Charlie Brennan is Having Me Back

charlie_400x400Most of us won’t be laboring on Labor Day,  So it’ll be a good time to sit back and listen to Charlie Brennan interview me on KMOX AM 1120 from 9:35 a.m. to 10 a.m. Out-of-towners can listen in to the program at Charlie’s the dean of local talk show hosts and the host on Channel 9’s Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays. He always does a great interview.

Charlie had me on on Thanksgiving morning of 2010 to talk about Hoosiers and Scubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side and again on Thanksgiving morning of 2012 to discuss Beer, Brats, and Baseball: St. Louis Germans. Monday’s interview won’t be on Thanksgiving, but it will be on a holiday. So the tradition continues. Our discussion of The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and The Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch may include something about the hard hats who labored on the Arch.


Work Not For Everybody

Arch construction 1Readers of page 108 of The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and the Hard Hats learn that it wasn’t easy to work on the Gateway Arch, and not just because of the heights.

In June 1965, nearly six months before the topping-out ceremony for the Gateway Arch, the electrical systems subcontractor for the project reported that most of the electricians originally hired for the job had quit. They groused about a tilting sensation and claustrophobia in the curving, narrowing legs. Louis Sachs, president of Sachs Electric Co., said workers never felt like they were standing up straight. Ralph Scanga, who was in charge of engineering for the firm, described it as “walking in the Fun House at the old Forest Park Highlands.” The reference was to a popular amusement park on Oakland Avenue that burned down in 1963. Worse, until an electrical lift was installed in May 1965—just months before the topping-out ceremony—workers had to walk up hundreds of steps with their tools at their sides. “Since there is plenty of other construction work available, a good many decided the thrill of working on the Arch wasn’t worth the effort,” Scanga said.

Out to St. Charles for Some Gemütlichkeit

Monday will be a good time to mosey out to St. Charles. The German Chapter of the St. Charles Sister Cities has invited me to come out and talk about one of my favorite subjects, St. Louis Germans.

I’ll do some readings about St. Louis Germans from all three of my books, Beer, Brats, and Baseball: St. Louis Germans;
The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch; and 
Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’ South Side. I’ll also talk about the campaign to provide markers for streets whose German names were changed during World War I.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the 28/65 Brewhouse, 2865 Veterans Memorial Parkway, St. Charles. Dinner starts at 6 p.m.



Return of an Oldie But Goodie

Hoosiers 2nd Edition Cover_8 22 14 -aJust six months after my book on the Gateway Arch came out, I’ll have a new book. Make that a new old book.

The book will be the 2nd Edition of my first book, Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side. This story of the people, places, events, and oddities that have made the South Side such a special place has been a big seller ever since it came out four years ago. When it sold out earlier this year, the gang at Reedy Press could have just ordered a new press run. Instead, they asked me to update it with new stories and photos.

Most of the old favorites will be back. But there also will be tales of the first shoppers at Hampton Village, a TV host known for being thrown out of almost every place he went, all the stuff you’ll find in Globe Drug, the vacuum cleaner king of the South Side, and the day Carondelet almost exploded.

Watch for it in October. The South Side never looked so good as it will look in the 2nd Edition of Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side.

The Gateway Arch Means Business

Arch logo 1From the beginning, businesses have adopted the Gateway Arch as a symbol of St. Louis. The Missouri Secretary of State’s online database of corporations lists more than six hundred corporations, present and past, whose name starts with the word Arch. arch logo 2Compared to the number of corporations starting with the word Gateway, that’s a handful.  As I wrote in The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch, the database lists four thousand of those corporations, present and past. It shows a mix of civic pride, acknowledgment that the Arch has made locals
realize how much St. Louis is the Gateway City, and a hope that the monument’s success will rub off on their own business.st_ louis blues logo 1

Kind Words From Eric Saarinen

eric saarinen

One of the biggest thrills an author can have is for someone you wrote about to say you did a great job. That happened this week when Eric Saarinen sent me the most kind e-mail you could imagine about my book The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch.

“Your background coverage over time is a great time-lapse of history emerging to the evolution and the final result,” wrote Saarinen, the son of Gateway Arch designer Eero Saarinen. “To me, your point of view was very different from the professional biographers who are just now discovering my dad. I wish every city had such an inspiring monument. So tragic that he never saw the very inspiring result himself.” Eero Saarinen died of a brain tumor in 1961, two years before construction started on the Gateway Arch. My phone interviews with Eric Saarinen and his sister Susan were sometimes difficult, because part of them dealt with how they handled their father’s divorce and remarriage while he was designing the Gateway Arch. In his e-mail, Eric Saarinen said, “Jim, you have been very gracious and thoughtful. I have learned a lot from your point of view…being swept away by the ingenuity and resourceful creators. Everyone from Saint Louis loves it.”

Eric Saarinen is a talented videographer, as this shot from the commercial he made shows.

saarinen commercial

He says he may be using that talent to with a film marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Gateway Arch next year. “Hopefully, this will be a good film. . . a great film.” I look forward to seeing him and meeting him when he’s in town.