This week's Riverfront Times explores our city's literary history. Check back throughout the week for online-only maps and articles supplementing this week's cover story.
Let's finish with a few reminiscences of what it was like to grow up here.A.E. Hotchner's memoir King of the Hill concerns the summer of 1932 when Hotchner, then twelve, was left to fend for himself at the Avalon Hotel at the corner of Kingshighway and Delmar Boulevard when his mother went into the hospital with tuberculosis and his father, a traveling salesman, hit the road to sell watches. It's the most unlikely of subjects, a thrilling tale of survival in the midst of St. Louis. In 1993, it was made into a movie directed by Steven Soderbergh and shot on location. Here's how it begins:
"Last summer really started May 9th, the day they put the lock on 326. You may think May is too early for summer, but let me tell you, not in St. Louis. In geography we studied about the equator running through Africa and all that, but believe me St. Louis is the equator of the U.S.A. The St. Louis sun passes through about three hundred magnifying glasses. You keep a candle on the bureau, and once that St. Louis sun really gets going the wick is right down tickling the bureau top. And that's what it does to your brain. Melts it down, and if the brain had a wick, but July it'd be tickling your eyeballs. The only good thing about the St. Louis sun is when it really gets going it melts the streets and you can just dig a finger in and scoop out a hunk and chew the black tar same as Wrigley's."
The short story writer and novelist Peter Taylor is mostly associated with the Deep South, but he lived in the Central West End for six years, from the time he was nine till he turned fifteen. In one of his best-known stories, "The Little Cousins", he describes what it was like to visit Sportsman's Park in the days when St. Louis had two major league baseball teams.
Emily "Mickey" Hahn's family also moved away from St. Louis when she was fifteen. The bitterness of that blow was everlasting.