The Flynn Park Phantoms Have Lost Chris Reedy

The Flynn Park Phantoms Soccer Team – circa 1979

We’ve lost another kid from this circa 1979 Flynn Park soccer team photo.  Christian Reedy passed away in St. Louis this week. I’m still in shock. But here are some thoughts.

Before anything else, I send my condolences to all of the Reedys in St. Louis and all the members of his family that are outside of the bi-state area. If you need me during this time…let me know…you know how to get in touch.

Up front, I know I hadn’t seen Chris in person since we saw each other at a gathering at Blueberry Hill in The Loop after the passing of another one of our teammates in this picture, Darren Valeriote, in 2016. But I knew about him through his sister, Cara Reedy in NYC, and his dad, Mr. Reedy, when I’d run into him at Schnucks. (BTW, even though I’m more than 50 now, “Mr.” IS his first name forever in my book, and not “Sidney”… just like Chris’ mom’s first name is “Mrs.” and not “Judith” like Facebook insists.)

Even though Chris and I really didn’t stay in touch much after our 8th grade indoor soccer team and he left the U. City School District, Chris and his family was, and always will be, completely part of the origin story that I tell myself and others about growing up in my hometown…and for that, I’m grateful. 

I guess I met Chris back in kindergarten when I was sent all the way to the other side of University City to intentionally integrate Flynn Park Elementary School in 1975-76. The Reedys lived near Flynn, so it was their neighborhood school. At the time, I lived around the corner from Daniel Boone, all the way on the other side of town.  But since my mom was an educator in the City of St. Louis, and Daniel Boone only had an interim principal, she knew that school at that time wasn’t ideal. Fast forward, and someone on the school board heard about this. Long story short, I ended up being placed at Flynn.  

During my six years at the school, I think there were somewhere around 300 kids in the regular part of the school, but there were no more than about 8 Black kids there at any time. And from my certainly hazy memory, the 4 families were the Mutharikas (including Moyenda), the Harrises (including Darold and Darwin), the Milams (myself and my younger sister Jan), and the Reedys. But Chris and I were the only two Black kids in our grade.  I don’t know that we were ever in the same classroom (usually there were at least 2 classes in the same grade), but we’d always see each other at recess and lunch and the other times when all the kids of the same grade were together.  And my sister and I certainly spent time playing and being at the Reedy house. I think it felt to me like we were just hanging out with some cousins. And Cara, to this day, still ALLEGES that I broke some of her toys. (When she produces some 4k iPhone video surveillance footage of said toys being broken by me in ~1978, I will gladly and publicly apologize to her. Short of that, I choose to believe that I am innocent of all charges. #OlderSiblingPrivilege)

But like I said, I was sent there with the particular point to try to get further integration started, while all the other Black families lived in the school’s registration zone. Now, this was no Little Rock Nine, Central High School situation for me by any means. There was no National Guard. We didn’t run a gauntlet of frothing racists just to enter the school. There was no protesting or news coverage.  There wasn’t much hubbub. In fact, the grand majority of the kids and families in my same grade were great. We’d play together, go to each others houses, ride bikes, go to birthday parties…all that. (Coincidentally, I saw the parents of one of my classmates from back there less than a week ago as they were leaving Starbucks. We talked for a while and took pictures.)

But let’s not forget, this was still America, and it was still the 70s. And it was less than 10 years since open housing came to University City (the first in the state of Missouri). So there were still some parents (and maybe teachers too) that were “less than happy” that there were Black kids showing up and they certainly infected their kids with their toxic beliefs. For some reason, it seemed like the worst of those kids would decide to say stuff either in the boys’ bathroom or on the playground.  I can still hear in my head to this day the sing-song taunting from some young clown in a crowd if there was any sort of interracial kid tension or physical conflict going on, “It’s a fight; it’s a fight; it’s a n****r and a white!” #Charming 

These particular incidents weren’t frequent, but they did happen. And I know that Chris had to fight more than I did, by far. But we were, like every one else, different people. We dealt with situations in slightly different ways AND we found ourselves meshing with other kids on different levels and in different ways. I tended to just walk away from the unnamed idiots and never deal with them again, where Chris would be more “hands on” with his reactions.  And since we were in different classes most of the time, I’d mostly hear about Chris’ run-ins after the fact, and mostly via a third party.  I don’t remember us two talking about these things much directly, but we definitely knew that we both had them going on. We were little kids, remember. But I certainly believed what Chris had to say when we did mention it, and I never blamed him for reacting the way he did.

But I chose this way more pleasant picture to represent the time that Chris and I did spend together because, beginning in second grade, the soccer field was the place that we absolutely interacted the most (other than, allegedly, against Cara’s toys). I think that for the whole run of our team being together (outdoor soccer from 2nd to 5th grade and indoor soccer from 6th through 8th grade), it was either Chris or I that scored the most goals on the team.  We weren’t the fastest kids (early days, Grant Walkup (not pictured) was the fastest by far), but we did put the ball through the posts more than anyone else. In our younger years for several seasons, I think I scored just barely more than Chris and I remember keeping a tally sheet on the door of my room with the goal count of Chris and I for the year.  But as we got older and my “Super Toe” days waned, Chris would start to eek out more goals. And while I leaned in more toward my dorky/space/science interests late in middle school, Chris got better and better at soccer, and went on to be REALLY good!

But before we stopped being on the same team and in the same school district once I continued on to U. City High, we both spent so much time on the team loving our roles. We both competed hard. We needed to beat our Delmar-Harvard rivals more than anyone else. We LOVED it when we got to play night games under the lights at Heman Park. We couldn’t have been happier when we actually got to play one of our indoor games at The Checkerdome Arena and then watch the St. Louis Steamers professional MISL team play after us and meet Carl Rose and Slobo Ilijevski. And we always looked forward to the end-of-the-season pizza parties at Mama Talayna’s or Empanadas.  

We did that thing then, we did it well, and we handled our business…both at school and on the soccer pitch.

Flynn Park Phantoms End of Year Party/Photo at Empanadas in the Central West End (circa 1982)

Again, after soccer in the early 80s, we didn’t see each other much. But, in my mind, the die had been cast. Chris and the Reedys felt like extended family members. Our families knew each other, and when we did see each other, it was like hanging with cousins.  And in my New York City years, I was in The City at the same time as Cara. I certainly feel like I’d mentally moved on from the “she-said-I-broke-her-toys” older brother’s friend role to the role of “mess-with-her-and-there-will-be-severe-consequences” older brother’s friend role with her. (Not that Cara can’t fight for her self BY A LONG SHOT. There’s way more fight in her than in most humans.  But she already knows IF she does need it….). 

But to know now that Chris is no longer with us and gone too soon is just a stunner.  It hits at my foundation. It churns up all sorts of elemental memories and feelings. It makes me feel…well…not great at all…just like all throughout this pandemic. I’ve had 5 family deaths happen during this last 18 months (not all due to COVID), and I might as well add Chris’ passing to the list. Because in the same way that the aunts and uncles that have gone on in the last year and a half weren’t a constant, everyday physical presence in my life, they were always there…and so was Chris.

Rest easy, Chris. You are and will be missed. 

Five Days On – University City April 2014 Tornado (1), University City Trees And Homes (0)

Image

This old tree at the intersection of McKnight Road and Spoon Drive, the epicenter of the tornado destruction in the early morning hours of April 3, 2014, is still laying in its twisted state 5 days later on the western edge of the Ruth Park public golf course.

(All Photography © Rod Milam)

Five days after the rude 5:26am wake up call that the western section of University City, Missouri received in the form of an F1 tornado, there are still visible and raw signs of the power of the relatively “weak” twister.

Image

Street signs, utility poles, and fully toppled old growth trees litter the easements and sidewalks of the recently reopened main drag of McKnight Road.  Demolition teams and tree cutting services also dot the neighborhood and Ruth Park public golf course along with uprooted tree stumps as clean up continues nearly a full week after the series of storms last week that brought a double punch of grape-sized hail and tornadic conditions within the span of 16 hours.

ImageImageImageImageImage

And while there was, thankfully, no loss of life or serious personal injury as a result of the rough start to spring, the trail of crushed cars, shingle-less roofs, and damaged or condemned homes still hurt those that survived the initial touchdown path of the 1/2 mile long trail that the tornado blazed.

ImageImageImageImage

Image

Caution indeed….

April Roars In For The City Of Lions

Comp of hail storm and tornado damage.

(l) A University City neighborhood during a hail storm at about 1:30pm on April 2, 2014, and (r) the aftermath of a probable tornado that passed through U. City in a different section of town at 5:20am on April 3rd.

The weather in March of 2014 in St. Louis/U. City may have come in like a lion and gone out like a lamb, but April has shown that it refuses to be upstaged in the drama department by its predecessor on the calendar.

On Tuesday afternoon, April 2, 2014 at about 1:30 a fairly strong, but typical, thunderstorm was passing over University City.  There didn’t seem to be any excessive wind.  But the large falling rain drops slowly converted into larger, grape-sized hail stones that came pelting down on the middle third of the city and left a layer what looked like snow blobs on every flat surface.  (Click here to see the hail storm in action.)

This hailstorm was part of a series of other storms that hit in the region. The video I posted was interesting enough that both ABC’s and NBC’s evening news programs wanted to use the video for their broadcasts.

ABC Evening News Featured Video

The ABC Evening News With Diane Sawyer used the linked video to talk about this and the other storms that passed through the Midwest on the anniversary of the largest recorded outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded.

Then, as if the dinged cars, bruised tree buds, and gumball (sweetgum) cull wasn’t messy enough as a result of that storm, only 16 hours later at about 5:30am on Thursday, April 3rd while I was working a graveyard shift in Earth City, my father reported hearing the tell-tale “freight train” sound during another round of thunderstorms passing through U. City.  Sure enough, given the path of downed trees, shingle deprived roofs, and toppled power lines, it appears as though a low-grade tornado made its way through town.

Possible Tornado Path

This is the path of the twister that I estimate based on the number of downed trees and level of detritus I observed as dawn broke.

By the time I made my way back east to town, the University City police had shut down McKnight road from one end of Ruth Park to the other because of a number completely uprooted trees and telephone polls.

Image

These city worker trucks are about a block away from the biggest damage, but this street suffered quite a bit as well.

Fortunately, it appears that the initial touchdown hit over the town’s public golf course (Ruth Park) which is only permanently populated by rabbits and squirrels in the pre-dawn hours and was certainly empty of the local duffers that may have been out during daylight hours on a nicer day.

Image

The last thing that these felled old evergreens gave the city was a distinct aroma of pine from their abrupt and harsh last nights sleep on Groby Road.

Moving southeast away from Ruth Park, there was more evidence to be found about the path of the twister.

Image

No one in this house off of Old Bonhomme Road was reported as injured. Certainly they’ll have to be on the phone to both their home and auto insurance companies later on today.

Then even further southeast on Gannon Avenue, a sight that I’ve never seen went by…a Metro (Bi-State) bus was diverted from Delmar Boulevard down this damaged street because a big section of Delmar was shut down because of more downed trees and a broken gas main.

Image

This big bus had to bob and weave its way down this tiny side street since I didn’t fair much better than the main drag that it usually travels.

At the time of this post, I’ve seen no official word of whether or not this was officially a tornado nor any word on what strength the twister may have been.  Having seen much worse post tornado damage in the past, I guess that this was a low-level one at best, maybe an F0 or F1 on the Fujita Scale.  Most importantly, it doesn’t appear as though anyone was hurt.  But even if this wasn’t the strongest tornado to have ever hit this area of St. Louis, it was bad enough for those that it hit directly.  More news will certainly come out in the coming hours.  (Hopefully, most of it benign. )

KWMU’s Bob McCabe Leaving The Control Booth After 20+ Years

Image

Bob McCabe looking pensive, knowledgeable, relaxed, and totally at home in “air control” at the University of Missouri St. Louis studios of KWMU in February of 2010.

For morning listeners of public radio in St. Louis over the past 20+ years, this is the face to put to the voice and name of Bob McCabe that you’ve been waking up to and driving to work to while listening to either the news or classical music.  I shot this picture when I was back in St. Louis in 2010 to record and live stream St. Louis local, fellow U. City alum,  and world renowned jazz pianist Peter Martin in his inaugural Peter Martin Music: Live! series with guest Diane Reeves.  Peter was at KWMU to do and interview for Cityscape, and I had a quick bit of time to talk to Bob and catch up with him between breaks in programming.

I had the pleasure to not only work with “Bob” when I was an intern and an employee on the air at KWMU from 1992 through 2000, but I also knew “Mr. McCabe” when he was my home room teacher during my senior year of high school at University City Senior High.  He was an English teacher at the high school for years and my guess is that most radio listeners didn’t know that.

And on top of that, before I re-met Bob as a colleague and not a student, I found out that he spent 11 years working in the Catholic ministry and time singing and recording with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus for two seasons, and working in other areas of St. Louis theater community.  And my guess is that most radio listeners didn’t know that either.

In spite of our completely goofy relationship that we ended up having when the “on-air” light went off in the studio, I always went away impressed with the rich and diverse life that Bob insisted on carving out for himself.  I used him as one of my examples of someone that was not afraid to follow a path that may seem very different and disparate to others, but right for himself.  This is an aspiration I think I have been able to mainly achieve, especially since I can count a full 5 different careers that I’ve had already. (I think I’ve gone a bit overboard on that diversity thing.)

So with a bit of a sad heart and a hat tip for inspiration, I wish both “Bob” and “Mr. McCabe” the best in his retirement from one of his many careers, and I know that I’ll miss hearing his voice from half way across the country in New York City online.  I don’t know what it is about us St. Louisians and our radio hosts, but I have no one I’d rather listen to during morning drive than Bob on my iPhone 1000 miles away.  I still  wish that he wouldn’t leave the air, but he’s going to do what he wants, so that’s going to be good enough for me.

So after the end of June, 90.7FM in St. Louis won’t be the same, and neither shall I.  Thanks, Bob!  Thanks for everything!