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Steven Narr

Steven Narr

Poet, woodworker, and beloved custodian for Birchview Elementary School.

Born: Minneapolis, MN, United States
Heritage: European American

Steven Narr

Poet, woodworker, and beloved custodian for Birchview Elementary School.

My name is Steven Narr as all of you know, an ah…I born right here in Minneapolis right on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. I was born in 1953 in October, October 25th.

So I grew up during the 50s, 60s, and 70s. And I got married in the 70s. But we’ll go back into the 50s.

Let me start with that. I grew up in the, right in the Wayzata area here, Wayzata Plymouth. I grew up right off of 3rd avenue, if you guys know what that is, right in back of…playground! I used to look across where Birchview is a field and I could see all the way up to the workhouse up on county road six.

Anyway, um…we moved onto ah…3rd avenue in 1959. In that period of the 50s and the early 60s, there was a lot of changes going on. Um, changes in music and changes in things that were going on around the world.

We used to spend a lot of time riding bikes around here. We’d ride bike all day long during the summers and when we weren’t in school and stuff.

Birchview wasn’t here like I said, it was a field. And um…you know, we ah…so I watched the area grow. I had a lot of family in the area. Um…up where Chelsea woods, that was um…a farm that my great-aunt and uncle owned. And I don’t know if you know where Cimmeron Pond is, but that was a gravel pit where I used to go down and ride my bike in the gravel pit. And my uncle ran that as well.

Ah, let’s see. I don’t remember a lot of the 50s, but you guys have been studying Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and that sort of stuff. Rosa Parks, when she got on the bus, was when I was only three years old when she refused to go on the back of the bus.

Listening to you guys going around the building, I’ve heard these discussions going on and I’m going, This is stuff that I’ve lived. The 50s, you know, wasn’t too bad. Music was changing, Elvis Presley was around. In the 60s, Beetles.

Um…you know, I came in to the 60s and there was ah…lot of racial tensions going on around at that time. And that really affected, you know, what we were seeing around the world and it was forming our attitudes and stuff of people.

That kind of stuff really bothered me as a kid because I looked at everybody as a person. And to see people getting hurt during the rioting and stuff and they were marching for their freedoms and stuff like that. Yeah, and we were seeing it on TV. Martin Luther King doing his march.

You know, I was watching all of that. You know, treatment of people is real important in my family and ah…speaking of family, I should ah…I’m jumping all over the place here.

Family, I’ve got four siblings: two sisters and two brothers. And I’m the second oldest and then three behind me. We played together. We’d play baseball out in the front yard. We’d make—build forts growing up out of branches, out of lumber that we’d scrounge up, out of…out of the grass. We would make grass forts right in the playground area where it is. So anyhow, wide open spaces here.
I went to many of the schools here in the Wayzata district. I went to Woodston, which is no longer here. I went to Oakwood; I went to Sunset Hill. And that only involved one move. It was all boundary changes after that. We went to um…I went to Oakwood and Sunset I was there for two years, then I went back to Oakwood again. And then I went to West, which was the only junior high that we had at the time.

And from West, they built East and I was there the first year that that was open. No, that was a lot of fun. I had a lot of kids move with me so there was no big surprises or anything. we had a lot of fun and I maintained my friends just like you guys move on.

Let’s see…the early 60s, you know, when I was at Oakwood, one of the things that we talk about um…civil rights, some of the rioting and stuff. I…I…I…I experienced some of the aftermath of some of that.

I had a grandfather that lived downtown, you know, where your higher populations of people are and still are. And seeing the aftermath of some of the riots that went on down there, um…it was…it was really hard. We’d go down there to pick up my grandfather and there’d been things like looting and going on and I’d see smoking stores, burning from the night before yet. It was really hard to see it.

Not only did I see it on the news, but I saw it in person and that was a hard thing for me because I just…it was…it was scary. ‘Cause I was probably around your age when I was experiencing this.

Then later in the 60s, you know, we had the Vietnam War. You know, that actually got started in the early 60s and Vietnam War that was something that later on I’ll talk about. ‘Cause when I got into high school, there was certain things that happened during the Vietnam War that ah…affected me or right after high school.

Ah, let’s see. Junior High, you know, I got involved in a lot of things. Um…wrestling, um, I would really encourage you guys to do…get involved in sports or academic activities or whatever that you…junior high or high school and stuff. It really helps form you and it helped form me.

