Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa
and anyone else who would like to be here
In the summer in St.Louis the sunny days are very hot. Summer seems to last a long time. We played outside even when we were very hot, or we stayed inside reading in front of a fan. A few times each summer, the bright sun would suddenly disappear. Very dark clouds would make the air look almost green. Thunder crashed. The greenish air and black clouds turned white when the lightning flashed.
"It's raining buckets" or "It's raining cats and dogs," we said. Sheets of water were coming down from the sky, not little raindrops. Sometimes the wind and rain knocked leafy branches down from the trees. Sometimes we saw flickering in the lights in the house, which we turned on because the storm made it so dark. Sometimes the electric power went out altogether. Storms were very dramatic. They cooled a slow summer afternoon or evening. After the rain we sometimes had to pick up fallen branches or we just walked around to see all the wet grass and trees.
As the buckets of rain fell, the dry gutters on our street rapidly filled with water. Clumps of leaves and sticks washed along in the water. Sometimes when it was really hot, we went out in the rain. We used our muddy bare feet to pile up the twigs and leaves to make little dams where the water would pool up instead of flowing down the gutters. If it was a little cooler, we might go out in a raincoat and rubber boots instead of bare feet.
On our street, the water rushed very fast because we lived on a big hill. At the top was the very busy through-street Delmar Boulevard. At the bottom of the hill was a kind of a river called the River Des Peres. That was where all the rushing water was going. The River Des Peres was unlike any other river anywhere. Instead of a wide, tree-lined, grassy bank like most rivers, the River Des Peres had steep, rough-stone sides. At the top edge was an open metal railing. During the long dry spells of summer, only a small trickle of water flowed down the middle of the flat cement bottom of the river. A few greenish pools of water formed in low places. A few blocks further from our street, the river went entirely underground in a huge cement pipe. The river smelled bad -- some people called it the River De Pew.
When the rain came down in spring or summer storms, the river filled up incredibly fast. Rarely, the rushing water came up over the banks and into the end of the street far down the hill from our house. When our parents walked down to the river with us after a rainstorm, we all could stand at the railing that separated the street from the river and watch the level of the rushing, swirling, dirty water rise. It was thrilling, because it seemed so dangerous!
Our parents always told us that we must never go down into the dry riverbed, and that we must never NEVER go close to the river when the water was rushing by in a storm. When we were little, we were not allowed to go near the river's edge by ourselves at all.
The River Des Peres also flowed close to the end of the street where Lenny grew up. Once when he was much older, Lenny and some friends did go into the River Des Peres and into the big sewer pipe. They saw really ugly things, and one of them got sick, because it really was a very dirty, dangerous river.
This is a picture of the opposite end of the underground tunnel: