The Mendacity of "Ope"

If there’s one thing Minnesotans can’t stand, it’s not being special. We hate the idea that we’re just like people anywhere else. For this reason, Minnesotans want so desperately to feel unique that we'll create idiosyncrasies out of whole cloth.

[From the Strib piece.]
Take for example "ope." According to local lore and trend pieces, "ope" is a thing Minnesotans say all the time. Alongside "grey duck", "uff da" and "hot dish", it's one of the rare cultural shibboleths. You can now buy special “ope” stickers on Minnesota-themed merchandise sites, etc.

Only I have never said "ope" and don't recall anyone else ever doing so either...

There was a great Star Tribune piece recently looking into this newfangled Minnesota saying, and the author discovers that "ope" originated in a schtick from a Kalamazoo radio station two years ago, so just like the coney dog, the whole “ope” thing is really from Michigan.

Anyway, the piece scratched the surface, but I dug more deeply into the internet archives. Here's your...

Great Minnesota "Ope" Timeline

1858 - 2009: Nobody in Minnesota is documented as saying "ope".

2009: First documented use of a Minnesotan using the word "ope" on the internet, on a message board about ice fishing.

2012: KDWB Dave Ryan viral Youtube video, “Shit Minnesotans Say”,  is chock full of Minnesotan sayings, but does not include “ope”.

(It later appears, however, in the comments.)

2014: City Pages article "20 things you say that make you a Minnesotan" does not include "ope".

Again, more recent comments take umbrage about the omission.

March 2017: A Buzzfeed article (based on the Kalamazoo thing) makes the bold claim that people in Michigan say “ope".

May 2017: A Buzzfeed article detailing Minnesotan sayings appears, but does not mention “ope”.

August 2017: The Give me The Mike blog makes a list of Minnesotan sayings, and DOES include “ope”.

“Ope!” = excuse me; as in, “Ope! Sorry, I just need to sneak past ya there.”

November 2017: A Minnesota sayings article from the Gustavus Adolphus newspaper does not mention “ope”

November 2017: A Huffington Post article on “ope” appears, but but does not mention Minnesota.

January 2018: City Pages has a story on Minnesotans saying "ope".
It's not something Minnesotans say so much as something they emit. 
Two people are in close quarters. One wants to get to a location that is beyond or next to the other. It does not matter if these people are complete strangers, close relatives, or frequent sex partners.  
"Ope!" says Minnesotan No. 1. "Just gonna' sneak right past ya here..." 
"Ope!" says Minnesotan No. 2, ostensibly to confess that he or she is actually the rude one, and is apologetic for having so inconsiderately occupied a volume of space on the Earth at the same time as Minnesotan No. 1.  
In this spirit, we at City Pages say: "Ope! Just gonna sneak right past ya and into the regional consciousness here..."  

Rest of 2018 - Present: The dam breaks completely. Believing it makes them unique, Minnesotans start saying “ope” and usage spikes. Folks then begin marketing the fact that they say "ope", and everyone chimes in as if we'd been saying "ope" the whole time.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. And "ope" is Minnesotan.

[Get yer Minnesota "ope" merch today.]


Notable Quotes #18: David Roshiem describes Summer Heat in 19th Century Minneapolis

In the Nineteenth Century, the summer heat was an unabated horror. Here is how it affected the Minneapolitans in the old city: "Little was done in the way of business except what was actually necessary. Clerks in the stores confined their principal attention to keeping cool -- a task that was as hopeless of fulfillment as it was specious in promises... Those whose duties took them upon the street dragged along the shady side as much as possible and tried to dodge the issue but couldn't... The only business that seemed to profit by the hot wave was the ice and saloon traffic. The ice men were dripping statues of happiness... At the saloons the principle article in demand was lemonade, plain or with variations." It was wretchedly hot in July. 
In those un-air-conditioned times, unrelieved heat was thought to cause mental derangement, to wit, the following case of a woman who lived in the Gateway district in 1880. 
"Mrs. M. E. Whitney, proprietess of the laundry at 218 South Washington Avenue, yesterday afternoon escaped from her room to which she has been confined for some time with an attack of typhoid fever. Her presence upon the street was noticed by Detective Hoy, who compelled her to return to her rooms. Last evening about 8 o-clock she again escaped and has not since been seen but once. When she left her home she was attired only in her night dress and an alarm was at once given to the police, who instituted a search which after several hours proved of no avail. Wm. Hannigan at a later hour reported that he saw the unfortunate woman in the vicinity of the Falls hotel, and that she was walking rapidly and directly toward the river. The supposition is that she has succeeded in committing suicide which has long been contemplated and once or twice attempted. Mrs. Whitney has been very unfortunate during a number of years past, and the life of a dissipated husband brought dissipation and disgrace to herself..." 
Mrs. Whitney responded indignantly, " I write to say that I am not in the river, neither have I been any nearer than I am at present, and if I were very DISSIPATED I could not support myself and family of six persons. I have been sick, or worse than sick, for four weeks, but I can prove by my help that I am not dissipated... You can call at my office and I can get plenty of proof that the whole thing is false excepting that I am sick, M. E. Whitney." 
Thus an authentic voice from the old Gateway responding to newspaper smears.

[From The Other Minneapolis, or A History of the Minneapolis Skid Row, by David L. Roshiem.]

[Minneapolis Bridge Square / Gateway, c. 1874.]


