Tag Archives: Saint Louis

Heroes: from Kerr to “The Man”

It’s the middle of the 2019 World Series, and things are getting very interesting.  So, as I’ve done at this time of year before, it’s time to weave a rambling essay of baseball lore – this one with lesser known threads connecting heroes, villains and an indelible splotch on baseball’s reputation – recalling that this is the 100th Anniversary of the notorious “Black Sox”.

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I had the great fortune getting an opportunity to earn an engineering graduate degree at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee.  Among the countless benefits that sprouted from those two years (1978-80) were some that came from a forward looking realization: I might not have the chance to work a fun job that involved playing golf for many more decades. I’ve always liked golf, because, like baseball, it’s a sport that a skinny, short guy like me can achieve some success at.

So, in April 1979, I donned my most attractive, contemporary golf attire (which were a bit frayed and cheap looking) and rode my bicycle to a nearby exclusive golf and country club.  How nice was it?  The following summer it hosted the 1980 Women’s US Open.

I got a job with the pro, whose name was also Joe, after a very short interview. I worked there much of the next two summers doing a variety of golf-related tasks: in the pro-shop, selling golf paraphernalia and running the till; making deposits at the bank; running the driving range; cleaning clubs and carts; even working with the grounds crew to lay sod and build bridges.

Not a great job, at least with respect to pay (I think at $2.92/hr), but the main thing was the fringe benefits.  I was at a top-notch golf facility, where I was privileged to play at least 9-holes of golf every single day and also spend hours practicing every sort of shot.  By the end of the first summer I was a pretty fair bet to break 80 on a US open caliber course – and “from the tips”, as golfers say.  (Oh!, to be able to do that again).

Another benefit was getting tickets to high end golf related events.  For example, I attended the 1980 Music City Celebrity golf tournament at another high-end golf club for free.  This was a splashy fund-raiser for local charities.  I clearly recall following along two celebs for a several holes. 

The first celeb I followed was former President Gerald Ford.  He definitely struck me as athletic, but in a “football player” sort-of-way.  A very mechanical and muscle-bound swing.  Slight fade.  Never gonna be a great golfer, but played with the stoic, almost grim, emotionless face that you’d expect from a conservative.  He did hole a green-side bunker shot on number 9, which brought a huge roar of appreciation from the crowd. 

The other was Stan Musial.  Known to true-blue Saint Louis baseball fans as “Stan the Man”,  Musial’s marvelous baseball playing career came to an end about 17 years before … just as I was becoming a serious fan of the game.  It now occurs to me that I might have seen him once or even twice before, as my father started taking me to Wrigley Field to see Cubs games in 1961.

Stan Musial: late in MLB career

Musial was certainly one of the very, very best hitters of the 20th century, and among the best 2 or 3 left-handed hitters ever, ranking with Ted Williams and Ty Cobb.  Musial is arguably above Cobb, who never put up power numbers like Stan, and it’s tough to compare with Williams, whose overall career numbers (especially hits and home runs) are unfairly well down the list, since he lost three of the best years of his baseball career to military service, serving as a fighter pilot during World War II. 

I said that Musial’s playing career ended some 17 years before I saw him in Nashville, at the Music City Celeb.  But it nearly ended before he even made it to the majors. 

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100 years ago, it was almost impossible to imagine that the Chicago White Sox team of 1919 could lose the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. The star-studded Sox were prohibitive betting favorites.  It’s only imaginable in retrospect, knowing that their best players intentionally played well below their skill level – pitchers tossing easy-to-hit pitches, fielders kicking ground balls and dropping flyballs. 

Books and movies have been made about that team, and what happened thereafter.  The short version is that players thought they were severely underpaid (they probably were). Owner Charles Comiskey was a man of “deep pockets and short arms” – especially stingy with his money, and player salaries.  The sports-betting community connected the dots: prohibitive betting odds and disgruntled players provided the possibility of a gigantic gambling bonanza by giving a miniscule fraction of the winning proceeds to players who cooperated.

In the end, eight players were banned from baseball for life.  There is absolutely no doubt that many players cooperated, although it’s easy to make a case for Joe Jackson’s defense.  Jackson was an illiterate simple country boy from South Carolina, famously went by the nickname “Shoeless Joe” and had the prettiest lefthanded swing that any baseball expert had ever seen.  For the series, Joe hit for a .375 average, with a .956 OPS.  Hard to say he wasn’t trying, and easy to say he didn’t know what he was signing up for.

It’s also hard to imagine that there was a hero for the Sox in that Series.  A genuine hero on a team that intentionally tried to lose. But there most certainly was: the diminutive Dickey Kerr. Mostly forgotten now, Kerr was by no means not the best pitcher on the 1919 Sox.  Considered a second-tier pitcher, behind the likes of Eddie Cicotte (“Chick”), who won 29 games that season with a 1.82 ERA.  During the series, Chick picked two games to throw poorly at critical moments.

Tiny Dickey Kerr, 1919

Kerr was a rookie that year.  He stood barely 5 foot 7 inches tall, weighed 150 lbs “soaking wet”. Yet Kerr won two games in that series, going 2-0 with a dodgy defense behind him, and with a 1.42 ERA.  In one game he went 10 innings to get the win; silly (now obvious) errors led to a critical unearned run.

So lowly regarded was Kerr, that Sox players who collaborated with gamblers never even considered including him in the plot.  Even though he was unscathed by the scandal, his career soon also ended after the 1921 season (all eight collaborators finished the 1920 season) – although he made a brief comeback attempt in 1925.

Kerr’s missing of the 1922-24 seasons was also tied directly to Comiskey the Cheapskate.  Feeling like he was owed more money for his performance (he did go on to win an impressive 40 games over the ’20 and ’21 seasons), Kerr sat out and played some exhibition games (for pay) with other teams.  For that, he was harshly banned from baseball by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis (yes, that was his name … Kenesaw Mountain … his name has direct links to a major Civil War battle … at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia).

Kerr had a good head for baseball and leadership, making his way into the coaching and manager ranks.  It was later, in 1940, while managing the minor league D-Level Daytona Beach Islanders in the lowest levels of the Saint Louis Cardinals organization, that Kerr encountered a promising young athlete.

Born in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, Stanislaw Franciszek Musial was the fifth of six children born to Polish immigrants. He impressed scouts and was signed to a minor league contract in 1938 with the Saint Louis Cardinals, at the tender age of 18, mostly based on his potential as a pitcher.

By 1940 he was learning the game at the professional level, and playing in the outfield when not pitching, since he showed hitting promise as well.  But all considered him a pitcher first, especially Stan, himself.

Musial’s vision for his future clouded when he suffered a severe injury to his left shoulder while playing outfield for Kerr’s Islanders in 1940.  As Musial was left-handed his future as a professional pitcher seemed unlikely.

Discouraged, depressed, and now with the responsibilities of supporting a wife and a child on the way, Musial wanted to quit baseball and go find a job in a different career. 

To relieve financial and professional pressure, Kerr invited the young Musial family to live with him and his wife.  And Kerr took the opportunity to encourage Musial to focus on his athletic skills besides pitching.

Re-energized and taking Kerr’s mentorship to heart, Musial took to the 1941 season with gusto. He progressed at a startling, almost unbelievable, rate.  Beginning the spring at C-Level (Springfield, WA) based solely on his hitting and raw athletic potential, he was promoted to AA Level just after mid-season.  He did well enough that he earned a brief 12-game call to the Cardinal’s major league team, where he wowed everyone, hitting .426.

Stan “the Man” Musial played his entire 22 season Major League career with the Cardinals. His career numbers – like Williams’ – could have been even better, had he not been called to serve the cause of FFF (Freedom from Fascism); he lost what surely would have been one of the best years of his career (1945) to World War II.  This is easily inferred: in ’44 Musial batted .346, second best in all major leagues; in ’46 he won the batting title at .365. 

More about Musial’s stats, life and career achievement are easily found on the internet.  It’s not just that all of these are so very impressive, it’s also that he is the most beloved, revered and honored Saint Louis Cardinal of all time. 

When I watched Stan Musial play golf in the heat of that humid Tennessee afternoon, I was kind of surprised by what I observed. 

Yes, he played left-handed just like he batted and threw, and – even at nearly 60 years old – displayed a sort of graceful flair and fluidity.  He still had large, strong shoulders and arms.  And a thick muscular neck. Clearly, he was an athlete.  He was not nearly as tall as I expected, perhaps touching six feet; but he had been a giant in my boyhood imagination.  Although he had a bit of a paunch, he insisted on walking. His shirt was mottled with sweat.  He wore no cap, allowing all to see that he still had a full – if somewhat unmanageable – head of dark hair.  He never smiled, and frequently – unconsciously – swept swaths of hair and sweat off his brow. He did not interact much with fans.

It seemed this crazy game of golf was getting to him.  Here he was, a sports Hall of Fame member, struggling with performance in front of fans, in a silly sport; fans who adored him and anticipated success with nearly every shot. 

I felt sorry for Musial. Even though he was famous, highly accomplished, and had records that would last many generations, he was not having fun.  I guess that’s what surprised me most.  He was not having fun. That’s sad.

Maybe if he’d quit baseball and gotten a job a golf country club, he’d have played better that day.  😉

Probably not.  Even I, at roughly the same age, usually mutter to myself throughout a round of golf. 

Until at least next October, that’s a wrap for World Series and Baseball History.

Wishing you all have a wonderful fall and hoping that you all have some fun every day, even if you’re playing golf.

Peace

Joe  Girard © 2019

Thanks for reading. As always, you can add yourself to the notification list for when there is newly published material by clicking here. Or emailing me at Joe@Girardmeister.com.

Of Disruptors and Keyholes

Recently the brand new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, suspended parliament at a moment in history that portends a possible keyhole event: a “Hard Brexit” is about to occur.  Technically the term is prorogue.  That is to say: “Johnson has prorogued Parliament.”  He simply sent them home for a few weeks.  Although not all that uncommon for a new government – it comes shortly after his placement as PM – the timing has made many Brits uncomfortable, to say the least.

One supposes that my writing has been sort of prorogued of late – not much publishing anyhow.  I don’t think many readers are uncomfortable about that. 

You can look back through a keyhole, but you can’t go back through one

I have a pair of terms for events that are so transformational that things can never return to the way they were; not even ways of thinking can return: Wormholes and Keyholes. Either way, when we pass through them – either as individuals, families, communities, cultures, countries or the entire world – a new reality emerges.

A possible alternative to keyhole and wormhole is “Rubicon”; or the full phrase “crossing the Rubicon.”  Way back in 49 BCE, a Roman general named Gaius (of the patrician clan “Julia”) took his powerful and famously successful army across the River Rubicon. When he did, he also created a keyhole through which he, his army, and Roman culture passed and could never return.

Rubicon: Reality was irreversibly changed.  A civil war ensued.  At its conclusion, there was no more Roman Republic, although it had endured nearly 500 years with a slight flavor of democracy.  It was replaced with the Roman Empire, to be led by a sovereign head of state named “Caesar” (the first one being the aforementioned general).

“Crossing the Rubicon” is a term that means total commitment, and no turning back. You’ve gone through the keyhole. Although, for Julius Caesar, there was an strong element of personal choice in the matter. That’s not always the case.

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Using the theme of keyholes, I will touch upon many a quaint and curious story of forgotten lore [1], including brief biographical glances at the lives of three individuals.

These are but three people among countless.  Passing through the same keyhole in history.  An entire nation of millions was transformed by that keyhole, through which nothing – no person and no part of American culture – could return to their previous state … forever transformed. These three people made history because of their transformations – and society’s – brought about by a major disruption to American national culture.

