Community Members Reflect on True Meaning of 'Rondo Days' as Neighborhood Celebrates 35th Year

July 21, 2018 05:36 PM

The parade, the music... it was a celebration in St. Paul, Saturday, better known as 'Rondo Days.'

Mark Beecham has been the parade director for 17 years.


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"Big reunion time for the community," Beecham said.

He said each year, thousands line the streets for excitement.

"It's kind of gratifying," said Beecham.

The event is also about remembering 'Rondo Avenue.' Beecham said it used to be the hub of the African American community in the 1950s.

"It was a really thriving community with essential businesses...barbershops, grocery stores, pharmacies," Beecham said. "All the basics for the community."

But the arrival of Interstate 94 in the late 1950s to early 1960s forced major change.

"I was so young. I thought it was kind of neat...seeing a house move...all the bulldozers and all the big trucks," said Beecham.

The freeway split the Rondo neighborhood in half.

"They started tearing down houses, then a big hole and the next thing we know, it's a freeway," Beecham said.

Beecham said it forced some 600 families to move and removed about 80 shops.

"When you look at, possibly the effect on grown people at the time, people were being uprooted," Beecham said.

Lifelong resident Deborah Montgomery said her mom was given $3,000 for her home. Then, told her family had to go, which Montgomery said was not easy.

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"They had redlining so the banks wouldn't give us loans," Montgomery said. "So, we couldn't go North of University, South of Dayton... Lexington...all the way down to the capitol."

They eventually found another home, never forgetting where they came from.

"The thing that was the strength of Rondo is that we were a village and that everybody was engaged," said Montgomery.

"We miss the connectivity Rondo was, which is why we have 'Remember Rondo,'" Beecham said.

The single day event wrapped up at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rec Center and the field behind Capitol Hill Magnet School.


Jonathan Rozelle

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