Sunday, July 4, 2010


On February 10th, 1959 a tornado ripped through our neighborhood. It left a huge crack in a wall of our apartment. Our home was condemned as a result. We lived right behind the Arena. The channel 2 tower just missed our place as it fell toward the it. From there, the tornado moved on to Gaslight Square.

I’ve been in the heart of several tornadoes in my life. Being from the Midwest, maybe that’s not so unusual.

I’ve experienced that ominous, eerie green cast in the atmosphere and a silence you can hear just before all hell breaks loose.

I remember sirens blaring one night in the mid 60s. My parents opened all the windows. My brother and I slept in the corner of the first floor of our Laclede Town townhouse. My father then went across the street to the pub to hang out with his friends and wait.

Years later my brother and I went to the Lake of the Ozarks with my mom’s cousin’s family. Driving back to our cabin from a strange little tourist town called Dogpatch traffic stopped. We were between two sides of a solid rock hill that had been cut through for the road. Just before coming to a river crossing.

“Tornado’s comin’ up the river,” someone yelled. We pulled the station wagon into a ditch where we were ordered to put our heads down. Someone threw a blanket over us. Huddled in the dark we heard the loud din of a freight train and a thunderous crack. Minutes later all was silent.

I peeked out from the blanket to see a huge crack in the windshield. After regaining our composure we started the car and slowly drove across the river. We weren’t sure if the bridge was stable. There had been a large lumber yard on the other side. It completely disappeared.

When I was in my early 20s I was living with my girlfriend Pam. She had an opportunity to work with a theater company in Milwaukee. We kept a long distance romance going for a year that involved my driving there every month.

Once, somewhere between St. Louis and Chicago, my car radio announced tornados in two nearby towns. I was between them. Looking to my left and right I saw two black funnels clouds. I just kept going.

Just before we got marriedt Kim and I went to the North Twin Theater. It was St. Louis’ last drive-in. The winds were getting wild so we turned on the radio to check the weather. A tornado had just touched down in Chesterfield. We were watching Twister.

My mom took this pic of our garage and the Arena from our back porch. The rest of the photos are from the Globe-Democrat. They show the hole in the Arena- note crushed channel 2 tower in foreground, the inside of the Arena, and Gaslight Square.


Tracy said...

David, having lived behind the Arena, was the Forest Park Highlands around then? Did you guys get to go? Was it also damaged by that tornedo? There was a ride there I was too little to ride and was realy lookng forward to riding someday until that sad day in 1963 when it burned down.

Doggie said...

Yeah we went to the Highlands. I remember the roller coaster burned down. The charred skeletal remains stood there for what seemed like years. I don't remember going on any rides. The park closed in 1963. It was on the other side of the Arena. Where Forest Park Community College is now.