Book Report: Webster Groves by Clarissa Start (1975)

This book has a sort of double-effect twist going on; Clarissa Start, a former columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and former resident (as of the writing, she had moved to High Ridge, Missouri), wrote this book at the behest of the city government in Webster Groves as part of its bicentennial celebration. That means it’s a history book that’s 30 years old.

So I got a glimpse of the past from the past. The tone of the book is very exceptional, so Webster Groves has a hint of Lake Wobegon to it. Of course, a book written on the government dime would explain that the citizens are the best and the town is the best and everything else. I guess I cannot knock some exceptionalism in history, but when it’s applied to a small town, it’s odd. Also, the book ends with several chapters of Webster Groves at 1975, with a demographic study and the high school commencement speech. I just skimmed these.

Still, the book details the area at the turn of the twentieth century very well and explains the events that precipitated the incorporation (a mugging/murder), the resistance to a layer of government and its eager taxation, and a bit of perspective to the current complaints and how far back those tensions existed.

It brings the book forward, as I mentioned, and the conversational tone tells you what replaced the old blacksmith shop and early businesses downtown. However, 30 years later, the Farmers Home and Trust Bank is gone as well as the IGA grocery store, and those things seem quaint now. But I didn’t buy it for contemporary insight, I bought it for its discussion of the old times, and I got it.

More trivia for the cranium, and things that I can tell the child as he grows up so he will think I’m very smart. Fooling the children, really, is the secondary use of all knowledge that comes to the fore after you’ve succeeded in the primary use of all knowledge, fooling women into thinking you’re smart so they will mate with you. One, anyway.

Books mentioned in this review:

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