By Tim Rumsey, MD
Local staple 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. Here are some winter tales.
Walked to UFM today at 7:15 a.m. Zero degrees. My long johns and fur-lined Sorel boots laugh at the cold, but my pen ink freezes, and I just make scratches and impressions in my notebook. I walk home at 6:45 p.m. It’s snowing. The CSPS Hall is decked out in white lights. The old streetlamps nearby have big green wreaths looped around their crossbars. Live piano music is coming through a cracked open window on the 3rd floor of the CSPS.
I remember a good West 7th winter story from Tom Funk, a long-retired St. Paul policeman and clinic patient for many years. Tom drove the police ambulance for Ancker. The hospital car. This was 1952, long before paramedics. In the middle of a blizzard one December evening, he got called out to the far end of West 7th for a bad, late night automobile accident.
The police radio said there was blood and guts all over the place.
Tom turned on his red light and cranked the siren.
The car driver and passengers were fine, but not the big broken jar of spaghetti and sauce.
December 22, lunchtime
Nurse Aleda drove us over to United Hospital for Johnny Paul’s concert. We were buzzed into the closed psych unit. Twenty beige folding chairs were arranged in a semi-circle around an old upright piano. We sat down with three trembling patients and two aides. Johnny was in the smoking room elevating his serum nicotine level. At 12:15, he came out to applause from the audience, all seven of us.
“Thank you for coming,” Johnny said, “This is for my wife Catherine. She was a wonderful woman.” Tom played xmas standards and holiday classics and ended with Catherine’s favorite, “Way Down Upon the Swanee River.”
Several hundred West 7th folks attended the community center holiday party this afternoon. There was Czech and Hmong dancing and a visit from Santa. Mr. Positive, Carl Bentson, was dressed as half a Santa with hat and coat only. This confused some of the little kids. Our clinic staff prepared and dished out sloppy joes, potato chips and pickles. Frank Heller stopped by, so did Tom Funk and the Lauers. Daisy Brown led a family-style homes contingent. Johnny Paul played piano for the crowd. He had a new girlfriend, a wonderful woman.
Carl, doctors Ravi and Macken and I and the Community Center engineer were the only people left at 9:30 p.m. Ravi put away the last of the pots and pans. The engineer hauled trash barrels outside. Carl was taking care of the card table chairs out in the darkened gym. He was still wearing his Santa hat. But no helmet, no headlight. By the red light of the exit signs, I could barely make him out. I walked from the kitchen into the blackness towards the echoes of metal chairs being folded and stacked onto storage racks.
Carl kept working as I approached. Dr. Macken had been worried about a patient, Tex DuBois, a friend of Carl’s.
“Mr. Tex is OK,” Carl said without looking up.
“Did you see him?” I asked.
“You talked to him?”
“You heard from him?” I asked.
“How do you know he’s ok?”“I know.”