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Neighborhood mail carrier retires after long, satisfying career

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Jay Morgen was inspired by grandfather, who could find all those big silver mailboxes ‘like magic’

Jay Morgen hung up his mail bag at the Minnehaha Station for the last time on Friday, Aug. 31. After nearly 20 years with the US Postal Service, the veteran mail carrier retired.
During summers spent in South Dakota, Morgan remembered bouncing along dusty back roads in his grandfather’s old jeep. His grandfather was a rural mail carrier, and he liked to bring his grandkids along when he could.
Morgen said, “It seemed like magic that he could find all those big silver mailboxes, and he knew every farmer by name. The memory of those times played into my decision to become a mail carrier years later, but it wasn’t my first career.”
He had to suffer through 18 years at a West Lake Street car dealership first, doing financing and sales in a stuffy, crowded office. In Morgen’s unedited words, “I hated it!”
When he was still at the car dealership, Morgen contacted the US Postal Service. An avid golfer and long distance runner (with several sub-three hours marathons to his credit), he thought a walking mail route would be a good fit for him. He longed for a job that required mental concentration, provided a lot of outdoor exercise, and gave him time alone to think.
Morgen took the US Postal Service battery exam, so named because it contains a battery of different tests used to determine if a candidate is best suited to be a letter carrier, a mail handler, or a clerk. The test was given to thousands of applicants in an auditorium at the U of M.
He was sent to Carrier Academy, assigned a blue uniform, and began working as a trainee in April of 2000.
Since then, the world of mail delivery has changed completely.
Morgen said, “When I first started, on a Monday there would be a dozen or more tubs of mail to deliver for each route. Now three tubs of mail are considered a lot. The volume of mail is about 15% of what it used to be, but the volume of packages has increased at least 10-fold.”

People made route wonderful
Assigned to the Minnehaha Station for the last 16 years, Morgen averaged 12+ miles of walking per day – more when he worked overtime.
He said, “The people on my route made the job wonderful. I’ve written well over 100 thank you notes in the last few weeks. I never could have been a mail carrier in the suburbs, where you drive from mailbox to mailbox and never get to talk to anyone.”
While he will miss his customers, there are a few things Morgen will not miss.
He said, “The last couple of winters have been really hard because of all the ice events. In the course of my career, I’ve fallen dozens of times. As a carrier, you learn to pull your arms in when you fall – to aim for the snow when you’re going down. Of all the surfaces, painted wooden steps are the worst.”
And in every season, of course, there are dogs. Morgen said, “I had 34 incidents where I was bitten, some nips and some multiple bites. I think I’ll always be a little leery of dogs, but I also understand why mail carriers frustrate them. Every day we come onto their property; they bark, and we leave. But then we come back the next day, and the whole thing happens all over again. Who wouldn’t be frustrated by that?”

What’s next: tiny home and golf
For his next chapter of life, Morgen is setting out on an adventure.
He purchased a tiny home from Escape Traveler in Rice Lake, Wis., and is moving to Austin, Texas.
He said, “I don’t know the city at all, but their weather is good. I’m going to treat myself to a lot of golf for the next few years. My first order of business will be to meet a bunch of people, because you need people.”

Things he’s learned as a mail carrier
Morgen’s 20 years of pounding the ground as a mail career have taught him all kinds of valuable things: to dress in layers, to be kind, to bring extra socks and gloves, to carry a first-aid kit complete wet wipes, to write thank you notes, to stick to a schedule, and to know his route backwards and forwards.

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Rename Historic Fort Snelling?

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Minnesota Historical Society convenes listening sessions across the state

The Minnesota Historical Society held its fifth public listening session about the possible renaming of Historic Fort Snelling earlier this month. Audience members responded to questions like, “What should the MNHS consider in a name for this site?” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Does the name Historic Fort Snelling accurately reflect the multiple histories of this place?
That was the question asked by the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) when it convened the fifth in a series of six listening sessions across the state on Monday, Oct. 15.
The public meeting was held at Northern Star Scouting Base Camp, 6201 Bloomington Rd. and the purpose of the listening session was to hear public comment about the possible renaming of Historic Fort Snelling.
MNHS deputy director of learning initiatives Kevin Maijala, said, “We want to be clear that the fort itself will not be renamed. However, the fort is just one piece of the 23-acre parcel owned by the historical society.”
The larger Unorganized Territory of Fort Snelling is owned by several different entities including the Minnesota DNR, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, the Veteran’s Administration, Minnesota Department of Transportation, the U.S. Navy, and the Boy Scouts of America.
Fort Snelling sits directly above the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the area has been inhabited by humans for more than 10,000 years.
The reason for considering a new name is that this confluence of rivers is also a confluence of stories, and many believe only one story is being told by the current name.
MNHS is in the process of a major revitalization project at the site, with a $34.5 million budget (a combination of state of Minnesota appropriations and private donations.) Included in the revitalization is the creation of a new visitor center with 4,000 square feet of exhibition space.
Maijala said, “We’ve been trying to tell a more expanded story at this site since 2006. Many voices make up our history here, and it is our job at the Historical Society to make sure those diverse stories are heard.”

