Park Street Cultural Tour
One of the students later wrote about sleeping at Space Place the previous night: “I was able to rest down in my sleeping bag feeling a very strong sense of security in South Madison with the Park Street corridor surrounding where I was sleeping and the quiet humming of cars on the street itself.”
After breakfast we stayed for two presentations. First, we learned about labor unions from two members of the AFL-CIO Labor Temple across the street from where we spent the night. Next we listened to Eugene Parks, who lived just around the corner from where we interviewed him, a former Madison affirmative action officer, and former member of the city council, the first person of color to be elected to public office in Madison or Dane County.
We split up into two groups so that we’d fit into Quality Ace Hardware and Oriental Shop, two of the many longtime small businesses on Park Street, where we learned about their close connections with their customers.
We walked a half mile to the home of a student where we interviewed her mom about her family day care business. Next we talked to her dad about the chicken coop he built and their Chicken Underground group who defied city ordinances to raise chickens. Then we ate lunch, played in the back yard, and held baby chicks.
We walked along back streets and railroad tracks to Quann Community Gardens where we looked at the many garden plots and talked with some of the neighbors who gardened there. At nearby Tropical Fish World we saw thousands of fish, especially angelfish, that Dick Le Beck raised in 600 aquariums.
Our final stop was at the Multicultural Center. We asked them about their mural and their programs, ate dinner with community members, and helped clean tables, wash dishes, and sweep the floors afterwards.
For many weeks thereafter we analyzed what we observed on Park Street and revised our notes for this web site.
Student Observations >>
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AFL-CIO Labor Temple
We interviewed Scott Vaughn, the president of the fourteen trade unions, and Mary Watrud, who is a journey person and a steamfitter. A steamfitter is someone who installs and repairs steam pipes.
A labor union is a union where workers can get together and talk about problems at work and if they need to, strike or go picketing.
The labor union on Park Street serves all the people in South-Central Wisconsin.
Not many women or minorities were in labor unions before 1970. Now there are many more.
The labor unions are struggling right now. Many people are doing service jobs instead of manufacturing jobs.
An apprenticeship is when you learn from someone that is already skilled and while you learn you earn money.
Starting a union is risky because one out of ever four people that start them lose their jobs.
Labor unions don’t lay low
They fight for what’s right
With strikes, picket lines, and so
They don’t lay low
They fight for what’s right.
Eugene Parks has lived in Madison his whole life. He was raised in the Park Street corridor. Eugene was born in a time of great discrimination against blacks. They had limited places they could go, meaning there were only certain places blacks could live.
Eugene told us, “Every neighborhood is special. Including all of yours. Because you and your family and friends live there and benefit the city. Everyone’s neighborhood is a great place to be. Everyone’s neighborhood has its disadvantages and advantages.”
The Park Street community has changed a lot in twenty years. Now there are stores run by African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Caucasians. When urban renewal came, he had to move with his family to an all-white community. It was hard but they helped integrate that community.
Eugene likes to read. He doesn’t need television to be entertained. He told us a saying, “The library is the temple of learning.”
“If you walk up and down Park Street you will find businesses run by all different kinds of people: Japanese, Latino, Chinese, Caucasian, Black, and European-American, and still many more. The Greenbush neighborhood has every different kind of culture you can imagine.”
The voice that draws you in.
Coming from within.
That you hear very day.
We hear you.
We hear you
Quality Ace Hardware
1201 South Park Street
Our hosts were Sara, Derek, and Brandon. They all worked here full time.
The purpose of this store is to help people with home repairs.
Their goal was to get customers in and out of the store fast, conveniently, and happy. They give discounts to neighbors so they come back.
The store is not only a hardware store, it is also a community gathering place. People say, “Meet me at Ace Hardware.” The staff see some people all the time, and they form a relationship with those people.
Ace Hardware is also called Quality Ace Hardware. It’s been here for about thirty years. It was a really awesome place to go to.
The basement (where we spent most of our time) has plumbing equipment, hoses, lawn mower parts, chains on rolls, and it’s where they keep the back-up stock in case anything runs out. It’s also where they fix screens and window panes.
There are many things you learn when you become an Ace employee, like the difference between steel and iron and the safety rules for cutting glass, but most importantly communication skills and how to be friendly towards customers.
From chains to bolts
Light paint to dark paint
Metal to glass
From hinges to handles
But just one type of store (awesome)
1029 South Park Street
We walked in the pouring rain and when we got there it was sunny in the shop and Tamaki and another person were making paper cranes to welcome us.
A lot of people volunteer there because the owner, Tamaki, is so nice.
Tamaki came to the United States when she was twelve with her family.
The owner’s name is Tamaki Wu. She was born in Japan. She has owned the Oriental Shop for twenty-five years.
Fresh fish comes every other Saturday. They sell small crystals to huge crystals in the back part. Some crystals they do not sell because they are supposed to calm the customers as they come in the area.
The Oriental Shop is a tiny little Japanese shop right on Park Street. The aisles are narrow and the products packed in as tight as possible.
All the products the shop has are Asian. Asian ceramics, candy, chili sauce, teriyaki sauce, and soy sauce. Red beans, black beans, pinto beans. A lot of rice is there, along with cashews, walnuts, peanuts, and almonds. They have a lot of different kinds of wasabi, plus fish such as sole, salmon, and swordfish. They have different kinds of beef, poultry, and pork, plus scallops, shrimp, mussels, and other seafood. They have many different kinds of vegetables, some that we would see in a regular American grocery store, and some that are exotic.
Crystals all around
I turn around
And there it is
Origami being folded
The garden all
What a beautiful place
You walk in
The shop seems so small
You look around
Crystals, Japanese lollipops
What more could you find
In such a
402 West Lakeside St.
When we entered Lakeside Fibers, I was in awe. Those radiant colors of yarn and fibers. The brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. The warm, subdued greens, blues, and purples. The antique furniture, the welcoming people
Balls of string. That’s the first thing I saw when I went into Lakeside Fibers. There were big shelves full of baskets of colorful string, yarn, silk, and other things. A table in the middle of the first room was piled with knitted bags and purses, and bags of shiny scarves.
When I went inside, I blinked my eyes. There was so much color.
Our hosts were Kristi and Kathleen. They told us that if you are a beginner, you should start out knitting a scarf or a sweater. They recommend going to knitting classes.
We went downstairs and saw a twelve-foot loom! It was so big that it had to be controlled by mechanical devices.
The front room is where they sell wool, cotton, silk, embroidery floss, etc. They try to sell all-organic fibers but they have a few non-organic fibers like the fancy, sparkly stuff.
In the back room there are a lot of looms and yarn used for weavings. Pedals lift the harnesses so you can make different patterns in your weaving. When the harness goes up, you slide the weft yarn between the lifted-up part of the warp and the bottom part. The warp goes on the loom first and the weft makes the pattern. The next step is to take your foot off the pedals and beat the weft so all the stitches are tight and close together.
The loom in the basement creates weavings that have been displayed internationally.
Knitting at Lakeside Fibers is a good way for some people to have a sense of community.
I remember so vividly the wood architecture in that back room. The way that the fibers, thread, and yarn were organized really complimented the style of that room.
In the basement is where the twelve-foot loom is kept. The small looms take a day to prepare. This one takes much longer than that, three or four days if two people work nonstop. It is an electric loom, run by computer. There are six pedals on it, so the weaver can tell the loom computer what to do. It would take a very, very long time to weave something if it wasn’t run by computer.
When you enter these rooms
You see colors
That brighten you up
They are sorted in great detail
Colors that go with each season
And there’s a back room
Where these colors are weaved
Into each other
With designs that just go
And they are used by the maker
Or sold to someone in the world
Or given to the poor
And it makes the world
One foot over the threshold
Then the other
Entering a parallel universe
Miles of rainbow colored yarn
Roll after roll
String yarn and thread
A spinning wheel
Millions of looms
Lovely weavings on the walls
A complete rainbow
The Chicken Underground is a group of people who raise chickens in coops in their backyards.
It all started for the Robinsons when they found that some of their friends had chickens! Cheryl and John thought the idea interesting and decided to get some.
One year John built a cozy-looking coop for the hens (John is giving classes on how to build chicken coops). It can fit up to five adult chickens. It does look cozy, if you’re a chicken.
The coop is about four feet wide and four feet long. There are two levels. On the bottom level there is straw on the ground, and branches for perches. On the second level is a nest house, a lot more straw on the ground then on the first level. In the back on the right hand side of the coop, there are two, white eggs
People used to not be allowed to have a coop, but they could have chickens, and if the neighbors complained, then you had to get rid of the chickens.
So, many of the people who owned chickens and formed a group. “I don’t know who came up with the name, the Chicken Underground, but we all liked it, and that’s what we became,” said John. They wanted to change some chicken laws.
