Category Archives: Memories
Back when I was a wee tiny tot, I received a Lionel train for Christmas. And for the next 25-years it ran around the family Christmas tree.
While it could still run around the rails with the best of them, for the last four years it has been on display in one of the two photo and memento units in the living room. In other words, like me it is still chugging along … but at a slower pace. (Note, two of the passenger cars are still in storage for safe keeping. After all, they are almost 75 years old.)
I was a member of the US Army Veterinary Corps … a Food Inspection Specialist. I really didn’t see much of the world in my military career. I went to Fort Polk in Louisiana for basic training and then I went to the Army Food Inspection School in Chicago for ten weeks where I learned all about inspecting the food that our men in service are served. I have to admit that I take no responsibility for the food after it got into the hands of the Army cooks, but it was the finest grades of meat and vegetables when I inspected it.
After I graduated from Food Inspection School I was assigned to the Post Veterinarian’s Office in Fort Riley, Kansas. This is the same fort that (Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer rode out of on his way to the Little Big Horn in 1876. He didn’t return.
Legend has it that the above building was where Custer’s horse was stabled. Today, it is the site of the Post Veterinarian’s Office. While the back part of the building still looked like a stable, the food inspectors were actually stabled in individual rooms behind the office area.
My prime food inspection assignment was inspecting all the food that came into the fort’s commissary store. It was like a giant A&P and I was responsible for inspecting the quality for all the food that arrived there before it was put on display for sale to military families. In my two years on the job I rejected one truckload of beef because the bed of the truck was covered with manure. I also rejected a train load of sugar because it was infected with drugstore beatles.
The only action I ever saw in my military career was the day I was bitten by a nasty cocker spaniel owned by the wife of the fort’s commanding general. The dog was being quarantined for biting a couple of kids in the dog kennels that were the back of the building. I earned a shot in my right buttock for my only bodily injury as a member of the military.
“They also serve who only stand and inspect the food!”
TRIVIA QUESTION: Does anyone remember an early TV sitcom that was set in an Army Veterinarian’s Office?
I passed on an invitation to go to the Japanese Festival at the Botanical Garden today. Mainly because we were being threatened with dire forecasts of storms throughout the entire day. There’s nothing soggier than a Japanese maiden in a rain-soaked kimonos. So when the overnight thunderstorms failed to appear by 8:00 am, I decided to get up and cut the overgrown back lawn. I suspect that twelve-inch tall crab grass qualifies as overgrown and even over-groan. I didn’t cut it at the normal grass height since the grass was too tall for that. So when I finished cutting two hours later, the grass was cut to the normal height it is when I decide it is time to cut the lawn. So if the promised thunderstorms and /or tornadoes fail to show up today or tomorrow, I can cut it all over again!
Labor Day never meant much to me. When I was a kid, it was always the day before I had to go back to school. Remember back then school didn’t have to start the last two weeks in August, because we didn’t have anything like SNOW DAYS. Rain or shine, sleet or snow … we didn’t get off because the school buses couldn’t run, because we didn’t have school buses — we walked to school.
It meant a lot to my father though, because he was a laborer in a steel manufacturing factory. He made doors. I was never a laborer though. My first job was an as office boy or mail boy. Then after I got through college, I was able to work myself up to traffic director and copywriter trainee in advertising. So while I worked, I never really labored. Using your brain and being creative never did count as laboring.
My mother never really worked either. She was a house-wife which put her and other women in the same category as beasts of burden back in those olden days. She was always one to note that one Labor Day back in 1939, she did labor most of the entire day. I was born in the early hours the next day. She said she never worked so hard in her life, but I was worth it. Guess, that’s why I took care of her until she was 96.
September 4, 1939 — It was Labor Day — it was the day after the invasion of Poland and the start of World War II — it was the day my dad was going to take her to see the Wizard Of Oz at the Fox — it was the day she spent her 27th birthday at St. Louis Maternity Hospital in labor waiting for me to arrive.
THE BUSTER BROWN BUTTERFLY
Today’s butterfly was inspired by childhood memories. When I was a kid my mother and father would walk down Saint Louis Avenue to 14th Street. Back in the post war 40’s 14th Street was a bustling shopping area in North Saint Louis. The hadn’t invented shopping centers back then. So, if you were shopping, you either went downtown where the department stores were or you went to 14th Street or Grand Avenue on the Near North Side. They also had shopping areas on the south side of the city … but to shop there required a long streetcar ride. So 14th Street was closest for us. And the shoes of choice for any kid who listen to the radio and Smiling Ed McConnell, Midnight the Cat, Groggy Gremlin and Squeaky the Mouse were Buster Brown shoes.
Who could forget the famous Buster Brown tag line … THAT’S MY DOG TIGE. HE LIVES IN A SHOE. I’M BUSTER BROWN, LOOK FOR ME IN THERE, TOO! Little did I realize that when I got my first job in advertising, it would be working for a shoe company owned by Brown Shoe Company … the company that made Buster Brown.Shoes. Thankfully, I never had any desire to name Mlle. Renee TIGE! But I did name today’s origami butterfly after Buster Brown. There is a sad tale about Tige though, he was an American Bull Terrier with a toothy grin.
In the late 20th century the Bull Terrier became known as a PIT BULL, a dog trained to fight other dogs viciously. And mother’s became excited about the kids being frightened by poor Tige. So the ad mavens had poor Tige redrawn into a happy faced lap dog…And my childhood dog and shoe idol was gone forever. Maybe I should have named my butterfly TIGE. Butterflies don’t have teeth.
The Man Of La Mancha is one of my favorite Broadway musicals. In my opinion it was the perfect musical. When it opened in 1965, it was playing in a very small theater off-Broadway and the critics panned it. But for some reason, people kept coming to see it. Fueled by word of mouth it eventually moved to Broadway, and I saw the National Company in St. Louis in the early seventies. In 1977 it was revived on Broadway with Richard Kiley the original star, and I was able to see it again. It was at the Palace Theatre and my seat was so high in the balcony that I had to wear a seatbelt. But I loved it and his performance.
Sadly, Mitch Leigh, the man who wrote the music for the musical, passed away today. Here is his QUEST, better known at the Impossible Dream and sung by Kiley from the original cast recording. It is still the best recording of the song ever.
Everybody has to have a QUEST in his or her life. And to dream, too.
In 1840s immigrants from Germany began settling in the near north Saint Louis areas. The neighborhoods where they settled became known as Bremen and Baden from the areas where they had lived in Germany. Except for a few, most lived in rented row houses that filled the north of city.
So the first buildings that these new arrivals constructed were Catholic Churches. Holy Trinity was the first in 1849. It was followed by Saint Liborius in 1856. Seven years later Holy Cross Parish was founded to the northwest in the Baden neighborhood. And in 1873, Perpetual Help was founded. And just one year later, Saint Augustine Church was founded. The pastor was the Rev. Henry Jaegering and the founders of the church included my great-grandfather Franz (Frank), my grandfather Adolph and his eight brothers and sisters. Actually, it took them about 24 years to complete building their church.
In 1897 this classic gothic church was built at the corner of Lismore and Hebert Streets. Soon, a large grade school was constructed across the street facing the church. Both my father and I attended and graduated from that school about 27 years apart.
The Old Saint Augustine Catholic Church Today
Back in the 1970s the church was closed, deconsecrated and sold by the Archdiocese of Saint Louis to a Baptist congregation. It was passed down to other non-denominational churches over the years.
And in just about the same time that it took to build the church in the first photo, you see the church as it stands today.
By comparing the two photos you can see where the church has been vandalized. The stained glass rose window has been partially destroyed and most of the windows have been boarded up. The school building actually caught fire and was demolished. Where it stood is now a vacant lot.
Why is today’s society so determined to destroy the culture our ancestors struggled so hard to build?
My father would have been 99 this Father’s Day. Unfortunately, he didn’t even get half way to that point. We lost him much to soon to a sudden brain aneurism about six years before medical science and treatment would reach the point of successful and recovery. We all miss him, but he missed the opportunity to know, love and spoil all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He loved kids, and he loved him.
Bill, Me on the goat and Dad – 1940
I didn’t get the chance to really know him,
But he really knew me.
This is a painting that hangs on my wall. It was painted by a co-worker and long-time friend. I tell people that it’s a painting of me. But in truth, it was painted from a snapshot he took of me standing on the curb outside a hotel in down town Saint Louis on an early November afternoon about 40-years ago. I was standing there waiting for him to park his car and come back to help me carry the pile of A/V equipment that was standing next to me into the hotel for a company business meeting. Artistically, he downsized the pile of equipment to a single case.
After we moved the equipment into the hotel and set it up for the meeting that would be held the next morning, we headed uptown for the old St. Louis Arena for a concert by The Moody Blues. Hey, they were big back then! Anyway, we were running late and we got there as the SRO crown packing the arena was booing the opening act off of the stage and stomping their feet demanding the main attraction. We didn’t even hear the opening act perform. It was some pianist/singer named Billy Joel and apparently he didn’t make a very big impression on the half or more stoned crowd. Hey, who knew the piano-man would become famous. Apparently, he did, because he always mentions his debut appearance in all of his return engagements.
So, that is the story behind the painting on the wall. My friend actually painted it from the photograph several years after the incident. And it was several years after that before he gave me the painting. He didn’t fare well as he grew older. He was in ill health and we only got together on an occasional basis. He passed away suddenly about five years ago. Now the painting has become a source for memories of both the good times, and the bad times that followed.