Another Minneapolis resident spoke about why the site is important to him, and why, in his opinion, the name should not be changed. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Historic Fort Snelling has been the site of many divergent experiences: some well-known and some not. Soldiers, veterans and their families, enslaved and free African Americans, Japanese Americans, and Native Americans have all lived (and sometimes died) at the fort.
Audience members at the listening session spoke across a broad spectrum of opinion.
Pam Costain, a former Minneapolis School Board member, said, “I walk in Fort Snelling State Park regularly. The confluence of these rivers means a lot to me, both historically and spiritually. This is the place where many Dakota women and children died in the winter of 1862-63. We weren’t told this story in Minnesota for a long time, and now is the time to start. I’m in favor of choosing a name that reflects this story, and also reflects the beauty of the confluence (Bdote in Dakota) because names matter.”
Dr. Curtis Dahlin is a historian with a deep interest in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. He said, “I see Fort Snelling as a military site; that’s what is important to me. I think the MNHS wants to turn it into a Dakota site, and I don’t want to see that happen.”

Participants attending the listening session viewed information panels about Historic Fort Snelling, including its 2006 designation as a “Site of Conscience.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

To ensure a positive listening process, a neutral facilitator set ground rules for respectful communication including refraining from interruption and argument, taking turns, and asking questions for clarity and better understanding.
So far, MNHS has received more than 5,000 responses on a web-based survey about the proposed name change for Historic Fort Snelling. Go to www.mnhs.or/fortsnelling/naming to complete a survey before Nov. 15.

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Longfellow filmmaker tells redemptive stories of covering up racist tattoos

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen


Billy White helps a customer cover up a tattoo. (Photo submitted)

When the white supremacist rally took place in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, and a woman was killed, many people were upset. It was a frightening reminder of how hateful symbols and actions were surfacing within this country.
Billy Joe White, owner of the Red Rose Tattoo shop in Zanesville, Ohio, watched the news coverage along with everyone else. But he decided to do something.
He offered his services pro bono to anyone who might want to come in and get a racist tattoo covered up.
His story has now been documented in an Emmy-nominated short film, “Beneath the Ink,” shot and directed by Cy Dodson, a filmmaker who lives in the Longfellow neighborhood.

Redemptive stories
Although the tattoo parlor was in Dodson’s home town in Ohio, he did not know anything about it. “I just saw an article going around on social media about Billy and how he was covering up tattoos. A fellow had driven three and a half hours from Cleveland to get a large head of Hitler on his calf covered up. I found it interesting and redemptive. People had opened up about their past lives.”
So while he was back in his hometown working on another project, Dodson connected with White and talked a bit. He said he had a couple people coming in that weekend. One of them was John, who had a KKK tattoo on his back. He had adopted an African American kid and wanted to cover up the tattoo.
Dodson spent the weekend in the tattoo shop and the next day talked with John at his house. John was willing to cooperate and talk about his past, what led him to get the tattoo, and what had changed in his life.
“I went back to Minnesota, edited the film and realized I needed a few more shots. So a couple months later I returned to Ohio and shot a few more things,” Dodson said.
“It all happened at once,” Dodson said, regarding the strong response to “Beneath the Ink.” It premiered in Cleveland, and then it showed here at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF). It just started going around the country, and it’s done pretty well.
The film has won a dozen awards on the film festival circuit. “The festival route has been successful,” Dodson said. He did not submit it for an Emmy nomination, but the film went online and GQ picked it up for its website. “They thought it was a good fit for the Emmys, and wanted me to release it to them,” Dodson said. “They knew it had the opportunity to be at least nominated.” The film has also qualified for the Academy Awards.

Filmmaker Cy Dodson says “Beneath the Ink” has set a new bar for his filmmaking. (Photo submitted)

Learning how to tell a perfect story
Dodson began his career in Ohio after graduating from college in 1996.
”I took a job working in news in my hometown,” he recalled. “I jumped around for a while and ended up at KSTP in the Twin Cities. I have been freelancing since 2006.”
Dodson said he does a lot of work for corporate and nonprofit organizations, but he likes finding human interest stories in his films. He said he thinks this latest documentary about white supremacy and its rise is about a broad range of people and a current issue.
Dodson has made three documentaries in the past four years, but he said none have resonated like “Beneath the Ink.”
“My other films took a lot longer than this one, weeks and weeks of shooting for a result about the same time,” Dodson said. “For ‘Beneath the Ink,’ I didn’t shoot as much footage and the editing was not as time-consuming. With this film, I wanted to be focused on the story and not try to do a lot of other things and waste my time and everyone else’s.”
His background in working for news stations helped develop his filmmaking process, according to Dodson. “It kind of forces you to do it all in a short amount of time,” he explained. “You do it quickly and efficiently and in a short amount of time. You know how to tell a story, and you keep doing that over and over. You learn how to tell a perfect story.”
His experience led him to want to tell longer stories rather than the two-minute news items. This led him to his documentary work.

