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National Prohibition Ended 80 Years Ago

Eighty years ago our country made a big constitutional change:

The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and bringing an end to the era of national prohibition of alcohol in America. At 5:32 p.m. EST, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, achieving the requisite three-fourths majority of states’ approval. Pennsylvania and Ohio had ratified it earlier in the day. (History.com)

Today many counties in the country remain dry or semi-dry:

33 states have laws which allow localities to prohibit the sale (and in some cases, consumption and possession) of liquor. Still, many of these states have no dry communities. Three states, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, are entirely dry by default: counties specifically must authorize the sale of alcohol in order for it to be legal and subject to state liquor control laws. (Wikipedia)

"Map showing dry (red), wet (blue), and mixed (yellow) counties in the United States" from Wikipedia
“Map showing dry (red), wet (blue), and mixed (yellow) counties in the United States” from Wikipedia

From the same Wikipedia article:

Missouri state law specifically prohibits any counties, or unincorporated city or town from banning the retail sale of liquor, but only allows incorporated cities to ban the sale of liquor by the drink by public referendum. No incorporated Missouri cities have ever chosen to hold a referendum banning alcohol sales. In addition, Missouri state law specifically supersedes any local laws that restrict the sale of alcohol. (see Alcohol laws of Missouri)

At least in this regard, Missouri is a blue state.

— Steve Patterson


Readers: Sesame Street Was a Positive Influence on Their Perception of Urban Neighborhoods

November 20, 2013 Featured, Popular Culture 1 Comment

When Sesame Street debuted in November 1969 I was and wasn’t the target audience. Just shy of turning 3, I was the ideal age for the new educational show, but I was a kid in a new middle-class suburban subdivision in the sprawling city of Oklahoma City.

The Sesame Street set represented a very different place from where I lived
The Sesame Street set represented a very different place from where I lived

Think about the decade of the 1960s, leaders assassinated (JFK, MLK), race riots in cities, etc.  The show was targeted at poor inner-city kids, helping them learn and to feel good about their own neighborhoods — which didn’t look like Mr Roger’s Neighborhood (1968) or another show from 1969, The Brady Bunch.    I’m not the only person who’s written about growing up with Sesame Street:

Sesame Street was my first experience of a city. I had no idea where it was set when I was a kid, or even that it was in a city at all. I tended to imagine all settings as more or less equivalent to the small Midwestern city where I grew up. I was shocked as an adult to learn that Harriet the Spy, to take one example, was an Upper West Sider. As far as I was concerned, she lived down the block. I didn’t realize how centralized American culture is, how little of America Sesame Street depicts. I didn’t realize my life was considered provincial.

Sesame Street is supposed to represent a Manhattan street, which should be obvious to anyone who’s watched the program — though it wasn’t to me until I asked the show’s art director, Victor Di Napoli. I was thinking that it might be located in, oh, I don’t know, Brooklyn or Philadelphia (it’s actually filmed on a soundstage in Astoria, Queens). The folks at Sesame Street actually disagree over which specific Manhattan neighborhood the show depicts. Di Napoli, a longtime Sesame Street staffer, says it’s always been based on the Upper West Side, though Joan Ganz Cooney, Sesame Street’s founder, said during a 1994 talk at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York that she’d wanted to call the show 123 Avenue B — in the late ’60s, this now prosperous part of the East Village was called Alphabet City, and was considered part of the Lower East Side.

Whether or not I understood Sesame Street’s setting, it stuck in my head as a model for how people should live: close to one another, in a place where neighbors knew, liked, and watched out for each other, where chance encounters were common and meaningful. And I’ve sought that out repeatedly in my adult life. (How to Get to Sesame Street)

And based on the unscientific poll results many of you were also positively influenced:

Q: How did Sesame Street influence your childhood perceptions of urban neighborhoods?

  1. Positively 69 [37.91%]
  2. Very positively 66 [36.26%]
  3. Neutral 21 [11.54%]
  4. Unsure/No Answer/Not Applicable 21 [11.54%]
  5. Negatively 4 [2.2%]
  6. Very negatively 1 [0.55%]

Nearly 75% indicated Sesame Street positively or very positively influenced their perceptions of urban neighborhoods. The comments on the original post are interesting, some doubting the influence of the show and others saying they too wanted to experience such a way of living.


Poll: How Did Sesame Street Influence Your Childhood Perceptions of Urban Neighborhoods?

Forty-four years ago today  a new children’s program debuted that was very different from predecessors such as Howdy Doody (1947-1960), Captain Kangaroo (1955-1984), and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001). These earlier shows weren’t set in the gritty inner-city. I was a few months shy of being 3 years old when Sesame Street first aired on November 10, 1969, so I didn’t notice the change. Mister Rogers Neighborhood had only been on the air a year.

The Sesame Street set represented a very different place from where I lived
The Sesame Street set represented a compact, dense urban neighborhood. Image: Muppet Wiki

Officially located in New York City, as is often confirmed by regional references and the adjacent New York subway, Sesame Street was designed to resemble an urban, inner city landscape, recognizable to children although slightly idealized (though urban grunge was still well accounted for thanks to Oscar the Grouch). While many of the inserts took place in puppet-scale interiors, ranging from Ernie and Bert’s apartment and Charlie’s Restaurant to the countless walls or the varying game show sets of Guy Smiley, the main storyline scenes have always focused or at least begun on the street and its environs, outside of special location episodes. It serves as a meeting place for human and Muppet cast members alike. (Muppet Wiki)

My family moved into a brand new home in suburban Oklahoma City just months before I was born. Our subdivision lacked sidewalks, we had a 9-car driveway (3×3).

