VILLAGE SQUARE

village square sign

We had to get there in the car; it was out of our daily orb.  Way past the high school on Dunn Road.  An exotic place then.  Much later, its sign is on the DE-cline.

Village Square

Funny that it seems normal to see this memory only in black and white.  The media, such as it was was just that.  The clean design of this architecture almost demands it. After a while, shopping centers had to be covered, and this jewel was lost.  The grab for money was on.

Those globes hanging from the front facade of Goldies, was it?  This height of style impressed even a ten year old.  During the sixties, when this country was different, even in VERY middle class suburbs, the design style was fresh.  People were working, taxes being paid, accommodations growing like weeds to embrace the boom. Nearby McDonnell Douglas was literally reaching for the moon.  Our needs in this place?  Bona Venture Art Supply.

gateway-arch-st-louis

The Gateway Arch on the riverfront was finished in 1965.  Simple and moving, this was the image for our city.  Every week the Post-Dispatch had photos of the progress.  Creeping cranes were invented to put these aluminum clad blocks in place.  Eero Sarrinen led our way.

Lambert

Lambert Airport finished in 1956 and designed by Minoru Yamasaki, was influential for many later international airport spaces.  Softer arches than the later Gateway braced the glass clad and flowing interior space.

lambert interior

The colors of those plastic chairs would pop your eyes out in this black and white world.

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Henry Moore figures frame arches of water which perfectly reflect Yamasaki’s roof design.

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We were living in Art.  Why did it take so long to notice it?  Bauhaus, anyone?

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NOT RACE, NOT CLASS, IT’S CULTURE

Still thinking about Ferguson, Missouri.

Ferguson mo 1978-3

I grew up a stone’s throw from there, in the 1960s, and there were no blacks to speak of. We were all middle class whites and were trained with middle class ideas. Most of us went to state institutions, middle class schools, for college. We knew the program.

ferguson mo 1978 -1

After graduate school at a second middle class state institution, I came south to take my first college teaching position. The only person I knew in South Carolina was the person who hired me.

Landscape, behavior, attitudes were all unfamiliar to me. And true, I lived (still do) in a county that is majority minority. There was some kind of political plan to make this county the way it is, and its shape is huge, and far-reaching to attain that goal. Both whites and blacks were confusing.

I was truly in a different pond. Could not understand why strangers spoke to me. What did they want? Someone was to pick me up “after church” and I thought, “Which service?”. Overwhelmingly, there is only one here, and it is at eleven. The details of life became unfamiliar.

Having later married into a local family, it was very early on that I realized they were playing a game for which I would never know the rules. That is a cultural difference. Neutral, not bad, not good. It got me in trouble sometimes. That description stayed with me; it exactly depicted my emotions. I meant no harm, was simply confused. My antennae did not work well here.

People, black and white, do what their parents and grandparents did; they are the models. Those traditions may seem very strange to the other. Cultures are different ponds. Should know better, but last weekend was sort of shocked by the organization of a local Democratic Party campaign event.

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The fish fry and meet and greet was to start at four. We got to the event at that time, there was not a soul around. We sat in the car until we saw some movement in putting up a tent in the parking lot. My oldest, with us, is always embarrassed by my activities. We walk into the building behind the line of signs, against his advice. There was a meeting in a glass office taking place, and about 40 black people sitting in chairs around the perimeter of the office quietly and politely.

williams one

It reminded me of the above event from last year when all staked out their seats in a covered picnic area, loaded with railroad collectibles hanging from the ceiling. The people were glued to their seats, and were not going to give them up until fed. Same thing for the fish fry last week. They had all evening, they would listen to all the speakers, and then they would eat. Never mind how slow the start was. We, starving, left to go eat pizza as the event had yet to be born. Should have learned this stuff by now. It made me think of the Old South and the new black voters and getting out the vote. And generations of black families doing as they had seen done before.

MADELYN AND LEE IN KINLOCH

Madelyn sent me this link when all in the Ferguson diaspora looked with pain at the violent images every night.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119106/ferguson-missouris-complicated-history-poverty-and-racial-tension

Briefly, it says that to understand Ferguson, you have to first understand the story of Kinloch and the story of north St. Louis. As a kid without a car, north St. Louis escaped me. But I knew Kinloch. Madelyn and all her (even then) political activities took me there. It amazes me this vein of authenticity that runs through Madelyn; fifty some years after we first met, she has the same ideas about the same things she always has. She was right then, and is right now.

