Ramsey County History – Fall 2006: “Memories of Frogtown in the 1930s”

James R. Brown

Memories of Frogtown in the 1930s
Author: James R. Brown

Poet and playwright James Brown relates vignettes of the life of his family in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood during the 1930s. It was a community that was a mixture of public schools, churches, bars, and gambling houses, with a diverse group of inhabitants. Brown draws a delightful portrait filled with interesting stories of the people he met as an African-American child in a predominately white community. He lays out his neighborhood and school experiences—some of them positive and some of them not. There is a short description of the nearby Rondo neighborhood that was the heart of the African-American business and residential area at the time.

The main thrust of the story begins on the day of his birthday one August day when he expected a party but, instead, was taken on a drive with his father, hoping to go to a movie. It was the first time he was allowed to wear long pants and felt proud as he met neighborhood characters, visited a nearby family, played catch, and spent time at a barber shop. He watched and listened as the men talked, played dice and checkers, and was worried about how long his father was taking. It turned out there was a surprise party waiting for him as well as the new bicycle that he had been hoping to get. It was a great lesson in understanding, realizing his father knew what he was doing all along, and how much love there was in his family.
PDF of Brown article