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A Gateway to the Sixties

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Forty-seven years ago, President-elect John F. Kennedy was considering cabinet members, the Dodgers manager got a new contract, and K's Sporting Goods in St. Louis had a sale on B-B guns. These are just some of the everyday facts reporter Tom Weber discovered when he found newspapers from December 1960 under his carpet.

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by Tom Weber

Forty-seven years ago this weekend, President-elect John F. Kennedy was thinking of possible Cabinet members; Walter Alston got another contract to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers; and K's Sporting Goods in St. Louis had a sale on BB guns (just $10.95).

That's not exactly common knowledge, unless you're, well, me.

When I bought my house nearly three years ago, I did so knowing that the carpet had to go. It's not that I hate puke green as a color, it's just that - no, actually I do hate puke green as a color.

It's worn down, and when you rip it up, you to smell 47 years of dust and dirt. It's like sneaker bottoms, spilled wine, and cat vomit.

The only reason I know the carpet is exactly 47 years old is because, for some reason, the last owners put entire pages of newspaper between the carpet and hardwood floor when they installed it. It's the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch" from December 1-2, 1960, to be exact, which is awesome!

Now I can stop ripping up carpet and read gossip columns!

One of them reads: "Wesley and Catherine Wedemeyer recently flew to New York to visit their son, Dennis, who's a freshman at Princeton."

Would someone tell me what the heck that is doing in a newspaper? And who the heck cares?

I had to find Denny Wedemeyer, the son, to find out. "They used to do a lot more about what people are up to than they do now," he noted. "They had a whole section about who's going where, but now I don't think they care too much about it, but that's all right."

Denny was thrilled to hear about the article; he didn't know it existed because he was in school at the time.

"If it was 1960 I would have just started in school; I think they came up for Thanksgiving," he recalled. "They would just come up about once a year and my sister was living out east, so we'd all gather - probably in Rhode Island, which is where she lived."

When I first found the newspapers, I killed a whole afternoon! Yes, you could look these articles up on microfilm... but there's something about holding the actual paper. There are a lot of ads around today that are made to look retro - from the 60s - but these are the ads for color TV's and a '61 Lark that were modern at the time!

There's an article about a man who just turned 100 - I'm pretty sure he's not still around. But this house is, listed in the real estate section. In 1960, it had just sold to Mr. and Mrs. Alva Moog.

So I called the only Alva Moog in the phonebook, introduced myself and quickly learned it was the right guy. His wife Jean and he no longer live in that big house, but I still had to meet them, which I did when I went to their condo.

The house mentioned in the newspaper was their first: A four-bedroom job that Alva paid $42,000 for - not even half of what I paid for my much smaller bungalow!

Still, they broke the bank to buy it. They were able to manage as Alva rose through the ranks to become an executive in the mattress business. They had five kids to support.

"If we counted the children that were on either side of us, directly across the street, and catercorner across the street, there were ... 21 children in four houses," Jean Moog told me. "So it was a great house for our children to grow up in."

That description for me did more to capture the Baby Boom era than anything I've read. Surely some couples still have big families, but four families on the same block? And all those kids definitely left a mark on the house - actually they left a lot of marks.

"Upstairs, off one of the bedrooms, there is a mirror, which is about six feet high," Alva Moog said. "And I'm not sure the people we sold the house to know that the mirror is on hinges and you can open it up.

"And on the bricks are the pencil marks where we measured our children every year. You know, how everybody does that? Well, it's behind a secret mirror in one of the rooms upstairs in that house."

Earlier this year, Alva got a pretty good return on the house when he sold it for more than $500,000. The condo where they now live is nice and has a great view of the Gateway Arch and St. Louis skyline, but after a half hour or so it was time to leave.

As I left, I still had the sense they thought it was pretty weird. I mean, I was this random stranger with a newspaper who wanted to talk to them about their old house.

But I also realized that this little diversion from my own housework is actually going to become one of the memories I have of my house.

  • Music Bridge:
    Artist: Michaela Melian
    CD: Los Angeles (Monika)


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