I had the opportunity to travel through Carrollton on Thanksgiving weekend. Not much has changed to my favorite valley of crackling strips of concrete and grassy hills dotted with once-ornamental trees. The Carrollton Center Swimming complex, with its graffiti and trash-strewn algae pools and condemnable building still exists for reasons unknown. No other building except the subdivision’s namesake exists. Nature is easily pushing through worn out patches in the avenues and lanes, created through years of Bridgeton’s understandably haphazard repair. Why permanently fix those roads when, in an indeterminate date in the future, those roads would be empty? Brumley Drive already resembles Chartley Lane; one of the first streets to go and sealed off for decades.
Yet, the grass is still being maintained and mowed in a considerable fashion, streetlights, if standing and survived being shot at randomly still illuminate, and some roads for public travel are being maintained. I photographed a curb repair job which, though well done, is rather confusing that it was done at all. The road which the curb rounds towards is gated off and I can’t imagine a scenario in Carrollton where so much traffic flowing in opposite directions make having a broken curb problematic. Alas, see the photo.
A few more observations. First, I fly out of Lambert frequently, especially in recent days. The use of the Runway 11-29 (the W-1W expansion runway’s official name) is still extremely limited. Rare as it is, I did have the opportunity to land on the new runway a few days ago and saw from the low descent all the places I have trounced over recent years. Through the passing dormant trees, I saw thick brown veins running through jagged concrete streets in the places where I have been forever banned from visiting again on foot. Fellow travelers watching out their little oval windows gasped and commented on their thoughts of the desolate land below. I caught one audible quip, “So this is St. Louis, the most dangerous city in America. Sure looks like it!” From an outsider’s perspective it would be difficult to imagine just how normal of a community once existed in this aerial tour of post-apocalypse damage.
Another quip, “Why would someone ever build homes so close to an airport?”
That is a question I wanted to ask of Fischer & Frichtel, the builders of Carrollton in the 1960s.
I went into the F&F headquarters in May of this year, on a whim to find out if I could get some background information on Carrollton. The secretary was extremely pleasant and did her best to contact anyone whom I may interview. The company has been passed down in the family as the father had passed on. The son now outsources much of his architectural needs on current projects and much of the Carrollton/Bridgeton home designs have been transferred to the City of Bridgeton for their historical archives. Many of the original architects have passed on.
It may be time for me to visit City Hall once again. If I am lucky, I will get to see the mid-century architectural plans for myself. If I am extremely lucky, I may get to interview Conrad Bowers, the decades-long Bridgeton mayor and loud antagonist to the Lambert Runway Expansion plans. I am admittedly nervous about interviewing people. Yet my desire for answers to so many questions about the history of a place being slowly erased in my youth just might outweigh my interviewing inexperience.