Unexpected Art

During my most recent trip to the St. Louis downtown riverfront I followed a bike path.

This portion of the long Mississippi River Trail is not scenic. The river is blocked from view by the raw concrete flood wall. You skirt and then go between ancient utility buildings – following the painted directions on the asphalt.

There it was! Between a section of flood wall decorated with murals and the riverside of a stone building.

Winter can’t be the most appealing time for this sculpture. The pond is drained. The vegetation is brown and ragged. But concrete and red brick combine to illustrate a constant battle.

This little spot of whimsy is on my list for a repeat visit this summer.

Constant struggle.
Constant struggle.

February 22, 1932

Boston, Massachusetts brings to mind many things.

Early American history. Irish immigrants. Prominent political families.

On the above date one of those Boston Irish families of prominence and means welcomed their fourth son into the family. He would spend good portions of his life shadowed by his brothers. However, of all of them, he was by far the longest-lived.

Edward Moore Kennedy lived fast, hard, and reckless as a young man. His academic record was forgettable until he returned to Harvard after two years in the US Army. Perhaps military duty focused his attention. It did not however, eliminate reckless personal behavior.

Many of you know the story. A powerful father. The war time death of his oldest brother. Stepping in to fill the US Senate  seat vacated by his brother John as soon as his age hit the constitutional requirement. More family tragedy with first one and then the next remaining brother murdered. A divorce.  A scandal with drinking, driving, and the death of a young woman. A second marriage. A blocked attempt at higher office. Focus on legislation and the establishment of a solid accomplishments.

How do you see his career? Do you see the ability to overcome early privilege to attain actual progress? Or something else?


Twenty-First Century

She didn’t come easy. (Are bridges female? Like ships?) And she’s in progress, not complete.

Highway and bridge projects require funding. And when they cross state lines they require cooperation through all phases: planning, design, site selection, connections, and actual construction. They talked about it for years. One state proposed a toll bridge. The other adamantly apposed. River shipping has the right-of-way. You can’t put a bridge pier just anywhere.

I first believed it was more than words when I saw some of the early pier work in 2010. Twenty-eight months after that first actual sighting by my own eyes, two graceful towers rise, one near each shore of the Mississippi. Workers continue to install bridge deck and the long cables to support it. For this will be a cable stayed bridge, a design of other, newer bridges across the same river.

When finished, this structure will carry I-70 from the north edge of downtown St. Louis into Illinois. Can you hear the sigh of relief from the Poplar?

Wait for 2014 to cross.
Wait for 2014 to cross.

This concludes our introduction to the bridges of downtown St. Louis.

My apologies. You cannot see this newest addition from the top of the Grand Stairs on the Arch Grounds. Well, maybe with binoculars and a little more height than my modest 5’5″.


February 15, 1820

Dateline: Adams, Massachusetts.

Today this community in north west Massachusetts boasts a population of 5784. Just shy of two centuries ago it was smaller. Then again, so was the total US population.

It’s also the birthplace of one of the most recognized women of her time: Susan B. Anthony.

This lady of courage and conviction was raised in a stern family with open-minded, abolitionist parents. When the family fell into financial hardship Susan, at the age of 19, began what would become a decade of teaching. This experience also inspired her to fight for equal pay – at the time male teachers received four times the wages for the same work!

A meeting with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851 began decades of friendship and collaboration. Together they and like-minded people worked to promote temperance and equal rights for all (women, people of color). She gained a reputation as an effective speaker and lectured throughout the country.

Alas! Ms Anthony died in 1906, prior to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment which gives women the vote. Perhaps she was encouraged and fortified by the knowledge that some of the Western states, such as Wyoming, included women among their voters and office holders and insisted they remain when statehood was obtained.

Here’s to a woman of courage and determination!!!


Twentieth Century – final third

The Interstate Highway System is intended to tie the major cities of the United States together. In St. Louis this also necessitates crossing the Mississippi River to connect the city with Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, and the rest of the Eastern portion of the country.

They built one bridge. Three interstates — I 70, I 55, and I 64 a.k.a. US 40 — converge in downtown St. Louis and skim across this steel deck girder bridge together.

It bears the official name of Bernard F. Dickman Bridge. Don’t ask for directions using that name. Natives, media traffic reporters, and signage will direct you to the Poplar Street Bridge. Opened in 1967 and located a short distance downstream from the landmark Arch, it carries a constant stream of cars, trucks, and motorcycles to and from the city.

Using the bridge for the first time? Drive across it infrequently?

My tip: Be alert to which of the interstate routes you want to follow. Some of the exits are in front of you before you realize you’re over land, not river.

Poplar Street Bridge viewed from upstream. Low winter water.
Poplar Street Bridge viewed from upstream. Low winter water.

February 8, 1955

Jonesboro, Arkansas is a university town in the northeast portion of the state. It is also the birthplace of today’s featured birthday celebrant, one of the most popular and prolific authors in the US today.

Perhaps you’ve read one or more of his legal thrillers. Or seen a movie based on them. Have you read his non-fiction volume?

I’m speaking of John Grisham.

As a criminal defense and person injury litigation lawyer serving in the Mississippi State House of Representatives, he found time in early morning hours and stray bits and pieces of times to write his first novel. It wasn’t easy to find a publisher for A Time to Kill.  His second, third, and fourth books skyrocketed to the top of the bestseller lists and quickly became movies.

Ah, the inspiration in that portion of the story to this and other pre-published authors. No fear. My romance and romantic suspense pieces will not be in direct competition with Mr. Grisham’s body of work. (Reader demographics may overlap – I’d like that.)

Birthday Greetings, John Grisham.

Off I go to request your latest from the library!


Twentieth Mid-Century

A thriving city craves infrastructure. With St. Louis’ location on one of American’s great river include bridges.

While the highway deck of the Eads carried it’s portion and the MacArthur downstream made a large contribution the city begged for more.

The City of East St. Louis, Illinois responded by constructing a toll bridge. It opened to traffic in 1951 with the name Veteran’s Memorial Bridge. The design is listed as cantilever truss and it adds a graceful note of interest to the downtown riverfront.

The toll is gone now and it received a good renovation in the late 1980’s. Even the name has changed – to Martin Luther King Bridge. Yet it continues to carry a daily ration of commuters.

1950's Connection
1950’s Connection

February 1, 1901

Cadiz, Ohio appears on a recent map as a small city about 25 miles northwest of Wheeling, WV. The boy born on the above date showed early musical and mechanical abilities. But his real love turned out to be language.

Fast forward to 1934. You’ll find this man living in California, divorced from his first wife and married to the second. You’ll also find him in movie theaters from coast to coast. This was the year It Happened One Night drew crowds. He was rewarded by his peers by the Oscar for that performance.

And he influenced his audiences. According to a source that attended this movie. “Clark Gable took off his shirt in It Happened One Night and men’s undershirt sales dropped.” (Oh, the thrill, the scandal, of a bare male chest on the screen.)

Here’s a birthday remembrance to William Clark Gable a.k.a. Clark Gable. Also remembered as Rhett Butler. (Oh, what girl with a beating heart doesn’t react to this charming rascal.)