Ramsey County History – Winter 2021: “Growing Up Along the Mighty Mississippi: The Great Depression Through the Eyes of a Young ‘River Rat'”
Growing Up Along the Mighty Mississippi: The Great Depression Through the Eyes of a Young “River Rat”
Author: Harriette Peterson Koopman, with Connie Koopman Pettersen
When Harriette Peterson Koopman was growing up during the Great Depression, she and her siblings were sometimes called “river rats” by classmates. The derogatory slur stung but faded over the years. However, cherished memories of the often difficult but adventure-filled time the Peterson family lived along the Mississippi River in St. Paul’s West Side Flats never faded. Koopman shared with her daughter, Connie Koopman Pettersen, the stories of living in a tar paper shack, fishing and playing in the muddy waters, quarantining when illness struck, and trying not to get into mischief. In 2008, the pair wrote a four-part series about the family’s river experiences for the Aitkin (MN) NewsHopper. Koopman passed away nearly a decade ago and is buried in Oakland Cemetery. Ramsey County Historical Society worked with her daughter to adapt the original tales for Ramsey County History magazine, even adding some tasty Depression-era family recipes for our readers’ enjoyment.
PDF of H. Peterson Koopman article