Last week my friend Dominic turned 50. My turn next.
Our friend Mark and Dom’s brother Benet threw a surprise party at Mark’s bar. Mark and I had a conversation about our chidhood.
In the early 70s Mark’s family lived under mine in one of the beautiful Soulard houses that had been converted into a 2-family. It has since been restored. If you get a chance drive by and check it out. It’s at the corner of 13th and Victor. You can’t miss it. It has the most ornate brickwork I’ve ever seen. It also has a very distinctive keyhole doorway.
The summer nights were incredibly hot and no one had air conditioning back then. I used to hang my legs out the window all night.
The music was Jethro Tull’s “Stand Up” and “Benefit”, Mahavishnu Orchestra’s first 3 records, Cat Stevens, Captain Beefheart, Todd Rundgren’s “A Wizard A True Star” and “Todd”, Roland Kirk, the soundtrack to West Side Story, and more.
When I was 14 there was a strike at the brewery and we’d hang out with the strikers on the corner. They had cases of beer stacked next to their umbrella. They would share their beer as long as we would keep them company in the middle of the night.
We would hang out on a billboard that hovered over the 3rd district police station. We were always high on something. We’d stay up there until the morning and watch the sunrise over the melting chemically saturated sky of Sauget across the river. The sewers would back up with beer suds flooding the streets and the smell would knock you over.
As mean as the 3rd district cops were, it amazes me that we were so impervious to their presence.
I’ll give an example.
I’m not sure why the cops showed up at the back door, but when the door was answered they were confronted by Mark’s German shepherd. One of the cops shot the dog. Mark was broken hearted. He went down to the police station and asked to see the cop that did it. When the officer came out Mark handed him a can of mace and suggested that, in the future when the cop was startled, he use it instead of a gun. The policeman took the can and angrily threw it against a wall. Mark was 12. 3rd district now houses some kind of artist cooperative.
Soulard was an interesting neighborhood before all the rehabbing. I remember the first Mardi Gras parade in the early 70s. There were about 3 cars. One of them was the volunteer fire department truck. Our alderman and a high school marching band made up the rest. I don't remember any beads. Certainly no exposed breasts. We were there only because they threw candy.