First Grade Flashback: Our Lady of Good Counsel

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our lady of good counsel 1160 St. Cyr Road, Bellefontaine Neighbors, MO photo by toby weiss1160 St. Cyr Road, Bellefontaine Neighbors, MO
We were driving down Bellefontaine Road and we came to the intersection of Bellefontaine and St. Cyr. I say to Rob, “You know, I’ve never taken a left down this road. Let’s see what’s down there.”

As I turn, Rob says there’s this really great modern church at the top of the hill with a swooping concrete roof. He’s covered it on his website…and…I didn’t hear another word he said.

From the first glance of it, I was stunned. Pulling into the parking lot, I was overcome. I’d obviously been down this road before, many times, a long, long time ago. This was the church my Grandma Weiss went to and I’d been inside it many, many times.

You know those flashback scenes in movies? That’s exactly what happened to me standing in the parking lot, staring up at the church. A dozen old reels of mental film were unspooling concurrently at a rapid pace.

The First Reel:
Easter of 1973, and what turned out to be the last time I was in this church. My parents had recently divorced, but Dad picked me up to go to church with him and his mother. I was decked out in a white and brown smock dress and a pair of fake leather white clogs with dark brown wedge heels (come on, it was 1973!). Oh, how I loved those clogs, and the thick hollow sound they made as I dragged my heels.

As we walked up the sidewalk to the auditorium, Dad was getting annoyed with that sound.
“Toby, pick up your heels.”
Thunk, thunk, thunk.
“Toby, stop dragging your feet.”
Thunk, thunk, thunk.
By now we’re in the auditorium, heading for a pew, and the clogs made a whole new sound on the carpet: thwook, thwook, thwook.
“Toby, I told you to stop dragging your heels!”
Thwook, thwook – oops!

Dad abruptly pulls me up into the air by one hand, and swats my butt. I’m swaying back and forth with each swat, and the clogs fall off my feet and land with a loud “da-thunk thunk.” I look down at my clogs contrasted against the red carpet, and tears of embarrassment fill my eyes…. fade out.

our lady of good counsel 1160 St. Cyr Road, Bellefontaine Neighbors, MO photo by toby weissRob and I peer in through the doors, and I see small glimpses of the auditorium, just enough for more film reels to unwind. I had total recall of every single form, line and texture of the interior. Being too young to listen to what was being said at the alter, I spent every service visually scanning every detail of that room. I could feel the childhood sensation of tracing those concrete arches as they dived into the wooden trellis screens. I could recall my fantasies of swinging like a trapeze artist from the braided support cables.

These flashbacks were intense and vivid, and they came on with such force because they had been suppressed for so long. Not once over all these years had I thought of this building; it had long ago left conscious memory. But seeing one small piece of it from a distance unlocked that brain sector, and turns out I knew that building almost as well as the people who designed and built it. And then I forgot all about it, since I got out of going to this church – or any church – after that Easter Clog Debacle.

This part of North County was once a happening place, which is why my grandparents moved there. As the website of this municipality relays, “From the year 1950 to the year 1960, Bellefontaine Neighbors experienced a period of very rapid population growth, the 766 people in 1950 having increased to 13,650 people by 1960.” The Archdiocese website says this church was built in 1951, but a corner stone says 1965, so maybe they had to add on to accommodate the crowds. By the early 1980s, most of our family had moved away from the area, leaving Grandma – who never had a drivers license – hard pressed to get a regular ride to church, even though she lived a quarter of a mile away. This was a common story, a tale also known as White Flight, and was a contributing factor to it being shut down by The Church in 2005.

our lady of good counsel 1160 St. Cyr Road, Bellefontaine Neighbors, MO photo by toby weissSo anyway, that is the unique power of the built environment: physical proof of our pasts, depositories of memories our brains can’t hold because of all the dates, numbers and names we have to remember daily. Buildings are bookmarks in the story of our lives, and in the case of this building, it is the most interesting and compelling character in the short chapter of my church-going years.

19 thoughts on “First Grade Flashback: Our Lady of Good Counsel

  1. I lived in Moline Acres and went to OLGC, kindergarten through 4th grade. Loved the cafeteria food (BBQ Bologna, creamed spinach and white rice balls with brown gravy.) We were CYC soccer champs in 1965 and had fantastic school picnics. Tommy Karandzieff (of Crown Candy fame) and I followed each other to Transfiguration Parish in 1966. What a great time it was…………….

  2. Does anyone have a logo to the school or parish? Fischer’s in Florissant will make apparel with the parish and school logo if someone can provide it.

  3. Nicholas, I do not recognize any of those names from my father’s side of the family. But considering the time period and the geography, makes sense to ask.

  4. My name is Nicholas Weiss. My parents were Edwin and Melba Weiss, and my father died in 1948. My mom remarried and we moved from Walnut Park to Bissell Hills in 1954, and I attended St. Jerome School. I am curious if “Grandma Weiss” is a relative.

  5. I taught second grade at Our Lady of Good Counsel from 1970-1971. Sister Stephanie was the principal and there were lots of sisters teaching there. It was a good school and I remember going to daily mass with the kids. Yes, it’s very sad that the school is long gone and the neighborhood has gone to hell as someone else said. How very sad that is.
    Rosalie Knight
    Taught second grade, 1970-1971 LONG time ago, the kids I taught are now parents and grandparents! ! ! Yikes, how time flies!

  6. Thanks for your memories. There are no Tom’s within the St. Louis-born Weiss clan.

  7. I attended OLGC from first grade through eighth (I went to Danforth across the street for Kindergarten) and graduated in 1979. It was such an alive place; always something going.

    BTW anonymous is right; the gym was the old church so the new one was build after.

    One of the coolest aspects of the school was the maintenance tunnel that took you from the boiler room to the bar room (in the cafeteria where they had beer kegs on tap.) We used to sneak into the bar room and sneak drinks when they forgot to lock the boiler room! It was so wild because the tunnel was between floors, and it went all the way through the cafeteria, which was directly under the gym.

    Worst food ever made, though, in the cafeteria for the kids. Even the pizza was horrible; tasted like burned rubber. It was great at the special events, but the lunch ladies had zero culinary skill. And Msgr. Poelker used to buy cheap stuff. Anyone remember Garter’s soda? He used to supply that because it was an off brand for off brands.

    But I wouldn’t trade my time there for the world!

    BTW, I remember my older brother had a friend whose last name was Weiss. I think his first name was Tom. Any relation?

  8. I attended school there from 1954 thru 1958 I graduated in 1960 from St Lucy as it was only 6 houses away from my home. I remember Fr Poelker, but I don’t remember who the principal was, Sr Rita maybe. The school picnics were fun. Graduated hirgh school in 1964 from Corpus Christi

  9. It was an amazing parish to grow up in. The school had two classes of 20+ kids grades K-8 that’s a lot of kids. Mnsgr Poelker ran a tight but thriving ship. 8 o’clock mass every day before school began, lots of after school activities like scouts and sports. Only grade school parish that I know of to have a fleet of bus’s for the students and high schools all over the city. Best school picnic every year, Italian Dinner, Irish Dinner always something going on to bring the community together. This is what I think of when I think of a catholic school and parish wish it could be that way again.

  10. Graduated in 1958,went to Corpus Christie High school for two years. Moved to Ohio in 1960. Have not been to the St. Louis area since 1969. To bad the neighborhood went to hell. I have found memeries of the school and the area, we lived on Yorktown Dr. Anyone else out there from the class of 1958?

  11. The name of the school that had the bowling alley in the basement was Corpus Cristi. My dad used to bowl there. The machines were so slow that they changed to Spencers at River Roads or to Suburban Bowl at St. Cyr and Bellefontaine Rd.

  12. Does anyone recall if OLGC was the church/school with a bowling alley in the basement? If it wasn’t – do you know which one had the bowling alley?

  13. This was my Mom’s Parish. Three of my Aunts went to school here and my Grandma worked in the school’s cafateria. I have fond memoriies of dancing on the stage in the cafeteria and seeing all the girls with their beanies on . Church picnics were great and always crowded. Very sad that something this great is now gone.

  14. I may have not been the best Catholic,.. but I look back and I miss those by gone days…now the world is …Down hill and I want to go back to those times…… but you know what….. tooo late the neighbor hood is shot!!!!

  15. great school and church ,alot of great memories,had some of the best school picnics.

  16. Three of my cousins attended Good Counsel. I saw them receive their First Communion(s) there. Crazy, though – haven’t thought about this place in awhile.

  17. To the east end of the church there was/ is (?) a playground which my grandfather often took me to when visiting my grandparents. Lots of fond memories of that church and the adjacent playground.

    From stories he told, the playground was once the site of a a few bungalows that were built and subsequently torn down because of a sink hole.

  18. Prior to 1965 the church was in the gymnasium.

    The new church was completed in 1965 and dedicated in october of that year. I was an altar boy and in the eighth grade.

    I attended the first mass there and the last in June of 2005. My parents attended both ceremonies as well.

  19. This is great story, Toby. Loved it! thanks!

    (and the photos are cool too!)

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