The words in the title of this post are familiar to many of us boomers who had parents who lived through WWII. It was the slogan on a war era (1942-45) poster cautioning the Americans at home not to discuss things related to the ongoing battles in Europe and in the Pacific with anyone. The enemy has ears everywhere was the message. I suppose if I thought about this at all, I thought that sure you’d have to be careful in big cities, on the coasts, if you lived near any military installations or factories that supplied the military or especially if you had family members serving in different parts of the world that you communicated with. If anything I suspect I thought that the government overemphasized this threat in order to impress it on the few people who might be in a position to make this mistake. There was a rumor of Nazi spies here in Maplewood that I had heard from several folks, notably Tom Bakersmith. I hadn’t found any evidence of this kind of activity but I had made a post about it and it occupies a short chapter in my new book, Maplewood History – Volume Two. What follows is the first page from that chapter.
I wanted a few examples of posters that had carried warnings of situations like this one for this post. I was surprised at how many of them could be easily found. The National Archives has a huge collection.
The occasionally unruly crowd that follows this space has reacted very positively to the first installment of Gerry Vazis’ images from her red album. There are many more to take a look at so let’s try it again. I don’t need to remind my regular readers that we are seeing these images courtesy of Mary Piles, who curates a large collection of historic images for her employer, Citizens National Bank of Maplewood and Greater St. Louis (6 locations). Thank you, Mary. I have about nine more images of this 1936 fire but I’m getting off the subject which is the Vazis Red Album. I think I’ve run all of these images of this frozen disaster in the past but I’m not exactly sure under what title. If I find it later, I’ll link to it here. There is just one more image from the Red Album that you haven’t seen. Here it is.
Gerry’s Red Album survived the conflagration that destroyed the Golde’s department store and the Citizens Bank in 1966. It had been stored in the bank vault. It contains 21 images spanning from 1949 until 1962. All of the images are dated. That’s handy. Nearly all of them have some information with them such as the location or a title. Once you have seen these images, perhaps you can tell me why this album was kept in the vault.
Gerry’s last name was Vazis. Maybe the title should read “Vazis’s?” And I said “was” because I am assuming she (see comment below) is no longer with us but I don’t know that for sure. We are indebted to Mary Piles, the curator of the historic images at Citizens National Bank in Maplewood and Greater St. Louis (6 locations), for allowing me to copy this album. Thanks, Mary!
The mission of the State Historical Society of Missouri is to collect, preserve, publish, exhibit, and make available material related to all aspects and periods of Missouri history. SHSMO also seeks to generate interest in and appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of the state and its people through education and outreach. The main archives and storage facility of SHSMO is located in Columbia. In addition SHSMO has an office on every state university campus. Persons interested in items in the collection can request that they be brought to the campus office most convenient for them. This courier service is an important feature that is not offered by other libraries or historical societies. This is why I recommend SHSMO over the Mercantile Library which is also on the campus of UMSL. The SHSMO office, called the St.
This post and my earlier post (titled, A Startling Glimpse of a Stertzing Past) are both a response to a particular vintage photograph. Two buildings are visible in this image. The Stertzing building can be partially seen on the far right. But the main subject of the photograph is the Shearer Hudson dealership. A quick search on Newspapers.com revealed an interesting story that concerns this dealership. First, let’s take a look at the image again.
There are a few folks in high places today who don’t want their tax returns examined. One fellow who would not wonder why is F.W. Shearer. This is another sad story. History is full of them. I ordinarily choose not to post stories that are depressing or would open old wounds. With that in mind I apologize to any family and descendants of F.W. who might someday read this. But there are several lessons one can take away from this. The obvious, the bigger they are…
Mary Piles, who has seen a lot in her 43 years of employment at the Citizens National Bank, recounted this story while commenting on the relationship between Waldemar Stertzing and his newly adopted daughter, Gertrude Madden. I started to include it in one of the posts about Stertzing but then thought that this is such a great story that it deserves its own post.
Adult adoption must have been a kind of common thing to do, to adopt a person no longer a child. Many did it through unconsummated marriage. We had a customer who was a maid in a home as a teenager. She cared for the mother of the family during the diphtheria epidemic. The mother eventually succumbed to the diphtheria as did their 20 year old son.
After the son’s death she remained in the father’s employ.
If you are today as I once was, which is nearly totally ignorant of things Stertzing, then this post is for you. Six-and-a-half years ago, I created a post titled, Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Stertzing and the Building They Left Behind. If you read the comments, I think you’d say it was well received. Of course, we couldn’t have known then how much more there is to this story. There are mainly two reasons we didn’t know more about this story. One is I hadn’t yet subscribed to Newspapers.com. The other is that Mary Piles, generous curator of the historic images at the Citizens National Bank of Maplewood and Greater St. Louis (6 locations), had not yet provided us with what is, without a doubt, so far, the most mind blowing (and the oldest known) vintage image of the Stertzing building to come to light.
The Saga continues. That poor family. What nonsense that they had to put up with. Keep in mind that even with as many posts as I have made of this event, there were many more articles that I am not posting. So far I have only posted articles from two of the St. Louis papers – The Star and the Post-Dispatch. This story was carried in newspapers all over the country. The Clamorgans must have suffered through a nonstop barrage of reporters and who knows what other offenses for at least several months. In their Sunday edition on June 25th (nine days after the above article ran) the Post-Dispatch ran a full page which except for a small article in the lower right corner was entirely devoted to this story. It is so chopped up with graphics I’m not sure how it will look on your device. Bear with me and I’ll try to post the most important parts of it. Let’s hope that the baby Virginia Blanche did have a rosy path before her. I wonder how much of this story did she know in adulthood.
My first six posts of the regrettable troubles that Cora Clamorgan and her family endured all occurred within one week, June the 9th through June the 16th of 1911. There were so many articles published on this story and they were of such length that I must act as an editor and try to present only the most interesting and important parts of these stories from hereon. So if I only post parts of an article and you are interested in obtaining the full article, just let me know and I’ll email it to you. As we saw in the last post, rampant speculation that Cora was adopted created a sensational story that was revealed almost the next day to be false. This Clamorgan family was not only a good family they were exemplary in many ways. The father had been a highly regarded assistant to a mayor of St. Louis. Several of the children had excelled in school or sports. That they had to suffer through this sort of insanity is truly sad. Backing up a bit, the following was run on June 11 in the Post-Dispatch.
This interface that we use has just malfunctioned. Not sure what’s going on but I’ll let it rest a bit.
Just when you thought you had it all figured out. My apologies, I could not find the end of this article but it doesn’t matter much. Read on. Crazy, ain’t it? But crazy as it seems, there is still more to come. Stay tuned. Doug Houser June 21, 2020
There is still a lot of nonsense going on in the world today. At least we can be grateful that we have transcended the sort of nonsense described in this article. What these folks had to go through is sad. There are still more Cora Clamorgan articles to come. If you have missed one or all of them, here is the link to Cora Clamorgan – Part Four. From there you can link to the first three. Stunning weather out there today. Things are starting to reopen. I truly believe we are not out of the woods yet. Please be careful and wear your mask when you go out in the world. There is new evidence that shows that wearing a mask is the most effective way to avoid being infected. Doug Houser June 15, 2020
The Clamorgan family was one of the oldest in St. Louis. The author Julie Winch has done a magnificent job of telling their tale in her book, The Clamorgans – One Family’s History of Race in America. I am very glad that I read this book. I would highly recommend it.
Perhaps this post should be titled something like Just Over the Border of Maplewood… History. I think the intersection of Manchester and McCausland is where the Maplewood business district truly begins. No matter that it is a block east of our actual border. It was either within the survey of the farm of our pioneer settler, James Sutton, or right on the edge of it. This image I discovered while looking through the posts by Joe Sonderman on his Facebook page, Vintage St. Louis and Route 66. It is a fascinating collection that he has assembled. This is not the first time I’ve found an historic image related to Maplewood there. This particular image stopped me in my tracks.
We lived in Maplewood and this was 1936. Our Observer (local paper) had a memo and mother read, “Maplewood Police will this year fine any and all Maplewood residents $5.00 for exploding any firecrackers in the city limits” One of my Dad’s employees had sent me a box of “cannon crackers” as a gift. My grandmother had a large house and my aunt and her family lived at 1800 Lafayette in St. Louis. Dad drove us to Grandma Price’s on the holiday and we had lots of hot dogs, marshmallows and treats for little kids. When sundown came, sky rockets and sparklers were all brought out. I gave the older kids my “cannon crackers”. I picked up all unexploded cannon crackers and my cousin shared a warning too late. My little hand was badly burned. All of our family worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad so I was taken to their hospital by my dad. My little hand had a big splint and big bandages. When I was carried out of the doctor’s office in my Dad’s arms, the whole lobby was filled
with my family! Daddy sat me down on a bench. A pleasant young man sat beside me and said, “Sorry about your firecracker.” I asked him, “Did all the relatives come out because of my accident?” He put his hand on my “well” hand and said, “No, youngster. My uncle Lemuel Price is having a serious heart attack.” I said, “Lemuel Price is my Grandpa.” He shook my good little hand and said, “My name is Vinnie and I guess we are cousins. Vinnie carried me around and introduced me to his family and Washington University classmates. I asked Vinnie, “Did Grandpa Price give you a $20 gold piece when he moved back from Colorado? Vinnie replied, “He sure did!” I said, “I think I lost mine. Will the marshals put me in jail if I don’t find it?” He laughed and told his friends about my concerns. They all laughed.
As the reader may or may not recall my first two posts about this unfortunate but important tale of the Clamorgan family were copies of the articles carried in two St. Louis newspapers the day the story broke, June 9, 1911. This post is a copy of the article that appeared the next day in the St. Louis Star. It contains one of the only rays of light I’ve found in this dark tale.
Maplewood History – Volume Two. Selections From the Popular Blog was begun in 2014 and finished about a year ago. For better or worse, this book is the product of one person. I had some strong ideas about how I wanted the book to be. I liked the idea of having no one to clear anything with. I wanted to produce a book with strong visual appeal and not be too light on the text either. This book will be part of my legacy. For that reason I wanted it to be as high quality as possible. Both the soft and hardcover versions are designed to be collector’s quality. I intend them to hopefully last many lifetimes. The book is full color throughout and printed on high quality paper. The soft cover is laminated for extra durability. The hardbound version is constructed the way a lot of books used to be. The cover is green linen with the name of the book stamped in gold on the spine. In addition, the hardcover has a commemorative Scheidt Hardware dust jacket. With an eye towards the highest image quality both versions are printed on the same paper, 80 # (pound) glossy. This is a paper that many printers do not offer. My 2008 book, The First 100 Years – Maplewood MO, greatly increased in value on the internet when it was no longer in print. Enough that last year I encouraged the Maplewood Community Betterment Foundation to print another 140 copies. They did and these are now sold out as well. I can’t predict how long it will take but Volume Two may increase in value as well.
Included in my previous post, Cora Clamorgan – Part One, was a copy of one of the earliest articles I was able to find on this unfortunate subject which is the Clamorgan family having been found to have some negro blood and the repercussions thereafter. That article appeared in the Seventh Edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 9, 1911. This post is a copy of an article that appeared in the Night Edition of the St. Louis Star on that same day. I have much more information yet to post on this particular incident from the Clamorgan family history. Again, I would encourage everyone interested to read Julie Winch’s well-researched and well-written book, The Clamorgans – One Family’s History of Race in America. It truly is a great book.
Those of you who were in the audience for one of the performances of the Maplewood-themed, Shakespearean mashup, “Remember Me”, experienced a rare and delightful event. If you haven’t heard anything about this play, let me say, my wife and I were stunned by the very high quality of the production. It was wonderful…everything from the 10 foot high puppets to the live music. Put together by the very talented theater department of St. Louis U, it was a three-of-a-kind event that took place over three nights of one weekend in September 2016 and is unlikely to be repeated ever. The playwright, Nancy Bell, and I met several times while she was assembling her material. A couple of times she asked me what did I know about the Clamorgan family and their connection to Maplewood. Easy question for me to answer. Nothing. The large puppets represented Maplewood “ghosts”. One was Charles Rannells who you’ve read about here. Another of the ghosts told the story of Cora Clamorgan (Called Clara in the play).
Newspapers.com is packed full of interesting information. It is very easy to get sidetracked while using it as a source for your research. Often I discover something very interesting but completely unrelated to Maplewood. For quite awhile I’ve had the idea of doing a blog post about some of these unrelated items. This post features an advertisement I stumbled across that nearly caused me to do a backflip. This advertisement gave a solid reality to an event that I had always considered was probably just a legend. I was very pleased to find that it was almost exactly as I had been told sometime in the distant past. I have known of this event for so long that I no longer know if someone told me about it or perhaps I heard about it on the radio. I don’t know. I’m nearly certain I didn’t read about it. This is the first black and white evidence I’ve found. I’m pretty sure of that. Anyhow here it is.