The Path to Pristine: Forest Park Forever and My Long-Ago “Litter Letter.”

articles, Letters to Editors
Randy Rosenbaum and Walt Jaschek in the Forest Park Boathouse. With every visit, we marvel at this park’s transformation. And are grateful for it.

Happy Earth Day from Forest Park in St. Louis. Today the park is a jewel – Randy and I walked 8 miles of it Saturday – and it delighted in every way: flowers exploding, clear water flowing, not a single piece of litter in sight.

It’s hard to remember it wasn’t always that way.

When I was a young man of 25, the park was sadly neglected and terribly trashed. So much so, I wrote a letter to the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch dripping in youthful dismay over its disarray. The letter was published on September 12, 1980, under the headline “Man’s Idiot Marks,” which was me quoting singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright. Here’s the letter.

While making the magnificent trek around the basin at the foot of Art Hill the other weekend, I was reminded of a line from Loudon Wainwright: “Nothing is safe from the idiot marks of man’s passing.” How painfully obvious it was there in the shade of the City Art Museum, where my walk was interrupted by trash, dross – litter.

By now, of course, the litter issue has been scattered to the wind. We’ve had clean-up messages thrust upon us by advertising campaigns, educators, environmental groups. While there has been measurable improvement, to many the subject is passe, old news, trie. A letter about litter might seem destined for the garbage heap, of which there are plenty.

But the message is too vital to let atrophy. I paused in my walk at the northern edge of the Grand Basin, repositories for less-than-grand collections of shoes, boxes, paper, food and other unrecognizable items, simmering on the surface of the stagnant water. It is a haven for only the frogs that leap from the surface of McDonald’s bags upon one’s approach.

Certainly the workers at Forest Park wage an unceasing battle on the remains of our recreation. My ire isn’t directed at them. I just want our anti-litter actions to remain potent. To be complacent now about environmental clean-up would be as tragic as the original crimes we all created.

Walter S. Jaschek
St. Louis

I moved from St. Louis for a few years, and when I returned in the mid-80s, I learned that a nonprofit conservancy called Forest Park Forever had been formed to restore the park to its glory.

Looking back today at their incredible, transformative work, it’s safe to say they have. Much kudos to them now and, well… forever.

Forest Park, St. Louis. Art Hill looking toward the Art Museum, Earth Day, 2019.
The saints come marching in. Blooms reach to greet Louis IX of France, namesake of St. Louis.

A Brief Tribute to Stan Lee and a Story About my “No-Prize.”

Comics, Flashbacks, Letters to Editors, Treasures, Walt a Life

waltjaschek-holding-noprize

In 7th grade, I wrote a gushing fan letter to Stan Lee. The letter was subsequently published in its entirety in Captain America #107, November, 1968. A thrill. Here’s the cover, by Jack Kirby (another hero:)

captainamerica107

But it got better. Stan deemed the letter worthy of a “No-Prize,” his inside-joke “award” for fans – an envelope with literally nothing inside. So when, a few weeks later, said envelope from Marvel arrived, my 12-year-old head hit the ceiling.

This is my way of saying… RIP Stan, entertainer extraordinaire, wizard of words and worlds, and an outsized influence on many, including me. I’m so happy you lived long enough to see your co-creations explode into every corner of pop culture. Thanks for the ride.

And thanks also for this little envelope: no prize I’ve gotten since surpasses.

noprize

“Congratulations,” it says. “This envelope contains a genuine Marvel Comics No-Prize which you have just won. Handle with Care.” I did, through the decades. That’s a pic I shot recently. The outer envelope (from 625 Madison Avenue, New York, 10022) has yellowed. The No-Prize itself… is mint. 

My Letter in TV Guide, May 9-15, 1987

Flashbacks, Letters to Editors, Walt a Life

NO TALKING AT THE PICTURES!

Yeah, okay, I’ll buy James Morrow’s premise that people should watch TV “noisily and together,” [The Best Way to Watch TV? Noisily and Together,” April 11]. But there’s a dangerous side effect to such behavior: the compulsion to converse loudly in movie theatres. We at HUSH (Help Us Silence Half-wits) submit that the social dynamic of the living room is too often transferred to the cinema, where boorish cretins babble with no regard for those around them. Sure, discourse should be nurtured at home. But so should manners.

Walter S. Jaschek
St. Louis

tvguide-cover-72dpi

tvguide-letterspage

Walt Jaschek writes about stuff that matters. To him.