Capaha Lagoon: Funny What You Forget

The Southeast Missourian’s Don Gordon was a reporter of the old school. There was no flash and trash to him. He did what are dismissed today as “dull but necessary” stories – the kind that keep politicians and bureaucrats honest. I learned a lot from him in the three years we worked together.

I tried to emulate him, down to this crazy way he’d wrap a leg around the typewriter on the stand in front of him, like he was afraid it was going to sneak away or someone was going to steal it. I’m sure he was amused by my imitation, but he was kind enough never to make fun of me. When he got into a rhythm, his typing sounded like a machine gun going off.

He had kind of a long, hang-dog look and a perpetual five-o’clock shadow. I never saw him get stressed or angry, no matter what was going on.

We kept track for a long time; the last time we saw each other, he was working in Paducah, Ky. Then, he fell off the radar screen.

He always mentioned his favorite picture

Whenever we got together, he never failed to mention his favorite photo: a shot he said I took of a couple of kids fishing in the Capaha Park Lagoon oblivious to a dog eating their lunch.

I never had the heart to tell him that I thought he was mistaken. I couldn’t ever recall taking a picture like that. In fact, I had a sequence of photos of kids fishing that I thought he might have been thinking of, but none of them had a dog in them.

Still, I’ll take compliments anyplace I can get them. If someone wants to credit me for what they thought was a memorable photo, I’ll nod my head and agree.

Son of a gun, I DID shoot a picture like that

It was a single frame clipped off the front or back of a roll of film and stuck in with some unrelated photos. The date on the outside of the glassine sleeve says 4/21/67. That date might be right. It looks like it could have been spring. The kids are wearing sweatshirts or sweaters and there are leaves on the trees.

Don’t doubt the Master

Just goes to show that you should never question your old mentor when he tells you that you done good.

SE Missouri from the Window of a Speeding Car

Someone’s farm from my speeding carFarmlands from a speeding car 2

I don’t know why I even bothered looking at these frames that were tacked onto a roll of Brownies touring The Southeast Missourian. They looked grossly underexposed and were just some old buildings.

I let the scanner do its thing anyway and serendipity clicked in. (Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally stumbles upon something fortunate, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated.)

It just dawned on me why I like these pictures. I had a Gordon Parks quote on my office wall for close to 20 years. It perfectly sums up my feelings about The Midwest and why I have to keep coming back to recharge my spiritual batteries.

In this huge silence

Homeward to the prarie I come,

to swim in the memories of childhood

and draw strength from the huge silence—

knowing that all I thought was dead here is very much alive,

and that there is a warmth here,

even when the wind blows hard and cold.

– Gordon Parks, Spring, 1984 –

Farmland from the window of a speeding carLike so many of my pictures, I have no idea where these were taken. Let me know if you recognize them.

Cape Loves to Throw a Parade

Missourian photographer Fred Lynch published a Frony picture of a Christmas Parade taken in the early to mid-50s in his blog this week. It was shot on the north side of Broadway, looking back toward the southwest, in the direction of The Missourian building.

Broadway was still paved with granite cobblestones and the remains of the street car rails can still be seen.

1966 SEMO Homecoming Parade

In my digging through my negatives, I’ve come across at least two SEMO homecoming parades. This one is probably the 1966 Homecoming because the 1966 Homecoming Queen is in one of the cars and the 1965 Queen is in another one.

1966 SEMO Homecoming Parade in front of Marquette Hotel

Marquette Hotel used for student housing

The Marquette must have been used for student housing at some point, because there are student-age people hanging out the windows. There are two women and a man standing on the rooftop to the right of the Marquette. There is a microphone stand in front of them, so they are probably doing live parade coverage for KFVS.

If you look closely under the awning of the hotel, you can see the Civil Defense shelter placard to the right of the door.

KFVS Tower is missing

One thing that’s missing from this picture is Cape’s version of a skyscraper – the KFVS building. The 13-story building wasn’t built until two years later.

Broadway looking northeast; note the KFVS tower is missing

Here’s what the block looks like in 2009

KFVS TV Office building 10-24-09Fred asked if anyone knew what happened to the granite cobblestones appearing in Frony’s photo. They were removed in 1956.

I wonder if they might have been used to replace the cobblestones on the river front. If anyone has any ideas, leave a comment and I’ll pass the information on to Fred.

Except for the KFVS building, the block still looks pretty much the same as in did in 1966. The building the broadcasters are standing on was the TV station location. When the tower was built, the TV station moved into it and KZIM radio (formerly KFVS radio) moved into that building.

Gallery of Homecoming Photos

Here is a gallery of photos taken of the parade. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left of right side of the photo to move through the gallery.

Before the Presses Quit Turning

When I was a kid growing up in Cape, it wasn’t uncommon for folks to gather on the sidewalk on the east side of The Southeast Missourian to watch the press in operation. Mural on Southeast MissourianThere is something magical about The Big Iron rumbling away, pulling paper off huge rolls that weigh almost as much as a VW and spitting out the news at the other end. Those were kinder, gentler times; the huge window was bricked up when other cities were hit with riots and violent demonstrations in the 60s and 70s. For all it’s size and power, a printing press is a delicate machine that easily could be destroyed.

Newspapering was a sacred calling

Those of us who worked in the business in that era felt that we were answering a sacred call. Sounds corny, but I always felt like I was doing more than just a job for a paycheck.

The Three Counts

John Mueller, Rick Meinz and I had a brush with sacred callings, as this picture will attest. Well, actually, we were just dressed up for a play at Trinity Lutheran Church, but we should get some kind of credit for that. My biggest disappointment was that I couldn’t use one of my best lines, “We’re the Three Counts: Count de Bills, Count de Checks and Count de Change.” It’s a good thing the church had lightning rods.

1965 John Mueller, Rick Meinz, Ken Steinhoff in church playGetting back to presses

Press operator checks paper fresh off the pressOne of the main reasons I ended up in West Palm Beach, FL, working for The Palm Beach Post was that I had been looking for the best photo papers in the country in the late 60s and early 70s. I subscribed to about a dozen papers and gradually let all the subscriptions lapse except The Post. It was doing the best day-to-day photo coverage with the best reproduction of any paper I had seen.

All good things have to end

Palm Beach Post RIP 12-20-08 on press room bulletin boardBy 2008, the economy in South Florida was in the toilet. Newspapers were sucking air as the real estate and classified advertising dried up. Big cuts were in the wind.

In August 2008, about 300 employees, including me, were offered buyout packages. At the end of the year, the biggest shoe dropped: The Post, which had a national reputation for fine press work, was going to outsource its printing to our biggest competitor in Ft. Lauderdale. Other papers would take over most of our distribution.

That subtracted about another 300 employees. In 18 months, the paper had cut nearly half of the original 1,400 workers.

I wanted to feel the magic

Even though I was no longer part of the paper, I wanted to feel the magic of a working press room one more time. I convinced some former coworkers to look the other way while I prowled around the production department two of the last weekends before the presses would be stilled forever.

These folks had made me look good in print for almost three decades. I’ve alway thought it was important for a worker to have a photo of themselves on the job to hand down to their kids and grandkids, so I burned CDs of the pictures for them to take home.

Go here to see the photographs. I really like some of them.