County Executive's Blog

Oct 17

[ARCHIVED] A Look Back with the County Executive: Growing Up in St. Charles

The original item was published from October 16, 2018 4:48 PM to October 17, 2018 12:19 PM

“The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

This famous quote rings true when looking at the dynamics between current and past generations in our ever-changing world. For example, today’s millennials often get a “bad rap” by older adults, but the World War II Generation had similar difficulties in understanding Baby Boomers. St. Charles County’s residents have not been immune to these growing pains. Looking back at issues surrounding youth and families in the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s in our community provides interesting insights for where we are today.

As older social issues receded in importance, new ones emerged starting in the 1940 with the “baby boom.” The marriage rate in the United States that had been 26 per 1,000 women in 1926, peaked at 118 per 1,000 women in 1946. While there had been only 237 births in St. Charles in 1937, as early as November 1942, the Banner-News reported 67 births in a single month. This was more than twice the number in the same month two years before. After the war, the Cosmos-Monitor chronicled the “baby boom,” noting 34 births in June, 75 births in July, 63 births in August, 58 births in September and 79 births during December 1947. That year, there were 812 births, topping all previous records.1 

With children composing a larger percentage of the population, their misbehavior became a greater problem, and their welfare a greater concern. Teenage behavior became a cause for concern even before the advent of the baby boomers. Over 450 students at St. Charles High School paraded with signs protesting the firing of Coach Ted Boyett in 1948. Boyett had stepped behind the desk of Superintendent Stephen Blackhurst and challenged him to go outside and fight, and then Blackhurst slapped the teacher in the face. While 1,632 people signed a petition in favor of Boyett, the school board refused to reconsider its decision to fire him. At the urging of Boyett, the students returned to class after a two-day absence.2  

Much more serious than such group behavior was the individual criminal behavior of some youth. After studying the problem, a St. Charles County Grand Jury reported in 1946, “We feel that Juvenile Delinquency is not a new problem brought on by the war, but as an ever pressing problem, facing, not only every law enforcement official, but every local community and every local citizen of the community.”3 As delinquency increased in the conservative community of St. Charles, the majority of adults blamed the delinquent juveniles and their parents. The Grand Jury probably expressed the dominant view of the community when it suggested, “We feel that Juvenile Delinquency can also be classed as Adult Delinquency or Parent Delinquency. It is our information, that law enforcement officers cannot at all times get the proper cooperation from the parents of the delinquent child.” Recommending that businesses not serve juveniles after certain hours, more police patrols, and greater cooperation of parents, the Grand Jury urged parents to “talk to their children, emphasize to them that they owe themselves, as well as the community, the wholehearted support in making themselves useful and good citizens by trying to abate the apparent forward trend in Juvenile Delinquency.”4 When it was announced in 1953 that St. Charles was planning a crackdown on the “growing menace of juvenile and parental delinquency,” the Banner-News reported, “Councilmen appeared shocked at reports of young teen-age girls once again associating with older men, gangs of ‘kids’ in cars roaming the streets at all hours of the night, and the apparent apathy of parents who seemingly refuse to exercise proper restraint on their children.” Mayor Vogt said, “We know the youngsters are out all night long. We’ve got to have the help of parents in curbing this delinquency.”5

The national popular media also focused increasing attention on juvenile delinquency. The Wild One, a movie about teenage gangs starring Marlon Brando, was released in 1953. Two years later, in Rebel without a Cause, James Dean portrayed a disaffected teenager. Many parents blamed rock and roll music, absorbed via records, jukeboxes, radio and television, for challenges to the predominant culture. Through such films, teens developed distinctive styles in clothes, hair and language. Many parents were concerned about the emerging counter-culture, exemplified by rock and roll music, and shared by different racial and social groups. By 1955, teenagers related to Chuck Berry's songs, suggesting taboo subjects, and emphasizing the generation gap.  Concerned even more with pornographic material available to teenagers, PTA groups and others denounced much of the literature available at magazine stands in St. Charles as “depraved and corrupt.” Speaking to a joint meeting of the National Council of Catholic Men and Women in Flint Hill, City Attorney Andrew McColloch strongly endorsed the fight against obscene literature. While contending that government censorship is undesirable, he suggested “the consumer public can insist that the merchant or businessman who deals in the sale of books and magazines censor themselves.”6 The United States Supreme Court made obscenity prosecutions more difficult in 1962, and the same court held in 1964 that obscene material could be censored only if it was without “redeeming social value.” 

