Iconic Saint Louis

Saint Louis is a proud city, with a long history.  Situated at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, it bills itself as the gateway to the west.  For much of its history, Saint Louis was the stepping-off point for west-bound settler’s journeys.  The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, more commonly known as The Arch, was erected in commemoration of this national migration.  It has also become a symbol of this city.

Saint Louis as a crossroads, is also iconic.  In the nineteenth century, Saint Louis’ east-west trade was predicated upon the north-south river commerce along the Mississippi River.  In addition to commercial transits, cultural threads have criss-cross our town.

Scott Joplin, one of the masters of ragtime is still venerated here.  His house is now a national historic site.  Josephine Baker earned fame beyond Saint Louis, but her roots were in this area.  Occasionally, Chuck Berry still performs at Blueberry Hill.

In some sense Saint Louis stopped growing after the 1904 Worlds Fair.  To put it another way, part of Saint Louis died after the fair closed.  The city still has Forest Park, which is a gorgeous park, but I can’t stop feeling that it was better in 1904.  Listening to Judy Garland sing Meet Me in Saint Louie only reinforces this feeling.

Saint Louis once held the epitaph, First in Shoes, First in Booze, and last in the American League.  The Saint Louis Browns’ exit from town kicked out one leg of that three-legged stool.  The collapse of the American shoe industry kicked out another.  Last year’s takeover of Anheuser-Busch by InBev kicked out the last leg. 

But this transformation of Saint Louis and its economy has not been all bad.  A lot, if not most of the old shoe factories have been converted into loft apartments.  A-B is still a presence in town and looks to remain so.  Now what about those Saint Louis Browns?

The Cardinals won the heart of Saint Louis long ago.  The Browns were just the first of many other sports teams to feel neglected.  Probably the most jaded of Saint Louis sports teams were the Football Cardinals.  They were never ‘The Cardinals’ here in Saint Louis, but only the football Cardinals.

Saint Louis missed the boat on the railroad revolution at the end of the nineteenth century and has had to settle for second fiddle after Chicago ever since.  When flight rose on the horizon, the city fathers latched on to this medium.  They sponsored Charles Lindberg on his cross Atlantic flight in the Spirit of Saint Louis.  McDonnell Aircraft rose to preeminence in the military aircraft market with its 1960s home run, the F-4 Phantom, the Saint Louis Slugger.

Saint Louis or maybe just me is much more prosaic than it was in the past.  It is still proud, but not so pretentious as it was in the past. I like to think of Saint Louis as America’s largest small town.  But maybe Susan Boyle, of Britain’s Got Talent fame, got it better in her description of her home as, “more of a collection of villages”.  So which high school did you go to?

4 thoughts on “Iconic Saint Louis

  1. I went to Huron High School (go River Rats!) although I fail to see what that has to do with St. Louis. oh wait – maybe you weren’t talking to me….

  2. That’s the point, it’s such a St. Louis question. St. Louis people use this question to typecast other St. Louis people. Never mind what you’ve done since high school, they think they know everything about you, based on where you were years, or decades, ago.

    Go Pioneers! (Kirkwood? No, Ann Arbor!)

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