BACK TO THE TOP
Naturally, as you grow older, you remember more. I alluded to a few of those things just now but there is so much more.
In 3rd grade, I became convinced the end of the world would come in 1960. This was entirely my own idea, but I felt so strongly about, I tried convincing the younger kids of it. I think, I hope, I failed.
After returning to St. Louis from Virginia Beach, my father hoped to make a career of the Navy. He was a Lt. Commander with a law degree and hoped to switch from supply to JAG. They offered to promote him but wanted him to stay in supply. He was terribly disappointed and turned it down.
We had purchased a condo in a 6-family building at 5530 Delmar. Aunt Charlotte, aunt Marcie (Marcella) and Charlotte’s husband, Ed, lived on the first floor east. We lived on the 3rd floor west. A word of advice – never live on the top floor west of a building in a hot climate. We fried. The afternoon sun absolutely seared us.
After moving in, my mom set about bringing out the splendor from beneath years of neglect, paint and what not ... oak beamed ceilings ... cut, leaded glass windows ... oak wainscoating in an English manor house style ... marble fire place ... a sun room or inside green house.
Early on, we got a TV, 1954 or 5, I think. A tiny screen set in a large piece of furniture which also housed a radio and record player. We kept it in the ‘front hall’ – a room, about 10 by 12 feet which served as an entry parlor by the front door. My sister, mom, dad and I would sit on the floor to watch it, all scrunched together – Milton Berl and the Texaco Sky Chief or Fire Chief ... Indian head test patterns ... all black and white, of course. My dad would roost there to do his sing along opera bits and where he and I gathered for baseball games on the radio – the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Braves – that’s where they were before moving to Atlanta. Warren Spawn – oh, he worried me to death!
A few years later, we got our first room air conditioner - huge. It sat on the floor, maybe 4 feet high, 4 or 5 feet long, 1 to 2 feet deep and it roared. It was either pretty much on or not – no subtleties like hi and low. And when it was on, my parent’s bedroom – where it was kept - was like an airplane hanger, engine rumbling all the time. That bedroom became the family hangout throughout the warm months. It was the only cool room in the house. By then we had a different TV. It, too, was there. So, typically, three or four of us would be sprawled on the bed, another, usually my dad, ensconced in an arm chair next to the B52 – the AC unit - while the building’s bricks, which had absorbed heat all day, radiated its charring energy back at us long after sun down.
In 1954, my sister Kelly was born. I was eight then. All of that – conception, birth – was still a complete mystery to me. But she was fun. She and Steve shared a bedroom.
Me and my dad’s free weights shared another, much smaller room. I had a window, one, which faced an internal stairwell and a narrow back porch for each apartment where garbage cans were kept. No view ... but highly odiferous. At least it had aroma ... the conflict was always – open the window, let in a little air AND ‘aroma’ or keep it closed, suffocate but in a ‘fresher’ environment.
My sisters’ bedroom had two windows which faced south toward that private street, Washington Terrace, behind us – mansions, beautiful tree-lined street and, because we were higher than the surrounding dwellings, a great view. From their windows, you could see the top of a radio tower with its flashing red light on a commercial street a few blocks west and south. One year, near Christmas, Steve and I convinced Kelly that was Rudolph’s nose. She was aglow with the joy, magic and mystery of it all. Us, too – it extended the magic of Christmas for all of us another year or so.
The apartment had a generous back yard. That’s where I learned to play soccer. Uncle Ed, as a young man, had been a pro. He was in the US Soccer Hall of Fame. My dad had been all-state in high school. Between the two, I got one hell of an education in the art and guile of soccer.
So much happened there, on Delmar. I was maybe 5 or 6 when we moved in, 20 or 21 when we moved out. It was where I grew up, in more ways than one.
I decided in 5th grade to enter a seminary, to become a missionary priest. I spent the first two years of high school in a monastic-like environment, initially in the mountains of NE Pennsylvania, Maryknoll Junior Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA, then in an undeveloped part of west St. Louis County.
I have a lot of memories from those ‘Delmar’ days. Mostly good. Some not so. JFK and Dr. King were murdered there. Bobby, too. I learned a lot about life – not enough, as it turned out. Bigger lessons were yet to come.
Sometime in my junior or senior year of college we moved – into a single-family house in south St. Louis, wholly foreign territory to me. It didn’t matter much. I was soon drafted. A part of me died then. Another part, an unknown existence, was born.
A few stories there – priceless, but for a later date.