In keeping with liberal beliefs of the period, others blamed poverty, inadequate juvenile detention facilities, the lack of funding for public schools, outdated child-welfare laws, or lack of recreational activities for the alienation of some young people from middle-class values. The St. Charles County Grand Jury discovered in January 1946 that the sheriff was detaining juveniles in the County jail in contravention of state law. Recommending that the County Court build a separate building to house juvenile offenders, the Grand Jury report suggested, “We believe that with the exception of the more serious offenders, the average child delinquent would be better served by temporary placement in separate detention facilities.”7 The following month, Judge Theodore Bruere Jr. charged that the St. Charles Board of Education was failing to cooperate with the circuit court in confronting juvenile delinquency. Superintendent Stephen Blackhurst responded, “The administration cannot be expected to make a reform school out of the public schools.” Indeed, the statute read that the board “may” establish “special truant or parental schools.”8 The following year, at a conference sponsored by the Missouri Association of Social Welfare at Lindenwood College, a speaker noted that the state’s child welfare laws had not been modified in 25 years. Governor Donnelly had appointed a special committee that included Dr. Franc McCluer, the new president of Lindenwood College, to produce a new Children’s Code. While a speaker believed that passage of the code would make Missouri a leader in this area, she lamented, “It seems incredible that that the last session of the legislature could have adjourned without passing these bills.” She added, “The future of the country rests upon the welfare of children.”9

An increase in single-parent families, especially those families that had migrated from rural Missouri, also contributed to juvenile delinquency in St. Charles County. While the number of families receiving assistance in 1958 under the Aid to Dependent Children program had actually decreased over the previous 10 years, there had been a noticeable increase in the number of families receiving assistance due to desertion by fathers. Anna Mary Rector, Director of the St. Charles County Welfare Commission, argued the problem was due to the “social dislocation that results from movement of families from rural areas to metropolitan areas in search of employment.” She explained, “Family ties weaken, communities remain aloof, unsatisfactory housing aggravates the problem and eventually the parents separate or the father deserts.”10 


Others blamed higher divorce rates for continuing juvenile delinquency. The divorce rate in St. Charles County had begun to rise in the late 1930s, and 36 petitions for dissolution were filed in 1939.  War-time marriages led to 47 petitions in 1943 and an all-time high of 84 in 1946. That year, Circuit Judge Theodore Bruere Jr. instituted a 30-day waiting period before any testimony appertaining to the divorce could be heard. The Cosmos-Monitor suggested this requirement, “in the opinion of some people, may have been the reason of some litigants asking for dismissal of the suit.”11 The paper pointed out that the local divorce rate was low compared to St. Louis, where one in three marriages ended in divorce. The number of couples filing for divorce leveled off at 62 by 1950. The St. Charles Junior/Senior High School PTA had an inconclusive debate over what was a greater cause of maladjustment for a child: divorce or slum neighborhoods.       

In 1949, the Banner-News regretted, “There are very few cities of any size at all throughout this nation that doesn’t (sic) offer some sort of recreation halls or clubs for the younger set, but St. Charles can take a back seat and hang their head because they belong to this group. It is nothing for a city of this size to be proud of. Your teenage boys and girls are roaming the streets, trying to find things to do. Some drift into taverns, others into pool rooms, and a number of places that are unsuitable for boys and girls to be.”12 St. Charles voters rejected for a second time in 1955, by a two-to-one margin, a bond issue to erect a Youth Center and a tax increase to operate it.13   

