Medard Prosper’s journey(5×8 – 4/19/12)

A story after death, the great flood of ’97, the end of St. Paul department stores, why there was no Pulitzer for fiction, and a Coney Island love letter.


1) MEDARD TELLS HIS OWN STORY

We’ll likely never know why Medard Prosper jumped out of a car on the Mendota Bridge when its tire blew last week. But we know a bit more about Prosper’s journey from war in the Congo to Minnesota, and we know it from the words of Prosper himself. He was to be honored by the Children’s Defense Fund with a scholarship and laptop and had made a video with his story, which he’s now telling.

2) THE GREAT FLOOD OF ’97

It hardly seems like 15 years, but it was 15 years ago today that a flood led to a fire that destroyed a large area of Grand Forks. The city was flooded, but there was no water to fight the fire. Here’s some video of the scene, which we put together for a 2007 retrospective on one of the worst floods in the history of the Red River Valley.

3) THE END OF DOWNTOWN’S BIG RETAIL?

Downtown Saint Paul must have really been something in its downtown retail heyday.

If a shopper couldn’t find something in one store, he/she just had to walk across the street. It was a city of department stores…

The Emporium, which was at Seventh and Robert Street, right on the streetcar line…

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Mannheimer Brothers Department Store was on Sixth…

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The Golden Rule Department Store was at Seventh and Robert…

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Between a lousy retail environment and light-rail construction, it’s hardly surprising that St. Paul’s Macy’s will start closing on Sunday, a move that could affect literally tens of shoppers.

The store will also begin closing at 6 p.m., which constitutes “staying open late” for downtown Saint Paul businesses.

The Pioneer Press reports…


Does the move signal bigger changes ahead for the downtown St. Paul institution? Some analysts have speculated that the struggling downtown store is likely to close after 2012, when a 10-year deal with the city of St. Paul expires.

The smart money knows the answer. The store was rarely filled with shoppers even when light-rail construction didn’t have a giant “Go away!” sign for potential customers, and a city investment in the store required it to stay open until the end of 2012.

The city is in a bad spot. It can’t really have a public conversation on what to do with a closed department store when it hasn’t closed yet.

But we can. What would you like to see happen with the property?

(Photos via Minnesota Historical Society)

4) WHY THERE WAS NO PULITZER FOR FICTION

You know what would make a good book? A story about judges for the Pulitzer Prize who make their picks for the finest novel, only to have the bureaucracy undo their work and award no prize at all.

It would be non-fiction. Judge Maureen Corrigan lifts part of the shroud of secrecy on how it happened in the Washington Post:


Here are some suggestions for change, all my own: One solution– the obvious one — would be to let the jury who reads through the 300-odd works of fiction make the final decision as to the winner. We were invited to serve on the jury because we’re recognized as being, in some way, literary experts. Why, then, turn the final decision over to a board primarily composed of non-literary folk?

If that sounds too elitist, here’s another suggestion: If the board, which received our three nominations in early December, is unhappy with the jury’s choices, then why not request that the jury put forward alternative selections?

And, finally, how about changing the rules so that the winner is determined by a plurality, rather than a majority of votes on the board. (And — Hello! — given that there are 18 voting members of the Pulitzer board, perhaps one more body should be added to break any potential ties.)

5) A CONEY ISLAND LOVE LETTER

If you could make a love letter documentary to your youth, what would be your Coney Island?

Bonus: The 21 worst things in the world (BuzzFeed)

TODAY’S QUESTION

Law enforcement agencies are planning saturation patrols today to enforce laws against distracted driving. Distraction is blamed as a contributing factor in one of four vehicle crashes in Minnesota. Today’s Question: What distracts you most while you’re driving?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: This American Life was forced to retract its most popular show ever after it was discovered that Mike Daisey’s monologue regarding working conditions in Apple’s Foxconn factory in China had been partially fabricated. Marketplace correspondent Rob Schmitz uncovered the story after a one phone call, prompting many people to ask about This American Life’s fact-checking process, as well as what counts as journalism. Schmitz is the guest.

Second hour: The value of a law degree.

Third hour: Lonnie Dupre and Ann Bancroft on their explorations.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Westminster Town Hall Forum with Parker Palmer. In his newest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, he explores America’s political tensions and suggests ways to rebuild a democracy that serves the common good.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: TBA

Second hour: Bill Clegg joins guest host John Donvan to talk about his book, “Ninety days, a memoir of recovery”

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - The University of Minnesota music school stages the first production of “Parables” this month. The opera is examination of the concept of tolerance among Jews, Muslims, Christians. MPR’s Dan Olson will have the story.

How much do you really know about the food you eat? How safe is it? How healthy is it? NPR begins a series looking at the health, science and growing of what we eat.

  • Dave S.

    Regarding #5, my first thought was Excelsior Amusement Park (a worthy choice indeed), but the more I thought about it, the more I leaned toward going to Watertown, SD for the 4th of July when I was a little squirt. My Dad’s family lived there, and they were the nicest, warmest relatives you could ever want. They had a little cottage on Lake Kampeska, and we would all go out there and barbecue and set off fireworks. Down the shore, there was a big old dance hall called Stoney Point. Most of the building was in disuse by then, but the bar was still open. I used to walk down there and buy candy and play the jukebox. If you timed the button-pushing right, you could make it play one song after another on one nickel. The people and places are long-gone, but it sure would be nice to go back, or even have them captured on video.

  • http://ofbuckleyandbeatles.wordpress.com/ Drae

    What will be sad if St. Paul’s Macy’s closes is that it will also mean The River Room will close – the restaurant on the first floor. It’s a beautiful room and the menu is good. It is among the first handful of restaurants to be placed in a department store, so there is an added sense, for me, of losing a little bit of our history. (The first restaurant in a department store was The Walnut Room in Chicago’s Marshall Field’s followed closely by Dayton’s Oak Grill in Minneapolis and The River Room.)

    I think it used to be a bigger deal to go shopping downtown, but between suburban malls and the internet, most people don’t want to bother traveling all the way into downtown (Minneapolis or St. Paul) to do their shopping. People do their downtown shopping when they are already downtown working.

  • Jackie

    Hey Bob – you are missing the Woolworth’s that used to be just around the corner from MPR. It was a two story deal with a lunch counter. Unfortunately the only time that I visited it was during its “Going out of Business” sale.