  1. Hattie had a sweet personality and an even sweeter voice.  And she had a quality of magnetic personality mixed with pizzazz, or panache.  Today the name “Hattie” is rather obscure – in fact, it almost completely disappeared in the 1950s and ‘60s.  It was not an uncommon name at all across American cultures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Hattie Caraway (ARK) was the 1st woman elected to the US Senate, in 1932. Our Hattie was born in Wichita, Kansas, to parents who had been slaves.  Although the name Hattie would later virtually disappear, her own name would not.
  2. Born and raised of pure German descent, Henry hailed from the German neighborhoods on the southside of the great beer-making city of St Louis.  But he usually went by the nickname “Heinie” (or “Heine”), since it was German and rhymed with his last name: Meine.  Of course, it was Americanized to “High-nee My-nee”; you can’t get a much more memorable name.  Nonetheless, he’s virtually forgotten, although Heinie came through the keyhole and left his name in the record books. 
  3. A first generation Italian-American, he preferred to go by “Al” rather than his given “Alphonse.”  Born and raised in Brooklyn, he’d make his name in Chicago. Known for many things – including feeding over 100,000 Chicagoans each day during the Great Depression’s early years –  Al was not known for being very faithful to his wife. That’s too bad, because she was extraordinarily faithful and loyal to him.  At least he was loyal: he treated her well and never spoke poorly of her. That, and his Depression-era food lines, are among the few good qualities we can credit to him.
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On a geological scale, the biggest disruptor to life on earth was almost certainly when the 12-mile diameter Chicxulub Asteroid slammed into the earth at 40,000 kilometers per hour, near the Yucatan peninsula (modern day Mexico) about 66 million years ago.  Scientific estimates of the energy released approached one trillion (1,000,000,000,000) Hiroshima atomic bombs.

The asteroid event is probably the biggest reason, among many, that between 99.9% and 99.999% of the all species that have ever lived are now extinct.

Dinosaurs had ruled the earth; they had for some 250 million years through advanced evolution which tracked the earth’s warming climate. (Consider how far humans have evolved from advanced apes in less than 1/1000th the time).  For most of those many millions of ”dinosaur” years, the earth was generally a very warm, even rather tropical, CO2 rich environment.  Literally, in a very few years (perhaps a handful) all had changed.  The world, relatively speaking, became a frigidly cold “ice box.” 

The asteroid, as agent of disruption, had altered reality so suddenly, and so irreversibly, that the world and its reality was forever immediately changed.  We should be thankful.  That stupendously, mind-boggling cataclysmic event permitted the survival and prominence of tiny mammals – and eventually to us: we humans and our many friends like horses, dogs, cats – over dozens of millions of years.

I should hesitate to even suggest candidates for “disruptors” in the human era – especially in our post-industrial age era.  But, eventually we must get to our three protagonists:  Hattie, Heinie and Alphonse.  Therefore, I submit some examples, starting with —ta da – the internet.  It has spawned on-line commerce and “the sharing  economy.”

The “sharing economy” starts with the simple idea that we, as humans in a free-market economy, have assets that are lying dormant. In economists’ terms: non-performing assets.  Our houses. Our cars. Our time.  The sharing economy idea suggests we can put those assets to work. Over just a very few years, this simple idea has disrupted how we consume, travel, commute and vacation.  Many of us now think of Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, CrowdFunding as powerful and preferred alternatives to “traditional business models.”  The value of Taxi Cab medallions in New York City has fallen by some 85% since their peak value of $1.3 Million in 2013. Entire industries must now behave differently – or die.

The sharing economy has been co-joined on the internet with our lust for connectivity and ease. Amazon has put booksellers out of business. Thanks to the internet, we often now shop in the comfort of our homes, in front of our computers – often clad only in our underwear (if we are dressed at all – sorry for the visual).

Merchandise is delivered to our front door, sometimes within hours – while many old and drab strip malls slowly, silently go vacant and “turn-over”, their dull slots replaced by the equivalent of pre-human mammals that are mostly just cheap “creature comforts”: nail salons, micro-liquor stores, tattoo and/or piercing parlors, micro-breweries, tobacco-friendly stores, massage parlors, pot shops (where legal), second-hand and antique shops, etc. And that’s if the vacant spaces are filled at all.  There is no telling which will survive to coming generations, if at all: evolution, disruption and their effects have their ways of being unpredictable… that is their very nature. [2]

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In American culture, looking back over the past 125 years, or so, I cannot think of any more forceful disruptor – outside of the Internet, the Depression, and the Great Wars – than Prohibition.

Prohibition. The 18th Amendment. The Volstead Act. The culmination of decades of effort by the Temperance Movement, the Women’s Movement, and Cultural Conservatives. 

I’m sort of a fan of Prohibition. Why? It was, in effect, a vast significant social scientific experiment.   It made being anti-government-control very cool.  It made counter-culture cool. It made “shoving it in The-Man’s-face” cool.   For many cultural icons and movements – from the obvious, like craft beer brewing and craft alcohol distilling, to the Beatniks, to Elvis, to The Stones, to Jay-Zee, to tattoos, to piercings, to sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll, sexual licentiousness, the prevalence of Sugar Daddies, and even NASCAR, (America’s most popular spectator sport) – Prohibition helped paved the way.

To me, on balance, those are good things. But every die comes with many sides: it also gave more profit and respectability to the mafia and the underworld. 

Our protagonists: In order of how famous they are today:

#1. In 1913, Young Al dropped out of school at 14, after slugging his teacher.  He then worked odd jobs while falling in with various young gangs of hoodlums.  Eventually, he got connected to the local mobs, and began working his way up the mob ladder – getting a nasty razor gash across a cheek in one episode – before finally getting in so much trouble that he was sent off to a different “branch of the business” in Chicago, along with his wife (the one he was not quite “totally committed” to) and young son.

Propitious timing: Prohibition was about to start.  Chicago is where Alphonse – Al Capone and Scarface to us – made it big. Really big.  Prohibition provided almost unlimited opportunity to make money … either through booze itself or through protection schemes.  Capone inherited the top position of a major Chicago crime syndicate, at age 26, when boss Johnny Torino retired and went home to Sicily.

After various deals and “take outs”, like the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, Capone’s gang ruled supreme in Chicago and Cook County. 

Al Capone, king of Chicago ~1926-1931

“Scarface” (a nickname he hated) escaped criminal conviction many times.  But Prohibition Agent Elliot Ness and the government finally got him on income tax evasion; his lifestyle and braggadocio were just too conspicuous during a time such as the Great Depression.  Yes, he daily fed many thousands in the early years of the Depression.  But everything ended on October 17, 1931, when Capone was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.

While in prison – eventually at Alcatraz – Capone’s old cronies in the Chicago mob did quite well.  But he didn’t fair so well himself, even though he was released for “good behavior” after serving only about 7 years of his term.  It turns out his good behavior was probably because he developed advanced dementia caused by syphilis. Evidently it had been attacking his nervous system since his teens – considering that his only son, Alphonse Jr, was born with congenital syphilis.

Capone’s wife, Mae, remained loyal, and took great care of him until his demise, in 1947, only one week after his 48th birthday.  He was probably not aware of that or much else, as he was given to talking to inanimate things and people not present.  Their son Al Jr, an only child – who lived quite deaf since infancy on account of surgery for syphilis-caused infections – changed his name to “Albert Brown” in 1966, to distance himself from the infamy of his father. “Brown” was an alias his father had sometimes used.

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2) In 1895 came Hattie McDaniel into this world. She was the 13th and last child born to Susan and Henry McDaniel, both former slaves. Her father was a freed slave, who fought in the Civil War and suffered the rest of his life from war injuries.

Originally from Wichita, Kansas, the family moved to Ft Collins, then Denver, Colorado seeking opportunity – as Henry had a difficult time with manual labor on account of his war injury – about the time young Hattie was 5 or 6.  There, in school and in church, her phenomenal musical skills were discovered. 

By age 14 she had a professional singing and dancing career … and she also dropped out of Denver East High School.  As feature vocalists for various bands, mostly Blues, Hattie had made something of a name for herself.

In 1930 she found herself in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as part of a traveling theatre troupe on the Show Boat production. Then, disaster:  The Depression struck. The show and tour were abruptly canceled, leaving Hattie and the rest of the cast abandoned … and nowhere near home.

Hattie found employment as a restroom attendant at Club Madrid, a not-so-secret speakeasy run by Chicago gangster Sam Pick, just outside Milwaukee’s city limits, and just across the county line. Why there? Because that jurisdiction was largely rural and had virtually no police force. Prohibition was still in effect. 

Club Madrid was famous for great entertainment, as well as a great stash of alcohols.  It was a place to visit and be seen for politicians, high rolling businessmen and other wealthy gangsters.

Word had gotten around Club Madrid that Hattie was extremely talented; but Madrid was a “whites only” establishment. They kept her in the restroom.  Until one night when an act didn’t show.  Desperate to keep the lubricated and influential guests engaged, Sam brought out Hattie.  She brought the house down … and did so for over a year.  Her income and notoriety soared.

Whereupon her skills as a performer were noticed by Hollywood.  She’d go on to a rich film career of over a decade, most notably as Mammy in Gone With the Wind.  In perfect Hattie pose and poise, she was virtually “playing herself” as the only truly likeable and reasonable person in the entire saga. 

Hattie McDaniel was honored by the US Post Office with her image on a stamp, 2005

For that performance she was justly awarded an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.  Hattie McDaniel was the first Black to receive an academy nomination, and the first to win an Oscar.  Bravo Hattie.

She remained popular, and used that popularity to serve in World War II, entertaining troops and performing at War Bond rallies. 

At the end of the war the role of blacks in America was about to dramatically change. Truman integrated the military with a stroke of his pen.  There was a loud popular cry to end the stereotyping of black characters as obsequious, simple-minded submissives in movies. The cry was heard.  Unfortunately for Hattie, she had already been well typecast into such roles, and her Hollywood career faded.

Not so for radio, and Hattie signed on to play a maid on the nationally popular regular radio show Beulah.  Another first: she was the first black to have a weekly appearance on any media. [3] Her years were running out, however.  Too young and too late she was discovered to have breast cancer, and she succumbed in 1952, aged only 57.

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And #3. Henry “Heinie” Meine is surely the least famous of the three who actually achieved a significant level of fame.  Born in Saint Louis in 1896, he was a sports enthusiast who took to baseball well.  He played a lot of local sand-lot and then semi-pro ball as a young man, mostly as a spit balling pitcher.

By 1920 word got around that he was pretty good – especially with his favorite pitch: the spitter. He’d been noticed by legendary scout Charles “Charley” Francis Barrett, and he was signed to a minor league contract with the St Louis Browns of the American League.  In 1922 he was called up briefly to his hometown Browns and pitched in one single game — a mop up effort in a late season blow out.  Unfortunately for Heinie, the spitball had been outlawed as an unfair pitch; and was now being enforced. His major league career seemed over.

He bounced around the minor leagues for a while, gaining a reputation for a “rubber arm”; he was kind of an energizer bunny, as he regularly pitched 250-300 innings a season during those years in the minors. Finally, Meine just gave up, retiring at the end of the 1926 season after learning he’d be demoted to the Single-A level for the 1927 season.  It seemed he had no path to the majors, especially without his spitball. There were other options: he intended to make money in his beer-happy hometown of Saint Louis running a Speakeasy. Prohibition provided opportunity.

Like Pick’s Club Madrid,  Meine’s “soda bar” was located just outside the city limits, in a German neighborhood that was known for some reason as Luxemburg. His drinking establishment was so popular, he got the nickname “Duke of Luxemburg.”

When other major league teams came to Saint Louis (the city had two teams then, so it was often), Luxemburg was a frequent stop for refreshment.  After a few drinks the players often teased him about being a good minor league pitcher, but not being good enough to make it in the majors.

This was motivation. He’d show them! After a layoff of nearly two years, Meine returned to baseball. He was determined to make it as a “control pitcher”, one who could make the ball move any direction, who could constantly change speeds and hit any spot on the edge of the strike zone.  He became an early effective “junk” pitcher. He didn’t strike out many batters; they just hit soft grounders and popups. After a couple minor league seasons, he was eventually acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

As a 33 year-old rookie, Heinie Meine made his major league debut in 1929.  Unheard of even in those days.  After two moderately successful and contentious seasons with the Pirates (including missing much time with a bad case of tonsillitis) he set the baseball world on fire in 1931, leading the league in wins and innings pitched. A phenomenal record for a Pirate team that managed only 75 wins against 79 losses that year.

