Looking Back 40 Years at Free Spirits and Fun

By Pollack, Joe | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 5, 1995 | Go to article overview

Looking Back 40 Years at Free Spirits and Fun


Pollack, Joe, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


TIME FLIES when you're having fun.

I guess I've been having a lot of fun for the last 40 years, because they've certainly flown by. When I step back from the writing machine, and think about them, the numbers are difficult to comprehend.

But last week marked the end of 40 years for me as part of the St. Louis media community, and while much has changed, for both better and worse, much remains the same.

As a matter of fact, my desk on the fifth floor of the Post-Dispatch is less than 50 feet from the spot where my desk stood on Feb. 1, 1955, when this building housed the Globe Democrat and I was a rookie sports writer.

Slightly newer desk, but not much.

Since then, for 6 1/2 years at the Globe, 11 with the Football Cardinals and 22 1/2 in this space, it's been a continuing cavalcade of people and places.

I proudly saw the final piece of the Arch go into place, which cheered me, and in return, I've been forced to see the lack of progress along the riverfront ever since.

I saw gambling come and Gaslight Square go. I was a witness as pro football came to town - twice. I saw a network of highways both link and divide the community. I was privileged to watch Stan Musial play with matchless skill and grace, and to live among the young at heart in Laclede Park, though I then had to watch another dream dissolve in reality, racism and financial sloppiness.

I moved into Laclede Park early in 1964, a marriage in tatters, and lived there for seven years, amid a large collection of writers and other free spirits. Most of us also were convinced we were great softball players, a gospel preached by Martin Quigley, who thought that winning the arguments was at least as important as winning the games.

It was a time and a place of great freedom, where people didn't lock their doors very much and where conversation in the courtyard continued until the last star and the last beer had gone. When it came to "laid back," San Francisco in the same era had nothing on us, and it made some people nervous.

I remember a Sunday morning softball game against a team of police in the field at Laclede and Compton avenues, with a keg of beer as the stake. One of the players slid into third base and broke an ankle. A policeman used his car radio to get an ambulance, and perhaps a dispatcher misunderstood the circumstances, but about six squad cars screamed into the intersection, assuming a major fracas was in progress. …

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