The City Museum is a popular tourist destination in St. Louis and its co-founder, Gail Cassilly, says founding it along with her late ex-husband was one of her life’s highlights though it was also a life that had “crushing sorrows.” Host Don Marsh talks with sculptor and writer Gail Cassilly about her new memoir, Saltwater. Then, Don talks with a couple of St. Louisans who are mounting a national effort to officially change the name of Columbus Day to Exploration Day.
Segment A - Gail Cassilly
Prior to becoming a sculptor Gail Cassilly was a nun performing missionary work in Africa. She recalled the irony of how she became involved in art, “It was this group of missionary sisters that sent me to study art. They got me into studying it and it (led) to a professional career.” On writing her memoir, Cassilly said she never intended to write and had she thought it through may not have written a memoir. “My life is now an open book,” said Cassilly.
Segment B - Exploration Day
Tom Diehl and Karl Frank acknowledge that getting a federal holiday changed is a tough task but they’re optimistic about their effort. “I think our first step is to get people to take some pride in American history and all things that were accomplished by people who took risks,” said Frank. “If you look at St. Louis history, it was the hub of exploration in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
Peter from Florissant called into the program and mentioned he would celebrate Exploration Day in July, the month of the Apollo 11 spaceflight which landed humans on the moon. Peter also pointed out that in creating Exploration Day, there is no need to demean Christopher Columbus.
Brian from St. Louis sent us an e-mail:
Some places, notably Berkeley, California, have already changed the name of the holiday to Indigenous People's Day. I myself would keep Columbus Day. Recalling him recalls the whole of our history, both the glory and the daring and the cruelty and exploitation. I don't want either part forgotten. Exploration Day only recalls the first part; Indigenous People's Day only recalls the second.
On St. Louis Public Radio’s Facebook page, Stephanie wrote:
I support removing Columbus's name. Not only did he leave a cruel legacy, but it's one more slap in the face to Native Americans to say that the fact that they had been living here for thousands of years really doesn't count because the white man wasn't here. I don't think we need a federal holiday for Columbus or for explorers. I appreciate the importance of explorers but I don't think we need to create a holiday to honor them. Then why wouldn't we have a holiday to honor every other group of people? I'm actually for removing the holiday altogether. We have Independence Day and Labor Day to serve the purpose.