1901 – Frederick Ernest Sagner
Frederick Ernest Sagner was born on March 25, 1901 at home at 4564 North Market Street, St. Louis, Missouri to Gustave Sagner and Eleanora Girthofer. Ernest later reversed his first and middle names to Ernest Frederick Sagner.
Gustave and Eleanora had four sons:
- William Gustave, born January 26, 1894
- Walter Theodore, born November 27, 1895
- Arthur John, born May 24, 1897
- Frederick Ernest, born March 25, 1901
1901 – Alice Elizabeth Schuller
Alice Elizabeth Schuller was born on October 7, 1901 at home at 2021 Menard in St. Louis, Missouri to Alphonse Schuller and Emma Bauer. She was baptized Elizabeth Alice Schuller at Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic church in the Soulard neighborhood. But her birth record shows her name simply as Alice Schuller.
Alphonse and Emma had four children, three of whom survived to adulthood:
- Elizabeth Alice Schuller, born October 7, 1901
- Alphonse Joseph Schuller, Jr. (“Little Al”), born July 20, 1902, died November 23, 1902, just 3 months and 24 days later
- Elmer John Schuller, born September 8, 1903
- Kenneth G. Schuller, born September 27, 1909
1910 – 1919
Alice Schuller and Ernest Sagner were dating by the summer of 1917 as evidenced in this photo. Alice was 15 and Ernest 16 when the picture on the left was taken.
1920 – 1929
Ernie and Alice were married on January 3, 1920 in Edwardsville, Illinois. J. B. Dale, a justice of the peace performed the ceremony. Both were nineteen years old, although the marriage certificate lists Ernest as 21. Ernie was a clerk with the Railway Mail Service. After the wedding, Alice left home to join him in Kansas City where they lived in a single room apartment. She later said that it was a pretty dismal and lonely experience for her.
When Alice became pregnant, she returned to St. Louis to be with her mother. Soon, Ernie was able to get a job with the Mail Service in St. Louis. The couple settled in North St. Louis near Kingshighway and Page.
Their first daughter Betty Lea Sagner was born at home at 5836 Garfield in Saint Louis on June 22, 1921.
As a young man, Ernie became very interested in radios. After he sorted the mail on the train, he would read all the magazines about radios and electronics. He soon learned to repair radios and set up a shop at home. He then got a part time job with a radio distributor in sales and service. He found he liked the servicing more than the selling.
Ernest and Alice moved from their first home at 5836 Garfield Avenue to 4964 North Market Street, and then to a two-family dwelling on Wells Avenue.
Betty’s younger sister, Alice Anita Sagner, arrived on January 17, 1926.
1930 – 1939
By the time of the 1930 U. S. Census, the family was living in a two-family flat at 4723 Leduc Street, rented for $45 a month. Later they moved to a single-family home on Wabada Avenue.
Ernest Sagner continued to work for the Railway Mail Service, but also set up a radio shop on a balcony inside Al Reed’s auto parts store on Easton Avenue about five blocks east of Kingshighway. Al Reed’s shop was commonly called the “Orange Front” because the facade was painted bright orange.
Ernie sold radios for both cash and credit and he provided a repair service for customers. Money started rolling in and he thought he would soon be wealthy. When the stock market crashed in 1929, people who had purchased radios on credit started returning them. Inventories piled up and the cash flow stopped. Ernie soon had a nervous breakdown.
The Railway Mail Service continued to provide employment. Ernie began repairing radios out of his home on Wabada. But at times money was so scarce that Alice told Betty that there would be no dinner unless Ernie came home with money from a radio installation or repair.
In 1933, Ernie opened the E. F. Sagner Radio and Electric Company at 5048 Easton Avenue (now Dr. Martin Luther King Drive) with an investment of $300 and goods stocked on consignment. The family moved to a flat over the shop (5048A) where they lived until Ernie retired.
The building on Easton Avenue consisted of two upper flats over two connected storefronts. Ernie Sagner ran the radio repair shop on the ground floor, which he renamed “The Radio Hospital” on March 31, 1933. The main shop on the east side (5048) consisted of a long counter in the front and repair benches in the rear. The attached ground floor shop to the west (5050) had garage doors on the front and rear and was used to repair car radios. Across the street was Sherman Park, which contained a public library branch.
