(gentle music) - [Jim] It went from this to this, and now this.
African Schoolhouse #4 is once again in business, teaching history at Faust Park.
- [Interviewer] What did you feel when you walked back into the completed school room?
- I said thank God this is over.
- [Jim] She took some time off, well 38 years.
And then Kim Sampson was back in the saddle.
- I can't imagine myself without a heart.
You can't be down here if you didn't love the horses.
- And we look back at the dramatic event 70 years ago, the great St. Louis Bank robber.
It's all next on "Living St. Louis".
(upbeat music) (upbeat music continues) (upbeat music continues) (upbeat music continues) - I'm Jim Kirchherr.
And we've been following the rebuilding of a one-room schoolhouse in Faust Park for quite some time.
It was a work in progress that's now completed, but people didn't come out to the park in March just to mark the finishing of something, they came to Mark the beginning of how an old school is back in business with an important lesson in local history.
This is the first building in Faust Park's historic village, whose story is tied directly to black history.
It was built in 1894 in Chesterfield, but only after pressure and a lawsuit by the black community.
After it was built, it served black students until the 1950s.
Doris Frazier, who turns 92 this year, was a guest of honor at the dedication.
When she was 19, she came to this one-room schoolhouse as a substitute teacher.
- Can you imagine a teacher coming in, sitting at the desk, 20 kids into the classroom from age six to 14 trying to keep their attention?
- [Jim] But what did you feel when you walked back into the completed school room?
- [Doris] I said thank God this is over.
- [Jim] You know, a lot of people, including me, they haven't associated black history with this part of the county.
- I know, but let me tell you that there were a lot of blacks in this community of Chesterfield-- - [Jim] That's the story that will be told here.
But there's another story about why and how the parks department worked so hard to bring it here.
Our first visit was a year ago when we met with Park preservationist Molly Butterworth at the future site of the schoolhouse.
- We do have a spot and it's really an amazing spot because not only is it right in the middle of our historic village, it's adjacent to a school built in the same period for white students, correct.
The old school house, which you stand on Ranki Road very close in time period to the African schoolhouse we'll be erecting here on the spot.
- [Jim] This is a 1931 photograph of the students who went to the school on Wild Horse Creek Road in Chesterfield.
It was built in 1894.
African Schoolhouse #4 would serve black students until the end of school segregation in the 1950s.
Then it was turned into a garage, and the log structure was hidden inside new siding and interior walls.
The county parks folks located it years ago, had their eye on it, but it was after all somebody's garage.
- The building was sold and the gentleman that bought it was gonna tear it down and he actually was very willing to donate it to the park.
- [Jim] All they had to do then was take it apart, move it, put it back together.
But remember, it is what they do.
So the modern era siding was removed to reveal the original interior log walls.
And then each piece, inside and outside, was mapped and tagged.
And not with post-it notes.
Parks educator Micha Kornblum showed us how the metal tags are stamped using a system of numbers and letters, giving each piece's location and orientation.
- Side A, which is the front.
There's side B, which would be... - [Jim] When everything was tagged and diagrammed, the schoolhouse was taken apart, and the pieces stored in the Faust Park barn.
- Well here are the logs for the schoolhouse here.
- [Jim] These are the original?
- These are the originals here and back here.
Tag B, this is tag B4.
So that's the right hand wall.
And it's the fourth log up.
- [Jim] Here too is one of the discoveries that brings African School #4 to life.
It had been hidden for generations behind the garage wall.
- That plywood came down and this is what I saw.
And I'm a retired school teacher, and this is thrilling.
- [Jim] To see this.
- It's been protected.
It has a special spray on it so that the moisture can't get to it, but once it's inside the building, it will be doubly protected.
- [Jim] But so much more work had to be done because some of the pieces of the old building were gone or in bad shape.
Woodworking volunteers came to recreate doors and windows.
But when it comes to replacing damaged or missing logs, well that's a very different kind of job.
