A Chicago cop, a social worker and an artist walked into a bar. Despite what some alert readers (ARs) might think, that’s not the first line of a joke, at least not of any joke I’ve ever heard. No, that was the reality whenever Tom Filter came to The Tap Room, as he did on a regular basis almost since we opened. Tom grew up on the south side of Chicago, the home of the renowned Daley political dynasty. He studied art at the University of Minnesota with an emphasis on sculpture; moved back to Chicago, where he was a Deputy with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department in the Gang Intelligence Division; and eventually made his way to St. Louis, where he worked for the State of Missouri, Division of Youth Services. While there he implemented programs for youths placed in DYS custody. Along the way he married Judie Price on September 25, 1993. Tom died much too young on July 5th. Twelve days later a celebration of his remarkable life was held at The Tap Room on what would have been his 67th birthday.
Most ARs are probably familiar with the Milles sculpture a few blocks southeast of The Tap Room, across from Union Station. Titled “The Meeting of the Waters,” it depicts the coming together of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. In a larger sense, it represents hundreds of thousands of tributaries that form the Mississippi, from New York to New Mexico and a million square miles in between. Like the Mississippi, The Schlafly Tap Room has been formed over the years by thousands of human tributaries. Few have had as big an impact as Tom Filter.
His ebullience while holding forth at the north end of the south bar put a smile on the face of everyone who was lucky enough to be in the vicinity. His contribution to the character of The Tap Room was salutary and indelible. Like a tributary to the Mississippi that becomes permanently commingled with the waters that make up that great river, Tom was part of the fabric of The Tap Room. His influence will long survive his passing from this earth.
Tom was a masterful practitioner of the art of conversation, which is a much more civilized means of communication than texting, a behavior that was virtually unknown when he first started coming to The Tap Room. Using myself as an example, it wasn’t until the summer of 1993, shortly before Tom and Judie were married, that I had my first mobile telephone. I remember getting it shortly before the devastating flood inundated much of our region. It was a bulky contraption about the size of the phone in my office and had to be plugged into the car lighter, with an antenna held onto the roof of the car with a magnet. It certainly was not capable of sending or receiving a text message.
Tom and I both grew up in a time when telephone numbers began with exchanges with names. Our telephone number when I was growing up was FOrest 1-1543, presumably because we lived near Forest Park. Early in my childhood we had a number with six, not seven digits: ROsedale 1543. As was the case with most ARs of a certain age, the only phones I ever used had rotary dials. I knew dozens of telephone numbers and can still remember some to this day. I even remember the fictional telephone numbers in popular songs, such as BEechwood 4-5789 by the Marvelettes; or TIdewater 4-1009, where Chuck Berry called the folks back home in Norfolk, Virginia. By 1966, when Wilson Pickett sang “634-5789”, telephone numbers had been stripped of their distinctively named exchanges. The steamy novel BUtterfield 8 had become dated and less relevant.
Growing up in St. Louis in the 1950s I lived in a house without air conditioning. Movie theatres were among the few places that were air conditioned, along with some restaurants. I can remember the signs on restaurant doors that showed a penguin with the slogan, “Come on in, it’s Kool inside,” simultaneously promoting both air conditioning and second hand smoke.
We had one television in the house and Channel 5 was the only station on the air when I was in nursery school. It did not yet offer all-day programming. I remember watching test patterns in the middle of the afternoon while waiting for Howdy Doody Time. It was at least another 15 years before we had a color TV.
We lived in Zone 8. Zip (Zone Improvement Plan) Codes weren’t instituted until July 1, 1963. Eighteen days later The Forest Park Highlands burned to the ground. I remember the smoke that could be seen in far West St. Louis County. The Comet, the terrifying rickety wooden roller coaster that looked and felt as if it would fall down at any moment, was reduced to a pile of smoldering ashes.
I remember when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union as the 49th and 50th states respectively, just in time for their citizens to vote in the 1960 presidential election. This was the first election in U. S. history in which debates between the candidates were televised. Like most Americans my family watched the debates on the single black and white television in the house. The consensus among historians is that these debates were a decisive factor in the election of John F. Kennedy in November.
Another decisive factor was the turnout in Cook County, Illinois, where thousands of people who had been dead for years voted for Kennedy. For friends of Tom Filter it’s comforting to know that, even though Tom has passed from this life, he can still keep voting in his beloved home precinct in Chicago. These same friends are pretty sure we know how he’s voting.
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery