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Author details decades of downers in 'Scandalous St. Louis'

Author details decades of downers in 'Scandalous St. Louis'

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Joplin native Linda Dobkins (writing under the pen name Jo Allison) has put together a history of the dark side of St. Louis, titled “Storied & Scandalous St. Louis” — and subtitled “A History of Breweries, Baseball, Prejudice, and Protest.”

Phew. Actually, it’s history of the negative news that lands on Page 1 and leads the local television news. Still, author Allison starts her story way before St. Louis had TV stations.

She opens up in pioneer St. Louis, where fur traders routinely had a wife and home and another wife or two in the Native American campgrounds that the traders regularly visited.

The Post-Dispatch provides the setting for a violent tale from 1882. One Alonzo Slayback accused the newspaper of unfairly attacking a politician he backed. He marched into the office of managing editor John Cockerill, who ended up fatally shooting Slayback.

And so Allison moves through the decades of downsides: the Dred Scott decision and its unhappy ramifications … the so-called Spanish Flu of 1918 … the long-running corruption in City Hall … the short-lived legalization of prostitution from 1870 to ’74 (“Brothels were a no-no,” Allison writes, “but they existed under a system of discretion on the part of police and politicians.”) … the tornadoes of 1896 and 1927 … the Budweiser-Falstaff rivalry … even the East St. Louis race riot of 1917.

Her tale ends in the middle of the 20th century, which spares readers from criminal gunfire of today’s St. Louis. That time limit, plus the setting right here in St. Louis, also spares readers from what many may deem the city’s worst night ever.

That was Oct. 26, 1985, in Kansas City. There, baseball umpire Don Denkinger blew a call, letting the Kansas City Royals steal the World Series from the Cardinals.

Harry Levins of Manchester retired in 2007 as senior writer of the Post-Dispatch.

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