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In the summer of 1948 I arrived at a small mining town on the shores of Lake Superior. Like every other human concerning the experience of being born, I have no memory of this arrival; but the place of my birth is imprinted on me, no matter where else I go and whatever memories I make.
I do remember arriving in St. Louis in 1987, not quite realizing that, for the next twenty years and more, this wonderful and often troubled city would leave its own indelible marks on me as no other place had done. Tinged by the red ore dust of the Michigan mines, I’m also colored with the coal dust and the brick residue of St. Louis’ industrial past. I am washed by the powerful waters of the Mississippi. I have added that pungent odor of brewery hops to my list of evocative odors. Clouds of chrysanthemums that grace our city’s autumn are sights that have seeped into my soul. Yet by some standards I’m a newcomer.
“One side of my ancestors arrived right after the Civil War,” a colleague remarked, “but the Irish side came here to escape the potato famine of the 1840s.” Others can trace their lineage back to our French Creole founders or even to the native peoples who preceded them. But this place belongs to all of us, and we belong to this place.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Bob Archibald is the President of the Missouri Historical Society