A Brief History as Recorded by Robert L. Maret, Sr.
In 1870, on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War, the Maret Family in Karlsrube became immigrants. They fled to America- arriving in Chicago that same year. My conjecture is that the winter of 1870 must have been severe because Wilhelm August Maret sought warmer climates, ending his search in St. Louis, with the purchase of approximately 20 acres, settling here in 1871, where the family had operated a distinctive restaurant for 5 decades in Sunset Hills.
Based on the family tree from Germany, I have calculated Wilhelm August's age on arrival at 30. He came single, so he must have felt some urgency about beginning his family, and shortly after coming here, he met and married a young widow named Barbara Miller Gartman. They had 5 children. Charles was the only child who survived beyond 3 years of age. The others succumbed to the prevailing malady of the time, "summer complaint." Ironically, Charles Francis Maret lived 86 full years. The homestead was on old Denny Road which today is occupied by the Pizza Inn, just north of the House of Maret Restaurant.
Aunt Mary Maret Didion, Charles' daughter, provides a glimpse of the time, who recounted to me how it was then as the family prepared for Sunday church. Grandfather Wilheim would dress in his best suit, complete with homburg and cane, and walk south on Denny Road to Sappington to worship at the Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Lucas. Meanwhile, the rest of the family would all pile into the horse-drawn wagon and set out in mechanized splendor, going north on Denny Road to St. Peter's Catholic Church in Kirkwood.
Wilhelm August died and was buried in March 1914. He lies in beautiful solidarity behind St. Lucas Church. Barbara followed her husband in death in December 1925 and of course, sleeps in peace in the cemetery of St. Peter's in Kirkwood. The family of Charles and Anna Vogelsang Maret lived the life of a farm family. At 1 time the dairy herd reached 100 milkers. An aunt tells me that hand milking twice a day on that scale was all consuming. It's been related to me that when a cow was marked for market, my father William, being the oldest son was assigned the task of delivering the beast to the packers. He would drive it with a stick north on Denny Road through the center of Kirkwood to Manchester Road then east to St. Louis. Bear in mind, this was just 1 generation prior to today!
William Maret married Bertha Ulreich Fleck in a grand double wedding ceremony. Dad was a plasterer and had his own company. He commented to me often driving around Kirkwood and Webster Groves, "see that little number on the corner. I did that!"
In 1929, when the bottom fell out, he, like millions, was financially ruined. People of that time could never really believe that they locked the banks. It was a trauma that most never fully recovered from. Charles came to Bill's rescue by offering to let him take over a little shack of a filling station that Charles was renting to a Vogelsang relative. Thus began the family business 1 raw winter December day, 1930. Incidentally, the disgruntled Vogelsang went right across the narrow gravel road and built a much more substantial building and gave dad all the competition he wanted the whole time we were in the gas business. For your reference, the building was for years a sign shop and is at present and antique shop operated by Mrs. Cardwelll. In 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated, one of his first acts was to repeal prohibition. That year, dad purchased a liquor license for 3.2 beer. We began with a few cases of beer iced in a wash tub, and many of our customers were golfers from Sunset Country Club who would stop for gas, have a cold beer, and eventually, maybe, a sandwich and bowl of chili. Things were on the move for the Maret's.
In October 1950, I found myself enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, as I was about to be drafted to fight Mr. Truman's "police action" in Korea. During the happy year or so before the Air force, I fell in love with Rita Jean Johnston of Kirkwood and, shortly after my basic training, we were married in St. Peters Church on August 18, 1951. In June our first child, Robert Jr. was born. In December 1952, I was sent overseas. Rita was expecting again when I left the States, and this separation was very difficult. In July 1953, I was in the air and coming home. Once home, I learned that my wife had contacted a severe case of polio and had during the crisis, given birth to our second son, Christopher. The baby was robust and unaffected by the disease. Rita spent a full year in intensive physical therapy at the old St. Anthony's Hospital, making a determined recovery...from an impairment of 95% of her motor muscle capacity to about 10%. Quite a strong willed lady, Mrs. R. L. Maret! I was given an early discharge in September 1953 and we began putting our life back together. I acquired a job selling paint for a Clayton firm, helping dad on weekends at the restaurant for extra money. During this period, we planned and built our first home on family property, just west of my parents' home in Sunset Hills.
The week we were to move into our home, I lost my job. Shocked, I asked my father if I could work with him at the business full time until I found another job. Over the summer, I became aware of the business in a real sense for the first time and thought, "I can find growth and happiness here." I found both until my dad's unexpected death in April 1966. Those years, prior to his death, were the happiest times my father and I shared.
Mean while, our family was also growing. In August 1955, our first daughter, Elizabeth Jean, was born. She was followed by another daughter, Julie Ann, in July 1960, Jeffrey Daniel was born in February in 1963, and our last child, Jonathan, was born in August 1967.
At this writing, April 1982, Robert Jr. has a degree in Hotel, Restaurant Management from the University of Denver, which he is applying here at the House of Maret. Christopher has his M.D. from Washington University and is presently completing his residency at the University of Virginia Hospital. Elizabeth (Lisa) is working very effectively here in the Hospitality Department of the restaurant. Julie is a student of Film Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute in California. Jeffrey is preparing to enter college this fall, and Jonathan is a freshman at Bishop DuBourg High School.
The Maret Family has done well here in Sunset Hills. Our identity is woven into the fabric of this place, both its dreams for the future and precious thoughts of the past.