Tuesday, December 31, 2019



We’re Wishing Everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Feliz Año Nuevo

Felice Anno Nuovo

Bonne Année


С Новым Годом

Frohes neues Jahr

Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku

Feliz Ano Novo

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr

May 2020 be a Positive Year for You and Yours…

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave and Laurie

Monday, December 30, 2019

Missouri History Museum

During our recent trip to St. Louis, we had some time between events to check out a local attraction that we hadn’t visited before.  So Laurie, her sister Bonnie and Bonnie’s husband Bill…with yours truly in tow…headed to St. Louis’ 1,300 acre Forest Park for a little historical exploration.

Forest Park’s world renowned St. Louis Zoo with its 1,700 animals offers free admission!  However, we’ve visited the Zoo several times in the past and we recently toured the St. Louis Art Museum.  Both of us have also attended “The Muny” (aka. the Municipal Opera).  Three out of 5 major attractions in Forest Park isn’t bad but that left 2 more for us to explore.

We decided that a visit to the Missouri Historical Museum was in order.  As it turned out, we still didn’t have enough time to see all of it…

The museum focuses on local and regional history.  The Missouri Historical Society was formed in 1866…with the goal of “saving from oblivion the early history of the city and state”.  The first Missouri History Museum opened in 1892.  With the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition/aka., the 1904 World’s Fair, funds became available that allowed for the construction of the Jefferson Memorial Building…which included space for the Missouri History Museum.  Roughly 230,000 people attended the opening in 1913!

Space for the museum was limited until 2000 when the Emerson Center Expansion was built on the reverse side of the Jefferson Memorial Building.  The view above shows the entrance into the expanded facility.  FYI…admission is free!

The Museum has an extensive Charles Lindbergh collection.  It includes two full-sized airplanes and almost 1,900 objects including personal items and gifts… One of the planes…perhaps this one…is a reproduction of the “Spirit of St. Louis” that was used in a Lindbergh biopic that stared Jimmy Stewart as Lindbergh.  An exhibit featuring Lindbergh’s trophies from his historic transatlantic flight brought this museum to prominence in the late 1920s…with 1,300,000 visitors in the first year!

Our visit coincided with the opening of a special exhibit…the Mighty Mississippi…which opened at the museum on 11/23/19.  This exhibit stresses the magnificent Mississippi River’s impact on the various cultures that have grown and prospered around it…and because of it. 

I thought that this ‘name exhibit’ was interesting.  With many names given the river, it appears that the ‘Mississippi’ got its name from its Ojibwe/Algonquin name…or perhaps it was the Dakota, Fox-Sauk, Choctaw or Miami-Illinois peoples.

Displays throughout the Mighty Mississippi exhibit are varied in size, culture and time period.  This particular exhibit includes a mix of items such as a shovel, sandbag and 6-pack of canned water from the 1993 floods, a 1930s - 1990s rain gauge and a slide rule, calculator used by a St. Louis University geologist to study man-made causes to the 1973 floods.

Note: In addition to the 29 locks and dams along the Upper Mississippi River, there are 190 underwater dams and about 3,500 levees that restrict the river’s path and help maintain a shipping channel.

This mobile construction is a bit depressing isn’t it?  This suspended sculpture is a painful display of man’s treatment of the river…and the world's environment as a whole.

This model towboat/pusher was built in 1951.  The real “Harry Dwyer” was built in 1949, the first of many larger more powerful tow boats needed after WWII to provide cargo transportation (especially fuel) for the growing economy. 

Today there are thousands of tow boats and exponentially more barges being used on the Mississippi and other rivers in the USA.  The largest tow company has 110 tugs and towboats with 4,000 barges.  The newest class of towboat/pusher is 180 feet long with 10,000 horsepower and it can move 40 barge tows…

This is an earthenware salt pan dating from between 1000 and 1700.  It was found in Kimmswick Missouri.  These pans were used by Native Americans to collect salt from evaporated spring water.  It was repaired with the straps sometime in the late 1800s or early 1900s.  Salt was an important trade item along the Mississippi River among the Mound Builders and later Native American groups.

This mural depicts the busy St. Louis waterfront in the mid-1800s.  As the “Gateway to the West”, the city is located just 15 miles downriver from where the Missouri River and Mississippi river merge.  The first steamboat arrived in July of 1817 and with the river traffic and westbound pioneers, the city soon became a boomtown.  By 1860, the city had a population of over 160,000.
By 1850, St. Louis had so much river traffic that it was the second largest port in the USA, with commercial tonnage only exceeded by New York City.  It was the largest city west of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.  On peak days, as many as 170 steamboats of all sizes and types lined the levee along the river.

