Charles won’t be our king, of course. We ditched that idea in 1776. But for some reason, people still love the idea of monarchs. For a democracy, we still seem taken with the fantasy of gold crowns, silver tiaras, a treasury of jewels and drafty castles.
As the world sets its sights on London for the May 6 coronation of King Charles III, let’s take a moment to bow down to our own royalty, right here in St. Louis — who was a king himself. A younger Prince Charles seemed to like St. Louis when he visited in 1977, even taking a gander at our fair city from its crown jewel, the Gateway Arch. No word on whether he spotted Becky, the Queen of Carpet, soaring around up there.
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A royal visit
Prince Charles himself visited St. Louis for a total of six hours on Oct. 21, 1977, part of a 12-city tour of the United States. The prince, then just a month shy of 29 years old, flew into Lambert, arrived with his entourage in a motorcade that stopped on the riverfront and shook hands with hundreds of onlookers who lined the steps to the Gateway Arch.
About 10 demonstrators stood with signs protesting the British in Northern Ireland, but it’s not clear if the prince saw them. He visited the Museum of Westward Expansion under the Arch, then rode one of the tiny elevator capsules to the top, where he took in the view.
He greeted more visitors (including this reporter, who was 2 years old, sitting in a stroller and remembers nothing of the occasion) as he walked to the Old Courthouse. There, an accordion and clarinet duo played “Here Comes Charlie,” an 18th-century English song. The prince joked with visitors and officials as they gave him gifts, including a model of the Arch. “I shall tell the queen that all is well in this part of the globe,” he said.
After a luncheon at the Noonday Club, he headed to the airport, where he took a golf cart tour of the McDonnell Douglas plant. The newspaper noted the tour seemed to interest the prince, an aviation enthusiast and pilot.
Another Post-Dispatch article about the visit was headlined “Prince Has Eye for Girls Wearing Plaid School Skirts.” Two groups of schoolgirls from Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Webster Groves had gathered at the riverfront to meet the prince. Some of them didn’t know what he looked like. One, Ann Brement, got to shake his hand. “Ooh, his hands are so big and warm,” she said.
Most of the crowd reacted to the prince as though he were a movie star, the article noted: “It was more of a Robert Redford kind of crowd than a Jimmy Carter crowd.” VSH
King Louis of France
Remember the fancy ruler who, like his wife, Marie Antoinette, was beheaded during the French Revolution? Yeah, that’s not our guy. Our city was named for someone older, King Louis IX, the only French king made a Catholic saint. Much admired, he was the patron saint of the father (Louis XV) of the beheaded king. So in 1764, immigrant Pierre Laclede named his trading post settlement after this patron saint, admired for reforming the French court system, founding hospitals and helping lepers and the poor, even feeding them dinner and then washing their feet. For the Middle Ages, he was indeed an admired king. In the 21st century, though, some St. Louisans have said a famous statue of the city’s namesake should be removed because of the medieval king’s efforts in the Christian crusades. Louis participated —fruitlessly — in the Seventh Crusade, trying to retake Jerusalem from Muslims who had conquered it. The Muslim forces of the time were far more powerful and just as combative as the Christians, capturing Louis and then ransoming him. In the Eighth Crusade, Louis was even less successful, only getting as far as Tunisia and then dying of a pestilence in 1270. At least he kept his head. The “Apotheosis of St. Louis” overlooks Art Hill in Forest Park. JH
Our ‘Rue Royale’
According to “The Streets of St. Louis” by William B. and Marcella C. Mangan, Kingshighway is a name for a road that separates common fields from the king’s land. Here, it is the second-oldest road in Missouri (the oldest ran from Ste. Genevieve to Mine La Motte), and once ran from St. Louis to New Madrid, in the southeast part of the state. The French called it “Rue Royale,” the Spanish “El Camino Royale.” Part of this road became Telegraph Road after 1850 because of the telegraph lines that ran alongside it. Now, Kingshighway runs from Bellefontaine Cemetery in north St. Louis to Gravois Avenue near St. Marcus Cemetery in south St. Louis. VSH
The ‘Crown District’
Why shouldn’t St. Louis’ royal thoroughfare wear a crown of its own? So thought Ivan and Berto Garcia, co-owners of the prominent local real-estate firm Garcia Properties. The brothers want to revitalize the stretch of South Kingshighway as it approaches the busy Chippewa Street intersection from the north — they even preemptively named the area the “Crown District.” Whether the name ever catches on is one thing. The Garcias have already succeeded in opening the Golden Hoosier, a family-friendly restaurant and bar featuring excellent burgers and cocktails and an expensive collection of taxidermy — the sort of display you might usually expect to find in an old castle, come to think of it. IF
The King of Beers
When it comes to more than 100 years of Budweiser advertising slogans, a few may leap to mind: “This Bud’s For You.” “This Calls for Budweiser.” “When You Say Budweiser, You’ve Said it All.” But the most ubiquitous slogan, “The King of Beers,” dates to 1899.
Back then, according to spokesperson Laura Ballantyne, there weren’t many ways to package beer, and brewers could only serve it in glass bottles or from a cask or keg. Anheuser-Busch, founded in St. Louis in the 1850s as a small neighborhood brewery, used both but mostly sold its beer in bottles. The company used the “King of Bottled Beer” slogan to help differentiate Budweiser from competitors and to communicate its brand strength. By the middle of the 20th century, the slogan became “King of Beers,” a tagline that’s still used today.
You know that “ba-da ba-da ba-da ba-da dah-dah-dah-dah” song that plays when the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales trot across the countryside in commercials and around Busch Stadium on opening day? That’s called “Here Comes the King,” and it’s an advertising jingle that dates to the early 1970s. VSH
Three Kings Public House and Casa de Tres Reyes
Three Kings Public House has been a mainstay of Delmar Loop dining and drinking since the trio of Derek Deaver, Ryan Pinkston and Derek Fleig founded the University City restaurant in 2011. The concept proved so popular that Three Kings has expanded to Des Peres, south St. Louis County and even St. Louis Lambert International Airport; a Mexican spinoff, Casa de Tres Reyes, debuted last year in Des Peres.
A fire last month heavily damaged the original Delmar Loop location, but the restaurant is not wavering on its commitment to its first home. “The Loop is our home, and we love it here,” the restaurant said in a statement, and the University City restaurant will return “even better” than before. IF
The King and I
The monarchy of St. Louis restaurants is undergoing a transition of its own. The beloved Thai restaurant the King and I will relocate from its South Grand Boulevard storefront in Tower Grove South to a shopping plaza in Richmond Heights.
When the King and I announced the move in October, Shayn Prapaisilp, son of founders Suchin and Su Prapaisilp, told the Post-Dispatch the move was partly a response to how diners’ habits have changed since the pandemic. With an increase in both delivery and takeout business, South Grand’s 4,000-square-foot space no longer made sense.
Prapaisilp also hopes the Richmond Heights location will find a “middle ground” between a new market and the existing customer base.
The move, he said, is “a good natural progression for the restaurant. And the reason why we’re doing this is to keep the restaurant going for another 30 years.” IF
The King Burger
When the final Parkmoor Drive-In closed in 1999, the legendary St. Louis restaurant and its iconic King Burger were consigned to memory and nostalgia-baiting listicles. Until 2020, that is.
That year, restaurateur Frank Romano opened the new Parkmoor Drive-In in Webster Groves, a brilliantly reconceived reboot that drew on the heritage of the original while also building its own identity (check out the Buffalo Queso Toasted Ravioli for one example).
But, yes, the King Burger has returned, a double steak burger with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and Parkmoor sauce. Order it with the equally iconic onion rings to complete your new old Parkmoor experience. IF
The Reigning King of Chess
Last we checked with the World Chess Hall of Fame in the Central West End, a 20-foot-tall king still stands outside the front door. And last we checked with the Guinness World Records, the giant king maintains the record as the world’s largest chess piece.
But last summer, the Sautron Chess Club in France unveiled an even taller king that stands more than 20 feet, 6 inches high. But it hasn’t been certified by Guinness officials, and the local king still holds the record.
St. Louis boasts one more giant king: a 14½-foot piece built in 2012 for the World Chess Hall of Fame. It reigned as the world’s largest until 2014, when a 16-foot, 7-inch king was built in Belgium. The 14½-foot king now stands tall on the campus of St. Louis University. VSH
Kings of the jungle — and the St. Louis Zoo
The St. Louis Zoo’s resident King and Queen African lions, 15-year-old Ingozi and 17-year-old Cabara, are living out their golden years.
“The average age for these guys is about 15,” says Steve Bircher, the zoo’s curator of mammals. “So they’ve reached that magical point. Anything beyond that is a gift.”
Both came to St. Louis at a young age, Capara from a zoo in Switzerland, notable because she could introduce new genes into the zoo population in this part of the world. The couple has had two litters, and the three female lions from those litters have gone on to have cubs of their own.
Cabara and Ingozi are always lying very close to each other. They enjoy grooming and “talking” to each other. If they’re not next to each other, they like to at least see each other. “They really like to be together, like an old, married couple,” Bircher says.
There’s a reason male lions are nicknamed “King of the Jungle.” Just look at their majestic appearance, Bircher says. And while they are typically at the top of the food chain, a group of hyenas could displace them at a kill.
Their roars can carry up to 4 miles in the wild. When the circus used to visit the old Arena across the highway, the zoo lions and the circus lions would roar to one another, letting everyone know who was in whose territory.
“For years, we could always could tell when the circus was here, besides knowing from the news,” Bircher says. VSH
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll
Elvis Presley performed in St. Louis a few times. The first was in 1957, when he was a 22-year-old rhinestone-clad singer whose vocals were often drowned out by the shrieks of teenage girls. In 1976, the year before he died, an enthusiastic audience came to hear him, but the demographics were much different. “Generally, the audience was as mixed in age as any that has ever attended a rock concert at Kiel,” Post-Dispatch critic Harper Barnes wrote. “It was the sort of crowd one might expect to see at an Alice Cooper-Lawrence Welk concert.”
Before Presley’s first concert here in 1957, also at Kiel Auditorium, the Post-Dispatch described him as a “guitar player and a hillbilly singer,” and he shimmied onstage in sequins and metallic gold cloth. The frenzy began earlier in the day, when Presley stayed at the Hotel Chase under an assumed name, then was escorted by police via a back alley entrance to avoid admirers at the stage door.
In 1976, fans still crushed to the stage when he played — and crushed to the exits when he left. “I’ll still be coming to see him when he’s 80 years old,” fan Jean Rohrbach told the Post-Dispatch. VSH
‘King of the Hill’
Writer A.E. Hotchner left his hometown a special, poignant look at Depression-era poverty with “King of the Hill.” The memoir covers only four months in 1933, when 12-year-old Aaron must often fend for himself. His consumptive mother is in a sanitarium, and his father, a salesman, is sometimes out of town. The family is so poor that once gold from his mother’s failed tooth filling paid for food. The boy in the memoir lived downtown, some 4 miles from Dewey School, which he attended. It’s hard to know whether Hotchner might have embellished any of his memories, but the 1972 book as a whole is a realistic and moving story of St. Louis. Hotchner’s youthful perseverance foretells the successful life of a writer who became buddies with almost everyone he met, particularly Paul Newman and Ernest Hemingway. The book was made into a movie in 1993. JH