Monday, May 12, 2008

A new project for Charlie Brennan?

When it comes to promoting the good things about St. Louis, KMOX's Charlie Brennan is a one-man PR machine. The historic red line downtown, books about St. Louis, and plaques like the one of Mr. and Mrs. Dred Scott in front of the Old Court House are just a few of things he's done to help tell the story of St. Louis.

We come to depend on people like Charlie Brennan to get the word out about this place. After all, we're not a very self-promoting sort of people. We tend to be humble, low-key, self-deprecating, and modest. And it's too bad really. There really are a lot of good things to tout about St. Louis. Like Forest Park.

The transformation of Forest Park is nothing short of amazing. It has gone from a tired, scary for some, expanse of green space - albeit dotted with interesting attractions - to a seamless place of beauty and serenity. At the heart of it all is the Grand Basin at the foot of Art Hill.

When you're standing there, in front of the Grand Basin, you're in the exact spot where the 1904 World's Fair took place. But would you ever know it? What about out of towners? Would they? They've possibly heard of the 1904 World's Fair (it's one of the few things we do talk about...). So they might know the Fair happened in Forest Park. But the park is so big, would they know where in the park the Fair was held? Probably not.

Is there a marker, perhaps a bronze relief with an image of the Fair, mounted atop a brick or stone pedestal, describing the Fair? Wouldn't something like that be a nice addition to the promenade that runs along the edge of the Grand Basin, from where you can look across the water, to Art Hill, and upward to the Art Museum?

"....Here in the summer of 1904, St. Louis staged the 1904 World's Fair. This Grand Basin and the Art Museum on top of Art Hill are the only remaining landmarks from the Fair. The Fair ran from April to December of 1904, and was the first place...." etc. For a town so proud of its World's Fair, I can't think of a historical marker in Forest Park memorializing it. Is there one?

If not, wouldn't that be an ideal project for Charlie Brennan? After all, isn't he our town's number one historical and civic ambassador? Maybe so, but the idea of electing Charlie Brennan to do the work is symptomatic of another St. Louis trait: We like other people to do things for us.

The blogosphere is a good place to see lots of people calling out other people to do things. But beyond the blogs, overall, it's part of how we are. We find problems. We cite them. Then we expect others to take responsibility. Maybe it's all part of human nature.

Volunteering others to do work is cheap talk. Ideas are free. Everyone has them. Accomplishing stuff takes time, resources, and commitment. That's where we are faced with choices.

Do you choose to make a difference? Where do you see the priorities for our time, resources and commitment?


Anonymous said...

This would be something that could be pursued by the Metropolis organization (or its brethren), Landmarks Association, or Missouri Historical Society. It's a great idea, but please, no red line in Forest Park!

Anonymous said...

Better than any marker would be to set policy which supports the natural beauty and pleasantries. First priority should be eliminating all street parking. Areas where cars do park should be metered and these revenues should go directly to park preservation and enhancement.

Often half of the vehicles in the park are from out of state and these patrons should contribute to keep the park well preserved. Respect comes first and signs alone are insufficient.

GMichaud said...

After Vietnam, stationed in Hawaii and finally out of the Army, as an architecture student I got involved with communists working in communities around Honolulu.
I was on the fringe, a student, but I was amazed to see how in some ways democracy fared better using some of their techniques than what I was used to. Leadership and the spokesman rotated around the community group on a regular basis, giving everyone a stake in the outcome.
In America (Hawaii is not really part of America), such actions always fall to certain individuals, leaving everyone to fend for themselves rather than develop their own abilities, thus the leader begins to amass all resources for themselves.
One old time communist told me "you should shot idea bullets at the people"
It always stuck with me. Ideas are everything. Making things happen is important, but it is an elite establishment that controls the resources for their benefit so that nothing real is likely to happen.
Leadership in America is poor and nonexistent. Even in the face of a serious energy crisis, out of the world crime rates and war without end there are no real ideas.

The lack of ideas penetrates ST. Louis.
I have always felt as I walk around the city and see so much undone work there is no reason for unemployment. There are so many opportunities for sculpture, carving, painting and general art up and above mere maintenance needs of the city that everyone should always have work. Instead, all of the resources that would finance those activities are applied elsewhere in American society.

The resources are controlled by a few, circumventing all creativity and ideas.

We need more ideas. As far as I can see the methodology to solve wide ranging problems is not in place. Of course ideas require an open mind. Our society has a decidedly closed mind, designed primarily to benefit a few close insiders.
Ball Park Village and Centene, St. Louis Centre and Pyramid companies are examples of failed policy decisions. Who says that the giveaway to Paul McKee is not going to collapse for the northside?

Not matter what, it is a closed process and too many ideas certainly is not the problem.

Anonymous said...

This sounds great to me. Preserving Missouri/St. Louis history is a very important topic to me. Actually, I, along with a few friends just passed a bill through the Missouri legislature designating the ice cream cone as the Missouri state dessert. One of our main reasons was that the ice cream cone made its world debut at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. We have also been hoping for a monument in Forest Park to commerate the World's Fair and the debut of the ice cream cone.

Recently, I was on Mr. Brennan's show about the ice cream cone bill during which he mentioned that he may be able to help us with this should the bill pass. Hopefully this can be a community wide project to memorialize our history- an effort that we can all contribute to. Count me in!


Anonymous said...


Really like this idea. Matter of fact, there is a lack of first class signage throughout the Park.

Keep those ideas coming!

Bill Burnes