A published poem, The Band, written in the second grade fueled Sandie Grassino’s writing bug, and that was literally “all she wrote.” A graduate, Grassino is finishing up her second book, Images of America: Sunset Hills with Arcadia Publishing. She first was contracted to write A History of Jefferson Barracks after becoming a member of the Sunset Hills Historical Society.
Grassino first got involved with the Sunset Hills Historical Society after being friends with historian Joyce Franklin. She was named Historian of the Year at the society’s January meeting.
“After I went to a couple of meetings I was contracted to do a book about Jefferson Barracks. I talked to her (Franklin) and Butch Thomas (another Historical Society member) to see if they’d be interested in doing a book about Sunset Hills,” Grassino said “In exchange for access to the archives and their help I would donate 50 percent of proceeds to the Historical Society.”
Grassino was first interested in doing the Jefferson Barracks book because she basically grew up on weekends at the AM Vets post in Valley Park. Her dad was a national charter member.
“That post is so underappreciated in St. Louis and it’s the first one in the entire United States,” she said. “I’ve always had a fondness for veterans. I really got interested in seeing what I could do to help them.”
After a meeting with a major at Jefferson Barracks, she signed a contract to write the book, which, according to Grassino, was a little easier systematically to write than the Sunset Hills book. Jefferson Barracks being an entity—Sunset Hills being an entire city. Since Grassino grew up in Sunset Hills, she realized that even though her dad was a veteran, she had a totally different learning experience with the Sunset Hills book, being more emotionally attached.
“I grew up in Sunset Hills, so it was a very different thing for me from the beginning,” she said. “The house I grew up in my dad built, and I was the fifth generation to live on that land. My cousins next door were there sixth generation. Right there you have an emotional investment in the book.”
Both books have been limited to 128 pages, which historically speaking, is incredibly small.
“The thing about the Jefferson Barracks book is when people ask ‘Why didn’t you cover this?’ my answer is 128 pages—that’s not even a page a year for the history of Jefferson Barracks,” she said.
Grassino stopped her historical account of Sunset Hills with the 1960s, trying to write chronologically as she did with the Barracks. If the institution wasn’t available in the 60s, she tried not to include it in the Sunset Hills book. She drew from the Historical Society’s archives and had several personal mementos of her own. Most importantly, she wanted to bring out personal connections.
“I tried to cover as much as I could from as many standpoints as I could, but still tried to find a thread for it to make sense,” she said.
Readers can most look forward to a respect for the history of Sunset Hills while reading the book, which is due out July 23.
“So many times when we live in a situation we take it for granted, and we don’t take the time to learn about it,” Grassino said. “You don’t realize it until you get into it how connected we all are. Every building that was in Sunset Hills in any time has left its imprint in some manner on what happened in the past, into the present and into the future.”
Images of America: Sunset Hills can be ordered on Amazon.com now through presale.