(This is one in a series about the more than 100 people area author Jim Merkel interviewed about growing up in St. Louis for his newly released book, “Growing Up St. Louis.”)
By far the oldest person I interviewed was Dorothy Hunter.
I met her in the spring of 2017 in her room in the Meramec Bluffs Care Center, an assisted living facility in Ballwin. Born in 1907, Hunter, a retired teacher, was 109 but had lost little of her edge.In a 50-minute conversation, she told about her strict upbringing in what’s now the Tower Grove South neighborhood of St. Louis, playing tennis with boys in Tower Grove Park and going to silent movies on Grand Avenue. I’m glad I recorded her, because she died just a few months later, at the age of 110.
Here are some of her recollections as recorded in “Growing Up St. Louis.”
The first thing I remember was when we moved to Connecticut Street from McDonald or McKee. I’m not sure. It was a bigger house, two blocks south of Tower Grove Park. We had three floors.
My father did not permit chewing gum. But when we went down to the station to see my uncle off to World War I, my uncle gave us each a package of chewing gum. A whole package, and we were in seventh heaven, and there wasn’t a thing my father could say, because this was a gift from a man who was almost at war.
It was either take the streetcar or walk. There was one car on Arsenal Street and one on Grand. I walked to the streetcar. One time I walked on the street car, and that was when I had passes up to a certain age, and the conductor refused to take my ticket because he thought I was too old. I wasn’t too old. I was just tall. Then I got off the car and got on the next car.
If I had to use one word about the way we were brought up, what my father believed in, it was “moderation.”
“Growing Up St. Louis” is available through jimmerkelthewriter.com