At 65 years of age, I can say that I have driven, walked, or ridden my bike by the park for 61 years nearly everyday. Only while I was in college was it not the geographical center of my life. Attending Nottingham school, my friends and I lived in the nooks and crannies after hours. I attended Hope Church, at the opposite corner. Graduating from Busch School, the walk home to Winnebago made me cross the entire park everyday. As an athlete, the park became the barometer of endurance as everyone ran the perimeter and worked out on the hills. Later, I became a regular on the handball courts.
My son with the support of his Boy Scout Troop, actually surveyed the park. His Eagle Scout project hangs on the fence of the tennis courts. It provides all with distances, elevations etc. for their workouts. With my son’s death, he is memorialized just off of Tamm in Craig’s Cove.
The park is an anchor physically and psychologically to all in the neighborhood. It is time to remember the man who made the park possible, David R. Francis. A statue of this St Louis leader is a perfect tribute. As designed, the statue will add even greater dignity to the homes which surround the park. Whimsical art adds to our culture for sure, but a piece of classic art endures for centuries. I salute the group undertaking the task of raising the money to build the statue and helping to preserve history in the minds of the future generations. — Steve Doss
I grew up a mile or so from Francis Park, and learned how to play handball on its courts while in high school in the ’70s. I spent many an evening playing with our regular group on those courts, driving all the way from Hazelwood at least once a week during the ’80s and ’90s. I made the 20 mile drive because it was the best place in town for a game. We had a regular group that met and played, but anyone who wanted to get in a game could have a seat on the bench, and they would get a chance to play. The rule was always “2 players (of the 4 in a game) off and 2 new players on after every game, playing 2 games, and then you were off”. Of course there was always the obligatory beer to be drunk on the “retirement bench” when your play was done for the night. — Paul
As a young mother Francis Park opened up so many opportunities to share the beauty and fun of the park. Easter Egg Hunts, at that time held on Easter morning, were always anticipated and a fun way to start your day right after Mass. Picnics could be an adventure. We could pack our lunch, head to the park for a little time at the playground, eat and walk home – a great place to go on an adventure – but always so close to home. Sledding was also a great time. Again you could spend your time in the snow but be close to home. Today the grandchildren have enjoyed the same activities experienced by their parents and have enjoyed every minute of it. Having Francis Park in such close proximity is an advantage to being a member of the St. Louis Hills neighborhood. It leaves a legacy that continues on from generation to generation. It has become like the “town square” for St. Louis Hills with that same small town feel that you don’t often find in a big city. —Kathy
Having grown up on Rosa near Brannon, Francis Park was our neighborhood park. I remember there being two octagon shaped wading pools a little west of the handball courts. At the time of the polio scare in the 1950’s they were filled in with concrete. I also remember registering to play tennis at the building which now houses the coffee shop and then waiting two hours until it was our turn. The ball field holds many memories of softball and soccer games. Even today, walking the park at any hour of the day or night, there are other people walking and enjoying the beauty of the park. —Don
Francis Park has been an integral part of my life since my family moved into St. Louis Hills in 1952. I’ll never forget the two “swimming pools” just south of the Lilly Pond. Both were made of concrete, and neither had any water filtration system whatsoever. Another great memory was playing tennis every Sunday morning in the 70’s with a group of friends, most of whom didn’t even live in St. Louis Hills. Lastly, I helped celebrate my graduation from St. Gabriel (Class of 1960) by throwing a classmate into the Lilly Pond. Memories.—Rick
In the late 1990’s I was living in an apartment in Maplewood and I had always heard that Francis Park was a great place to walk. Being an avid walker (and people watcher!) I drove from Sutton and Big Bend to Francis Park several evenings each week to walk. I loved the neighborhood so much, I bought a house on Bancroft. I’ve lived here for almost 20 years and still go to the park–sometimes to even relax! It’s a big part of my life.—W.B.