While government and taxpayers were unresponsive to the crisis, private efforts to assist troubled youth and provide children wholesome recreational opportunities and guidance were more successful. National membership in the Boy Scouts of America rose from 2.8 million to 5.2 million during the 1950s. A scout troop had been organized in 1944 under the auspices of the Men’s Sodality of St. Peter’s Parish, which also established a Girl Scout troop in 1946. St. Charles schools initiated Junior Achievement programs under which student sold shares of stock at fifty cents per share, and used the proceeds to produce a simple product or service. They developed their entrepreneurial skills as they planned, produced and marketed under the direction of the Junior Achievement Board of Directors, which included many successful businessmen. The St. Charles Rotary Club began sponsoring a St. Charles Science Fair for kindergarten through twelfth grade students in 1958.14 4-H Clubs remained important youth activities serving both girls and boys, as the twenty 4-H Clubs in St. Charles County had a total of 600 members in 1963. 

The Banner-News, Cosmos-Monitor, Moose Club and St. Charles Motors sponsored the first local Soapbox Derby in 1954. Powered only by gravity, racers sped down Kingshighway between Benton and Morgan streets, as thousands cheered from the sidewalk. Citizen Arthur Tainter remembered:

In 1954, my grade school friend, Jim Vogt, told me that the St. Charles Moose were sponsoring a soapbox race called “The Daniel Boone Derby.” …I asked if I could be in it, and the next thing I knew, Dad was working with me on making a racer that would carry the Tainter Drug Store sponsorship.  …The race in St. Charles was held on Kingshighway at that time and one lane was noticeably faster than the other was. Like most racers, we did well until we drew the slower lane, then it was over, but it was great fun.15

The Boys Club of St. Charles Missouri Inc. met for the first time at the Benton Grade School auditorium, and elected Joseph Hepp president in September 1955. Shortly thereafter, about 50 men attended a public inspection of the renovated home at Sixth and Clark Streets that housed the club. When the facility was dedicated in December of that year, Congressman Clarence Cannon gave an address. The following year, Boys Clubs of America celebrated its 50th anniversary and received a charter from Congress. J. Edward Travis led a drive to raise the $1,000 per month needed to keep the club open. The Board of Directors conducted a campaign in 1961 to raise money for a new Boys Club building in Blanchette Park.  Businesses, labor unions and approximately 400 volunteer laborers worked to build the facility. Representative Cannon again spoke at the dedication ceremony for the new club in December 1962. The Chamber of Commerce named local businessman Ted Schoetker, Chairman of the building committee, “Man of the Year” for his efforts.16  

Children, especially in the rural areas of St. Charles County, had played sports for generations without parental or school involvement. Immanuel Lutheran and St. Peter’s in St. Charles sponsored elementary school teams, and the Junior High School also had sports teams. Parents and non-educators increasingly began organizing youth athletic activities after 1945. The VFW Post in O’Fallon began Khoury League baseball, very popular in St. Louis County, in 1949. The same year, the Optimists Club of St. Charles began sponsoring Junior Baseball in St. Charles, with 570 boys playing on 38 teams in three age divisions by 1952. The program was started by community-minded citizens and parents who wanted to give youth an opportunity to practice sportsmanship, develop teamwork, improve skills, and have fun. Teams were drawn at random, and only the sons of coaches and sponsors could be claimed by a team. If a boy played long enough, he might eventually play on the same team with every boy his age in St. Charles.  One reason the organization did not associate with the Khoury League was that the Optimists had allowed black youths to compete in their league, while the Khoury League was segregated. The “Hot Stove League” combined with the Optimists to form a countywide Junior Baseball Association for the 1958 season, with teams from St. Peters and Harvester, as well as St. Charles. The Boys Club sponsored a basketball program at the Franklin School gymnasium after 1955, and a football program for grades six through eight in the 1960s.17     

