Is it “St. Louis,” as in… oh, say the St. Louis Cardinals (now referring ONLY to a baseball team, now that the pesky “football Cardinals” moved on to some southern hospitality… not to say southern MONEY). Or is it “Saint Louis,” as in… Well, the newscasts who spell out the name. ESPN, for example, when they tell us how things went sports-wise. Baseball and such.
So, yeah. TV spells it “Saint Louis.” Newspapers spell it “Saint Louis.” Only radio sticks with “St. Louis…” (At least, that’s what it sounds like to me!)
Yep: I was born and raised in good ole’ St. Louis… south St. Louis, to be specific. And, yes… St. Louis. Yep: pesky habit, to this day. Still… at one point, my home sweet home when was a kid.
Oh. And I was kind of sure St. Louis was gonna’ be where I lived for my whole life.
Didn’t turn out that way, though. Nope.
If whatever powers that be have decided these days to get real real holy and proper about spelling the name of the place… the LAST batch of “powers that be,” the ones who were in control for most of my life, decided that St. Louis was… appropriate. That’s the word.
Worse… Whoever “they” are… Well: they also decided that St. (or Saint) Louis would grow OUT. Not UP. Out, by the way, as in “way WAY out.” Drive a long way “way WAY out.”
So here’s where little bitty (then and VERY MUCH now) Dayton comes in.
Having graduated with “yet ANOTHER” degreee from the University of Dayton, I was headed back “home,” to Saint (or St.) Louis University to work on a Doctoral degree, to begin life as an even MORE grown up person. First step: become a “teaching assistant” at “SLU.” Pronounced… well, “SLU.”
What it all meant I thought… naive little me… I BELIEVED I was finally home from my life’s travels.
That FEELING of “being home” lasted for exactly ten days: TEN DAYS.. Ten days of going down to to “SLU” from my childhood home in the “suburbs…” and ten days, one after another, in which I witnessed fatal auto accidents on what “we” Saint Louis-ans (I guess that’s correct)… what we called the “Mark Twain Expressway.” Yep: ten days, one after the other. Watching cars crash and people dying.
My home sweet home.
On the “Mark Twain Expressway…” aka: Interstate 70.
That’s when I knew I was NOT going to live there, but that I’d go back to Dayton as fast as possible when the whole education trip was over. Now, it’s not that I suffered or anything for the next two and a half years. Nope: it’s just that I consciously lived as a tourist. I went to Gaslight Square and enjoyed good jazz, went to Hrdlicka’s. and enjoyed a fantastic local restaurant specializing in “deep fried in beer batter chicken,” which did make me think about buying my own franchise (for Dayton, of course). I went to the wonderful “Muny Opera” in Forest Park, enjoyed the free seats as off-Broadway” musicals were presented (in case you’re curious: in Dayton, I would discover, we called this “The Kenley Players”)
Best of all that, though, was that I DID get reacquainted with lots and lots of my huge circle of relatives who had, when I was a kid, lived within blocks of our family “flat” in South St. Louis (from here on in, if you want it to be “Saint Louis,” you’ll have to do the transform yourself). That St. Louis, I think it’s safe to say, was small in size, still small enough for a kid to go VISIT anyone of the friends and relatives by walking.
But when I got back… aunts and uncles who had lived down the block or around the corner or next door in the same flat as my family lived in… well, now these aunts and uncles lived thirty… forty… even FIFTY miles away. Still in “St. Louis County,” but far, far away in the County. Well, you know: none of us, in those wonderful late ’60’s day, knew anything about “urban sprawl.” All those aunts and uncles and cousins and friends had just… moved. And it was never REALLY far… “why,” they’d say, “it’s just off highway 70.”
Of course, back then we didn’t complain about the amount of gas it took to make a hundred mile round trip to visit an aunt or an uncle. Nope: we always had gas wars to keep the “price at the pump” dirt cheap. No, the only thing we decided not to notice was how long an afternoon visit would really take.
But when I’d drive up with my wife and kids to VISIT good ole’ Dayton… well, people were nice and lived close even though there was this thing called “Interstate 75.” Sure, it was there. You just didn’t have to USE IT. The Interstate was for folks going to Florida from Michigan or vice versa.
In St. Louis, a traffic jam on OR off the freeway could take an hour or so to unwind. BUT Dayton… Dayton’s traffic jams?? Back then — and even NOW — traffic jams off the freeway back then and now take ten minutes or so to unwind.
But all in all, in a few very short years, St. Louis drew itself into being a big, big city: even had a new stadium back then — as it does now, as a matter of fact: a NEWER new Stadium — and a good thing back then was I could go see the Cardinals play in the World Series a couple of years in a row. But… the Cardinals and the NEW new stadium. You know what: that’s another story.
Oh. And another OTHER story was living with all those little restaurants in some of the living rooms in neighborhoods of… well: politely now. Italian Heights. Yep: helped my mom even back then kick the cooking habit. But again: you know… That’s another story.
But here in Dayton: it’s the same old story.
Yes sir. Yes INDEED.