Friday, May 10, 2013

Literary Dream Tour, Part 6: Betsy-Tacy in Minneapolis

The book as I knew it
I've been dragging my feet on this last post, but after dumping a new book after reading only one paragraph, I figured the time was now. As I've always said, why read historical fiction, if you could read something by someone who actually lived it? Someone like Maud Hart Lovelace?

Last post I filled you in on the Betsy-Tacy houses and doings in "Deep Valley" (a.k.a. Mankato), Minnesota, but, as all readers know and mourn, after "Betsy" graduated high school the "Ray" family left Deep Valley and moved to Minneapolis, never to return!

While the Rays' house, which Betsy lived in for all of one week after Betsy and the Great World, now lies under a park, I was happy to learn it was the only house that no longer exists. It also surprised me how nearby the other Betsy houses were. You could see how Betsy and Joe could walk home on those clear winter nights.
The Bow Street Apartment!
Remember the darling place Margaret finds them in Betsy's Wedding? Here is the very building! Of course MHL changed the street names, but from this angle you can see the upstairs bay window that looked out into the elm, and by which MHL wrote.

Another view of the inspiring window
 Of course, after "Aunt Ruth" came to live with them, the Willards needed more spacious digs, and they moved to the "Canoe Street" House:

With a porch big enough to dance on!
I had my own adventure in front of the Canoe Street House--remind me never to buy a Chevy Malibu because I couldn't see a thing out the back window. Which meant, when I was parallel parking, I didn't spy the parked car behind me. Didn't even know it existed until the telltale CRUNCH!! There was a pedestrian eyewitness who minded his own business and walked on, and my nine-year-old asked why we didn't just drive off, but you'll be pleased to learn I left a note on the windshield, torn from my rental car map of Minnesota. Honesty was rewarded when the owner called me a couple days later to say, Never mind about it. It doesn't look that bad. That's just part of living in the city. Did I mention how I love Minnesotans???

The things I go through, for Betsy.

We also stopped by the Violent Study Club house on Aldrich, where they had such fun until the insufferable Rocky came and ruined everything with his blow-hardness. (Sorry about the picture quality--had to take it on the phone.)

If you're ever in Minneapolis and want to see the Betsy sites, addresses can be found here. There were more houses even than we got to, but these are the book sites.

Neither MHL nor the fictional Betsy spent all that long at the University of Minnesota, but we did a campus drive-by for the sake of those few months and walked across the bridge over the Mississippi connecting the two chunks of campus. Surely she or Delos Lovelace did too, at some point...?

I learned later that this was the very bridge from which poet and U of M professor John Berryman jumped to his death in 1972, so wherever you go in Minnesota, you travel in the footsteps of famous literary folk.

Speaking of which, with all the hoopla of Baz Luhrmann's new version of The Great Gatsby, imagine the thrill when we headed over to St. Paul's historic Summit Avenue neighborhood to lay eyes on the house where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote This Side of Paradise.

Love this cover!

The thirteen-year-old wouldn't bother to get out of the car and come look, so here's what she missed:

Note this particular child's awe
Not only that, but just down the block was a neighbor with one of those giant metal chickens. A two-fer, sightseeingwise!

You wondered who bought them, and now you know.

And finally, I end our Literary Dream Tour with Fitzgerald's neighbor, easily in trick-or-treat range. Sinclair Lewis was the author of Main Street, Babbitt, and Elmer Gantry, which got made into a 1960 Burt Lancaster movie.

Now that's a movie poster!
The Lewis Domicile
In a fit of zeal I downloaded Lewis' Main Street to my Kindle, but I didn't make it through. It all went downhill, interest-wise, after the unhappy female protagonist throws her crazy "Chinese" party. Don't ask. Whatever grudge Sinclair Lewis bore Minnesota and Minnesotans, I don't sympathize. I loved every minute and look forward to going back in the future. Shine on, Star of the North!


  1. Hi Christina,

    I don't know whether you knit or not, but I do know you like Laura Ingalls Wilder and thought you'd find this interesting: Have a great day!

    Judy S. (who reads your blog and sings in the choir at you know where)

    1. Judy-- What a fabulous link and article! Really enjoyed it. I am completely uncrafty, but I still enjoyed this unthought-of perspective. The gift shop in Walnut Grove hasn't thought of marketing Little House knitting patterns yet...