Henry “Heinie” Meine

Meine was a holdout for the 1932 season – one of the first to successfully do so – demanding more money.  Starting the season over a month late, after a contract renegotiation, he still managed 12 wins and nearly 200 innings.

But Meine was now approaching 37 years old.  His rubber arm was wearing out.  Still, he managed 15 wins and 207 innings in 1933, impressive totals for any age in any era. All the league’s pitchers with more wins than Meine were aged 31, or younger.

The next year, 1934, would be his last, as Meine was getting past his prime.  He still put up a winning record, at 7-6, but he knew the end of his career had come. If he’d stayed for just a small part of the next season, he’d have seen a national superstar who was well past his prime have one last unlikely and very dramatically successful day at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. A very wobbly 40-year old Babe Ruth hit three home runs in one game in late May … the last three he’d ever hit. Then promptly retired a few days later.

But by then Meine had already retired to run his saloon business full time.  With Prohibition over and his reputation for Gemütlichkeit, Meine’s career as saloon keeper was safe for years to come. And with some thanks to Prohibition and the customers who teased him, he had made his place in baseball’s record books.

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Well dear readers, that was quite a ramble. Perhaps even a Keyhole for you.

I was long overdue for an essay and had a lot of thoughts in my head to somehow string together.

I hope you feel fulfilled and inspired, or at least changed for the better. 

Peace

Joe Girard © 2019

Thanks for reading. As always, you can add yourself to the notification list for when there is newly published material by clicking here. Or emailing me at Joe@Girardmeister.com.

[1] With apologies to Edgar Allen Poe fans.  Lifted almost verbatim from verse #1 of “The Raven.”

[2] Strip Malls have a rather interesting history in the US (and Canada).  Briefly: The preponderance of Strip Malls exploded in the 1950s in North America, along with the expanding post-war economy and our love affair with cars.  Ubiquitous on the edges of urban areas, and within the new suburban areas, they were a “strip” of available business spaces in a single building with parking in front.  Sometimes “L-shaped”, they lined major and semi-major roads, near residential areas, but seldom near central business districts.

They provided convenient, if not “drab”, space for respectable businesses like pharmacies, butcher shops, barbers, and sellers of fresh produce and groceries … where everyone seemed to know everyone else and friendly chit-chat was interwoven with business. In an America that no longer exists.

But cars got bigger and ever more plentiful.  Available parking for strip malls was too small. So then came the “Big Box” strip malls, with huge parking lots anchored by one or two major retailers, like Walmart, or Home Depot.  The small strip malls lost business, tenants and most public interest.  Also came the super malls … and strip malls were just so-o-o 1950s and ‘60s.

If not already scraped away, strip malls still exist, but ever more with spaces that are vacant, or populated by the likes of businesses I listed above. Always drab.  Always an eyesore.

[3] At about this time, only about 10% of US homes had televisions. Nearly 100% had radios, and people built their daily schedules around radio shows. By 1960, this had reversed: nearly 90% had TVs, and Americans lives revolved around their favorite shows, on only 3 networks.

Regarding Strip Mall history: One of the better sources I found was here.

Other stuff:

Heine Meine Biography: https://everipedia.org/wiki/lang_en/Heine_Meine/

Popularity of name “Hattie”: https://www.behindthename.com/name/hattie/top/united-states

Looking Forward

1967: It was found in the south part of the city, in the attic of the oldest part of a mid-19th century mansion.  Thanks to a grassroots groundswell, the mansion survived the routing of the new Interstate Highway – I-55 but just barely.

During restorations to preserve this structure representing local history, and to make it into a museum, an electrician found a large bundle of buffalo leather.  Something was preserved inside, wrapped carefully in the skins. Miraculously, the contents were nearly perfectly preserved – despite six score years – as they were otherwise unprotected from the wild temperature and humidity swings of the mid-Mississippi basin climate.

 

 

1846: America’s vast western plains

Her name was Mathó-shina (Bear Robe), short for “She who wears a Bear Robe.” She was the daughter of one Lakota chief and sister to another.  She was young – probably mid-20s – a mother and a wife; with bright, dark piercing eyes that hinted at great intelligence and determination.

There, on American wind and storm-swept western plains, in a large tipi made of buffalo skins and lodge pole pines harvested by her father, she lay dying of a lung infection.  Witness accounts that have reached us today say that there is no reason she should be alive, lingering among her people and family for so many, many days … breathless, not even speaking.  Yet she did. She tenaciously clung to life … waiting … waiting. Her father had sent out a search team; she was waiting for their return.

___________________________________________

Henri Chatillon was one of those adventurous souls who had roamed the west for nearly twenty years since leaving his home in Carondolet, Missiouri (now a neighborhood on Saint Louis’ most south-eastern extent) where he had been born to a famous French family.  He left home at age 15 to trap and hunt for furs.  He worked for both himself and eventually for large enterprises like the American Fur Company.

Over that time, he had learned the languages of many of the plains’ tribes; and there was enough cross-over that he could communicate and be friendly with virtually all of them.  Never underestimate what a determined, yet largely illiterate person, can accomplish.

That year, 1846, two young easterners, Francis Parkman and Quincy Adams Shaw – both recently out of Harvard – were passing through Saint Louis en route to “the west.”  They wanted to see the buffalos, the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Who knew how long the buffalos would survive, or the west would remain pristine? It was the sort of a “rite of passage” journey that two young twenty-somethings who had a privileged life and zest for adventure might undertake.  It was also ignorant.  They had no idea what they were doing or getting into.

Fortunately for them, Chatillon was briefly back home and they crossed paths in St Louis. Probably out of mercy – or pity – Chatillon agreed to be their guide.  And off they went, mostly along the Oregon Trail, toward the great Rocky Mountains.

Somewhere out on the plains a young Lakota man on horseback found them.  He had an urgent message for Chatillon.  Your wife is dying.

The small group immediately terminated their tour and headed off, toward eastern Wyoming, to find Bear Robe’s tribe.

They arrived to find her still struggling for each breath, struggling for life … and still lacking the energy to talk.

Chatillon was tired and very sad – upon arrival he also learned that their young child had just died. Strengthened by love, devotion and duty, he spent that entire night awake with his wife. Inexplicably, she regained the strength to speak with him.

They spoke of many things that night, but all of it we cannot know.  The next morning, Parkman and Bear Robe’s father came into the tipi to find Chatillon holding her … and just in time to see the death rattle of her final breath.

 

I’ve long thought that death, for many people, can be pushed off until some special event is reached.  And, as a corollary, that people who have nothing to look forward to (or have to wait a long time for something “special”) might experience a higher death rate.

It turns out there has been some research to suggest that this is true. I’ve listed a few citations. The most likely days to die are: your birthday [1] ; right after Christmas (or New Years’) [2] ; and I postulate other major family events, like weddings.

With regard to special relationships – like courtship and marriage – I suspect that if our experience is a valid data point, then having something to look forward to is just as important to the relationship as it is to life itself.

Looking forward.  It means a lot.

During a whirlwind courtship (49 weeks from first date to engagement) Audrey’s and my relationship fell to tatters at least twice.  Each time it was resurrected by having something to look forward to.

First, we had committed (both financially and training) to climb Mount Rainier together.  Although we had fallen on rough times, the fact that we were looking forward to the climb – and achieving it – brought us closer together, even if only for one more time.  Neither one of us would back out. It was a time of re-connecting.

Audrey and Joe atop Mt Ranier, July 31, 1982. Ignorant of the eventual long term significance of this event and picture, I am so-o-o-o glad that I had the presence of mind to lean close and put my arm around the love of my life.

Second, a few months later, in November, I needed a knee surgery and “wisely” scheduled it the day before Thanksgiving, so that I could recover with minimal time off work.  OK – not so wisely.  Not wise at all: when you have surgery, you need someone to drive you home. Every friend I contacted had conflicting commitments.

I needed Audrey, even though we were on the “outs.”  So, I called her and we had something to look forward to, even if it was post-surgery rescue.  Yes, she rescued me – and our relationship.  Picking me up from the hospital and taking me to her parents’ house for the turkey and stuffing festivities. Again, it was a time of re-connecting.

Thinking back, it’s always been that way. There have always been “rough patches” here and there.  But we endure.  And largely because we always have had some major event or trip to look forward to.  For that, almost all the credit goes to Audrey.

When things are rough, there’s no sense looking around – or looking backward – to find where any blame might lie.  Best to keep your eyes and attention forward.

My suggestion is to make whatever you are looking forward to not general (like retirement, or take a trip), but specific: Climb a certain mountain, bicycle a specific location, make a specific person feel special on a specific date, tour a special place.

For a long and rewarding life anyhow.

Here’s looking forward to many more adventures and uplifting life experiences for all of us.  It’s a simple thing we can do to keep us going.

Peace

Joe Girard © 2018

 

Epilogue and afterthoughts:

After Bear Robe died, Chatillon returned to St Louis and settled down.  In gratitude, Parkman gave him his Hawken rifle – a true prize possession.

Chatillon commissioned a painting of Bear Robe.  It was soul-piercing. It showed a handsome sad-eyed man in quiet, mournful reflection gazing into space – and a beautiful squaw looking down, trying to offer consolation.

Henri Chatillon found a new wife, and had a house built on the main road half-way between St Louis and Carondelet.

Chatillon’s new wife had no interest in his past life, including his past wife.  Now having a full life to look forward to with his new bride … Chatillon tenderly wrapped the painting and the rifle in his best buffalo leathers.  He “buried” the bundle in the attic of his new house; and he buried the memories of his past life in his heart – only to be brought out in private solitary moments, and never to be spoken of again. With some anguish, he let go of his past.

“Bear Robe’s Death” — I believe the artist is unknown.

Parkman wrote of his adventures out west in a book that became wildly popular: “The Oregon Trail”, published in 1849. It provides much of what we know of Chatillon and Bear Robe. It’s still in print and available for a reasonable price.

About 10 years later, Chatillon sold the house to the DeMenil family, who enlarged it into a magnificent mansion.  You can get a guided tour of the Chatillon-DeMenil mansion — and learn some fascinating St Louis, mid-west and western history — March 1 through December 31 most weekdays and weekends.

To contact Joe just email him at joe@girardmeister.com

You can add yourself to the “New Essay Notification List” by clicking here.

Citations and bibliographical kind of stuff:
[1] The Birthday Effect: https://www.thisisinsider.com/death-more-likely-near-your-birthday-statistical-physiological-psychological-reasons-2018-9

[2] Post holiday deaths: Giving up. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4063122/The-tragic-reason-deaths-spike-Christmas-Researchers-say-sick-big-day.html

[3] The Holiday Effect: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/12/22/mystery-of-spike-in-deaths-between-christmas-and-new-years-gets-curiouser-and-curiouser/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e668a673f266

 

Hope for Ferguson

Or … finding hope in a Brewery and Zantorian.

December 4, 2016

Zantorian gives me hope for Ferguson.  And hope this country.

My wife and I travel rather frequently to the Saint Louis, Missouri, area.  The story of how we came to enjoy our little get-aways, away from beautiful Colorado, to the rusty and gray heartland Midwestern city will, perhaps, come in a later essay, or memoir.

As there have been no noteworthy protests, or riots, or fires in the past year, or so, many have forgotten about Ferguson, a community near St Louis. We have not.

As quick refresher, on August 9, 2014, 18-year old Ferguson resident Michael Brown was shot and killed on a street in Ferguson by police officer Darren Wilson. This was the spark.  Protests followed, and quickly by riots and arson and looting.

Black Lives Matter, which was birthed by the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin the year earlier, organized mostly peaceful demonstrations across the country, and sprung to newfound significance in the St Louis area. These were BLM’s first in-person demonstrations.

When a St Louis County Grand Jury declined to indict Officer Wilson that November, heated protests began anew.  Some violence flared up, and then – again – fires were set.  To businesses and, this time, to police cars.

