Park Street Cultural Tour
After hours of reading and talking about Park Street, looking at many photos taken by our student teacher, hearing from students (and their teacher) who lived in the Park Street corridor, and practicing observation and interviewing skills, our Randall class created a tour itinerary, and Chadbourne Residential Hall chartered a school bus.
Elementary and university students were ready to visit work, living, and worship places along Madison’s most diverse street. We planned to study ethnicity including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Chinese Americans, and European Americans (German and Italian).
We began by going to Chadbourne dorm rooms, met with two Park Street residents, rotated in small groups (to church, body shop, shoe repair, laundry, and radio station), shopped and snacked in a grocery store, listened to stories of growing up in South Madison, and then showed the university students our classroom.
Student Observations >>
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Chadbourne Residential Hall
420 North Park Street
Chadbourne Hall isn’t a regular Dorm where you just eat, sleep, and hold your stuff. It is a Residential Community, which means that they could have special classes after school at Chadbourne.
There are no kitchens in the rooms, so the students all eat in a large cafeteria where you can choose what you would like to eat. They serve lunch dinner and breakfast in the cafeteria but many of the students keep a few non-perishable items in their rooms to snack on.
When the students eat they use their student ID cards for “Magic money.”
The cafeteria serves the students three meals a day. The students swipe their card that digitally stores money for their meals.
The dorm [room] is about 15 x 15 feet and has a lot of stuff cramped in it. They have a TV, a loaf of bread on a shelf, a computer with a printer, and a bunk bed with the bottom bed folding up into a sofa. One side of the room is one person’s while the other half is one other’s side of the “house.”
When we walked into her dorm, I thought it was pretty small, but after a bit of looking around I thought all the really cool stuff made up for the size.
There are 800 students living there. The boys live on one floor and the girls live on another. Two people share a dorm [room] and all their stuff has to be crammed into one small room. They have to walk up a bunch of steps to get to their [rooms], for every class they go to they have to go to a different building and have a different teacher. They have classes at all random times of the week and day.
Eleven floors for eight hundred people
Seventy people on each floor
Tiny rooms the size of closets built for two
A home for many people for years.
Sadie Pearson & Richard Davis
420 North Park Street
Sadie has seven kids. Sadie was always embarrassed that she couldn’t help her kids out with homework because she quit high school at fifteen. So she got a GED. Sadie Pearson went to school at M.A.T.C. [Madison Area Technical College] The University helped her with raising her family other than teaching her. Now Sadie is very very proud of herself.
She told us that now she was proud of herself because she had gotten an education and now she could help her grandkids with their homework.
Sadie Pearson is a strong woman, she skipped out of school when she was fifteen, bore the laughs of the kids when she came back, and she raised a very well-educated family. I think that is strong.
Sadie raised her seven kids at the Boys and Girls Club. Her kids made it to college and she was so happy. The drug dealers once came to the neighborhood and she called the police and they came and got them.
Richard Davis is famous worldwide as a musician. He lives a block off of Park Street. Richard Davis once taught music in Mr. Wagler’s class. Mr. Wagler said that it was the best music class he ever had.
Mr. Wagler asked him if he had ever been somewhere with no race issue. Richard told us he had never been somewhere without a race issue and that he had traveled all over the world.
Richard David is a famous jazz musician. He is against racism and he lives right behind Octopus car wash. He eats lunch at the Curve [Diner] every morning at 7:30 and usually eats lunch at La Hacienda.
1123 Vilas Avenue
The Church was founded in 1893. It has both a downstairs and an upstairs. The upstairs is a room with lots of wooden seats that are glossy and each fit about five normal-sized people each. At one end there is a huge organ and an old, unused pulpit.
There are nine tables set with plates and glasses and silverware and a long runner made of cloth with candles and other stuff. There are posters on walls of certain well-known religious sayings and picture to go with them.
Ideal Body Shop
502 South Park Street
Mr. Joe Dottl founded the Ideal Body Shop during the 1800s. The shop started as a blacksmith, then it fixed wagons, and now it repairs cars.
To work on a car he has to hook up an air power tool because the hydraulics are all run by air power.
At Ideal, we saw a Sheriff’s car that had hit a deer the night before and was in the Body Shop for a mirror fix-up along with a front bumper repair. In the Body Shop most of the tools are air powered but some of them are hand tools like hammers and some are gas/electric powered also.
The Ideal Body Shop has a separate room to paint cars with. There is air coming down from the ceiling, so the paint goes down into a vent in the floor instead of sticking to everything.
At Ideal Body Shop I learned a lot,
How it started out as a blacksmith shop,
With wooden sidewalks and a real dirt road,
They fixed buggies that people rode.
