Black Jack Was A Major Factor in Spanish Lake Film

By Bob Lindsey

Anxiously awaiting the chance to see the new documentary about Spanish Lake, I wasn’t disappointed in the film and writer/producer Phillip Morton’s take on the area and its history. Because he was a quite a bit younger than me, I didn’t know Morton when he lived on Maple Street, just a few blocks from our tiny house in Larimore Hills, my first home that was not in the City of St. Louis.

We moved there from the Cochran housing project in the early ‘60s when I was 16 and I soon discovered a new life in what I thought was the country. It was my first summer in Spanish Lake and I was making new friends, riding my bike everywhere, playing pickup ball games at Larimore Park, fishing in the small lakes around the area, and realizing a world very different from what I knew living in north St. Louis and downtown.

The documentary brought back lots of memories–many good and some bad, because   my father passed away a year after we moved from the city. Dad had said we moved to Spanish Lake “for a better life,” but he didn’t have time to experience that new life. He had survived the battle of Iwo Jima, but couldn’t beat terminal cancer at age 40.

After marrying my South Side girl and taking a position as editor of the North County Journal, our family soon became four and called Spanish Lake home, even though we lived just a few blocks west of Highway 367, often thought as the border line of what folks called Spanish Lake. My mom and siblings had moved to a larger house off Larimore Road and my brother, two sisters and our two kids attended Hazelwood District School. My wife was a preschool teacher and later a sixth grade teacher in the district. We were becoming Lakers and didn’t even know it.

One of the biggest surprises in the film for me was the segment about Black Jack and how it tied in with Spanish Lake. As editor of the North County Journal at that time, I covered local meetings and wrote about the controversies and events that led to the incorporation of Black Jack. It was gratifying to view how that story was covered nationally as residents, hoping to stop another Section 8 housing development, incorporated in order to pass an ordinance limiting multi-unit housing in Black Jack. Of course, the city’s ordinance was ruled unconstitutional and the housing development, later known as Kendelwood, was built without any negative affect on the community. Several years later, we moved to Black Jack.

One can only wonder what would have happened if those two North County communities would have merged into one municipality. It might have rivaled Florissant and Hazelwood in size, amenities and prestige.

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