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Cape Central High Photos

Ken Steinhoff, Cape Girardeau Central High School Class of 1965, was a photographer for The Tiger and The Girardot, and was on the staff of The Capaha Arrow and The Sagamore at Southeast Missouri State University. He worked as a photographer / reporter (among other things) at The Jackson Pioneer and The Southeast Missourian.

Come here to see photos and read stories (mostly true) about coming of age in Southeast Missouri in the 1960s.

Please comment on the articles when you see I have left out a bit of history, forgotten a name or when your memory of a circumstance conflicts with mine. (My mother says her stories have improved now that more and more of the folks who could contradict her have died off.) Your information helps to make this a wonderful archive and may end up in book form.


Ridge Road Microwave Tower

Miicrowave tower 08 09 2014 8369 397x600 Ridge Road Microwave TowerTowers like this one on Ridge Road in Jackson used to dot the skyline. There was even one in downtown Cape next to the telephone company building on Broadway across from the Broadway Theater.

They were AT&T’s backbone for long distance communications. In the days before fiber optic cable, your phone calls would go from point to point by cable or by microwave.

Made to withstand nuclear blasts

Miicrowave tower 08 09 2014 8400 500x331 Ridge Road Microwave TowerA fascinating website that touches on AT&T’s Long Lines said that the microwave installations were used for both civil and government communications. Most were built in the 1950s and 1960s during the height of the Cold War.

The buildings housing the electronics supporting the towers was hardened against a nuclear blast and in some cases were placed underground. The towers themselves were engineered to withstand all but a close (within five miles) blast.

Protected against fallout

Miicrowave tower 08 09 2014 8357 397x600 Ridge Road Microwave TowerThe microwave horns mounted on the towers were covered with a protective shield to keep out not only the elements, but radioactive fallout. The buildings were shielded with copper to protect the equipment inside against the electronic pulse generated by a nuclear explosion. Foot-thick concrete walls protected the vital electronics and people inside the base installations. Thick copper ground wires went deep into the bedrock.

There was a concrete tower facility about halfway down U.S. 1 going to Key West. I always figured that was my hurricane shelter of last resort if I could ever get to it. Jackson must not have rated so high on the nuclear threat list that it justified the extraordinary construction.

Bandwidth was the killer

Miicrowave tower 08 09 2014 8364 500x331 Ridge Road Microwave TowerThe thing that killed the Long Lines towers was the demand for bandwidth. A microwave link can carry only a small percentage of the capacity of a single strand of fiber optic cable. When the Internet exploded, the demand for bigger “pipes” exploded with it. After the microwave equipment was taken down, towers, like this one, were purchased by outfits like American Tower, which rents space for cellular and other antennas.

Cellular stations take up a lot less room than the old analog switch gear used by AT&T, so the big buildings aren’t needed.

Communications: foundation of democracy

Miicrowave tower 08 09 2014 9351 500x331 Ridge Road Microwave TowerThe author of the website said he saw an AT&T motto in one of the towers: “Communications is the foundation of democracy.” In those days, hard to believe today, the writer said the Long Lines crews went to work knowing that if nuclear war came, they would probably come out of their hardened facilities to find their families long gone.

The construction in the background is a new school being built. You can click on the photos to make them larger.

 

 

Pfister’s in Treasure Trove

Pfisters Gen Sign Co by Laverne H Hopkins cropped 500x169 Pfisters in Treasure TroveBuddy Terry Hopkins stopped by the house when we were both in Cape and dropped off a box of photos. His dad, Laverne H. Hopkins, worked for General Sign Company for years, Terry said. His specialty was drawing people and objects, as opposed to lettering and striping.

You have to remember that signs in those days were individually painted or lettered: they weren’t mass-produced like the ones you see today. A General Sign employee would take a picture of his work to prove to the customer that it was done.

The box contains hundreds of those iconic photos of signs, store fronts and logos we grew up seeing (and probably not really noticing). It’s going to take me a long time to scan and index the photos, but I thought Pfister’s Drive-In would be a good first candidate. Cape Electrical Supply and Cape Memorial Company are in the background, and I think the large brick building on the left might have been the Coke bottling plant.

Click on the photo to make it larger.  Here’s a shot of the drive-in and the area from the air, by the way.