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Archive for January, 2011

I just received a kind word from Bridgeton City Administrator Thomas Haun that Bridgeton Mayor Conrad Bowers is willing to meet with me to discuss Carrollton’s history.  In my excitement, I have already begun preparing questions though the interview will not likely take place until March.    I am interested in hearing more about his tenure as the city leader during the Lambert Expansion Project.

If you did not already know, Bridgeton is in the finishing stages of relocating City Hall (Government Center as many are now called) down Natural Bridge into their newly constructed building.   The new building has a new, modern design, but I will miss the mid-century style reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright building that was formerly City Hall.   The new building now stands atop where Hot Shots Bar and Grill and (I believe) an old Phillips 66 used to be.  It’s almost too metaphorically eerie that Lambert’s last buyout was ground zero for the initial airport expansion resistance.

Bridgeton’s official website concludes its informational section with the city motto:  Bridgeton is Forever.   The  motto was developed when I was a kid during the first indications that Lambert International Airport was considering expanding into Bridgeton city limits.    The current City Hall has a landing strip in its backyard.  City leaders are the last to pack their things and move on in a different place, as so many of Bridgeton’s residents were forced to do for seemingly endless years.    An outsider would believe that the town’s motto has simply become empty words spoken too long ago.  I am not inclined to believe that the soul of Bridgeton Forever has left.  Even with a major percentage of the township sold to the City of St. Louis and Lambert Airfield, you have to give the city credit for being on the side of the residents along the way, fighting the expansion project along the way, to be the very last ones to relocate.  I do think there is good reason Mr. Bowers has remained in charge for decades.   How many other civic leaders could possibly remain in office during the entire length of time half of their city had been declared eminent domain and gobbled up to an outsider?   I can’t think of any other elected official that could outlast such a perfect storm of bad scenarios and still remain the captain.  To say they, and all of city hall failed, would be wrong.  They may have lost the battle, but by fighting valiantly, they didn’t fail as leaders.  The part of Bridgeton that remains have loyal, long-time residents, commercial and industrial businesses and economic-minded goals for future growth.   It is fair to say that the battered captain and crew finally deserve a grand new ship, a new Government Center that will hopefully sail in calmer yet prosperous seas.   Bridgeton is indeed Forever as long as people continue to believe in Bridgeton.

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Gayle O’Neill recently wrote a very interesting memoir on Carrollton’s early days.   She lived in Carrollton during the construction phase and her family was connected in Carrollton events!   I had never known that St. Lawrence Catholic School started out as a one-room schoolhouse on Grandin before the main campus was completed!   I also had never realized that members of the Carrollton community held theater performances for some time.   That is community involvement!    Many readers here share have shared similar experiences growing up in this subdivision, yet everyone has their own unique perspectives and livelihoods.  I love reading them all and  I hope you will enjoy Gayle’s echoes of a Carrollton childhood as much as I have!

From Gayle:
I am enjoying your commentary on Carrollton. Like many others posting, my parents were original owners purchasing what was known as the Windsor model, four bedroom style home in 1959. The two maples that were given to my parents by the owner of a nursery because our family station wagon sported a “Kennedy for President” bumper sticker still stand tall in what was our back yard on 4152 Chartley. They served as home and second for many a wiffle ball game in that yard. My mom, Marian Grindler, was very active in all that was Carrollton, including starring in many productions of the Carrolton Players, editor of the Carrollton Cracker Barrel and then later the Bridgeton Bookworm and playing a huge part of Bridgeton politics. As kids we attended the one room school house on Grandin that was the original St. Lawrence while we awaited the Dupage site to be completed. We attended mass in the basement of various parishioners before the church was built. Few families had fenced in back yards when we first moved in and evenings were spent playing games of hide and seek or tag that would extend over the length of the block. Walking to the pool meant cutting through back yards the four blocks to the Carrollton Club. My brothers, Gene and Gerry were life guards and their fraternity would sponsor the splash parties in the summer that the neighborhood teens would attend. Opposite or house was Primgahr Lane, which originally had only two houses and dead ended at a hill and field that stretched to the back side of Phruett’s Farm and Gist Rd where BMAC Fields are now. My dad and some of the neighbors posted a basketball backboard at the edge of the dead end street for all the neighborhood kids to use until Carrollton West was developed. We would also spend summer days playing in the woods and the creek that ran through there at the dead end of Celburne. Our one requirement was to be home when the streetlights came on. We knew who lived in almost
every house and almost every house had kids we knew as playmates. It was quite the idyllic childhood.

The Carollton Players were a group of residents that would put on plays about two or three times a year.  Many of the performances were at the Carrollton School but I also remember a few at the Carrollton Club.  My mom would usually have a starring role but she was also director forsome and I can remember a few that she also wrote and directed, speifically one that had a part for two Indians that were played by my teenaged brothers.. (Remember them in loin cloths….pretty funny)  Usually they were comedies but I remember they did Thorton Wilder’s “Our Town” once and my dad played the town drunk in that one. I can search for play bills.  Names I remember that also played parts…Glenn Strong (lived on Tuscan) Donna LaSalle, George Shakiris (Sp?)  I will ask my older brother if he remembers any more.  They did “The Man in the Dog Suit” and an old time melodrama called “The Drunkard” and I remember one that my mom’s character was Lady Pompidour…I will have to research that one.  They would run for any where from a weekend to three weekends and where very well attended and quite fun.

St.Mary’s in Bridgeton was, at first, the only Catholic parish.  As Carrollton grew, the archdiocese agreed to build a new parish in the neighborhood.  Father Horenkamp was the first pastor.  At first we had a gutted house on Grandin that held first, second, and third grade.  Anyone older than that still attended St, Mary’s.  I went to the Grandin school but my brother, a sixth grader still went to St. Mary’s  I attended second and part of third on Grandin and then the school building was completed and we transferred to the Dupage site. The home on Grandin did have two bathrooms and that was used for all of us.  We would have recess in the back yard.   Masses were held in the basement of willing parishioners.  I remember going to mass in the basement of the Rod White family home, which was on the upper corner of Lonsdale and Celburne.  (They had a daughter my age named Arleta)  When the home on Grandin was purchased it was a school on Mondays through Fridays and then the bench/tables were converted from tables to benches and mass was held there.

(I asked Gayle which house was the school-house. She had done some research and replied:)

St.Mary’s in Bridgeton was, at first, the only Catholic parish.  As Carrollton grew, the archdiocese agreed to build a new parish in the neighborhood.  Father Horenkamp was the first pastor.  At first we had a gutted house on Grandin that held first, second, and third grade.  Anyone older than that still attended St, Mary’s.  I went to the Grandin school but my brother, a sixth grader still went to St. Mary’s  I attended second and part of third on Grandin and then the school building was completed and we transferred to the Dupage site. The home on Grandin did have two bathrooms and that was used for all of us.  We would have recess in the back yard.   Masses were held in the basement of willing parishioners.  I remember going to mass in the basement of the Rod White family home, which was on the upper corner of Lonsdale and Celburne.  (They had a daughter my age named Arleta)  When the home on Grandin was purchased it was a school on Mondays through Fridays and then the bench/tables were converted from tables to benches and mass was held there.  St. Lawrence house was six from the corner.

(Thank you so much Gayle! Your story is another unique piece of the heritage and history of this space! Thank you for sharing your history with us!)

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