Posts Tagged ‘House Springs’

Day Tripp in St. Louis

March 16, 2017


A brilliant sun punctuated the 27-degree morning as my family piled into a passenger van and motored into south St. Louis.  The interior of the van was flooded with conversation punctuated by AM talk radio. Surrounded by my father, sister, brother and niece, I nestled into a “Day Tripp” dedicated to exploring St.Louis landmarks we always knew existed but never really “saw”. I also wanted to re-visit some areas where I lived but was too young to remember with full detail. The AM talk radio was eventually replaced with Son House as we entered the neighbohoods of south St. Louis, and the bottleneck blues served as a perfect soundtrack for what we viewed.

stl home

Watson Road @ Hampton Avenue

The first stop was the apartment building where I lived from the age of 16 months to three years.  The two windows at the top right were kitchen windows, and the two left were bedroom ones, where Mom and I would sit on the bed and look down across the street at school children changing buses.

stl home 2

Eventually, we moved downstairs to the back of the same building. The porch and driveway have since been removed.  I was nearly three by this time, and I remember looking down at my father pulling out of the driveway in his white-over-powder blue 1955 Pontiac 2-door hardtop.  To the right of this picture was a car dealership–Hale Motors. He sold Willy’s Jeeps. Behind the dealership was their body shop, and mechanics worked in the garage with the windows open during the summer.  I would walk down to the shop with a story book tucked uinder my arm, sit on top of a dirt pile where they could see me, and wait for them to come out to eat their lunches. They would then read my book to me. In those days, three-year-olds could wander around their yards and neighbors in the city without danger.


University City, adjacent to Washington University, is one of my favorite places to haunt. Fitz Rootbeer was a St. Louis tradition when I grew up, and this sign continues to stir memories.

berry statueChuck Berry monument

Lunch today was at Blueberry Hill where Chuck Berry used to perform one Wednesday night a month until 2014. The place boasts the best burger in St. Louis, and we decided to enjoy lunch there and peruse all the memorabilia, including Chuck Berry’s Gibson hollow body guitar.

Iberry hands

Berry used to own and operate The Southern Air restaurant in Wentzville, Missouri.  Back in the 1980’s, I visited the establishment for lunch and saw him in the dining area, smoking a cigarette. I was taken at the sight of his magnificent hands, and am glad to see they’ve since been casted and installed at Blueberry Hill.

fenton home

Fenton, Missouri

Once we returned home, we found Mom feeling better (she didn’t feel healthy enough for the day-long excursion). As we talked of our past and its memories, she expressed a willingness to jump back into my vehicle with me and visit the places I lived from ages three to five. They moved to Fenton, Missouri, west of St. Louis (and only seven miles from where they live now) when I was three, and settled on this street. Their apartment has long since been razed and replaced by the Fieser Nursing Home on the right side of this street.  All the buildings across the street are the same as they were back then. On the nursing home site where our apartment stood was also the Fieser Funeral Home. They had a basement where they allowed Mom to hang laundry during the cold winter months. She was spooked by the old clothes of the deceased that hung all about the walls, and I was spooked by a large red furnace that made an incredibly loud noise when it kicked on. I thought it was something living that was going to eat me.

hr home

High Ridge

Mom and Dad now reside in High Ridge, in the home where I lived since it was brand new in 1961. But before we moved into that home, we would live in four other locations from my ages of three to six. This apartment was our home for a short time, and Mom’s only memory of me was my running all around the back yard pulling a red wagon with a toad loaded in it. Somehow I instinctively knew when the toad would leap out and I would immediately stop, retrieve it, and reload it to continue the fun ride. She also shared that when I got as far away from the apartment as possible I would stand with feet far apart, refusing to move until she would come all the way out there and carry me back to the house for a clean up.  It had something to do with #2.  It took me awhile to outgrow that. I’ll stop the story there.

hs home

We moved to another location in High Ridge shortly afterward. I have chosen not to visit or photograph it this time.  All I will say now is that a mentally deranged woman owned the property and our time there was not good.  My brother was born during our time there, and I was four years old.  We then moved four miles west along Highway 30 to House Springs. The house where we lived is no longer there.  Above, I photographed the rough terrain alongside Byrnes Mill Road where the house stood. I have dozens and dozens of stories to tell of my time there, because I was old enough to retain those memories and sensations. But that will have to come at another time. I feel I have rambled long enough on this one.

Thanks for reading. I’m still absorbing the memories of today’s visit, and more than two typed pages of material Mom and Dad shared with me as I questioned them this evening about those sketchy memories of my life between the time of 16 months and three years.


In Memorian II: More on the Passing of my Friend

March 29, 2013
Charcoal Still Life by Steven A. Mullins, 9th Grade, Art I

Charcoal Still Life by Steven A. Mullins, 9th Grade, Art I

Back on January 9, I posted a tribute to my life-long artist friend who passed away.  I have pasted the link to that blog below:

When I posted it, I looked in vain for some of his work and photos I had of him, to no avail.  Well, last night I finally came across this photo taken of a charcoal drawing on newsprint paper that he created as a ninth-grade Art I student at Northwest High School in House Springs, Missouri.  This drawing (measuring about 22 x 28″) won multiple awards and catapulted him to the top ranks of high school art students while only a freshman.  He would only get better.

I won’t repeat all that I said in the earlier blog.  The link is above.  But I wanted to post a pastel portrait created of him by one of our Six Flags artists (Steve and I worked the last two summers of our high school at Six Flags Over Mid America, in the potrait drawing studio):

Pastel Portrait of Steve by artist Mattie Ruell

Pastel Portrait of Steve by artist Mattie Ruell

And finally, a photo I took (with a cheap Kodak camera) of Steve playing my 12-string guitar at a college gathering.

Steve Playing Guitar at College

Steve Playing Guitar at College

It’s been nearly three months.  I still miss him.

Thanks for reading.


Preparing for Taste of St. Louis Art Festival

September 20, 2012

Turvey’s Corner

I am having to find another gear as I resume my daily school responsibilities, unpack my gear from Grapefest and replenish my inventory for next week’s Taste of St. Louis.  I am posting a watercolor I created in 1999, because I am printing the next series of limited edition giclee prints from it, just in time for the St. Louis show.

This marks a turning point in my watercolor odyssey.  It is my first successful composite landscape, with the distant building bearing the Switzer’s Licorice ghost sign coming from the St. Louis waterfront (now sadly demolished), the traction train car from a magazine photo, the right building with ghost signage bearing Busch Bavarian and Budweiser logos came from a small town in Illinois (I believe Prairie du Rocher). The buildings on the left (I think) came from New Bern, North Carolina.  All of the images came from 35mm slides I took years ago while traveling about the country.  I titled this watercolor Turvey’s Corner, because one of my favorite night spots in St. Louis was Turvey’s on the Green on 255 Union Blvd. (now sadly closed) that featured seafood, steak, cigars and St. Louis Blues post-game broadcasts.  I would love to go there and hang out and see Blues hockey players relaxing after a game.

This painting was to be the first of a series that I would call “My Town 63050”.  It was my dream then to create a fictitious town, Anwywhere USA, in the midwest, in the same way that Garrison Keillor created his Lake Wobegon, Sherwood Anderson his Winesburg, Ohio and Thornton Wilder his Grover’s Corners.  I did complete four or five paintings of specific buildings and streets, and had planned to design a town map illustrating where these structures were placed, complete with street addresses.  At some point, I abandoned the project, and only one of the paintings remains in my possession, all the rest of them sold and none of them were editioned.   The zip code is fictitious–I grew up in High Ridge, 63049, and attended high school in the neighboring town House Springs, 63051.

I still think of this abandoned project now and then, wondering if I might take it up again.  I did enjoy the creative juices and imagination I experienced as I worked out the various compositions.

Thanks for reading.

Memory Lane: My First Significant Art Sale, 40 Years Ago

April 30, 2012

Grandfather's Cabin

No, this is not the painting I sold 40 years ago, but I have a story to tell, and I need an illustration!

I am continuing my study of Andrew Wyeth’s drybrush and pencil techniques, and realized a few moments ago that this spring marks the 40th anniversary of my first significant art sale, at age 18.  I was a senior at Northwest High School in House Springs, Missouri.  I really want to tell my story.

Throughout my four years in high school, I was competing seriously in student art competitions throughout the greater St. Louis area.  During my senior year, while at the Two Rivers Art Association competition in Fenton, Missouri, I noted with astonishment the framed and glassed drybrush watercolors submitted by an 18-year-old from north St. Louis.  He was competing in the professional category, rather than the student.  I managed to win the student competition, but he won the professional.  His technique was a carbon copy of Andrew Wyeth.  I could not believe my eyes as I surveyed every square inch of his barns, wagons, broken down houses, rendered in sepias, ochres and grays, with not a trace of green or brilliant hue of any kind.  They were all fall and winter landscapes, and his dried-out weeds and foliage and stark naked trees just made me stare in wonder.  How could an 18-year-old produce such sophisticated work?

I encountered this young man’s work later that spring, further north, in the Warson Village Shopping Center.  Again, he was competing with professionals, and again he won.  And again, I stood before his work with an air of worship, overwhelmed at the understatement and sophistication of his pencil and dry brush technique.

I did not own watercolors.  But I took a piece of white mattboard, and diluted my Liquitex acrylics to apply as watercolor, and attempted my first Andrew Wyeth-style dry brush painting.  The subject was the one posted above, only much cruder, of course.  But I left the sky totally white, and all the foreground, save for dry brush stabbings of grass and gravel, white.  The old cabin was rendered in sepias and grays, and I worked plenty of graphite over the woodgrains of the worn-out siding.  Once I finished, I knew I had something.  The Andrew Wyeth signature was unmistakable, the large blank areas gave the composition a sense of remoteness, and I knew I was on to something better than before.

Returning to school, I approached my art teacher, Mr. Elfrink, under whom I had studied since 8th grade.  He was unloading the kiln in the suite between the two art classrooms.  His back was to me as I entered the room and said: “I tried to do a watercolor over the weekend.”  His response: “And?”  I said nothing, but just held the painting up.  He turned around, and his dark eyes immediately focused and flashed, and his entire countenance changed profoundly.  Searching for words, he said something like: “Now that is . . . , it’s got . . . , it’s . . . that’s good.”  That was all I needed.

Soon afterward, our school art club sponsored a sidewalk art exhibition and sale on the high school parking lot, during school hours.  We were able to attend the show during our art classes and study hall, but not during regular classes.  So . . . during my stay in one of my real classes, this is what happened:  A vending truck pulled to the shoulder of Highway 30 in front of our high school.  The driver hopped out, walked down the hill to our parking lot, looked at the work on display up and down, then stopping in front of my easel, asked: “Are these for sale?”  Someone told him “Yes.”  He responded: “I’ll take this one.”

Forty years ago this spring.  My first Andrew Wyeth-style painting sold.  And now I’m still on his trail, studying his work for clues, trying to understand his magic, and hoping some of it will rub off on me.

Thanks for reading.