Ramsey County History – Fall 2007: “Growing Up in St. Paul: Frogtown’s Arundel Street”

James R. Brown

Growing Up in St. Paul: Frogtown’s Arundel Street
Author: James R. Brown

Driving through his old neighborhood brought back memories to James Brown, especially while he was looking at the Edmund Street home where he lived in the 1920 and ‘30s. One of his recollections was about climbing up a ladder and breaking his arm when he fell. Another was sharing the back seat of the car with bossy sisters. The family car took him on trips to look at downtown stores, Como Park, and Phalen Lake, Ft. Snelling, and Minneapolis. The author goes into details on making friends and often dealing with prejudiced whites at school or in the neighborhood. A lengthy section of this memoir tells the tale of getting one of his sister’s prize marbles back from a bully. He did it by teaming up with “Tomboy,” an athletic girl who won it back by arm wrestling. Brown, a poet and playwright, concludes the article with a section entitled “Learning about Life,” hearing about the troubles faced by African Americans throughout the country while he shined shoes at a barber shop in the Rondo neighborhood. He described the barbershop education as “candid and brutal,” usually learned from railroad workers who shared their experiences. It changed his “happy-go-lucky” outlook on life to one that included an understanding of prejudice after learning “the shocking truth about what being black truly meant here in these United States.”
PDF of Brown article