Memories of Maplewood's Park Schwinn Bike Shop

I reached out to my friend Mark Brauer about the photos I posted the other day, showing old pics of Saint Paul and Minneapolis bicycling from the 60s and 70s. He remembered vividly the shop in the first Star Tribune photo, posted above.

Here's what he had to say

I don't think, I know where this bike shop is. It's Park Schwinn when it was located at 2242 White Bear Ave in Maplewood, right near Hwy 36. The building is now a U-Haul location. 
That is Art Engstrom in the picture. 
Art and Howard "Howie" Hawkins started in the bike business at Hazel Park Bike on White Bear Ave just south of 7th St. I bought my first "racing" bike, a Schwinn Continental, there in 1963. It was only about a mile from my house and became my bike shop. I got everything there. One of my fondest memories is of the "all night bike ride" they led each summer. It started at midnight, wandered the streets of St Paul, and ended at dawn at at breakfast cafe. You would have loved it. And it was real excitement for a young teen. 
It was in that era that the seeds of Park Tool were forming with the invention by Art, Howie, and their mechanic Jim Johnson of a clamp for bike work stands. Howie's son Eric continues to lead Park Tool's success. That story is well documented in the links below. 
Anyway, at some point they outgrew the small storefront in Hazel Park and built a new building farther north on White Bear Ave. That's where the picture you sent was taken. And that was where I bought my first "real" racing bike, a Peugeot PX10 just like Eddie Merckx rode in the Tour de France.  
Art and Howie also expanded, opening other Park Schwinn shops, one of which became Mendota Bike on Hwy 110, where Mike and Dan got their starts in the bike industry.  John also worked there for a time. I carried on the tradition and bought my next racing bike, a Trek OCLV Carbon, a couple of years before Lance Armstrong made that model famous by winning the Tour de France on one. 
The original Hazel Park bike shop actually lives on today as Gateway Cycle. Park Schwinn was sold to an employee who first moved it to a location on White Bear Ave across from Maplewood Mall, and then with a new name to it's current spot near Century Ave and Hwy 36.* 
This video has numerous pics of the shop at 2242 White Bear, both inside and out. There are also shots of the original Hazel park store. [video appended at end of this post] 

* I must point out that Gateway Cycle, having inherited all the bike shop stuff going way back to Hazel Park Bike, still has a wealth of old small parts that other shops can just dream about. I have gone there a few times knowing they are likely to have some odd part that hasn't been made for decades. And if you talk to the owner, he knows just what you are asking for, and even lets you help look through the parts drawers. The only other local shop that had the same kind of parts depth was the original Penn Cycle. I don't know the status of Penn's old parts stash since Freewheel took over.

Wild to think about what the bike scene was like back then. In some ways things haven't changed at all. Bicyclists are still marginalized and infrastructure neglected. In other ways, things are a lot different.

Thanks Mark!


60s and 70s Bicycle Photos from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Archives

I was in the Minnesota Historical Society Gale Library the other day and came across a folder in the old Star and Tribune photo archive marked "bicycling".

Here's what I found!

The well-tanned woman -- probably in her 60s -- told the owner of a St. Paul bicycle store that she was looking for a bike for her granddaughter.

It took some coaxing on Art Engstrom's part to convince her to try riding a few models ("Well, O.K., if you promise not to laugh at me"). She took at few wobbly spins around the parking lot and then reluctantly admitted that the bike was for herself, not for her granddaughter. August 8, 1971.

Fred Seebach rides his bicycle religiously. He pedals to church.

He also pedals about 22 miles daily to and from work. And he admits to riding it for fun as well.

"I'm only 16 years old when I'm on that thing," said Seebach, 52, in an interview this week.

Seebach is among a growing number of Minneapolis employees taking their bikes to work. The evidence is increasing numbers of bicycle racks installed around town.

Some of the more recent are on the plaza of the First National Bank of Minneapolis. July 18th, 1972.

Cyclists proceed against one-way auto traffic on a University Campus Street.

Two bicyclists ran a red light on busy University Av. and, without signaling, swung left onto 14th. Av. SE.

"Get over," yelled a motorist at the two cyclists who were taking up most of the narrow road.

Then there was the bicyclists using an entrance to the Highway 35W bridge as an exit ramp. July 18, 1972.

Donald M. Spencer (left) puts his bike away in one of several racks around the plant. Others shown: Donald J. Smith and Tony Grabowske. January 9, 1966.

Mrs. Estelle Peterson, 5012 Washburn Av. St., has ridden her bicycle around Lake Harriet for 34 years. She is the window of Edward Peterson, who was a Minneapolis businessman. She learned to ride a bike shortly after her marriage.

Mrs. Peterson still uses her original bicycle occasionally, although she now has a second, which she "inherited" from a nephew.  October 8, 1962,

Lynn Thesenga, 3 (left) and her younger sister Wendy, 1, got all the enjoyment of riding down the River Road on bicycles but without any work. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Thesenga, 3729 44th Av. S., provided the power. August 10th, 1967.

Saddle baskets and tourist bags.

Wheelers and others on a fine day at Lake Harriet. May 7, 1969.


Twin City Doorways #50

 [Summit Hill, Saint Paul.]

 [St. Anthony Park, Saint Paul.]

  [St. Anthony Park, Saint Paul.]
  [St. Anthony Park, Saint Paul.]

 [Rondo, Saint Paul.]

 [Milwaukee, WI.]

  [Milwaukee, WI.]

 [Milwaukee, WI.]