If you have to write, it’s nice to have something fun to write about.
That applies to me and to Belleville native Don Corrigan, whose new book, “Forest Park,” has just been released.
The book is one of the Images of America Series of books about neighborhoods, towns and cities. It is heavy with pictures of events, places and people who have frequented Forest Park since its beginnings way back in 1876.
He gets to write about a place that is near and dear to him and thousands of St. Louisans. I get to write abut a former Belleville guy writing about it.
Corrigan’s co-author is Holly Shanks, a freelance journalist and writer from St. Louis.
Corrigan is editor and co-publisher of the Webster-Kirkwood Times, the South County Times and the West End Word and also is a professor of journalism at Webster University.
Both people founded and edit the blog Environmental Echo.
Though he grew up in Belleville and graduated from Our Lady Queen of Peace grade school and Althoff Catholic High School, Corrigan said he has a lot of memories of times in Forest Park, like sledding down Art Hill and going to the Muny Opera.
“My mother dragged me to the Muny every summer,” he said. “She would buy the soundtrack to whatever show was there and we would listen to it.”
He said Forest Park is a big bragging point for St. Louis because we tend to feel inferior to bigger towns.
“As a homer, I point out it’s bigger than Central Park in New York,” he said. “Forest Park is a big part of our turf.”
Not only in size, at 1,293 acres, but also in attractions and events, he said.
“Everything is right there, museums, the planetarium, the Zoo, recreation, fishing, boating,” he said. “One of the most inspirational things about the park is how diverse groups have been able to get together and enjoy all the activities.”
He said Shanks spent a lot of time tracking down pictures and other information for the book, which is packed with pictures of zoo animals and Muny performers from years past.
Corrigan was surprised to find a picture of a young Archie Leach, better known as Cary Grant, who spent a summer performing on loan at the Muny.
Sledding pictures, kite flying pictures, performance pictures and festival pictures all should bring back memories.
“I hope people see them and go, ‘I remember that!’” he said.
There are chapters on the 1904 Worlds Fair that helped cement the park’s legacy, the world renowned zoo, the history museum, the art museum and more modern events that have helped open the park to everyone. It even has its own golf course.
The book is available at bookstores and various online sites.
Corrigan will be talking to various groups and clubs about the book and Forest Park and said he is anxious to hear other people’s’ memories of the park..
He will sign copies of the book at 10:30 a.m., Aug. 26 at the Belleville Pubic Library, 121 E. Washington St.
Wally Spiers: Wally.Spiers@gmail.com