KSHE: Entering a Second Half-Century of Music

We didn’t really have any money, but some of that was by design; money was our parents’ thing. We hitchhiked to a lot of the places we went and shared most of the little we had. We didn’t have a flag or a salute, but we had the peace symbol and we stole WWII’s two-fingered “Victory” gesture and made it our own. We didn’t desire a lot of toys; a Frisbee would keep us entertained and help us clean the seeds from our herb. We didn’t have a uniform but faded jeans and a t-shirt were pretty close and we recognized each other upon sight. We loved black lights and incense and we felt at home in head shops and wherever else KSHE radio was played.

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KSHE was, for those lucky enough to be in its listening radius, an emblem. It was an icon and a badge of honor to be among the hip that were hipped. Sweetmeat was our mascot and music was a sacrament, proof that someone else got it, felt it, knew that the world was changing.

Pop radio, which was AM radio at the time, made music the filler between commercials. It was a rotation of the Top 40, repeated endlessly all day, plus a lot of jingles, gimmicks, contests and DJ patter. It had provided a noisy but effective platform for music. But by the mid-1960s music was expanding, musicians were applying more art to their work and albums were becoming more than a collection of hits. The Beatles stopped concentrating on 3 minute singles, quit touring and focused on albums, many based on their experiences with drugs like LSD. Curtis Mayfield was making “People Get Ready” and “Superfly.” James Brown sang “Say It Loud, I’m Black and Proud.” That stuff’s not playing on AM. It’s just not. Sex, drugs and rock and roll were not censor-friendly.

Fidelity was important too, “headphone music” was on the rise and music was no longer necessarily suited for a 3 inch automobile or transistor radio speaker. Albums from the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, the Who and many others challenged the limitations of AM. Bob Dylan both called it and dealt it. His 1965 single “Like a Rolling Stone” clocked in at six minutes, over twice the length of a standard single. The song reached number 2 on Billboard but it was clear that long, angry diatribes were going to be the exception, not the rule for AM radio.

Something different was needed and the owners at KSHE found it, captured the zeitgeist and made St. Louis one of the early American cities that got it.

KSHE Studio in Crestwood
The original KSHE studio in Crestwood, Mo.

KSHE actually started years earlier in 1960, literally in a basement. Ed Ceries, a 20-year veteran of radio and TV, invested his life savings and built the station in his Crestwood, Missouri home. Keying off the SHE in the call letters, Ceries called the station “the Lady of FM,” hired all female announcers and played a classical music format. The teletype used to gather the news was next to the washing machine. Mrs. Ceries did her ironing in the room that also stored the record library and was the administrative office.

It was obviously a small operation but the connection with the audience was strong and listeners were known to bring their own classical albums to the home/station to suggest they be played. However, after about a year, Ceries succumbed to advertiser hesitance about the all classical format and began to play almost all middle-of-the-road music and there was plenty of that already. In 1964, Ceries sold the station to Century Broadcasting, headed by General Manager Howard Grafman.

Ron Elz, a giant in this story and in radio in general, was working with KSHE in 1967 and had recently been to San Francisco to hear what was going on there on the left coast, especially on KMPX FM. Elz, who has been in radio since the ‘50s and has worked under the moniker “Johnny Rabbitt” since 1962, is a certified radio legend and is inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What Elz heard in California struck him as important. Disc jockeys were playing deep album cuts, had eschewed the banter, had ceased talking over intros, were playing 3 or 4 or even 5 songs in a row without comment and, in some cases, were creating themes within these groupings. It was a revolution.

Also, FM was capable of much higher fidelity and could even transmit in stereo.

Elz convinced Grafman and Century Broadcasting to convert the struggling station to this new style and a year later Howard asked his brother Shelley to stop selling life insurance, which probably wasn’t a very difficult decision, and come to manage the station. Shelley, who had absolutely no experience in radio, took him up on it and then proceeded to hire staff. It is here that the genius or madness prevailed. Shelley hired high school students, or the very recently graduated, also with zero experience.

It could have failed. It could have gone down in blazing flames.

But it didn’t.

The time was right. We wanted to hear about our music, our culture, ourselves. We didn’t require that “radio voice” or banter. We wanted to hear someone who sounded like us: young, engaged, affected by the music and, most of all, hip.

And just like that a bunch of kids, all under the age of 21, none with experience in radio or broadcasting, along with Grafman as their leader, brought Album Oriented Rock radio to St. Louis.

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The studios were tiny and were situated along the north wall of the “66 Park In Theater,” in Crestwood. The old tube transmitters took up most of the building’s space; they overheated and ditches had to be dug to drain water away from pooling at their base. The building was hidden but certainly was found by the faithful. Listeners learned that there was a window into the studio space, a very uncommon feature, and they came to talk, to request and actually steal records, especially the ill-placed “L” section that sat right beneath the window. Per DJ Mark Klose, “So someone would call up and go, ‘Hey, man, how about some Little Feat?’ No. ‘Led Zeppelin?’ No. ‘LRB?’ Do you get the idea? I got no ‘L’s, man. They stole all my ‘L’s!”

Sunday evenings from 7 pm to midnight brought us the Seventh Day, a programming concept that continues to this day, where the station featured seven albums from seven different artists played in their entirety.

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DeeJay Ruth Hutchinson

Even the news was different on KSHE as the on-air personalities tossed away the tear sheets from the AP wire service and delivered the news in their own way, often with musical lead in that pertained to the content. Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla” and the Lighthouse classic “One Fine Morning” led us into the news and other features. KSHE was cultish, not corporate.

Early successes brought KSHE to events promotion like the KSHE Birthday Party, kite flying, the Valentine’s Day Massacre, Super Jams, the Thanksgiving concerts, the Pig Roasts and many other activities. Plus the KSHE Schtuff!

Early advertisers were limited to record stores, stereo stores, waterbed stores, head shops and pizza. But as the number of listeners grew, so did the potential for other advertisements.

The station really found its groove in the early ‘70s. It just couldn’t have gotten much groovier. The jocks were the best and were encouraged to break new and local bands, playing more than just the hits everyone else was playing. Whole albums were featured by artists as diverse as the Who, Arlo Guthrie, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, the Firesign Theater and Iron Butterfly. Foreign bands like Germany’s Lake were featured, as were Midnight Oil from Australia and Split Enz from New Zealand. Local bands like Mama’s Pride, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Cheap Trick and Head East got play time that would have probably never happened elsewhere and their careers were off and running.

We spoke with Joe Turek, the bass player and vocalist of Mama’s Pride, about KSHE and how their steady airplay and concert promotions helped make the band successful.

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Mama’s Pride member Joe Turek

“I joined the band in August of 1974 after an audition which went very well. I was playing in a bar band and waiting for the next semester of college to start,” said Turek. “We started playing at the River Rat on the landing, which was the precursor for Mississippi Nights and the owner loved the band and booked us opening for national acts. We connected with an agent out of Louisville and, as the story goes, we kept playing on the road, writing songs, getting more exposure as we went. Eventually, we went to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record a demo of our original songs. The demo was a success and we were shopped to many recording labels including Atlantic Records who loved the band and signed our record deal in St. Louis in June of 1975.”

Shelley Grafman was one of our biggest fans,” Turek said, “and we had a close relationship with him. KSHE played our test press of the first LP even prior to its official release. Our song off our first LP, ”Blue Mist,” is KSHE’s #1 song and Mama’s Pride is in KSHE’s Hall of Fame.”

There was an ongoing rivalry between KSHE and KADI, just a few points down on the dial. Turek remembered a story involving his brother-in-law, Ross Gentile (pronounced Gentiley), who started working weekends at KSHE in 1973.

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George Harrison with Ross Gentile. Date unknown.

“As the story goes, KADI had a fire in the station with firefighters on scene and Ross rolled into the station for his shift and began playing every song with fire in the title. Richard Miller, the owner of KADI, who later became a good friend of Ross’s, started a heated exchange with Shelley Grafman that led to Ross getting suspended for a week. But with a little smile on Shelley’s face because he thought it was incredible. At that time, it was one of the most outrageous things anyone ever did on radio. Ross was a teetotaler!”

Many of the DJs went on to other successes after KSHE. Gentile was hired out of the station by A&M Records and had a very successful career earning gold and platinum albums working with Styx, Head East, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Captain and Tennille, Supertramp and Peter Frampton. Peter Maer, a 1970 graduate from SIUE, worked at KSHE and went on to become the Senate and White House correspondent for NBC and CBS news. “Radio” Rich Dalton, whose face appeared on a Rolling Stone cover, migrated from KSHE to Internet radio. John Ulett went on to also be the PA announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals. Some went on to other adventures but, for most, their love of radio and music became their life.

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Ross Gentile with Peter Frampton 1977

As it goes, not all good things can last. By 1973 the number of FM stations in the U.S. had tripled but the corporate world caught up with Album Oriented Rock (AOR) and true, free-form radio was for the most part over. But not KSHE.

KSHE remains true to its AOR and progressive roots to this day, more than 50 years down the road. It, in fact, is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Longest Running Radio Station with no change in format since 1967.

We love that we have such a piece of rock and roll history right here in our beautiful city and we would love for you to share your memories with us. Please share this article with your friends and share your comments about KSHE remembrances, the times, the music and the concerts.

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Santa’s Magical Kingdom: The Ultimate Light Show

For nearly three decades, Santa’s Magical Kingdom has been a top wintertime attraction in far West County. Located on 35 acres near Six Flags in Eureka, more than four million lights and dozens of animated characters dazzle and delight thousands of visitors each year.

From April to October, the property operates as Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, a family-friendly and award-winning resort offering a “back-to-nature vacation,” with amenities including a pool, free wifi, train rides, miniature golf and a chance for kids to interact with Yogi himself.

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Scott and Kathy Jones bought Jellystone Park in 1989 and admit they knew absolutely nothing about working in the hospitality industry or running a campground. Their sole intent was to find a space large enough to provide an annual Christmas light show each season.

Scott recalled that when he was young his family would travel to downtown St. Louis each year on Thanksgiving Day to view the Christmas lights and decorated storefronts. His dream was to provide families with a similar experience in the county, but on a much grander scale. Jellystone was just the right size and the campground would produce revenue during the Spring, Summer and Fall months.

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Driving through 2.5 miles of glistening forest, visitors will encounter several light tunnels and fountains, life size cartoon characters, Elf Land, Santa’s workshop and much more. For a more adventurous experience, visitors can board the wagon at Kringle’s Store and take an open-air ride through the shimmering wonderland. Blankets are provided.

Planning for the light show each year begins in February. Kathy points out, “Everything we do is 100% designed for us,” and the design team continually strives to incorporate new ideas and technologies in their presentation. In August the decorating begins and by mid-November the show is in full operation. It takes 8-10 weeks around the clock to get everything assembled, and about the same amount of time to take it all down. Kathy discloses, “We’re lucky to get open by April 1st for campers!”

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The first year that Santa’s Magical Kingdom opened, the region experienced one of the worst ice storms on record. The hilly terrain of the park was impassable for a good chunk of their season, but they were open long enough for the attraction to become a big hit. Now, 28 years later, Kathy reports that these early visitors are now returning each year with their own children and grandchildren in tow.

On their busiest nights there are approximately 50 crew members on-site to help run the show. Kathy advises, “I think it’s honest to God passion with which this is done. This is done because we really care about doing something wholesome for families.”

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That said, the couple puts a lot of effort into serving local charities by providing contributions and offering free admission to underprivileged children and families. This year’s efforts will benefit the BackStoppers, Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis and the St. Louis Area Foodbank. As in past years, visitors who bring a toy for donation, Mondays thru Thursdays, will receive $5 off of their admission.

Santa’s Magical Kingdom is open every night through January 7, including Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Hours of operation are from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. most days, and open until 11:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

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General admission, per carload, is $22, with larger size vehicles like limos and buses costing up to $30. Private wagon rides are also available and require advance booking.

For more information, visit santasmagicalkingdom.com.

The Nutcracker: Holiday Classic Keeps Dancers On Their Toes

Nothing quite captures the imagination of a child at Christmas-time like a live performance of “The Nutcracker.” This timeless masterpiece is by far the most often performed and most beloved ballet of all time. In addition, the musical orchestrations by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky are arguably some of the most famous symphonic compositions known to the world.

Each December the Dance Center of Kirkwood performs the complete production of “The Nutcracker,” featuring a large cast of 55 incredibly talented dancers who also happen to be teenagers.

At the helm of this annual production is Kathy Massot, director and choreographer, and the owner of the Dance Center of Kirkwood. As a youngster she enrolled in dance classes and became fascinated with ballet, which soon led to her dancing with the St. Louis Civic Ballet.

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Kathy Massot

After high school, Kathy went on to study at the National Academy of Arts in Champaign, Illinois, and performed in their company, the National Ballet of Illinois. A few years later, she made the big leap to New York City where she danced for 11 years with the Leon Faulder Dance Company and the Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians. During her time as a professional dancer, Kathy performed in countless productions all over the United States and Europe.

Like professional athletes, the physical demands on a dancer take their toll and most are forced to retire at an early age due to injuries. Kathy decided she wanted to stop dancing professionally before an injury caused her to miss a performance, and recalls “I felt like I had accomplished everything that I had wanted to accomplish and I felt satisfied. So I thought, it’s a good time to come back home. I always knew when I was done dancing that I was going to come back home. I was home-sick all of the time!”

Upon return to St. Louis, Kathy began teaching at the Dance Center of Kirkwood, and in 1999 bought the studio from the previous owner. It was at that point that she decided to produce her own version of “The Nutcracker” each year with her own students. She relays, “when I was a kid and a dancer, doing ‘The Nutcracker’ gave me such great memories, so I wanted that for my students. They work really hard, but we also have fun.”

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The two hour production is filled with fantastic costumes, colorful props, brilliant scenery, snow and, most importantly, a very large troupe of accomplished ballet dancers. The principal dancers in the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier are Miss Chiao Shih, a teacher at the Dance Center, and Dustin Crumbaugh from the Big Muddy Dance Company. Jonathan White will play the role of Herr Drosselmeyer. The role of Clara will be played by Juliette Schulte and Emma Sandidge, with each girl dancing the lead in two of the four shows.

Kathy discloses, “it’s really cool because (the students) graduate from part to part. As they get better, get more advanced, they get into those tougher roles so they have goals for themselves. They start out probably in one of the younger parts and every year just work their way up the ladder. By the time you’re done, you’ve pretty much done the whole show and every part in it.”

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Conjointly, Kathy is the director of the Dance Concert Society of Kirkwood, a non-profit group that takes short performances of “The Nutcracker” into nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly and disadvantaged. Kathy advises, “We like to provide the community with good quality dance. We like to reach out to Assisted Living and Nursing Homes to get out and tell a story of dance.” She adds, “It’s wonderful to talk to people that live there afterwards. Many of them danced as children and it’s a great way to help brighten their day.”

The Dance Center teaches year-round classes in ballet, tap, modern and jazz. “We teach dancing, but we try to teach other things too,” asserts Kathy. “We try to teach comradery and anti-bullying. We only dress our students appropriately, we only let them dance to music that is appropriate for a child. The movement, the costume … everything. It’s just for kids, not kids trying to look like adults. That’s important to us. (Our studio) is a safe place for kids.”

SugarPlumFairyShe continues, “It’s a great place for them to build confidence, even if they don’t turn out to be a professional dancer, they build confidence, and develop friendships. They learn how to work and be responsible, show up for class, learn their dance and pull their own weight.”

Other public performances for the students throughout the year include recitals, competitions and participation in National Dance Week. In January the group has been invited to perform with a few other companies at the Grandel Theatre in a fundraiser to collect food for people in need.

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The Dance Center of Kirkwood is currently enrolling and is eager to get more kids and adults interested and involved in dancing. “We have summer camps now,” says Kathy, “from the ages of three and through every age group, as well as the older kids who have a week of dance intensives for tap, jazz and modern.”

