When Ted Drewes died on Jan. 29, 1968, his obit ran on our sports pages with a passing notice of “far-flung Christmas tree business and two frozen custard stands in south St. Louis.”
Here is that original obituary.
Theodore R. (Ted) Drewes, one of the greatest tennis players developed in St. Louis, died early today of a heart ailment in St. Petersburg, Fla.
He and his wife. Mildred, had arrived Friday for a brief vacation in Pass-a-Grille, Fla., just outside St. Petersburg.
Drewes won four consecutive National Public Parks singles championships, starting In 1924, and look the Municipal Tennis Association’s singles title 15 times from 1916 to 1935. He won the Muny title 12 successive years from 1924 to 35.
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He was tennis coach at Concordia Seminary for 23 years. Other championships included the city singles title. four times: Central States, twice; St. Louis District outdoors, three times; St. Louis county, six times; and Missouri Valley and University City Open once each.
Drewes had a far-flung Christmas tree business and operated two frozen custard stands in south St. Louis.
He was a sports reporter for the old St. Louis Star in the late 1920s. He lived at 3723 Salome Ave. in Pine Lawn.
Drewes came into tennis prominence as an O’Fallon Park player.
Ho attended old Yeatman High School, where he was a basketball star, once scoring 32 points in a game when 32 was considered a good team total.
Surviving, in addition to hs wife, are a son, Ted Jr., St. Louis, and three daughters, Mrs. Robert (Dorothy) Hoyer nnd Mrs. Fred (Marjore) Ausicker of St. Louis and Mrs. William (Joan) Gray of Chicago. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
St. Louis restaurant history in the Post-Dispatch: Ted Drewes and Tony’s
Restaurant critic Ian Froeb explored the Post-Dispatch’s digital archive, tracing the course of St. Louis’ most famous restaurants and their owners through the paper’s history. In the part of the series, he looked at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard and Tony’s.
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is a St. Louis institution, but when founder Ted Drewes Sr. died in 1968, it didn’t rate a mention in the headline or lede of his obituary.
Before Ted Drewes Sr. founded the frozen-custard stands that bear his name, he was a standout tennis player. In fact, the headline of his 1968 Post-Dispatch obituary identifies him as a “tennis star” and doesn’t mention the frozen-custard stands until the sixth paragraph. This July 11, 1917, article looks at the 19-year-old Drewes’ rising star as he knocks off the “trust” of established champions; it notes that he has been playing since the age of 11.
The August 13, 1914, clipping on the upper left is the first mention of Drewes, the teenage tennis phenomenon to be, that I found in the Post-Dispatch archive. The front-page headline of that day’s paper? “England Declares War on Austria.”
On the lower left is a clipping from September 14, 1916, that describes the young Drewes as “not yet a voter.” On the right is a close-up of the photograph of Drewes from the previous page’s July 11, 1917, paper.
On the upper left is the first mention I found in the archive of Ted Drewes Jr. The clipping is from July 25, 1944 — and, once again, the context is tennis. The 16-year-old Drewes Jr. plays with “his illustrious father sitting on the sidelines as a spectator.”
On the lower left is the first mention I found of the famous frozen custard, a May 19, 1946, want ad seeking girls to work at the stands. On the right are ads for Ted Drewes’ Christmas-tree (1954) and frozen-custard (1957) stands.
As I mentioned earlier, the January 29, 1968, obituary for Ted Drewes Sr. mentions his tennis career prominently, while the “far-flung Christmas tree business” and frozen-custard stands do not appear until the sixth paragraph.
The July 14, 1974, article on the upper left and right is the first example I found of what we would now consider “food writing” that includes Ted Drewes Frozen Custard as a subject. (Also mentioned in the article, though not visible in this clipping, is Crown Candy Kitchen.) The upper-right excerpt says, “The rich custard doesn’t have rich prices.” A one-scoop cone is 15 cents.
By 1979 (lower left) and 1984 (lower right), Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is presented as an integral, universally beloved part of St. Louis culture, whether in asking “frozen custard czar” Drewes what he is reading in the summer of 1979 or a story from the 1984 Winter Olympics that is “as American…as a Ted Drewes ‘concrete’ on a hot summer night.”
Well, almost universally beloved.
Tony’s is synonymous with fine dining in St. Louis. It didn’t start out with 4-star aspirations, though.
As with Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, the first mention of Tony’s Spaghetti House that I found in the archive is a want ad. The December 29, 1946, ad seeks two 30-year-old “neat and experienced” waitresses.
The ad for Tony’s Spaghetti House is from the September 21, 1947, paper.
The brief article on the left is from the September 17, 1949, edition of the St. Louis Star and Times. It tells the story of Vincent Bommarito’s 19th birthday party at Tony’s Spaghetti House. Trust me. Just read it.
On the right is a September 9, 1950, ad for Tony’s Spaghetti House mentioning how the Bommarito boys (Vincent and Tony) have remodeled the restaurant.
By the end of the 1950s, Vincent Bommarito is rising in St. Louis society. This April 3, 1959, clipping describes the 7-room house with a 2-car garage and air conditioning in Ferguson he and his wife have bought.
This November 28, 1965, feature article describes how Vincent and Tony Bommarito have transformed their father’s spaghetti house into the fine-dining palace that we know today, tableside preparations included.
I could have made a long slideshow of the many mentions of Vincent Bommarito Sr. in the Post-Dispatch through the 1970s and 1980s. Instead, let’s skip ahead to May 22, 1992: the last meal at Tony’s at 826 Broadway. The restaurant moved because “they plan to pave paradise to put up a parking lot or similar facility to service the indoor football stadium being built across the street.”
Since then, of course, the Rams have come and gone from that indoor football stadium.
And while Vincent Bommarito Sr. passed away in 2019, Tony’s remains.