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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.

Fireplaces and Basement Stairs

I like working in the basement here in Cape. I miss my nice office chair and my film scanner and all the negatives just a swivel away, don’t get me wrong, but the basement is very conducive to my style of writing. It’s a procrastinator’s paradise.

First off, there’s the fireplace. Mother has a gas furnace, but she also has a basement fireplace that helps heat the basement and the rest of the house. The chimney for it runs up the wall between the kitchen and the living room, so when you get the fireplace good and warm, the wall becomes one big radiator. It feels so good to lean up against it and suck heat into your body after you’ve been out in the cold.

The best part is that you have to futz with it.

When I’m working back home, I’ll sometimes go for hours except for necessary breaks and naps. With a fireplace, you have to get up about every 20 minutes to give it a poke. The wood’s pretty dry, so you have to add a piece about every 30 minutes.

If you ignore it and let it burn down to coals, then you have to add some kindling and coax it into life with a few puffs. When the wood stack gets low in the house, you have to wheel the garden cart outside to reload it. That means you have to reapply the tarps that keep it dry. You calculate for a minute if you have to bring in a sandbag full of kindling we made when we cut up an old picket fence down in Dutchtown.

Then, there’s the decision about whether or not to let the fire to burn out so you can carry the ashes outside. That leads to another assessment: are the coals dead enough that you can pour them out in the backyard or is there a danger they might flare up and catch the leaves on fire?

Now that newspapers have gotten miniscule, you have to husband the few scraps of paper you can glean from junk mail and cardboard boxes and decide if you want to go for broke and build it all at one time or do you get a little kindling started and then add the bigger wood. Are you going to use the dry wood from last year or should you ration it out as firestarter for later in the winter?

See how much time you can fritter away tending a fireplace?

The only time I considered smoking

I worked with a reporter who was a pipe smoker. He could control the ebb and flow of an interview by how he worked his pipe. If he wanted time to think of the next question, or if he wanted to let silence build hoping that the subject would feel awkward and fill the silence, he’d reach for his pipe.

First, he’d go through the ritual of cleaning it out. Then the fumble in all his pockets for the tobacco. He had to find the right tool to tamp it down in the bowl. That was another search. Eventually he’d need a match. More inventory-taking. Sometimes when I KNEW he had a match, I’d watch him ask the subject for one just to get a flow going.

The only other guy I saw milk a tobacco product as effectively was Hal Holbrook playing Mark Twain smoking a cigar. Those guys had it down to an art.

I did a personality assessment and decided I couldn’t be a pipe smoker. I was like the old cheapskate who said, “When I’m smoking my own tobacco, all I can think of is the cost. If I’m smoking another man’s tobacco, the bowl is packed so tight it won’t draw.”

Basement stairs for cardio

If I want a drink or a snack in Florida, it’s about 20 feet straight into the kitchen. Way too convenient.

Here in Cape, I have to walk across the length of the basement – that’s 11 steps (15 if I divert to check the fireplace) – then it’s up two stairs, hit the landing, turn, then 10 stairs up. People pay good money to go to the gym for that kind of workout on a Stairmaster.

6 comments to Fireplaces and Basement Stairs

  • Terry Hopkins

    Looks like you are becoming the prefect “geek”. You are now doing all your best work in your mother’s basement, hmmmm…
    If you start calling the basement your “Lair” I might have to get on a plane and do an intervention. That would involve taking you back to sunshine with warm outside fresh air therapy here in Florida! …and electric shock too!

  • Mitchell Givens


  • Carol Kranawetter

    There is a calmness that comes over you when gazing into a wood burning fire in a fireplace. But there is the: going outside, stacking the logs on a trolly, bringing the wood into the house, littering the floor with bits of wood that falls off while bringing the wood into the house, trying to get the fire to started, hoping the flue is open (you usually think about that after starting the fire), poking the fire and adding firewood periodically, oh … and then later … the mess of cleaning the ashes out of the fireplace. Yes, having a fireplace that burns wood is really nice. So, a couple of weeks ago I ordered a Duraflame space heater that looks like a small fire place … it really heats up a small area (the space right next to my recliner) and the fake wood and illuminated flames really look real. Oh, it also has a remote.

  • Judi Coleman

    U people apparently don’t remember when all we had was wood heat! I had a wood burning stove put in and love it. I have a hand carrier for my wood which is just off my carport and isn’t bad when compared with a gas bill! Plus the carrier catches the mess. I bought a small metal garbage can, pour my hot ashes in it to cool before I whiz them out in the yard (ashes are good for your grass if not put on in piles). I love to back up to the heat (about 1 minute does the trick) and is worth every carry in to have a $65 monthly utility bill and lots of good warmth!

  • Dave Unger

    Now we know why we look like this!

  • Bob Ravenstein

    Wow Carol K really started describing the true ambience of a wood burning fireplace. We have one in our basement and there is nothing like the warm feeling on a cold winter night, especially here in Massachusetts where it gets cold! I have my ham radio down here and my wife has her office as well. nothing like taking a break and sitting there reflecting on life with a nice after dinnner drink!

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