It’s safe to say that 1849 wasn’t a good year for St. Louis.  In May, during the midst of a cholera epidemic that would eventually kill about 10% (4,500 people) of the population, a riverfront fire ignited that inflicted enormous damage.  A paddle wheel steamer caught fire and slowly drifted down the river spreading the fire to 22 other steamboats and other water craft.
The flames leaped from the burning steamboats to the buildings along the riverfront.  It kept spreading for more than 8 hours, destroying more than 9 city blocks along with the riverboats and barges along the levee.  Finally, in desperation, the volunteer fire department loaded 6 businesses in front of the fire with kegs of black powder, and blew them up depriving the fire of more structural fuel.

In addition to the river craft at the levee, a total of 430 buildings were destroyed.  Also, this was the first fire in US history where it is known that a firefighter was killed in the line of duty.  He was killed when spreading the black powder in one of the buildings to be blown up.

This is the wheelhouse from the Golden Eagle paddlewheel steamboat.  The wheelhouse dates back to ca. 1930 but the 175’ long boat itself was first launched in 1904 as the William Gage.  Originally the boat was designed for the lower Mississippi cotton trade.  Subsequently she was refurbished and rechristened as the Golden Eagle.

In May of 1947, after a second refurbishing, the Golden Eagle set out downriver from St. Louis en-route to Nashville Tennessee via the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers.  She didn’t get far.  Most of the 91 passengers and crew were sleeping when her steering froze up and she ran aground.  Everyone was evacuated safely but the ship was abandoned where she crashed.  The wheelhouse was subsequently salvaged and restored through the efforts of a St. Louis area teacher’s efforts.

To view a photo of the Golden Eagle after she ran aground, you can go to https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/a-look-back-golden-eagle-steamboat-sinks-in/article_e784b0b2-1f05-55d6-a6e8-49a54c66bbb2.html.  This steamboat was the last wooden hulled steamship to travel the Mississippi River.

This photo shows some of the furnishings one could find on an old time riverboat.  First class cabins were quite luxurious.  The ca. 1850 settee belonged to a southern Illinois riverboat captain.  Note the 1880 era reconstruction carpet bag.  Historically, a carpetbagger was a person from the northern states who went to the South after the Civil War to profit from the Reconstruction.  Many of these folks would be called ‘scammers’ in today’s terminology.

This is the roof bell from the steamboat Elvira.  This ship was built on the Ohio River in 1851 and it was named after the builder’s daughter.  Roof bells were important…mounted high on the superstructure and sounding 3-times whenever arriving at or departing from a port.

The Elvira plied the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers for more than 10 years, finally sinking while running supplies for the Union Army in 1863 during the Civil War.  Her active lifespan was more than twice the average for a river steamboat.  On average, these river steamboats only lasted about 5 years. Wooden hulls were breached, fires occurred and boiler explosions were common.

In the early days over 500 ships were lost due to boiler explosions alone.  More than 6,000 people died in riverboat mishaps.  The boiler explosions and fire aboard the riverboat Sultana near Memphis Tennessee in 1865, led to at least 1,192 deaths and it’s considered the worst maritime disaster in US history.  Mark Twain’s (Samuel Clemens’) brother died as the result of a riverboat boiler explosion…

This is a Metis hide coat.  This quill-embroidered animal hide coat was owned by a member of the Chouteau family.  Pierre Chouteau Jr. was the Manager of the Western Department of the American Fur Company and he may have acquired it during his travels.  The Metis designation indicates people of mixed heritage…combining European styles with the design and technique of the indigenous peoples, resulting in functional outdoor wear.

FYI…the Chouteau family was a wealthy St. Louis fur trading family.  Pierre’s father Jean Pierre, was one of the area’s first settlers as well as part of the early French elite.  Pierre Jr. pioneered the use of steamboats on the Mississippi River.  Later he successfully invested in railroads and mining.  Pierre South Dakota is named for him. 

These 2 items are whelk (marine snail) shell gorgets, archaeological finds from the mound-building Native American civilization that flourished throughout the area from roughly 800 until 1600.  Termed the Mississippian culture or Mound-Builders, almost all dated sites for this culture predate ca. 1540 when Hernando de Soto explored the area.

FYI…gorget is from the French with gorge meaning throat.  Sometimes it has been a protective item for the throat…such as a steel or leather collar or plate armor, or it can be purely ornamental jewelry as worn by various societies throughout history.

This large mural depicts a possible scene showing the mound-builders/Mississippian culture.  The most distinct characteristic of this culture are indeed the ceremonial mounds they left behind.  Cahokia Illinois, right across the Mississippi from St. Louis, includes one of the very largest of these structures at its center.