Norwegian project next
His next project has already taken him to Norway. He is documenting the story of the Letnes family from northern Norway. Stephen Letnes, a member of the family and a composer for “Beneath the Ink,” joined Dodson on his trip to Norway.
Dotson said that typically, the oldest son in Norwegian families inherits the family farm, and the second son survives on his own. Three of the Letnes sons moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area and started potato farms. The film will be about a family lineage story and Norwegian immigration to northern Minnesota.

A new bar for himself
“Beneath the Ink” has set a bar for his filmmaking, according to Dodson. “When you have something successful, how do you build on that?” He said he shot and edited the film himself, then brought on producers. He said he met his co-producers at a film festival. He brought on Melody Gilbert, a local film producer, to help with international distribution.
“You just build as you go,” Dodson said. He claimed the learning process of making films is what he likes best. But he admitted that the success of this film has brought on a new series of challenges.
“You meet with lawyers, you’re on the phones, you’re in meetings, there’s distribution. I’ve never sold a film before, and it’s trial by fire.”
Dodson, who considers himself an introvert, said he thinks shooting “Beneath the Ink” in his home town was helpful.
“The people opened up to me, and it was a different pace. There were never any questions asked, and everybody trusted each other,” he remarked.
But he said taking his film to festivals across the country has helped him be more assertive and feel more comfortable interviewing people. “It forces you to give your spiel and talk with people,” he stated.
When he attended the Emmy celebration in New York, he connected with people in the industry. He said that while LA is considered the mecca for narrative fiction, New York is the stronghold for documentaries.
He said he would like to extend “Beneath the Ink” from a short 12-minute documentary into a documentary feature.
“There are still a lot more people coming in from across the country wanting cover-ups. I am looking at teaming up with producers and doing a longer story,” Dodson said.
“I think I have aligned myself with good people to take this to the next level.”

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Sacred Sites Tours seek healing through storytelling

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen


Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs ended a Sacred Sites Tour with a song atop the indigenous burial ground at Pilot Knob Hill. He said, “These tours are meant to raise the level of collective conscience. We owe it to the people of Bdote to understand their story.” >> SEE RELATED STORY ON FORT SNELLING NAME. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Bdote is the Dakota word for “meeting place of rivers.” It refers to the junction of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers: a confluence that many Dakota people consider their site of creation. The junction of these two mighty rivers is just below Fort Snelling, and directly across from St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Mendota.
Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs (Mohican) is a local theologian, historian, and story teller. He created Healing Minnesota Stories in 2011 to foster understanding and healing between Native and non-Native people, particularly those in various faith communities.
He said, “Native people have suffered deep trauma, losing their land, language, and culture over time. While countless people and institutions contributed to this trauma, it happened with the full participation of Christian churches. We all need healing. Healing is doable, and churches have a role to play in that healing.”
About 40 Sacred Sites Tours are offered annually through Healing Minnesota Stories; each tour visits three sacred sites in the Bdote area. Jacobs thought interest in the tours might continue through the 150th commemoration of the 1862 US-Dakota War in 2012 and then wane — but interest kept growing. More than 7,000 people have participated in his tours to date. Only 4-5 are open to the public each year; the rest are for church groups, colleges, and universities.
Along with his friend and co-presenter Bob Klanderud (Dakota), Jacobs uses the power of storytelling to heal because, “stories make invisible pain visible.”

Sacred Sites Tour participants gathered at the Fort Snelling memorial site. More than 1,700 Dakota people were interned here during the bitter winter of 1863, before being deported from their Minnesota homeland. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Sacred Sites Tours start on the lawn of St. Peter’s Catholic Church at 1405 Sibley Memorial Highway, the oldest Catholic church in Minnesota.
Jacobs explained, “The first treaty between the U.S. Government and the Dakota people was signed in 1805, and the first piece of stolen land is right here. The treaty stated that cooperative use of the land beneath our feet would be protected in perpetuity. The Dakota people were assured the right to move across this land nine miles in any direction: to make their home here, to fish, hunt, and gather, to live out their lives in peace.
“This nine-mile radius of stolen land includes all of downtown Minneapolis, most of downtown St. Paul, and everything in-between, even the Mall of America,” said Jacobs.
He continued, “Like Fort Snelling, we believe St. Peter’s Catholic Church was erected as a sign of supremacy and domination over the Dakota people in their most sacred place. We hold no ill will toward St. Peter’s at this time, but we cannot ignore their presence here either. To address some of the pain we feel, the church has taken several steps to address healing. One step is that every year on the second Saturday in September, they offer their grounds to the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota for their annual Pow Wow. This September marked the 20th year.”
The second stop on the tour is in Fort Snelling State Park, the most visited state park in Minnesota. In 1987, the Dakota community erected a monument near the Visitor Center: a circular enclosure made of logs that fan open to the sky. The monument bears the Dakota words, “Wokiksuye K’a Woyuonihan,” and the English words, “Remembering and Honoring.”

