Bob Corbett preface: Below are writings sent to me by a relative of James Newport, and an article which appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. There are a few unfattering things said about some neighbors and these may well be hurtful to the families involved. Nonetheless, these are quite rare documents of memories from a long-past Dogtown, thus I feel it is important to share them with those interested in Dogtown history.
April 2002

James Newport

Inspired by Sr. Thomas More's articles, I've pasted below a story (more like ramblings I suppose) that my Dad wrote probably 20-25 years ago. He was born in the house on the South west corner of Lloyd and Tamm in 1915 - this might help you date the information.

He talked frequently about how the Corbetts supplied at least one half of the baseball equipment in the neighborhood.

Mom (Mary Claire Duggan) & Dad moved from Dogtown to Chicago in 1946 or 1947 but they never forgot their roots in Dogtown. Both were buried from St.James.

Hope you find some interest in this.

Jim Newport

Some Reflections From My Youth
By James T. Newport

The corner house on Lloyd and Tamm (the Newports' first home in Dogtown probably about 1912-1913) parquet block floor blocks removable pigeons in the barn loft (my brothers)

Summer evening walks with Mrs. Carpenter (a neighbor) to the drug store cool interior, overhead fans, wire backed chairs, marble fountain with glistening be-dewed metal the still remembered compost of smells, child-intoxicating, especially the fragrance of pineapple and chocolate sodas The pungency of freshly ground coffee as we pass the grocers Warm, green golden summer days the locusts song in the trees the miracle of summer twilight

The times following the 1st World War my brother Jack coming home in uniform (When Johnny Comes Marching Home) Ragtime, Rag piano and Jacks mandolin music was, later, Avalon, My Isle of Golden Dreams Major Wassel, our neighborhoods flying hero (Lafayette Escadrille?) He always flew low over his house when returning from a mail run (later with Maj. Lambert and Lindbergh)

More music, identified with our first console Victrola Paul Whiteman’s Whispering, Irving Berlins Remember also early radio, Sam & Henry (Correll & Gosden)

Street south of house not paved trucks brought loads of pecan shells to combat mud (was this possible? Yes, because I remember looking for pecans) must have been mixed with tan bark associate this with Forest Park Highlands Amusement Park Take the Tan Bark Trail to the Halls of Laughter

Rehearsals for school play on outdoor stage behind Moore’s in late spring each class with own skit no school in late May or early June practicing for play and graduation a nostalgic hiatus between the last classes and the first free days of summer The school picnic, open cars to Creve Coeur or Ramona.

Baseball discovered from brother Mike the already legendary Ruth & Cobb, Speaker & Collins, and particularly the hometown heroes, Sisler and Hornsby The Corbetts, on our block Rawling Sporting Goods (Mr. Corbett worked there) smell of castor and neets foot oil rubbed into new leather of gloves the well known (to us) gloves of Bill Doak and Dazzy Vance the daily hazardous journey to Oakland and Tamm to get first baseball finals (pink or green sheet?) two Italian louts who always lay in wait and chased and pummeled us if caught

Playing baseball Talking baseball on rainy summer days Baseball until darkness, then more baseball talk Avid reading of magazine Baseball with well loved writers continued there perennially Clifford Bloodgood, etc. Also the Sporting News with the likes of Earle E.Liedermann Body building ads and booklets sepia toned pictures showing incredible depth and swell of muscular development

My brother Mike builds the legends of baseball and the Browns Dave Danforth, Dixie Davis, Hub Pruett, Kenny Williams, Baby Doll Jacobson these his favorites and, of course, mine also The world of Jack Dempsey (the Manassa Mauler) and Tex Rickard and Doc Kerns

Walking with my brother Mike down Tamm past the saloons with the stale cool smells stopping to gawk and the picture of Custer’s Last Stand

Outdoor movies the open air theater (Powhatan) a certain ice cream truck outside after the show fabulous triple decked cones the girls our age at the Powhatan I remember being with schoolmate Buddy Cavanaugh one such early summer evening at the Powhatan unforgettable but why? We could ask for no more from life we persistently annoyed his 8th grade sister with taunts and tricks she pretends anger

I remember summer picnics and screened doors, pies cooling on windowsills, 4th of July and fireworks, family gatherings, Mom, Dad, Brothers and Sisters Unforgettable summers but other will follow and we know they will be even better.


A proud Irishman remembers Dogtown

By Paul Hempel
St. Louis Post-Disptach
Everyday Magazine on Thursday, March 15, 2001.

James Newport's writings, discovered after his death, fondly recall the sad and the merry, the strivers and the shiftless, the harshness and the love of that neighborhood in the early 20th century.

The Dogtown of 80 years ago didn't need St. Patrick's Day as a reminder that its people were the sons and daughters of Erin. The evidence was all around the neighborhood, all the time.

