Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis Missouri’

St. Louis vs. Rolla

Phelps County, Missouri Courthouse, listed on ...

Phelps County, Missouri Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Rolla, Missouri. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A montage of St. Louis

English: A montage of St. Louis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After our family made our move in June of 2011 to Rolla, many friends from St. Louis, or “the Lou” as it is sometimes affectionately called, asked us, “How do you like Rolla?”  That became the million dollar question! If any of our kids were asked, they would probably have groaned and began their list of complaints: there’s no mall, no Fritz’s, the zoo is far away, the Muny is far away, Busch Stadium is far away, there’s no Target, no Michael’s, no Penn Station

To be fair to our kids, being born near a large city, growing up in the suburbs of a large city, there are a lot of amenities in that kind of area and that is all they knew.    It is nice to be able to hop in the car, or take a trip on Metrolink, and go  to a baseball game, hockey game,  or see a show coming in from Broadway at the Fabulous Fox Theatre downtown.  I ,too, missed some of the shopping venues the greater St. Louis area offered and have learned to research  online  where the closest Target or Toys R Us store is, and then have had that internal, and sometimes external, debate:”Is it really worth the gas to make that 2 hour drive just to shop at such and such store?  Do I really need that item?  Is there a similar item at a local store? Can I order it online?”  That is probably the biggest thing I have had to get used to.  I am very glad Rolla did get a Kohl’s store and has a very nice JC Penney’s in town.  Now if a Target could be brought in and a Michael’s store and a Penn Station…hint, hint, City Council members and Mayor!!

The question resonated a bit differently for my husband and I, comparing life in a big city area to life in a town of 19,559.   My husband saw the immediate value of  lower property taxes, less traffic snarls, but would probably admit that the slower pace of life in Rolla did take a bit to get used to.  I would agree with his assessments, and also note that the land is different.   It is  hillier here, with  curvy roads especially on rural drives, stonier soils, lots of clear water running in creeks and springs, occasional black bear sightings.   As we are at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains here, and Arkansas is only a 3 to 3 and a half hour drive away, there is a distinctive twang, a bit of a Southern drawl-like sound to my Northwest Ohio born and raised ears that I catch when some Rolla area folks are talking.   I have also noticed that there is a more of a conservative view on life here when compared to St. Louis and it’s surrounding environs.  North St. Louis County, where we moved from, almost all political offices were and are still held by Democrats, and unions have a heavy influence there.  I would say it’s the exact opposite in Phelps County and Rolla.  If the election for the President had been decided in this town, Mr. Romney would be sitting in the Oval Office, and not President Obama.

St. Louis has many colleges and universities in its midst, all vying for students.  In Rolla, one dominates all of the rest, and is a major employer of the town: Missouri University of Science and Technology, or MS&T.  In 1870 the school was begun, under the title of the University of Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy.     As the school grew in size, expanded it’s degrees, added research and more buildings, it had another name change in 1964 to University of Missouri-Rolla, or UMR.   In January of 2008, the university once again changed it’s name to MS&T, much to the ire of alumni.  My husband works with several alumni and they still refer to their college alma mater as UMR!  Irregardless of the name, it provides an interesting contrast to the rural aspects of Rolla.  Many students are here from other countries and it is fascinating to me when I observe a group of foreign students at a local grocery store or the ubiquitous Wal-Mart, shopping and chatting away in their native tongue.  I wish I could understand their languages when that happens.  What do they think of life in America so far?  The university has a nice theatre, Leach Theatre, and they do a pretty decent job at bringing in outside entertainment groups for not only the students but for the entire community.  Leach also shows free movies and documentaries during the main two semesters on Tuesday evenings, which as a fan of classic movies, that is a nice plus!

Probably the only thing our family does agree on is the library.  Rolla’s library tries very hard to serve the public, but when one compares it to the St. Louis County Library system, it pales in the comparison.  If I could have a magic wand, I would wave more monies to Rolla’s Library so they could be come a mini-STL County branch library!  That would be wonderful to behold!  To be fair, the librarians and employees at Rolla’s library work hard and are very helpful, always ready to answer a question, so in that respect, they aren’t as grumpy as some of the  STL’s County branch librarians and employees  were who we encountered off and on for 20 years.   MS&T has a library open to the public,  but I haven’t explored it yet.  I have visions of it only being full of books on engineering, physics, chemistry, quantum physics, nuclear power, mining, calculus, etc.

Other than finding a house to live in,  our family’s other priority was to find a church to worship at and to grow our faith in.  We had been very active members at First Christian Church in Florissant for 20 years, and saying goodbye to that church and all of our friends there was and has been the hardest part of leaving the St. Louis area behind.  Providentially, a very good friend in Florissant happened to be good friends with the Youth Minister at a church in Rolla, Greentree Christian Church.  Another Florissant friend was also friends with the Children’s Minister at Greentree.  Through those two new to us ministers, they helped tremendously in aiding our teens and our elementary-aged son become acclimated to the church, and in helping them to make some connections with teens and kids at the church.  This connection, we believe, was God-directed and it has been a blessing to us in making the transition from a larger community to a smaller one.

To sum up, life in St. Louis has the plus of lots to do for entertainment, shopping, eating out, all close at hand.  It also has the downsides of traffic(but honestly, have you ever driven in Chicago?  Chicago traffic makes St.  Louis’s look like child’s play!), higher taxes, and higher crime rates.  Life in Rolla is definitely at a slower pace, lower taxes, less traffic, and an interesting mix of people: people from this area of South-Central Missouri, people from other countries and from other parts of the state attending the University,  farmers, Amish(there is a growing Amish community); folks working hard to make a living, to do right for their families, raising their children, worshiping God, proud to be from this area of the United States.  And, I add, whatever you do, don’t pronounce the town’s name “Roll-uh”.  It’s Rall-uh, sort of like Raleigh, but with a Missouri twist.

Sold!

moms blog

In a past blog, titled Change, Change, Change, I cited the reason for our family’s move in June of 2011  from Florissant, MO, a suburb of St. Louis, to Rolla, MO.  I ended that blog by stating that I would write more about our adventure in selling our house in Florissant and as the late Paul Harvey would say, here’s “the rest of the story.”   We immediately contacted a real estate agent, the one who had helped us find the house we now had to sell.   He walked through our house and suggested how to make a house with 6 kids, 2 adults, and 1 dog look like a house that no one had ever lived in before!  Fortunately, a good friend from our church loved to paint, and he agreed to do all of the interior repainting jobs that needed to be done: the basement/kids domain, 2 bedrooms, dining room, inside the large coat closet,a  pantry closet, and the master bathroom.   Another gentleman from our church owned a carpet/flooring installation business  and he and his team  did a superb job at re-carpeting the dining room  and the  living room.  The basement carpet was still in good shape, it only needed to be cleaned, and,  you guessed it, another friend from church owned a carpet cleaning business so he got that job.  Lastly, some minor plumbing issues had to be dealt with, and a plumbing friend did that exceptionally well.  My advice is that when you have to prep a house in order  to sell it, having friends with specific home improvement skills is a must!  After all of these cosmetic changes were done, and I had scubbed every inch of the place, the yards had been mowed and looked great, our house finally  looked like no one had ever breathed or exhaled in it.   Now  it was  time for St. Louis County’s Inspector to view our house and make his evaluation on what  codes we might  need to update to.  I have since decided that county codes, or perhaps its federal codes, are tinkered with and changed on a monthly basis!  Fortunately, we only had to install one outlet cover that was inside a lower cupboard, and have the roof  redone in one tiny area.  Those items were soon dealt with and the house was ready for the market by   August  1st.   The first few “serious”  bidders put down bids that were so ridiculously low that we might as well have said this house is free!  Just come on in and take it!  We soon learned that in a depressed economy, the house selling market was all in the  the buyers favor.  Buyers could waltz in with ridiculous bids, they could make extra demands to be added to the contracts that weren’t thought of asking for  when the house selling market was in better shape.  After several more trips back and forth between Rolla and Florissant, to check on the house, mow the lawns, pick up large sticks that had rained down on the property when a wind storm had blown through, we had a buyer, in November.   At first, the buyer’s deal with the mortgage company fell apart but providentially, he really wanted to buy our house so he called our real estate agent for advice.  Our agent was able to steer him to some better mortgage companies than the buyer had first decided to work with and by late Jan. 2012, our house had finally sold.   My husband and I felt like a great weight had been lifted off of our shoulders, and now we could pursue buying a new home in Rolla.   After a few weeks of searching, we found a large, Colonial styled  home, inside the city limits, very close to our church, the high school, the junior high, and neighborhood kids were there too, readily available to come over to play with the younger 3 kids in our house.  Now that we’ve been settled in our home, I can look back and know that all of the work, the packing, the unpacking, the repacking, the moves, the unpacking once more, it has  all been quite worth it.