But there's park staff who have those old-timey skills.
- And we're really expecting, hoping to have it erected by late summer of this year.
- [Jim] Well they didn't hit that deadline, but by September of last year, you could see the progress they were making.
Work was delayed for a time because of another project that popped up, two log homes at Conway Park and Creve Coeur became available and needed to be disassembled and moved right away.
But work on the schoolhouse continued.
And we were back on a cold day in November when volunteers from Green Trails United Methodist Church showed up to do some chinking, filling in the gaps between the logs with wood scraps, after which mortar would be applied.
This community involvement was the idea of their pastor.
- Oh, yes, yes.
As soon as I told them the story, and what I've always told my folks is when you have a black pastor, every month is Clack History Month.
So this isn't something we're just doing for a season or for a cause.
It is really something we're deeply rooted in, trying to bridge the gap between races.
So it's very important to us.
- [Jim] Take a good look because this is not what the old schoolhouse actually looked like.
The logs were covered by walls inside and siding outside.
You can just make that out in the old photograph.
The siding back then gave the school a more finished look.
And project leader Jesse Francis says that's one of the reasons the building survived.
- If you start exposing logs and you don't keep the weather off of them, they're going to rot faster.
- [Jim] Interior work would then be completed, including reinstallation of chalk rails.
And that surviving chalkboard lesson which would get a protective covering.
- Of plexiglass in front of it.
- [Jim] By March, African American Schoolhouse #4 was ready for dedication.
- I do this in the name of the lord, amen.
- [Crowd] Amen.
- [Jim] After the speeches and the ribbon cutting, people lined up to squeeze into the little room where hundreds of black children had been educated over the decades.
Trying to imagine what it must have been like for those kids.
Curtis Johnson didn't have to imagine, he was one of them.
- So this is the first time I went back into school since 44, really.
- [Jim] Bring back memories?
- A whole lot, you know, but you don't realize how small it is I guess because you're small, you don't realize it was this small, but you figure how all these kids get in this one little bitty room, but we did.
- And that's one of the things we want to do is anybody connected with this school that has a story about it, we want to get that documented.
Because to me that's as important as the structure itself is the people and what they did when they went there.
(upbeat music) (upbeat music continues) (upbeat music continues) - You know, there are some careers which a lot of people would consider a young man's game.
Well in this next story by Brooke Butler, the terms young and man do not apply.
- [Announcer] It could be close.
Lonesome Dream, Baba's Boy, Lonesome Dream last, 15 to 1.
- [Brooke] At Fairmont Park Racetrack, this was one of the many horse races to take place during last summer season, but for Kim Sampson, it was the season that placed her in the Guinness Book of World Records.
- Back in 83 was my last win in October.
So when I won on Lonesome Dream, it was 30, I think it was 38 years and 180 days in between my wins.
So nobody's gonna beat that record.
Some people are saying "what the heck you think you're doing?"
And other people are saying "no, you go for it".
- [Brooke] At 63, Sampson is still riding strong for the 2023 season after a 38 year hiatus from the industry.
Although she claims this will be her last season of racing, she'll always have a hand in the work.
- I can't imagine myself without a horse.
You can't be down here if you didn't love the horses.
Look back at some of these horses.
And it brings back a lot of memories of... - Do you have any favorites?
- I really don't have any favorites because when I go tell, every one of them has their own story.
- [Brooke] Kim is a native to Collinsville, Illinois, home of Fairmount Park.
Although the city's association with racing wasn't exactly what sparked her jockey career.
Her family always had horses.
And when Kim was old enough, she bought her own.
She found a stable where she could keep the horse and ride with her friends.
And the man who owned that stable one day convinced her to try riding the other horses he had.
And Kim fell in love, but not just with riding.
- And he says "hey, you want to get on a horse?"
And year and a half later we was married.
- [Brooke] Jerry Sampson was training and breeding racehorses at the time he and Kim met.
