Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything. -Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Day 34 thru Day 36

Day 34. In the morning David and I met Chris at the Old Dutch Hotel and had an interview over coffee, for her planned article in the Washington Missourian. She was smart and pleasant and it was a good meeting, also involving talk about the evolution of the book business, with which we had all been involved. After we left the hotel, Chris took some promo shots of us and we cast off and headed downriver. The article is pretty accurate and very well-written, and can be seen at www.emissourian.com, under the Features, People tab. I'm too apple-techno-challenged to be able to copy the link here, and I'm okay with that. (link to article)

We had a good run to St. Charles, MO where we were met by a new friend, Ted Meeker. I did my high school years at a nearby military academy, Western M. A. in Alton, IL. The school is long gone, but the alumni population is pretty close-knit and involved. You get that way when you spend four years studying and marching around and scrubbing floors and playing sports and living 24/7 side-by-side. A very fine experience.

So I never knew Ted, who graduated a few years after me, but he contacted me out of the blue and offered to help my trip any way he could. And he did. Like Kansas City and a lot of other places, the St. Louis area is absolutely devoid of any accommodation for pleasure boating on the rivers -- a huge problem for me needing to leave the boat safely for the weekend. Ted rented a boat trailer, hauled the boat out and parked it in his side yard, and took us to the boat shop to get my new prop, and to the rent-car place. What a guy.

Another WMA alum who has been a friend a long time, John Salter, got us a deal on a room at the prestigious Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis. John's take on my river-rat appearance: "about an hour shy of Homeless". Anyway, John and classmate Bill Kaune rounded up a dinner party of about eight WMA folks and John's wife on short notice to celebrate our passing through. Great fun. Okay here are some pictures.

Day 35. David went off sight-seeing for the day, and I went visiting. I saw my step-sister Christy for the first time in over fifty years, though in recent times we had been phoning and emailing. A very satisfying visit with her and her husband Jim.

I visited my dad's best friend in life, who worked with him for decades in the river business and succeeded my dad as president of Federal Barge Lines after my dad's death. Pete Fanchi is 99 years old and I have enjoyed seeing him and his wife Rose many times in recent years. I then had a good visit over dinner with Rose and their son Pete and daughter Karen and their spouses. After dinner I made my way back downtown to the MAC, taking an early-evening tour down memory lane, cruising a couple of neighborhoods where I had lived. It's always an odd exercise. Nothing has changed, but everything has changed. I don't know why I do that.

Day 36. David went off sightseeing again (getting an early jump on the line for going up in the Arch) and I picked up Ted Meeker and we went to Edwardsville, IL to see my good buddy Conrad Kirby. For quite a number of years Conrad has been the driving force behind a renewed interest in WMA by the far-flung alumni. He established a website, published a newsletter for several years, maintains the database of contact information, and is the information "hub", broadcasting information on alums that comes to him. Conrad has been slowed down by two bouts with cancer, so now I make a point to run out to E'ville whenever in the area. A nice visit with Conrad and Sharon, as always.

Ted and I ran back, picked up David, grabbed a pile of BBQ and beer, and made it back to his house in St. Charles in time for yet another WMA gathering. Most of the same guys, but also with my good friends Darryl and Fran Slater and Joe and Chris Lange. After a fine evening of catching up and encouraging each other to make the class of '63's fiftieth reunion next spring in New Mexico, we went our separate ways. Ted and his wife Geri had been impeccable hosts.

I totally turned my back on the WMA connection for the first 25 years after graduation (for no good reason, just lack of effort), but since the 25th reunion I have recognized that these guys are among my closest and most valued friends. They certainly gave David and me a memorable weekend in St. Louis.

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