My husband used to be a city truck driver for YRC in St. Louis. A union guy. It was a perfect job for him because he lives in the tiny spaces between the parts of machines, and he loves to be on the road.
He was a Roadway guy. Then they merged with Yellow. Another story.
I had a lot to learn about unions, and was an elitist. Glenn wondered as to how I could be a true liberal, thinking that maybe unions had no place in the workplace anymore. It was a challenge to me.
Pretty high up in the rankings of his terminal, he usually got the bid to work in the place that he wanted. That place was “south city”, and the city was St. Louis. He loved the bid because of the architecture in the area, and always carried his camera. Not just for this:
This is the way the arch looked when Glenn and I were kids. We watched the creeping cranes slide up each leg of the new arch slowly, and all of St. Louis waited for the day that the legs would be jammed together, each being built to a slightly different height. Every week pictures of the progress were featured in the Post Dispatch. The skyline from back then seems like a few simple sprouts.
But this is not really the most appealing architecture in south city. And the Gateway Arch is not in south city. But you can see it for a long way, and seeing it now brings all my childhood into view.
What is south city? Budweiser, Lemp, South Grand, “The Hill”, Yogi Berra, Joe Gragiola, Stan the Man. It is red brick everywhere. It is German, Italian.
Not as a youth being able to spend much time there, I love it greedily now, and fantasize about the world when that architecture was new.
You could view much of the history of south city through the lens of the development of the Budweiser company.
And you can trace the footprint of south city with the red buildings, old and proud, where the workers worked, and also played. I don’t buy any other kind of beer now, being in the diaspora.
Beautiful little red brick public houses were built all over the city to serve Budweiser beer. Most still exist with fabulous detail, a kind of craftsmanship not used today.
Another favorite: the Water Tower in south city.
We dreamed about owning a small house on “The Hill”, an Italian neighborhood in south city, along with our acreage in South Carolina. It probably would not have been a good idea for us to be there. It is just as closed as is Charleston, SC in its own way. But there are amazing little brick wonders just down the street from some of the best restaurants in the world.
St. Louis could easily be the story of two beers: Budweiser, surviving, and that made by the Lemp family. Both family stories include lots of juicy details.
Gorgeous brick masses.
So, once in a while a union man with a lower number and more seniority would bid for Glenn’s route. These bids took place maybe bi-monthly. Why not? If Glenn wants this bid, always asks for it, it must be good, right? After a stint with south city, the senior driver always let it go back to Glenn.
South St. Louis is a busy place. And while most deliveries of freight to companies need only smaller trucks, once in a while a 53 foot trailer would be used, and Glenn could do this.
It is a mess stopping traffic both ways while you aim the back of a 53 foot trailer, only using mirrors, into a little hole, only slightly bigger than the trailer door, down at least one level from street height. In situations scrapped together among ancient buildings, where nothing like trucks of today even existed.
One day, Glenn had to do this. It didn’t happen all that often. He did his job, and a couple of times, had to jump out of the cab to make additional judgements about that tiny dock door. He noticed a coffee shop with big windows across the street, and thought it a good time to take a break while the company workers unloaded their freight.
To Glenn, upon entering the coffee shop, everybody stood up and applauded. One trucker said “I couldn’t do that!” And that is why Glenn always got his bid back.