You know, it gave me a sense of community. You know, that’s one of our strong things here at Birchview. Community was really important. I would ah…in junior high, I had a variety of friends. I didn’t differentiate, label kids, they were all my peers. That was a lot of fun.
I was talking to…you know, you look back and all sorts of different people. You know, people that were struggling in life, people that had it a little bit easier. And that went all the way up through high school.

I found out years later that I was kind of labeled as a kid. You probably don’t see this now, maybe you do, but I was labeled as a nerd in school. But yet, with that label, I’ve had people come back to me, just in the last number of years and said, you know what? I wish I would have done what you did. you’ve got quite a life.

And you know, and then when I talk about my life, I feel like I’m just a common, everyday person, but at the same time, coming here and talking to you guys and working here at Birchview as a custodian, I’ve learned that I do make a difference in a lot of lives around here. And that’s important all the way through as you’re growing up.
But um…let’s see…high school. Ah, I got involved in a lot of things from wrestling to um you know video production. Very, very simple compared to what we’ve got now. And…I would, oh; I started working for the school district when I was in high school. I used to work during the summers and help cut grass. And during the winter, I was able to go in the morning before school started and I was shoveling sidewalks in high school for the school.

And let’s see, what else. Ah, after high school. Then I had to start thinking about what I wanted to do and that was something I thought about all through high school. I went on a tour of Dunwoody, I was really impressed. Wanted to go into architecture ‘cause building things was always a fun thing in my life and I thought you know, I’d love to build and design homes.

But ah, that summer after I graduated from high school, have you guys ever heard of the draft? You know, end of the armed forces? Okay. They were still drawing numbers. For the draft, what you would do is they’d put a day in for every day of the year and they would go into a jar and pull out a date and the order that they pulled that date out would be the number that would correlate with the date of the year.

Like if they picked July 9th out first, that would be number one. My birthday was October 25th, that year, it was the ninth pick. The ninth ticket that they pulled out of the jar so my draft number became nine.
That was scary. You guys have heard about the Vietnam War. You’ve heard about many wars over the history. But the Vietnam War was one that really affected me ‘cause we were seeing live news reports on TV. That never happened before, you’d get film clips or whatever previous to that war where it wouldn’t be live. But we were seeing live shots of war going on and it was really unnerving. It scared ya. The thought that I might have to go over to Vietnam and fight in a war.

That…that really bothered me, but at the same time, I’m going, if I get called, I gotta go. So I got a draft number nine. I was all signed up to go to school and I canceled my classes, told them, I says, I’m gonna be drafted, you might as well put somebody else in the class.
About a month after I canceled my class, they stopped the draft. I was already to enlist in the Navy or something like that and ah…and it never came to pass. I actually never served in the service, armed forces. But I came really, really close. But it was a very unnerving thing for me to have to think about.

So, after I…after I found out I wasn’t going to get drafted, I ended up just at a job that I was working full time. And I worked there for a couple years and I’m going, you know, I need to do something more than I’m doing.

Work was okay; I didn’t mind the work I was doing. I was building commercial heating units for on top of buildings and stuff like that. Assembling them in the factory. And I’m going, okay, what do I—you know, I wanted to do architecture, but I canceled that class. And I’m building little things, things here and there, shelving and stuff, and I’m going, I’m going to sign up for woodworking class.

So I signed up about five days before my 21st birthday and I had to wait six months to get into school. In that time frame, I…let’s see…how’d that go? I was 21 in 1974 and I’d signed up for classes and I met my wife that fall.

Her and I started going out and ah…we…I had to wait almost a year before I went to school, but before I started school, I went and got married. So, I was married for two years before I had my first kid. I completed my cabinet making classes and started working full time in a cabinet shop. And I ah…about five months later, I had a son after I started working.

Ended up with, you know, three kids. One is ah, 34 right now, my oldest son is. My youngest son is 23 and then I’ve got a 19, almost 20 year old daughter. They’ve become a big focus in my life.

Okay, worked for cabinet shops for about five years and then I went on my own for a couple of years before I came to the school district. And I apologize; I’m jumping all over the place. Um, and after…after about five years or so, seven years, I came to work for the Wayzata school district as a custodian.

There was a carpentry position opening up that I knew about so I thought I’d get my foot in the door. And ah…I was working at what is now Central Middle School was the high school and I was working nights, 3 – 11. And then ah…moved over to Oakwood, worked there for about four years. I’m going, you know, I need to get…and I was working nights there.

And what with having a family, working nights sometimes is hard. You…with my young kids, I was able to spend a lot of time with them during the day, but then I had to go at night and my wife was home at night and I hardly saw her. You know, she’d be asleep when I got home and she’d leave for work before I got up. And so that was a real life change.

She wanted me home evenings and stuff with the kids. We’d ah…I said, we need to work something out here. I took some classes and got some required licenses so I could work days. Get a day position, that’s when I ended up coming here to Birchview. And I’ve been at Birchview for 23 years.

I have loved just about every minute of working here. Family and kids and enjoying life is really important to me. You guys all know that I do some goofy things around the building here and I have fun. And I like to have fun with you guys. And I also like to do that with my own kids.

Learning balance in a person’s life is really, really hard for between working and making enough money to support your family and yet be able to take time and do things with them. That is a high point in my life. I just do whatever I can to spend time with them and make sure that I can do things with them.

I’m a big hunter. I like to go out pheasant hunting, walking through the swamps in the fall, working really hard in the tall grasses. I enjoy going into the wood and I do hunt deer. But you know, the biggest part of the hunting for me, it isn’t the hunting itself that’s important, it’s the time that I spend with my family, my sons, you know, enjoying nature.

Hunting has been big in my family. I think the first time I walked out with my dad and my uncle; I think I was maybe about ten years old. And I hunted with--my dad quit hunting probably about twenty years ago, but I had an uncle that I hunted with at the same time that I started hunting with my dad. And it was 43 years of every fall with him and my dad just about.

I mean, it was an important piece. We’d share stories, things that would happen in the woods, animals that we’d see. You know, bobcats, grouse, deer, I mean, there’s so much to see out there and enjoy.

The thing that I liked about hunting is you took the time to enjoy those pieces. You can imagine sitting outside in one spot for eight hours and just soaking in what you see around you. It is just…it’s a wonderful thing. And I keep trying to bring my camera out with me and take pictures. But I always forget that.

Um, let’s see. You know, I’m gonna jump back into the 60s, back into the civil rights. It’s something that hits my head, especially this time of year a lot. You know, you’d…I told you that Rosa Parks sat in the back of the bus, or refused to go to the back of the bus when I was only like three.

But you know, that’s something I was still seeing in the 60s and that’s why there was such a battle about civil rights. You know. I keep mentioning family and how important that is, it’s really important to treat everybody as a good person. And that’s something that’s really dear to my heart.

I try to ah…try to do things right. I don’t always. I make mistakes. But it’s something that’s really important to me. If I see somebody mistreating somebody else, I gotta jump in and say something. You know, whether it’s maybe after the fact, or whatever.

It’s…I’ve got a heart for people and a concern for people and I think that’s from all the things I’ve seen growing up. Um…you know, you know….it’s um…a matter of being able to just ah…say what’s right. And…kinda lost right now.


You’ve Got To Give Respect If You Want To Get Some Love

Honoring Steven Narr

You’ve Got To Give Respect If You Want To Get Some Love
(Honoring Steven Narr)

Give respect to others, if you want to get it back
It don't really matter if you're white, red, yellow, or black
It's a long road to freedom, and when that freedom comes
You've got to give respect if you want to get some love

I grew up in the fifties, sixties, seventies,
I grew up in Wayzata, way out in the country,
I use to go riding on my bike all day long,
Down into the gravel pit, Cimarron Ponds,
The music was a-changing,
Elvis Presley was around,
In the sixties was the Beatles,
with a rock 'n roll sound
Building forts out of branches, baseball in the yard
You would never know it, but life was getting hard
Vietnam was raging, people putting up a fight,
Rosa Parks and Dr. King,
in those days of Civil Rights,
Marching for their freedom,
we could see it on TV
A person is a person, it really bothered me
I began to wrestle, it built community
Video production, was really fun for me
For the school district,
cutting grass shoveling snow,
Enrolled in Dunwoody, to design and build homes
But they were drawing numbers for the draft
Ready to enlist, but it never came to pass,
Though I was number nine the war came to an end
Not long after working as custodian
And then I started writing my own poetry
Like ‘Its a Beautiful View’,
‘Ode to the Apple Tree’
And then I started thinking about the work I do
And then I started writing this poem just for you:
But it wasn’t long,
Till I got lost,
Because of the things,
That just got tossed,
Just think of the stuff,
That we could do,
If we're not picking up,
After me or you.

With a wife and three children, this I do believe
Need to find a balance between work and family
Treat everybody around you the same,
Get to know your family,
be proud of your last name

Words & Music by Larry Long
with Renee Wenberg’s 4th Grade Class,
Birchview Elementary School,Wayzata, Minnesota.

© Larry Long Publishing 2012, BMI