As tour participants parted, Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs said, “We believe that every human being is called upon to be an agent of justice – in a world that desperately needs us.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Jacobs said, “This valley is a place of birth, life, creation, and genesis. We tell stories of how full-term pregnant women used to walk for days to deliver their babies here. But this valley is also a place of pain, anguish, death, and genocide. This was the internment site for more than 1,700 Dakota (primarily women, elders, and children) when the 1862 U.S.-Dakota war ended. They were forced to march 150 miles from the Lower Sioux Agency in western Minnesota. They overwintered here through brutal conditions until they were deported the next spring.
“To this day, there are far more Dakota people living outside of Minnesota than there are living within. This was a diaspora.”

A meaningful part of the tour experience was being given time for quiet reflection throughout the afternoon. At the Fort Snelling memorial site, each participant received a pinch of tobacco to leave as an offering for those who died.
Jacobs said, “Walk among the trees and as you do, listen into the ears of your spirit and your heart. Hold the tobacco close, to solidify your prayer in this place.”
The final tour stop was Pilot Knob Hill, a 112-acre parcel of public/private land in Mendota that is a sacred indigenous burial ground and meeting place for Dakota people. A big circle was marked on the ground, divided into quarters and filled with four different colors of gravel (signifying the different colors of humanity).
Standing in the circle with tour participants, Jacobs said, “The earth cries out for help; her people need direction. For the protection of the earth, and for those who make their home here, we must all come together in solidarity.”
Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs is director of racial justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches. When he accepted that position last year, he brought Healing Minnesota Stories with him. The Sacred Sites Tours are now operated under the auspices of MCC. Tours are appropriate for ages 18+ and are offered at no cost, though free will offerings are greatly appreciated.
For information about the 2020 schedule, contact

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Long buried toxic dump at Hidden Falls Park getting attention

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Tesha Christensen

When the river rises, it rinses through the industrial waste which leaches into surrounding river and ground water

Hidden Falls Regional Park is located along the Mississippi River bluffs just below Lock and Dam #1. Trails run through shady, wooded bottomlands; long stretches of sandy shoreline offer a reprieve from busy city life.
But a short hike north from the picnic shelters brings visitors to a tumble down cyclone fence that defines the northern park border. Called Area C, this is where the Ford Motor Company dumped unknown quantities of industrial waste onto the Mississippi River flood plain from 1945 to 1966 near its now closed St. Paul plant.
The location of Area C has been public information for years. The dumpsite looks benign, more neglected than threatening. It is covered with concrete, soil, and scrub vegetation. However, its contents are lesser known and almost impossible to quantify.
Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) executive director Whitney Clark said, “Areas A and B were known dumps on Ford Redevelopment Site on top of the bluff (the former Ford Motor Company.) Their contents were moved to Area C in the 1960s, back when environmental standards were non-existent. The components of Area C fit into two categories. The largest category, which forms the top layer, is non-toxic construction debris. Underneath all of that lies an unknown quantity of toxic industrial waste contained in metal drums.
“We believe that the quantity of toxic waste (including industrial solvents and paint sludge) is enormous.”
Because public pressure is so important, FMR staff and volunteers informed Hidden Falls Park visitors about the potential threat of Area C on Sept. 28, Oct. 5, and Oct. 12. Staff and volunteers gathered on site at the park in morning and afternoon sessions, and engaged visitors interested in learning more. Visitors were able to sign up for FMR updates and future meeting notifications. People using the park are likely to be among its strongest advocates and, once the snow flies, are much harder to reach.
At the request of FMR and the Capitol Region Watershed District, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will hold a public information meeting in February 2020 to explain current site monitoring, requests for additional study, and long-term clean-up options. Contact site leader Colleen O’Connor Toberman at to be notified of public meeting details, and to receive FMR updates on Area C developments.
Toxic waste is leaking from Area C into the river and groundwater. It’s unknown whether concentration levels are safe for human health or the environment. FMR and their partners are pushing for additional testing through the MPCA to ensure proper risk evaluation.
Clark said, “Modern dumps are lined with clay soils and other geo-technical materials that prevent leakage. Area C is nothing like that. It’s just a whole bunch of metal barrels sitting on the Mississippi flood plain, covered by a huge volume of construction debris. When the river rises, it inundates Area C – literally rinsing through the industrial waste, and leaching into surrounding river water and ground water. Metal barrels corrode, and some of them have been there since 1945.”
FMR has partnered with the Capitol Region Watershed District and MPCA to put added pressure on the Ford Corporation.
Clark said, “They have agreed to do a full spectrum feasibility study; this means that they could decide to do absolutely nothing when it’s over, or they could decide to haul all the debris away. We don’t believe that the investigation done to date has been adequate to inform their feasibility study. They need more extensive data.”
He continued, “That’s what we’re telling our constituents. We are pushing for the best-informed feasibility study, so that this situation can be dealt with ethically – not just legally. The Ford Corporation is in the process of selling the redevelopment site to Ryan Companies, but the river parcel (which contains Area C) will continue to be the Ford Corporation’s responsibility.”
Toberman concluded, “There’s a big gap between public information, and what people actually know about. All of the data that’s out there has been published by Ford Corporation and its consultants, in partnership with the MPCA. This is an area that park visitors and neighbors are very interested in, and we look forward to having a great turnout for the public information meeting early next year.”

