The Neighborhood

The majority of families in my neighborhood had German last names. We first, second, third, or further back generation Germans were called “Southside Dutch”. Dutch, is this case, is an Anglo variant of Deutsch, the German word for German. “Southside” comes from the part of St. Louis city known locally as South St. Louis, also referred to as “Dutchtown”.

I grew up mostly in “The Bevo” neighborhood of South St. Louis, named for the historic Bevo Mill pictured above.  Bevo was a non-alchoholic beverage Anhesuer-Busch produced during Prohibition. August A. Busch, Sr., then scion of the family, had the restaurant built as a half-way point between The Brewery and his chateau in St. Louis County.


The Whimsy

The Bevo Mill could pop out of a storybook. It has giant sails (that’s those four blades that spin around), a great conical, masonry mill, and an impressive fieldstone base. Towering over the other businesses in the area, The Bevo bisects two main streets that replicate the X pattern of the sails.

I played softball in a public school yard just down the street and I used to imagine batting the ball far enough to hit one of the spinning sails. In my mind that would be my life’s accomplishment, making me a local legend.

Another fantasy I indulged was to climb the mill, latch onto its sails, and ride several complete revolutions. Seven year old minds come up with great schemes. You may recall from an earlier post how my friend Johnny (whose family was from Germany) and I were going to build a jet airliner from scratch. When we moved I had to embark on new enterprises, like 1000 feet home runs and mill riding.

Things That Spin

Tops, Merry Go Rounds, Pin Wheels, Tilt A Whirls and all spinning gizmos are fun.


The sails of the Bevo didn’t have to spin wildly fast to fascinate me, I just liked watching them turn as they added a bit of amusement to the neighborhood. They’re motor driven, so they got turned off from time to time. Nowadays they’re turned off most of the time, maybe always. I haven’t seen them spin for years. If the person in charge of this is reading, please flip the switch; a non-spinning windmill is a boring windmill.

They also have a calming effect on the community. Maybe we were all being hypnotized without realizing it. I’m sure the soothing effects of a windmill didn’t hurt.

I don’t really think the Bevo was entirely responsible for community harmony, but I do think places are important and that community life is enhanced by gathering places like parks, churches, schools, town squares, bandstands, and any location or structure that says “this is us”, rather than, “this is me”.


All photos and illustrations © 2015 Ed Koehler