A personal look at Bill Hosko's non-professional life...
Bill was born in September, 1962. A year later, his parents divorced and he and his five older siblings were split – the three eldest boys going with his father, Fred, and the two girls and youngest 'Billy' going with his mother, Rose. Bill rarely saw his father during his childhood.
His mother soon met George, and they moved into an upper apartment in a Stryker Avenue duplex on Saint Paul’s upper West Side. A stepbrother was born the following year. He was given up for adoption. A year later, his second stepbrother was born and he became part of the family. Early on, there were regular arguments between his mother and stepfather. Those years when he was a little boy, Bill remembers someone driving a train engine of sorts on wheels that would give free rides to kids. It had a distinctive whistle that told everyone it was in the neighborhood. The kids came running when they heard it. Also, a very distinctive memory was seeing the Saint Paul skyline from Propsect Park not a far walk down Stryker - it looked so big to him. The first National Bank Building was tallest by far and it seemd as our own New York Empire State Building.
When Bill was six, they moved to the lower part of Inver Grove Heights; a small working-class neighborhood just below the busy railroad switching yards for Rock Island Railroad to the west, and a short walk down to the Mississippi River to the east. Two marinas were just down-river and there were also areas of expansive fields and dark woods. With his little dog Scooter, they spent much time way from the unhappiness in the home and explored to their heart’s content.
In the early spring of 1969, a dike, which still stands today, was built to keep back the forecast near-record floodwaters. All hands were needed and Billy's job was to hold sandbags open for those shoveling sand. The water nearly topped the dike, it began to rain, and everyone was told to run for it. The dike held but water rose up out of the ground and flooded the isolated and nearly deserted neighborhood by one and two feet. Many pleasure boats of all sizes, moved onto the 'dry-side' of the dike, were propped up on cross timbers everywhere. It was a very interesting time and place to live.
In 1972, his family moved to rural west-central Illinois, not far from Iowa. These three farmstead places, the first two rented, the last bought (an old, low-roofed-school house with a lean-to on the back converted into a home. Bill's bedroom was half the lean-two, the other half was the backdoor and laundry room looking into his room) allowed Bill to have gardens and many pets, and rescued animals. His long walks away from the tumult of home he continued with Scooter. Each place they lived had its own character and opportunities for exploring nearby, but his favorite place however, was the second place.
It was particularly surrounded by expansive open sky and croplands (The day they moved in, an afternoon tornado paid them a brief visit - almost a scene from Dorothy's Wizard of Oz home in Kansas.) and it had a creek down below - straight out of the story Little House on the Prairie.
At 12, Bill started his first job cleaning a western-wear store ‘in town’. The owner liked Bill’s work so much, he also sent him to his expansive country place to mow grass, clean the barn and fix fences. His $2 hourly wage was increased to $2.25. In May of 1980 at age 17, while now working evenings as a pizza parlor cook in a bowling alley in town, he graduated from Rockridge Highschool and returned to Saint Paul to frankly, escape his home-life - the day was July 17th.
It was very hard to do because he had to leave Scooter behind and an 89-year-old friend, Peggy, he’d met in town several years prior. She’d become a grandmother he’d never had. She’d had a stroke in 1978, and then fell into a coma in 1979. She had no family. When he returned that early fall to rake leaves in his former yard both Peggy and Scooter has passed away.
His first apartment was at Dayton and Western Avenues within site of the Cathedral. That fall, Bill began his collection of articles pertaining to his hometown’s development - which he has to this day. In the spring of 1981, he began running for the first time - he'd never been in track during highschool. That fall, it was announced that the first Twin Cities Marathon would be held in October 1982. Bill decided he would be in it. He was, and in years two, five and six.
In early 1985, Bill enrolled in the downtown Minneapolis' Technical Institute (now expanded into the Minneapolis Technical College) to study architecture, art and drafting. His life was changed. To this point, he’d held a variety of service jobs: busboy, cook, landscape laborer, office cleaner in downtown Minneapolis, delivery driver. His favorite, was as a nursing assistant for the elderly. He worked his way through school doing this as well. In late 1987, before he completd his loved courses, he was hired as a full-time, one-man ‘presentation-artist’ for a small architectural firm in a north suburb.
In 1988, after living in a number of rental situations, some very unique, he bought a little back-of-lot cottage house in need of some care, in southwest Minneapolis. Here, with his dogs, he began his nightly walks around Lake Harriett 5 blocks northeast. Three years later, after fixing up his little home and its large front yard up to be a picture out of a storybook, and after becoming self-employed as a freelance architectural artist, he left the metro area for a place in the woods up in northwest Minnesota. Then a long-vacant farmstead atop a high open place further into northwest Minnesota. (1990’s movie Dances with Wolves was responsible.)
While restoring this farm place over three years, his freelance work slowed considerably for a time in year-two. Marylou, his newfound grandmother figure, across the large farm fields down to the southwest, knew of a local dairyman in need of a hired hand for $4 an hour. A big drop from his typical wage, but he did it to make ends meet. One warm fall night in 1993 as he laid awake, the winds blew through the tall twin-trunked cottonwood tree outside his window. He was barely getting by...
In February 1994, he began commuting weekly four hours to downtown Saint Paul to tend his newly opened Hosko Gallery and Framing – in the twin-towered rental and housing complex Galtier Plaza. He'd return to the farmstead weekends. It was an exciting time. It was also at this time, that he began being involved in Saint Paul civic affairs...
In 1995, the true Great Plains kept calling and he, and a family of rescued animals: goats, geese, chickens and roosters and two dogs and two cats, moved to a near-ghost-town in far northwest North Dakota - 7 miles to Canada and to Montana. His gallery would be open every other week now and he would commute by train. In 1996, winter came early out there with -20s by mid-November and more snow until April then he’d ever seen.
In 1997, he and his family continued westward to a windswept treeless ridge 3 miles from Canada in northeast Montana. He created a homestead here straight out of an 1880 era picture. His over-night train trips to and from Saint Paul were now two hours longer. In July 1998, what a windstorm didn’t blow away a fire then took the rest. In between, a plane crashed and burned nearby taking the pilot’s life. Sleeping in his pickup, Bill finished rebuilding the snug homestead in time to welcome in 1999.
Beginning in 2003, every other week, Bill worked when his Montana time allowed, on a café (created from a closed grocery store he bought from Evan and Mert) for a little high-plains community 7 miles south. He plans someday to write a book about his years 'out west' and about Evan and Mert, and Jim, Arthur and Anna, Elaine and Gilbert, Andrew, Kevin, Jeff and others, and particularly about Mary Lou at the beginning and Floyd near the ending.
For over a dozen years now, Bill has lived full-time in Saint Paul. His holdings in northeast Montana sold. He now has a little place in far north-central Montana he visits only on occasion. His combined Saint Paul gallery and newer music venue have now been jointly located on the downtown Saint Paul corner of East 7th and Jackson Streets for a number of years. His collection of his Saint Paul-themed art is extensive.
While his financial success has varied greatly over the years - his life experiences have been truly personally fullfilling, great gifts that have honed his common sense, steadfast nature and ability to have empathy for others. His commitment to Saint Paul’s well-being is well documented and as steadfast as ever. He is thankful and grateful for the life he has been able to lead.
Later this campaign season, look for a detailed timeline of the numerous Saint Paul issues he has been involved in and or volnteered for, since 1994.
Going forward: 'It’s time for a change at City Hall, and it’s time we place Saint Paul back onto a higher track again.' Bill Hosko
June 1, 2021