Knack for Knowing Things: Stories from St. Paul Neighborhoods and Beyond
For thirty-six years, Don Boxmeyer wrote about St. Paul and Minnesota, first as a reporter for the St. Paul Dispatch and St. Paul Pioneer Press, and for over two decades as a columnist for the Pioneer Press. During that time, he traversed the city and state and gained an intimate knowledge of its people, places, and traditions.
A Knack for Knowing Things brings together in book form the best of his writing and demonstrates his talents as a master storyteller with plain-spoken, intimate prose.
After more than fifteen years of covering hard news, writing a newspaper column gave Boxmeyer the freedom to tell stories of more than just the politicians and the famous. “I realized that the interesting people and places nobody ever wrote about held more fascination for me, and for my readers, than all the governors, mayors, and city council members who never seemed to be much persuaded by my opinions anyhow. I began to collect hermits and hobos, bare-knuckled bar brawlers and bread-baking nuns, short order cooks and hockey coaches, drake mallards named Jake, and bridge tenders, band directors, bear hunters, and quiet old men who wept softly when we talked about the friends they’d left on the battlefield.”
Many of the places Boxmeyer writes about are gone now, except in the memories and hearts of the people who grew up there—Swede Hollow, the West Side Flats, Rondo Avenue, and the Upper Levee. These lost neighborhoods of St. Paul, ethnic enclaves on the West Side, the East Side, along the Mississippi River bank, and in the heart of the city, were razed over fifty years ago. Fortunately for us, Boxmeyer preserves their memory for posterity.
The final chapter in the book is about a special place in the heart of the author: Ashby—a real place, a town of less than 500 out in the rolling, open prairie land of west-central Minnesota. It is where Boxmeyer can be found each spring and each autumn, with his friends and with his sons, fishing, hunting, and just happily hanging out as living proof that everyone needs an Ashby.
- By: Don Boxmeyer
- Format: Cloth,Paperback, 224 pp., 5.5 x 8.75 in.
- Publisher: MHS Press 2003 (Paperback edition Feb. 15, 2017)
- Cloth ISBN: 978-0873514651
- Paperback ISBN: 9781681340562
“Don Boxmeyer is one of Minnesota’s great storytellers. He seems to know everything and everybody and writes the way most of us only wish we could. A Knack for Knowing Things is an irresistible sampling of Boxmeyer’s work, and it’s like the best booya you ever had, stirred by the hands of a master.” — Larry Millett, author of Lost Twin Cities and The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes
“What Royko is for Chicago, Don Boxmeyer is for St. Paul. No one has better chronicled the city’s quirky, sometimes noble, always authentic characters than he.” — George Latimer, former mayor of St. Paul
Don Boxmeyer wrote for the St. Paul Dispatch and St. Paul Pioneer Press for over three and a half decades. Now retired, he lives in St. Paul. This is his first book.