Dedicated to the preservation of the legacy of Donald Fanetti, the Bugle, and Fanetti Park
We watched with unbelieving eyes at the South Side Brothers Lodge picnic as Rich Sambo, the Carondelet furnace and sheetmetal man, downed his ninth pork steak, then went on to dabble in the snacks. His eating habits have ruled him out of crawling through any duct work, and he has now limited himself to special assignments such as battleship smokestacks, and wind tunnels…
Rich Sambo, (though thinner) admittedly is losing a little bit of weight, but he still has his problems. He got down on his knees last Sunday to fire a shot at the St. Boniface Ham Shoot, and a derrick had to be called to get him back on his feet…
Copyright 2016. Daniel Fanetti. All rights Reserved.
The neighborhood was peaceful until the last few years that we were there when dope started coming in. I had to get out of there for my family’s sake. They destroyed the neighborhood. It went to rack and ruin with all of the drugs and violence. It’s very sad because really, it’s still a beautiful neighborhood. When we lived there, it was peaceful: a great place to raise your family.
The Church was a really big part of the neighborhood, the center of community life. Not at all like it is today. The priests would hang out with us: they were just a part of the group. Don was friends with all of them: Fr. Sommer, Fr. Ebert, Fr. Thurmer. They were just regular guys. We’d kid around with them a lot. Fr. Thurmer was a recovering alcoholic. His brother had a tavern on Cherokee and Compton that we’d frequent. We used to tease Father, saying, “Isn’t that something? The tavern keeper and the priest! The black sheep and the white.” One time, a group of us went to the racetrack and ran into the parish priest. He was studying the cars. We said, “Oh, so is this where all the Church money is going, Father?” He just laughed. Nowadays you couldn’t make a joke like that!
The Church has always been part of my life. I attended St. Mary and St. Joseph when I was growing up. You know where that is? The front side is on Minnesota… the back side is built on a bluff overlooking the River and South Broadway. I remember how we would play soccer at recess, and if you kicked the ball over the fence, you’d be responsible for going and getting it. Going down to Broadway wasn’t so bad, but climbing all the way back up that hill before the bell rang was a whole ‘nother thing!
I still get down to the neighborhood with my HVAC business. A lot has changed since we lived there. St. Boniface School is now some kind of public school—a charter school. When they de-Christianed the Church, they turned it into a theatre. A theatre! I heard they wanted to convert the rectory into a restaurant. My daughter asked me to go a play there recently. I told her I just couldn’t do it. My wife and I were married there. All twelve of my kids were baptized and confirmed there. They went to school there. It’s not the same. It just brings back too many old memories. I told her that I don’t ever care to step into that Church now that it’s a theatre.
With 12 kids, money was always tight, what with paying for the house, car, groceries, and everything else you need to provide for a family of 14…including the beer. Don once had this brilliant idea for stretching everyone’s dollar further and wrote about it in one of his editorials:
Don and I became good friends as members of the Knights of Columbus Rosati 795 Council. Our kids all went to St. Boniface School. I had 12; Don had 10; this guy named Reinhold—you know, of Reinhold Electric—had 10; and another guy—“Joe” something—had 14. Imagine that! Between the four of us, we had 46 kids! But that’s how it was back then: big Catholic families that kept the school brimming with students. Those nuns had their hands full! Don once wrote in the Bugle that my kids had become so unruly that I had to attend PTA meetings under an assumed name!
Even though he had his fair share of kids, Don loved to rib me about the size of my family. I saved all of the columns in which he mentioned me. In fact, I cut every one of them out, pieced them all into a sort of collage, and then framed them. They make me laugh to this day, even though I’ve read them a million times before! Here are some of my favorites:
Uncle Don was 18 or 19 years my senior, but once I got a little older, we shared more of a close friendship than the traditional nephew-uncle relationship. When I was—I don’t know—about five, six or seven years old, he and his wife, Mary June, came to live with our family. My dad, also “Roger”, was his older brother. We lived on Reilly and Stein in south St. Louis City—an area later immortalized in the Bugle as “Vinegar Hill”—right behind my dad’s general grocery store. Don Jr., Uncle Don’s oldest son, and I quickly became the best of friends. We remained very close throughout our lives until he died from cancer in about 1988.
Times were tough back then. It wasn’t easy making ends meet, especially if you had to provide for a young and rapidly-growing family. Don worked for his in-laws who owned a linoleum business on South Broadway, laying floors during the day and making the rounds by night to collect material for his stories, write and lay out the paper, and run the presses. If either my parents or Don and Mary June thought the living and working arrangements were a hardship, they certainly never let on to us kids as such. In fact, when I think back to those days, my memories are overwhelmingly happy ones, recollecting all the fun times our families shared.
Don was a towering guy—imposing, really—probably 6’2” or 6’3”. My dad was all of 5’4”. I didn’t know the mailman. I have this picture somewhere of my grandmother standing next to my dad and Don as boys. It’s pretty funny seeing the two of them standing side-by-side: Don stands nearly a foot taller than my dad. I guess you could say that Don and my dad were close. Sure, they had their squabbles just like any siblings, but ultimately, they were family and that trumped any differences they may have had over the years.
Don was a joyful and genuinely funny guy. He had a real love and zeal for life. He and Mary June eventually had ten kids. Don bought a getaway out near Sullivan, Missouri—a large tract of forested land—which he christened the “Spanish Claim”. Our two families would go out there—15 cousins—sometimes as often as two weekends a month to romp in the woods, hunt, fish and swim in the river. I don’t remember how long we did this—maybe six or seven years—but it made for a wonderful life growing up.
The best times of all, though, were the memorable weekends and evenings spent at my Dad’s bar. Our family owned a tavern that sat right next to the grocery store on Reilly. The bar was first called “RocknRog”, so named after its two original owners, Albert Rocoberto; and of course, my dad, Roger. Later on, my dad bought out Al’s part of the business, and the tavern simply became “Rog’s” before eventually transitioning to the family name of “Fanetti’s”, when my brother, Johnny, took over the business.
My siblings and I—there were five of us—all worked at the bar, cleaning, washing dishes, filling the bins—you name it. It was a family business in every sense of the word, and we had an absolute ball doing it. On many a night, Don would bring his accordion to the bar and would play for hours, the patrons singing along while he belted out one popular tune after another. I’m not sure where Don acquired his musical talent. I didn’t know my grandfather; he died as a young man of 42. Maybe Don’s talent came from my grandmother. I think she may have played the piano. Wherever he came by the gift of music, he loved nothing more than sharing his passion for playing and having fun with others. When Don showed up, you knew that there would be a party. He had an incredibly joyful presence, and his enthusiasm for having a good time was infectious.
It’s hard to imagine now with all of the businesses shuttered and the area around Reilly and Stein a bit of a ghost town, but back in the 60’s, the tavern was always hoppin’: a popular establishment for workers from the foundry, the grain elevator, Anheuser-Busch, and even downtown. That was a different time—really, one of innocence—in which a tavern was a respectable neighborhood institution, a gathering place to take the entire family on Friday nights. There was an arcade for the youngsters and corkball and bocce ball leagues to occupy the adults. At the height of the tavern’s popularity, the leagues played corkball four times a week; bocce ball, twice a week. Teams came from all over the City to play: I remember that Kutis Funeral Home had one, and several of the taverns throughout the City—Benny Sall’s, Scheffels, and Knittig Brothers, among others—sponsored teams and tournaments.
When Don wasn’t playing the accordion or watching the games, he was working the crowd, picking up the latest scoops on who was getting married, who had died, or who was in the hospital. He wrote 98% of what appeared in the Bugle, and I think at some level, it made him feel important to be “the man in the know”.