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Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

When Jack Loftus and Jack Martin saw a gap in services for safe injection equipment and more access to naloxone to prevent deaths from opioid overdose, they started Southside Harm Reduction Services.
Two years later, they’re leading a crew of volunteers quietly working to distribute and pick up syringes in the Southside as they seek to reduce the stigma and judgement people using drugs experience.
“We recognize that drug use and the overdose crisis is incredibly complex and difficult to deal with, but we also know that everyone has the ability to make positive changes, from reducing stigma to picking up syringes to distributing naloxone themselves,” said Jack Martin. “And we know to embrace every positive change.”

AT RIGHT Luce Guillen (left) carefully places a used syringe into a container held by Michael Neil on Saturday, Aug. 24 during a clean up on the Midtown Greenway, Lake and Bloomington. Neil, a former user himself, says it is important to not just pick up the syringes, but to get to know the people who are homeless in order to know what they need. Plus, then he has some who save their syringes until the next time they see him, knowing he’ll dispose of them properly. “I let them know we love them,” said Neil. “It’s a reflection of where I come from, too.” (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

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Longfellow women earn Fringe award

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Longfellow residents Candice and Sarra Beckham-Chasnoff receive the inaugural Beverlee Award at the conclusion of this year’s Fringe Festival. They saw 57 shows this year, part an effort to be more intentional about how they spend their time and where they seek community. (Photo by Max Haynes)

For the first time, Fringe Festival staff recognized a powerhouse audience member exemplifying support for Adventurous Artists through their spectatorship. The Beverlee Award was jointly given to Longfellow residents Candice and Sarra Beckham-Chasnoff.
This year’s Fringe Festival ran Aug. 1-11. Awardees were announced Sunday, Aug. 11 at the Closing Night Party At Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul.

How many years have you been attending the festival?
Candice and Sarra: We’ve been attending the Minnesota Fringe Festival since the early 2000s. For many years we attended the Fringe on a casual basis, and our attendance has gradually increased. For the past few years, we’ve been seeing 50 or more shows during the 11 days of Fringe. This year we attended 57 shows.

What draws you to the Fringe Festival and how does it build community?
Candice and Sarra: For us, the Fringe is about art and about community. As we’ve been dealing with the inevitable stressors of life and the stress of the world, we’ve become increasingly intentional about how we spend our free time. We try to spend our free time engaging in activities that leave us feeling positive, rejuvenated, validated, and connected. Fringe does all that for us.
At the Minnesota Fringe you can see dance, spoken word, storytelling, comedy, live podcast recordings, puppetry, performance art, and plays of all genres. Some shows address the problems of the world, some shows are an escape from the problems of the world, all of the shows feel deeply personal.
Every artist involved in Fringe has put their heart into their show. It’s truly beautiful to engage with that.
And regarding community, while the Fringe is underway, the Fringe artists, staff, and audience members end up forming a vibrant sub-community within Minneapolis. While buying tickets, standing in line for shows, walking between venues, and attending shows, it is very easy to get to know other patrons and the artists who are milling about. Everyone is talking about the shows they’ve seen, the shows they’re looking forward to seeing, where to get a snack and some coffee between shows. It’s a very fun community, and it’s easy to make new friends!

How do you feel about winning this award?
Candice and Sarra: Winning the inaugural Beverlee Award is one of the most lovely things that has ever happened to us. The award is named after Beverlee Everett. Her son, Matthew Everett, is a Twin Cities playwright and theater reviewer who avidly attends and reviews Minnesota Fringe shows each year. Beverlee would travel from Pennsylvania to Minnesota each year to attend Fringe shows with Matthew, and she was a beloved Fringe presence.
Beverlee passed away in July of this year, just a few weeks before the 2019 Minnesota Fringe Festival began, and the Fringe community was heartbroken. At least one show was dedicated to her, and the Fringe staff also created this award in her honor to recognize an audience member “who exemplifies support for Adventurous Artists through their spectatorship” (quote from an Aug. 5 MN Fringe Facebook post).
We feel honored to think we are walking in the footsteps of Beverlee Everett who was such a warm presence. We are probably most excited about this award because it means the artists know how much we appreciate them. Somehow, from our seats in the back of each theater, our admiration and appreciation of the artists has reached them.
That means a lot to us because we really feel that we can’t thank the artists enough for the beauty they bring into our lives.
~ Compiled by Tesha M. Christensen.

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Take a stroll, hear stories, and connect with community

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Preserve Minneapolis offers historic walking tours of Downtown Longfellow and other locations

Old and new – Preserve Minneapolis Tour Coordinator Katy Epler holds up a historic photo showing Minnehaha Grill with the building as it is now in the background at Lake and 27th. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Take a stroll, hear stories, and connect with community
Preserve Minneapolis offers historic walking tours of Downtown Longfellow and other locations
On a cooling summer evening, about 20 people gathered at the corner of Lake and Minnehaha with their walking shoes for a Preserve Minneapolis tour.
They spent the next hour and a half walking through Downtown Longfellow, learning about the people and businesses that shaped the area.
The tour began at what is now a large parking lot for Target, Cub and the Minnehaha Center, and also ended there.
“We are starting here because it really represents one of the main reasons this area exists today: this historic industrial complex, which for nearly 100 years, starting in 1873, built things here, and attracted people to jobs that fueled residential, then commercial and retail growth of this area,” explained tour guide Cara Letofsky.
In 1873, a bunch of Minneapolis businessmen, including the city’s first Mayor, Dorilus Morrison, established Minneapolis Harvester Works on the site, and by 1880 it employed about 200 men in industrial manufacturing.
As the year’s grew, the company name changed through various mergers, becoming the Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company and then Minneapolis-Moline. The company prospered in the 1930s and 1940s as the Lake St. plant specialized in the production of tractors and engines, pointed out Letofsky, who also drew on information gathered by Eric Hart, Iric Nathanson, and other members of the Longfellow History Project during her tour.

Weaving stories of then and now, Cara Letofsky leads a tour in Downtown Longfellow on Aug. 8, 2019, walking in a 6-block radius of Lake and Minnehaha. The AutoZone was once home to three buildings of the Longfellow school campus. All were torn down. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

There were 20 shops in separate buildings at the sprawling plant at its peak, including an engineering department where the original Jeep was designed, located in the building at 2841-47 26th Ave. S., the last remaining building of the Moline campus (now the 7-Sigma building).
At its peak, the site employed 6,000 people.
White Motor Company of Lansing, Mich., acquired Minneapolis-Moline in 1962 and decided to shutter the plant in 1972, laying off the remaining 1,300 workers. When it couldn’t find a buyer, it demolished all the buildings on the site.
“The city then purchased the land and helped redevelop it into a retail mall, anchored by Target’s first inner-city store,” said Letofsky.

Toro gets its start
Nearby, the Toro Manufacturing Company had its start, setting up shop in an old two-story Victorian home at 3042 Snelling Ave. S. The economic depression after World War I threatened to close Toro for good.
Members of the Minikahda Club, who were looking for a better way to keep up their golf course, approached the company. Toro rose to the challenge and began designing lawn mowing equipment. The firm grew on Snelling Ave., eventually occupying more than 70,000 square feet in various buildings and employing 400 people before moving to a new Bloomington plant in 1962.

Large buildings rise 1909-1914
Many of the familiar buildings in Downtown Longfellow were built between 1909 and 1914, including the Coliseum, Lake Street Bank, and International Order of Odd Fellows, with the Fire Station No. 21 preceding it in 1894. Others have since been torn down including the original three-building campus of the Longfellow School (current AutoZone/Aldi site) and Lake Theater.
According to one report, about two-thirds of the residential areas around 27th and Lake had been built by 1911, said Letofsky, and 90% by the end of the 1920s.

Foot trail to transportation corridor
“The story of the Minnehaha-Hiawatha Ave. corridor and its evolution from humble beginnings as a foot trail running between Fort Snelling and the Falls of St. Anthony to the current multi-modal transit corridor that crosses South Minneapolis diagonally, bringing people from downtown Minneapolis to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and Mall of America, is the story of how evolving transit modes also change the urban landscape,” pointed out Letofsky.
In 1865 the Minneapolis and Cedar Valley Railroad Company – forerunner to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad – chose to lay its railroad tracks parallel to Fort Snelling Road.
In 1886, the streetcar line from downtown reached Lake St. along 27th Ave., then the final piece of the neighborhood framework came in 1888 when Lake Street was chosen as the route on which to construct the cross-river bridge linking Minneapolis and St. Paul.
As residents and jobs began moving out to the suburbs, the streetcars were pulled up in 1954 in favor of buses and cars. By 1933, Hiawatha Ave. was designated as a segment of State Highway 55, which extended from Hastings to Tenney, Minn. Hundreds of homes and businesses were demolished in the 1960s for an 8-lane freeway, but intense neighborhood opposition arose in the 1970s. The freeway plan was abandoned in favor of a four-lane roadway with a light rail transit (LRT) system that was approved in the mid-1980s. The lightrail line began operating in 2004.

