Jim Terry
May 27, 2010
The Arch and a bureaucrat
By Jim Terry

The muddy Mississippi waters swirled beneath us. Grass, twigs and other debris zoomed past on a swift current southbound. Tree limbs whirled in eddies while barges and small boats worked against the fast and hard running waters. That was the view from 630 feet above the river, from St. Louis' Gateway Arch.

A couple of days before we reached St. Louis several tourists became stranded in the Arch when the tram to the top malfunctioned. That weighed on our minds as we walked through the park area on the way to the entrance.

A monument to Westward expansion was an idea originated by St. Louis folks. According to a time-line created by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, in 1933 a St. Louis lawyer proposed to the mayor that forty acres along the river front be turned into a monument to the settling of the American West. In 1934 the lawyer became chairman of a non-profit organization to raise funds for that purpose.

Also in 1934, President Roosevelt signed a bill creating a Territorial Expansion Memorial Commission. In 1935 he designated the forty acres as part of the National Park System.

In the meantime, and to their credit, the locals approved a $7.5 million bond issue for the project in 1935.

Again, the locals, through their committee, raised funds for a prize of $50,000 to be awarded the winner of a design competition for the memorial. In 1948, Eero Saarinen won with his 630 foot arch design.

Once more, in 1967, locals approved an additional $2 million in bonds to complete the project. It had cost more to build than originally estimated. Which is the way most federal projects go.

As we entered the Arch, through security and metal detectors, as is becoming the norm in most public institutions, I thought about how things have changed in this country in my lifetime. Where we were once able to travel free from suspicion, we Americans who work, pay taxes, vote are now considered a threat because politicians who crave raw power and don't respect our nation's sovereignty refuse to enforce the laws which protect that sovereignty.

Once inside, we toured the ground floor which contains a museum on Westward expansion, a movie theater showing a film on the history of the Arch, restrooms and a gift shop.

I knew a Texas state senator who was denied access to a Republican convention meeting because he left his delegate credentials in his hotel room. A teen-aged convention page asked the senator for his credentials. When the senator told his story and reminded the young man of his position, the page told him he would be glad to admit the senator with his credentials. The senator, red faced, turned and said, "When you give someone a badge and a title, they sure become officious." Federal bureaucrats are no different and we met one at the Arch.

We stepped to the counter to purchase our tickets to the top of the Arch. My son-in-law handed his credit card to the uniformed ticket seller and told her how many tickets we wanted. She thrust the card across the counter and stated in no friendly terms, "Your credit card is not signed, we cannot accept it. Cash or another credit card-signed."

Search the I-net for 'unsigned credit cards' and you will find arguments about the invalidity of an unsigned card and arguments on securing your card by not signing it. For my part, I have never had a credit card purchase denied because my card wasn't signed. In fact, many retailers now have a device for the customer to swipe the card because the merchant doesn't want employees handling credit cards. This omits a possibility of ID theft by store employees.

We peeled off cash and took our tickets to enter the line to the top.

A ride in the tram, with five seats, may not be fun if you have any claustrophobic tendencies. If you have ever had a magnetic resonance imaging procedure (MRI) in a closed machine and didn't panic, you will be fine in the tram. The ride up takes about four minutes; the ride down, about three minutes. Our three-year-old NattyNic sat in the center seat of the tram. She declared it the Princess Seat.

I don't know if she will long remember the view from the iconic symbol of St. Louis, but on that day she was full of wows and oooohs. And we will remind her of the contrast she experienced: deep within the earth at Fantastic Caverns one day; at the top of the tallest monument in the United States, the Gateway Arch, the next.

When we came back to earth we walked around the grounds of the Arch and to the river. We discovered those twigs and limbs we saw from above were, instead, complete and huge trees brought down river by floods upstream. And near the Arch, the Mississippi showed us she would not be confined by man as she covered parts of Leonor K. Sullivan Blvd., the road adjacent to the Arch along the river.

We said goodbye to St. Louis and crossed the river toward Chicago. I have crossed the Mississippi many times and each time was special. It is the neat split of America; the eternal river that washes America's dregs and sometimes dreams out to sea; the river of Mark Twain and legends.

As we crossed the river I heard my wife teaching NattyNic the fun way of spelling its name MI- crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked......

Next: The value of Texas

© Jim Terry

 

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Jim Terry

Jim Terry has worked in Republican grassroots politics for 40 years. Terry was an administrative assistant to a Republican elected official in Dallas for twenty years. In 1996, he ran for and was elected to Justice Court 2 in Dallas County where he served eight years. Contact Jim at tr4guy@flash.net

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