Back to Basics

Unreal offers tips to the youngsters, learns about the much-desired Dodge Neon and breaks down the real cost of a Thickburger; plus, did Roosevelt High School take the name of Baton Bob in vain?

The [St. Louis Public Schools] invested $45,000 this year on a campaign to get children to class on the first day of school.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 7, 2004

Buoyed by the recent success of his district's $45,000 outreach campaign to remind parents and students when the first day of school was, interim St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Floyd Crues today announced his intention to launch "Back to Basics," a series of similar campaigns to, as he put it, "enrich the basics of everyday life" among district families.

The first Back to Basics effort: a $60,000 campaign to remind students and parents to put their shirts on before leaving the house in the morning.

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Dan Zettwoch
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"How can a topless child learn?" Crues asked at a morning press conference in the Children's Apparel department of Famous-Barr downtown. "When a second grader's nipples are freezing in a spacious classroom, it's tough to concentrate on his or her studies."

According to district statistics from 2003, an average of 2.4 students per week arrived at school without a shirt on.

"That's two-point-four too many," Crues said. "This program sends a positive message to parents that we're willing to spend whatever it takes to educate students on the importance of putting a shirt on before heading to school."

Some district parents see the "Shirts On! Brains On!" campaign as a waste of public dollars.

"How about teaching my son to read a little better?" said Cornelia Johnson, who has spearheaded Mothers Opposed to Funding Obvious Stuff (MOFOS). "My kids know to put on their shirts in the morning. Like: Duh. They need to spend money on getting my boy's six-year-old mind around the pronunciation of three-syllable words, not the finer points of Van Heusen's fall line."

Crues announced that funds have already been set aside for two more Back to Basics initiatives: "Hands Off: Eat Food With Utensils" and "Pull Down Your Pants Before You Pee-Pee."

Steal Wheels

Escalades, of course. The new Chrysler 300C Hemi is a very nice car. And the ever-popular Jeep Cherokee -- any teen would be proud to cruise down Natural Bridge in that ride. Yes, many nice cars occupy the north-county parking lots of the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus. But somehow the Dodge Neons appear to be standing out. Or, as detective Tony Griemel of UMSL's police department puts it, "The month of August was a very unusual one for us."

During a single 24-hour period at the end of last month, three Neons were swiped from UMSL's north-county lots; two additional attempts on the low-priced compact were thwarted that same week.

The spree began sometime between midnight and 7 a.m. on Thursday, August 24, when an UMSL student discovered that his red Neon was missing. Later that day a green Neon vanished. The next night a black Neon was stolen. All three were recovered in Pagedale within the day. Then, two days later, the black Neon was targeted again, though witnesses happened upon the thieves in flagrante delicti. Described by Griemel as "two very youthful teenagers," they ran to the south-campus MetroLink station and made their getaway on a train.

Later in the week another Neon (color unspecified) was stolen. That car was recovered in the lot after the teens, who apparently flunked driver's ed, bailed out. "They lost control of the car, hit a curb, gave it a flat tire and got out and ran away," Griemel recounts.

Why the Neon? "Chrysler products right now are really popular," says Griemel. "They're very easy to steal."

Indeed, the Neon appears to be climbing the various greatest-hit lists of stolen cars. Maybe it's because pint-size teens can see over the dashboard.

The perpetrators remain at large.

Chew on This

Pretty much anywhere you go, a Hardee's 1/3-pound Thickburger will lighten your wallet by $3.09 (including tax). But depending on where you live, the cost of this 851-calorie flagship patty varies wildly in terms of time-worked for burger bought. Using our own complex mathematical formula, Unreal presents the amount of time various St. Louisans must work before treating themselves to that key economic indicator, the Hardee's Thickburger. Click here and enjoy.

A Bob-O-Thetical Situation

Let's say you're a security officer working at a St. Louis public school. One day Baton Bob arrives for a visit, decked out in all his drum-majorette glory. A parent who's on hand, and who apparently has no eye for fashion, spies Bob and goes ballistic -- literally. Flashing a gun, he grabs Bob by his tutu and takes him hostage in a classroom full of kids. What would you do?

Unreal doesn't surprise easily, but we cop to having cocked an eyebrow when we heard that the abovementioned scenario was one of several presented to 100 security officers gathered in Roosevelt High School's lunchroom for a September 1 training session.

"It was a mock drill for our safety officers, of a situation that could happen at any of our schools at any given time," confirms Charles McCrary, director of the security division of the St. Louis Public Schools. "To teach them to call the police, to get the kids evacuated. It was just something we kind of pulled out of the air."

More likely, they pulled it out of somewhere else, according to the tipster who brought the incident to Unreal's attention via an anonymous voicemail. "The main premise of the whole drill was that Baton Bob was a child molester," the female caller said. "I don't feel like the city should be using him as a child molester. He's already got enough bad press. He's harmless."

"In no way was this disrespectful," responds McCrary. "There was nothing malicious about that exercise at all. In fact, Baton Bob was the victimin this whole thing. We actually rescued Baton Bob!"

Unreal caught up with Baton Bob (a.k.a. the Ambassador of Mirth, a.k.a. Bob Jamerson) in Atlanta, where he's house-hunting, having grown increasingly disenchanted with St. Louis after recent run-ins with the Webster Groves police on July 4 and with Union Station guards during an August appearance by the Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign. He says he plans to leave town for good by the end of this month, but he's thrilled to hear about the security scenario.

"I think that's commendable of the officers, because what they're really touching on are some real issues, issues that are in people's minds," Bob says. "I feel really good about it that they're taking it in that text, because I think that any constructive message that anyone in an authoritative position can portray of me is always a good thing."

And with a girlish laugh, he bids farewell.

Unreal Leading the Blind

When we heard that the Minds Eye Information Service was reading St. Louis-area newspapers over the radio for blind people, we thought: That's nice. When we heard the service's 160-odd volunteers were reading Unreal to the blind, we thought: That's bizarre. So we journeyed to Belleville's Our Lady of the Snows campus, a Catholic-run devotional site, to see for ourselves.

"So, you actually read Unreal to blind people?" we ask volunteer Marjorie Moore when she comes out to greet us.

Actually, Moore says, Minds Eye, which was founded 31 years ago, used to read the bulk of the Riverfront Times live over the radio every Thursday night. But donations have been slow and hours had to be cut from the daily live schedule (they still have time to read the Walgreens ads, however). The RFT only makes it onto taped bits, which are used to fill time when volunteers fail to show up, or when there's a technical problem. (The broadcast is transmitted on a signal that's "hidden" in the frequency of 101.1; Minds Eye provides free special receivers to users.)

Having been told more than once that we have a face that's perfect for radio, we're anxious to get into the recording booth ourselves, but we have to wait our turn behind seventeen-year-old volunteer Kristine Mauldin, a member of the National Honor Society. By the time we get our chance, Mauldin has read most of the good stuff, including, alas, our page.

We settle for "Drink of the Week," and we do a pretty creditable job, if we do say so ourselves.

Next time: "Savage Love."

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