Sharing stories
Cara Letofsky is fascinated about how cities grow and change and the stories behind why our communities look how they do.
“It’s fun to do the research on local neighborhoods, then put the changes that happened in the larger historical context. How was this neighborhood impacted by the Great Depression? By Post-war suburban growth? Reinvestment in urban areas? Doing tours allows me to share these same stories of our own community to a broader audience who want to understand how their own communities came to be,” observed Letofsky.
The Cooper neighborhood resident who grew up in South Minneapolis had been a fan of walking tours and Preserve Minneapolis for years. She began as a tour guide in 2012 just as the Lake Street Council’s Museum in the Streets tour panels were being installed. Three tours were given that summer: in Uptown, in Midtown, and at 27th and Lake. (See sidebar)
Since then she has led at least one tour a year, bringing her longtime knowledge of the area and work experience into her tours.
A past board member and president of the Hennepin History Museum, Letofsky runs her own consulting firm, Mill City Consulting, partnering with nonprofits and other community efforts on community-improving projects. Her background includes working for Mayor R.T. Rybak, representing District 8 on the Metropolitan Council from 2015-2019,and founding the City of Lakes Community Land Trust in 2002.
Letofsky has also led the “Dinkytown: Forever Young” tour, and supported Shari Albers’ great tour of the Washburn-Fair Oaks Historic District, the neighborhood around Mia and the Hennepin History Museum. Last year she partnered with the Mapping Prejudice Project and Tina Burnside (now of the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery) on an extremely popular bus tour with Preserve Minneapolis titled, “Housing Discrimination Revealed: History of Race and Real Estate in Minneapolis.”
Preserve Minneapolis was founded in 2003. The non-profit is dedicated to improving the quality of life in Minneapolis by recognizing, preserving, and revitalizing the architectural and related cultural resources of the city of Minneapolis.

Past helps to ID solutions
“As a history enthusiast, I believe understanding what came before us helps us better understand what is happening today, and can help us identify real solutions to today’s challenges,” remarked Letofsky.
“When it comes to neighborhood walking tours, they are valuable in that they not only get people out enjoying their community, but they also teach people about what came before them, and help people appreciate their community more.
“I mean, don’t you have more appreciation of the Minnehaha Mall parking lot more now that you know it used to house a factory that employed up to 6,000 people?”
~ Contact editor at

Join a tour
>> Milwaukee Avenue Historic District Walking Tour, Saturday, Sept. 14, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., $12
>> Murder and Mayhem: Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery Walking Tour, Sunday, Sept. 15 9:30-11:30 a.,m., $12
>> Neighborhood Movie Theaters Walking Tour, Calhoun Square, Sat, Sep 21 2-4 p.m., $12
>>The Lost Gateway District of Minneapolis Walking Tour, Sunday, Sept. 22 9:30-11:30 a.m., $12
>> Nicollet Island Walking Tour, Saturday, Sept. 28 10 a.m – noon, $12
More at

Stroll for free down Lake St.
>> Residents can take the Museum in the Street tour at three locations along Lake St. at any time by strolling down the streets at their own pace.
>> There are three bilingual heritage-discovery walks with 15-20 stopping points: Uptown: Minneapolis’ Lake District, Midtown: A Place to Call Home, and 27th and Lake: Industry and Transportation Infrastructure.
>> This tour helps foster a sense of historical identity while educating; encouraging the preservation of local historic sites; and promoting knowledge of the stories, events, and traditions of Lake St.
Maps and more at

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What does the life of one young climate activist look like?

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Marianna Hefte will be a junior at South High School this fall. She loves history and English; she competes in debate. She is 16 years old and, like many of her close friends and colleagues, has already been working on climate justice issues for years.
Hefte is part of a fast-growing youth movement for climate action. She said, “When I first learned about climate change as a 5th grader at Dowling Elementary School, I lost faith in humanity. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that activism is a remedy for hopelessness.”
Hefte began cultivating a spirit of activism that has grown steadily stronger over time.
She got involved in the local chapter of iMatter Youth, a group that advocates for city and state level climate policy. In 2018, her chapter wrote a comprehensive, 100% renewable electricity plan for the city of Minneapolis – and delivered it.
Along with other members of the youth movement MN Can’t Wait, Hefte sat with Governor Tim Walz on his third day in office last January – and presented a three-point platform to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state now, including the Minnesota New Green Deal.
As a member of the Green Tigers Environmental Club at South High School, Hefte went back to Dowling Elementary School last year and gave a presentation to second graders about climate change.
She said, “Talking to kids about climate change is really hard. In the future, I think we’ll take a more discussion-based approach to engaging kids on this issue.”

