Local icon Tim Rumsey walked to work most days from 1987 to 2000. He began as a form of exercise but kept at it for his love of local lore harvested through his interactions with people on the street. He began documenting his musings and eventually filled 53 pocketbooks with his observations. He continues writing about his observations to this day. Here is just one tale.
By Tim Rumsey, MD
One sees stuff when one walks to work.
Jan 3, 1998
Some mornings after crossing 35E I’ll cut over from St. Clair to the amazing Michigan Street and walk the four blocks past the homes of Mary Pesek, Ed Koci and Mabel Knutson. Then it’s a left at the CSPS-St. Stan’s corner and down 7th to the salt mines.
I keep getting pulled over to Michigan. It’s parallel to and one street north of St. Clair. It was platted in 1857. The entire street was originally Czech. The alley it shares with St. Clair, Mr. Positive’s alley, is still dirt. Carl says it’s like a country farm road. Many of the 120+ year-old Michigan Street houses are re-sided and look much younger. There are several newer homes from the early ‘7s. But it’s still a living, breathing remnant of settled West 7th’s first days.
Ed Koci, Mary Pesek, and Mabel Knutson all grew up in their family’s original houses and lived here their entire lives. Ed was born in his house.
Gerry Lauer, who lived on James, delivered the a.m. Pioneer Press and the p.m. Dispatch to the residents of Michigan Street when he was in the eighth and ninth grades. 1934 – ‘35. The Peseks were one of his few customers to get both the morning and evening editions.
January 6, 1998
On my walk to work today a downhill car skidded to a wrong-way stop on the packed snow on my side of St. Clair. One wheel jumped the curve. I startled backwards. The driver door flew open and a man flew out.
“Doctor!” the frightened guy said. “Please look at my wife’s finger.” The passenger window rolled down. I walked to that side of the car. A young woman’s left index finger was severed at the tip.
“I have the end,” her husband said, holding up a baggie. “We were on our way to United.”
“Let’s put some snow on it,” I said. I scooped up a handful and made a flattened snowball and set the baggie on top of it. “Keep going to United. Drive right into their emergency entrance. It looks like a big garage door.”
Off they slipped and slided down St. Clair.
At the corner by Mr. Positive’s, seven kids waited for their school bus. Two black, one white, and four Hmong. None of them talking or looking at each other. Puffed up, checkered-squared, down jackets looking like hand grenades.
The temperature today actually got colder as the day went on. When it hits minus 12 degrees at noon, at the clinic Ravi distributed his supply of soap bubbles to Aleda and me and three residents and brought us all out back of the clinic. A bubble blowing frenzy followed. We hooted and hollered over the instantaneously frozen bubbles that wouldn’t break. Most of them landed intact on the snow around us. The broken ones crinkled like Saran wrap. The rest of them took off in the wind and we watched them fly away like escaped helium balloons. I imagine some of them making it to Duluth.
“Is this a great clinic or what?” Aleda asked.
January 9, 1998
A snowstorm on West 7th is a beautiful thing. Sometimes from on top of the WPA steps I witness a scene of such beauty that I have to stop and take it all in.
Today the WPA steps are as clean as a whistle. Right down to the cement. If it’s not Mr. Positive it must be some elves with flame throwers.
Mr. Positive’s sidewalk is equally clean. Salted and perfect. I’ve seen him snowblow in the morning, on his lunch break, and at 9pm. All on the same day. I do believe he would like to intercept the snowflakes before they landed.
January 19, 1998
7am. 15 degrees. There was a 10 inch blizzard last night. The snow is knee high and fluffy. The WPA steps are non-existent. I hold onto the railing and slip down. Mr. Positive is snow blowing at Mary Pesek’s. I stopped for a moment and watched from St. Clair. Paul Johnson and Michael Lee are walking behind him. At one point, Mr. Positive lets each of them do about 15 feet of sidewalk.
January 19, 1998
It got up to 45 degrees today at noon. The snow melt froze by the end of the clinic. I took a harmless, humiliating fall on the sidewalk ice by Cooper’s and three people ran over to see if I was OK.
I drove back to the clinic at midnight and caught up on my patient dictation and nursing home orders. This was 1988, still paper charts in beige folders. Lots of paper charts in beige folders. I sat in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa of paper charts, dictating for two hours straight. At 3 a.m. I went downstairs into medical records and looked up Mabel Knutson, Ed Koci, and Mary Pesek. These three 80+ year-olds, still in the houses where they grew up, on the same street where they spent the entire 20th century, had neighboring charts all within arms length of where I was standing. And this is a clinic of 12,000 patients.
One thinks of stuff when one walks to work.