In college at Rolla, I pledged Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Soon after joining, I began bringing my fraternity brothers to St. Louis on a regular basis, introducing them to all that our tavern had to offer in the way of fun and recreation. For a change of pace, Dad, Uncle Don, Ed Frickle, Teddy Bear, and others would make a trek to Rolla for a party. I’m not sure who had the better time: my fraternity brothers or Dad, Don and their friends. They were like overgrown college kids, those men, seemingly making up for their lost experience. Both groups loved the times spent in one another’s company, and they shared a genuine affection for one another. We made them honorary pledges. The men were truly touched by our gesture and took their honorary membership to heart, continuing to fraternize and have fun throughout my four years at Rolla.
Don was a force for good. He was known for the charitable deeds he performed for others as well as for the community. He was never one to stand by if there were a problem to be addressed. If he heard of someone in the community with a need, he’d be the first to organize a fundraiser. He got involved, and he possessed this uncanny ability to make things happen. He made it a point to maintain a positive rapport with all of the mayors throughout his years at the Bugle because he understood that being on good terms with City Hall made it a hell of a lot easier to fix problems in the neighborhoods when they arose. Don came from a generation in which fraternal organizations figured prominently in promoting a sense of community and philanthropy, and he thrived on the relationships that evolved from those shared values. Don had this tremendous need to bring people together, and I believe that is what ultimately made him a great leader. He was successful in getting people involved, in making them feel the need to be a part of something bigger than themselves and their families, and to bond as a community.
Back in those days, we all did a good bit of drinking. A lot of times, we’d go to Rog’s Tavern. Roger was Don’s brother, and he had a popular place on Reilly and Stein, next to the foundry. We used to call it Vinegar Hill—not to be confused with Cow Shit Hill, which was to the north and west of Broadway on Killen. Rog was a laid back sort of fellow, very affable. He just let stuff roll off his back, never getting too riled up about anything or anybody. His wife was another story altogether: a feisty Spanish gal by the name of Nina, although everybody called her Nada. She tended bar a lot—and oh man—she didn’t take any guff from nobody. You had to mind your manners around her or she’d kick you out in no time flat: didn’t hurt business, though. They had a popular restaurant there, and all of the foundry guys would come in to eat. The place was always busy.
From time to time, we’d all go hunting. I remember this one time that Don, Rog, me, and a couple of Don’s front guys at the Bugle went rabbit hunting near Jeff City. It was a snowy day, and they asked me to carry all of the rabbits we shot. I was a young bull in those days! Anyway, I guess we bagged 15, maybe 20, rabbits before calling it a day and heading back to Rog’s to celebrate. We threw a bunch of snow on the rabbits to keep them fresh so that they could be cooked.
After we got back, we got to drinking and forgot all about those rabbits. A couple of days later, Rog called to tell me to come get the rabbits so I could take them home for my family. Well, I looked for those rabbits and couldn’t find them anywhere. Finally, I located them in the back hallway. Someone had thrown a pack of razor blades on top of them and then tossed something else on top of the crate without skinning or cooling the rabbits, and they’d all gone bad. Oh boy was my wife mad!
It was no easy task feeding all those kids. I used to love the Council picnics and barbecues because I could get my whole family fed for free. I always tried to arrive early so that we could sit near Father. The priest, of course, was always the first to be administered to, and sitting next to him pretty much guaranteed that we could all eat plenty before they ran out of food. The priest would look over at our family, and pointing at us would say: “See that big family over there? Be sure to serve them next.” It was a great strategy!
Don loved to kid me about how much I ate and how big I was. He was always putting stuff in the Bugle about that. People nowadays might think it offensive, but nobody took it that way back then. It was all affable, never meant in a mean-spirited way. In fact, everybody wanted to get their name in the Bugle! That’s why they loved to read it! Don poked fun at everybody.
We’d also go to big barbecues at the local taverns: they’d all have them. They’d fix soured rabbit. That’s rabbit that you stew in brine, then smother in gravy and serve with noodles. That was some good eating! Back then, St. Louis had a lot more breweries than it does now: not just Anheuser-Busch, but Stag and Falstaff too. Each of the breweries would send its own representatives to pass out samples of beer. They called them “beer drummers” because they would pass out beer to drum up business for their brand. It would get to be quite the competition between all of them. If you had two bottles of Falstaff sitting in front of you, the Stag beer drummer would say, “Here, try this,” and give you two Stags…and then the Budweiser drummer, seeing that you had two Falstaffs and two Stags, would add two Budweisers to your collection so as not to be outdone. And on and on it went. We’d easily drink ten beers—all for free, too! We did a lot of drinking back then, but we had so much fun!