Athletics on the high school level continued to be popular. Franklin High School won the Class B basketball championship of the Missouri Negroe Interscholastic Athletic Association in 1946 and 1947. St. Charles High School, coached by Gene Bartow, won the Missouri Class L state basketball championship in 1957, and went to the Final Four again three years later under Coach Frank Kirby. The St. Charles High School football team, coached by Jim Rash, went undefeated in 1964. Several players from those teams went on to play in college. However, as in the past, the best opportunity to be a professional athlete was in boxing and baseball. The Optimists Club of St. Charles sponsored local boys in the Golden Gloves boxing competitions in St. Louis by 1950. Charles Ruff and Richard Morgan were local winners of the Golden Gloves boxing competition that year. Fretting what they perceived as an erosion of moral values after the First World War, the American Legion had initiated a summer baseball program for high school-age boys by 1926.  After World War II, legionnaires saw baseball as a way to promote patriotism and fight Communism, and local posts established teams in St. Charles County by the late 1940s. Along with boxing, baseball provided the best opportunity to become a professional athlete. The only local baseball players to play in the major leagues were Jim Pendleton from St. Charles and Len Boehmer from Flint Hill. Pendleton was 29 when he made his major league debut with the Milwaukee Braves in 1953, while Boehmer was 25 years old when he broke into the big leagues with the Cincinnati Reds in 1967.18

In spite of such youth programs, the problem of juvenile delinquency persisted. After Prosecuting Attorney Donald Dalton investigated allegations of sex crimes in St. Charles, he revealed that the local scandal involved not only statutory rape, but also forcible rape and perversion. Fifteen St. Charles High School students escaped suspension for their involvement only because the school board actions were based on confidential information made available by the juvenile officers to the board illegally.19 Organizations like the Community Council, established in 1954 to serve as a clearinghouse for organizations handling community issues, formed a committee of city and county officials in 1964 to address juvenile delinquency.  The chairman of the Community Council stated, “We hope to get a cross-section of community feeling on the problems of youth, with everyone who wishes participating in the program, we should find out what citizens feel are our most pressing juvenile problems and what they want to be done about them.”20 

Parents continued to promote recreational opportunities for both male and female youth in St. Charles County. While the Soapbox Derby was discontinued, St. Charles Junior Baseball added girls’ softball in the mid-sixties. The Boys Club began admitting girls in the late seventies, and the national organization's name was changed to Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 1990.

As in previous eras, a few St. Charles athletes realized their dreams of high-level or professional sports careers. For every athlete that made it to the professional level, there were thousands who did not. Nevertheless, organizations had begun to place less emphasis on recreation, and more emphasis on winning and individual achievement. When the St. Peters Athletic Association formed in the late seventies, unlike the St. Charles Junior Baseball Association, it enrolled teams rather than individual players, and segregated players based on ability. The Junior Football League (JFL) in St. Charles sought to provide a more competitive program than the Boys Club. The St. Peters Junior Football Association (SPJFA) began in 1973.21

Entire families enjoyed the benefits of expanded park systems and other recreational programs in the community. St. Charles voters approved a second bond issue to purchase additional land for McNair Park in 1967. Realizing that the Fort Zumwalt State Park was the smallest in its system, the state sold the 45-acre park to O’Fallon in 1978. Other parks developed with the assistance of private parties and non-profit organizations. In St. Peters, the Lions Club helped develop Lions Park and the Kiwanis Club helped develop Rabbit Run Park on property donated by developer Robert McKelvey. RGS Construction Company donated land in Brookmount Estates for the first St. Peters’ swimming pool in 1973, the year the city launched its first summer recreation program. The St. Charles Jaycees developed a park on the site of the former county poor farm, which opened as Jaycees Park in 1976. The St. Charles County Family YMCA began in 1966 as an extension of the Northwest County Family YMCA branch.  Initially, programs were held at St. John Church in St. Charles. Branch status was granted in 1973, and two years later, the YMCA purchased a five-acre site in the Cave Springs area. By 1981, a 42,000-square-foot facility was completed that included a gymnasium, swimming pool, running track, gymnastics center, locker rooms and meeting rooms. St. Peters agreed to develop the land adjacent to the “Y” as a municipal park. As residential growth continued, the Tri-County Family YMCA was established in 1984 to serve Lincoln, Warren and western St. Charles counties.22 