Continuing, she points out, “Little kids will do camps that may encompass several disciplines like tap, ballet and jazz all in one. For the little people we do a lot of fun camps that do crafts, a “Frozen” camp, and I do a Nutcracker camp every summer for kindergarteners through 2nd grade, it’s a week-long camp. They make their own sets, learn the dances, work with props and make lots of Nutcracker crafts. It’s really fun. They are the choreographer, set designer, they do all of that. I try to teach them everything involved and help them think it through.”

Performances of “The Nutcracker” will be held at the Robert Reim Theatre on Saturday & Sunday, December 16-17, with shows at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. The group will also perform a preview of the second act at the Saint Louis Art Museum on December 9th, at 1:15 pm in the Main Hall.

For more information, visit www.dancecenterkirkwood.com.

Nothing Says Happy Holidays Like 125 Tubas Playing Christmas Carols

tubachristmas-16_23095141963_o.jpgImagine dozens and dozens of tubas playing Christmas tunes in unison. It sounds a little weird and maybe a hoax, but Tuba Christmas is most definitely real. The free concert begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 9 at the south end of the St. Louis Galleria near the entrance to Macy’s.

This year marks the 44th annual celebration of Christmas with tubas. The international event originated in 1974 when Harvey Phillips created it as a tribute to his tuba teacher, William Bell. The first Tuba Christmas was held in Rockafeller Plaza Ice Rink in New York City.

tubachristmas-24_23639578611_o.jpgNowadays, you’ll find Tuba Christmas concerts in nearly every big city and even some small ones.

Tuba players are a different breed. The instrument requires a bit of strength to hold upright, and it takes quite a bit of wind power to generate the notes. It’s not a dainty instrument like a piccolo. Nevertheless, many St. Louisans play the tuba, as is evident at Tuba Christmas, where you’ll see nearly 125 tubaists honking out “Silent Night,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and other favorites.

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Hiram Martin at Tuba Christmas.

One local tuba player who participates in the event began playing the instrument at a young age. Hiram Martin is a retired area high school bandleader who loves golf, fishing and his tuba.

“I love playing the bass notes!” Martin said. He started out on a much smaller instrument in grade school, the violin. He also plays a bit of piano.

“My band instructor encouraged me to take up the tuba,” Martin said. “One reason was there weren’t many kids interested in it, so there wouldn’t be much competition!”

That’s when he hoisted the 30-lb. beast of an instrument for the first time. He was hooked, and has played it ever since. When Tuba Christmas comes around each year, Martin and thousands of other tuba players around the world will join together for their annual holiday extravaganza.

For more information, visit: www.tubachristmas.com.

Perfect Harmony: The River Blenders Chorus

Since 1978 the River Blenders Chorus has performed for audiences far and wide. The group sings barbershop harmony and has been a member of Sweet Adelines International since their inception. Although that may sound a little “old-timey,” let me assure you that the River Blenders have taken the art of barbershop harmony to a whole new level. The group’s next performance, entitled “The Bedrock Road Show,” will be held on November 4 and is inspired by everyone’s favorite stone-age family, the Flintstones.

Each year this company of women concocts a fantastic new theme show for the chorus, complete with a script, choreography, outrageous costumes and heaps of hilarity. Past performance highlights have featured themes taken from “Laugh-In,” “Psycho/Bates Motel” and “Orange is the New Black.”

The vocal quality of the group is quite superb as well, and the Blenders have proven their mastery of song by winning a number of prestigious awards, including First Place in the Harmony Classic Division AA Chorus Competition in 2015 and the Regional Chorus Competition Division AA Midsize Chorus Award in 2014. They are also the current Region 5 Sweet Adelines International Champions.

The barbershop style of singing originated in America in the 1830s when local neighborhood barbershops became a common gathering place for men. Often a barber would sing to entertain his customers while he worked, and customers would add their harmonies and use “call and response” types of songs as their repertoire. Around 1890 the advent of printed sheet music helped to propel the style to the top of “Gay 90s” culture. When vaudeville houses began using Barbershop Quartets to entertain audiences between acts, the traditional costume evolved to include oversized mustaches, red and white striped vests and straw hats.

River Blenders 2011

So, what is Barbershop Harmony anyway? According to Wikipedia, it is “a style of a cappella close harmony, or unaccompanied vocal music, characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note.” Each quartet will have a leader who sings the melody, a tenor who sings harmony above the melody, a bass who provides the bottom of the chord and a baritone who provides another harmonic note to complete the chord. The Barbershop Chorus is simply a larger group singing in the traditional four part manner described above.

Diane Huber, a self-described “homemaker and domestic engineer,” originally joined the group as a member of the chorus, but in 1989 assumed the position of Musical Director, a position that she still holds today. When asked about her background, Diane advises “I served on the Sweet Adeline International Board of Directors for 12 years, was the International President from 2004-2006 and I’ve coached choruses and quartets all over the world. I was also in a championship quartet called Ambiance and we traveled extensively to teach and perform for 10 years.”

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Musical Director Diane Huber

Sweet Adelines International, born in 1945, is an organization dedicated to the preservation of Barbershop Harmony and providing competitive opportunities for female barbershop quartets. Today the Adelines hold an international competition that hosts over 8,000 participants annually.