From the gossip of women hanging laundry behind cold-water flats to the chatter at sweet-smelling confectioneries and wood-floored hardware stores and happily boisterous saloons, the brogue flowed as thickly as if these streets of St. Louis were streets of Dublin.

In old Dogtown, Irish ballads wafted from parlors where children practiced the violin after school. When their fathers came home from work, they sometimes drank homemade ale on their front porches in cheerful contempt of Prohibition.

The sights and sounds seeped into the soul of a boy named James Newport and never faded.

Four years before Newport died at the age of 71 in 1986, he compiled his Dogtown memories into 15 short stories. They turned up in the personal effects of his sister, Annette Newport, who died last year. Typed on loose-leaf and stapled together, they have never been published. Newport, known as "Dee," grew up in a turn-of-the-century house that still stands at 6420 Wade Avenue.

His father and mother, John J. and Lole (Coffey) Newport, were first-generation Americans, whose parents settled in St. Louis' original Irish neighborhood, called "Kerry Patch," in the late 1840s. They moved to Dogtown early in the 20th century.

Together, Newport's stories form a colorful portrait of Irish immigrant life here. He chronicled the uproarious wakes and the devotion of the parish priests; the residents who worked and strived and the shiftless who surrendered to drunkenness. The simple pleasures and simple miseries, all leavened with a dry humor.

Newport eventually moved from Dogtown to the Chicago area, where he worked at an auto dealership. But he never forgot Dogtown. When he died, his family honored his last request, burying him here after a Mass celebrated at St. James the Greater Catholic Church in the heart of Dogtown.

(Not all of Newport's portraits proved flattering, so the identities of some people and places in the following excerpts from his stories have been concealed to protect the privacy of descendants still living in the area.)

James Newport's writings, discovered after his death, fondly recall the sad and the merry, the strivers and the shiftless, the harshness and the love of that neighborhood in the early 20th century.

For better or worse, old Dogtown was steeped in traditions that stubbornly resisted assimilation into American culture . . .

The complex and ebullient Irish! A legendary, rock-like religious belief and a burning loyalty to their cause and customs fired their very hearts and souls . . .

We had occasion to attend the wake of Kate R., dead after living all her 83 years in the old neighborhood.

Stopping abruptly before a parlor, we knew immediately, without seeing a sign or a familiar face, that we had reached our destination.

You can always tell an old neighborhood Irish wake. You can tell by the noise and you will hear laughter. The noise and laughter will not seem out of place and then you will know that you are again back home.

"How horrible!" tsk-tsked a passer-by, in protest outside the parlor. "You'd think they were at a picnic!"

Fr. P.J. O'Connor was the neighborhood's spiritual leader and truant officer at Mass . . .

Fr. O'Connor, with wide grin, sandy hair in a cow-lick low over his forehead, the brogue and the twinkle of the eye was Irish from top to bottom and the faith was strong and green in him.

Plain, boyishly naive, careless of appearance, inquisitive, restless, impatient and nervous in manner, ill at ease with people of importance or in elegant places, he had a way of entering into your life and inner thoughts, whether you would or no . . .

If you were not in church by the first Gospel you were considered to have missed Mass. Fr. O'Connor, when he was not the celebrant, would stand in the back of the church and sternly inform late arrivals: "Mr. B., you are late for Mass!" "Mrs. K., the Gospel is over and you have missed Mass. You might as well go home!"

Whenever the Sacred Host was on public display, we had been rigidly trained to react as though we were in the actual presence of God. On occasion, when greeting one of the priests as you met on the street, you might be told, "I am on sick call," which meant he was carrying the Sacred Host and could not engage in conversation. Sometimes you just got a frown, a shake of the head and a warning motion of the hand toward an inner pocket, where the priest kept the receptacle used in the rite of Extreme Unction. I used to worry in anticipation of such meeting. What do you do, what do you say, when you come face to face with God? I wondered then in fear and trembling.

Now, after a half-century of living and seeking, I am still wondering. In an era when radio was a fledging phenomena and the hand-operated phonograph a novelty, many families made their own music . . . While music was not a part of the regular school curriculum, it was taught by the St. James nuns after school hours. A surprising number of children learned to play the piano.

My mother had learned to play piano as a girl and my sisters Helen, Annette and Rosemary all played with some degree of efficiency. In addition, Annette also played the violin . . .

Our neighbor, Patty F., who was reared in Ireland, found himself caught up in this cultural epidemic. He was not about to let his family fall behind the Newports in any field of endeavor.

Late one summer afternoon, passing our house on his way home, he had heard Annette playing the violin. I was on the F.'s back porch with Timmy F. at the time, and heard Mr. F., upon entering the house, deliver an ultimatum to his struggling musicians.

"I just heard Annette Newport playing a lovely Irish melody. Ye have all been practicing long enough now. It's time one of ye learned to play a good Irish song. Who'll go first? Sally!"

