St. Louis Through the Eyes of Kids

I can’t believe it, but I’ve talked to 104 people so far from every age and background about their experiences growing up in St. Louis for my upcoming book, Growing up St. Louis. I’ll talk to two or three more, but I’m basically done. The stories I heard during those conversations will provide the basis for a rich look at how people grew up in St. Louis since 1900. I’m just starting with the writing itself. I love it.
Dorothy Hunter (left) with her sister Ida and her brother Jack at their home on Connecticut street, just some of Tower Grove Park.

Consider Dorothy Hunter, who was 109 when I talked to her last spring. She grew up on Connecticut Street and remembered walking north to Tower Grove Park to play tennis. My oldest interview subject, she saw silent movies on Grand Avenue, led the Ukulele Club at Cleveland High School and saw her uncle off at Union Station when he got on the train to fight in World War I. My youngest interviewee was 9-year-old Milo Marston who was born more than 100 years after Dorothy Hunter​. He loves math, attends the Mallinckrodt School off Hampton and plays the flute. He also lives on Connecticut – in the same block where Dorothy Hunter grew up, actually. How’s that for a coincidence?​

You might not call what they did coincidence, but what happened to others makes for terrific reading.​

– Vivian Zwick, who is 100, was invited to join a sorority at Clayton High School, and then rejected because she was Jewish.

– Gerald Schriedel and his six siblings were crestfallen when their parents put them into an orphanage in 1942

– When Paul Hartke uttered the “N” word as a youngster in the 1940s, his mother arranged for him to meet the African-American who picked up the family’s trash. He saw that he was just another person.

– Florida Cargill has pleasant memories of attending the segregated Douglass High School in North Webster for her first three years in the 1950s. But she didn’t find a warm welcome when she spent her senior year at the newly-integrated Webster Groves High School.

– Born in 1947, Darrell L. Fuse grew up on the Hill and delivered moonshine for his grandmother in the late 1950s.

– In the mid-1950s, little Jim Horne tagged along with his dad on a trip to fix his a refrigeration unit in a bar on The Hill. He encountered Yogi Berra, who apparently was in town to play in the 1957 All Star game.

– KSDK Sports Director Frank Cusumano fell in love with sports attending pro games with his dad, including the 1968 World Series game in which Bob Gibson struck out 17.

– Andrej Dzidic came from Bosnia when he was 2 in the mid-1990s. He recalls the frustration he had of constantly translating for his parents.

– Vindya Yanamadala is the daughter of two doctors whose marriage was arranged. But the high school senior, who lives in Chesterfield, is totally Americanized. When she marries, it’ll be for love.

Here’s the notes I took during my interviews. Oh, the stories they’d tell!

​I plan to stuff other stories about kids’ reactions when they learned about the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy and 9/11. People who grew up at different times talk about their experiences at the first, second and third Busch Stadiums, Forest Park Highlands and the Gateway Arch. They are rich and poor, from every part of the St. Louis area. They’re not just anybody. They are a special group.

I believe this will be a significant book about the history of St. Louis from the point of view of children. When the book is released, I’ll give a program about it at the Central Library downtown. That’s where I found about a quarter of my interview subjects, in open houses at four branches in October. I can’t wait to get this book out.






Published by Jim Merkel

Reedy Press published four of my books, Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis's South Side, 2010; Beer, Brats, and Baseball: St. Louis Germans, 2012; The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch; and the Second Edition of Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis's South Side, 2014. They're available in bookstores and online. For an autographed copy, send a check for $21.50 made out to Jim Merkel, to Jim Merkel, 4216 Osceola St., St. Louis, MO 63116.

2 thoughts on “St. Louis Through the Eyes of Kids

  1. This sounds great Jim, you’d better get writing while the interviews are fresh in your mind. Can’t wait to read it, this is a great concept.


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