Such organizations became more important as the family structure continued to weaken, with increasing numbers of children raised in one-parent families. Nationally the number of never-married mothers between age eighteen and 34, which had been 73,000 in 1960, increased to one million by 1980. Juvenile delinquency increased as well, prompting the St. Charles City Council to adopt a curfew in 1967, starting on the first holiday weekend of summer. Youths under seventeen could not be in any commercial place of amusement between the hours of 12:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, or between 11:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. during the rest of the week. Youths accompanied by parents were not subject to the curfew, and a warning was to be given for the first violation. The Banner-News reported the ordinance passed because of the “rising incidence of juvenile crime in the city.”23 Shortly after passage, a so-called “Battle of the Bands” teen dance at Memorial Hall in St. Charles turned into a brawl. When police ordered the hall closed, some of the teenagers sat down on the floor, refused to leave, and had to be forcibly removed. Concerned because a police officer had fired a shot in the air when one of the fleeing teenagers failed to stop when so ordered, parents wanted to believe reports that many of the youths involved were from St. Louis and St. Louis County.24  

While such events attracted media attention, the “silent majority” of teenagers acted responsibly. As the 1960s came to an end, the Banner-News wrote:

The really outstanding factor about America's young people is that so many of them have kept their balance, perspective and their sense of values despite the pressures which have been exerted on them by some of their peers. Worst of all, leverage comes from some of their seniors who certainly should know better. We also owe it to you to avoid that permissiveness that will only breed contempt for society as well as for parents. The older generations are challenged to match the good judgment shown by the majority of our young adults.25  

Nevertheless, the “vocal minority” of teenagers continued to get the attention, as the national drug abuse epidemic reached St. Charles County. The Journal reported in 1969 that, after a police raid uncovered marijuana at a student party, the St. Charles High School faculty planned a meeting. Two months later, after the police reported they had a list of 300 suspected drug users in the county, a Students’ League Against Narcotics was organized by the Jaycees, while the Kiwanis Club formed groups called Drug Alert. After 21 drug-related juvenile cases in 1971, the County juvenile officer complained, “Parents simply either don’t know what to look for in drug abuse, or they won’t face the reality their child is abusing drugs. It’s up to the parents or school administrators to bring these situations to our attention.”26 The parking lot of the Burger Chef drive-in restaurant at the Plaza Shopping Center complex in St. Charles became notorious as a place where teenagers congregated and drug deals were made. In a debate between St. Charles City Council candidates in 1973, a young person complained about police “harassing” young people in their attempts to uncover drugs. The council candidate responded, “Well, let me tell you, young people think they are harassed.  But the use of drugs is a pretty dangerous thing when it can destroy a child’s mind and ruin his life. If I should ever catch my kids using drugs I’ll sure harass them with a belt.”27  

Concern about juvenile delinquency continued, and by 1974 Juvenile Officer Ray Grush and a staff of eight handled 1,500 cases in Lincoln, Pike and St. Charles Counties. That same year, Youth in Need (YIN) established a shelter for runaway children in St. Charles, and a satellite facility in Wentzville two years later to serve the western end of the county. Law enforcement authorities were vigilant about gatherings of young people. When St. Charles police and the postal service seized $63,000 in illegal drugs at a residence in St. Charles, Police Chief Marvin Grimmer reported the arrestees had expressed their intention to sell the drugs at places like Berry Park in Wentzville and the rock festival planned for Sedalia, Missouri. Increasing concern over such concerts caused the prosecuting attorney to seek an injunction against a rock concert at which Ike and Tina Turner were supposed to perform in 1974. When their agent was contacted, he knew nothing about the concert, but the injunction was still granted. That same year, Circuit Judge William Turpin ordered Berry Park in Wentzville closed for six months, citing several violations at the site. Meanwhile, efforts were made by adults to provide safe drug-free activities, such as the Hub Youth Center that opened in O’Fallon in 1969 and the Silo Youth Center that opened in St. Charles in 1972.

1. Banner-News, January 11, 1938 and November 7, 1942; Cosmos-Monitor, July 10, August 13, September, 15 and October 8, 1947.

2. Banner-News, March 23, April 9 and April 13, 1948. 

3. Grand Jury Report, January 31, 1946, File 20-1, St. Charles County Archives.

4. Ibid.

5. Banner-News, July 23, 1953.

6. Banner-News, March 15, 1955.

7. Grand Jury Report, January 31, 1946, File 20-1, St. Charles County Archives; See Abrams, A Very Special Place in Life, 65.

8. Banner-News, February 15, 1946.

9. Ibid., September, 25, 1947 and December 11, 1947.

10. Journal, March 6, 1958. ADC payments were received by 125 children in 44 families. Ibid. The program’s name was changed to Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1962. Margot Ford McMillen, “Missouri’s Child: Culture and Education in the Show-Me State,” Official Manual State of Missouri, 1995-1996, 30. 

11. Cosmos-Monitor, September 19, 1946.

12. Banner-News, April 1, 1949.

13. Ibid., April 7, 1955.

14. Journal, February 26, 1959, Banner-News, June 9, 1949. Members of the Junior Achievement Board included Judge Theodore Bruere, Judge Webster Karrenbrock, Stephen Blackhurst, Frank Rauch, Ted Schoetker, Dr. Franc McCluer, Ted Jones and Frank Durant. Ibid. Banner-News, August 7 and 16, 1957.

15. Arthur Tainter, “Tainter Drug Store,” Heritage, 1999, Vol. 17, No. 1, 4. The total cost of the race car could not exceed thirteen dollars; the width of the car could not exceed 42 inches; the height could not exceed 28 inches; and the weight could not exceed 250 pounds with driver. Ibid. The first race was in Dayton, Ohio, in 1934, before moving to Akron the next year. In 1936, Akron civic leaders used WPA funds to build a permanent track site for the youth racing classic.

16. Banner-News, September 28, 1955. Other officers were Paul Blessing, Elder Holiday and Hugh I. Holmes. Other board members were Arthur Baue, John Becker, Homer Clevenger, Lester Plackmeyer, Henry Vogt, James Siegler, Albert Ostmann, William Mayer, Ted Schoetker, Walter Trump, Andrew McColloch, Webster Karrenbrock, Earl Pryor, Brand Wilhelm, Francis Mueller, Omar Osiek and Forest Watts. Ibid., December 21, 1955, October 10, 1956,  April 26, 1961, September 13, 1962, October 30, 1962 and December 14, 1962. Not only Schoetker, but Travis, Blessing, Becker, Clevenger, Holmes Karrenbrock, and Vogt were later named Citizen of the Years by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce.

17. Interviews with Oscar Waltermann and Melvin Plackemeier; Cosmos-Monitor, October 25, 1958; Banner-News, November 12, 1952.   

18. Banner-News, February 16, 1950. It was much more difficult to get to the major leagues before expansion in 1961, as the best athletes all played baseball because it provided the best opportunities to be a professional athlete. 

19. McGirr, Suburban Warriors, 180; Banner-News, October 18, 1963.

20. Banner-News, January 30, 1964.  The Community Council was formed by forty church, school, fraternal, welfare, and civic agencies to serve as a clearing house for community problems. While a discussion of issues was encouraged, the delegates voted as instructed by the organizations they represented.

21. Flynn, St. Peters at its Best, 129. Tom Heintzelmann was 26 years old when he broke in with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. After a college baseball career at Oklahoma State, Mike Henneman, born in St. Charles in 1961, broke into the big leagues in 1987 with the Detroit Tigers. Mike Samples, a graduate of St. Charles High School, played in the Canadian Football league. Curtis Brown, another SCHS graduate, played football at the University of Missouri before embarking on a career in the National Football League with the Buffalo Bills. Don Ballwin, a graduate of St. Charles West High School and Purdue University, played briefly for the New York Jets. Connie Price, also a graduate of St. Charles High School, graduated from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and went on to throw the shot-put in the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, narrowly missing the bronze medal.

22. Banner-News, July 10, 1963; Journal, January 4, 1968; Banner-News, January 29, 1975; Flynn, St. Peters at its Best, 129.

23. Banner-News, May 8, 1967.

24. Ibid., October 2, 1967.

25. Banner-News, April 28, 1969.

26. Journal, February 3, 1972.

27. Ibid., April 2, 1973.