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Until They Bring the Streetcars Back (Cal Gant #1)

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  1,611 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
Until They Bring The Streetcars Back serves up a nostalgic journey through the streets of post-war 1949 Saint Paul-- those wistful days of ten-cent sodas, big band music, and burning leaves. Stanley West weaves rollicking humor, riveting suspense, and a bittersweet love story into the fabric of those optimistic times. Through a seemingly harmless prank and a chance convers ...more
Paperback, 276 pages
Published July 1st 1997 by Lexington Marshall Publishing, LLC (first published January 5th 1997)
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(showing 1-30)
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Beth F.
I was a teensy bit annoyed by the narrator of this book when I first started it, what with his excessive use of words like “crummy, lousy and droopy” to describe the things and moods around him and I started to worry that maybe I was dealing with a crummy Holden Caulfield knock-off. But as soon as I realized that Cal Gant, the teenaged narrator of “Streetcars” was not only not a psychopath but a decent average joe who got just happened to get sucked into the tortured, secret life of the class re ...more
Jan 25, 2011 Theresa rated it it was amazing
This story is set in St Paul, Minnesota, in 1949. Cal Grant is a senior at Central High School. His family isn’t wealthy but they get by. They don’t own a car because his father is a streetcar driver and feels the family doesn’t need a car. They rent an apartment that they get a discount on because they are also the caretakers.

Cal is a fairly popular kid at school – he’s a decent football player and an outstanding basketball player. There’s a girl at school that he thinks he’s in love with, he h
Jun 22, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People in the Twin Cities who like a local Mystery story
Recommended to Jennifer by: Bookclub
This book was really good! It told the story of Calvin (Cal) Gant. The year is 1949 and Cal is in his Senior Year at St. Paul Central. He is in Football and Basketball. He has a set of friends that he pals around with. And he has an after school job so he can save up for his own car. Everything is pretty darn good - and then he meets Gretchen Luttermann. This sad beat up little waif of a girl catches Cal's attention and his life changes. Suddenly his worries about Basketball and girls seem a lit ...more
Feb 15, 2017 Rachel rated it really liked it
I didn't think I'd like this as much as I did, but it was actually a really good book. Also, it's set in St. Paul which is pretty cool
Nov 10, 2011 Amy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult
I loved this book! This is the story of Cal Gant who is a high school student in St. Paul. By accident, he has a conversation in school with Gretchen who is a girl no one wants to be caught having a conversation with. Word has it that her older sister went crazy and was sent to an insane asylum and Gretchen isn't far behind. She wears awful clothes, never makes eye contact with anyone much less talks with others, and has no friends. Gretchen sees something compassionate and caring in Cal and eve ...more
Jun 16, 2012 Lynne rated it really liked it
This was a book that I felt at home in. It took place in St. Paul, MN, right where my alma mater is located, so I recognized all the sreet names. I even did my student teaching at Monroe High School, a school rival in the story. What fun! The story features a young man who is a student at St. Paul Central High School. He befriends a fellow student, a girl, who is living in a disfunctional family where she is being abused. It gets him in trouble, but the story ends on a positive note. I could ima ...more
Erika Quiroz
Jan 03, 2016 Erika Quiroz rated it really liked it
I will start this out by saying this was a really, really good book and I'm not the least bit surprised. I will also say that for me it was not on the same level as the author's "Blind Your Ponies" but that could just be that I relate to the story and characters more. All of that said, this book had an engaging plot. The characters fell a little flat for me for some reason but I was still so sucked in. My family loved the descriptions of Minneapolis and it was definitely a good book that everyon ...more
Apr 10, 2008 Bridgett rated it really liked it
i started reading this last year when i was i'm going to read it to get ready to teach it...
Mar 02, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it
Very good book. Takes place in the Twin Cities so it is fun to picture what areas look like now that are mentioned in the book. Not sure just when I read this, before 2006
In the very near area of Minneapolis and St. Paul Cal Gant and his friends are living the life of teenage boys chasing girls and playing football and basketball. But Cal is led onto a girl named Gretchen Luttermann and gets caught up in her strange world of violence and secrecy of her dad.
This book had me going a few different ways about it. I like the plot of the book, but I can't get into the book enough to keep me reading. There are some parts that keep me hooked and others not so much.