At its peak ca. 1100, Cahokia covered about 6 square miles and included roughly 120 earthen mounds varying is size, shape and function.  Cahokia’s population may have briefly been greater than London England at that time.  It was the largest and most influential urban settlement of the Mississippian culture.

Today, Cahokia Mounds is a National Historic Landmark and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Want to visit the most important pre-Columbian archaeological site north of Mexico City?  Learn more at https://cahokiamounds.org/.

Mississippian culture collapsed due to the various diseases introduced by Europeans.  The Native Peoples had no resistance to measles or smallpox and the resulting epidemics killed so many people that the social order and political structures were permanently disrupted.  To learn more about this culture, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippian_culture.

Our next stop at the Missouri History Museum was across the hall at the Pulitzer Prize Photograph special exhibit featuring photos from the St. Louis Post Dispatch newspaper. (I inserted ‘newspaper’ for the benefit of younger folks who never have looked at one)

On tour from its home in Washington D.C., this exhibit showcases prize-winning photos taken since 1941.   Those photos are interspersed with important images from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the exhibit will be at the museum until January 20, 2020.

To quote the museum’s director of exhibitions, “these photos capture the absolute best of humanity, but they also capture the absolute worst”.  I chose not to include the absolute worst in this post… Man’s inhumanity to man can be pretty depressing.

This first photo is truly famous and heroic too.  The “Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima” from WWII was taken in 1945 by Associated Press Photographer Joe Rosenthal. 

This was the first photo to win a Pulitzer Prize.  Milton Brooks for the Detroit News captured this scene during a massive strike at Ford Motor’s River Rouge Plant.  A strikebreaker was apparently arguing with some striking workers and those workers began beating the man up with their fists and clubs.  Hired thugs were also brought in during this dispute… Brooks took one shot and then hid his camera out of fear that the mob would destroy it.

Now this was one of the ‘fun photos’ on exhibit.  Taken by J.B. Forbes in 1982, “Booth Buddies” features competing baseball announcers, Harry Carey (Chicago Cubs) and Jack Buck (St. Louis Cardinals), as they were clowning around in the KMOX broadcast booth.  

Jack Buck actually worked with Carey when Carey was the Cardinals announcer, taking over from Harry when he moved to the Chicago Cubs.  Buck broadcasted for the Cardinals from 1954 until 2000.  Carey put in 25 years with the Cardinals and another 16 with the Cubs, but during his long career he also covered the St. Louis Browns, the Oakland Athletics and the Chicago White Sox.  Holy Cow, Harry!

Onto the more negative side of the exhibit, this photo is titled “Inside a Sniper’s Nest”.  It was taken in 2013 by Javier Manzano for Agence France-Presse and it is focused on 2 Syrian rebel snipers looking for targets.  With bullets flying and snipers on both sides of this conflict, it had to be a tense time for the photographer...and the snipers.  Note the bullet/shell holes in the wall!

Another negative photo from our world’s recent past.  Tyler Hicks, a photographer for the New York Times took this photo of a terrified woman and her child seeking shelter during the Kenya Mall Massacre in September of 2014.  Hicks had been running errands but hearing there was trouble at the mall he ran in and spotted this scene on the level below him.  Bodies were lying near the woman and child.  The authorities threw Hicks out of the mall right after he took the photo.  At least 67 people were killed in this terrorist attack.  The siege continued for 4 days…

Photos do speak louder than words… Many historic photos in the exhibit feature starvation, brutality, self-immolation and assassination while others feature hope and positive actions.

This is the portion of the Missouri History Museum that includes the original structure…the Jefferson Memorial.  It was the first national monument to President Thomas Jefferson that commemorated his role in completing the Louisiana Purchase.  The purchase of this territory from France basically doubled the size of the United States…of course disregarding any rights to the land by Native Americans.

As stated in the beginning, this building was completed for the 1904 World’s Fair/Louisiana Purchase Exposition.  The western wing of the building houses the Jefferson Gallery and the Lopata World’s Fair Commemorative Gallery, both of which are dedicated to the Exposition.  The elaborate plasterwork, art-nouveau ceiling panels, World’s Fair Murals and Jefferson’s 9 foot tall statue await the visitor.  They await us too as we ran out of time!  We’ll be back!

