St. Louis Classic
Time tugs at most of man's creations, molding and changing them, but the classic elegance of the horse show has a charmed existence. All the world over, its ingredients are the same—spinning wheels of flashing carriages, measured hoofbeats of perfect steeds, riders in costumes of traditional cut and hue. Queen Victoria, transported from 19th century Hyde Park to 20th century St. Louis, would scarcely feel a stranger. Here, in a snug hollow in Huntleigh Village, just outside the city, lies the Bridlespur Hunt Club, which annually plays host to a show that draws the best of horses and riders from all over the state for competition and attracts the most prominent members of St. Louis society as onlookers. In and out of the ring, Bridlespur is dominated by the family of August A. Busch Jr. (see cover), whose father founded the hunt 30 years ago. A classic in St. Louis, it is likewise a symbol now to horse lovers everywhere of the beginning outdoor season.
August A. Busch Jr., beer's super-salesman, sportsman and latter-day baseball buff, was up bright and early as usual and drove from Grant's Farm to the Anheuser-Busch brewery in South St. Louis. There, after a quick check of the sales figures around the country, he found himself confronted with a recently published list that included him among the 10 richest men in America. The list credited him with a personal fortune of $250 million.
Gussie Busch can yell louder than practically anybody. Most of the time he tries to keep his volume down. But now he let go.
May 19, 1957
"Wrong!" he roared, in a voice that could be heard up and down the length of Pestalozzi Street, "Wrong by about 250 million per cent!"
He does not (Gussie bellowed on) own the Anheuser-Busch brewery; he is its president, to be sure, but only a minority stockholder. He does not own historic Grant's Farm (which Ulysses once tilled with his own hands); it belongs to his mother. He does not (as the list went on to assert) own the St. Louis Cardinals; the team is the property of the brewery and its 18,000 stockholders, and he just happens to be the club president. The fact is, Gussie Busch declared as the windows rattled, he has "never personally possessed a fortune either by inheritance or otherwise."
Having had the normal reaction of a man who finds himself on a widely publicized "list of 10," Gussie felt better as he sat down at his great desk and devoted himself to the affairs of the complicated world of Budweiser. Executives came in and out, and the older ones greeted Gussie as Gus and the younger ones addressed him as Mr. Busch. At 58, Gussie looked almost as young as any of them. Tanned and trim, 164 pounds packed hard on a 5-foot 10-inch frame, he showed only a few gray hairs, and against the fact of life that he is several times a grandfather he could measure the current good news that he is an expectant father as well—for the fourth time since his marriage to his third wife, the former Gertrude Buholzer, in 1952.
Gussie attacked the desk work with zest, for that is Gussie's way. The old hands around the brewery say that you would have to go all the way back to the original Adolphus, his grandfather, to match him for high spirits and a talent for going directly to the heart of the matter, be the occasion a sales conference or a Schlachtfest out at Grant's Farm. Once Gussie opened a stockholders' meeting by shouting, "Sales are off and nobody's to blame but me!" At a baseball banquet last winter, he shouted, "Either the Cardinals win a pennant by 1958 or Frank Lane will be out on his rump!"
The desk work kept him busy until a little before one o'clock. Then Gussie Busch got up and strode out of his office and down the hall to the elevator. Waiting for it, he walked over and looked in on the company barbershop. The barber greeted him and asked how about the game of the night before in which the Cardinals had blown a five-run lead in the ninth and had to go 13 innings to beat Pittsburgh 6-5, on Stan Musial's homer. "I died," said Gussie.
The elevator doors slid open, and Gussie entered. At the sixth floor he stepped out into the executive dining room. Something besides luncheon is scheduled for almost every day, and so Gussie was not surprised to see Mayor Raymond Tucker of St. Louis on hand to receive, with Gussie, an award for the St. Louis float in the Tournament of Roses parade at Pasadena last New Year's Day. The float, a floral replica of an early fire engine, had been produced by Carlotta Busch Flanigan, Gussie's daughter by a previous marriage, and it had been drawn by an eight-horse hitch of the famous Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales.
As Gussie took his place at the head table along with Mayor Tucker and John H. Biggar Jr., president of the Tournament of Roses Association, he called out to a passing waiter, "Any score yet, Mike?" Mike nodded and lied (for the game had barely started), "Four nothing, Pittsburgh, Mr. Busch." Gussie's mouth dropped open, and then he realized that he was being kidded. "Will you kindly shut up?" he yelled back at Mike.
Gussie turned to Mr. Biggar. "Did you hear the game last night?" Mr. Biggar hadn't. Gussie turned to Mayor Tucker. "Did you hear it?"
"I heard that ninth inning," said Mayor Tucker. "It was pretty bad."
"I died," said Gussie. He called out to Richard A. Meyer, vice-president of the brewery and executive vice-president of the Cardinals. "I gave you the ball club in the ninth, Dick."
"I assumed that," said Meyer.
"But I took it back in the 13th," said Gussie. He turned back to Mayor Tucker. "You stayed with the broadcast until the end, didn't you?"