The tw
Spencer Swartz
Jan 13, 2015 Spencer Swartz rated it really liked it
Before I read this book I had read the book “Growing an inch” (also by Stanley Gordon West) and I loved it! If you were planning on reading this book, I would also recommend reading “Growing an Inch” too. It doesn’t matter what order but they are both “kinda” linked together, character wise anyway. Anyway, “Until the Streetcars Get Back” is starting out to be pretty good. Even though I haven’t gotten too far into it yet. It’s about a guy that’s a senior in high school in 1949. He’s a nice guy, h ...more
Feb 04, 2008 Carmyn rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
Overrated. Initially I was reading this to see if it could work as a new text for American Literature class. Then 2 colleagues read it and praised it and another friend said she'd really enjoyed it... Well, I can't say I agree. It did keep me reading and I thought it was tolerable but certainly not a well written book and certainly not a subject I wanted to ever reread. The language was my biggest stumbling block.. .this boy did too much "legging it" and "hoofing it" in this book. Sometimes he l ...more
Karl Jorgenson
Sep 04, 2016 Karl Jorgenson rated it really liked it
A well-done coming of age novel set in 1950 Saint Paul. The protagonist tells us in first person of his success at sports, his longing for the homecoming queen, and his bonding with his sports oriented buddies. He struggles to relate to his stern father, who came back from the war a changed man. Then he meets Gretchen, the school’s least popular girl, and learns she has a dark secret. He has a good heart, so he works at finding a way to help Gretchen, ultimately risking his own future. I am not ...more
Dec 18, 2015 Patsy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-book-club
Liked it - as did all in the group.
Until They Bring The Streetcars Back serves up a nostalgic journey through the streets of post-war 1949 Saint Paul-- those wistful days of ten-cent sodas, big band music, and burning leaves. Stanley West weaves rollicking humor, riveting suspense, and a bittersweet love story into the fabric of those optimistic times. Through a seemingly harmless prank and a chance conversation, Cal Gant, previously secure in the friendly neighborhoods of his idyllic life, stum
Jul 28, 2008 angrykitty rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008, book-club-book
so dan's mom asked me to join her book club and this was the book they were reading. it's not bad, but it's very similar to "the greatest thing since sliced bread".....same time period and so same tone and style......and i really was getting into teen vampire angst lit...oh well......

this was actually a pretty good book. since i grew up in the area that the book takes place in, i kinda could follow it a little differently than someone that wasn't from the area. the weird thing was, that as i men
Apr 28, 2010 Carol rated it liked it
Set in St. Paul, MN in 1949 when streetcars still ran, a 17 yr. old boy (Calvin) befriends a classmate (Gretchen) and gets drawn into a lair of violence and abuse from her father. Calvin creates a scheme to expose & frame Gretchen's dad, but gets himself put in jail when the plan fails, and only when the girl's mother speaks up does Calvin get exhonerated from the crime. Written in the vernacular of the 50's, I enjoyed the descriptions this kid gave to some of his life events, such as his op ...more
Brittany Permann
May 07, 2014 Brittany Permann rated it liked it
Shelves: books-1-12
Until They Bring the Streetcars Back by Stanley Gordon West was a very intense reading. It is about Cal,a young boy, who wants to fit in and be in the "popular" group at school. He is in love with a girl he never thinks he has a chance with. His whole life changed when he met Gretchen. She is a shy girl who has no connection to anyone in her school. Her family life is hard to say the least. She tries to be a shadow to everyone at school. Many things happen and lead up to Cal being put in jail. T ...more
Oct 13, 2015 Nancy rated it it was amazing
I can't remember the last time I was so emotionally involved in a book. I loved the author's Blind Your Ponies that I read several years ago. I will now look up his other offerings. Streetcars grabbed me immediately. While it was fun that it took place in 1949 St. Paul, that was secondary to the story. I will admit to some nostalgia as I remember my dad taking me on a streetcar ride shortly before the buses came. I think the characters are totally real and identifiable. I remember putting the bo ...more
May 26, 2011 Jack rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favorite books! It contains one of my favorite lines - "Too bad they don't make storm-windows for the heart". The story is about a young man, a senior in high school in the St. Paul of the 1960's. If anyone wishes to know what it felt like to be a young man at that time, read this book. It captures that I remember of those times at that age. And, it's a fascinating story. West also wrote two other novels about this time period, also well worth reading. Plus, he wrote many nove ...more
Jun 10, 2011 Sarah rated it it was ok
I think that freshmen in high school will love this book for the same reasons I disliked it. The message is syrupy, the symbolism is too obvious, and West feels the need to frequently and clumsily remind us of the real purpose of each chapter in the larger narrative. It did, though, seem like a high-schooler had written it, so maybe the very problems I have with the book are what make it successful. Still, I find it to be heavy-handed. I would rather read an ingeniously crafted story than a clum ...more
Jan 25, 2016 Beatrice rated it really liked it
My co-workers told me this book would be an "absolute treat!" They were right. This book is part of my reading challenge this year--"a book you should have read in high school." Stanley Gordon West nails the pacing of this novel. Just when you needed to know more about Gretchen, he would take Cal to a dance. You absolutely had to read more to find out about Gretchen. Cal is such a kind and generous character--one of the best I've come across. I loved one of Cal's final reflections: "I remembered ...more
Feb 02, 2015 Chery rated it it was amazing
A wonderful, rich story which takes place in the Summit/grand area of St. Paul in 1950. Having grown up nearby, this book had an additional layer of meaning for me. The storyteller is 17 year old Cal Gant, a student at Central High School, who finds himself moving from the relative safety of childhood into a dangerous undertaking, all because he sits in front of a girl in study hall. The narration rang true, the powerful emotions coming at me slowly and inevitably. I loved this book and recommen ...more
Jul 31, 2013 Leslie rated it it was amazing
I loved this story. Set in the streets of St. Paul, MN, the setting gives me a slice of life from my mom's era when she grew up in neighboring Minneapolis. In fact, she recommended it to me, and I waved it off because I thought it was an historical account of urban development. Little did I realize how intrigued I was by the two teens who serve as early poster children for disturbed minds. Despite the rather uncomfortable description, the narrator has a great sense of humor that is best enhanced ...more
Dec 31, 2016 Dlhmoore rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
This is my second reading of this very good book.

