Many Twin Cities old-timers will relate to Mark Vinz’s stories about growing up in Minneapolis in the 1950s — Varsity Theater movies, traveling downtown by streetcar, the Minneapolis Millers baseball team, the Lone Ranger appearing at Powderhorn Park.

Vinz is an acclaimed poet who taught for 40 years at what is now Minnesota State University, Moorhead. “Man of the House” consists of more than 120 short essays — mostly true, he writes. A few are laugh-out-loud funny.

His stories reflect skepticism and uncertainties as well as his family’s modest circumstances (he was man of the house during his father’s frequent travels). They lived in a Dinkytown apartment, then a South Side house where his bedroom wallpaper showed Canadian Mounties on horseback.

Many of the stories revolve around school. There was the boy who passed gas during flag salute, profanely misread books and quickly ended a teacher’s idea for joke-sharing time. Another boy, upbraided for his inability to type, threw the typewriter out a window.

For a fourth-grade nutrition class, Vinz kept breakfast records, but with “too many days with just Wheaties or Cheerios,” he invented fruit, pancakes and scrambled eggs and was tempted to add steak or spaghetti.

After a parent-teacher conference, his mom and his teacher agreed that he had a good imagination. And, one might add, a good memory.


Robert Franklin is a retired Star Tribune reporter and editor.

Man of the House
By: Mark Vinz.
Publisher: New Rivers Press, 211 pages, $18.