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.
This is exciting stuff. We finally have a cover for our book, and what a cover it is. At the top is a colorized version of a splendid late 1940s-era black and white picture given to us by Cora Katzen (center). Cora’s a charming and funny woman who shared her stories for Growing Up St. Louis of trying to join a circus and of being thrown off a horse. At the bottom are two girls on a roller coaster looking like they’re ready to propel out of the cover and into our laps. Then there’s the addition to the cover. No longer is it just Growing Up St. Louis, but Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades.
It’s enough to make any book lover grab a copy, run to the checkout counter and buy a copy. With stories from more than 100 St. Louisans he interviewed, plus seven written accounts of life at the start of the 20th Century, plus ten essays about the lives of kids to 1900 until now, it’s guaranteed to make all of us realize how much our childhood experiences shape our lives.
It makes for great reading, starting with the book’s release in April but it also also makes for great programs, especially at the Launch Event, at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 11 at the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library, 1301 Olive Street, downtown. There’ll be a panel discussion with some of my favorite “interviewees” and a presentation by me. I’ll be around to sign the book before and after. You can find a complete list of programs in the “Upcoming Events” section of this website. In April, you also can buy a book through this website. What a book this will be.
That’s when the St. Louis Public Library – Central Library – will host the launch event for my book, Growing Up St. Louis. Don’t miss it. It’ll start at 1 p.m. and definitely be worth your time. If you can’t make it, Growing Up will be in bookstores and online starting a little before April 1, 2020. But why would you want to miss it? You don’t have to read about people in my book, but you can meet them and hear more of their stories.
I started talking about this project before the end of 2016, which makes it by far my longest project. Here you’ll read about surviving in the depression, the baby boomer’s life in the suburbs, and what it was like for a kid to watch someone get shot in a gang-infested part of St. Louis. It was the result of more than 100 interviews with people of all ages, black, white, rich, poor. Between the stories are photos of kids from every period. Like no other book, Growing Up St. Louis tells what it was like to grow up in the Gateway City.
This will be a book worth waiting for. Mark that date: April 11, 2020. It’ll be here before you know it.
At times, I’ve thought I’d never finish writing Growing Up St. Louis, my book telling the stories of more than 100 people I’ve interviewed about their experiences as youngsters in the Gateway City. I started talking about it late in 2016. Things dragged. I had to change things around. But now it looks like we’ll actually see it in print.
I turned in a nearly 40,000-word draft on Aug. 22. Last week, I received an e-mail asking for pictures for the cover, plus a back cover blurb and short bio. Reedy Press plans to use that material in its promotion of its stable of books for release in the spring.
This will be a great book, maybe the best I’ve written. It really gives the feel of how all kinds of kids lived here since 1900, the good parts and the bad parts. To celebrate, I’m including a selection of pictures that may be in the volume. I can’t wait for it to come off the presses and for you to see it.
The motley crew in the picture above is 18 of the more than 100 folks I interviewed for my upcoming book Growing Up St. Louis, plus me, at the far left back. We gathered this past Sunday at C J Muggs Bar & Grill in Webster Groves to schmooze and hear each other tell stories about what it was like to spend our early years in the Gateway City.
The stories differed widely, and included what it was like to “duck and cover” to stay safe from the A-bomb in the 1950s, growing up very Catholic and being the son of a player in the Negro Leagues. We also heard from a former teen mother and learned what it was like to be homeschooled. You can read them and others told by St. Louisans born from 1907 to 2008 when Growing Up St. Louis comes out.
The gathering was one of two events in the past few days that were especially heartening to me. In the past few weeks, the project seemed to stall. I wondered whether it ever will be released. But this week, my publisher and I came up with an exciting way to present the 10 periods we’re profiling. After two years of hard work, it’s finally taking form and should be in print early next year. It’s sure to be my best book.
Just for fun, here’s some pictures of me with my favorite people, the ones who spend a twenty and a bit more on my books at a signing. Here are some of those I encountered in the last six months. You can be one of those favorite people by coming to my next signing from 1-5 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Arch Store at the Gateway Arch. Buy a copy of The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and The Hard Hats Who Built The Gateway Arch, 2nd Edition, and then ride the tram to the top. Don’t mind the backward titles. That’s what happens when you take a selfie.
Once again, we’re sharing our Christmas Letter on Facebook. Here it is.
Merry Christmas 2018 to one and all.
This year, we got a little older, but stayed busy in our work and relationships with family, friends and members of our church. We ventured out of town twice this year. Lorraine and Jim and Jim’s brother Chuck traveled to western Kentucky to meet Jim’s sister and brother-in-law John and Lois Schmitt from Atlanta for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a time for good food and sharing lives. In June, we went to mid-Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks for the annual Celebration Midwest Conference of Confluence Churches, the national group of our church. We were blessed to receive an invitation to a leadership conference for our group of churches in September. After nearly 20 years, we still lead a service on the second Sunday of each month at a nursing home. We just started hosting a small Wednesday morning prayer group at our house.
Jim updated his book, The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built The Gateway Arch, and promoted it the last half of the year. He’s writing a new book, Growing Up St. Louis, about the lives of kids here from 1900 on through the eyes of more than 100 people he interviewed. He leads a project to provide markers on St. Louis streets whose German names were changed during the anti-German period of World War I. St. Louis has put up five signs and is about to approve another. It’s a way to show how groups are targeted in times of hysteria. At church, he runs the ministry that cleans the parking lot before Sunday services.
This was a good year for Lorraine, both spiritually and physically. Her report: “The September leadership conference increased my faith to use my gifts to advance the kingdom of God. At our November women’s conference, I received prayer, and God broke lifelong spiritual habits.” After her heart attack in 2015, her cardiac checkups have all been good. Lorraine also continued to bless seniors as a home health aide. Besides doing light housekeeping and other chores, she makes close friends with all of them and shares the good news of Jesus with every one. “It’s always a joy and privilege to help seniors live in their homes.”
And, at the end of 2018, it’s a joy and privilege to know you. May you have the best of years in 2019, and may you come to know the comfort of the Babe in the manger.
I finished the season on a high note on Christmas Eve signing books at Half Price Books in St. Charles. It wasn’t the kind of monster day I’ve had lately, but it was decent. I loved talking up the Gateway Arch with buyers of my Arch book The Making of an Icon, 2nd Edition like David Scully Jr. I hope those who didn’t buy still got a little more excited about our local treasure. Then there was Donna C. Wood of Ballwin, who sent her son to pick up two copies of Beer, Brats, and Baseball: St. Louis Germans as last-minute gifts. Yeah, Donna!
All told, I had a great December signing at nine places. God blessed, and we’ll be able to pay a few end-of-the-year bills. I’ll keep signing next year, including when Growing Up St. Louis comes out next fall. I hope to see you at one of them.