posted by B Wook
I expect that this picture dates from no later than the mid-1970s & that it is just at the opening for the day; Darrold is having an eyeopener, it is daylight out & a barstool is visible still up on the ledge beneath the window to the left of the front exit.
There is Culla, her boyfriend Johnny in back in the stocking cap & Darrold Nelsen, the redhaired Dane from the apartment upstairs. The AC is taped over above the bitty table at the end of the bar where we’d tuck in for cards, so it is Winter. That is at the street-end of the bar where, after work, Dutch & Grace, Emma, Pete & the other oldtime Riversiders who’d grown up there before the War played Yahtzee every night. Pete lived in Bloomington now & had a pretty long nightly (!) drive; Dutch & Grace were at home just across I-94, across from Augsburg.
Culla, herself, was born in a house on the South side of Murphy Square pulled down for the freeway & I do NOT remember her maiden name. She was married to some Norwegian, Nordin, who was a big broom in the Mpls Parks groundskeeping dept & then they divorced; Culla in our time lived on the Near Southside with Johnny Skapjak, who had worked for Nordin in the Parks Dept. Her one son (of two, I think?) was Jim Nordin; he ran for the City Council although I don’t remember in which ward, it might have been the West Bank 6th.
Jim Nordin owned the liquor store at E Lake St & Minnehaha and was killed in a holdup there by some Indians at the end of the 1970s. Culla was bitter and said that what made it worse was that “he’d always given them credit!” Johnny then went to work & died of a massive heart attack in the can at the Skol Liquor Store one night while I was in Morocco, in 1979 I think. Johnny was a canny pool player, Culla saw to it that he rinsed his marvelously white hair & his nickname among guys like Loren (from Bemidji), Dick Grinolds out of Albert Lea, Mn., “Red” Nelson, “Mongol” and “Tex” Hobbes, out of Fort Worth, Tx., was “Silver Fox”.
Johnny had grown up down in the Bohemian Flats where the U of M coalyards were in our day, below the Washington Av bridge & West across from & above the showboat. In Prohibition when very small he delivered “jugs” and as a teenager then ran numbers for some hoodlums * ; the Bohunks were poor immigrants who worked in the flour mills at least between the Spring floods. Johnny knew the Kmetz family & the Kmetz brother who was killed in a private plane crash while flying in the late 1950s. Again, I do not remember his name, but his daughter Elaine in Miss Simon’s 6th grade class in Minnehaha Elementary School in South Minneapolis was my first “serious” girlfriend; I could draw horses & THAT was my claim to fame with her!
(A couple of years later in 8th grade Elaine broke my heart by hopping on the back of a homemade motor scooter painted dark blue and with her name on it after 8th grade confirmation class one Saturday morning in the Fall in the Trinity Lutheran Church of Minnehaha Falls; the ninth-grade Finlander Paul Lake had made it & he drove all over with her on & with no license! Later, Paul ** was put in Glen Lake for joyriding in cars that didn’t belong to him; he really, really just plain liked good engines & well-made vehicles & I will just bet that he made out alright in the end, too!)
Culla always said to us that she would walk with her sister to the old footbridge to the U of M and look down the long flights of woodenstairs to the river & wonder about the people living “down there,” although they didn’t dare to actually go down the steps for fear of spankings. “Gee, Emmett,” she said, “my mother would just roll over in her grave if she knew I was LIVING with one!” She was Irish-Catholic & her nickname, Culla, came from a younger niece just learning to speak & who couldn’t say “Kathleen”.
* — To look up the details of the Bohunk underworld would be interesting; I wonder if they weren’t in with the Nordeast Italian Mafia, as opposed to the Kid Cann-Tommy Banks Jewish-Irish mob?
** — Christ, if anybody, but anybody, knows anything at all about either Elaine Kmetz or (what the Hell!) even Paul Lake, have them drop me a line!
[all rights revert to original holders
[15 September 2013]