Betty and Alice attended Samuel Cupples grade school from Kindergarten through the eighth.
Then they attended Ben Blewitt High School. Betty graduated from Ben Blewitt high school in June 1939.
Betty had a blind date with LeRoy Struckmeyer arranged by mutual friends on the afternoon of Easter Sunday, 1941. Lee and Betty met that day at the house on Loughborough Avenue near Gravois Avenue in South St. Louis where they later spent most of their married life together. It was home to Betty’s three grandaunts and a granduncle, sisters and brother of her grandmother, Emma Schuller.
1940 – 1949
Betty and Lee hit it off right away and began dating regularly. They were out on a date on Sunday December 7, 1941, when Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor.
Meanwhile Betty was attending Hadley Technical School and was taking night classes at Washington University in fashion illustration. Encouraged by her teacher, she entered a competition and won a full scholarship to the university.
Betty completed classes at Hadley Tech in the summer of 1942. She entered Washington University in the fall, taking classes in fashion illustration, painting and sculpture.
The photo at the left was taken at the Chase Hotel in St. Louis on June 19, 1942.
Lee was drafted into the Army on October 26, 1942. He entered the Army at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri, and three weeks later was transferred to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. There he took basic training, attended Ordnance School and completed Cadre School for non-commissioned officers. After promotion to corporal, he taught in the Ordnance School as a drill instructor. He was then accepted into the Army Supply Training Program, which provided candidates with college training. They sent him to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia to take a two-year course in electrical engineering.
On Betty’s 22nd birthday, June 22, 1943, Lee’s parents (Charles and Sophia Struckmeyer) went to Betty’s house for a birthday party. Lee called Betty by phone from Blacksburg, Virginia. Betty took the call at the pay phone downstairs in the Radio Hospital shop. Lee proposed marriage and Betty accepted. Lee had purchased a ring on a previous visit home and entrusted it to his parents. Charles Struckmeyer put the engagement ring on Betty’s finger. “Happy birthday from LeRoy,” he said.
On Sunday December 5, 1943, Lee took the train from Savanna to St. Louis. He arrived at Union Station at about 10:00 in the morning. They were married at 1:30 by the Rev. Erich Leibner in the living room of Lee’s parent’s house at 5616 South Kingshighway. Betty’s sister, Alice Anita, was the maid of honor, and Lee’s brother, Bob, was the best man. After the ceremony they had a meal, and by late afternoon Lee was heading back on the train to Savanna.
About a week later, Betty joined Lee at Savanna Army Depot where they lived in a rooming house for about a week. Betty had to return home again because Lee was sent to Camp McCoy near Sparta, Wisconsin, for an antiaircraft firing test. Soon, Betty was able to join Lee at Camp Shenango in Greenville, Pennsylvania, northeast of Youngstown, Ohio.
Gould’s St. Louis City Directory for 1944 listed the E. F. Sagner Radio and Electric Company at 5048 Easton Avenue. At some point Ernie renamed his company “The Radio Hospital” with the address changed from 5048 to 5050 Easton Avenue. The 5050 address was used to advertise that the Radio Hospital offered “a fair deal.”
When Lee left for Europe in early 1944, Betty returned to St. Louis and discovered that her mother had separated from her father.
Her mother and sister, Alice Anita, had moved out of the flat on Easton Avenue and into a four-family flat at 2711 North Union. Next door lived the Spehr family—King, Marie, Dorothy, and Harry (Buzzy). Alice Anita had been dating Buzzy while she lived on Easton, and Buzzy told her about an available apartment next door to his family’s flat. Although they were separated, Ernie still expected to be fed by Alice and came over for dinner every night.
Gould’s St. Louis City Directory listed Alice Anita as a clerk at the Cupples-Hesse Corporation. Betty was listed as a student.
Betty enrolled at Washington University for the spring and fall semesters. She was offered a job as a dress designer, but turned it down to study painting.
Lee was discharged from the Army on December 22, 1945. He moved into the one-bedroom apartment that Betty shared with her mother and sister on North Union. Lee and Betty slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room.