To learn more and to plan a visit to the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis’ Forest Park, go to https://mohistory.org/museum.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and taking the tour with us!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, December 27, 2019

Walnut Grill – Family Gathering

As usual when we visit St. Louis Missouri, especially during the Holidays, we have a family gathering at a local restaurant.  Sometimes it involves 20 or more family members of all ages.  It all depends on timing and who’s doing what already.  Over this past Thanksgiving Holiday, only 7 of us met for dinner and family updates…

Laurie’s sister Bonnie picked the Walnut Grill in Sunset Hills for our meeting site.  She told us that the food was good and the prices reasonable…plus it was well located for all attendees.

(Note the outdoor dining patio for fair weather dining)

Walnut Grill is a small chain of family style restaurants based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.  They have 3 locations in the St. Louis area plus 4 others around Pittsburgh.

At this time of the year, it was all about dining indoors.  Walnut Grill has a nice U shaped bar with several obligatory TVs for sports fans.  For that matter, TVs doted the walls throughout that portion of the restaurant.  Overall, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming and service was above average.

I’ve published many photos of Bonnie and Bill as well as of Laurie and yours truly…so I skipped us for this post. (In any case, Bill had to work and missed the dinner)

Cousin Johnny and his wife Rose joined us for the evening.  Johnny’s dad’s brother (Bob) married Laurie’s mom (Doris) and Laurie’s dad’s brother (John) married Laurie’s mom’s sister (Lois)…thus creating a plethora of double cousins! (Kind of makes my head spin!)

This is Laurie and Bonnie’s sister Karole and her husband Bob.  They rarely miss one of our gatherings!  Laurie is the only sister that has left the St. Louis area…all because she married some old guy who had a retailing career.

So…how was the food at Walnut Grill?

The Roasted Beet Salad was a popular choice for the ladies. ($4.00 with an entrée) This salad was assembled using field greens, fresh roasted beets, caramelized walnuts and gorgonzola cheese topped with an herb balsamic vinaigrette.  If I understand the menu correctly, a small Roasted Beet Salad ordered on its own would cost $7.00 and a large dinner salad would be $10.25.

Everyone who had a Roasted Beet Salad really enjoyed it!

A couple of us chose a Caesar Parmesan Salad for our side with our entrée. ($3.00) It was the right size and it was quite tasty… This salad is available in 2 sizes as a stand-alone item…$6.50 small and $10.25 large.

At least 2 of the ladies at the table paired their Roasted Beet Salads with this big bowl of very flavorful Lobster Bisque. ($8.00) They treated their soup as their entrée for the meal.

In addition to my extra side, the Caesar Salad, I ordered the Soup du Jour which was a very nice large cup of Broccoli Cheese Soup.

Entrees at Walnut Grill are served with a choice of a side and a seasonal vegetable du jour.  Pasta entrees are served with a choice of a Garden Salad, Caesar Salad or Soup du Jour.

For my entrée, I ordered the Shrimp Scampi…shrimp with vermicelli pasta, lemon-garlic scampi sauce and garlic-basil tomatoes. ($18.75) This was a very satisfying bowl of comfort food.  As you can see, there were lots of shrimp with the pasta!

The sisters’ cousin Johnny opted for the shaved Prime Rib Sandwich with French dip sauce, hot pepper rings, mushrooms, and provolone cheese on a French baguette. ($13.50) Sandwiches include a side too and Johnny chose a baked potato.  He really enjoyed his dinner!

Bob and Karole ordered identical meals…the Yankee Pot Roast. ($12.25) The pot roast is braised for 24-hours and served with baby carrots, celery and onions in a nice brown sauce.  They were a couple of happy diners!

The pricing at Walnut Kitchen is definitely wallet friendly and the serving sizes are more than reasonable.  Everyone enjoyed their meals and we had a great time catching up too.

FYI, the Walnut Kitchen in Sunset Hills/St. Louis is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The menu is fairly imaginative with items like Korean BBQ Bowls, Greek Pasta, Thai Pork Mac ‘N Cheese, a Blackened Salmon BLT with candied bacon, Lettuce Wraps, Fried Brussel Sprouts and more.

The Sunset Hills Walnut Kitchen restaurant is located at 10797 Sunset Hills Plaza in St. Louis Missouri.  Phone: 314-858-9392.  The company’s website is at https://eatwalnut.com/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


As 2019 comes to a close and the Holidays are upon us, we are wishing that everyone has a joyful Christmas!  Whatever wondrous holiday you celebrate at this time of the year, we hope that it is a happy and memorable time for you and yours…

This is our Christmas tree…simple and cheerful.

Wishing the best for ya'll from Tennessee...

Take Care,

Big Daddy Dave and Laurie

Monday, December 23, 2019

Pauses That Refreshed…

During the time we spent in the St. Louis Missouri area over the Thanksgiving week, there were instances where we stopped and took a break…thankfully, as in both cases shown below, Laurie and Bonnie were in the ‘shopping mode’.

