Where You Live is the most complete inventory of public spaces in St. Paul in existence. Donald L. Empson is a local historian based in Stillwater, Minnesota.
Not wanting to alarm my husband and infant son, in case they’ve fallen back asleep, I don’t call. I don’t even text. But I do take a picture with my camera-phone, because I need proof that I’ve done it, that I’m actually here: sitting in a 2005 Toyota Matrix, outside the Saint Anthony Park Library. This is incredible.
I was feeling drab one Saturday afternoon in my Midway neighborhood. After a week of nine-to-six computer work in a cubicle and a morning of ticking off the weekly chores, laundry, groceries, scrubbing a few floors, and carting my teen around, what I needed was a pick-me-up. A look at my grubby nails confirmed where I knew I had to go to escape the routine of the dark days of November that were seeping into December and dragging me along.
Dr. Sobkoviak of Frogtown, our dentist, stood looking out the window of his office at Western and University and saw Russia. As he changed the point of the drill, looking straight through Old Home Dairy across the street into the Kremlin, he warned me about Nikita Krushchev. He was slow and thorough, stopping to polish his glasses in front of that window. In his starched white tunic, he was a true professional.
The Turf Club is an historic landmark in the Twin Cities music world. One might wonder how this club set in the Midway—the land between downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul—amongst porn and pawn shops, liquor stores and Ax Man, maintains a name at all. This is not the hubbub of nightlife; no river views, no skyscrapers, no horse carriages or antique fire trucks, no pretty street lights, no Snoopy. It's University bus stops and Snelling traffic.