On Saturday afternoons Betty and Lee recalled walking across the street with neighbors to Duffy’s Tavern (run by Cliff Haley) where they drank beer, played slot machines and sang Irish songs to live music.
On June 28, 1946, Alice Anita Sagner married Harry “Buzzy” Spehr.
On January 30, 1947, Steven Mark Spehr was born to Alice Anita and Buzzy. He was Ernest and Alice Sagner’s first grandchild. Then, just twelve days later, on February 11, 1947, Betty gave birth to her first child. Kurt Lee Struckmeyer. They brought him home to the flat at 2711 North Union.
Later that year, Betty and Lee moved to a two-family flat at 3804 Humphrey Street in South St. Louis, owned by Lee’s parents. At that point, Alice was living alone on North Union. She soon returned to the flat on Easton Avenue, although she and Ernie maintained separate bedrooms.
Betty and Lee’s daughter, Karen Leah Struckmeyer, was born on March 8, 1948 just 13 months after Kurt’s arrival.
Six months later, on September 22, 1948, Alice Anita and Buzzy’s second son, Scott Lawrence Spehr was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Clayton, Missouri.
1950 – 1959
On July 7, 1950, Barbara L. Spehr was born to Alice Anita and Buzzy at St. Mary’s Hospital.
In 1950, Lee and Betty and their children Kurt and Karen moved to 5050A Easton Avenue in the upper flat next door to Betty’s parents.
Lee had decided that he needed to learn a skilled trade. His father-in-law offered him a job-in-training in radio and TV electronics at $210 a month for a six-day workweek. Lee had been making $110 for a five-day week carrying the hod. But he saw this as an investment in the future.
It took Lee three years to get back to his previous salary level. Ernie promised Lee that someday he would be a partner in the business. The promises never materialized.
The neighborhood around Easton Avenue was changing racially. After World War II many African-Americans migrated from the South to Northern cities. Black families began moving up Easton Avenue from neighborhoods further downtown.
Betty’s aunt Lena Bauer, also concerned about the decline of the neighborhood in North St. Louis, offered to rent them the second floor flat of the house she owned at 4928 Loughborough in South St. Louis. Her brother, Frank, had died in 1954. Lena and her sister Louise shared the first floor flat and rented the upstairs flat. Betty and Lee moved to the upper flat in 1955.
At that point, Alphonse and Emma Schuller moved into the flat at 5050A Easton Avenue. Three years later, in 1958, they purchased a four-family flat at 4206-08 Arsenal Street in south St. Louis. They took up residence in a lower flat (4208) and rented the other three apartments.
On July 12, 1955, Mary Beth Spehr was born to Alice Anita and Buzzy at St. Mary’s Hospital.
On October 28, 1957, Alice Anita gave birth to her fifth child, Jayne Elizabeth Spehr at St. Mary’s Hospital.
In 1957, Lee Struckmeyer left the Radio Hospital and took a job in the electronic instrument shop at Mallinckrodt Chemical Company in Weldon Springs, Missouri.
The second floor apartments were separated when Betty and Lee lived there. after they moved out, Alices Mom and Dad, Alfie and Emma Schuller lived there for three years. Then, they were joined together and made into one large apartment for guests, especially grandchildren.
Alice Sagner loved to have her grandchildren stay for a week at her home in the summer, and every afternoon would play board games with them. They all enjoyed Monopoly and Careers. She watched the time, and left to prepare dinner in time for Ernie’s arrival from the store downstairs.
1960 – 1969
In the 1960s, Ernest retired and sold his property on Easton Aveue to a storefront church. They purchased a home at 3624 South Lakeshore Drive in House Springs, Missouri on Lake Montowese.
1970 – 1979
Ernest Frederick Sagner died on November 1, 1978 at St. Joseph Hospital in Kirkwood, Missouri at the age of 77. The cause of death was congestive heart failure. His last residence was on Lake Montowese at 3624 S. Lakeshore Drive, House Springs, Missouri. He was buried on November 4th at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Cedar Hill, Missouri. The gravesite is on lot 107-B.
1980 – 1989
Alice Elizabeth (Schuller) Sagner developed cancer of the liver and died on March 15, 1980 at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis at age 78. She was buried at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens on March 17th.