The Way We Were

Week of March 27, 2002

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The Way We Were
Memories of riot and racism: Thank you for writing a fascinating article [Eddie Silva, "The Longest Day," March 20]. I know some older white people who lived in North City at the time and, after showing them your article, had some very interesting conversations. They all remembered the Fairgrounds Park race riot quite well, and the period after World War II when blacks started moving into the area. They agreed that race was a major reason, perhaps the No. 1 reason, for the postwar move to the suburbs by city whites and admitted it was at least one reason they all moved out of the city, too. All of them said they had nothing to do with the riot and were very unapologetic about it. They said when blacks started moving in, crime started going up -- mostly thefts but also rapes and assaults. Whether this was really true or not, I can't say, but this is their recollection, 50 years after the fact. They said that at the time there was a siege mentality among whites about blacks' "invading" what they referred to as "their" neighborhoods. Moving out to the county, which was mostly farmland at the time, was a new idea and only became an option in the 1950s, they said. They ridiculed the idea that white people feared blacks' color would wash off in a swimming pool. They said they'd never heard anyone say anything so stupid and this was something white liberals invented to ridicule poor whites. They did recall talk about blacks' having "diseases," as in venereal diseases, however. I pointed out to them the article saying that blacks were attacked if they entered white neighborhoods, and they agreed that this was undoubtedly true. But they observed that the white neighborhoods in the city were pretty tough in those days and were sharply divided by ethnic groups. As one old guy put it, "God help you if you were a Polack or a kraut and you walked into an Irish neighborhood. And the dagos were worst of all. They'd beat the crap out of anybody who wasn't a wop."I don't know what the answer is to all of this. I live in integrated Bellefontaine Neighbors, which is a much nicer place to live than many all-white neighborhoods I could mention. It does seem to me, however, that we all ought to talk about this sort of thing more openly and with less recrimination.
Dan Byrns
St. Louis

Give Us Back Our Fave
Write no junk before its time: I've taken a poll in our office, and everyone agrees that we don't like the format change in "Street Talk." We like the old way, where an individual just answers the posed question -- not all this new editorial junk.
Heather Howard
St. Louis

Runaway Runway
Pulitzer pulp product wrong about Lambert and stadium: Thanks, Riverfront Times, for exposing the fraud that has been perpetrated on the St. Louis region regarding the need to expand Lambert Field [D.J. Wilson, "If You Build It, They May Fly Elsewhere," March 13]. The exaggerated forecast of huge increases in the number of aircraft operations at Lambert contained in the environmental-impact statement is the basis for the fraud. Lambert consultants exaggerated the need to expand Lambert when they prepared the Lambert Airport master plan containing the misleading data. The Federal Aviation Administration swore to the exaggeration by rubber-stamping the plan and calling it an FAA-prepared document. Hard official data supports the RFT report of a decline in aircraft operations and delays at Lambert since 1995. This data is not new. I, among others, know that the same data was available to the St. Louis Post-Disgrace [Dispatch] several years ago, and, because of its lazy brand of reporting and support of the W-1W plan, it was not reported. It makes one wonder what the P-D knows about the pitfalls of the proposed Ballpark Village and are withholding. The P-D not only supports the ballpark plan but has a financial interest in the plan. Go back to sleep, P-D. The RFT is exposing and will continue to expose the Ballpark Village plan for what it will be -- another St. Louis white elephant just like Lambert expansion.
Rowan C. Raftery

Fork-Tongued Talk
Great idea -- but only if it comes from City Hall: As a former employee of the Downtown St. Louis Partnership, I am once again amazed at the city's audacity regarding plans for the Century and Syndicate Trust buildings [Elizabeth Vega, "Wrecking Crew," March 20]. What "Slays" me is not that they want to build another parking garage but that when they want one, it is a great idea; when a private owner wants one, it is horrible. During my tenure with the partnership, I was in close contact with the former owner of those buildings, Mark Finney. He hired independent engineering firms to analyze the viability of rehabbing the Century and Syndicate Trust buildings and was told that while the façades could remain, the interior was too far gone to be saved. He even offered to develop the property into garages, saving the beautiful exteriors. He invited Historic Restoration Inc. and others opposed to a parking structure to bring in engineers to see if there was another option for rehabbing. They didn't. The downtown partnership did because then-president Franklin "Kim" Kimbrough was very pro-restoration. The engineering firm we brought in and paid for agreed with Finney's engineers: not viable. Don't get me wrong -- I am all for rehabbing, but I also realize that for commercial or residential development to work, parking must be included in the plan. What I have a problem with is the fact that the city dragged the private owner, Mark Finney, through the court system for years to prevent him from developing his own building as he saw fit -- a parking garage. Now that they want to collect the revenues from it, a parking garage is the greatest idea ever. If anyone is interested, they should look at how many parking structures put money in the city's pockets, and they will see a direct correlation between that and development plans.
Holly Laws
St. Louis

Studio Static
Nobody spends that much: Thank you for exposing the plight of bands who need rehearsal space [Jason Toon, "Debt Rehearsal," March 13]. I was excited about the article until I read it; the excitement dissolved when I saw rates for Berzerker Studios misquoted four times the actual cost! No one spends $400 on rehearsal space. The average five-piece spends $93 per month (or $26 per week) on a great room with a PA. Some spend more, some less. The more expensive rooms accommodate 12-piece bands. Berzerker Studios is not about fat cats offering a solution the average band cannot afford. It is about eliminating obstacles. We are here for the average band! We know what it takes to keep a project together because we have been at it more than 10 years. We have staked our reputation on building infrastructure in the local scene so musicians stay together and remain productive -- the key to gaining marketability in the world at large.
Amy Bidz
Berzerker Studios
St. Louis

What's Best for Wurst?
Hold the kraut and hot mustard: What? In this week's "Night & Day," the featured event for Saturday, March 23 is the Wurstfest in Hermann, Mo., instead of our benefit for St. Louis Effort for AIDS, featuring hometown-boy-makes-good Kevin Spirtas, star of Broadway, movies, and "Days of Our Lives!" Not that it matters -- it's sold out anyway -- but your little sin of omission sums it up for me as to what's wrong with St. Louis and why I choose to work mostly in other cities. Bumped for a wiener festival. So, instead of going with the best, you featured the wurst. But I do still enjoy Eddie Silva's columns and Brian Hohlfeld does an excellent job with theater reviews.
Christopher Jackson
St. Louis

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