Mayor Tucker shook his head. "No," he said. "When it went into extra innings, I went to bed."
"Went to bed!" cried Gussie. "I stayed with it until the finish. Why, I couldn't go to bed not knowing how it turned out." He shuddered. "I hate close ball games. The only time I enjoy a game is when they're winning about 12 to nothing. That ninth inning was terrible to take. I died."
Gussie and his guests ate their low-calorie luncheon of steak, salad and fruit, and then Mr. Biggar got up and made the award and introduced a color film of the New Year's Day parade. As Dick Meyer watched the film, he pulled a transistor radio out of his pocket and held it to his ear, issuing bulletins to Gussie and Mike, the waiter, from time to time. After the film ended, Gussie got up and said that it had been just grand, and he thanked Mayor Tucker for attending and Mr. Biggar for bringing the film. The luncheon broke up.
This was a day Gussie planned to get away early and the ball game was still on when he took the wheel of his black Cadillac and drove out Gravois Road with his chauffeur in the back seat. The Cardinals were leading 9-2 when the Pirates filled the bases in the last of the ninth. This was getting too close for Gussie's comfort, and he roared in anguish until the Pittsburgh threat was put down.
"I was never," Gussie said as he flipped off the car radio, "what you'd call a baseball fan until the brewery bought the Cardinals. I knew some ballplayers, I used to go duck hunting with Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst before we took over the club. But I never got too excited about the game, and I guess I couldn't understand why other people did. But I've discovered you can't get close to a team and not get involved. Now Pm hooked and hooked good. I don't ride in the horse shows any more, so duck hunting and baseball are my sports now. I seem to suffer more than most fans, but I love it more and more."
Gussie turned in at Grant's Farm and drove up the winding road to the 34-room mansion that his father built. Turning the car over to the chauffeur, he mounted the steps and, like a man come home to a city flat, he reached into his pocket for his key and opened the door. Inside, he sang out: "I'm home!" In a moment Trudy Busch, 30, came down the great staircase and they decided (as they do every early evening when the weather is fair) to go coaching with the children. Gussie said he would go down to the Bauernhof and drive back for Mrs. Busch and two of the children, Adolphus IV, almost 4, and Beatrice Alice, almost 3.
World's biggest horse
Turning into the courtyard of the Bauernhof, the replica of an old country farmhouse and stables, Gussie waved to a contingent of Girl Scouts preparing to start on a tour of the estate aboard one of the three miniature trains. "Having a good time, girls?" shouted Gussie. "Oh, wonderful, Mr. Busch!" the girls chorused.
While the four hackneys were being hitched to the coach, Gussie toured the stables, calling to Miss Budweiser, the great jumper he loaned to the 1952 Olympic team, and measuring himself against the tallest of his Clydesdales. "Biggest horse in America," he said proudly. "Biggest in the world, I'd say, Mr. Busch," said a groom.
Gussie walked around, out into the courtyard again, waved and shouted to another trainload of tourists (200,000 are expected to visit Grant's Farm as guests of Anheuser-Busch this year) and then headed for the zoo and his daily visit with one of his dearest pets, Tessie, the elephant.
"Hi, Tessie!" he bawled as he approached her cage. Tessie, rocking back and forth, eyed him quizzically, apparently braced for the daily battle of wills. "Take a bow, Tessie," said Gussie. Tessie rocked on, eyes following Gussie as he moved around the cage.
"Take a bow, Tessie," said Gussie, dropping his voice a little. "I said, 'Take a bow.' "
Gussie waited. "You want me to get the whip?" he demanded. Tessie looked as though she couldn't care less.
"All right," said Gussie. "I'll get the whip!" He dashed down a row of cages, vaulted over a steel rail and in a moment was back, brandishing a whip. He snapped it menacingly outside the cage. "Take a bow, Tessie!"
Tessie had reached the point of no return. She did not bow. The light whip whistled through the air and just brushed over the part Frank Lane will be out on if the Cardinals fail to bring home a pennant by 1958. Tessie winked and then, playing their little game out, she bowed.
Gussie dived a hand In his coat pocket. "Nice Tessie!" he cried happily, holding out an apple. Tessie lifted her trunk and took the apple delicately in her mouth.
"I couldn't let her get away with that," said Gussie proudly. "Let her get away with it once and she'd never do a trick again. You got to let them know who's boss." Tessie munched the apple which, as she has learned, is awarded not for doing tricks promptly, but for being a little coy about it. No whip, no apple.
A little later, Gussie and Trudy Busch, with Adolphus and Beatrice Alice between them, sat atop the coach as it rolled along the roads of the great estate, through the deer park, waving to the tourists and the motorists passing by on the highway. They made a strikingly handsome picture, and the people who waved back at them smiled happily as if they saw themselves in Gussie, high on the coach and on top of the world. The Cardinals, to be sure, were not likely to win the pennant, but next year would be different. Ask Frank Lane. Or ask Tessie.