James Ferragut, Published August 22 2010
Ferragut: The good times in BeulandI’m pretty sure most people think the neighborhoods they grew up in were the best. I think that’s mostly because the filter of childhood memories has done its job.
My neighbor-hood really was the best. I was born in Duluth, Minn., where I lived for my first five years of life. We moved to Minneapolis and then my dad got transferred to Fargo. My first neighborhood was defined not only by wooded, suburban living, but also by architectural variety and the diversity of neighbors.
Dad made it clear that when we settled in Fargo he was going to find a good neighborhood. He did in a new addition called Beuland.
Beuland is east of University Drive between 14th and 15th avenues. It was unlike any other neighborhood in town. It was designed with boundaries without corners and right angles. Houses sat on a curved perimeter. It looked like a kidney.
The shape of the interior “block” was oval. The sidewalk and street that encircled the interior block was a loop. The neighborhood featured two oval-shaped parks, each with an old-fashioned streetlight in the middle. We called them The Islands.
On the boulevard in front of each house two Scottish pines were planted. Not an elm tree in sight.
Adding to the uniqueness of the neighborhood was the diversity of our neighbors. Across the street from our house was a doctor, next to him lived a Jewish merchant, next to him was the sales manager at WDAY TV, next to him was an engineer from Butler Machinery.
We had a mixed-race couple, a second doctor (who built a fallout shelter), a dentist, a World War II disabled American veteran who never attempted to hide his scarred shoulder wound, a family whose mother was from Great Britain (what a great accent) and, of course, the neighborhood trophy family: WDAY sportscaster Bill “Be a Good Sport” Weaver.
There were enough kids to fill out two baseball or football teams. Bikes raced around The Islands. Who would win the heats? Who would crash? Who would go home in tears?
The Islands were home bases for “kick the can.” They were meeting places first thing in the morning or after supper, when we planned our summer days or winter nights. We played tackle football in the snow or kickball in summer. And it was from The Islands that we launched slingshot attacks against our rivals, the 10th Street Gang.
If Kenny Ringuette hadn’t brought out a BB gun and popped Tommy Shanight in the forehead, who knows how long that feud would have lasted? But responsible parenting brought our “gang wars” to an end.
In Beuland, our parents knew each other. Our world was cocktail parties, dinner parties, barbecues, moms at home and kids at play. We were a neighborhood – alive and vibrant, safe, secure and so simple.
Looking back, memories still resonate clear and warm. But, of course, I remember a time that is as old and distant as a Charles Dickens novel.
Ferragut, a marketing consultant and executive, is a regular contributor
to The Forum’s commentary page.