They made a new building and started fixing cars,
They’re a really good business and deserve some stars.
Park Street Shoe Repair
609 South Park Street
We met George Faban himself. His father came from Sicily, Italy, and he has been repairing shoes since he was ten. He works three days a week and in the days he has off he goes to see trials at court and reads. The hardest thing to repair is a high-heeled platformed knee-high plastic boot. It’s hard because of the plastic and the new glues.
First he put some polish on the shoe and then he turned on an electric machine that made a circular brush turn around. Next he would press the shoe against it and the shoe would be polished.
George joined the business in 1938. He got involved because his dad repaired shoes, boots and skates. He sharpens them too.
When I walked into the shoe repair,
the scent of leather filled the air.
Further in the shop,
conversation made me listen and stop.
Before we left the store,
George showed us the way he repairs seventy shoes or more.
As I left for Park Street I waved to George, looked at the shoes on my feet
and knew again we’d meet.
622 South Park Street
At Yee’s Laundry we saw many things, everything from packages of folded clothes to pressing machines. My favorite machine was the pressing machine. The pressing machine worked somewhat like this: you would button a shirt onto a flat dummy model, and then the shirt and dummy would roll into a tunnel, and the shirt would get smashed between two big hot boulders! Then the shirt would roll out, nicely ironed.
Irons, shirts and pants, socks too.
Steam and detergent.
A laundromat with culture, that’s unique.
The machines are really hot, they never lose order of clothes. The machines are about eighty pounds, There is a washing area and the pipes are really hot.
The owner of Yee’s Laundry is Stella Wong. Yee’s Laundry has been in business for fifty years [and] she has been working there for fifteen years. They wash and dry clean there. There are five different irons that dry the shirts.
1017 South Park Street
La Movida is a Latino radio station. In the same studio is a Latino newspaper, Voz Latina. Both are done entirely in Spanish. The people in charge are Luis and Lupita Montoto. Before this Lupita had no radio experience but her husband, Luis, did. When they met, Luis was doing Spanish radio in Texas. They moved to Madison, and Luis found out that the city had no Latino radio station. Then he got the crazy idea that they could start one. So they looked around for a station that they could get time on. On a couple of the stations they got a few hours a week. But that really wasn’t enough. Then they met Tom Walker, he is the owner of some radio stations and decided to get Luis and Lupita their own radio station. So they got the studio built, and now they are broadcasting music, weather, news, interviews and much more from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M.
The Radio Station is on channel 1480 and 100% Latino.
When we went into the studio, I was very excited. I had never been in one before! There was a board with switches and lights on it. The red lights had P’s on them and the yellow ones had A’s on them.
2102 South Park Street
Mexican food, American food, everything labeled in Spanish. A special room for making Latino dishes, an intriguing place for culture.
CDs, pastries, spices, fresh fruit, you would never imagine such a small store could sell so many different things.
They gave out tamales, a Latino food made out of corn husk outside and wrapped inside the corn husk is pork, red sauce, and corn, I believe.
Mmm… spicy, hot, delicious. Cheesy and peppery some with lots of spice and some with just a bit.
The best thing about it is that every section you walk in you smell and see something new. They even have different drinks than we do. They have huge fried sheets of something called chicharones that look a lot like over sized Chinese Shrimp Chips. They even sell different candy than we do.
At Mercado Marimar the meat came in many different cuts, as did the cheese. They also had a lot of cool piñatas.
There was meat, cheese and nectars. Some of the nectars were flavored Mango, Guava, Guayaba and Tamarind just to name of few of the exotic ones. But the things that interested me most were the spices.
A culture waiting to be discovered
Just open this door
And you’ll enter another side of the world.
Bram's Addition with Robert Pierce
At Mercado Marimar, we were joined by Robert Pierce, another long-time resident of South Madison. He grew up here, and when he was growing up, much of his neighborhood was a horse ranch. Penn Park was his playground, but it wasn’t nearly as big as it is now. A lot of the neighborhood was a dump. And another large portion was swamp. But one thing hasn’t changed: fishing in Wingra Creek. He loved fishing so much, that one time, instead of going to school, he spent almost half an hour trying to haul in a gigantic fish… I think I’ll skip school someday to go fishing.
He organized the Farmer’s Market this year. He told us his childhood stories. My favorite was one where Robert badly wanted to catch this fish one day in a creek before school. He kept on trying and forgot that he was late for school. Then the principal came out and got him to go to school.
Park Street was his playground. He used to play basketball. He collected greens out in the forest because everyone in the neighborhood was scared of snakes.
I love the story about the snakes. It was really funny.