Calvin Gant is a teen in his last year of high school. He's on the football team and the basketball team. He's a BMOC but can't seem to make a good impression on the girl he likes. He tries to help another student in his class, Gretchen Luttermann who lives in an abusive home. She asks him for his help. He then gets involved in a terrifying situation involving murder, theft, abuse and horror.

I don't want to write more as it will give away too man
Jun 14, 2016 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Such a beautiful story. Cal Gant is in his last year of school. He's popular, handsome, well balanced and in love with Lola Muldoon, the most beautiful girl in the school who is very unavailable.
One day, Cal finds himself sitting in front of Gretchen Lutterman, the butt of all jokes, an unliked, unkempt, "weird girl". That day, Gretchen tells Cal a secret that he can't forget, and Cal is quickly sucked into dangerous territory.
Set in 1949, this is a wonderful coming of age story, set in a post d
Apr 07, 2014 Jack rated it really liked it
Until they bring the streetcars back is a very intense novel. Cal is a senior in high school and his whole senior year changes once he starts talking to Gretchen. I found the beginning of the novel repetitive because all they did was go to dances at the school and go to the diner after. Once you get farther it switches gears and focuses on Gretchen, this is when I couldn't put the book down. I liked that Cal got over his old girlfriend and focused on the case between Gretchen and her father.
Dec 20, 2008 Paulette rated it really liked it
Another book unlike what I usually read. This is set in 1949, St. Paul,told from the point of view of an 18 year old boy.

Post-war era where streetcars grace the city. Cal Grant has rollicking friends (and from my dad's stories of life in the cities)and it rings true for me. He stumbles on lair of violence amid his idyllic life and then struggles with choices.

A couple parts were a little hard to swallow but I really like the book.
Jan 27, 2009 Agnes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book takes place in St. Paul in 1949, and I could recognize some of the places and streets mentioned. I got caught up in the plot right away, but I couldn't quite understand why the author chose the title until well into the book. I loved the main character, Calvin, and after teaching high school kids for years, I could recognize some of his good characteristics that teenagers actually sometimes try to hide.
I will take a look at West's other books now.
Dec 23, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
When I read this book, I was a freshman at Central Senior High and lived in the part of Saint Paul where this story takes place. That really added something to the story for me, and I completely fell in love with the book. Cal's character is so relateable and charming, even down to the way his dialogue is written. The story is so interesting and hard to put down, I plan on rereading it and several other of Stanley Gordon West's books as soon as possible.
Jul 09, 2012 Randy rated it really liked it
I picked up this book at a friends cabin and started to read it. I realized I had it on my un-read bookshelf at home so I finished my own copy. Great story about the "Central" area of St. Paul, the kinds of trouble one can get in with the best intentions and provides some insight into the human struggles with imperfect people and families. I enjoyed this book and it even contained some info about the streetcars vs. standard oil on the side, an unexpected benefit.
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Stanley Gordon West was born in 1932 and attended St. Paul Central High School in Minnesota. He lived in Bozeman, Montana for several years, and now resides in Shakopee, MN. All of his novels are popular book club selections: Blind Your Ponies, two other novels set in the same time and place as Until They Bring the Streetcars Back - Finding Laura Buggs and Growing an Inch - and his most recent, Sw ...more
More about Stanley Gordon West...

Other Books in the Series

Cal Gant (3 books)
  • Finding Laura Buggs
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