stickHere’s another one of my favorites from the Journals, about the day I let them stick it to me. http://www.stltoday.com/suburban-journals/illinois/life/hour-story-reporter-gives-blood-in-spite-of-himself/article_69912c41-43c0-57e4-92a1-c6fe06b15127.html

Harry Brinkop Guesses Right

Hampton Village 4The time and place seemed all wrong. But in the depths of the Great Depression, Harry Brinkop emptied the bank to bet on a South Side spot for a new shopping center. He came up all aces. The yet-unpaved intersection Brinkop chose when he started his Boulevard Frontage Company in 1930 was Chippewa Street and Hampton Avenue. Some might have doubted Brinkop’s wisdom when his first building opened at the end of December 1939. But today, Hampton Village remains vibrant.

Hoosiers 2nd Edition Cover_8 22 14 -aThe story of Harry Brinkop is just one of the tales in the Second Edition of Jim Merkel’s Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side. It’s available in bookstores and on line.


Forty-Nine Years Ago Today


October 28, 1965

All around were countless photographers and filmmakers, amateur and professional, ready to take the pictures that would go into the history books. A few of those pros sat in helicopters that swarmed uncomfortably close to each other near the not-quite-finished Gateway Arch. “You can’t handle sleep the night before, knowing it’s going to be very historic,” Eldon Arteaga said in a 2013 interview.

Charles Guggenheim sensed the history. The final moments of Guggenheim’s film Monument to the Dream show the masses on the ground straining their necks to see what happens—including an old guy squinting behind wire-rimmed glasses as he chomped on a stogie. “You’re about 180 feet up, right at 200 feet,” Vito Comporato said to hoist engineer Bill Quigley over the phone link in the film seen by millions in the Arch Visitor Center. On the top, about eighteen people wearing silver hard hats but no protective lanyards watched as the piece came ever closer. “The flag’s about even with the top,” Comporato stated. “Hold it right there. That’s good.”

arch1A helicopter flew over, maybe fifty feet or less above. Then Quigley, who never saw it, began squeezing the last piece in.

What’s that all about?”

What’s that?”

All of them whistles?”

I don’t know. Steamboats, I guess. Celebrating.”

The lift took thirteen minutes, but the piece wasn’t entirely in place until 11 a.m. From below, that last piece was shining, even with its surroundings. Around 2 p.m., the jack was released, forcing the two sides into one. Never again could someone say two distinct legs rose separately on the east side of the city’s downtown. Forevermore, one soaring stainless steel curve would rise from the riverfront in St. Louis. “Neither an obelisk nor a rectangular box nor a dome seemed right on this site or for this purpose,” Eero Saarinen had said. “But here, at the edge of the Mississippi River, a great arch did seem right.” It took 889 days to build that great arch, but nearly two hundred years to ready the ground where it would stand.

  • The Making of an Icon,

    The Dreamers, The Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch

Somebody in Brazil Likes Me

brazil-mdMaybe I should try selling my books in Brazil. In the last 30 days, my website, jimmerkelthewriter.com, has had 310 views from the USA and 53 from Brazil. Eight views have come from Italy, five from France, and four each from Germany and Australia.

brazil cityI’ve been getting lots of hits from Brazil ever since the web site started early in 2012. I’ve also gotten hits from every continent in the world except Antarctica. Maybe people everywhere soon will read my books about the Gateway Arch, St. Louis Germans, and South Side Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch.

Meanwhile, if you’re reading overseas, drop me a line, either at the bottom of this page or at my e-mail address, southsidemerkel@gmail.com. Talk to you soon.