Category Archives: Reflections
Back when I was a kid, there was a local chain of ice cream stores located in neighborhoods all around the city that made the best ice cream ever. They were called THE VELVET FREEZE. They would serve you up ice cream any way you wanted … cones, sundaes, splits and half-gallon cartons.
As a family of five we always would get a half-gallon. And the person who walked the two blocks to pick it up, always got to pick the flavor. My pick was always … SWISS CHOCOLATE. It was a blend of creamy vanilla ice cream with chunks of bittersweet chocolate. My mom always preferred fresh peach when it was in season. And my dad was the adventurous one, he always went with the special flavor of the month.
Every Fourth Of July we would ride the bus to the Northland Shopping Center for the fireworks display. And after all the oohs and aahs had ended we would walk home and stop at this store on Florissant Avenue for a double dip cones which we would eat while walking home discussing which part of the firework display we each like best.
It was a simple time, when we did simple things … together … as a family!
My dad died in the sixties. My brothers married and moved away in the seventies. The Velvet Freeze Stores began closing down in the eighties. And my mother died seven years ago. But the store pictured above is still there … the last holdout of a once city-wide chain. And they still make their own ice cream like they did sixty years ago. I could even still walk there for an ice cream cone.
But no one walks on the streets at night anymore. Sad!
Today the City and the People of Saint Louis bid farewell to one of their favorite and most loved sons, Stan The Man Musial. The sendoff was sort of our version of a Viking Funeral … part solemn with the traditions of the Catholic Church, but mostly sentimental about a hero and idol who actually personified those two words. That’s something you can’t say about most of today’s pretenders to those titles. I was actually lucky to meet him three times … once when I was planning a company event at his restaurant, and twice (like most of Saint Louis) while having dinner with him. Truthfully, I wasn’t eating with him. I was eating at the table next to him and his party. But when he was around, he made everyone feel like they were part of his party. Even the grumpiest curmudgeon would melt from his aura alone. And yes, I witnessed and enjoyed his harmonica serenade both times. He was an uncommon man who made every he met feel like a friend. Saint Louis lost one of its greatest assets and treasures this week.
I happened across the telecast of his funeral at the Cathedral Basilica Of Saint Louis earlier this afternoon. It was an impressive ceremony, but viewers really didn’t see much of the majesty of the Cathedral itself.
This treasure of Saint Louis contains the largest collection of mosaics in the world. Though construction of the building began in 1908, it took 80 years to complete all of the mosaic work. I’d like to share some the many photos I’ve taken of the mosaics in this structure. The photos were taken during a period when 7.1 megapixels were the hallmark of all digital cameras. So bear with the lack of definition in a couple of them.
The art of creating images in the mosaic style dates back to the first century BC. The mosaic is made up of thousands of tiny pieces of colored glass or stone that are arranged to create the desired image. Each tiny piece is painstakingly affixed to a special prepared surface.
NOTE: I really don’t know anything about mosaics. I got all of my information from the special exhibit in the basement of the Cathedral that documents the construction of the building and the creation of the mosaics. I took the above photos from this exhibit. If you ever visit Saint Louis and the Cathedral, be sure to check this out before you tour the church interior. Much of the early mosaic work was done by the Tiffany Studios. Other artisans created the later work.
The Cathedral Basilica Of Saint Louis
Like Stan The Man One Of The
Treasures of Saint Louis
1920 – 2013
Seventy-five years ago my grandmother, upon learning that her son would be getting married at the end of September, began working on a wedding gift for my mother. I think it took her nine months of crocheting to get her gift completed.
In case you don’t know what an antimacassar’s purpose in life was I’ll explain. Back in the first half of the 20th Century, men used to slick down their hair with various types of oil or pomade. Macassar Oil was one of the popular brands. To protect their overstuffed furniture from becoming oil stained, women began making little doilies to place on the back of the furniture where the man’s head would rest. The set my grandmother made contained smaller pieces for the arms of the chairs or sofas and also a larger scarf for the corner table in the living room. In the 30s every living room had a corner table that was the repository for a lamp and cherished photographs.
My mother would only bring out these crocheted pieces at Christmas and Easter and use them as scarves on every available flat surface in the house. Then on the twelfth day of Christmas she would collect them, wash, starch and iron them and store them away flat in her bottom dresser drawer between tissue paper until the next holiday season arrived.
To maintain the tradition, each Christmas I will get several of the scarves out of the drawer and put them on a couple of flat surfaces. Trust me, I draw the line at starching and ironing them.
My grandmother used a shiny beige colored thread in all the pieces that she made. My mother also had scarves made by her mother and aunts that used a white or multi-colored thread. Here’s one of them …
These were gifts that people made, rather than bought at a store. They are part of a bygone era.
1949 was the first Christmas celebrated by my entire immediate family. This picture shows my mom holding Tom who had been born in February. In the middle was Jim who was seven, and on the end me the big brother who was just 10.
Me, Tom and Jim with my Grandmother. This grandmother was my father’s mother. He was her seventh of eight children. My other grandmother wasn’t with us that Christmas. She had passed away the in the spring of 48.
Tom on Christmas morning going after his new baby doll. For some reason all of us boys received variations of this same doll on our first Christmas. I used Tom’s doll as a stand-in for the Baby Jesus in a nativity scene we set up after we moved to our new house several years later. Somebody stole it!
Opening the presents … for some reason the Red Ryder Rifle was never on my Christmas list. I knew you could shoot your eye out with one of them.
One year later, here’s my dad with his three sons. For some reason, the Christmas tree never seems to change. The wallpaper did change on a regular basis. Our landlord was a display director and he was forever experimenting with the decor of the house in which we lived. The color scheme of this wallpaper was green, shades of magenta and white. I think it changed one more time before we moved to our own house in the burbs.
For some reason my brother Jim and I ceased to be the focal point of Christmas morning.
This was our last Christmas in the house in the city. Notice my little brother’s two six-shooters. Somehow they don’t seem to work with a kid who needs suspenders to hold his pants up. If you look close, you can see the train tracks for my classic Lionel Prairie Steam Locomotive passenger train.
This year I displayed part of the train on one of the photo shelves in the living room.
On December 7 the family moved out of the house in the city and moved into the big old farmhouse in the suburbs where I still live. That first Christmas it snowed and my brothers and I built this snowman. We could never have a dog when we lived in the rental house in the city, and the long promised puppy was still in our future. So I made this snow-puppy that surprisingly looks like Mlle. Renee. If you look close you can even see the snow bone I made for her.
Oh, the great memories of those Christmases past … we didn’t have a care in the world and we could only dream of what lay ahead for us. They really were the best of times!
I was not in a very good mood today. I woke up to the news of 20 kindergarten kids being massacred in Newtown, CT, and all I could think of was my 5-year old great-nephew Jake. One of his greatest thrills is going to kindergarten and learning how to spell phonetically. And I can even (occasionally) figure out the words he’s trying to spell. Kindergarten was always a safe haven for kids … until today when the world went mad again!
GUNS! What is this insane obsession that people have about owning guns? Especially guns that can shoot 100 bullets at a clip? Sure, roll out the old second amendment routine again. A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. That amendment was written over 200-years ago when a gun could only shoot one bullet at a time, and that was only if the gun worked when you pulled the trigger.
And when exactly have we last needed a well-regulated militia for the security of a free state?
In the last election the NRA spent millions to buy politicians who were running for office. Wouldn’t that money be better spent buying books and school supplies for kids in kindergarten? No, the mighty gun cabal must have their freedoms to hunt and kill. I’ve got nothing against hunting, but when was the last time someone needed an automatic assault weapon to shoot a rabbit, or squirrel, or duck or even a deer?
No, we live in a very, very mad world!
Today, I sat down in the front of the TV and actually cried. I haven’t cried since my mother died, but I couldn’t help it. Unfortunately, Mlle. Renee couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. She snuggled as close as possible to my legs, and kept looking up to me in a sad way.
How do you explain a very, very mad world to a very innocent dog, or a kid in kindergarten?