Funny thing about Falstaff: at one time, it was the leading brewery in St. Louis—bigger even than Anheuser-Busch. When the company was sold in the ‘70’s, the new management did something to make the brew master mad. He was the only one who knew the original recipe for the beer, and he quit without ever telling them what he put in it. What did they used to say about Falstaff? Oh yeah, that it was the “choicest product of the brewers art”, but try as they might, the management could never get the beer to taste the “choicest” after that, and the brewery eventually closed.
At one time, the neighborhoods around St. Boniface were beautiful and filled with good solid families with lots of kids…lots of kids. You ever notice how the cross streets heading south on Michigan from Loughborough don’t meet up with one another? I mean, they don’t go straight through; there’s a jog in all of them. I was told that they were built that way on purpose to prevent accidents. I’m not sure about that, but there was this great sense of community and caring among the people. We moved into our house at 7714 Michigan in 1957 and moved out exactly 30 years later, in 1987. It was a beautiful house: still is. The houses in that neighborhood, they’re all different, beautiful architecture. It’ not like where I live now in Columbia, Illinois. I’d describe those houses as flip flops: same on the right, same on the left.
The Sambo Home - 7714 Michigan
DOUBLE ECONOMY OF COUNTRY
Minor Flaws Noted in Plan
According to financial experts in Washington, this country’s government is in no danger of an economic collapse so long as the economy keeps expanding. While it is true that the government is called on to spend more and more, it can do it so long as people keep buying more and more and business keeps producing more and more.
Rich Sambo, a Carondelet resident picked as a “typical Bugle reader” was asked his views on the subject. Sambo agreed he would like to do his part in keeping the nation’s economy going, but figuring up his monthly payments, he doubts if this is possible. After making his house payment, his car payment, his television payment and his lawn mower payment, he has just enough money left to buy groceries and beer.
“I’d buy a boat—I really need one,” he said, “but I can’t squeeze it into the monthly payments.”
This set the Bugle to thinking…This is sure to be a problem with more than ninety per cent of the taxpayers and home owners. With this thought in mind, Bugle publishers have come [up] with an idea that will double the country’s economy as soon as it is put into the works.
It is a simple proposal. It appears that we have too many months. They come around too often. The thing to do is to make every month sixty days long instead of 30, making a year 6 months long instead of 12, but keep paying everybody by the week.
A man could then double the number of things he’s capable of buying on monthly installments. ..It would open the floodgates and produce a wave of business the likes of which has never been seen before.
The Bugle realizes that this would confuse some people. There will be arguments over which six months to abolish. Birthdays in the dropped months would be hard to keep track of, but that would all be overcome by the thought of getting that speed boat, that second television set…
Mr. Sambo was impressed with the idea, and with a big note coming due on the first, he’d like to drop November as the start.
Sambo Buys Dog
Rich Sambo of Carrondelet has just bought a new dachshund for his family. Rich has eleven kids and says he bought the dachshund so they can all pet him at the same time.
Rich Sambo, playboy of Carondelet, boarded a crowded bus last Saturday with five noisy kids. The youngsters ran through the bus, bumping into other passengers and shouting loudly. As Rich reached his stop and called the kids together to get ready to get off, the driver said to him, “Next time, pal, why don’t you leave half of the kids at home?” and Rich retorted, “Look, Mac, I did.”
Mr. and Mrs. Rich Sambo of St. Boniface Parish revealed this week that they will have one mouth less to feed come September. A daughter will be getting married then. She will be the first of the twelve Sambo fledglings to leave the nest. Rich, meanwhile, has stopped shopping for a fifteen foot dinner table…