Our first refreshing pause was in the scenic old town of Kimmswick Missouri where shopping rules!

Our break in shopping happened at The Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery.  It’s located in a building that was constructed ca. 1900.  This was Ma Green’s Tavern until the 1950s and it was restored in the 1970s. 

The Blue Owl’s owner is Mary Hostetter.  She had built up a home based baking business when she met with Lucianna Ross (a 7-UP heiress/the matriarch of Kimmswick) and was convinced to open this restaurant and bakery.  Mrs. Hostetter opened her business in the late summer of 1985…and it’s still going strong 30 plus years later!

The interior of The Blue Owl is decorated in thoughtful quaint country décor.  Beadboard ceilings in the enclosed porch dining area, uneven old wood floors throughout and railroad car wood siding on the walls elsewhere are all part of the charm of the place.  Add in the lace curtains and the waitresses dressed in pinafores…and the old time atmosphere is firmly in place.  I noticed that that waitress didn't look to happy with my picture taking...

Then there are the pastries, candies and more!  I took several photos of the display cases near the entrance.  Luscious looking pies and cookies certainly grabbed my attention.  The Blue Owl’s award winning “Levee-High Caramel Apple Pecan Pie” is just one example of their award winning pie selection. (It was named after the Mississippi River flood of 1993) Cream pies are a specialty and they include banana cream, chocolate cream, coconut cream, lemon meringue and white chocolate banana cream.  A number of award winning fruit pies are also popular.

I had to include a photo of Laurie and Bonnie…the sisters…as they perused The Blue Owl’s menu.  They showed great restraint, ordering only Irish Coffees for their mid-day break. ($6.00)

The menu looked great and so did the food that the waitresses delivered to nearby tables.  The specials for the day were 3 of my favorites…Chicken Fried Steak, Chicken and Dumplings and Southern Fried Chicken.  It was tough but I decided that I had to follow the example set by the ladies.

Well…I didn’t completely follow their lead!  How could I, a real pie loving red blooded mid-western fella, skip out without tasting something other than my Irish Coffee?  So, I did my thing…ordering a nice slice of that White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie. ($5.95) It was very good!

FYI, The Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery is located at 6112 2nd Street in Kimmswick Missouri.  Phone: 636-464-3128.  Their website is found at: https://theblueowl.com/.

Our next shopping excursion took to downtown Kirkwood Missouri.  I mostly sat on benches outside stores while the ladies inspected the available merchandise.  I did strike up a nice conversation with an older (mid-80’s) gentleman who sought the same shopping refuge as I did.  We had a nice view of the big Christmas tree lot right across the street.  From my viewpoint, it was great to talk to someone quite a bit older than I am!  Its becoming a rarer experience...   

Then there is this quirky sculpture that we contemplated.  It’s entitled “Three Stacked Chairs” and it sits in the median of Kirkwood’s Argonne Drive.  It’s the creation of artist Brother Mel Meyer.  It was completed in 1996 and it was installed here in 2007.  Brother Mel was a Marianist monk (1928 – 2013) who created an estimated 10,000 pieces of art over his lifetime.

Luckily for me, we got to Kirkwood a little late and the stores began closing up.  It was too early to meet Bonnie’s husband Bill for dinner, so we opted for a bit of light refreshment at Billie G’s on the same strip as most of the stores.  Laurie and I had eaten dinner here with her great niece Sarah, a few years earlier and we’d enjoyed our meal here.

No dining room for us this time though…snacks and drinks only.  So we got a table in the bar area where the pre-holiday crowd was having a good time.  Out of courtesy, I didn’t take photos of one group next to us that was really having a good time! 

Yes…we did imbibe in a couple of adult beverages.  There were 2 Schlafly Pale Ales ($5.50 each), a Blue Moon draft ($6.00) and Laurie went with her standby adult beverage, a vodka and tonic tall with 2 lime slices. ($5.50)

For our early appetizer, we wanted something that was fairly light as we were meeting Bill for dinner a bit later.  As a consequence, the charcuterie/Italian Antipasto Board ($18.99) made perfect sense.  

It was all good…grapes, olives, melon slices, 4 different cheeses and 3 different types of cured meat.  We did have to request a few more bread rounds just to finish everything off… We agreed that the need for more bread or crackers is almost universal with any charcuterie tray.  It’s like…rationed!  Too bad that Bill missed the appetizer…

Billie G’s in Kirkwood Missouri is located at 131 West Argonne Drive.  Phone: 314-984-8000.  Website: http://billygskirkwood.com/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave