The End is in Sight

Schremp Hahn
Valerie Schremp Hahn and her two kids, Alice and Leo outside the Carpenter branch of the St. Louis Public Library.

Valerie Schremp loved playing in the woods behind her home in Oakville. When her mother told her not to play in the creek in the woods, she naturally played in the creek. It was the kind of thing you’d expect from someone who grew up to be a journalist. Today, she writes as Valerie Schremp Hahn for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Valerie is one of more than two dozen St. Louisans I’ve interviewed for my book Growing Up St. Louis with the help of the St. Louis Public Library. During October, I talked to people who walked into open interview sessions at the library’s Buder, Carpenter, Schlafly and Julia Davis branches. Now, I’m about 22 people away from my goal of interviewing 100.

I interviewed Valerie on Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Carpenter Branch, as her mostly patient kids Alice and Leo waited in a children’s section of the library.  I also talked to Mary Schroeder about going to picnics for Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Florissant in the 1950s. No matter who I interview, I always end as a friend. I think you will, too, after  the book comes out.

 

 

 

 

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On the Air About the Library Sessions

KTRS-MIZZOU-Header_9_7ll be on two local radio stations this week to talk about the interviews at St. Louis Public Library branches to be in my upcoming book, Growing Up St. Louis.

At 2:10 p.m. today, Oct. 4,   John Carney will quiz me on his show on KTRS AM 550. Then after 9 a.m. this Friday, Oct. 6, Jim Doyle will talk to me on the Radio Arts Foundation,  107.3 FM and 96.3 HD KNOU.

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If nothing else, listening to the shows should be enough to get you to come to the interviews at the Buder Library on Saturday, October 7, or three other city library branches the following three Saturdays.

Here’s the complete schedule. Come talk to me, OK?

Saturday, Oct. 7, 10 am to 6 pm at Buder branch, 4401 Hampton Ave.

Saturday, Oct. 14, 10 am to 6 pm at Schlafly branch, 225 N. Euclid Ave.

Saturday,Oct. 21, 10 am to 6 pm at Carpenter branch, 3309 S. Grand Blvd.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 10 am to 6 pm at Julia Davis branch, 4415 Natural Bridge Ave.

Time to tell your story

Elizabeth June Manning Harper(1)I don’t know about you, but this Saturday, Oct. 7, I’ll be at the Buder Branch of the St. Louis Public Library.  I hope you’ll be there, too. We really need to talk.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., I’ll do brief interviews of you and anybody else who shows up about their unique experience of growing up in St. Louis. On three following Saturdays, I’ll do the same thing at three other St. Louis Library branches. From those, I’ll pick 50 people for full interviews for my upcoming book Growing Up in St. Louis. It won’t be an easy job, because everybody’s experience of growing up is amazing. When I’m finished, I’ll add the 50 from the library interviews to 50 I’ve already done.

Fred_Blumenthal2

Not everybody will get in the book, but as the man said, if you don’t try, you won’t win.

Here’s the schedule of library interviews:

Saturday, Oct. 7, 10 am to 6 pm at Buder branch, 4401 Hampton Ave.

Saturday, Oct. 14, 10 am to 6 pm at Schlafly branch, 225 N. Euclid Ave.

Saturday,Oct. 21, 10 am to 6 pm at Carpenter branch, 3309 S. Grand Blvd.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 10 am to 6 pm at Julia Davis branch, 4415 Natural Bridge Ave.

JimAsKid
Me while I was growing up in St. Louis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Details about the library interviews

16018 GROWING UP ST LOUIS SIGNHere’s a news release with details about the interviews for a chance to be in my upcoming book Growing Up St. Louis.

Author Jim Merkel to Interview St. Louisans for Upcoming Book

Growing Up St. Louis at St. Louis Public Library Branches in October

            What was it like to grow up in St. Louis in the 1920s? In the 1960s? In the 1990s?

Local author Jim Merkel plans to find out. He’s interviewing 100 people who grew up in the area for his upcoming book Growing Up St. Louis.

Interviews will take place 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays in October at four St. Louis Public Library branches, including:

Saturday, Oct. 4, 10 am to 6 pm at Buder branch, 4401 Hampton Ave.

Saturday, Oct. 14, 10 am to 6 pm at Schlafly branch, 225 N. Euclid Ave.

Saturday,Oct. 21, 10 am to 6 pm at Carpenter branch, 3309 S. Grand Blvd.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 10 am to 6 pm at Julia Davis branch, 4415 Natural Bridge Ave.

Dorothy Hunter (left) with her sister Ida and her brother Jack at their home on Connecticut street, just some of Tower Grove Park.

 

“I’m working hard to make sure my book includes all ages and groups who grew up in St. Louis,” Merkel said. “By opening its doors for my interviews, the St. Louis Public Library is making this much more likely.”