Jerry passed in 2009.
But he has always been the motivation behind Kim's racing career.
- He says "you're gonna lose weight, you're gonna ride".
And I was like okay.
I was kind of one of them things was always in the back of my mind.
Diane Danford was riding back in the late 70s when I first kind of started with the horses and she was on the day they bring McDonald's billboard inside there, you know?
And I always thought that was so cool, you know?
But I never thought that would ever be me, you know?
So I rode back in the 80s for just starting, I was riding like eight races, there was 10 races, and I might ride seven or eight races a day.
And it was for a girl starting out, I did all right.
- [Brooke] Of course, Kim is being a little modest here.
Her first year racing in 1980, she won 13 races even with a late start in the season.
And the next season she won 43, setting a record for the first woman jockey at Fairmount to win three races in won night.
In fact, Kim was probably the first female jockey to break through at Fairmount.
There were others who came before her at other tracks that made national headlines like Kathy Kusner and Diane Crump.
And actually Kim raced with Diane in a 1981 Battle of the Sexes.
- The guys ended up winning, but they did have, you know, just the way it went.
But I mean, you know, we had Dave.
- [Brooke] Did you struggle with any of that?
Did the men really embrace it?
Or how did that feel?
- I was really to my myself, I was very much to myself back then.
The first, we had a little video jock's room or whatever and I just went in there and did my thing and no.
My husband, he thought like I knew things that I don't know, they don't fill me in on their things.
- [Brooke] I think what Kim is alluding to here was locker room talk, that maybe she wasn't aware was happening, but that Jerry was quick to put a stop to.
And again, I think Kim is being a little modest about her treatment as a female jockey.
It's no secret that like many other sports, racing has traditionally been a boys' club.
There's varying statistics on this, but currently only 12 to 27% of jockeys are women.
Despite studies that show there's not a significant difference in performance compared to their male counterparts.
And although Kim says she didn't feel mistreated, there are certain aspects of racing that can make it more challenging for women, like weight and dieting.
- My weight would go up in the winter and trying to get it off, it'd be Memorial Day.
They'd already have the racing meet in three months before I could ever get my weight off to where the riders, where they was gonna ride me at like 107 pounds and I'd take a drink of water and spit it out.
And I mean, it was... - [Brooke] And so then you were racing in the 80s and then you took a break?
- I took a break, yep.
- [Brooke] In the summer of 82, Kim had a son, but she still managed to make it back to the track for a few wins the last three weeks of the season.
- And actually I came back galloping too soon and I pulled a muscle in my back.
And I wouldn't dare say it because if they thought, especially being a woman, if they thought I was hurting, they was gonna give them another excuse not to ride me.
So I just kept my mouth shut and whatever and went on.
And then the next year when I came back at 83, I rode and I won 26 that year.
But just with every push, I just felt the strain in my back, I just couldn't get it relieved.
And that was kind of between the dieting and it was it was time to quit.
So then we just galloped for a while and.
- [Brooke] Kim and Jerry continued to raise horses on the side for a while, but they took a complete break from the racetrack after they decided to purchase a campground outside of Collinsville.
All this time, Jerry had a full-time career with the iron workers, and pretty soon Kim got bored at the campground.
So she joined the iron workers too.
Kim spent 28 years in the industry because, you know, paving the way for one male-dominated field wasn't enough.
It was after Kim got a hand injury that she retired from the iron workers and decided to return to Fairmount, at first just to help train.
But pretty soon she was convinced to give racing another shot.
- I'm at home at Fairmont and probably this year, I will be done, especially riding races, definitely.
Just the idea that I'm still physical enough and can be able to get on these horses and train and do what I do is, it feels pretty darn good.
- Fairmont Park where Kim Sampson spent her career is the only horse racing track in our region.
However, around the turn of the 20th century, horse racing was the most popular sport in the United States, and St. Louis was front and center with almost 20 tracks on both sides of the river.
Joining me now is Nancy Carver, author of "Making Tracks: the Untold Story of Horse Racing in St. Louis".
Thank you so much for joining us.
- Thank you for having me.
- Tell it to us, what happened?
What happened to horse racing in St. Louis?
Now we have to make note that Fairmont is in Illinois.
What was cause of the demise?
- The books that I wrote about, but are the tracks that I wrote about.
But what happened was 1905 and Governor Folk was in power and he decided he was gonna put an end to gambling because at that time, gambling was prevalent on racetracks.
So he ended up getting the police to raid Del Mar Racetrack.
And that put an end to racing in St. Louis.
- Just knocked it out.
Was there ever racing that didn't involve gambling?
That's not really a thing, is it?
- No, there was always gambling of some sort.
But the newspapers always made it seem like everyone was gambling, and that's not really true.
People would come just to have the thrill of watching the horses and to see who won, but there was gambling.
- Well now gambling might come back into the fold for sports betting here in Missouri, so we'll see what happens with that.
It's funny, the Rams left St. Louis claiming that St. Louis couldn't support three major league teams, and there were 20, almost 20 racetracks here in this region.
And I'm not a businesswoman, but that sounds like a lot of competition to have at one time.
How did they thrive or were they successful with all of them operating at the same time?
- They didn't actually all operate at the same time because they began in 1767.
- [Anne] So that's over the course of all that time?
- Yes, over the course.
So my book actually splits them up into three categories.
So in the first part are the smaller tracks when it just didn't have all the amenities that the later tracks did, but it was fun more casual.
- But they did work together, in when they would schedule their races.
So they weren't at the same time?
- Well, in the second part of the book where there was more competition and tracks were running potentially at the same time, there was the ability to try to work together and make sure that that didn't happen.
But as the tracks became more expensive to maintain and it became more costly, then the racetrack owners really didn't want to work with each other.
- Because it was survival of the fittest at that point?
- Yes, yes.
So there was a lot of political involvement, legal involvement to try and get rid of the competition.
And so it was whoever could come on top.
- Well, and you know about this a lot, not just because you did a lot of research for your book, but you've got a little family connection.
- Yes, my great-uncle was part of a triumvirate that owned the two major racetracks that were here in 1905 as well as other tracks in Illinois and in St. Louis and other parts of the country as well.
So it was very big in racetrack history and I had some information about my family that I used in the book.
- So what happened to those people that owned the racetracks when all of a sudden, sorry, gambling's over.
They just lost their livelihood?
- Well my uncle and he's the one I know the most about, he was very smart about it.
He sold the land and made a lot of money.
- So if you owned the land, that was really the way to go.
- Yes, yes.
So especially on Del Mar Boulevard, he sold a lot of that land and became even wealthier than he was when he was involved in the horse racing.
- When horse racing originally was for that country club elite crowd, but then it changed over the course of time.
How and when did that happen?
- Well, it really happened, I would say around 1900 when my great uncle and his two partners took over fairgrounds racetrack because before that it was owned by wealthy people, and they made a lot of investment and it really wanted only wealthy people to come.
But it became so expensive to operate the track and maintain the track, they needed to unload it.
- So anyone with any money to spend could come.
But I'm just gonna take a guess that somebody like Kim Sampson would not have been a jockey during this time.
They weren't that progressive there.
Are there any remnants out there?
Anything that we could see of any of these old tracks?
- Well, you can go to University City and Eastgate and Westgate are still there, and those were actually the gates to the park.
And it was situated next to Del Mar Gardens, which is also a big entertainment center.
And that's how the Loop got its name because the streetcars came down and made a loop in between the two places.
- All right, we'll have to check that out.
Thank you so much for joining us.
I appreciate you taking the time.
And if you wanna learn more about horse racing in St. Louis, pick up a copy of "Making Tracks: The Untold Story of Horse Racing in St. Louis", which by the way, is published locally by Reedy Press.
And next, we're going to stay in the past and take a look back at an event in St. Louis history that movies are made of.
(upbeat music) - [Jim] This week in history, 70 years ago, April 24th, 1953, one of the most daring and dramatic crimes that ever took place in St. Louis.
The Globe Democrat called it a wild west type holdup.
A 1959 movie called it "The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery".
(police radio chatter) - Come on, there's a stickup at the Southwest Bank.
- [Jim] That morning, four men tried to rob the Southwest Bank at Kings Highway in Southwest when it was filled with workers and customers.
At gunpoint, they stuffed $141,000 in a bag, but a silent alarm had gone out.
And two police officers arrived, exchanging gunfire with the robbers.
But now the robbers were trapped inside with their hostages.
More police arrived and used tear gas.
Reports said there was a wild gun battle.
The hostages were lying on the floor or hiding in the basement.
One robber committed suicide in the bank.
The holdup ringleader, Fred Bowerman, came out of the bank holding a woman as a shield.
He did not see Officer Mel Stein crouched behind a newspaper vending box.
- I saw Bowerman pushing a woman out with a gun.
He had a shotgun in her back.
- [Jim] Stein told us his story in 2007.
- They were coming real slow and I held real steady.
And after she passed in front of my line of sight and I started squeezing and I squeezed off around and caught him through the spine.
But anyway, he died about three days later.
- [Jim] The robbery was over.
One police officer was wounded, two robbers were dead, one wounded a few weeks later, the driver of the getaway car who had driven off when police arrived was caught in Chicago.
When the movie was made, that's Mel Stein playing himself.
He died just seven years ago at the age of 102, still remembered as the hero of the Southwest Bank robbery 70 years ago.
This week in history.
(dramatic music) (gentle music) And finally, do you ever go to a store looking for your favorite item and it's not where it's supposed to be, or worse, maybe it's gone all together?
Well, sometimes that happens with TV programs, even here.
And when it comes to questions like whatever happened to fill in the blank, we turn to Ernmardia.
(upbeat music) - Hey friends, let's talk about your favorite PBS shows.
Because our station is licensed to the community, that's you, let me let you in on the little secret.
We actually do listen to all of the comments that you send us.
So it's kind of like you're right there in the room with us when we meet to discuss the creation of our schedule.
We always consider what we've heard from you and pay close attention to all of your likes and your dislikes because who among us doesn't hate when our favorite show is preempted?
That's why it's so heartbreaking to us when the rights of a popular show that we've aired have been bought out by another company.
Great Bridge Baking Show.
Netflix, I'm not bitter or anything though.
Listen, these things happen from time to time.
PBS acquires a lot of content from outside organizations, like those Masterpiece shows that you love, produced by the BBC.
That's why when we hear comments about shows like Season three of "Victoria", I mean, come on, we're all still bummed right along with you but unfortunately there's not much we can do about it.
Not to worry, PBS does produce some amazing content, like my personal favorites, "Nature" and NOVA", and some local favorites like "Living St. Louis".
Okay, wait, I take that back.
That's actually my favorite.
So keep sharing all of your thoughts about the things that you love or you hate.
Shout it from the rooftops.
I'll make sure that your voice is heard at our next programming meeting.
And the next time you watch Nine PBS, you'll know that you had a part in this work too.
(upbeat music continues) - And on this very topic, breaking news, well kind of, but we really did just find out that we're finally getting new episodes, are you ready, of "Doc Martin" starting in July.
That's after a couple of years of jumping through a lot of hoops and taking a lot of viewer questions and comments.
Well, that's "Living St. Louis".
Thanks for joining us.
I'm Jim Kirchherr and we'll see you next time.
(upbeat music) (upbeat music continues) (upbeat music continues) (upbeat music continues) - [Announcer] "Living St. Louis" is funded in part by the Betsy and Thomas Patterson Foundation and the members of Nine PBS.