‘St. Louis Strong’ shows how the region has defied pandemics and disasters


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – “What does it look like to live through history.” That is the opening line of a video from the Missouri Historical Society. A lot of people are thinking that after their lives changed as the coronavirus pandemic started to reach the area.

The Missouri Historical Society is reminding people that St. Louis has a resilient past. They have created a video to show that the coronavirus isn’t the first pandemic or disaster the region has dealt with. The region has recovered from floods, fires and tornadoes.

The city led the way for others to learn how to ‘flatten the curve.” Many of the steps St. Louis took during the “Spanish Flu” pandemic of 1918 helped save lives in Missouri and across the United States.

This “St. Louis Strong” video has been shared by the Missouri History Museum on social media. They want to share the uplifting and inspiring story from St. Louis’ history.

“In these uncertain times, we are trying to do our part to help the St. Louis community stay connected through our shared past, while staying physically apart,” writes the Missouri Historical Society. “St. Louis has always found ways to stay strong in tough times. We will – undoubtedly – leave this latest fight with some scars. But if anyone thinks this will defeat us then they don’t know St. Louis.”

All Missouri Historical Society locations are temporarily closed. But, you can follow all of their digital efforts here.

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We can't come together physically, but we can still build community through storytelling. For the next several weeks we will share select submissions from our "Stories of the Pandemic: A St. Louis COVID-19 Digital Archive." . . . We hope sharing these stories will help foster community engagement, make us all feel a little less isolated, and maybe encourage you to submit your own story to the #DigitalArchive which could benefit future historians, scientists, and researchers. #COVID19storiesSTL #StoriesofthePandemicSTL . . . To start here's Andrea's story titled "Peace During Pandemic" "I spent the first five months of 2019 confined to my home because I was in an accident that left me unable to walk or do things for myself. While many people have been trying to adjust to this, I have found it ironic that my traumatic experience prepared me for exactly this moment. I have found peace and happiness simply being able to do things for myself and take a walk around my historic neighborhood, Soulard. There are still traces of Mardi Gras amid the "Closed" or "Carry Out Only" signs posted on the businesses; local residents have written encouraging notes in sidewalk chalk; the architecture resembles the French Quarters to the point that one feels as if they are there. These times are trying and chaotic, but peace during the pandemic is attainable if one takes a moment to appreciate the things we take for granted like something so simple as taking a walk around your neighborhood, listening to good music and enjoying the fresh air."

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One of the challenges facing cities has always been providing a healthy life for residents. In 1940, St. Louisans got a huge breath of fresh air with the city’s Smoke Abatement Ordinance. . In the early 1900s, almost every home, business, and factory in St. Louis relied on soft Illinois coal for heat and power, and one of its most famous byproducts was a tar-like, black smoke that hung low and thick. One morning in March 1906, St. Louis students awoke to find school had been canceled for a “smoke day.” The city was so shrouded in darkness that school officials feared children would get lost or hit by traffic on their way in. . In the 1920s, the Missouri Botanical Garden threatened to move out of St. Louis permanently because so many plants were dying in the city’s bad air, and the original purpose of the Jewel Box in Forest Park was to showcase the types of plants that were hearty enough to survive outside in a St. Louis yard. . Between 1867 and 1939, St. Louis passed at least 17 different smoke control ordinances to try and brighten the city’s constantly filthy skies, but nothing seemed to work. The worst smoke of all struck in November 1939, when “Black Tuesday” became the day the sun never rose in St. Louis. . City Smoke Commissioner Raymond Tucker (who later became St. Louis mayor) headed up a citizens’ protest committee that demanded a change. On April 8, 1940, under pressure from the combined voices of more than a hundred civic groups, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed a bill banning the use of soft Illinois coal in homes. By the winter of 1941, smoke pollution had been cut to less than a third of its average amount just two years earlier. . It was a clear new day locally in St. Louis, but this fight for healthier living impacted people far away as well. Pittsburgh—a city infamous for its darkened skies—enacted their own smoke abatement program the following year, basing it directly off St. Louis’s program. #UpliftingSTL . . . #SmokeControl #HealthierLiving #STLhistory #StLouisHistory #MuseumFromHome #MOHistLibrary #SoldiersMemorial #SoldiersSTL #MOHistoryMuseum

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After the October 1929 stock market crash sent the US spiraling into the Great Depression, many St. Louisans found themselves living in the city’s “Hooverville,” a collection of shanty houses that popped up along the river’s edge. These people needed a sense of normalcy more than ever, and one of the places where they found it was the Welcome Inn. . Located beneath the Municipal Bridge train trestle, the Welcome Inn was Hooverville’s improvised “city hall.” It had two large ovens (built from found bricks), and Hooverville residents gathered there for regular meals. Nearby grocery stores, bakeries, and markets donated food to the Welcome Inn pantry, and by the mid-1930s the pantry was providing more than 4,000 meals a day. The Welcome Inn also had a bathtub for washing clothes, and beside the inn was a makeshift swimming pool built just for the 300 children who lived in Hooverville. . St. Louisans who were fortunate enough to have spare resources held charity auctions to raise money for the Welcome Inn, including a 1936 charity ball hosted by famous actress and singer Helen Kane. . With dirt floors and walls built from discarded wood planks, the Welcome Inn wasn’t much to look at, but for the more than 3,000 “Hooverites” living along the river’s edge, it was a sanctuary. #UpliftingSTL . . . #GreatDepression #Hooverville #Pool #Kids #STLhistory #StLouisHistory #MuseumFromHome #MOHistLibrary #SoldiersMemorial #SoldiersSTL #MOHistoryMuseum

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