It's Fargo in 1962, not 2005

I write today to clarify the position expressed in my May 29 column in The Forum on the north side vs. south side of Fargo because I'm perplexed some readers missed the point.

I write today to clarify the position expressed in my May 29 column in The Forum on the north side vs. south side of Fargo because I'm perplexed some readers missed the point.

My dad is from Boston, which, like many old cities is comprised of ethnic neighborhoods. He grew up in an Italian section and his neighborhood was surrounded by Irish, Jewish and Polish. They were proud of their own little worlds. They co-existed, but were defined by their neighborhoods. But when they traveled outside of the city, they proudly proclaimed that they were from "Boston." I've seen where he grew up and heard my dad's "neighborhood" stories all of my life.

My perspective is no different in that I'm a Fargo north-sider and proud of it. I was hoping I'd get responses from people that said "I'm a south-sider and proud of it" or "I'm from West Fargo and proud of it," with the underlying understanding that we're all Fargoans. Instead I've been called out for being hypocritical (at best) to being insensitive for promoting stereotypes.

The point missed about Jefferson Elementary School is simple. Fargo in 1962 was different from Fargo in 2005. Believe or not and like it or not, when Fargo was a small town of 40,000, we were known by the school we came from. We played baseball against Hawthorne, St. Anthony, Lewis and Clark, Carl Ben Eielson and Jefferson. We had opinions of those schools based on the kids on those teams. They had opinions of us.

When those schools converged at Agassiz Junior High, Clara Barton was known as the "rich kid's school" because it was. It was the neighborhood where doctors, dentists and business owners lived. Jefferson in 1962 was the school closest to the tracks, the oldest and poorest part of town. Like it or not, the kids that got into most of the fights and other trouble were from Jefferson. The kids that beat up the Clara Barton kids were from Jefferson. I can give you names; they're still in my brain.


I got pummeled every day in 7th grade on the ramps at Agassiz after English class by two guys from Jefferson. I wasn't the only one who got pounded. The Jefferson "hoods" were the tough guys. No one can argue with me on this. I was there. No discussion. End of story.

But I certainly don't mean to imply that everyone from Jefferson was a thug. I can name several Jefferson kids who became successful in professions and business.

I've since found out that one of the toughest guys back then still lives here. He's a pacifist, a gardener, a musician and a family man. A friend of mine recently asked him why he was so mean as a kid. The answer was profound ... it was because his dad was a drunk and beat him. So he beat me.

It's a different town today. Our city is bigger, more diverse and more complicated. The mission of Jefferson school is 100 percent the opposite of where it was 43 years ago. I would never suggest (and didn't) that today the school is full of toughs.

I've had four kids go through the Fargo school system. No one knows better than I do the high standards and the equality of mission that defines our extraordinary schools.

I've re-read my May 29 "north" column since several letters appeared in The Forum and I was inundated with e-mail messages. And for the life of me, I don't know how the jump was made from my writing from the perspective of 1962 to readers assuming I was talking about Jefferson today.

I'm not sure how things got lost in translation, but this much I know: I love this town - north, south, east and west.

Ferragut is a Fargo advertising executive and regular contributor to The Forum's opinion and commentary pages. He can be reached at

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