Sally tried a few shaky bars of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." Impatiently she was waved to silence and Kelly was brought on. She fared no better, retiring in favor of Timmy and Julia, who as usual played a duet together, as usual in erratic discord. They weren't at it too long before Mr. F. stomped out of the house in a rage, throwing up his hands in frustration and defeat.

Their family venture into the world of music had ended . . .

The neighborhood had its characters, among them Will O'. . . .

The O's. came to Wade Avenue as our neighbors in the early '20s, beginning a long association of the two families that developed interesting parallels and differences through the years.

The head of the O'. clan, Will was a tall, gaunt, begobs and bejabers type of down-country Irishman, who chewed tobacco and occasionally smoked a pipe. His wife, Mary, was smallish and dark-complected, starting to show care and age beyond her 42 years. They were both Irish-born and spoke with decided brogues.

Turmoil and daily battle seemed to be a way of life for the O'.s, yet, paradoxically, they were not an unhappy family. The mother and father fought constantly. Will was a strong believer in the superiority of the Irish male and his wife's role in the house was more that of a slave than a wife. In fact, Mr. O'. fancied himself, as the years went on, as a country gentleman, one of the landed gentry, deserving the respect and attention due him as Lord of the Manor. The family had endured lean, meager early years before the eldest, Nell, and the two boys had gone to work to supplement the father's modest income.

His wife, prematurely careworn, was worked to the bone keeping the family fed and clothed, and meeting the challenge of raising her large brood of eight children.

Mrs. O'., it seemed, could never please her demanding husband. Once, stopping in at their house to join Tommy on the way to school, I saw Mrs. O'. carrying a breakfast tray up to the bed of the master. Suddenly, there was a loud crash, accompanied by a roar from Himself and a screaming Mrs. O'. fled precipitately down the stairs. He had thrown the tray of food at her!

"Oh my God! The man is a divvil," she cried, arms shielding her head as she ran. He, standing like an emaciated Moses, wrathfully, in long night gown at the head of the stairs, shouts insults and imprecations.

"That'll teach ye, woman, to serve me cold eggs!" . . .

Every block had a confectionery . . .

There was a short cut you could take then from the house at 6420 Wade to a well-worn path beginning just the other side of the street that led to Vince's.

This was a narrow, one-story building. The front section consisted of a 20-foot-square room, with a glass-covered candy counter on the north side. It contained a great assortment of cheap bulk candy, selling from two to five pieces for a penny.

Vince ran the store and lived there alone. He had lost his leg in an accident at the Scullin Steel Works and drew a pension which, with the income from the store, enabled him to eke out a drab existence. He was a strongly-built, heavy-set man with a meaty red face and a sorry disposition. But he did learn to tolerate people, for a good reason: He loved to gossip!

He had, in fact, developed a facility for prying information from his youthful customers, who, in their innocence, made him privy to a variety of family doings and local scandal. He obtained a vast accumulation of neighborhood news that might have put him in position, had he so desired, to profit by blackmail. He was happy and content, however, simply to be involved in other people's business on a free-exchange basis. He was satisfied being a happy medium in this market . . .

On the Fourth of July, Dogtown residents gathered for parades and later to watch the fireworks display presented by a different contingent of immigrants who lived to the south . . .

Gen. "Black Jack" Pershing's khaki-clad veterans of the Allied Expeditionary Force, looking trim and youthful still in their high, choke-necked tunics, marched smartly by with sharp precision, flat saucer-shaped steel helmets tipped at rakish angles.

They marched past the saloon near the corner of Clayton and Tamm, deserted now since the passage of the Volstead Act. I paused at the shuttered entrance, memory bringing back strongly, as it always did at exactly this spot, the unforgettable whiff of stale, cool, damp saloon air that always emanated from the mysterious dark and forbidden interior . . .

The men in our block had gotten hold of an ample supply of beer, the illegal but well-patronized product of Mr. S.'s home brewing business. A few Republicans, obeying the Volstead Act, drank Busch's or Falstaff's "near beer."

Mike Kennedy brought back handbills (from an earlier air show) with the names and pictures of the barnstormers: Dunn, Gervey and Lindbergh. Will Kennedy, Frank Flavin and John Newport drank the home brew and told many stories of their experiences in the Great War, one story being wilder than another.

Then the southern sky began to glow and flare in the first of a series of night fireworks that would continue into the late hours. These came from Fairmont Heights, an area in southwest St. Louis known more familiarly as "The Hill."

The residents of this Italian settlement celebrated eight or 10 various national or religious holidays during the year. These occasions were marked by colorful parades and spectacular fireworks displays . . .

Note: James "Dee" Newport was a great uncle of Paul Hampel of the Post-Dispatch.


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Bob Corbett