Now chicken underground isn’t underground anymore. It’s above ground because they won the trials. Now they can have up to four chickens in a coop outside without getting in trouble with the law.
Now it’s legal to have four chickens in a coop but you can’t slaughter the chickens. Cheryl and John have chickens that lay an egg each day. They thought it would be good for their kids to know that you don’t just go buy food at the grocery store, but that you get it from nature.
After lunch we held the chicks. I held one that was reddish-brown, black, and white. It had a light yellow beak. Some of the chicks have names. Rosemary got Captain Black Beak. I held the smallest of them, which I thought of as “Cherry” because of the red.
[The chicks] were so tiny and soft and most of them fell asleep in your hand. Now a lot of us want chickens.
The chicks are soft and warm. Their down is fluffy and satiny. They try hard to peck you, but you don’t feel a thing.
Chick, chick, chick
Cluck, cluck, cluck
Chicks in my hand
Comfortable with my hand over them
They fall asleep
Nestled in my hands!
Like a rooster,
Like an egg.
Their bright orange beaks,
Clucking at everything
Lying in the well-built coop
A finger goes through the bars
They peck it, and strut away
On our tour we talked to Cheryl Robinson to learn about the Family Daycare. Cheryl said that family daycare centers have been going on since women have been working.
When I step through the door, it’s quiet. Nap time. Depending on the day, there are one to seven kids in the house. The kids arrive at 8:00 am and leave at 4:30 or around that time. At first I felt grown-up to have those kids staring at me, but I got used to it.
My mom runs a family daycare at our house. Every day when I get home from school, about seven little one to four year olds greet me. At first I felt like the big kid, but after about three months I got used to it, and so did they.
On the porch on hot days they have water activities and the sensory table. In the sensory table Cheryl puts wool, water, toys beans, rice, flour. The daycare children touch and feel (sometimes eat) the things in the sensory table, hence the name.
At my mom’s daycare, she basically always serves organic food. She does this because she thinks that kids should know that their food does not just come from the grocery store. She makes their bread and pizza, and when she does go to the grocery store, she buys organic food.
In the backyard there is water play, sprinkler tag, etc. Outdoor recreation.
At pick-up time the parents like to talk to each other and hang out. A family daycare is a household community
Room to play,
Things to see,
Things to touch,
Isn’t daycare fun?
Quann Community Gardens
Quann Community Gardens is a gardening area by Park Street. Many cultures garden there. Some Hmong garden there. They grow plants that the other gardeners don’t know of.
Richard Davis has a plot. He grows vegetables there but he also grows other things. The Boys and Girls Club grows things also. Every year they grow red roses for peace.
The purpose of community gardens is to let organic food lovers grow organic food, to let you garden more than you can at your house, and so that people with less money can still garden.
Quann has been around for three years. It has ninety-six plots. It is the second largest community gardens in Madison.
The plots are the patches in which gardeners garden. The plots are twenty-two by twenty feet. Quann tries to provide raised beds for the gardeners with back problems or wheel chair. The community garden also donates free food to food pantries so that people can have fresh vegetables and fruit.
Garlic, mustard, mint, and artichoke aren’t allowed because they germinate very far and fast and people don’t want other people’s plants to take over their own.
To become a member you must put in six hours of work. Some of that work can include being in a committee. There are committees for many things, for example there was one for actually making the garden which most people who garden here were part of. Those people got two plots.
The Hmong gardens are all close by each other because it makes them feel at home. You see lots of exotic vegetables when you look at a Hmong garden.
The Hmong farmers say they don’t need to weed. The reason is: they come almost every day and watch so carefully none ever come. If a plot gets too weedy, the committee in charge of it leaves a note saying to clear up the weeds.
For people who don’t bring tools, there is a tool shed. Everyone that is part of Community Gardens knows the combination for the lock.
The straw is provided by a committee. The dirt is brought by the truckload and people take what they need. The seeds and such come directly from a farmer. It’s nice that way so they pay her/him directly.
Community Gardens is not just a place to garden. It is a good place to get to know people.
Tropical Fish World
1529 Gilson Street
We walked to the neon-blue store/angelfish breeding shop on May 14, in the bitter cold. We were greeted by a warm burst of humid air the second we walked in the door. Dick LeBeck, the owner, told us that he started breeding fish over thirty years ago as a hobby. He also said he only raised salt-water fish except for goldfish. He specializes in angelfish.
It smells like the ocean completely. I went to Florida and to the ocean a lot and it smells exactly like that.
In the back of the store, where the tanks are, he grows worms for the fish to eat. One kind that he had was the micro-worm which he grew in some gross oatmeal-colored mixture. The other kind of worm was the white worm. It is bigger than the micro-worm but still easy for the angelfish to swallow.
When we walked in, Nikki, Sara, and Jay’s glasses all steamed up from the humidity. Before Mr. Le Beck told us, I thought Tropical Fish World was a place where people buy fish as pets. But it’s actually a place where he breeds tropical fish and goldfish. With all of the tanks, brightly colored fish, and small amount of lighting, nobody cold guess that the place was once a banana store, the back rooms of which had eight-foot-long bunches of bananas hanging from the ceiling. And the smell. It was an interesting combination of dead fish, algae, mod, and old dog food.
He told us about the breeding. He had to keep the temperature at seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit otherwise the fish wouldn’t hatch.
Dick Le Beck likes to raise food for his fish. He has Grindel worms for some of the bigger fish. They look like transparent string. For the fish that can’t eat the Grindel worms, he has tiny worms. They are in a dish of some kind of mush that looks like very milky oatmeal. When you look closely, you can see the surface glittering and moving so fast, and they are so small, that you cannot see individual worms.
Dick Le Beck has worked in Tropical Fish World for forty years and has six hundred aquariums. He raises angelfish from the Amazon in most of his aquariums. But some of his aquariums contain red tail sharks or albino red tails sharks (not really sharks), goldfish, koi, a lung fish (a big fish that looks like a short eel), Daphnia (fish food), electric catfish, algae eating catfish (for clearing algae off walls) and a few others.
The reason it was so hot was because there were some newborns and they have to balance the temperature so the fish can live and survive.
The baby angelfish looked like tadpoles and were about as big as the lead that you see on a sharpened pencil. There were about sixty of them. After we looked at the babies, we saw a twenty-five year old African lung fish. It was in a dark corner at the edge of the warehouse. It was probably about one and half feet long and it looked like an eel.
Did you know that if you didn’t take angelfishes’ baby eggs out, the parents will eat them!
I want to become an ichthyologist, a person who studies fish, so the Tropical Fish World was a really inspiring experience. In the pretty short time we were there I decided that if I don’t become an ichthyologist, I want to become a hatcherist or whatever you would call it.
The humid air
The warm mist on your face
The angel fish and fish products
The window pane of an aquarium
The soft ripple of water
as the air bubbles pop
when they reach the surface of
1862 Beld Street
Romilia works at Centro Guadalupe, a center with a chapel, catechism classes, ESL [English as a Second Language] classes, and daycare!
The Multicultural Center is made up of three parts. The St. Martin House is downstairs, Centro Guadalupe is through the window-pained wooden double doors straight forward, and the Multicultural Center is the rest.
As you walk through the doors, a blinding light hits you. Tilt your head left, on the wall is Our Lady, Guadalupe.
In Centro Guadalupe, there is a copy of the original painting of our Lady of Guadalupe. Romilia, a Catholic, told us the story.
Juan Diego, an Aztec man, was wandering in the hills when he heard beautiful music. Since it was December, he wondered why the birds had stayed. He went into the hills to look.
But he found the singing was not from birds, but from a beautiful woman with a black belt around her waist.
Juan Diego stood in awe of the woman, who told him she was Mary, mother of Jesus. She told him to go tell the nearest priest to build a church on the hill where she stood.
Juan Diego went, but when he told the priest what had happened, the priest said he would not build anything until Juan Diego gave him proof.
Juan Diego went back and told the Lady what had happened. She told him to try again, so he did. The same thing happened. He returned, and finally the Lady told him to go to the place where the cacti grow and gather all the roses there. Juan Diego didn’t know what to make out of this, so he went to where the cacti grow and found hundreds of beautiful, blooming roses! Orange, pink, red, yellow—all different kinds! He gathered them up and brought them to the Lady. She told him to bring them to the priest and he went.
When the priest saw the roses he immediately believed Juan Diego and sent his men out to make a church on the hill.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is known as the patron saint of unborn babies, since she wore a black belt, and black belts were what Aztec women wore when they were expecting a baby.
We went down to a big cafeteria with many tables and chairs. An African-American woman named Zandra sat down at the same table as me. Zandra had five children and was also going to have another baby soon. Zandra was very religious and seemed to know why she was religious, unlike some people. Zandra also knew a lot about race and racism, and what she said was very interesting.