My wife and I visited Ferguson several months later, in early 2015.  Burned out businesses were evident. Up and down both Florissant Avenues (the city has two major north-south streets named Florissant, the eponymous name of an adjacent city, just north of Ferguson). Also a few abandoned burned out businesses in nearby Dellwood, which didn’t seem to make the news.

Among all that despair and destruction, we found hope … in a brewery.

The Ferguson Brewery serves fine craft beers and a mixture of classic American cuisine – from burgers, to St Louis-style Barbeque, to Mexican – in its lovingly refurbished 100-year building at 418 South Florissant.

Ferguson Brewery

Ferguson Brewery

We stopped in, not knowing what to expect, just after visiting the floral memorial at the site of young Mr Brown’s death, on Canfield Drive.

Even on a weekday afternoon, toward the end of what you’d consider lunch hour, the place was nearly full.  Patrons included blacks and whites, some sitting together, all chatting, enjoying the food, the beer and the atmosphere.

I’d met people from Ferguson, and the surrounding area, who were proudly pro-Ferguson.  They believed the community was much stronger than what the news had shown.  A BUYcott were organized to get St Louis locals to go to Ferguson and patronize local businesses.

I was hopeful.  There seemed to be promise of recovery and the Brewery was a good sign of it. But things soon changed.

Fire broke out again, in June, 2015.  At the friendly little brewery and restaurant a fluorescent light was left on overnight in the kitchen. Sadly, the aged wiring was not up to the job, and a fire broke out.  It spread quickly. By the time the fire was discovered around 2AM, by a policeman on patrol, the fire was extensive.  There wasn’t much for the heralded and award-winning Ferguson Fire Department to do but control the fire. [1 [2]

There was significant damage to the kitchen, the interior building structure, roof and all furnishings.  Worst was perhaps the smoke and water damage.  Just about everything had to go.

Like many other of the local businesses, victims of fires, the Ferguson Brewery shut down. But not for long.

Brewery owner, Mike Loreno, set his mind to re-opening as soon as possible.  Brewery operations were moved off-site.  Restoration to the structure relied on Loreno’s will, as well as a tight relationship the local restaurants had formed with each other – and the community – to stay afloat during the difficult times of the riots.

Ferguson pulled together for their brewery, raising funds and pitching in.  It’s the kind of positive news you don’t get on CNN or Fox.  Just not sensational enough.

Less than 6 months later, Ferguson Brewery — in the same 100-plus year old building, complete with kitchen, new brewery and dining area — was open for business.

My wife and I stopped in last weekend, on our way out of St Louis, to Lambert Airport.

It was beautiful.  We were struck by how everything simply looked and smelled splendid.  Evidently the bar – the centerpiece of the establishment’s beauty – was recovered and completely restored.  Everything else was replaced … but you couldn’t tell. It looked like before and had the same comfortable chairs, stools, tables and atmosphere we remembered.

We sat next to a table of 20 or so blacks from the Trinity Mount Carmel Baptist Church having their holiday party for their army of ushers.  It was pretty cool to see this twist: an overworked White wait-person serving a party of Blacks. [TMC Baptist’s website]

Ferguson Brewery and Restaurant: A comfy and welcoming establishment

Ferguson Brewery and Restaurant: A comfy and welcoming establishment

Not drinkers by faith, they seemed to be having a great time, nonetheless – even the two young boys, occupied with each other mostly. (Although one lady confided – on the QT – that she enjoys an occasional glass of  wine).

One of the boys grew bored and was offered a large cell phone to play with.  After a while he was still looking a bit bored, clicking and swiping, and he noticed, between his games, that I was sneaking peeks at him.  He soon walked the few feet to our booth and showed me what  he was doing: playing Wheel of Fortune.

Tory and "Grandpa" Joe

Tory and “Grandpa” Joe

“Hi. What’s your name?”

A reply as firm and snappy as you like. “My name is Zantorian. That’s Z-A-N-T-O-R-I-A-N. But you may call me Tory. Tory with a Y. I’m six years old and I’m pretty good at this game.”

Neither Tory nor his aunt or mum had any reservations about him climbing onto my lap so we could play together.  My grandpa juices started flowing.

I don’t know how long it was – too short for me (thank goodness Audrey took a few photos) – but too soon it was time for Tory and his merry group of ushers to begin leaving.  He was not very happy about that. He didn’t complain, he was too polite for that, but it showed in his body language.

Hey, this is fun!

Hey, this is fun!

One of the older ladies – the same one who confessed to an occasional glass of wine – made sure we knew that we would be very, very welcome if we visited them at Trinity, in neighboring Florissant.  “Wouldn’t we please visit them next time we get a chance? That’s Trinity — Mount — Carmel!”

She said it slowly and deliberately. She really meant it and wanted us to remember. Gosh, how could we say no?

Tory’s aunt took her phone back, and a few minutes of long good-byes among the Trinity Mount Carmel ushers ensued … during which time Tory took the opportunity to wonder what fun he could have with Grandpa Joe’s phone.  Without hesitation, he picked it up and scrolled back-and-forth through the panels, looking for an icon that appeared interesting.  Unfortunately for him, there aren’t any, except maybe Duolingo – the language learning app.

So he tapped that, and a review lesson for German came up.  “Ein Junge” – appropriately enough.  The only thing better would have been if Duolingo popped open with “Ein Enkel.” [These mean “A boy” and “A grandson].

The Duolingo Icon

The Duolingo Icon

“What’s THAT!?!” Before I could answer (thankfully, it would have meant nothing), he closed that app, and waved panels to find “Sky Map.”

“Tory, this will show you the names and places of all the stars you can see in the sky.”

“REALLY?  That’s cool”

“Tory, we really have to go now” said auntie and mom.

He gave me back my phone.  He hopped down, and obediently let each of them take one hand.

As they walked out, Tory’s head was turned like Linda Blair’s, trying to keep eye contact with me and Audrey.  We waved.

“Bye Tory. Hope to see you again soon.”

 

Joe Girard © 2016

Final note: The Mall of America, near Minneapolis, has hired a Black Santa.

Santa Larry

Santa Larry

It’s quite the rage on the internet (for some reason) and looks wonderful.  His name is Larry Jefferson, but prefers to go by “Santa Larry.” This picture is just great.

 

[1] Ferguson Fire Department website: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/missouri/saint-louis-county/ferguson/ferguson-fire-department

[2] Awards for the Ferguson Fire Department: http://www.stltoday.com/news/special-reports/heroes/greater-st-louis-fire-chiefs-association-awards/article_41275877-9166-5f6b-9ca5-00e4e9863279.html

 

Lambert

by John Sarkis

November 12, 1946 –

lambert-pic

Albert Bond Lambert — aviation pioneer, champion golfer

Seventy years ago today, Albert Bond Lambert died in his St. Louis home at the age of 70. As the Missouri state golf champion, he competed in the (Paris) 1900 Olympics, finishing 8th in the individual event. Returning home, he won several local and national tournaments before competing in the 1904 Olympics, held in his hometown of St Louis.

The event was held at Glen Echo Country Club, which was owned by his father-in-law, Col. George McGrew. Lambert finished 8th once more, but his team won the Silver Medal. [1] [2]

The 1900 Paris Olympics had been held in conjunction with the Paris Exposition, and it was here that Lambert first saw men soaring aloft in balloons. So he returned to Paris in 1906, where he learned to become a pilot. [3]

In St Louis, he became one of the leading members of, what at that time, was considered a sport. Competing in many national events, he would often have his balloon filled by Laclede Gas at South 2nd St and Rutger St, and later at Chouteau and Newstead.

On one occasion, the wind took him over the mountains near Chattanooga and into northern Georgia where he was taken hostage by moonshiners, who thought he was a Revenue Agent.

Realizing he needed a field better suited for balloon ascensions, several sites were considered. One was on Olive, just beyond the city limit, and another was near Creve Couer Lake. A third location, north of downtown, between the river and North Broadway, was also a serious contender.

In 1910, the St Louis Aero Club leased a farm near Kinloch [4], and this would be the site of many aviation “firsts”. Kinloch Field would have the first aerial tower, and was the site of (some of) the first aerial photograph(s). [5]

Taking off from there, Teddy Roosevelt would be the first President to fly in a plane. [6]

In 1912, a plane took off from Kinloch Field carrying Albert Berry, who would make the first parachute jump from a plane (landing at Jefferson Barracks — just outside the city’s southern boundary — from an elevation of 1,500 feet).

Albert Lambert bought an airplane in 1911 from the Wright Brothers, and, becoming accomplished in this field, he began promoting St Louis in aviation circles. In 1920, he leased an additional 160 acres at $2000 a year. Buying the property in 1925, he spent his own money on improvements, and then offered it to the City of St Louis at the price he paid for the unimproved land. The City bought it in 1928, and “Lambert Field” became the first Municipal Airport in the country.

Albert Bond Lambert was able to pursue his many hobbies because of the wealth he inherited from his father’s company, Lambert Pharmaceutical. His father, Jordan Lambert, was a St Louis druggist who invented a product called Listerine. Now known as a mouthwash, it was originally marketed to sterilize medical equipment.

Editor’s notes:

a) John Sarkis is retired, residing in the St Louis Area. He posts regularly on the St Louis, Missouri. History, Landmarks and Vintage Photos Facebook page. All content is his Intellectual Property. Screwups are my fault. This essay is gently edited, mostly as denoted by parentheses.  Footnotes below are the editor’s.

b) ==>Can you imagine filling a balloon with natural gas to fly??.

c) ==>Lambert was the first major donor to Charles Lindbergh’s efforts for a non-stop trans-Atlantic flight, and the publicity helped LIndbergh raise quite a bit of money from St Louis.  His plane was named after the organization that Lambert helped found to help Lindbergh: The Spirit of St Louis.

Footnotes.

[1] In 1900 the Olympic Golf competition was a simple stroke play event.  In 1904, there was a 36-hole qualifier.  Sixty-four players went on to a single elimination competition, where Lambert was defeated in the quarter-finals.

[2] Contestants represented their various athletic associations and clubs.  Lambert was on the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association team. Golf teams had ten players each, and their score was the summation of all 10 players over the 2-round qualification.

Although golf returned as a medal sport in the 2016 Olympics – it had not been an event since 1904 – the team event has not returned.

[3] The 1904 Olympics were also held concurrent and alongside a World’s Fair: the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St Louis

[4] Kinloch is just Northwest of Saint Louis, between Ferguson and I-170. At the time, known as Kinloch Park. This area is now part of the city of Berkeley, although Kinloch (in a much reduced state) still exists as a municipality.

[5] First aerial photographs.  This is of course contested and subject to interpretation.  The first true aerial photograph was from a hot air balloon, by Frenchman Gaspar-Felix Tournachon, in the 1850s.
Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel successfully designed and launched a rocket with a camera aboard that took aerial photographs in 1897.

Aerial photographs were also being creatively taken from kites as early as 1888. And by birds about the same time.

Wilbur Wright is most often credited as taking the first aerial photographs from a plane, in 1909. He also made “moving pictures” at this time, while in Italy. Actually the shots were made by his passenger, an Italian military officer.

[6]  At the time, Roosevelt was former president – the flight was in 1910).

[Sources] [Another Source]

Olympic Lyon and Abbott

Olympic Reigns

Next August 6 through 21 the 2016 Summer Olympics (Officially: “Games of the XXXI Olympiad”) will be contested in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — which is a bit weird, since it will technically be winter in Rio. This is consistent with other summer games held south of the equator. The 1956 games in Melbourne – the southernmost city to host the games – were held in November and December, Australia’s spring.  The 2000 Sydney games were played in the 2nd half of September, bridging winter and spring.

Toward the end of the Rio games the world is guaranteed a new Olympic champion in an old sport.  When the gold medal is awarded the moment should be extraordinary in a most unusual way:  It will likely represent the longest running Olympic championship reign to ever come to an end. And it might well remain that way forever.

I’d forgive you if you’re thinking of Usain Bolt (100-m, 200-m) or Michael Phelps (any number of swimming events) – but they might well win again, and their reigns would not end.

