Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 9.23.20

Check … and, mate! Repeat. Again, and again. Chess: The game where the opponents may still sweat profusely, not from physical exertion but severe brain strain. The ancient battle of wits and ‘strategery’ will be on full display next month when the U.S. Chess Championships are to be hosted by our own Saint Louis Chess Club in the CWE … online, as the times demand. Five national tournaments, all to be played in rapid format, will be held Oct. 9 through 29: the U.S. Championship, U.S. Women’s Championship, U.S. Junior Championship, U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and U.S. Senior Championship. In addition to awarding the five 2020 national titles, the championships also will award a total of $330,900 in prize money. Winners of the U.S. Junior and U.S. Girls’ Junior championships each also will be awarded a $6,000 scholarship. Daily rounds will be streamed at 1 p.m. Central and available to watch at as well as on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and channels. ( The U.S. Senior Championship was introduced just last year and is open to qualifying chess players —rated by the U.S. Chess Federation—age 50 and older.)

north st. louis
At 154 feet tall, ‘The White Tower’—the water tower at North Grand at 20th Street—is a landmark in north city. In fact, it celebrates its 150th anniversary next year. But it hadn’t had much love in decades, and by Labor Day weekend was all mottled brick and peeling white, with a rusty crown. Erected in 1871 and on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s the tallest Corinthian column in the world. Of course, you remember from school the three types of column capitals: Ionic, Doric and Corinthian. (Smart-aleck seventh-grade boys called them ‘Ironic,’ ‘Dork’ and ‘That Corn Thing.’) Actually, the three elaborately ornamented towers still standing in the city were standpipes, which regulated water pressure back in the day. So, they’d have contained scarcely enough water to hose off and cool down that sweaty dude who just mowed your lawn, depending on how big he is. Our most visible tower is adjacent to Compton Hill Reservoir, at I-44 and Grand. At 197 feet tall, this 1898 architectural jewel is also the one easiest to get to, gawk at and geek out around—a 36-acre city park features plenty of green space; a fountain, pond and lily pads; trails, a heck of a climb up to the former reservoir, and an even steeper climb up the spiral staircase inside the tower, when open. Whenever there isn’t a pandemic, the tower has been open one evening on every warmish month, as well as on the full moon. Anyhow, ‘The White Tower,’ which had become much the worse for wear, was repainted for the first time in 40 years on Sept. 12. It’s a glorious sight, but as it stands in the middle of the boulevard, inaccessible—best admired on a drive up to and around it. The rehab was part of the city’s ‘one neighborhood at a time’ beautification approach, Operation Clean Sweep, and the College Hill neighborhood got some much-needed attention from a cadre of volunteers from the neighborhood, churches and area schools, notably Cardinal Ritter and John Burroughs prep schools. Fred Weber Inc. donated labor and materials—including more than 450 gallons of white paint. Over- and undergrowth was removed; several vacant buildings were razed. The third tower? Tallest of the three, it’s a red brick minaret just blocks from ‘The White Tower.’ It’s 200 feet tall, more or less, depending on who you ask. In any event, we should admire them all for as long as we can … St. Louis is home to three of the last seven such towers remaining in the United States.

Some may get spooked at Grant’s Farm by the Clydesdales, just because they’re so darn big. But that scare isn’t intentional. The popular attraction at 10501 Gravois Road, near Affton, is excited to do it on purpose, however, as it’s going all Halloweeny for the month of October. This year, it’s welcoming boys and ghouls (sorry; we just couldn’t stop ourselves) for a drive-through opportunity, something that’s never been offered since the attraction opened in 1954. Upon entry, each vehicle with children aboard will receive a bag of candy from the gift shop. There also will be an opportunity to take photos from your vehicle before starting the journey. As guests check in at the parking lot, they’ll be guided through the property to explore the Tiergarten, and they’ll be transported to a medieval castle. They’ll encounter spiders, witches, bats and a few of the farm’s popular and not-so-scary animals, including goats, llamas, cattle and horses. From there, guests will drive through the Deer Park to see the mystical world that lies beyond the shrieking trees. (OMG! Trees that shriek? That was the scariest part of the news release. Around here, cicadas are to blame for most of that infernal racket overhead.) Visitors will wind through more than eight haunted themes such as Sleepy Hollow, a haunted archeological dig, a spooky campground, a graveyard and an Area 51-inspired alien scene. Guests can upgrade their experience by purchasing family packages that include beverages, snacks and festive goodies for the kids. Reservations are required, and spots are limited.

notable neighbors
Black Daisy Shop: The business name could mislead goth aficionados who crave something doomy and vintage to complement their black eye shadow. Well, there’s nothing sinister here. Christine Kleckner’s shop in the Etsy portfolio of merchants does feature a preponderance of black, but it’s a bit of heirloom-quality whimsy: Silhouettes akin to the traditional ones parents or grandparents had done of us when we were wee ones. “We had some done when we were little,” Kleckner recalls. Your recollection also may be of a simple side view, cut out of black paper and applied to white card stock. Maybe it’s framed and hanging on the bedroom wall. If that’s what comes to mind, you need to raise the visual bar: Kleckner’s work is more like Silhouettes 2.0. Melding her creativity with computer wizardry, she can fashion silhouettes of anyone from toddlers to teens, pets and groups—with a loving emphasis on newlyweds. Just said “I do”? Then, she will! And she takes great care to reimagine an image where necessary—softening, downplaying or eliminating elements that could detract from an ideal outline of the happy couple. (A vintage photo that includes an elaborate veil may be particularly challenging. It’s ideal to have several images from which Kleckner may choose.) “Silhouettes never go out of style,” she says. And they’re passed down. Indeed. Someone in the family will get the one of my wife done when she was 6, and maybe not after all that long, either. We’ve been on Medicare awhile. While silhouettes may be much of the stock in trade of the Black Daisy Shop, this Kirkwood mom stays plenty busy otherwise in her special workspace watched over by the imposing photo of a Texas longhorn. But no, she didn’t go to college in Austin or anywhere else in the Lone Star State. “Ha, no! I went to Mizzou,” she exclaims. “The longhorn is just my buddy who keeps me company while I’m working.” For the time being, her daughter Josie, 11 months, keeps her occupied while she also creates special products from epoxy resin: Alphabet and numeral sets, for starters. They’re a godsend for parents homeschooling their kids, whether out of choice or necessity. And a number of Kleckner’s letters and numbers have found their way to places like Kirkwood Early Childhood Center, which her son Teddy, 4, loves. Teddy’s mom is getting ready for Halloween, regardless of how it happens this year. Kleckner is making skeleton playsets from white resin. Scary they’re not—they’re as endearing as characters from a vintage Disney cartoon, and may mix with letters, numbers and other objects in a teacher’s sensory bin or on a light table. And she’s making Christmas ornaments from resin, too: Gingerbread men and snowmen. That is, when she’s not lettering, numbering or creating resin bookmarks adorned with the reader’s name. Meanwhile, there’s ‘two silhouettes on the shade’ … or something like that. This is, after all, a family magazine. Visit