June 30, 2011

Blownstar 2011 Day 8

St. Louis - Went to lunch with one of my old girlfriends today. She is the only ex that I have remained friends with. We were friends before we were lovers and we remained friends afterward. One of the biggest regrets in my life is that I couldn't make our relationship work. Realistically, I know that if we had ever married it would have ended in divorce, but we would have had beautiful children. Like me, she never married. She has been in a relationship with the same man for over 25 years but never married him, even though he has asked her, and no, it has nothing to do with me. He is divorced with children and she did not want to get in the middle of what happens with men with children who remarry. After the way she looked after him after he had brain surgery I'm sure his children are a lot more accepting of her.

We ate lunch at Cunetto's which was a restaurant we ate at many times when we were together. She has changed a bit. She used to always get their linguini with white clam sauce (and she always called me a creature of habit) but today she got the linguini tuto mare and their house salad (which is delicious!). I got the canneloni with white sauce. I'd never had it there. It's not as good as mine.

Cunetto's is located on The Hill, which is an Italian neighborhood in St. Louis. Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up on The Hill but it was called Dago Hill back then. Bowing to political correctness in the 70's, they dropped the Dago, and it just became The Hill.

There are a lot of really good Italian restaurants there. My favorite pizza in the whole wide world is the pizza at Rigazzis. They are famous in the city for their frozen fishbowls (24 ounces) of Budweiser on draft. I walked out with one and I still have it on display on one of my bookshelves. Rigazzis was a great place to go after a Cardinals baseball game or a Blues hockey game. It was packed on Friday and Saturday nights. There was always a wait for a table but the wait was worth it. Here is how old I am. They used to have all you can eat spaghetti or mostoccioli (which is pronounced musk-oh-choly in Louis) for $1. In my early 20's some of my friends and I got kicked out of there because we wouldn't quit eating. It said "all you can eat". More on mostoccioli. One of the local columnists once wrote that if you got married in South St. Louis, your wedding wasn't official unless they served mostoccioli at the reception. St. Louis is also the only place I've ever been that has toasted ravioli.

As we were eating and talking she informed me that the Admiral was gone. RIP SS Admiral. The Admiral was a boat on the Mississippi that was moored on the St. Louis riverfront. When I was growing up back in the 50's and 60's (Yeah. I'm that old) took cruises down the Mississippi a few miles and then turned around and came back. As the Wiki entry states, the Admiral had two decks which were air-conditioned. When you consider when it was built, that was an unprecedented luxury. My girlfriend told me her first date was on the Admiral a week after she turned 16. I remember taking my ex-wife on the admiral when we were dating. I'll bet I was on her (the Admiral, not my girlfriend or my ex-wife) at least five times. When it returned to St. Louis after the end of an excursion, they had a calliope that played to announce its return. I remember attending a riverfront concert by the St. Louis Symphony orchestra when the Admiral was churning back upriver with the calliope playing and competing with the orchestra. Pictures at an Exhibition upstaged by a loud calliope.

Sometime in the 70's, the Coast Guard declared that the bottom needed repair, and Streckfus Steamers, the owners, couldn't afford the repairs. They later sold it and it became a riverfront casino. It could no longer steam up and down the river but it still was a landmark on the riverfront. When you saw the Admiral, you knew you were in St. Louis. I remember many pictures taken from the Illinois side of the river with the Admiral framed by the Gateway Arch.

Then in the 90's, it was struck by a barge. That was the beginning of the end. It is no more. It has since been towed away and my girlfriend told me it is being sold for scrap. Very sad.

I drove down to the riverfront this afternoon, but the Mississippi is flooded so I couldn't get down there.

Like always when I return to St. Louis there are many trips down memory lane. Hope you don't mind me sharing them with you. If you do, then this post is free.

Posted by denny at June 30, 2011 07:58 PM  

I know next to nothing about St. Louis, having driven through it only a couple of times. Stopped to go up in the arch in 72. I remember right now that I worked there once around 97 or so. Ate at some Italian place not far from the convention center. It has photos of mobsters on the walls. Good food. I had linguine with clams, which is what I always order to gauge an Eye-Tye place.....

Posted by: Larry Jandro on June 30, 2011 09:58 PM

Love your memories. Specially the food mentioned. Certainly sounds good enough to eat. You must have been a great guy, Denny. For your friend to still share a meal with you, after all those years. Have never heard of calliope music. Going on YouTube to find out how it could cover up Mussorgsky. Take care.

Posted by: Claudia on June 30, 2011 11:47 PM

Just heard the Steamer MISSISSIPPI QUEEN calliope.
A bit painful, Denny!!!!:)))))

Posted by: Claudia on July 1, 2011 12:02 AM

Denny, just a passing reference to toasted ravioli? The stuff is addictive. If you remember the flying saucer building that has the Del Taco on Grand by STL University, they are trying to tear it down. It was a Phillips 66 before the Del Taco was there. They keep tearing down all the cool old buildings. General Sherman's house is gone and so is the house in "Meet Me in St. Louis".

Posted by: Turtle on July 1, 2011 06:29 AM

Many years ago (20 to be exact) I fell in love with a young lady in St. Louis. We spent the summer in the "Gateway City" and we did the usual things like go up in the "Arch", drive around St. Charles county North of the city and take lots of pics of the mighty Mississippi etc.

Alas, we parted company after a while and I haven't had the courage to return.

Those are my memories Denny and they don't include food...............well maybe, except the clam sauce.

Posted by: Toejam on July 1, 2011 07:34 AM

Denny, back when me an Sue had just started dating I took her to Cunetto's. There was a long line, but I went up to the hostess and gave my name. I also asked if Frank was working that night. Within two minutes he came out, grabbed us out of the line, and seated us at a table with a complimentary cocktail. I think she was impressed. Frank went all the way through school in Jim's class.

Are you going to see my mom while you're there?


Posted by: Steve S. on July 1, 2011 09:05 AM

I'm glad you can go back to the place you grew up and enjoy the memories of your youth. I'm sure there were places that could've been much worse. I didn't mind growin' up in the North Oakland/Berkeley area but there's nothing that'd get me back to the cesspool that the East Bay has become, or anywhere in the Bay Area.
This post is one of your best, and I'd've gladly paid for it.
Take care on your journey home.

Posted by: Inbredredneck on July 1, 2011 09:33 AM

Steve - I'm having lunch with your mom today. She told me that you all met up in Gatlinburg last week.
Have you met her boyfriend?

Posted by: Denny on July 1, 2011 10:15 AM

Lets talk pizza Denny,

Your first love of pizza is just so special. Many, many moons ago, as a kid, we would go to Musicarro's in Massapequa Park, NY as often as not on Friday nights. It was the best. Later, during football season we would get a pizza (later 2) for Sunday football. In about 1990 I brought a pizza back to Atlanta on a Delta flight. The pizza arived without incident. The wife (now ex-wife) attacked it before we got out of the airport.

About 2 years ago I started dating a girl on Long Island (we're toast now). I looked it up and they're closed. I think they went the same place my hair did.

So sad...

Posted by: Sean on July 1, 2011 12:01 PM

I really enjoyed your post on The Admiral in St. Louis. It brought back a lot of memories. I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I spent many a summer in St. Louis, and yes, back in the 50's and 60's we still called it Dago Hill. :-)

Posted by: Ernest ODell on July 1, 2011 01:29 PM

My brother lives in St. Louis over in University City.

Back in the late 90's the whole family (Italian) met in St. Louis to visit him and his family. We had a big family reunion at Cunetto's because my brother and his wife loved the place and ate there quite often.

I remember they still called it Dago Hill because my father thought that was hysterical. He kept saying and laughing that he couldn't believe that it was called Dago Hill.

Posted by: Willie on July 2, 2011 09:49 AM


Thanks for the memories. We share some of the same ones.

Sarge, Out

Posted by: Sarge on July 2, 2011 02:41 PM

Wow, this is too weird. Just tonight at a party (here in St. Louis), we were talking about the fishbowls at Rigazzi's AND those same riverfront concerts with the dueling calliope. I don't remember it being Mussorgsky -- I seem to recall Copland's Lincoln Portrait -- but I remember a young Leonard Slatkin stopping the performance while they sent somebody over to the Admiral to knock off the calliope. Summer of 1970. Thanks for the memories!

Posted by: Steve on July 3, 2011 01:58 AM

Willie - You must have met an oldtimer. They quit calling it Dago Hill in the late 70's. After that, everyone called it "The Hill". I remember every year they would have Hill Day some time in the Summer. You would drink beer out of a little bucket that you would buy the first time you got some beer. After that, they would fill your bucket up every time you got beer. I think I still have one of those buckets somewhere. I read some where that St. Louis is gonna prohibit sitting on a curb and drinking beer out of a bucket.

Posted by: Denny on July 3, 2011 08:13 PM

Denny....google st.louis memories.....you'll see a geneology site that focuses on people leaving anecdotes about growing up in st. louis.....you'll love this site but unfortunately spend many hours dredging up old memories about life in the fifties and sixties in st. louis...enjoy

Posted by: DuBourg on July 4, 2011 10:25 AM

DuBourg - Did you go to DuBourg? I checked out that site. Whoa! Lots of memories. I remember going to a corner store to buy cigarettes for my mother. Both cigarettes and gas cost less than 25 cents. The store is long gone and cigarettes and gas cost a lot more than a quarter.

I liked the guy riding his bike through Tower Grove Park at night. My mother told me that when it got real hot in the summer (Summers are worse than summers in Atlanta due to the higher humidity in St. Louis. Ask anyone who has lived in both cities, like me.), they used to go to Tower Grove Park to camp out and sleep. No A/C back then. Sure couldn't do that now. Back when I lived in the city when I owned a four family flat on Miami St. west of Kingshighway, I was a runner and on my six, eight, and ten mile runs, I ran through Tower Grove Park. It was nice because I could get a drink of water from one of the drinking fountains in the park. All of my runs took me to Dago Hill.

Posted by: Denny on July 4, 2011 11:31 AM
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