Interview by Madelaine Goedegebuure
In 1960s, Kenneth Fiala and his wife Joan decided to build a home for their family. They chose a lot to build that house in the Davis Place Neighborhood of Clayton so that their two children would be able to attend the Clayton Schools, which were known to be among the best in the area. They quickly found that Clayton was more than ideal for their children’s education: Kenneth’s commute to work was painless and friends and entertainment were easily within reach. However, the Fiala’s most fond memories of Clayton are of their children growing up in a unique and exceptional community.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Fiala were very involved in their children’s lives; they opened their home to the children’s friends and fellow parents. Mrs. Fiala led both her daughter’s Girl Scout troop and her son’s Boy Scout troop for many years. They remember the kind teachers from elementary school, watching sports games, and swimming and skating at Shaw Park. Mr. and Mrs. Fiala have fond memories of their children’s younger days. They recall finding their daughter Gretchen and her friends on top of the garage during a game of hide-and-go seek with the neighborhood kids. And every year during homecoming they recall getting their son Richard’s homecoming float stuck in their garage. They both laugh as they remember having to deflate the tires to get the float out of the garage.
One thing Mr. and Mrs. Fiala are known for is their impressive collection of Christmas decorations which have been carefully collected over their 50+ year marriage. It takes over a month to set up the decorations, which are placed on trees, atop mantles, and on the walls of their house. These ornaments were collected from around the country and the world during all the trips the Fialas have taken. Every room reflects a different theme; for example, the dining room is transformed into a snowman (and snowwoman) room, the kitchen features their Dutch Santas, and the living room is decked with ornaments that each hold a certain memory from their past. People lucky enough to be invited to the Fiala’s Christmas teas have the chance to see this eclectic collection of holiday merriment and immerse themselves into the holiday spirit. .
In addition to memories of their children, the Fialas remember all of the restaurants and businesses that they have enjoyed visiting in Clayton, and the neighbors that they have seen come and go from Davis Place. The Fialas continue to enjoy the company of their neighbors and the great variety of restaurants in Clayton today, especially now that their nephew owns a few restaurants in the area. Over the years, Mr. and Mrs. Fiala have become immersed into a community of dedicated and caring families that share the same values and qualities as the families living in Clayton today. They enjoy volunteering at various organizations weekly and contributing to the St. Louis community. Even though their children are no longer part of the school system, the Fialas cannot imagine living anywhere else because they recognize how fortunate they are to be part of Clayton.