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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.

A Non-Political Whitewash

When we hear people talking about a whitewash today, we generally think of “a metaphor meaning to gloss over or cover up vices, crimes or scandals or to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data. It is especially used in the context of corporations, governments or other organizations.”

When we’re talking about trees like the one in this unknown back yard, “whitewash, or calcimine, kalsomine, calsomine, or lime paint was a low-cost type of paint made from slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) and chalk” was applied to the bark in the springtime.Click on the photos to make them larger.

Whitewash was also used by for painting barns and the interiors of low-income apartment hallways. It wasn’t good for this purpose because it had a tendency to rub off onto clothing. It was associated with poverty in an old saying that I don’t recall hearing in Southeast Missouri, “Too proud to whitewash and too poor to paint.”

Painting the elm trees

When I was a kid visiting my grandparents in Advance, it was a springtime custom for my grandfather, Roy Welch, to paint the elm trees lining the yard on Cypress Street with whitewash. Some folks say that it was to prevent “sun scald” or to protect the trees from insects. It didn’t do anything to keep Dutch Elm Disease from wiping them all out. I think it was done for cosmetic reasons.

This photo was taken on my fourth or fifth birthday, which would have been in March. That’s too early for the the trees in the background to get this season’s fresh coat. You can see that most of the white from last year has washed off.

So, is it still the custom to whitewash trees anywhere today? I can’t think of the last time I’ve seen it done.

6 comments to A Non-Political Whitewash

  • Ruthie

    I haven’t seen that done in 30 years. used to be common.

  • Gail Jackson Brown

    My grampa always whitewashed the street trees on Park Street too. It went right along with taming the kudzu vine to shade the back porch. There were just certain timely rituals to be followed, without deviation, in his world.

  • Jane Neumeyer

    I saw it growing up in Memphis and Nashville, before moving to Charleston, MO, and later CG. Just assumed everyone did it. When we moved north 40+ years ago and no one did it, I realized it was a regional practice.

  • Brad Verhines

    Mr.Albert Huckstep(body shop ) always whitewashed his trees on north kingshighway

  • Ken Roussel

    out West, on decorative and also on bearing citrus in residential areas, especially old growth groves that have been designed into a subdivision, helps keep insects from attacking the trunks, and it is a paint type, not just suspensions, use it to seal pruned limbs to prevent rot. Horticulture stops here/

  • marsha marshall gutshall

    when you drive thru sun city and sun city west all of there street side orange trees are whitwashed,

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