The Sinclair Dinosaur is Extinct in St. Louis

South Broadway & California
South St. Louis, MO

One of the most delightful sights in South St. Louis is the pristine green Sinclair dinosaur on South Broadway near Interstate 55. Or it was…

…until May 5, 2010. I drove by on that evening and its absence was glaringly obvious. Where did he go?

His disappearance was bothering me more than I felt comfortable with, so I drove to the station two nights later to get some answers.

A hastily erected canvas Conoco over the Sinclair sign revealed all. But I went inside, bought anything to stand in line and ask the guys behind the counter, “What happened to the dinosaur?”

They said some men came on the very day I noticed it gone, picked it up and carted it off on a flatbed truck, and that they were collecting all the dinosaurs because Conoco had bought out all St. Louis Sinclair stations.  Did they ask where the dinosaur was headed to? Their responses were “Probably someone’s back yard”  and “I heard one guy say something about an amusement park.”

A half hour of web research did not reveal any news about Conoco buying out Sinclair, but since the dinosaurs have been going extinct for quite some time, at least one site has been cataloging what remains and helping out those who want to buy or sell the green dinosaurs with the sardonic smile.

The Sinclair station (above) at Big Bend near Hwy 44 closed in the summer of 2007.  Its dinosaur disappeared a few days before the “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign hit the door. The building has since been re-purposed as a scooter and ATV retail outlet.

The reason for this Sinclair’s demise seemed obvious; QT is the Walmart of gas stations. But Sinclair has been dwindling in the Metro St. Louis area for the past 10 years, and I’ve been snapping the empty buildings across the region for several years. Because of the gas tanks underground, the sites tend to sit unused in perpetuity. Only mega-corporations like CVS have the cash to sniff around their vacant sites.

So, the few remaining Sinclairs in operation have a deep, nostalgic resonance in my soul, and when one so close to home still had a dinosaur, it was a point of privilege and pride.

Saint Louis Patina may have the last official photograph of our South Side dino. And I will call the Conoco media relations during normal business hours to see if they have an official process for retrieving and re-using the dinosaurs.  I can already feel their eyes rolling as I ask the question. I’m also picturing a Citizen Kane-like warehouse filled with hundreds of dinosaurs, their necks intertwined, a fine coat of dust dulling their luster…

In the scheme of things, the extinction of the Sinclair dinosaur in St. Louis is a pimple on the ass of the universe. But it’s the little things that tend to bring the most satisfaction, and I already miss that little jolt of happiness received every time I passed by Dino. Farewell my prehistoric fossil fuel friend!

South Broadway Illusion & Ghost


8700 Block of South Broadway
South St. Louis City, MO

I was driving north on South Broadway on a brilliantly sunny day when I saw the sight, above, and couldn’t tell if it was an optical illusion, a painted mural or 3D real-life fantastically lit.  So I pulled in to investigate.


It’s real-life 3D with some fresh coats of paint. The whole building was recently painted in many bright colors, with signs trumpeting the grand opening of Tequila Wyld, a “party bar.” From the look of all the broken beer bottles in the parking lot, they ain’t lying.

This place keeps opening and closing at a rapid pace.  I was in there once long ago in the mid-90s to see Too Much Joy.  Both the band and myself missed the place the first two times by, and once inside it still felt like the middle of nowhere.  This part of South Broadway always feels that way, in general.

While reminiscing about that night, I glanced over my shoulder and what is that?


Is it a Courtesy Diner?


Closer inspection revealed it couldn’t have been anything but. But my memory bank was drawing a blank.

A little research confirms that 8701 S. Broadway was, indeed the Courtesy Chili Shop, opened in 1965, and city records tell the tale of its demise:

Complaint Date: January 1996, Hamburger and bacon at the Courtesy Rest.taste and smells bad
Complaint Date: June 1996, No hot water to the Courtsey (sp) Chili Shop
Complaint Date: may 1997, Restaurant at this address is operating on expired business license. Please inspect.
Complaint Date: June 1997, Too many extension cordes and wiring in disrepair.  Courtesy Restaurant.
Complaint Date: July 1998, Business at this address is selling cars on parking lot.
Complaint Date: February 1999, New owner of restaurant has not applid (sp) for C of I
Complaint Date: March 1999, food smelled bad, cheese burgers and fries Courtesy, half cooked

By July 1999, it was clearly a car lot, though an illegal one. And this amusing string of events triggered a memory of driving by this place in the mid-90s with a veteran South Sider, who told us, “Never ever eat there unless you’re suicidal.”  He was referring to only this site, because thousands of us have eaten at the remaining two Courtesy Diners and lived to see another day, though perhaps through a drunken fog.


As of April 2009 it’s listed as “Condemned for Occupancy; Can’t Demolish.”  Really, why not?

Did any of you ever eat at this defunct Courtesy Diner? Please, do tell.