10 hours ago
Monday, March 26, 2012
Today is Tennessee Williams 101 birthday. After a celebratory brunch Mrs. T and I explored our city searching for Tom's boyhood homes. Born in Mississippi, he frequently ranted about how much he hated living in St. Louis. He softened as he aged, believing he probably gave the town a bad rap, and concluded by saying he probably would have hated wherever he lived. Many an ambitious lad feels the same.
When his family moved to St. Louis they lived on the third floor of this apartment building.
In my youth, the building was known as The Glass Menagerie. An update and conversion to condo's in the 1990's rated a new name, now it is called The Tennessee. Space is available.
As the family fortunes fell, the Williams moved into an apartment house, in a seedier neighborhood, several blocks west. The neighborhood is now a mix of rundown public housing, student housing and gentrification. Williams' building was torn down and replaced by a eyesore, now part of a public housing complex.
Tom's brother Dakin, who could be cajoled into saying anything in print, so long as you spelled his name correctly, described life there as the setting for "The Glass Menagerie". It must have been grim.
Tom escaped family life by enrolling at the University of Missouri. He lasted three years before family support stopped. In 1935 he enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis and moved into this house. William James Smiths "My Friend Tom" describes life in this house well. I'd live quite happily here in a minute. It's a lovely neighborhood, but the nearest grocery store is miles away.
Williams now lives around the corner from my grandparents. They say he doesn't get out much any more.