Edited by Ann Chrissos
John Bayer, Sr., a native of Bavaria, Germany, arrived in United States in 1871. He married Caroline Wilhelmine Unland on 6 November 1873 and they made their home on a farm in Gumbo Bottoms (now the entrance to the Spirit of St. Louis Airport). Three years later, on 25 October 1876, John became a U.S. citizen. The Bayers had six children, one of whom was John Bayer, Jr. John Sr. sold one acre of land located at the railroad tracks and Eatherton Road to William E. Sutton on 15 March 1894 for $100.00. Sutton built a store, hotel and his residence on this property.
John Bayer, Jr. sold the Gumbo farm to the Hellwig brothers and purchased the 81 acre Burkhardt Dairy at 16476 Olive Street Road (now Old Chesterfield Road) in 1931. He and his wife Nora had three children: Hazel (b. 20 Dec 1916); Mildred (b. 23 Feb 1918); and Earl (b. 23 Jan 1920). Daughter Mildred married Spencer Corless in 1941. They operated the service station and tavern at Schaeffer’s Grove on Wild Horse Creek Road, which had been built and owned by Charles Schaeffer. Mildred and Spencer had two children: Earl and Roberta. They eventually purchased property and moved to Wild Horse Creek Road and Highway C on CYS Road.
Mildred Bayer Corless was interviewed by Marcella Mertz and Arland Stemme on 10 June 1992.
John Bayer, Jr.’s son Earl attended Eureka High School for one year, then went to work for Andy Kroeger as a grocery delivery man. He worked for about one year in the old store and then in the new store (now known as the Smoke House Market) before going to work on Albrecht’s farm in Gumbo. In 1938, Earl began working for the Hussmann Refrigerator Company, where he stayed until retirement on 1 February 1982.
During World War II, Earl was inducted into military service at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri in September 1942. After being placed in the Air Force, Earl wanted to fly so he volunteered as a gunner on the Flying Fortress. He attended Gunnery School in Las Vegas, Nevada and took his crew training in Wyoming and Kansas before flying to England in February 1943. He was stationed at Bassingbourne Air Base (35 miles north of London) where he flew his required 25 combat missions. He was wounded over France on his eighth mission on 4 July 1943 and spent one month recuperating before returning to flying duty. During his hospital stay he was visited by Hollywood notables Frances Langford, Bob Hope and Adolph Monjue. The author John Steinbeck spent some time in the same barracks writing short stories about the war, one of which was Bombs Away about the 91st Bomb Group, 324 Squadron. The Memphis Bell and Lady Luck, the plane on which Earl flew, were part of this group. Earl finished his required missions on 5 November 1943. He received the following awards for his tour of duty in England: Distinguished Flying Cross; Purple Heart, Air Metal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters; Good Conduct Medal; European Theater Ribbon; Certificate of Valor from Lieutenant General Eaker; and Commendations from Churchill, Portal, Marshall, Arnold, Eaker, Anderson and Williams.
Upon completion of 25 combat missions, Earl returned to New York City on the ship S.S. Brazil in November 1943 in a convoy of ships from Liverpool. The convoy had several submarine alerts along with wind storms that caused 70 foot waves for three days. Earl spent thirty days at home on furlough and then reported to Miami Beach, Florida on 28 December 1943. He spent the next six weeks in Miami, and then was sent to the airbase in Avon Park, Florida where he flew as a gunnery instructor and ground school teacher until the end of the war on 14 August 1945. He received his discharge in Tampa, Florida.
On 12 August 1945, Earl married Marcella Schaeg. They had two children: Gerald (b. 3 March 1949) and Janet (b. 26 January 1954). Gerald married Eileen J. Carle on 10 January 1974 and had two daughters: Lisa (b. 17 June 1980, d. June 1989) and Kelly (b. 29 February 1984). Janet married David Keithely and had one daughter: Sarah (b. 23 June 1983). After Earl retired from Hussmann’s, he and Marcella enjoyed traveling, gardening, fishing, and working with their church, American Legion and Chesterfield Lions organizations.
Earl J. Bayer was interviewed by Jane Durrell and Arland Stemme on 24 March 1992.