Change, change, change

Panorama of St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Panorama of St. Louis, Missouri, United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In April of 2009, my husband trudged in the door, on a weekday afternoon.  He was home much too soon, and walked in while the homeschooling lessons were in full swing.  We quickly found out why he was home too soon, he had just been layed off from his job.  Sigh, big sigh, and I tried to stifle my worries, cramming them down deep into my being.  Fortunately, we didn’t have much debt, just a house payment.  We were able to get by on my returning to teaching, albeit as a substitute, for our local school district, and I also babysat a neighbor’s child.    My husband was able to find part-time work with 5 different jobs, and job hunting in between those.  The St. Louis, Missouri area was just not hiring, not for chemical engineers which is my husband’s field,  and as much as we hated to do so, my husband began job searching outside of the area.  After 16 months of being underemployed, making do with what we were earning from substitute teaching, babysitting, and 5 part-time jobs, my husband was offered a chemical engineering job in Rolla, Missouri.  Almost 2 hours, southwest of St.  Louis.

The University of Missouri at Rolla's half-sca...

The University of Missouri at Rolla's half-scale Stonehenge replica built from solid granite. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was so grateful that my husband was once again gainfully employed!!  To celebrate, we took our children out to dinner, something we had not done much of for 16 months, to Emperer’s Palace, an Asian restaurant that all of us really enjoyed eating at for special occasions.  My husband began his new job in September of 2010, and for the rest of that school year, the kids and I stayed in our home in Florissant, Missouri, and my husband stayed in Rolla, only coming to see us on the weekends.  As January of 2011 approached, my husband evaluated his work with the new company.  He really enjoyed the new job, the new company, and was glad that he had accepted the offer to work there.  It was now time to be a family again, albeit all in the same place.  In June, we made the move to Rolla, Missouri, saying good-bye to many friends.  We had lived in Florissant for almost 20 years, so this was going to be a big change for all of us.  Our oldest, in the USMC, serving in Japan, was missing all of this excitement and stress, but we kept him abreast of all the changes as fast as we could.

Change can be unsettling.  Change can be exciting.  Change can be sought after, or it can be placed upon one unexpectedly.  I found the forced change for our family as bittersweet.  Sweet that husband was gainfully employed once again, that the emergency fund at the bank could be built back up, that I could stop substitute teaching!!  Bitter that we would have to start all over, meeting new people, getting used to a new community, after being in our current surroundings for almost 20 years.  Saying good-bye to our church, First Christian, would be very hard, as many of our friends were through our church, serving together there, worshiping together there, sharing baby news, going to weddings, funerals;many of the good friends there were like family for us, since our parents, siblings, childrens’ cousins were all in the east, in Ohio and North Carolina.   We were also going to have to face the bitter fact of preparing our beloved house for the market, to sell it, and this we knew, was going to be an onerous task.  Not so much due to the house’s condition, but due to the housing market.    I will continue our adventures in house selling in another blog, very soon!

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