Buried Treasure in Capaha Park

My Mother and I were cruising around town knocking off a list of photos that folks had requested. I wanted to get some shots of the pool at Capaha Park and the filled-in pool that preceded it.

While I was shooting the pool, I noticed a guy with a metal detector walking around. When he dropped to one knee and started gouging in the dirt, I went down to talk with him.

“I lost a quarter here in 1957”

When I caught up with him, I said, “I lost a quarter around here in 1957. I think it fell heads-up, so if you find one, it’s probably mine.”

“Well, if you lost it in 1957, it’s a pretty sure bet that it’s made out of silver,” he said, trying to scoop dirt out from under a root.

The fellow was Ron Ethridge, who drove a KAS potato chip truck for some 30-odd years. After he retired from that job, he worked a few other places in Cape, including St. Vincent de Paul for 12 years.

When I mentioned that I was a refugee from The Southeast Missourian, he said, “Then you must know Ray Owen. He and I were buddies over in Cairo.” I told him that I not only knew Ray, but had gone to school with his wife, Sally Wright Owen, Class of 1965.

“That Sally’s a fine gal,” he observed.

Ron started prospecting in the 70s

He celebrated his 69th birthday yesterday. “Climbing up and down in those trucks kept me in pretty good shape.

He admitted, a little sheepishly, that he had recently racked up his knee by slipping on, of all things, a banana peel.

He’s found a few gold pieces and a lot of silver coin over the years – mostly around Cairo. The main value is that it gives him something to do, some exercise and a chance to meet crazy characters who want him to find quarters that went missing in 1957.

There’s more than one Ron around. We saw another fellow with a metal detector working in the Red Star area an hour or so earlier.

Capaha Park Lagoon Ices over in 1968

Treading on thin ice, literally

Cape Girardeau's Capaha Park Lagoon frozen over January 1968Four folks brave – or foolish – enough to ignore a DANGER sign walk on the ice covering the Cape Girardeau Capaha Park Lagoon in late 1967 or early 1968.

This picture was on the end of a roll of film of buildings I was shooting for The Southeast Missourian’s year-end Achievement Edition. (In internal Missourian-speak, that was called the Atomic Edition. Never did learn why.)

When I came home from Ohio University on Christmas break, editor John Blue asked if I’d drive all over Southeast Missouri taking pictures of new construction.

Guidelines

  • Shoot all of the new commercial buildings you can find in each town.
  • Shoot a handful of new or remodeled residential buildings with a value of more than $25,000. (For awhile, I thought I might have a future as a property appraiser.)
  • Start at the far end of the circulation area and work my way to the center so they didn’t have to pay me mileage to backtrack.

Easy money for a college student

Most of the rolls of film had a note on them that said, “Printed 1/11/68,” so I’m going to assume they were shot within a week or 10 days of that date. It was a pretty good gig. Five dollars a shot, plus mileage. I’m sure I scored a couple hundred bucks for a week’s work.

That was good money in those days. When I left The Missourian to go to school in Ohio, I think I was making about $80 or $90 a week as a reporter.

Cape Girardeau Parks Are Well-Trained

Arena Park Train

I found a strip of negatives that had kids playing in the Capaha Park Pool, followed by four pictures of kids climbing all over a train locomotive.

I’m Cool

Mark on Capaha Park Train October 2007To my surprise, the kid on the left in the white shirt doing an “I’m Cool” pose was my brother, Mark Steinhoff.

That brought to mind this picture I took of him in October 2007 lifting his bike above his head during one of our rides. (Don’t ask. He has this thing about holding his bike in the air. We try not to notice.)

Is it the same locomotive?

I was all set to proclaim it the same engine, except that it was facing in the opposite direction.

I knew that it had been worked over to make it safer and to take out asbestos several years ago, so I thought maybe it had been set up differently after it was fixed.

Then I looked more closely at the locomotive and determined that it didn’t look like the same one.

The boiler is skinnier, the older train didn’t have a skinny smokestack and the round objects on the top of the boiler are missing.

Is it the Arena Park Train?

Here’s a picture I shot of “Hoppy,” the train at Arena Park, in October 2008.

Cape Girardeau's Arena Park Train 10-07-08

There are several similar features, but I don’t think it’s the train in the picture from the 1960s. If nothing else, look at the placement of the bell. It’s in the middle of the boiler, not the front like in the other two pictures.

If I had to guess, parts were changed on both trains when the engines were taken apart for modification and asbestos removal. I’m going back to my original opinion that the old photos were taken on the train in Capaha Park and that cosmetic changes were made sometime later.

Feel free to chime in if you know the real story.

I’d like to know more about what was done to the trains between the mid-1960s when I shot these pictures and the late 2000s when I revisited them. Train buffs are welcome to correct any errors in how I described the locomotives and their parts.

More park train pictures from the 1960s

Cape Girardeau's Capaha Park Train

Cape Girardeau's Capaha Park Train

I must have been kid-sitting that day. My brother,  David Steinhoff is at the top left in the picture above

Cape Girardeau's Capaha Park TrainI loved those trains

I loved climbing on those trains when I was a kid. Things that used to open and move have all been removed or welded to make them safer, but I don’t think it matters much to kids.

When I got too old to play on them, I’d come back on slow news days to bag some wild art. You could always count on finding someone playing engineer after school or on weekends.

I wonder if cities would even consider putting something like this on playgrounds these days. I never heard of a kid getting hurt, but there were plenty of sharp edges and levers that could potentially cut off a finger and the fire grate that could crush one.

It’s a wonder any of us survived those days.

I remember using the Arena Park train in a Back-to-School photo shoot for The Missourian’s Youth Page. I’m sure it’ll show up in my digging and I’ll have one more excuse to run some train pictures.