In February 1972 I posed for a pick on my new Big Wheel,
my mom’s 1966 Plymouth Fury III is behind me.

To my eyes Sesame Street seemed exotic, nothing like where I lived. Sure, I’d see neighbors, tinkering in their garages or sitting in a lawn chair  — on their driveway. But the interaction was different on Sesame Street, they couldn’t help but run into neighbors as they went about their lives. Since my dad worked on new homes, I rarely got to experience older/walkable neighborhoods closer to those on  Sesame Street.

Thankfully our family doctor had his office in OKC’s Capital Hill area, a once-thriving shopping area similar to the Wellston Loop. My father would also do carpentry work on his personal home from time to time, it was located in the historic Heritage Hills neighborhood, just north of downtown Oklahoma City. Otherwise I saw new homes going up in subdivisions far from the center. We drove to buy groceries, clothing, etc. — anything really other than a few things I might get at a convenience store I could walk/bike to.  We shopped at an L-shaped strip mall built in 1965 called Southwestern Plaza 1+ mile away, or a big Sears, also from 1965, a mile further away.Watching Sesame Street though, I knew there was another way to live.  I’m not sure when I got too old for Sesame Street, but the images of the conversations on the front stoop stayed in my memory.

Looking back, I think Sesame Street gave me a very positive image of urban neighborhoods.  This is the subject of the poll this week, the question being “How did Sesame Street influence your childhood perceptions of urban neighborhoods?”


Answers provided in random order are:

  • Very positively
  • Positively
  • Neutral
  • Negatively
  • Very Negatively
  • Unsure/No Answer/Not Applicable

The poll in the right sidebar for one week.

— Steve Patterson


Readers: We’re Calling It The “Poplar Street Bridge” Regardless of the Official Name

Nicknames tend to stick, for better or worse. The I-64/Hwy 40/I-55 span across the Mississippi River was first known officially as the  Bernard F. Dickman Bridge and was recently officially renamed the Congressman William L. Clay Sr. Bridge.

The Poplar Street Bridge over the Mississippi River was completed in 1967
The Poplar Street Bridge over the Mississippi River was completed in 1967

In the unscientific poll last week readers made it clear they’ll  continue to call it the Poplar Street Bridge, after the street that was once at that location.

Q: In the future, what do you plan to call the I-55/I-64 span over the Mississippi River?

  1. Poplar Street Bridge 99 [89.19%]
  2. PSB 9 [8.11%]
  3. Bernard F. Dickman Bridge 2 [1.8%]
  4. Congressman William L. Clay Sr. Bridge 1 [0.9%]
  5. Other 0 [0%]

I’m one of the 8% that calls it the PSB. Poplar Street still exists in a few places under the bridge, like at Broadway. Maybe in 45 years it’ll be officially renamed the Francis G. Slay Bridge.

— Steve Patterson


The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum Opens Today in Midtown

October 4, 2013 Events/Meetings, Featured, Midtown, Popular Culture Comments Off on The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum Opens Today in Midtown

The International Bowling Hall of Fame left St. Louis a few years ago, but we’ve more than made up for the loss by attracting the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, the World Chess Hall of Fame, and this year, the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum.

IPHF was founded in Chicago, in Oklahoma City for a while, and now at 3415 Olive in midtown. This is the 2nd floor space over Triumph Grill.

Main gallery in the new location of the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum
Main gallery in the new location of the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum

Today is your chance to see it for free:

The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum is pleased to announce that it will celebrate the museum’s GRAND OPENING on Friday, October 4, 2013.

In conjunction with First Fridays in Grand Center, the IPHF will be providing FREE ADMISSION to the general public to celebrate its grand opening and will have extended hours from 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM. Regular museum hours and admission prices will begin on Saturday, October 5th from 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM. You can find more information to help plan your visit on our website www.iphf.org/contact/plan-your-visit/

The fall exhibition, The Past, Present and Future of Nature Photography, will run from October 4, 2013 through January 25, 2014 and features Hall of Fame inductee Peter Dombrovskis, Noppadol Paothong, a photojournalist from the Missouri Department of Conservation, and select images from the National Geographic Young Explorers (ages 20-28) and North American Nature Photography Association High School Scholarship Students (ages 14-19). (source)

I had a chance to see the IPHF a few days ago, speaking with Executive Director John Nagel and board president Robert Wagner. Wagner is from Kirkwood, but is a practicing attorney in Oklahoma City.

Skylight over the entry stairs.
Skylight over the entry stairs.
Exterior entry is non-decript. Wheelchair access is through Triumph Grill.
Exterior entry is non-decript. Wheelchair access is through the Triumph Grill.

I’ll suggest they add transit directions to their website, the #10 MetroBus will get you there from the Central West End, Downtown, and from much of south city. And the #70 MetroBus is very close.

— Steve Patterson