Diane discloses that over the years the River Blenders have had as many as 110 members, with approximately 85 currently participating. The youngest member is 19 and the oldest may possibly be around 90, although no one is brave enough to ask. Diane says that the group is a “great mix of women from all walks of life, including doctors, educators, stay-at-home moms, students and a variety of others.”

The group has had many notable performances over the years, including several opportunities to sing the National Anthem at Busch Stadium, providing vocal backup for both Kenny Rogers and Andy Williams at the Fox Theatre, and even singing for then President Ronald Reagan at an event under the Gateway Arch.

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Most of the arrangements performed by the chorus are obtained from Sweet Adelines International, however the River Blenders are lucky to have Kevin Keller, a choir member’s husband who is also a musical arranger, and Holly McKee, a member of the chorus, who write and contribute special arrangements for the group. Kevin and Holly have crafted many of the specialty numbers used by the group and, according to Diane, have been a god-send for the chorus. It is often these specialty numbers that give the chorus a leg up in competitions.

When asked what she would like the public to know about the River Blenders, Diane conveyed “I would love for people to know who we are and what we’re all about; about the education and empowerment that these women gain by being members. The group currently performs in public about six times a year, but we would love to perform more!”

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In 2018 the International Convention and Competition of Sweet Adelines will be held in St. Louis at the America’s Center, where the River Blenders will be competing in the International Chorus Competition. Stiff competition from Europe, Asia, Australia and, of course, from all over North America will be there, but there is little doubt that the Blenders will bring home another trophy.

The River Blenders Chorus rehearses each Monday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville. Rehearsals are open to anyone who is curious or might be interested in joining the group. Diane relays, “The doors are always open, come to any rehearsal. We’d love to have the company!”

“The Bedrock Road Show” performance is on Saturday, November 4 at 8 p.m. at the Purser Center at Logan University in Chesterfield. For more information visit www.riverblenders.org.

Fair Trade Market: Holiday Shopping for a Cause

The Manchester United Methodist Church (UMC) will host its 15th Annual Fair Trade Market, the largest of its kind in the nation, over two weekends in November. The event will feature globally-crafted items, holiday gifts and international foods.

Fair Trade is a movement that provides farmers and artisans, most often from Third World countries, with a “living wage” for their products. To be considered for Fair Trade inclusion, products cannot be harmful to the environment and manufacturers cannot use child or forced labor, must promote gender equality and enforce safe working conditions.

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Edana Huse is a church member who has been heavily involved in the coordination of the event since 2002. When asked how the idea for the annual market was conceived, Edana relays “Kellie Sikes, who was a member of our church years ago, was very much into social justice. She knew the people at Plowsharing and talked to them about doing something. When it (the market) first started, it was just a table or two.”

Edana continues, “Then Kellie left, so I stepped up and co-chaired with Kimi Butler.” Edana has since relinquished her co-chair position, but still works as a liaison between the church and the market vendors. According to Edana, “quite a few thousand people come in for the two weekends.”

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Rich Howard-Willms, Executive Director of Plowsharing Crafts, has been involved with the market since its inception. Plowsharing Crafts was established in 1985 and for years operated out of a single shop on Delmar in the University City Loop. More recently, Rich has opened two volunteer-operated satellite stores in the heart of Kirkwood and in Town & Country. The organization is associated with the St. Louis Mennonite Fellowship and is a member of the Fair Trade Federation. Many of the products that they sell are made with sustainable and recycled materials.

Other vendors participating in this year’s market include Partners for Just Trade, selling items from Peru, and Roots-n-Streams, whose products come from Uganda and Cambodia.

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In addition, Heifer International will be onsite selling items and raising funds to send livestock to villages in Third World countries. The group maintains a global effort that works to end poverty and hunger through sustainable community development. They distribute cows, goats, bees, water buffalo and other animals to poverty-stricken nations.  Heifer is well known for going the extra mile in its efforts, as Edana confirms by pointing out “If they send a cow, they send one that is pregnant.”

The types of items offered at the market will feature over 3,500 square feet of handbags, baskets, jewelry, clothing, toys, musical instruments, textiles, coffee, chocolate and much, much more. All proceeds collected from this operation will help to supply food, education, clothing and medicine to orphans in Africa.

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Approximately 330 volunteers will be required to prepare and manage the market. Phil Wiseman, Director of Strategic Communications at Manchester UMC, advises that there are all kinds of activities to be completed, from unboxing items and cashiering to teardown. Anyone interested in volunteering is more than welcome and interested parties can sign up easily online.

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The Fair Trade Market will be held on the weekends before and after Thanksgiving, November 18-19 & November 24-26, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. The Music Makers, a 4th and 5th grade music group from the church, will open the market with a performance at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 18.

For more information visit www.manchesterumc.org/fair_trade_market.

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Jelly Roll Hogan: Eureka’s Most Notorious Gangster

Italian gangs, more specifically the Mafia, get all the underworld glory. So do the cities of New York and Chicago. Who hasn’t heard of Don Vito Corleone, or Al Capone? Of the Gambinos or the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun shot from a car hurtling down, fittingly, Wacker Drive? Or the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?

But did you know that the famous massacre on Cupid’s day was, purportedly the Italian response to territory encroachment in Chicago by the St. Louis-based Egan’s Rats? Did you know that St. Louis had a ferocious history in gang violence, rivaling that of cities much larger? And did you know that one of those gangsters not only had a home in the city, but built a mansion near Eureka?

The Irish Mob is the oldest organized gang in U.S. history, reaching back a hundred years or more before they had any real competition from Italian or Jewish gangs formed in the late 1800s. Remember “The Gangs of New York” and Leonardo DiCaprio’s dodgy Irish accent? (Sure, and he was a right eejit, as useless as a chocolate tea kettle, he was!)

Well, St. Louis was a hotbed of organized gang activity, especially during that failed moral experiment called Prohibition. And a key character was one Edward J. Hogan, Jr., or Jelly Roll Hogan, though I wouldn’t go calling him that because he didn’t like the moniker and was a persnickety type that once beat up a man on the Missouri Capitol steps in broad daylight. Why was Jelly Roll Hogan on the Missouri Capitol steps in broad daylight? Well, he was a multi-term Missouri State Representative and Senator as well!

Cool.

Jellyroll Hogan 1

Mr. Hogan (hey, I ain’t calling him that other name…I mean, he’s dead, but why take chances?), the son of a St. Louis police chief, went into saloon keeping, as you do if you’re the son of a police chief. But, with the passage of the 18th Amendment and only 1,500 nationwide agents to enforce it, well, what is a poor boy to do? Hogan and some of his ne’er-do-well buddies started running beer and liquor. And they found, as did like-minded peers in most major cities, the passage of something called an “Amendment to the Constitution” did little to quench the thirst of the people and so their scale of bootlegging increased mightily.

Hogan, born in 1886, was involved early in St. Louis city politics and was elected to the state legislature, as a Representative, in 1916. He left that post in the spring of 1920, taking the Prohibition years off for escapades slightly more profitable and slightly more illegal. Running his gang and enterprises from his headquarters at Jefferson and Cass Streets in the city, Hogan got himself named as Deputy Inspector for the State Beverage Department of Missouri, also in 1920. In that capacity, Hogan’s duty was to be sure that all beverages produced in Missouri were of the non-alcoholic variety and were produced safely and legally.

Uh huh.

So, just hypothetically, if someone was making soda pop in St. Louis, and that someone had a bit of cash to slip under the table and Mr. Hogan was, hypothetically, on the other side of that table, then inspections of said soda pop factory might be delayed. Who knows what might have been bottled during the delay? (We all do.)

All well and good, right?

Nope.

Gangsters are greedy. You’ve seen the movies!

Hogan, though identified as an Irish gangster, was ahead of his time in that he embraced thugs from many ethnicities. (Well, I’m not sure he embraced them, you know, per se, because, enlightened as he was, that kind of thing was frowned upon.) Hogan’s Gang included Humbert Costello, Charles Mercurio, Leo Casey, Abe Goldfeder, John “Kink” Connell, and Patrick Scanlon.

Diversity!

 

Jellyroll Hogan 3

 

But his gang did most decidedly not include William Egan. In fact, Egan’s Rats, from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre mentioned before, were his bitter enemies. Not content on dividing up the riches of St. Louis and surrounding counties, Hogan and Egan entered into one of the most deadly, bloody turf wars of the Roaring Twenties right here on the streets of our fair city.

The Hogan-Egan war reached its peak during the years 1921-23 and seemed to be started by an Egan employee, Max Greenberg, who took umbrage at being the target of an Egan assassination attempt over a stolen whiskey shipment. Greenberg joined the Hogan gang and paid three members of his new gang $10,000 each to kill Willie Egan in front of his saloon, located at Fourteenth and Franklin on Halloween night, 1921. Egan’s buddy, “Dint” Colbeck, reached Egan’s side just in time to see the action and fingered the three assassins as James Hogan (brother), Luke Kennedy and John Doyle.

Well, that did it.

For the next two years, both sides took every opportunity to hurl bullets (and cars and who knows what else) at each other, not caring much for where said bullets were hurled, or whom might be standing around, all innocent like. Accounts too numerous for this article abound and, for further research and jaw dropping, I recommend the book “The Gangs of St. Louis: Men of Respect,” by Daniel Waugh. However, here are a few just to whet your appetite.

On December 30, 1921, a carload of Egan shooters opened fire on several Hogan men as they left the police station in downtown St. Louis. Luke Kennedy was severely wounded in the leg and Hogan Gang attorney, Jacob Mackler, had his derby removed via shotgun blast, though he was, miraculously not hurt. A week later, in the dawn of 1922, one of Willie Egan’s fingered killers, John Doyle, was shot and killed in a high-speed chase with St. Louis police. In April of that year, Kennedy, still nursing his leg, was cornered and, according to a witness, taunted and then killed by Egan gunmen.

Retaliation came from Hogan by shooting up Dint Colbeck’s plumbing store. Egan gunmen countered the next day with a drive-by shooting of the Boss Hogan’s home at 3035 Cass Avenue, where Hogan’s parents were staying and they spent some time diving for cover. The open gang war was disturbing some, including Monsignor Timothy Dempsey, who met with the gang members individually and persuaded a truce. Of sorts.

Max Greenberg, one of the catalysts of the war, was placed on a train to New York. But the treaty left the Egan Gang with the lion’s share of power and they were not ones to be good winners. The dominant gang antagonized at every opportunity.

It has not been mentioned that, in addition to bootlegging and basically having a license to print money, the greedy gangs also dabbled in bank robbing.  After an Egan bank job, Egan gangster Chippy Robinson called the police to pin the robbery on the Hogan Gang. Hogan himself, and some of his men, were arrested for the deed but the charges failed to stick.

On September 2, 1922, Dint Colbeck (he sure got around), and three of his men, ran across Hogan men Abe Goldfeder and Max Gordon and chased them down Locust Street in a hail of gunfire, Gordon losing an eye in the exchange. But it wasn’t until February 1923 that the war again reached a fever pitch.

Jacob Mackler, he of shot-off derby fame, was shot and killed by Colbeck and his men in Old North St. Louis on February 21 and the city erupted once again. Hogan’s Cass Avenue home was again shot up in March and after that Hogan and an associate traded shots with a carload of Egans while traveling at a high rate of speed up North Grand, Egan’s car eventually striking and critically injuring a 12 year old boy.

The city had enough and Monsignor Timothy Dempsey, along with police officials and the press, sought a truce once and for all. Both Colbeck and Hogan wrote letters to the city stating that the Egan-Hogan war was over and that peace would reign.

After all of this, after the charges for bank robbery, after the known bootlegging, after the violence and infamous notoriety in a city caught in a web of terror, Edward Hogan returned to the legislature. Hogan served as a Missouri state representative from 1934-1940 and then as a Missouri state senator from 1944-1956.

Jellyroll Hogan 2

If someone wants to make an observation about the parallel of Hogan’s two lives, here would be the place.

Hogan, in his quieter years, built a mansion on 140 acres of land in Jefferson County, on the outskirts of Eureka. That home and its barn, currently being converted into a rentable party space and owned by Brookdale Farms, was built in 1933 and served as a place of refuge for Hogan. This home, shown in accompanying photographs, stands in stark contrast to a time and a place not as gentle and quiet.

Edward “Jelly Roll” Hogan was given a gift not extended to his peers, like Al Capone and Bugs Malone and Willie Egan: he lived past his wild days. And he was an example contrary to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s assertion that “There are no second acts in American lives.”

Rx to relieve stress: Pet a cat at Mauhaus

DSC00678.JPGThere are any number of ways to reduce stress in your life. Yoga, meditation and exercise are just a few.

Or you can pet a cat.

The New York Times, Social Work Today and WebMD.com have all reported in the past about the benefits of interacting with felines. Stroking a cat’s back will chill you out since the act produces oxytocin, a hormone that reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The cat enjoys it, too.

So what to do if you’re full of stress but don’t own a cat? Maybe you’re a flight attendant or a CIA operative and thus away from home for days or weeks on end. After all, spies presumably face stress.

DSC00673.JPGMy advice is to head to Maplewood and Mauhaus Cat Cafe and Lounge at 3101 Sutton Boulevard. It’s basically a coffee shop—with cats. There are two staff cats, Lorelai and Taylor, and another dozen who are available for adoption. The cost to enjoy the company of the Mauhaus cats is reasonable, and far less than therapy.

The reservation fee is $10 per person for one hour in the lounge. It helps Mauhaus cover the cost of maintaining the cat lounge and caring for the cats. That fee also entitles you to a free drink and 20% off any food or additional beverages purchased.

DSC00649
Mauhaus Cat Cafe owners Ben Triola and Dana Huth.

Mauhaus requires visitors to sign a release form, and they have a few rules. Most are geared toward protecting the cats. You may not pick up a cat or chase one. It’s ok to pet a cat, sleeping or awake, but it’s not cool to wake a cat up to engage it in play. And climbing on the walls is forbidden. To clarify, that rule is only for humans.

When I visited Mauhaus, about half the cats were napping, the others doing normal cat activities, like preening and stretching. Cheech, a skinny beige tabby, stretched out in the front window on his back and allowed a visitor to stroke his head. He seemed pretty relaxed, as did the gentleman doing the petting.

DSC00656
Cheech.

Such is the attraction of a cat café. Being around self-confident animals seems to chill out the visitors. The space is a bit small, so Mauhaus limits the number of people in the café to 20 at any given time. You can reserve an hour visit in advance. Mauhaus also is available for parties or special events—again limited to 20 people.

And if you are smitten with one of the visiting cats from Stray Haven Rescue, they are all available for adoption. They are current on shots, and have been spayed or neutered, and microchipped.

For more information, visit mauhauscafe.com.

Eureka’s Invasion of the Scarecrows

For the fourth October in a row the city of Eureka presents their annual Scarecrow Festival, featuring hundreds of whimsical creations made from reclaimed materials and displayed throughout the town. Each scarecrow has its own unique personality and its own story.

The festival is the brainchild of local resident Barb Scheer, who recalls, “in 2013 I went on a girl’s trip to California and we went to Cambria, near Hearst Castle. As we went into this little town, they had over 300 of these types of scarecrows, all artistically done, and I just went nuts. I thought, ‘I have to bring this back to Eureka.’”

TinAndFrank

She continues, “I came home and did research and there was nothing like it around. I put a presentation together and went to the Board of Alderman with it. It took us a while to convince them, but about 6 to 8 meetings later we finally got them on board and they gave us a grant.”

The first year of the festival featured 107 scarecrows on the streets of Eureka, with Barb personally crafting 54 of them. The program was an instant hit with residents and, as hoped, people throughout the region began visiting Eureka to see the parade of characters.

UglyBride

For the last three years the entire festival was organized by Barb, who handled all of the marketing and administration, the registrations, monitored the website and the Facebook page, plus created most of the scarecrows with the help of several fellow artists. The tasks became too numerous, so she went to the Mayor of Eureka and said “I’m going to have to give it up, I only have a handful of women and I can’t do all of this myself.” The Mayor and Chamber agreed to take on the marketing and administration in 2017, leaving Barb and her team to focus on the construction and maintenance of the scarecrows.

Barb admits that she never had an art lesson in her life, but she loves the visual arts. As a mother of small children she took on the hobby of painting wall murals and managed to develop very admirable and capable skills. Barb worked in sales, marketing and event planning for many years and for the last ten years handled all of the major events for Belden Incorporated. Her work background made her a natural when it came to managing this immense project.

Barb Scheer
Barb Scheer & Friend

The Farmers and Merchants Bank in Eureka provides a basement workspace and storage area for the scarecrows, where they are created, cleaned, dressed, restored and housed for most of the year. The artists work year round on this project, and a visit to the workspace reveals an army of scarecrows in various stages of construction. Almost all of the materials come from local garage sales and donations, and any item that needs to be purchased is usually found online at the lowest possible price.

Older scarecrows from past years are cleaned, redressed and sometimes re-fashioned into new characters for the coming year. Other favorites, like “The Ugly Bride,” will return for another year of service.

BankRobbers

Any business, organization or school in Eureka has the option of creating their own scarecrow, renting a scarecrow, or having a custom scarecrow created by Barb’s team of volunteer artists. Participants can also opt to rent a scarecrow for $100 and, as Barb explains, “it has their business name and information on it. (Renters) don’t have to put it up, they don’t have to take it down, they don’t have to maintain it, and it goes away at the end (of October).”

A custom scarecrow will cost $200, which includes a planning meeting with the commissioner, creation, installation and maintenance. This year Barb advises that there will be close to 200 scarecrows on display and hopes that each year the number will continue to rise. She is constantly thinking up new ideas, or seeking inspiration online.

PoodleFace

The public will have a chance to vote for their favorite Scarecrow on the festival’s website. The City of Eureka has several events planned around this year’s festival, with a Photo Scavenger Hunt October 6-8, a Witches and Warlocks Walk October 13 and an Artisan Fair on October 14.

Full details can be found at eurekascarecrowfestival.com.

WF&P Steam Railway Just Keeps Chugging Along

Each Sunday from May to October, the Wabash, Frisco and Pacific Association operates a 12 inch gauge steam locomotive passenger train thru the forest of Glencoe, Missouri. Don’t be fooled, these are no little “toy” trains by any means, these locomotives are actual fuel burning engines that are powered by steam.

Mike Lorance grew up in the area and, like so many other locals, never paid much attention to the “WF&P RR” signs that would appear at Highway 109 and Old State Road on Sunday mornings. Years later he ended up buying a home on Old State Road and, in 1989 at the request of his son, the pair went to check out the mystery railroad.

engine

Lorance had always had a fascination with steam engines, and on his first visit to the club quickly became captivated by these mechanical curiosities. He says, “the steam engines are the reason that most of the guys join.” His son’s interest waned after a month or so, but 28 years later Mike is still a member. He serves on the Board of Governors, is the group’s Treasurer, handles public relations, and holds a handful of other unofficial titles with a variety of responsibilities.

The WF&P was originally established in 1939 at Brown Road and Natural Bridge near Lambert Field. With one steam locomotive, 30 acres of land and one mile of track, the railway operated for a couple of decades until airport expansion compelled the group to move out to Glencoe. The current site has been in operation since 1961.

RRcrossing

The railroad is stationed near the western end of the Al Foster Memorial Trail, part of the Meramec Greenway project in Wildwood. A large parking area directly adjoins the train depot and ticket station, where riders can embark on a two mile, 30 minute journey along the Meramec River. Following the call of “All aboard!,” passengers take a short ride through the train yard and quickly plunge into a lush canopy of greenery and natural beauty.

The group currently owns ten steam locomotives and three diesels, with several in the yard being machined completely on site by members. Everyone who works on the railroad is a volunteer, from the ticket attendant to the engineer, to the mechanics who meet on Wednesdays and Saturdays to do service and maintenance on the engines, train cars and tracks. There are currently 24 active volunteers working as engineers, signalmen and linemen for the railway.

conductor

The trains carry between 13,000 and 14,000 passengers a year, with visitors coming as far away as India, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. While children ride free, a small donation of $4 per adult is requested for each ticket and provides funding to preserve and expand the railway. Lorance points out that “funding is obtained purely through the ticket booth. We don’t get any grants or anything, it’s completely supported by the people that ride the train.”

Recent floods in 2015 and 2017 hit record levels in West County and put the railway and depot under approximately 12 feet of water. According to Lorance there was “no track damage, but lots of clean up.” Realizing that the Meramec will undoubtedly rise again in future, the group continually seeks new ways to upgrade and protect their buildings and electrical systems. In addition to protecting the existing line, the group is currently laying new track up to Rock Hollow and the infamous Zombie Hill. The new track will provide an escape route for the locomotives when the waters rise again.

trackThe railway is open on Sundays, May thru October, from 11 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., with trains leaving approximately every 30 minutes. Sodas, water, snacks and souvenirs are available for purchase at the station. The train is available for special bookings on Wednesdays and Saturdays by calling 314-401-1687.

When asked what message he’d like to relay to the public about the WF&P, Lorance says, “Come out and ride us and support us, help keep us going, that’s the biggest thing. We think we have something unique.”

Indeed they do.