This past week, I was in Saint Louis, Missouri visiting my best friend in her new(ish) home at Fontbonne University. Her father is beginning his second year as president of this university, so I traveled to see some of this historic city for the first time. While there, I had two interesting experiences, the first of which occurred when we went to the arch. The Saint Louis Arch, in addition to being very tall and a landmark memorial, has a spectacular view of both Saint Louis and the Mississippi when you go to the top. In order to get to the top, you have to ride in a very small moving bomb shelter built for five people. While riding this up to the top, I was engaged in an interesting conversation with an older couple who were from Pennsylvania of all places. The man had served in the Marines and instantly began telling me about his time at war once we began to move. After talking for several minutes, his wife asked my friend and I what we do. When I told her that I study history, she had the reaction that I have come to expect from people. First, the look of disgust came to her face, immediately followed by “I only took history because I had to.” I’ve gotten pretty good at reacting to this response, smiling and acting understanding because so many people feel this way about history. I’m just glad that I’ve never felt this way.
Coming back down from the top of the arch, we had a conversation that was almost entirely opposite. The couple we were with were younger and from Texas. At first, they were quiet, but we asked them where they were from and the woman began talking instantly. Interestingly enough, the first comment out of the man was “Do you like the history of the city?” My friend was so taken aback that she had to ask him to repeat himself. It’s always a little shocking and exciting to hear people who actually like history and want to talk about it. He and I began talking about the city’s history and then he suggested that I travel to Texas because I would love the history there. It was very exciting and strange to get polar opposite reactions to history in the course of one day. But, after the usual discouragement I feel when I hear someone talking about disliking history, I was glad to hear from someone who loves it and wanted to talk about it while stuck in a bomb shelter. Maybe someday people will be more positive about history, just like this man, and appreciate all that this incredible city has to offer, including the view from the arch: