Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time Pummels a Neighborhood

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time Pummels a Neighborhood

Article excerpt

JIM LOOKS out his living room window and sees a neighborhood that has changed dramatically in more than four decades.

Oh, the rows of small houses and two-family flats are still there.

Jim's city-size back yard still blossoms each year with the various flowers he plants in his garden.

The rose bush that his wife planted when his oldest son was born in 1952 still flowers in the spring.

But something's changed: the neighbors.

When Jim and his wife bought their house on the Near South Side in 1950, most of their neighbors were like them: white, working-class families. Many of the women were housewives; most of the men worked one or two jobs and liked to stop at the corner tavern for a beer or two.

"Most of the people were good folks," Jim said. "Oh, sometimes a bad apple would move in, a guy who'd be lazy or not take care of his lawn or something, but most of the time folks took pride in where they lived."

Most weekends Jim, his wife and neighbors would be out cutting grass, raking leaves, sweeping steps, making sure the area was immaculate.

A sharp contrast to the neighborhood today. Trash sprouts like flowers. Noisy people hang out on their steps at all times of day and night. Forty-ounce beer bottles on lawns and the sidewalks have become a neighborhood trademark.

Instead of the occasional fistfight, the corner tavern has been the scene of several shootings. Burglaries and robberies have become commonplace, and Jim is one of many in his neighborhood who have installed burglar alarms. "I'd get bars on my windows except I'm afraid I'd burn up if there were a fire here," he said.

The friendly neighbors he once had have been replaced by many who grunt at best when he offers a greeting. Most of his neighbors are black and considerably younger than he.

Jim's wife died after a heart attack four years ago. Their kids have all left St. Louis. So Jim, 73, lives alone in his one-story house with his fat and friendly cocker spaniel, Bingo.

And he worries - and wonders.

First, he worries. He worries about his home being broken into.

He worries about being robbed as he walks to the store or bus stop, something that's happened to several of his older neighbors. …

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