Category Archives: LOST YESTERDAYS
This is an extremely rare family photograph. I don’t have a lot of photos of my brother and I with our father. He was the guy who always handled the camera. (As you can see my mom had a bit of a focus problem when she was holding the old Kodak box camera.) This picture was taken in late 1945 or early 1946 on the front steps of our home in north Saint Louis. Notice the bright white steps courtesy of a weekly scrubbing with Old Dutch cleanser. He had just arrived home, and yes, he always wore a hat. And when he didn’t, he wore the standard 1940s cap.
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?
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!
Back when I was a kid, my brother and I would always go with my Aunt Edna to the Friday night double feature at the old Salisbury Theater. The Salisbury wasn’t a first or second run theater. It was a neighborhood theater where kids could get in for a dime! And every Friday night was a double-feature with the classics of my youth … Charlie Chan, Tarzan, Jon Hall, Maria Montez, The Bowery Boys, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers.
They were the only candy that was so hard and gummy that they would last through a double feature and then some.
That lasted until we got a TV and Friday night movies became a sometime thing.
Then my mom and dad decided that it was time to buy a house, and we moved out of north Saint Louis to West Walnut Manor in the suburbs. Surprisingly, there were neighborhood movie houses in the burbs, too. And while it wasn’t an every Friday night occasion, my brother and I were now old enough to walk the six or seven blocks to the Janet Theatre located on the main street of our community.
Though we didn’t see it in 3D, it was as scary as hell … with a strange creature you never saw, but only heard as it schlurped up and down the castle stairs and around the mall. It turned out to be a frog-like humanoid creature that was the brother of the castle owner. Imagine walking home … seven blocks on a dark and stormy night. It wasn’t really a stormy night, but you get the picture. Shortly after that The Janet closed its doors, and morphed into an auto repair shop whereI suspect the repairman schlurps around the shop with a dangling tool belt.
Yesterday, I sat down to eat breakfast. It was SHREDDED WHEAT, and since it was my father’s favorite, as well as all my uncles, it had become my favorite at a very early age. Only yesterday, when I looked down in my bowl, I realized that contrary to the cereal box claims my shredded wheat biscuit was not the Original Big Biscuit of my childhood. It was a shrunken version.
RETURN WITH US NOW
TO THOSE THRILLING DAYS OF YESTERYEAR!
Who could forget that un-cereal shaped box with the picture of Niagara Falls. For years I thought the wheat got shredded by falling over the falls. And amazed that it never got soggy. Back then the biscuits were simply stacked in the cardboard box with each layer of biscuits separated by a rectangle of cardboard. No sissy wax paper bag infiltrated with chemical retardants to preserve the freshness of this cereal. Besides the cards were imprinted with things a kid could really use.
Things like the Nabisco Toytown Carnival that I was able to cut out and assemble into a mini-table top carnival. And if I ate enough cereal, I might be able to collect all the different sets of cards to build the entire carnival. With three different cards in a box, I’d only have to eat twelve boxes to complete the set if I was lucky.
When I was ten, Nabisco started sponsoring my favorite radio program … STRAIGHT ARROW! That’s when they started using the jingle at the start of every program.
Nabisco is the name to know.
For a breakfast, you can’t beat
Eat Nabisco Shredded Wheat!”
An indian … oops … a native american sounding voice would chant the words in a tom-tom beat way while an organ pretending to be a drum beat in the background.
“Keen eyes fixed on a flying target… a gleaming arrow set against a rawhide string… a strong bow bent almost to the breaking point… and then… “
The sound of a bow being pulled back, an arrow being released and flying through the air, and a thud as it reached the target!
Golly, those were the days.
Today, NABISCO’s gone … and no one remembers that Indian boy who grow up to be an ordinary old west rancher with out anyone knowing he was really a “redskin.” Except when wrongs needed to be righted and he became that Comanche hero, STRAIGHT ARROW! THUD!!!
And the shredded wheat biscuits are smaller … it’s not just my imagination. Back when I was a kid the package that contained twelve biscuits weighed twelve ounce. Today’s package of eighteen biscuits weighs fifteen ounces. That’s .83333 of an ounce instead of the full ounce biscuit of yesteryear.And the biscuits now come wrapped in three biscuit paper bag that is chockfull of chemicals to maintain freshness. I wonder, if we eat wrapper as well as the shredded wheat biscuits within will we live forever?
Anyway, putting three biscuits into a bag creates yet another quandary. The suggested serving size is TWO biscuits. That means there is always going to be one left over. And Mlle. Renee doesn’t like Shredded Wheat.
Can you possible think of an era without sprawling shopping centers and even ubiquitous strip-malls? When my family moved to the burbs in the early fifties, the main street was lined with small independent shops and stores. Last spring I walked along this street for a trip into yesteryear. In the mid-fifties the first shopping center in the area was built, and gradually the small shops were closed and converted for other uses. Eventually, most were bulldozed and replace with larger modern buildings. But dotting the street there were still a few of the old buildings like this one. Mostly in disrepair …
I have no idea what it originally housed, I think it might have been a kids shoe store. I know there was one on that block. Or perhaps it was one of the several neighborhood barber shops that were on that street. (Men used to get their hair cut more often back then. Sometimes even every week.) You can tell it had wide plate-glass windows on the front, and a much wider front door. The ceramic coping stones still top the side walls, but the cornice has fallen away. Also the aged building is starting to shed the coat of latex paint that was used to spruce up it up. The same can be said for the for the last business to occupy the building. Action Printing hasn’t seen much printing later. But the building is still around after at least a century.
As to the shopping center that brought the little shops and stores to their demise, it didn’t even last fifty years. Bigger and fancier centers and malls enticed its customers away, until it was as vacant and forlorn as the little independent store is. When that happened, its multi-levels were demolished. And about ten years ago they started replacing it with a new shopping mall with individual small shops and larger stores arranged in single level block like formations.
If it wasn’t surrounded by acres of parking spaces it would almost look like the rows of little shops that once lined the street where these now stand. What goes around, comes around.
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!
Yes, I grew up with the Lone Ranger. But not on television!
I was one of those kids who used to spend his late afternoons sitting in front of the big old radio in the living room listening to each daily episode.
The Lone Ranger existed almost entirely in my imagination.
Little did I know that under his mask he really was an actor named Brace Beemer. I also didn’t know that the hoofbeats of the great horse Silver were really a couple of half coconuts clumping on various different surfaces to mark his passages over sand, ground, rock and water.
The last new episode of the Lone Ranger was broadcast on September 3, 1954 … two days before my 15th birthday. I wasn’t even listening to the Long Ranger anymore. The big old radio in the living room had been replaced with a Magnavox TV and I was developing new interests. The Lone Ranger was fading into my memories of YESTERYEAR.
Shortly after my birthday my parents bought their own house, and we moved from the northside of Saint Louis to the house in West Walnut Manor where I live today with a lifetime of memories.
I’ve decided to revisit some of these memories and share them with you. So I’ve created a new blog category titled LOST YESTERYEARS, and periodically, I’ll be using this space to take you on a trek back to some of my fond yesteryears.
NOTE … it’s not easy recapturing the past. Our old living room radio was photographed in the background of about three old family photos. Film was expensive back then, and my mother would never waste a shot on a radio. (Thank God for digital.)
I enlarged one of the photos as best I could and began an online search of vintage radios. I actually found an almost matching radio … the 1940 Philco shown at the top of this post. I actually think our radio was a bit older since it might have been a 1938 wedding present my parents received.