Think farther back.

You get points if you thought of Rugby, which has not been an event since the Paris games of 1924 (the “Chariots of Fire” Olympics).  That year the United States won the gold medal and Olympic championship, successfully defending the crown they had won in the 1920 Antwerp games. Rugby comes back to life for the 2016 Rio Olympics for both men and, for the first time ever, for women.  Even if the US men’s team manages to qualify for the tournament, it is highly unlikely they will successfully defend their 92-year running Olympic title. So, there will be a new champion, and that reign will come to an end.

Still, quite a few other Olympic events have been dormant even longer.  Some will almost surely never return, so those reigns will last for as long as there are records.  The Tug-of-War, a 5-time Olympic event from 1900 to 1920 (there were no games in 1916, due to the Great War), was won twice by teams from Great Britain, including the final championship, in 1920.

Two sports even more unlikely to make an Olympic re-appearance were last contested in Paris, in 1900: (1) Live pigeon shooting (won by Belgian Leon de Lunden), a ghastly, messy, bloody affair; and (2) Obstacle Course Swimming, won by Australian Frederick Lane.  We can safely assign the Olympics’ longest reigns to these men, … forever.

————————————-

Back during the Edwardian Era, in 1904, Saint Louis hosted the Olympics, prying the games away from Chicago well after the Windy City had been deemed the host city by the IOC and USOC (International and US Olympic Committees).  The short story of this Olympic host-city purloin starts with the award to Saint Louis the honor of hosting the 1903 World’s Fair, which they dubbed “The Louisiana Purchase Exposition” — to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase.

But wait: 1903? The extent of the fair was enormous — it covered 1,270 acres and had over 1,500 buildings, including more than a dozen Palaces (just the Palace of Agriculture enclosed over 23 acres, equivalent to more than 17 football fields).  Yes, so enormous that the year of the Exposition was pushed back a year, to 1904.

At this point, the aggressive and ambitious leaders of the Exposition, led by accomplished and beloved President of the Fair, David Rowland Francis, lobbied hard (again) to host the 1904 Olympic Games, now to be concurrent with their World’s Fair. At this point Chicago had long since defeated St Louis for the honor of hosting the Games.

Francis was well-connected financially and politically: he had previously served as St Louis’ mayor, Missouri’s governor and as Secretary of the Interior during Grover Cleveland’s second term. Not just bluff and bluster, the Fair’s leaders credibly threatened to dilute the Chicago Olympics by simultaneously hosting World’s Fair Exhibition Games if their request was denied.  Eventually the IOC and USOC acquiesced.  Saint Louis got the games. Most events were contested just west of the fairgrounds, on the campus of Washington University, which was (and is) just outside the St Louis city limits.

The 1904 Saint Louis games of the III Olympiad were nothing like the extravaganzas we’ve come to expect over the past 50 years, or more. Now the games are over-hyped, over-marketed, and absurdly over-nationalistic. The Olympics then were still in their infancy.  They were innocent, simple, often poorly organized, and decidedly non-nationalistic.  Due to this simplicity, innocence and under-hype — and partly due to St Louis’ location deep in the American heartland — there was discouragingly low participation in the games.

Besides the Olympics, there were many athletic events held during and in conjunction with the Fair, and historians have had some difficulty ascertaining just how many events were actually Olympic events, and how many athletes, too. Adding to the confusion, there were Olympic Games that were more like demonstration events: the handicap games (where time or distances were added and subtracted based on athletes’ abilities, as in golf or bowling handicaps) and the very non-politically correct Anthropology games.

According to “1904 Olympic Games, Official Medals & Badges” (Greensfelder, Lally, Christianson, Storm) only twelve nations participated in what we’d call official Olympic “medal” events, and only 673 contestants.  For comparison, in the 2012 London Olympics, there were 204 nations and nearly 11,000 athletes represented.

A huge majority of the athletes were from the United States: 539 of the 673. A further 52 athletes were from Canada. In any event, the athletes did not represent their own nations anything like today; they represented themselves and their local sports or swim clubs. No national anthems; no flag waving.

George Seymour Lyon was one of those 52 Canadians – a businessman from Toronto, born and raised near Ottawa.  Although already 46-years old, he arrived with the confidence of an accomplished and natural athlete.  As a young man, he had held Canadian national records in the pole vault and as a cricket batsman. And he had demonstrated prowess in baseball, lawn bowling, and rugby. There is a lot of river ice in Canada in the winter: Lyon was accomplished at hockey and curling as well.

With great physical conditioning, concentration, and demonstration of eye-hand coordination in baseball, hockey and cricket – Lyon had begun playing golf relatively late in life, at age 38. By the time he showed up in Saint Louis, in August, 1904, he had already won an astounding three Canadian National Amateur championships (’98, ‘00, ’03 – he would go on to win a total of eight such national championships, the last at an astonishing 56-years of age).

Seventy-Five contestants were entered for that Olympic Golf tournament.  All but three of those seventy-five were from the US; the other three – including – Lyon, were from Canada.

The site for the golf matches was the nearly brand new course at Glen Echo Country Club, completed in 1901, just outside St Louis, in Normandy, Missouri. Well, actually, almost all courses in the New World were nearly brand new: Shinnecock Hills on Long Island was the first course in the US, built in 1891.  Chicago Golf Club, in 1894, was the first course west of the Appalachian Mountains.

Glen Echo Clubhouse, 1904. Converted from the Hunt Mansion. Normandy, Missouri

Glen Echo Clubhouse, 1904. Converted from the Hunt Mansion. Normandy, Missouri

The 1904 Olympic golf competition was an absolutely grueling competition, by any standard.

Day #1 was a 36-hole qualifier.  Players with the low 32 scores qualified for an elimination match play tournament: 36-holes each day. The finalists would have to play five more consecutive days.

Needless to say, Lyon qualified for the tournament, and over the period of 6 days he played 12 rounds of golf (two to qualify, and five 36-hole elimination matches), defeating men much younger than himself along the way, to win the championship and the gold medal.  Ever the athlete, he celebrated by walking on his hands through the clubhouse after the award.

Lyon’s is the only gold medal ever to be awarded in golf, since golf has not been an Olympic event since then, and the St Louis Olympics were the first games to award gold, silver and bronze medals for first, second and third places. [The winner of the 1900 Olympic golf tournament, American pro George Sands, one of only 12 contestants, was awarded a silver medallion, after a stroke play tournament of only 36 holes).

George S. Lyon, the only Olympic Golf Gold Medalist (until 2016, in Rio).

George S. Lyon, the only Olympic Golf Gold Medalist (until 2016, in Rio). Defending Champion for 112 years.

Olympic historians may well disagree that George Lyon is the longest reigning Olympic Golf champion.  It turns out that the 1900 Paris Games (also simultaneous with a World Exposition) held an obscure 9-hole golf tournament for women.  Conducted 30-miles outside Paris in Compiègne on a course laid out within a horse racing track – and so poorly organized that the ten contestants had no idea they were competing in the Olympics – the tournament was won by a 24-year old American, Margaret Abbott, with a score of 47 strokes. To underscore their ignorance of the significance of the event, many women showed up to play in high heels and rather tight skirts. I wonder what those heels did to the greens?

Since there was no women’s golf competition at the 1904 games (perhaps they decided that 12 rounds of golf in 6 days was too much), Abbott stands as the longest reigning Olympic golf champion.

Abbott, born in India, had learned golf after moving to America at the Chicago Golf Club.  She was in Paris with her mother at the time of the 1900 Paris Olympics and Fair to study art. She heard of the tournament and entered matter-of-factly.  In fact, her mother also competed in the event, finishing 7th – the only time in Olympic history that a mother and daughter have competed in the same event.

Fifty-five years later, at the time of her death, Abbott still had no idea she was an Olympic Champion.  At the end of the tournament she was awarded only a porcelain bowl.  As the games’ significance grew through the decades, Florida University professor Paula Welch spent 10 years tracking down her family and let them know they were descended from an Olympic champion. 1900 was the first Olympics with women’s participation; so Abbott is the first American woman, and 2nd woman overall, to win an Olympic championship. (England’s Charlotte Cooper had won the women’s tennis tournament just hours earlier).

In 1902 Abbott met and married humorist Peter Dunne while in Paris.  She also won the Femina Cup, precursor to the French Women’s Golf Championship.  Quite a year.  They then moved to New York, when, it seems, her competitive golf career came to a quiet end, partly due to a nagging knee injury she suffered in a bicycle fall as a child.

Margaret Abbott on golf course, circa 1904

Margaret Abbott on golf course, circa 1904

I can’t find what happened to Abbott’s porcelain bowl, but we do know that somewhere through the years Lyon’s gold medal somehow got lost.  His family and the Canadian Olympic Committee have pleaded for a new official medal to be issued, but it has been denied.  A duplicate medal hangs on display at the Rosedale Golf Club, in Toronto, only about 35-minutes from Canada’s Golf Hall of Fame, in Oakville, Ontario, where Lyon was inducted in 1971.

Lyon was also named to Canada’s Olympic Hall of Fame (in 1971) and to Canada’s Sports Hall of fame in 1955, coincidentally, the same year that Abbott passed away. (Lyon had died in 1938). If you wish to visit and achieve a two-for-one: Canada’s Olympic and Sports Halls of Fame are located in Olympic Park, in Calgary, Alberta (site of the 1988 Winter Games).

George Seymour Lyon's 1904 Olympic Golf Gold Medal

George Seymour Lyon’s 1904 Olympic Golf Gold Medal

Well, either way, the longest Olympic champion reign to come to an end will be in Rio de Janeiro in the golf competitions.  There will be both a women’s and a men’s Olympic competition for the first time in more than a century — and a gold medal for each. It would be nice if there will be tributes to Abbott and Lyon when it happens.

Peace, and … Fore!

Joe Girard © 2015

 

Notes:

  1. a biographical book (and possible movie) is coming out on George Lyon soon.  You can find out more here: http://www.georgelyon.ca/
  2. Lyon also entered 15 Canadian Senior Golf Championships (Presumably for seniors, from age 50 to 64).  In those 15 years he compiled a most amazing record: He won 10 times and finished runner-up 4 times.
  3. The Normandy, MO school district includes Ferguson, MO.

Acknowledgments: Thanks go to my wife Audrey and to Max Storm (Founder of the 1904 World’s Fair Society and co-author of the 1904 Olympic book cited) for reading and re-reading this and for making editorial and structural suggestions.

 

Miscellaneous resources:

http://www.womengolfersmuseum.com/Famousgolfers/AbbottMargaret.htm

http://www.georgelyon.ca/search-for-gold/

http://www.ottawacommunitynews.com/sports-story/5806459-richmond-born-george-lyon-only-olympic-gold-medal-winner-in-golf/

the search for Margaret Abbott, by Paula Welch: http://library.la84.org/OlympicInformationCenter/OlympicReview/1982/ore182/ORE182s.pdf

http://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/blog/olympics-female-gold-medalist/

 

  • Chicago loses the 1904 Olympics: http://library.la84.org/SportsLibrary/JOH/JOHv12n3/johv12n3k.pdf

 

ORD

O’Hare Airport, the main airport for the city of Chicago, is once again the world’s busiest airport. Most people who have traveled through, to, or from O’Hare have noticed that airport code on their ticket or luggage tag: ORD. It is one of the very few airport codes in the world where the IATA Code (International Air Transport Association) has nothing to do with either the name of the city or the airport.

O'Hare: every gate...jammed

O’Hare: every gate…jammed

______________________________________

September, 1956

Chicago is the city where I was born. Sometimes, when I’m feeling ornery or when I feel like I have nothing to do with the human race,  I’ll say I was “hatched” there, in America’s so-called “Second City.”  But “hatch” is a great disservice to my mother, who labored tremendously that Sunday before Labor Day, in the maternity ward of the now defunct Saint Anne’s Hospital. So I’ve made a note to myself to use it less frequently.

______________________________________

March, 2015.

101 years ago, as the dusk fell on the Edwardian/Pre-war Era, on the 13th of March, Edward “Butch” was born in Saint Louis, Missouri to a mixed marriage.  His mother was a German southsider.  His father, also Edward (hence the nickname “Butch” for the lad) was an Irish northsider.

As a youth, Butch was raised mostly in the Soulard neighborhood, home to arguably America’s longest continually operated farmers’ market — since 1779.  Decades before it was even part of the United States. It was also home to one of America’s largest breweries.

Butch’s father was an attorney who acquired the nickname “Fast Eddy.”  Butch’s parents divorced in 1927 — perhaps the nickname Fast had something to do with it — and Fast Eddy moved to Chicago to go to work for Al Capone and his mafia gang. Fast Eddy helped run Capone’s racing operations. And, as a sharp attorney, he helped keep Capone, his cronies and thugs out of prison.

Meanwhile, Butch and the family moved farther south in town, to the Holly Hills neighborhood, near the west end of beautiful 180-acre Carondelet Park.

In those days, Capone ran Chicago.  So Fast Eddy became rather wealthy, and he made it a point to share that wealth with his family back in Saint Louis. Their home even had an in-ground swimming pool. Butch became rather popular — with the pool and nearby park his home was quite the hang out place — and he grew lazy.

Legend has it that Butch’s dad, Fast Eddy, wanted to leave something more for his son than money.  He wanted to leave him a good clean family name.  And a chance to make a name on his own. And he didn’t want him to be lazy.

So, in 1932 Fast Eddy decided to turn himself in and turn state’s evidence against Capone; critical evidence that would ultimately help convict Capone. Eddy knew that he was risking his life in doing this, so, the stories go, he bartered something in return: an appointment for his son to a US Military Academy.

Fast Eddy had already helped straighten young Butch up by enrolling him at Western Military Academy, just up and across the river at Alton, Illinois.  In 1933, Butch graduated from Western and received his father’s negotiated reward: an appointment to the US Naval Academy, from where he graduated in 1937.

Fast Eddy — Capone’s erstwhile attorney Edward O’Hare —  was ultimately killed a few years later; shot and murdered in cold blood as he drove down a prominent Chicago street one night. Of course, the murder remains unsolved to this day.

His son, Edward “Butch” O’Hare ended up flying F-4 Wildcats off aircraft carriers.

The Grumann F4F-3

The Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat

Just two and half months after The Day of Infamy at Pearl Harbor, on Feb 20, 1942, — with the United States and its Navy still reeling from the devastation of that horrible December Sunday morning — Butch and all of the F4’s on the USS Lexington took off on a sortie. Not long after assembling and moving out, it became evident that Butch’s F4 fuel tanks had not been properly filled. He had to turn back.

As he returned to the Lexington he spotted a squadron of nine Japanese bombers. They were heading toward the Lexington and its fleet. Butch was the only flyer who was in any position to intercept them.

With the F4’s four powerful .50-caibre Browning guns, Butch shot down five very surprised Japanese bombers before running out of ammo.  (That version of the F4 only had 37-seconds of fire power.) With some fuel remaining, he tried to taunt and tip the remaining bombers with his wingtips.  Evidently he damaged a sixth bomber before the remaining bombers called off the attack.

Film footage from his flight verified his account. With those five kills Butch O’Hare became the first Navy Ace of World War II. For his quick thinking, bravery and for saving the otherwise unguarded Lexington, O’Hare earned the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military honor.

A year and half later, on November 26, 1943, Butch O’Hare was operating in the first-ever night time attack from an aircraft carrier. He was shot down; his body was never recovered.

St. Louis offered to name a street, bridge, or municipal building in his honor, but Butch’s mother objected, insisting that all those who perished were heroes. And there, it seems, Saint Louis’ effort to honor its native son ended.

The  54: over Chicago

The C-54: over Chicago

In 1942, the US War Production Board bought 1,800 acres of undeveloped Cook County prairie near the farming community called Orchard Place, a few miles northwest of Chicago. This nearly 3-square mile tract of flat land became the site of a huge Douglas Aircraft Company manufacturing facility to build C-54 transports.  Of course an airfield was required.  It was called Orchard Depot. Some history refers to it as Orchard Place/Douglas.

The location was also the site of the US Army Air Force’s 803 Special Depot that stored rare and experimental planes, including captured enemy aircraft. These were all later transferred to the National Air Museum, and eventually formed the core of the original Smithsonian Air & Space Museum’s collection.

At the end of the war, the land was turned over to the city of Chicago, with plans for it to eventually become Chicago’s main airport — even though Chicago’s Midway was, at that time, still one of the world’s busiest airports.

In 1949, due largely to a campaign led by the Chicago Tribune — and perhaps to poke a teasing blow at Saint Louis — the City of Chicago changed the name of the still small Orchard Depot Airport to “O’Hare Field, Chicago International Airport.” Since the 1960s it has been at or near the list of world’s busiest airports.

So there you have it.  The IATA code for Chicago’s O’Hare Airport that we see on our tickets and luggage tags is “ORD”, a carryover from its days as Orchard Depot Airport.

And O’Hare Airport — which has grown to over 7,000 acres — is named for a Medal of Honor recipient, a war hero, and son of a mafia criminal.

I hope you have a heroic year.

Joe Girard (c) 2015

 

About Us; About You

Writing History; Recreating and Creating History

My mother, God rest her saintly soul, took up writing the last decade or so of her life.  She made a serious study of it, even joining writing clubs and taking experienced mentors.  Over the next several years she crafted a series of essays about her life: from growing up on the plains of Alberta, to raising a flock of six wild kids; plus moving from Canada, to Chicago, to Milwaukee, to Arkansas and finally to Colorado.  Eventually she compiled a few dozen of those essays into an autobiography which she self-published just two years before she passed away.  I’m so very glad she did.

Many authors have written stories and essays by incorporating elements of their own life into their works, in semi- or even full-autobiographical form.  The characters of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” closely resemble herself, her family and acquaintances as a youth.  The fictional town of Maycomb, AL closely resembles her own girlhood hometown of Monroeville, AL.

Samuel Clemens’ novels – particularly those about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer – include many adventures and characters from his boyhood hometown of Hannibal, Missouri – although he places them in fictional St Petersburg, complete with a cave.

The list of authors who have created this way is near endless.  Hunter S Thompson: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  Charles Dickens: David Copperfield.  And we recognize: Aleksander Solzhenitsyn; Roald Dahl; Ernest Hemingway; Charlotte Brontë  Theirs are timeless and often moving works.

Question: Will you write about your youth, your life, your experiences? Our literary works don’t have to be moving or timeless; but we should all write.  Why? To express ourselves.  To leave a legacy to our posterity about our lives and our thoughts.  Somewhere in the decades and generations hence, a child or young adult descendant will wonder what their ancestors were like.  What YOU were like. Send them a message.

But don’t just make it up.  As Harper Lee said: an author “should write about what they know, and write truthfully.”

“Literature transmits incontrovertible condensed experience — from generation to generation. In this way literature becomes living memory ….” – Aleksander Solzhenitsyn

 

“Home is where your story begins” — Annie Danielson, Colorado CEO of the year, 2009

_______________________________________________

My dear friend Kevin Shepardson is now in a rehab hospital in Phoenix. Reports I get are that he is doing well; in fact – miraculously well.  Although now safe from terminal danger, he still has “a very long row to hoe.”  He has great loving support from his family and many friends.  Still, he can use all the prayers, good wishes and thoughts you can send his way.

I’d written recently that – until his New Year’s Eve day cardiac arrest episode – Kevin published a daily news letter, often with musical tributes to some event or holiday.  Each year in December he includes a daily musical tribute. Every day’s inbox has a new Christmas or Winter Holiday Seasonal themed musical delight, right up to Christmas Eve Day.

This past December 23 his musical selection was “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – which has to be one of the saddest Christmas carols ever.

Just the title conveys a lack of joy: Little Christmas? It’s like you’re being spurned by a lover: Farewell shot: “Well, have yourself a merry little rest of your life.”

The slow sadness of the song is actually appropriate.  The lyrics — composed by Hugh Martin in 1943 — were for the otherwise cheery musical movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”, to be sung by the beautiful and gifted Judy Garland during the only really sad part of the movie.  The plot at this point has her family tormented by an imminent move to New York just as big things are happening in their lives. Young ladies are falling in love and the 1904 World’s Fair is about to occur in St Louis!

In Kevin’s Dec 23 newsletter, he described a bit of the song’s history.  It was originally even much sadder. Its lyrics went:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last.
Next year we may all be living in the past.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Pop that Champagne cork.
Next year we all may be living in New York.

No good times like the olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us … no more.

But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas … now.

(Most dreary lines in blue)

 

Wow. Makes me kind of weepy just reading and humming to myself now.

  • This Christmas “may be your last.” That’s just morbid.
  • “No good times”??? How sad.
  • “Faithful friends who WERE dear to us will be near to us NO MORE.”

Oh my.  No wonder Garland refused to sing the song that way.  She just couldn’t do that in the saddest scene in the movie to poor little 6-year old co-star Margaret O’Brien, who nearly stole the show as Ester’s (Garland’s) younger sister, Tootie.

Fortunately, the movie’s lyricist Hugh Martin eventually relented and re-wrote the song closer to the carol we know so well:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light.
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Make the yuletide gay.
Next year all our troubles will be miles away.

Once again as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us … once more.

Someday soon we all will be together,
If the fates allow.
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas … now.

Much better, but still rather somber when sung at ballad tempo, less than 80 beats per minute.  And it still has that line “have yourself a merry little Christmas” … and ends with “We’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

Muddle through?? Geepers. It was enough to help Margaret O’Brien gin up a few tears … to set her off to a fit of downright bawling – and destroying snowmen. And yet: It’s the original recording and still a very good one.

Well, there have been many covers of “Merry Little Christmas”, most notably by Frank Sinatra.  Sinatra asked Dean Martin to help him lighten up the song for his album “A Jolly Christmas.” It just wasn’t “Jolly” enough.

Martin changed the line with “muddle through” to “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.” Dean and Frank made several other changes, which are shown in the notes below. You can hear it from the album here:  {Click the button or skip to 14:05 on the playback}

That’s a long way of getting to say this: Sally Benson’s story has had a heck of a ride over the last 111 years.  And … any way you look at it, we’re very, very glad this past Christmas didn’t fit the original two lines of “Merry Little Christmas” for Kevin.  It certainly was not your last, buddy!!  Stay strong my friend.  Peace and much healing to you.

_______________________________________

During World War II Americans craved entertainment that distracted them from the woes and worries of everyday.  Through much of the war, most news was not pleasant, even when the allies were winning.  For almost four years, US military service personnel perished at a rate of over 300 per day.  Casualties were over 800 per day.

The home front craved entertainment that had light, joyful stories that weren’t terribly deep. Something to take their minds off the awful news, both local and from around the world. Everyone was affected by death and severe injury in their family and among dear friends. The war was fought on the home front as well as in Africa, Europe, the Pacific.  So, who can blame them?

And the entertainment industry stepped up to meet those desires. Many entertainment creations of that era met these criteria. But two in particular share several remarkable coincidences.  These are the musical play “Oklahoma!” and the musical movie “Meet Me in St Louis.”

Coincidences?

  1. First, they are period productions, placed during jauntier times, in the first decade of the 20th century; during the Edwardian/pre-war era.

    • >“Oklahoma!” is placed in 1907, in Indian Territory just as Oklahoma is about to become the 46th star on the flag.
    • “Meet Me in St Louis” is placed in 1903-4, in, … well …, St Louis, just as the World’s Fair is about to come to St Louis.
  2. Second, each production originally contained the Rogers and Hammerstein song “Boys and Girls Like You and Me”. Producers dropped the number, twice, at the last minute due to running time.
  3. Finally, each was based on another story. In both cases, that other story was substantially autobiographical.
    • “Oklahoma!” is based on the play “Green Grow the Lilacs”, written by Lynn Riggs. Riggs was born in 1899 near Claremore, Indian Territory. He was 1/16th Amerindian*.  He grew up and went to school in, and near, Claremore — which is also the closest significant town to the setting of “Oklahoma!”
    • “Meet Me in St Louis” has a bit more history that I’m familiar with. It’s based on the book of the same title. That book, in turn, is slightly expanded from a series of semi-autobiographical essays that Sally (Redway) Benson wrote for The New Yorker magazine, from 1941 to 1942.
      • The essays were called “5135 Kensington”, which was her family’s address in a middle class neighborhood, located just over a mile from the main entrance to Forest Park, St Louis, where the 1904 World’s Fair occurred.

 

*: I have concluded that, sadly, there is not a perfectly appropriate term for this race of people.  “Native American” fails, since there are generations upon generations of other races dwelling here in the Americas who have no other place to call their native land.  “Indian” fails since that clearly belongs to the Indian subcontinent.  They are worthy of their own clear and distinct name, so I have accepted what some others have proposed: Amerindian.

_________________________

Leaving “Oklahoma!” for another time, let’s skip over to what became of Benson’s autobiographical essays: Meet Me in St Louis.Promo1

MGM was casting about for possible cheer-you-up movie plots wherein they could cast their greatest rising star – Judy Garland – when they came across Benson’s essays.  They decided it could be made into a screenplay for a musical movie, in order to showcase Garland’s beauty, grace and voice.

Only 21 at the time, Garland initially refused the role. She didn’t want to play a teenage “girl next door.” She was an adult now.

Indeed she was an adult.  During production, she and director Vincente Minnelli fell in love – resulting in the second of five Garland’s marriages.

“Meet Me in St Louis” is full of music, song and gay dancing  (duh, it’s a musical!). As full of music as it is, the movie’s songwriters — Hugh Martin (lyrics) and Ralph Blaine (music) — only composed three original tunes for the movie. These were: “The Boy Next Door”, “The Trolley Song”, and the aforementioned, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

These were written specifically to be sung by Judy Garland – (although she doesn’t come in on “Trolley” until over a minute — almost halfway through — after she sees her potential beau make it to the trolley.)

Both “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” are among the American Film Institute’s top 100 movie songs of all time: “Trolley” coming in at #26 and “Merry Little Christmas” at #76.

No surprise, especially to Judy’s many fans, that she also holds AFI’s #1 spot with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Meet me in St Louis” ranks as AFI’s 10th best musical movie of all time.  Easy guess that “Singing in the Rain” is #1.

Although screenwriters took some liberty with Benson’s original texts, much of it remained faithful to her writings of her childhood memories.

  • The address of the Smith home is exactly the same as that of her childhood: 5135 Kensington Avenue
  • The names of all the family members (mother, father, four girls, one boy) and the maid are all exactly the same as Benson’s family — even the nicknames. The family’s surname, Smith, is actually Benson’s mother’s maiden name.
  • Opportunities to show what else was going on in St Louis at the time were skipped – for example Scott Joplin lived and performed just a couple miles away. Ragtime was very fresh and popular. Benson didn’t write about these because, as a young child of six years old, she didn’t remember it. She wrote about what she knew.

Today we remember “Meet Me in St Louis” for much more than “Sally Benson first wrote her essays based on her childhood memories.” She certainly had no idea where it would go – that it would be garnished with famous actresses and memorable songs.

It’s probably most remembered for the Christmas carol that Martin and Blaine wrote.  The song immediately became popular with servicemen abroad – and their loved ones at home.  Why? It heralded a happier time in the near future – next year – when we all “will be together”, “all our troubles will be miles away” and “out of sight.”  And indeed, the war ended the year after the movie’s release.

When you write your memories, no one can know what will become of them.  They probably won’t be adorned with beautiful actresses, showy songs and marquis lights.

But I can assure you this: somewhere, sometime, someplace, someone will be interested in them.  Perhaps your descendants, or a friend’s grandchild, or a grand-niece or nephew.  When they read your rambling musings, your journals, your essays – well – those works will indeed become timeless and moving works of art.

If it’s daunting, start slow and easy.  Keep copies of the notes, letters and cards you send and receive.  Start a journal, or a blog.

Write about your experiences and thoughts. Therein will lie your  memories, your “you”. Write about as many of your yearnings, loves, disappointments and successes as you dare. Yes, there — wherever you put them — available and preserved, for future generations.

As true as that is for you and me, I know this.  Last Christmas was, miraculously, not Kevin’s last.  Nor was it yours.  As soon as Kevin recovers enough to write – he will.  It seems it may be soon. And now he has so much more to write about.  I can’t wait to read it all.  And some day, his grandkids and great-grandkids will be glad that he did.

Live well. Be inspired. Write. Create.

Peace.

Joe Girard © 2015

Note: Sally Benson is also well known for writing “Junior Miss”, which was also made into both a play and a movie. The movie starred Peggy Ann Garner.  It was also based on a series of semi-autobiographical stories that she first published in – yes – The New Yorker.

Most of her New Yorker essays were published under the nom de plume of “Esther Evarts.”

 

Bibliography:

Taylor, Mike: CEOs of the Year, Mark & Annie Danielson; Cobizmag: https://www.cobizmag.com/articles/ceos-of-the-year-mark-and-annie-danielson1

 

AFI top movie songs
http://www.afi.com/100years/songs.aspx

AFI top musical movies
http://www.afi.com/100years/musicals.aspx

NPR: The Story behind Have Yourself a Merry little Christmas
http://www.npr.org/2010/11/19/131412133/the-story-behind-have-yourself-a-merry-little-christmas

Some good back story on movie Meet Me in St. Louis. And a lot of detail on the plot.
http://www.filmsite.org/meetm.html
http://movies.amctv.com/movie/1944/Meet+Me+in+St.+Louis

Notes: comparing the versions of the song: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Garland v. Sinatra (changes for Sinatra version – 1957 – in Blue)

 merry-little-christmas

Meet Louie’s Woman

There are two successful and conspicuous songs from American music history that share a remarkable and unique coincidence — as well as several minor coincidences.

Each is so well-known that it would be difficult to find many adults raised in America who cannot at least hum along to one of them.  Many could hum along to both, recite a few words, and drop immediately into a comfortable toe tapping when each chorus is struck up. Yet, hardly anyone knows the words to the songs; hardly anyone knows the story behind these songs, or knows the stories they tell.

On the other hand, the songs’ differences are stark.

The later song is rowdy and timeless; for six decades running it’s been a top choice at parties and gatherings, especially if there is a dance floor.  And it seems destined to ride that fame indefinitely.

Fireflies at twilight

Fireflies at twilight

The earlier song is stuck in history, firmly planted in the first decade of the 20th century — the Edwardian Era.  And yet it retains its popularity as a quaint reminder of perhaps simpler times: when powered flight and electric lights were new; when great enjoyment could be found in playing flat music records on a gramophone, or sitting on the porch in the company of a comfortable friend, sipping sweet iced tea, watching fireflies in warm summer twilight.

But that one remarkable unique coincidence: a man’s name, Louie, is repeated in both of the songs’ title and chorus.

_____________________________

There aren’t many finer men than my dear friend Kevin Shepardson. One month after surviving cardiac arrest, he is still in hospital. Finally out of ICU and moved to a hospital closer to his family, he’s still in need of great medical care, and all the love, prayers, good thoughts and wishes we can send his way.

Right up to this past New Year’s Eve day, when the “event” happened, Kevin published a daily newsletter via email, which he called “The Good News Today.”  It came in two parts.  The first was spiritual, connected to the scriptures of the daily office, with a short reflection by a staff member of Creighton University.

The second part was what he called his “ramble”, with whatever was on his mind, from weather to current events.  The rambles frequently contained music tributes to some special event.  Perhaps a birthday  or anniversary of one of his many friends, or an approaching holiday.  They were always appropriate and fitting.  Kevin is a bit of a music expert (OK, music trivia geek), and you could tell he put care into selecting the proper songs, complete with Youtube links so we could hear them professionally performed.

If Kevin were to select a music tribute song for a celebration party (like his 60th, which is next week), or for a nostalgic commemoration of early 20th century America, he might have selected one of these two songs.

Or, maybe not.

___________________________

Part I

Singer/songwriter Richard Berry was a talented musician, and could perform early R&B as well as doo-wop.  In 1955, aged only 20, he penned the lyrics to a song that may live forever.

It’s about a lovesick guy at a bar, talking to a bartender named “Louie.”[1]  Berry claims he was inspired by a similar song — One for my Baby (and one more for the Road) — best sung by Frank Sinatra, where a lovelorn guy is pouring his heart out to a bartender named “Joe.”  In “Louie Louie” the guy at the bar is talking about his girl back in Jamaica … a three day and night sailing trip away. And it’s time for him to go see her.

The song was finally recorded with his group, The Pharaohs, in 1957 as the B-side to “You are my Sunshine” on the Flip Records label. Their R&B version of “Louie Louie” was totally understandable and was pretty easy to follow.  As a minor hit; it was soon re-released as an A-side.  Richard Berry & The Pharaohs’ original version of Louie Louie is almost painful to listen to. That is, if you’ve been weaned on the later rock version. Their version of the song soon languished, maintaining some popularity on the west coast, from San Francisco to Seattle.

Album Cover - Richard Perry and the Pharaohs

Album Cover – Richard Perry and the Pharaohs

Over the next few years, quite a few groups in the Pacific Northwest picked up the song, and played versions of it in concerts and small gigs. Some recorded it.  In fact, to date, “Louie Louie” has been covered and recorded over 1,500 times. [2]

Well, moving to 1963, “The Kingsmen” were a new group in Portland, Oregon. They had been playing the song for months at parties and gigs, getting wilder and wilder with the song.  No longer Rhythm and/or Blues, it was full raucous Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Ken Chase had a local radio show, and ran a teen night club where the Kingsmen played. After hearing them play the song live, he agreed to set up a recording session for the song.  They did the song in one take, since they were tired from having just performed a Louie-thon. Or because they were cheap (the recording only cost $50).  Or both.

Nonetheless, over the years, it’s the Kingsmen’s almost totally incomprehensible version of “Louie Louie” that has become the standard. Since the Kingsmen, it’s known more for the guitar instrumental bridge than its lyrics or story.  It has been recognized by organizations and publications worldwide for its influence on the history of Rock and Roll.

 

  • In 2007, in Rolling Stone ranked it #5 in its list of 40 songs that changed the world.
  • In 2004 Mojo Magazine rated it #1 in “Ultimate Jukebox: The 100 Singles You Must Own”.
  • Mojo and Rolling Stone have rated it the #51 and #54 top songs of all time, respectively.

 

Stories and commentary on “Louie Louie” and the Kingsmen could fill volumes. For example:

 

  • The lead singer for the famous Kingsmen 1963 recording, Jack Ely, quit the group four months afterward over a disagreement. At the time only some 600 copies had been sold. Ely missed out on large royalties.
  • Washington State considered making it the state song.
  • The states of Washington and Oregon, and the cities of Seattle and Portland have declared “Louie Louie” days. [3]
  • There is an “International Louie Louis Day” [4]
  • The FBI investigated the song to determine if it was obscene [5](the lyrics are that incomprehensible), as it was so popular at raucous parties (as recreated in National Lampoon’s movie “Animal House” [6]).

    • Which is pretty laughable today, considering how “artists” like Barrack Obama’s good friend Jay-Z fill their “songs” with the F-word and the N-word – not to mention gratuitous violence, usually against women – and are rewarded with critical acclaim and Grammy awards. Not that most true music aficionados or anyone with common sense would give two BMs about that.

 

Interlude

Another somewhat famous song nearly shares this unique “Double-double” Louie coincidence.  Each is named “Brother Louie”, wherein “Louie” is repeated in the song lyrics, but not in the title.  One version was recorded by Hot Chocolate (in the UK), and was covered by the group Stories (US based).  The Stories’ recording came in at #13 in the US for 1973; Hot Chocolate’s recording was #86 that year in the UK.

