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"Growing Up St. Louis," | Reviewed by Bill Schwab.

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

Readers can take a “trip down memory lane” on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m. when author Jim Merkel makes a virtual presentation on “Growing Up St. Louis.” To take part, log on to the library’s website and click on the ad for the program.

Copies of “Growing Up St. Louis” can be purchased at Neighborhood Reads Bookstore. The program is being sponsored by the Friends of the Washington Public Library and Neighborhood Reads Bookstore.

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A centenarian recalls attending the St. Louis 1904 World’s Fair 16 times, a mature woman remembers becoming mesmerized by The Beatles debut on The Ed Sullivan Show and a local sportscaster becomes a lifelong sports fan as he and his dad watch the 1968 World Series. These and many more captivating recollections comprise Jim Merkel’s latest book, “Growing Up St. Louis.”

Merkel notes that people and places leave an indelible mark on our memories and become parts of our life story regardless of where we grow up.

“The way you spend your childhood years really determines who you become as an adult. That seems obvious, but people really don't think about it. It's a very important time in one's life,” Merkel writes.

“Growing Up Saint Louis,” is a collection of stories from more than 100 native St. Louisans told in their own words. Merkel records life-shaping moments from 1900 to present reflecting the day-to-day history in the Gateway to the West. From playing marbles on the sidewalk to bussing restaurant tables to losing family members in world wars, the interviewees share meaningful and touching remembrances.

Some of the interviews involve well-known people, such as former Mayor James Conway, former Washington University Chancellor William Danforth, and Frank Cusumano, current KSDK sports director. However, the majority of the stories are from “regular” St. Louisans who relate poignant sad, tragic and joyous events from their early years.

Merkel includes pictures to accompany the memories giving readers a feel for the neighborhoods, history and diversity of St. Louis throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries. He advises, “For people who have an elderly relative, get the recorder out and record their memories. Most phones have a voice recorder built-in, so just talk to people.”

Those who were not raised in the greater Saint Louis area will likely find, as I did, that the book triggers many memories about the childhood relationships and events that helped shape one’s life. “Growing Up …” prompts “a walk down memory lane” and spurs readers to write down some formational stories for the next generation.

“Growing Up Saint Louis” is a quick and entertaining read published by Reedy Press.

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