A Day I’ll Remember

Jim-Merkel ArchI can’t see how any St. Louisan wasn’t moved by this week’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the topping-out of the Gateway Arch. As the author of a book about the Gateway Arch, I found Wednesday’s events at the Missouri History Museum marking the anniversary especially moving. A main reason was that I had a chance to reconnect with people I interviewed for The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and The Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch.

Jim1It was a real treat to shake hands with Eric and Susan Saarinen, the two children of Gateway Arch designer Eero Saarinen. (Susan is shown above between her husband Eric Bergman, at left, and me. Eric is shown below with me.) Reedy Press didn’t have much of an expense account for the book project, and so I couldn’t afford to fly out to interview them. Over the phone, they opened up about the awkward details of their parents’ divorce and their father’s remarriage.  I’ll always remember their kindness.

EricIn a talk, Susan shared about the chains her father kept hanging in their basement as the project developed.

Jim2I also caught up with Eleanore Ely Smith Tyson and Christine Smith, two grandkids of Luther Ely Smith, who came up with the idea of a riverfront memorial to Thomas Jefferson and the westward expansion Eleonore and I are are together in the picture above.

For me, all of the workers on the Arch who signed autographs that day (shown below) were especially important. I got the signatures of many of them on the hat I’m wearing above. Ken Kolkmeier, the project manager for subcontractor Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Co., (sitting, second to the right) teared up when he talked about their work, and how none of them died, when insurance companies predicted 13 of them would lose their lives. It’s truly amazing nobody did, and truly amazing what happened 50 years ago when the two legs came together. I’d like to think that this week many in this town rekindled their love for the Gateway Arch.


Come Celebrate How It All Started


Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating the day Germans first came to America. And you’re invited to join me and the rest of the Germans of the St. Louis region at their annual German-American Day. It’ll be from 1-4 p.m Sunday at the  St. Louis German Cultural Society Hall at 3652 Jefferson Avenue in St. Louis, MO 63118.

If you come, you’ll find German music, Beer, dancing, and lots of people dressed in German costumes. Including me, signing my second edition of Beer, Brats, and Baseball: German-Americans in St. Louis.

Here's how to recognize me.
Here’s how to recognize me.

Here’s some background: In 1983, President Reagan proclaimed October 6 as German-American Day to celebrate and honor the 300th anniversary of German American immigration to the U.S.. In 1987, Congress approved the National holiday designating October 6 as German-American Day, at which time the President called on Americans to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities. The St. Louis’ German-American Committee will do exactly that and the festivities will begin with St. Louis’ own Honorary German Consul Lansing Hecker.


1:00 Lansing Hecker – Honorary German Counsul will open the festivities!

1:10 Liederkranz (Mixed chorus) will sing

1:20 Joined by the German Cultural Society’s Damenchor (Women’s Chorus)

1:40 Dammenchor

2:00 St. Charles German Heritage Club* – German Fashion Show

2:30 German Cultural Society’s Jugendgruppe (Young people’s group)  will dance

3:00 Deutscher Mannerchor (Men’s Chorus) will sing

3:30 Froehliche Schuhplattler – Dance group will dance


St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities – Photographic Display of Stuttgart

Germanic Genealogical Special Interest Group – Genealogical Research

Stammtisch –– Doing what they do best – talking!

Badischer Unterstuetzungverein –- History

Missouri Germans Consortium –Book Signings – Authors Jim Merkel and Dorris Keeven-Franke

German Cultural Center –– Teacher and Educational Resources

St. Louis Bosseln League – Demonstrations

German School Association

St. Charles – Ludwigsburg Sister City



Komm, schließe dich uns an!