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Monday, January 5, 2009


On Missouri Avenue in East St. Louis stands a forlorn billboard amid many forlorn buildings. The west face of the ancient-looking, rusty and crusty two-sided board bears the numbers "1843." The 3 is a bit crooked, and there is only the faintest outline of explanatory clues. A name plaque at the base of the sign reads "Peter Hauptmann Company," the defunct owner of the sign.

Some people think that the numbers are the declaration of a year, which they are, but not of any year particularly momentous in the life of the city of East St. Louis. The sign, after all is an advertisement for David Nicholson 1843 Bonded Whiskey. I am amazed that a billboard would go unused anywhere. Missouri Avenue is not a slow street, since it co-exists as Illinois State Highway 15, a major path between Belleville and St. Louis. The billboard advertisement is the lowest form of commercial activity that often co-exists peacefully with prostitution and drug dealing as the last-ditch attempt to make money in a place. Why didn't a cell phone ad replace the old whiskey sign years ago?


Rick Bonasch said...

I remember driving through East St. Louis about ten or fifteen years and seeing an old, worn out billboard advertising radio station 920 WGNU.

Before seeing that faded sign, I had never heard of the station. I tuned the radio to 920 on the AM dial to see if the station was still on the air.

What a pleasant surprise that was! Years of listening to the offbeat, zany antics of WGNU hosts and callers followed. Those were some fun years and interesting discussions!

Things havs sure gone down the drain over at WGNU ever since they put in the new, all gospel, all the time, format.

According to station management, during the talk days, WGNU never subscribed to the arbitron ratings, so they couldn't tout listenership to price advertising for their call in shows. Nonetheless, all over town, you'd hear radios tuned to WGNU.

For revenue, it was the pay-to-play weekend church broadcasts that paid the bills.

It's too bad there are no more free form, issues-based, call in talk shows left in St. Louis.

Anonymous said...

The 1843 refers to the David Nicholson brand of "well" bourbon marketed in the St. Louis Area.