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Feb 2001 / the ordinary eye :: email this story to a friend

Camelot in St. Louis
Photographs supplied by Jack Parker
Intro by Thomas Crone

Sometimes, history is stored in the mind and the heart. Sometimes, it's also stored in a big cardboard box.

Jack Parker, the longtime proprietor of O'Connell's Pub, is a repository of information about the good old days in Gaslight Square. And, by the 1970s, the not-so-good days. It was in Gaslight that the Irish pub made a reputation. Reacting to the decline that weeded out his contemporaries on the row, in August 1972, Parker pulled up stakes from the Square, moving to the corner of Shaw and Kingshighway. He was one of the last major tenants to leave, and to many at the time, his decision was a finishing statement for the strip near Olive and Boyle.

Though taking a minute or two to remember some of the names, Parker can sift through his collection of clippings, photos and ephemera while spinning good yarns about the saloons and saloon keepers, the beat poets and shoot-from-the-hip photographers, the visiting ballplayers and the girls next door.

Many of the photos and tattered newspaper articles were given to Parker by a late friend, Gayle Lee Tibe. "God rest her soul," says Parker. Flipping through the stacks, a cigarette in hand, Parker notes the deaths of many of the Gaslight characters, stars and bit players alike. The folks who lived in the upstairs apartments; who owned or tended the bars; or simply spent their cash and waking hours on Olive.

The Gaslight story, as told by those dog-eared stories and pixie camera snapshots, has a sad ending in most regards, a sort of cautionary tale for our City. It's also a vastly interesting slice of history, especially when told to you by someone who was there.

The following photos provide a fascinating glimpse on a scene that many of us wish we could've seen, if only for a single Saturday night. Move the pointer over a thumbnail image to view the caption in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window. Click on a thumbnail to view the large version.


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