There is a second “Brother Louie” which is completely different, by Modern Talking (1986). It did not crack the top 100 for that year. I’m not familiar with this song, but it seems mildly annoying.

After Jack Ely had left the Kingsmen he soon realized he was going to miss out on those royalties.  So he wrote and recorded several songs with his new group, The Courtmen, alluding to his “Louie Louie” connection, including “Louie Louie ‘66”. But it is really the same song, although this time easier to understand.

Subsequent lawsuits between the Kingsmen and Ely resulted in him getting paid $6,000 and label credit as the lead singer on future record pressings.

You can read much more about the history, mystery and saga of “Louie Louie” here, here and here. And about a zillion other sites.

________________________________

Louie, part deux

July 1848 was a seminal moment.  The Seneca Falls Convention kicked off what could be called the Women’s Movements that still have modern-day repercussions.  Historians have suggested that it was not so much a feminist movement or a woman’s rights movement – it was a wide reaching social movement. [7]

By the turn of the 20th century, it was women who had led the charge for founding the Red Cross (Clara Barton) and for humane treatment of severely ill mental health patients (Dorthea Dix).  Women were becoming doctors and surgeons (not the same thing then).  They supplied the energy and drive to reform labor: advancing stricter child labor laws, organizing unions to drive for better and safer working conditions (especially for garment workers), and for five day work weeks, instead of the usual seven days. And pushed for forty hour work weeks, instead of the usual 60 or 70, with paid overtime compensation.

Alcohol abuse – in fact downright drunkenness – was a huge problem in 19th century America.  The temperance movement – based on the desire for a healthier family life – owes all of its early energy to Women.

Yes, women were feeling their oats and ready to do more.  They were shockingly daring to smoke in public and demanded the right to vote (By 1900, several western states, — Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Colorado — had already granted full women’s suffrage [12]).

In marriage, women grew less and less inclined to be totally subservient to their husbands.  Yes, they loved their men and were devoted spouses and mothers, but – especially in the middle and upper classes – they were eager to get more out of married life than children and laundry.

Women, their influence and their interests, cut a wide swath across the social milieu as America approached the grandest, the largest, and the most extravagant World’s Fair in history: the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, to be hosted at Forest Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, in 1904.

In 1890, Saint Louis was the nation’s second largest producer of beer. By 1904 they had dropped to number five, but that’s still a lot of beer. The big brewer Anheuser-Busch sold large quantities on the East Coast thanks to enhanced distribution via refrigerated cars they had helped pioneer on the nation’s ever expanding railroad capacity.[13]

Early in 1904, New York lyricist Andrew Sterling was trying to come up with a song to promote the upcoming World’s Fair in Saint Louis.  Two stories of his inspiration for the earlier “Louie” song survive, although it is likely that each is apocryphal.

The first story claims that in New York, those Saint Louis beers (Budweiser and Busch) were often called “Louis”, pronounced “Lou-ee” —the same as the French Saint, King Louis IX, after whom the city is named. It seems that at a bar one night, Sterling hailed the bartender, whose name happened to be Louis (Louie).  Wanting another beer, he called out, “Another Louis, Louis.” [8]

A second, similar, version of the song’s inspiration has Sterling and co-composer Kerry Mills (who wrote the music) sitting together across a bar from a bartender named Louie and ordering a mixed-drink called a Louie. [9]

In any case, it was the repeating of the name “Louis” — pronounced “Louie” — that caught on and inspired Sterling to pen the lyrics to the song “Meet me in Saint Louis, Louis.” He must have been feeling a bit jolly, since he wrote each half-verse and the chorus in the form of a limerick (A-A-B/B-A).

In the opening verse of the song, we find that Louis’ wife (Flossie) has left him, apparently without warning.  She leaves a note with the line: Life is just “too slow for me here.”  She’s perfectly willing to re-connect with him, but on her terms, as her note continues in the chorus:

Meet me in Saint Louis, Louis. Meet me at the Fair.
Don’t tell me the lights are shining anyplace but there.
We will dance the Hoochee Koochee. I will be your Tootsie Wootsie.
If you will meet me in Saint Louis, Louis; meet me at the Fair.

Billy Murray was a very popular singer of that era.  In fact, his voice graces four of the top ten hits of 1904.  His recording of “Meet Me in Saint Louis, Louis” was made in May of that year and was immensely popular.  It was the #2 song of 1904 (behind Sweet Adeline, which actually had three different recordings make the billboard).

The Murray version is kept light and cheery – it skips a key verse that makes it quite clear that Flossie (Louis’ wife), is making an extreme act of defiance.  She wants more out of this marriage.

The dresses that hung in the hall,
Were gone; she had taken them all.
She took all his rings, and the rest of his things.
The picture he missed from the wall.

“What? Moving?” The janitor said.
“Your rent is paid three months ahead.”
“What good is the Flat?” said poor Louis, “Read that!”
And the janitor smiled as he read.

Chorus: “Meet me in St Louis, Louis …”[10]

 

Flossie had not only left, she took all of HIS things.

Further fixing the song firmly in a long ago era, Flossie’s note pledges “We will dance the Hoochee Koochee; I will be your Tootsie Wootsie.”

We might recognize Tootsie Wootsie from context, as it also appears in “In the Good Old Summer Time”, the #6 song of 1902 as recorded by William Richmond, charting at #1 for seven weeks.

You hold her hand and she holds yours
And that’s a very good sign
That she’s your Tootsie Wootsie
In the Good Old Summertime

“Tootsie Wootsie” is a sweetie pie: a boyfriend or girlfriend you can cuddle up to. And more.

The Hoochee Coochee was a dance that was considered very daring – even lewd – at the time. It was sexually provocative with lots of mid-section gyrations. It had become somewhat popular through exhibits at two earlier well-attended World’s Fairs in America; the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and the 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago.

The Hoochee Coochee was an “entertaining” dance to observe —usually men observing women with a bare midriff.  Flossie says “we will dance” it — as in, together.  Hmmmm.

If you think about it, Louis’ runaway wife, Flossie, really had a lot on her mind, and lot to offer.  As Michael Lasser says in “America’s Songs II” — “It offers a tempting invitation: She promises him a good time at the Fair and afterwards. … the promise borders on sexual abandon.” [10]

So Flossie was not simply rebelling and running out on poor Louis.  Her offer was all, or nothing.  As in: All of her, or none of her.  She was promising him some exciting “action” — connubial pleasure, if you will — if he would simply comply with her demand to leave home and…

“Meet me in Saint Louis, Louis.  Meet me at the Fair!”

No wonder it was so popular!

Yes indeed!  Marriage can be plenty interesting in a fun way if men would just take the time to listen to their wives once in a while!

Here’s hoping and praying that Kevin, and his Tootsie Wootsie Sue, can very soon run away and enjoy the delights of “hoochee koochee” as well.

Kevin and Sue Shepardson

Kevin and Sue Shepardson

Until then, I wish you all peaceful snuggling; or rowdy dancing.  Or both.  Your choice.

Cheers,

Joe Girard © 2015

 

________________________

Final notes and thoughts, followed by footnotes and bibliography.

 

  • Neither Sterling nor Mills attended the Fair in Saint Louis.
  • The Song was revived in the 1944 movie starring Judy Garland “Meet Me in Saint Louis” (this time pronounce the American way: like “Lewis”), wherein the chorus is sung by quite a few excited folks in the opening scenes. [Plot flaw: this is mid-summer of 1903, and according the sources I cited, the song’s words and sheet music were not written yet, nor had it become popular]
  • My Friend Max Storm, founder of the 1904 World’s Fair Society, has his doorbell set up to play the chorus to “Meet me in St Louis, Louis” when it rings. His Tootsie-Wootsie, Shara, lovingly puts up with this, and much more.
  • The song is often shown without the second “Louis” and  without the comma between.  This is incorrect.
  • The Berry song “Louie Louie” is often shown with a comma between the two Louies.  This is also incorrect.

 

 

Footnotes/bibliography.

[1] “Louie Louie,” the saga of a lovesick sailor pouring his heart out to a patient bartender, named Louie. — and other “Louie Louie historical highlights: http://seattletimes.com/html/entertainment/2003643550_louietimeline01.html

[2] According to some references, Louie, Louie has been recorded over 1500 times. LouieLouie.net and Peter Blecha, 4/1/2007 Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.com/html/entertainment/2003643548_louie01.html ]

[3] Washington, Oregon, Portland and Seattle “Louie Louie Day”.  April 12, 1985 (Washington), April 14, 1985 (Seattle), April 2, 1986 (Oregon): http://www.louieday.org/default.htm

Finally, in the city where the Kingsmen recorded it, Portland celebrated “Louie Louie Day” October 5, 2013: http://koin.com/2013/10/05/its-louie-louie-day-in-portland/

[4] April 11 (the birthday of Richard Berry) is celebrated as International “Louie Louie Day“ [http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Louie_Louie_Day]. It is also listed by Chase’s Calendar of Events, and the National Special Events Registry

[5] FBI investigates “Louie Louie” for obscenity.  http://vault.fbi.gov/louie-louie-the-song

[6] Plot error.  Animal House supposedly occurred in 1962, one year before the Kingsmen’s recording was released.

[7] Women’s movement as Social Movement. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/647122/womens-movement

http://womhist.alexanderstreet.com/socm/intro.htm

“Women and women’s organizations also worked on behalf of many social and reform issues. By the beginning of the new century, women’s clubs in towns and cities across the nation were working to promote suffrage, better schools, the regulation of child labor, women in unions, and liquor.” http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/timeline/progress/suffrage/

“Women were key players in the push for prohibition (meaning outlawing the sale and consumption of alcohol), improved housing standards, regulations of the food and drug industry and government inspections of factories. ”

http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/womens-suffrage-early-feminism-movement-19th-amendment-leaders.html
The above link has been changed to: http://study.com/academy/lesson/womens-suffrage-early-feminism-movement-19th-amendment-leaders.html

[8] The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought,  William R. Everdell [chapt 14/pg 206]; https://books.google.com/books?id=yVRb9sJ2KjEC&pg=PA206&lpg=PA206&dq=sterling+get+me+another+louis,+louis&source=bl&ots=znJQdCCPif&sig=zfezVLEHcMmQC78dXauLWFRVxJo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=HX7IVPGaIoKnNv7wgqgM&ved=0CD0Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=sterling%20get%20me%20another%20louis%2C%20louis&f=false

[9] America’s Songs II: Songs from the 1890’s to the Post-War Years, Michael Lasser [1901-1905/pg 27]; https://books.google.com/books?id=RlmLAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA243&lpg=PA243&dq=America%27s+Songs+II:+Songs+from+the+1890%27s+to+the+Post-War+Years,+Michael+Lasser&source=bl&ots=H_e1kCaphg&sig=hnTC8TDuh_gj_vV2NjlgW9l9e_A&hl=en&sa=X&ei=U4DIVLK7GYedNrfwgbgN&ved=0CDkQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=America’s%20Songs%20II%3A%20Songs%20from%20the%201890’s%20to%20the%20Post-War%20Years%2C%20Michael%20Lasser&f=false

Note: In further research, I could find no such drink called a “Louie” or a “Louis.” But that could just be that Google hasn’t found it yet.

[10] Meet me in St Louis, Louis: lyrics. “500 Best Loved Songs”, edited by Ronald Herder, page 219-220.

Verified lyrics; http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/j/judy_garland/meet_me_in_st_louis.html

[11] The Hoochee Coochee (or Hoochie Coochie) in America: http://www.readex.com/blog/hoochie-coochie-lure-forbidden-belly-dance-victorian-america

[12] Women’s suffrage timeline by state in the US: http://constitutioncenter.org/timeline/html/cw08_12159.html
Odd that Washington as a territory granted full suffrage in 1883, but not as a state until 1910. In fact, the territorial laws were twice overturned.  http://www.washingtonhistory.org/files/library/TheFightforWashingtonWomensSuffrageABriefHistory.pdf

[13] Primm, James Neal (1998). Lion of the Valley: St. Louis, Missouri, 1764–1980, pg 328-330

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