Graduates of East St. Louis Senior High School midterm class of 1947 recently held their 70th anniversary class reunion. They fondly recalled how the city of East St. Louis used to be and sadly commented on how it is now.
The Class of 1947, consisting of 60 boys and 61 girls, were too young to remember the full brunt of the Great Depression and too young to see combat in World War II, although they could vividly remember wartime hardships, such as rationing of certain items. Members of the class were all white. Blacks were then directed to Lincoln High School. Neighborhoods were similarly segregated at the time. It was also a time free of racial tension.
It was a time before the advent of television and air conditioning, when boredom and summer heat drove families outdoors, where they interacted with neighbors. Windows were left open. Laundry was hung outside. Milk was delivered. It was a time when anyone could feel safe walking to school or store, day or night. Jobs were plentiful. The local economy was so prosperous that apartments were relatively scarce and houses were priced beyond the reach of most newlyweds. The population of East St. Louis was more than 82,000. It is about a third of that now.
Remaining members of the Class of 1947 had not been back to East St. Louis in a long time and don’t wish to return, their vision of the city forever locked on to what they knew of it years ago.
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Frank B. Austin, O’Fallon