Q: Regarding your answer about the Olympic torch never coming to the metro-east: Yes, it did. I was there. It came to the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis. Seriously, BND, you had reporters there!!
Aimee-Michelle Hawn Gower
A: Looks like I was skating on thin ice recently when I declared that no torch had ever passed through the metro-east en route to lighting the ceremonial cauldron at an Olympics competition.
As it turns out, I was so focused on the summer games that I failed to consider their winter counterparts. I mean, heck, we’re not exactly a bastion of curling and skeleton around here. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the only time an Olympic torch showed up east of the Gateway Arch was in 2002 as it made its way over a torturous 65-day, 18,628-mile course from Atlanta to Salt Lake City.
Never miss a local story.
Even then, it was here only a few minutes. It arrived from Terre Haute, Ind., by motorized caravan on Jan. 8 at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center, where the city’s three-time summer Olympic gold medalist and her gold-medal-winning triple-jumping brother, Al, lit it. But after 2 p.m. ceremonies there, it was whisked away to the foot of the Arch, from where it was then carried by runners over a 20-mile route through St. Louis’ historic neighborhoods.
Among those runners was a metro-east winter games participant — John Kasper, of Swansea, who was part of the U.S. bobsled team during the 1998 competition in Nagano, Japan. Unfortunately, he had had foot surgery a few months before and was unable to participate in the 2002 games.
Also carrying the torch for two-tenths of a mile each were Mel Weith, former chief deputy of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, Collinsville teacher Jill Laswell. Carol Eckert, of Belleville, and Allison Hasenstab. Alli, a Swansea teen at the time, had fought through a miraculous recovery after an auto accident in August 2000 had left her with two broken bones in her back and a 1 percent chance of regaining the feeling in her legs. All five earned the honor for their community achievements.
After the relay, the Belleville East and West High School show choirs performed during a three-hour festival at Kiener Plaza, where former St. Louis Cardinal shortstop Ozzie Smith and St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner lit the Olympic cauldron. Then, it was onto Kansas City.
If the original questioner is still interested in the details, the 33-inch-long torch was silver and shaped like a stalactite to evoke the texture of the natural ice and rugged landscape of the American West. It was topped by a glass crown that surrounded the flame and reflected the motto for the games: Light the Fire Within. Find a picture at olympic.org/olympic-torch-relay.
So, one mystery put on ice, but I still have no answer for Dallas Cook and Betty Voss, who called to say they remember either carrying or seeing a torch run through the streets of Belleville 20 or 30 years ago but remembered no additional details.
▪ Developing story: On a more positive note, my recent column on the long-standing Reime family photography studio in Belleville brought some cherished memories from the founder’s great-great-grandson Brian Herbert, of Franklin, Ind.
“He was a handsome man and excessively intelligent,” Herbert wrote of Franz Reime, who arrived in Belleville as a teenager with his family in 1882 and opened his studio about 1890. “He was known to be able to read and speak up to 18 different languages, including English, German, French, Hebrew, Slave, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit and several Indian dialects. He was also a man of technology. I have and still cherish his Edison wax cylinder phonograph complete with recordings he and his siblings made on it in German.”
Not surprisingly, he had an extensive collection of foreign-language books, which Herbert is certain he donated to St. Louis University but is double-checking. The studio was in business for roughly 65 years and now Herbert is on a mission to find out what kind of camera Franz might have used so he can buy a similar camera to add to the family legacy.
Other Reimes are well-known in the area as well. Franz’s son Winfried, who took over the photo business with brother Adalbert, made the news in the 1960s when his entire house had to be relocated to make way for the former BAC Cinema on North Belt West, Herbert wrote. And, in addition to being the family historian until his death, Herbert’s grandfather’s brother Robert owned Reime Jewelers in Waterloo.
(My apologies for calling Franz “Frank” in the previous story, but that’s the way it had been anglicized in the newspaper articles I found.)
Mozart has symphonies running up to No. 41, but you won’t find a recording of No. 37. Why?
Answer to Sunday’s trivia: Jazz fans know Edward Kennedy Ellington as “Duke,” but bandmates used to call him “Dumpy” because of his huge appetite, leading trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton to once say, “He’s a genius, all right, but Jesus how he eats!” He sometimes resorted to a diet of nothing but steak, hot water, grapefruit juice and coffee to lose weight quickly.