‘I want to make sure the city is working its hardest’
Most recently, Hefte has been a summer intern for Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson.
Her internship is part of a city of Minneapolis program called Step Up. The program connects youth ages 14-21 to internships in nearly 200 companies, public agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
Her internship has involved working with constituent concerns, researching health issues that impact residents of South Minneapolis like diabetes and the opioid epidemic, and drawing things out of the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan.
She said, “I want to make sure the city is working its hardest not to be reliant on fossil fuels. We only have about 10 years left to solve the biggest threat humanity has ever faced – and we have to make sure our solutions are equitable.”

South High plans demonstration for Sept. 20
Hefte has been inspired by the work of young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, creator of the Friday School Strikes that have been carried out in several countries around the world. Thunberg’s strategy is extremely straight forward. To the adults, she says, “If you aren’t going to do what you need to do to clean up our earth, then we aren’t going to do what we’re supposed to do – which is go to school.” View her TED Talk at Greta Thunberg: the disarming case to act right now on climate change.
Students at South High School will participate in an international strike day on Friday, Sept. 20 (follow details on Instagram.)
Hefte said, “At South, we’ll come to school in the morning and then, at a designated time, all of the strikers will leave school and take the train to the St. Paul Capitol for a rally from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.. I’m looking forward to that. I’m glad so many of my peers are joining this movement.
“We need to keep equity in mind when we organize. People from under-represented communities should be given space to lead these movements because climate change will not affect everyone equally; it will especially hurt people in low-income communities.”

Give your input
Marianna Hefte is one of 19 Minneapolis residents appointed by the City Council and the Mayor to serve on the Community Environmental Action Committee. Members offer advice on issues regarding the environment, climate change, and sustainable development.

The group meets the first Thursday of every month from 6-8 p.m. in different parts of the city. Meetings are always open to the public.

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 5 at Roosevelt Library (4026 S. 28th Ave.)

Email or call 612.673.3014 with questions.

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Trail-blazing female park keeper paved the way for others

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Longtime Nokomis Recreation Center’s Cindy Waelhoff Lidstone retires

Cindy Waelhoff Lidstone began her long career with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in September 1980, when she was hired as a park keeper trainee. Half a year later, she moved into a permanent position – and a park keeper she remained for just two months short of 39 years.
Lidstone’s first assignment was at South Minneapolis’ Pershing Field, where she worked for 22 years.
She said, “I was 23 when I started there, and only the sixth female park keeper in the history of the city. At the time, I was one of the youngest people on staff. By the time I retired on June 28 of this year, I was one of the oldest. I felt like I grew up in the park system, like we all grew up together.”
Robert Nielsen, an early co-worker, said, “Cindy always had a positive attitude and a great work ethic. I’m sure those helped her get through in the beginning, when the world of park maintenance was very much a man’s world. I know she had to prove herself along the way. She not only hung in there, she went on to open doors for other women to follow her as park keepers and crew leaders.”

“It was kind of scary at first, being so much in the minority.”
~ Cindy Waelhoff Lidstone

A park keeper has a long list of responsibilities but, in short, their job is to keep all aspects of their park looking clean and good throughout the year. That includes maintenance of park buildings, park grounds, athletic fields, and ice rinks – as well as helping park patrons to have a positive experience.
Lidstone said, “Things were very different back when I started; each park had a couple of telephones, but there weren’t any computers. I suppose nail guns had been invented, but we didn’t have one. When we put the ice rinks up, we pounded every nail in by hand.
“The work was very physical in all seasons, but we used to say, ‘The winters would make or break you.’ Working with ice is really hard.”

“Cindy was definitely a trailblazer for us women who followed in her footsteps. Along with the few other gals who survived, she paved the way for the rest of us. Cindy is a real trooper.”~ Former co-worker Mary Mattson

Seventeen years ago, Lidstone transferred to Lake Nokomis Park.
She said, “I grew up a stone’s throw from there. I eventually bought our family home, so I’m still close by. I walked the park grounds for all those years, and just got a cart right before I retired.”
There are plenty of reminders for Lidstone that nearly four decades have passed since she first donned a park uniform.
For starters, when she was a young park keeper there was no such thing as work clothing for women. She said, “We had to buy men’s steel toed boots, and work clothes that were cut and sewed for men. Everything was always a little too big.”
Lidstone claims she had no sense of being a role model for women in the 1980s. She said, “I just needed a job. I couldn’t live with mom and dad forever!”
As it turned out, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board employed half her family. She said, “My two brothers and I worked our whole careers there, and my son has joined the ranks, too. My sister worked as what was called a ‘park matron’ many years ago, helping the park keeper with cleaning jobs.”
Lidstone is still getting used to the new rhythm of retirement. As someone who has worked full-time since graduating from high school, it’s been an adjustment. While she may not miss the alarm clock going off at 5 a.m., she is grateful for her long tenure as park keeper with the Minneapoli Parks and Recreation Board.
She said, “This turned out to be the best job in the world for me. I learned new things every day, until the day I walked out the door.”

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