This was back then when “liberal” was not a bad word, and when Lyndon Johnson was creating his “Great Society”. Madelyn got involved in Head Start, a program of early education for children so that they were not behind already on their first day of kindergarten. Not surprisingly, she has taught children all her life. Madelyn and I went to the same church and we belonged to a very active youth group, much of the time guided by Madelyn’s politics. I can still see her brainstorming ideas for programs for the group. Having recently come to Florissant from some years in Japan, it was interesting to me that she suggested a program called “Youth in Asia”. Of course, she was suggesting “Euthanasia”.

dad's car

That was Madelyn. This time she was collecting old clothes for children in Kinloch, the all black suburb of St. Louis closest to where we lived. We were to drop them at the Head Start location there.

No one could believe it when Big John bought his first convertible. Conservative, but a Democrat, he was a government bureaucrat at a high level. Friends and neighbors were intermittently questioned about him by the government because he dealt in sensitive stuff. My dad was quiet. Then something remarkable happened and he bought a 1964 Buick Special convertible, black, and a big straw hat with fringe on it!

Three years later he bought a 1967 silver Buick Le Sabre convertible, like the one pictured above, and that is the car that Madelyn and I borrowed to deliver old clothes to the Head Start in Kinloch. Beautiful summer day with the top down. Dad at work.

I remember the day; the boxes in the back seat sitting on red leather, the freedom of the wind, the freedom of the car, and the freedom of the lazy summer.

When Big John got home from work that evening, he was appalled. You did WHAT? In KINLOCH? In the CONVERTIBLE? WITH THE TOP DOWN?

Madelyn and I lived in Florissant, right next to Ferguson. Florissant means “Valley of the Flowers”. Madelyn and I sure acted like valley girls that day!

Here are Madelyn’s words from just yesterday:

“Yes, Lee, I remember going to Kinloch with you in your car, and am astounded at how little I knew of the effect of my life style on others, the privileges and power we had without knowing.”

THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND

And now some of us are 64?  Will you still need me, will you still feed me…

Where the hell did all the time go?  Have you listened to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” lately?

1-grandview plaza

How appropriate that this center of our young lives was also on Route 66.  It adds to the romance.  We could, and did, walk here, but it was a long cement trek.  It was very near to our high school. The Grandview Cinema (which would materialize about where the little floating sign suspends above) did not open with the shopping center; it was built a little later.  There, we dated.  We shopped at Penney’s.  We stared into the mostly matte black windows of the Jet Lounge, and wondered what was going on in there.

The most evocative part of the picture above is what is surrounding Grandview Plaza: the pattern of houses.  They marched on for miles.  No one lived much differently than anyone else.

I begged my father’s new 1967 Le Sabre Convertible soon after I got my license for some unimportant task.  Took that car top-down to Grandview, parked it and strolled around Penney’s.  It wasn’t until looking for my keys on the way out that I realized they were left in the car.  With the top down.

dad's car

grandview plaza postcard

You can see the sign in this postcard in the lower left of the first image, across from the gas station.  Image is sure more important now.

Much more fun to take the bus, changing once at the exotic Ferguson Loop and go to Famous-Barr in the Northland Shopping Center in Ferguson.

northland

We’d save up our money, have lunch in the mezzanine between floors; there were drawings of women shoppers; angular, a mix between Audrey Hepburn and Barbie carrying hat boxes.  Later, during the British Invasion, there was a shop for juniors mimicking Carnaby  Street.  You just had to use the bus to get that kind of fashion interface!

glenns accident

Glenn had his first accident in the area just under the Kresge sign.  Years after this picture was taken, but we remember the Christmas candles on the roof.  And it was Santa in the helicopter.  This was probably the first year Northland did this.

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Northland was destroyed in 2005.

My now thirty year old son was maybe six when he realized that my youthful world was not actually black and white.  He was very perceptive.  In a way, the sixties WERE very black and white.