I’ve lived in this city, man and bore, for most of my wasted life. I am now ready to concede that nothing is permanent here except change. The other day, I drove around town, mentally ticking off the changes. From 1869 to early 1950s there was a Chinatown downtown, bounded by Seventh, Tenth, Walnut and Chestnut Streets. Commonly known as “Hop Alley,” the neighborhood was home to more than 300 Chinese Americans. In 1966 the area was cleared for Busch Stadium. The newer Chinatown later sprouted in University City. In the old days we were just a short sprint away from long-gone favorites. There were: Jim Mertikas’ Grecian Gardens; The Orient; The Washington Restaurant; American, Orpheum, Loew’s State and Ambassador theaters. The latter was located in a building that housed the HQ of Skouras Theaters, headed by Spyros Skouras, who later helmed 20th Century Fox. He married the cashier at the Pageant Theater on Delmar Boulevard. Before the building was demolished, we could still see the Skouras brothers’ steam room. Brands gone in our town: Bell Telephone, Union Electric, A&P, Food Center and Aunt Heidi’s. Beer lovers guzzled Hyde Park, Griesedieck, Falstaff and Stag. We had Raskas, Green Leaf and Pevely dairies. We played cork ball in the alleys near ashpits and dined at Henrici’s, Van Horn’s,Trader Vic’s, Teutenberg’s, Blue Top, Edmond’s, Jeremiah’s and Bevo Mill.
To stay contemporary, you must see beauty in the cunning curve of highway 64/40 and the future in a high-rise whose walls are already beginning to crack.