Reedy Press, which publishes Merkel’s books, and the St. Louis Public Library, arranged the sessions. “I’m excited to be part of this unusual partnership to gather stories of childhood in St. Louis since the start of the 20th Century,” he said.

“Going to Forest Park Highlands or a Cardinals game is part of the experience of growing up in St. Louis,” Merkel said. “So is growing up black in a racially divided city. So is hearing about the bombing of Pearl Harbor or 9/11. We want to hear about all aspects.”

Interviewees will fill out questionnaires about their childhood, sign a legal release and write briefly about a favorite memory. Then Merkel will have a short conversation with them.

At the end of October, Merkel will choose people for full-length callback interviews in November and December at the Carpenter Branch. Factors for selection will include how they add to the demographic mix of participants, how compelling their stories are and how they show the unique experience of growing up in St. Louis.

No appointments are required, and interviewees needn’t be city residents. They may also represent another person they want to be in the book, such as a 100-year-old grandmother.

Growing Up St. Louis will consist of 10 chapters: the first two decades of the 20th Century, followed by each decade up to 2000, and 2000 to the present.

A longtime St. Louis journalist, Merkel has written Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side; Beer, Brats, and Baseball: German-Americans in St. Louis; The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and The Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch; and The Colorful Characters of St. Louis.

 

Where it all began

SlimCox
The Late Greatn Country and Gospel Singers Slim and Zella Mae Cox do their stuff at the release party for “Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch” on Oct. 3 at the Feasting Fox Restaurant. They were two of the people I wrote about in the book.

It’s been nearby seven years since the release party for “Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side.” I’ve had events to celebrate the publication of three more books, plus two second editions. I’m looking forward to the launch of “Growing Up St. Louis” at the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library.  Yet in some ways, the release party for “Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch” still is my favorite. There’s something about doing it again. But back then, the idea of writing a book was fresh. There was a certain excitement, which pictures by my friend Jerry Bielicke clearly show.  Take a gander, and see if you agree. Thanks again, Jerry!

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Mesigning

ScrubbyDutch
Placed on tables, this reflected the “Scrubby Dutch” of my book.

 

 

A Third of the Way There

Elizabeth June Harper looked like this around the winter of 1928-29, when she was 2.

That’s right. So far, I’ve interviewed 34 people who started their lives here, for my upcoming book Growing Up St. Louis. When I get to 100, I’ll be done, except for a little matter of writing the book.  Meanwhile, I’m having a blast, interviewing every kind of St. Louisan about their experiences as youngsters.

The girl in the picture above is Elizabeth June Harper, who lived her formative years a short walk from Kingshighway Boulevard and Oakland Avenue. She told me about sleeping in Forest Park on sweltering nights in the summer and how she met her future husband when she worked at the Woolworths at Olive Street and Grand Boulevard.

I thought Elizabeth’s expression was priceless and wonderful. My wife thought she looked sad and cold. Lindbergh School District Communications Director Beth Johnston, who is Elizabeth’s granddaughter, e-mailed me that she looks a lot like her 3-year-old daughter Julie.

Frank Cusumano

Most of the people I’ve interviewed aren’t particularly well known. One exception is Frank Cusumano, the sports director at KSDK. He told me about watching Game 1 of the 1968 World Series with his dad, the owner of Kemoll’s Italian Restaurant. That was the one where Bob Gibson struck out 17, a World Series record. “I sensed that we were watching something that we would never forget,”  Cusumano told me.  “That moment was the moment that made me fall in love with sports.”

Betty (Emery) Hannibal is much less well known than a TV station sports director, but has a rich stock of memories of growing up in a four-family flat on Ethel Avenue in Richmond Heights. Born in 1940, she recalled how her father kept the family Christmas tree fresh past New Year’s Day 1946 so a neighbor who was returning from World War II could celebrate the holiday, too.

I still have a way to go before I’m finished with my interviews. If you’d like to be in the book, e-mail me at southsidemerkel@gmail.com and tell me some of your childhood memories.

Also, this fall, the St. Louis Public Library will offer four of its branches for preinterviews of people who wish to be included in Growing Up in St. Louis. From those I’ll call back a group for final 85-minute interviews. The preinterviews will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on four Saturdays in October at these branches:

  • Buder, 4401 Hampton Ave., Oct. 7.
  • Schlafly, 225 N. Euclid Ave.,  Oct. 14
  • Carpenter, 3309 S. Grand Blvd., Oct. 21.
  • Julia Davis, 4415 Natural Bridge Ave. Oct. 28.

It’ll be an exciting opportunity to hear the childhood memories of a truly diverse group of St. Louisans. Come join me.