Childhood Memories and a Brief History
“Wanna go to the well and fill up?”
…he would say, the corners of his cheeks turned into a big, bearded grin. It was my job to hold the former milk jugs. As long as it meant that I didn’t need to drink that swampy city tap water, I was happy to be a part of this important mission.
A Personal—If Minor—Connection
I could not quite see over the dashboard, but I knew when I saw the orange-yellow brick and the giant grey smokestack, we were there. Sometimes there was a line, but usually we could just go straight to the tap and, jug by jug, draw a week’s worth of clean cold well water to take back home.
“How was the brewery?” My mom would ask back at the house, before rearranging a dozen tiny containers in the fridge to make room for a fresh gallon in a repurposed milk jug. “I dunno, I just went with Grandpa to the well,” I would insist, confused by the question.
“The well that’s the brewery—well, the well’s at the brewery, anyway. Why don’t you ask Grandpa about it?” I didn’t, why would I?
A “brewery” for all I was concerned was the place where we got our water.
There was no connection between the building—their earthy-orange bricks and steaming vents—and the silver and blue can I was allowed a sip from at Christmas.
When I finally connected the place called “Hamm’s Brewery” to my childhood memories of milk jugs and Sunday trips to the well, its windows were barred, its doors locked, and I was a teenager. The well is still in the parking lot near where the stockhouses used to stand, though its spouts are dry. My memories of the hot afternoons waiting in line with my grandfather, though, are undiluted by the years and history.
In fact, now my childhood memories of Hamm’s—the water that raised me, and the beer that my family had at dinner—is joined by the memories of different adventures to the brewery… confronting scrappers, sharing my lunch with squatters, romping through caves and basements. I never outgrew the fantasy that it as a kind of castle, the caves its dungeons and the Brew House a half-ruined citadel.
Like my own, the Hamm’s story is a St. Paul story…