5th Annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival – Webster Groves

For the fifth year, Highway 61 Roadhouse hosts the annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival on June 3, featuring workshops, vendors, and live performances by Justin “The Wizard” Johnson and Matt “The Rattlesnake” Lesch.

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles on Display at the Museum of Transportation

X38A7924 copyThe most complete collection of American railroad power is not in Chicago or New York, or Memphis.

It’s tucked away in St. Louis County, just a few miles south of West County Center. The Museum of Transportation, at 2933 Barrett Station Road, has more than 70 vintage locomotives.

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The museum also has a variety of historic cars, buses, streetcars, aircraft (twin-engine 1943 Douglas Aircraft) and even a tugboat.

It’s been in the same location since 1944. The first piece in the collection was an 187- mule-drawn streetcar.

Originally, the land the museum sits on was owned by the Pacific Railroad of Missouri, later called Missouri Pacific.

X38A7919The museum has 190 separate exhibits, most of which center around rail. Most significant are a Boston & Providence Railroad Passenger Coach built in 1833 and a steam engine from Chicago’s Lake Street L. In 1996, it was completely restored.

And if you are a fire truck aficionado, the museum will be holding it’s annual Pumpers & Pistons show on Saturday, May 20. It’s co-sponsored by the Gateway Fire Historical Society and the American Truck Historical Society.

X38A7934The auto showroom at the museum is full of classic cars. They include the Bobby Darin “Dream Car,” a turbine car that is one of only 55 produced by Chrysler in 1963.

The Museum of Transportation is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults and $3 for children 3-12.

Gypsy Music arrives in Maplewood

Born over a century ago in Belgium, a Romani gypsy named Django Reinhardt took an American art form and turned it on it’s ear. Touted as the first European jazz master, Reinhardt pioneered a blend of American jazz and gypsy campfire music, and rose to fame in pre-war Paris with his Quintette du Hot Club de France. The new style quickly jumped to U.S. shores and inspired not only American jazz musicians, but generations of country artists from Bob Wills to Chet Atkins.

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Sports Card Collecting Is Alive And Well

If you root through your basement or attic and find a box of baseball cards, you might have more than childhood memories on your hands. You could have a hidden treasure.

Consider that a 1954 Ted Williams card in near-mint condition has a street value of $50,000. A 1959 Bob Gibson is even pricier, at $53,700.

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A vintage Lou Gehrig card at the Sports Card Dugout can be yours–for $2,000.

Sports card collecting is a rite of passage for many kids. And for a collector, there’s nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment you get for filling out a team for a given year.

Card collecting is still alive and well in 2017, but there are a limited number of card shops left. Sure, you can find cards within seconds on eBay, but if you want to go old school, one of the best places in town is the Sports Card Dugout at 8041 Watson Road in Marlborough.

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Sports card maven Randy Fauth.

Owner Randy Fauth holds court over tens of thousands of cards, new and used, covering every imaginable sport and era. Fauth caught the collecting bug early. His mother was an avid book collector and on one shopping expedition, she bought young Randy a baseball card price guide.

“I had a 1973 Mike Schmidt rookie card,” Fauth said. “I didn’t understand the aspects of condition at the time, but I looked it up and it was worth $7, and I thought ‘I have this card!’”

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Fauth’s career as a sports memorabilia dealer came about after years working for a local dealer called World of Baseball Cards. Fauth did sorting for the store on weekends, and he continued to build up his own substantial collection. When the owner of World of Baseball Cards died, Fauth opened his own shop. He’s been at his current location just west of Laclede Station Road since 1990.

His customers tend not to be kids anymore.

“The vast majority of collectors are men in their late 20s through 50s, that’s the bulk of my business,” he said. “When I do see kids, it makes me feel good that there is potential.”

Fauth advises kids to not buy cards as a means to make money.

“The motivation should always be enjoyment,” he said. “There’s so many aspects of this hobby that I enjoy. Opening packs is a rush, finishing a set is a rush.”

Dean Christopher, A St. Louis Gem Not to be Missed – by John Hoffmann

If he could enter Mr. Peabody’s time machine and go back to 1970, Dean Christopher would be the guy sitting next to Johnny Carson instead of Rich Little – he is that good as an entertainer, comic and impersonator. Give Dean a big band and he will put on a fine show as Dean Christopher, but when Dean does his Rat and Pack and More show it is as good as any show you could hope to see in Vegas.

Dean grew up in South County, where he still lives, and went to Bayless High School. For his senior year, he transferred to Affton High School, into the class of 1971 along with actor John Goodman. They were on the same bill in the Affton Spring play of 1971.

The big difference between Dean and John Goodman (aside from million dollar salaries) is that at 64, Goodman looks like he is 64, while Dean looks like he is approaching 50.

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Dean worked his way up from being a doorman to an emcee and singer at various clubs, including The Speakeasy and the Playboy Club, after it moved from Lindell to South County.

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Some of the best fun I’ve had in St. Louis was going to Frank Pierson’s Goldenrod Showboat in the 1970s. Every performance of the same melodrama was completely different from the last, as the actors on stage joked with each other and traded barbs with the audience. Dean was on the stage at the Goldenrod from 1977 to 1979.

Dean moved to New York, where he performed in stage plays and in television soap operas including “One Life to Live,” “All my Children” and “As the World Turns.”

He married Victoria Churchill in 1980 and eventually returned to St. Louis, where Victoria is a drama teacher for the Parkway School District. Dean continued to perform, doing on-camera and voice over work in corporate videos and television commercials. Much of the institutional work dried up after the 2009 recession.

But there was still stage work. In 2012 he won the St. Louis Theater Circle Award for his performance as Amos Hart in “Chicago” at the Muny.

He did not start his Rat Pack stage show until 2000. Dean has always had a talent for doing voices. He has Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. down pat. His show is titled “The Rat Pack and More,” and the “More” is my favorite part. It is fun to hear Dean sing “Beyond the Sea” as Bobby Darin, but it is a greater experience when he decides to sing it as Daffy Duck.

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One night at One 19 North in Kirkwood, Dean sang as Daffy Duck all alone because the musicians, Jim Manley and Chris Swan, were laughing so hard they had to stop playing.

Dean’s Rat Pack Show still draws audiences in with full houses at the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville and the Cultural Arts Centre in St. Peters. He used to do a shorter Rat Pack show as an opening act for the recently deceased Don Rickles, as well as on cruise ships.

Dean at Finale

Dean’s following really began to grow in St. Louis from 2005 until the close of the Finale Nightclub in Clayton in 2008. Four times a year he would put on his 70-minute Rat Pack and More show with two sold out shows on Friday and Saturday nights, but he also performed with various big bands around town.

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I really enjoy Dean Christopher most when he plays restaurants and bars. If Dean’s fans come out he will break out the comedy, especially in the second set. That is when you never know what to expect.

image8He also does a Dean Martin tribute stage show in cabaret clubs where he plays Dino with just a pianist, who plays the role of Martin’s longtime accompanist Ken Lane.

My favorite Dean Christopher performance is his Christmas Show. He often performs it as a fundraiser for his church, First Unity Church of St. Louis in South County. Recently, he has been doing the show at civic auditoriums in St. Charles County. This year it is scheduled at the Sheldon in St. Louis on Tuesday, December 5.

It is the same show every year, but I have seen it at least seven times in the last 10 years just to hear Dean do “The 12 Days of Christmas,” impersonating a different Hollywood film star from the 1960s for each day. It is probably something people 50 and older will enjoy more than younger generations, but even they will find it entertaining.

The first day of Christmas starts with John Wayne, then goes to Walter Brennan. At one point Paul Lynde appears. Dean does a bit with each actor and includes a quote from a famous movie. In the case of Paul Lynde he sings a couple of bars of a song from the movie “Bye Bye Birdie.”

The fifth day of Christmas is Kirk Douglas. Dean gives a perfect impression of Douglas from “Spartacus.” While I understand that Walter Brennan might be tough for some folks to recognize, I’m always amazed at how many folks under 50 have no idea who Kirk Douglas is – then I remember that Kirk is 100-years-old.

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I was at a nightclub a few years ago when Dean was doing the “12 Days” and came to Henry Fonda. A forty-something lady at the table next to mine said, “Who is that?” It caused me to yell over to her “that Jane Fonda’s father!,” but then I realized that Jane was already in her mid-70s.

If you watch Turner Classic Movies (TCM) at all, I would highly recommend the Dean Christopher Christmas Show.

banner_122413John Hoffmann was a disc jockey in St. Louis from 1969 to 1972.  He then took an about face and spent 30 years in public service as a policeman, detective and command officer. During that time Hoffmann also wrote articles for St. Louis and Washingtonian Magazines, worked the sports desk at the Kansas City Star and was a Washington Correspondent for several Public Safety trade magazines.  He was also a sportswriter for a chain of papers owned by the Washington Post, a baseball website and magazine. When he returned to St. Louis he was an editor for a traffic reporting service, a columnist for AOL’s Patch.com  and from 2008-2010 served as Alderman for the city of Town & Country.  Hoffmann has written hundreds of articles for regional publications, covering local government and sports. In 2012 he was awarded the prestigious “Best Newspaper Columnist” in the Riverfront Times’ annual “Best of St. Louis” awards. Hoffmann is the editor of popular “News from Snoburbia.”

World Bird Sanctuary – Valley Park

Hidden on 305 acres of Forest 44 in Valley Park is the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS), a fascinating opportunity to get up close with raptors and birds like eagles, hawks, owls, pelicans, and many other variety of  large fowl.

Founded by Walter Crawford in 1977, the program was created with the blessing of the Saint Louis Zoo’s Director Emeritus, Marlin Perkins. By 1982 the sanctuary had become a full time job for Crawford, and through his leadership was grown into a nationally known center for rescue, rehabilitation, research and education. WBS’ founder passed away in 2015 and was succeeded by Executive Director Brian Bissonnette, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who shares a deep commitment to environmental and wildlife conservation.

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The World Bird Sanctuary’s mission is the preservation and protection of these large birds for future generations and is one of North America’s largest conservation facilities. They are a non-profit organization who relies on donations and receives no state, federal or county funding.

At any given time the WBS is providing refuge, rehabilitation and emergency care for over 200 feathered residents. While the facility is indeed a hospital of sorts, there are plenty of opportunities to view these beautiful birds up close. At the west end of the grounds is a fenced area where you can find golden and bald eagles, turkey vultures, owls and hawks tethered to their roosts for up close observation. Although these birds are beautiful specimens, keep in mind that they are at WBS because they are convalescing. The birds have a variety of visible ailments that would impair them in the wild, including deformed wings and beaks, cataracts, missing toes and other various handicaps. The sanctuary works with all birds with the hope of returning them to the wild, but unfortunately some are unable and they instead provide learning experiences for visitors.

golden eagleWalking east from the entrance you will find the outdoor exhibits, featuring weathering areas for birds in rehabilitation. A very long row of roomy cages lines each side of the path and are filled with many interesting birds of large size, including many owls, vultures, pelicans, a kucabara from Australia, and even an endangered Andean Condor named Dorothy, who has an impressive wingspan of over 10 feet. Most of the cages provide plaques with names and a short history of the inhabitant(s), as well as some information about their species.  There are even domestic and foreign breeds of chickens on site, allowing the little ones a chance to feed them 25 cents worth of corn.

The World Bird Sanctuary offers many programs to involve the community, including volunteer internships, educational programs, an Eagle Adventure Camp for kids age 6-12, and several adoption programs benefitting specific birds. The sanctuary is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Be advised that the current route to the World Bird Sanctuary is partially obstructed due to major construction taking place at Highways 44 and 141. Heading west from Maritz on North Highway Drive you will find easily visible signage pointing the way to the raptors.

World Bird Sanctuary
125 Bald Eagle Ridge Rd, Valley Park, MO 63088
(314) 225-4390
www.worldbirdsanctuary.org

The Black Madonna Shrine, a Life’s Work

Before we tell you the story of our local Black Madonna Shrine, we should give a little background about the original.

There are legends surrounding the origin of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, a revered icon of the Jasna Góra monastery in Poland. Some say that St. Luke painted the image on a tabletop in the home of the Holy Family over 2,000 years ago. Art and history scholars disagree and say the original painting was probably a Byzantine icon created in the sixth or ninth century and that it was brought to the monastery by Prince Ladislaus of Opole in the 14th century.

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