Looking for Ghost Houses

Pocahontas 03-20-2018

When I was driving around the Bootheel a few years back, I kept running into what I call “ghost houses.” Those are places where you can tell by the way the trees are spaced or cleared that a house probably lived there long ago.

In the spring, there’s another clue: yellow flowers that someone planted years and years in the past.

I didn’t shoot many of them

Dutchtown 03-20-2018

I didn’t shoot the ones I encountered in the Bootheel because I was searching for things that were there, not things that were missing. I learned later, that the ghost houses would have been the perfect metaphor for counties that lost as much of 80% of their population when mechanical cotton harvesters came in.

I’ll look harder next spring

Delta flowers 03-20-2018

I’ll make a broaden my search next spring. These were spotted in one afternoon’s drive in 2018. None of them convey exactly what I wanted to show.

Who planted the flowers?

Stoddard County 03-20-2018

I have to wonder who planted these flowers so many years ago that they outlived the gardeners and the buildings they surrounded.

Laziness – The Mother of All Inventions

Paper towel holder made from plunger 05-18-2020

Wife Lila called me in Cape to ask if I had taken my big drill bits on my last trip north. She and Neighbor Bill wanted to make a paper towel holder since she had run out of napkins.

I started to say, “Why not….” when she interrupted and said, “NO. NO, I am NOT going to make one out of a plunger.”

My Frankenstein solution

For background: when I saw how much towel holders cost, I decided to Frankenstein a cheaper solution. Before I gave it much thought, I was walking through Dollar Tree looking for something else.

Suddenly, I saw the solution to my problem. The plunger cost me a buck, and all I had to do was saw off enough of the handle to get it to fit under my cabinet.

Maybe it’s not laziness that’s the mother of all inventions. Cheapness ranks right up there with it.,

Old Cape Fire Station #4

When the Steinhoff families from Missouri, Florida and Texas gathered for Mother’s Birthday Season in 2013, Young Graham got to inspect the trucks.

We were on Kingsway long before Station 4

A letter from Fire Chief Rickard Ennis came to the house addressed to Mother. She, unfortunately, had moved to an address in the New Lorimier Cemetery by then, so I responded to it. The survey was designed to reassure what would be the neighbors of the new Station 4 that it wouldn’t be a nuisance.

Chief Ennis,

I received your survey addressed to Louis and Mary Steinhoff at 1618 Kingsway Drive. I’m responding in their behalf. Dad died in 1977, and Mother died June 22, 2015. I’m sure Mother would have wanted you to hear about her wonderful neighbors at Station #4. (See attached survey.)

Our house was built in 1956, long before Kurre Lane was extended and longer yet before Station #4 was built, as you can see in this aerial photo I took in 1966. Our house was the first of the three houses going down the hill from Kurre, the street running horizontally at the bottom of the photo.

Mother loved having the station across the street

Mother loved having your guys across the street. If she got her lawn mower hung up in the ditch in front of the house, they’d help her get it unstuck. If she went to the store to buy a 50-lb bag of bird seed, she’d wait until she saw someone in the parking lot and ask them to help her get it out of the trunk.

Several years ago, she experienced shortness of breath that turned out to be congestive heart failure. I’m convinced that one of the reasons she didn’t hesitate to dial 9-1-1 was that she knew the folks who would respond.

Sirens were the last thing that bothered her

I smiled a bit when I read the question about the nuisance rating relating to the noise of sirens.

As a newspaper director of photography, I had to make sure all the paper’s police and fire monitors were capable of receiving new systems that were changing all the time. That meant I had a huge surplus of old radios that would find themselves in Cape. I think she had a scanner in every room but the bathroom, and she might have carried a portable in there.

As soon as she heard a siren go out from the fire station or the ambulance company, she’d fire up the scanner closest to her to find out what was going on. That gene is possibly what caused me to end up in the newspaper business.

The station was an asset to the neighborhood

Far from lowering property values, I’ve always told folks that it’s a tremendous asset to have you and the ambulance company within a block of us. I’m sure there is a priority given to keeping Kingsway Drive’s street clear of snow and ice, and on keeping the power on in our area because of it.

Oh, yes, we have NO trouble hearing the warning siren, even in the basement.

In 2013, my grandson Graham came to Cape from Florida to visit his great-grandmother. Of course, we had to go look at the fire trucks. He was impressed with the size of the apparatus, and dug “driving” it and blowing the siren, but he wasn’t quite ready for the sound of the air horn, as you can tell in one of the photos.

Mother led a full and active life for most of her 93 years, only having a quick decline after the first of 2015. I came to Cape to assist her.

You didn’t have to dial 9-1-1 when Station 4 was across the street

One night she tumbled out of bed, tearing her paper-thin skin. I didn’t think it was an injury worth going to the emergency room in the middle of the night, but I wanted a second opinion and help picking her up off the floor. Instead of dialing 9-1-1, it was nice to be able to walk across the street to describe the problem.

They did a truck roll, bandaged her up, and helped lift her. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew to show up. The fact that she recognized them helped calm her down and reassure her that everything was going to be OK.

She told me of the rumors that Station #4 was going to be replaced. If that’s the case, I’m glad she left before you folks did. She’d have been heartbroken to lose her good neighbors.

The night before the move to the new station

I kept telling myself that I should document the old station before it was too late. When I got around to it, the guys told me I had cut it close: this was their last night before the move.

Mike Smith, Mike McLemore and Byron Stroer were kind enough to give me the run of the place for a few hours.

The last hours of Station 4

Sometimes you throw aesthetics aside and shoot for the record. That’s what these photos do. Click on any image to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move around. Note: there are two pages to the gallery. I didn’t notice that at first.

Dad Bid on CHS Site Grading in 1953

SKJ bid for CHS 01-19-1953

While rooting through some of Dad’s old files, I ran across a bid that Steinhoff, Kirkwood and Joiner, General Contractors, had proposed to do the site clearing and grading for the “New High School Building, located on Caruthers Avenue, north of Independence, Cape Girardeau, Missouri.”

They offered to do all the excavation, fill and drainage work (except for the removal of rocks and trees), for $25,000

Trees and rocks were extra

The charge for removing trees would be based on the number of inches around, measured 18″ above existing grade. It would cost $2 per inch of diameter.

They would be paid $3 per cubic yard for rock removal.

The job went to Dixie Contractors

SKJ bid for CHS 01-19-1953

Unfortunately for Steinhoff, Kirkwood & Joiner, the school board awarded the job to Dixie Contractors of Cape.

I went through almost a month of Southeast Missourians to see what the winning bid was, but I either missed it, or the meeting where it was announced was outside the window I checked.

Should have been familiar with the neighborhood

Dad should have been familiar with the future site of the high school. We lived in one of the first homes built in the block of Themis just east of the school.

Mother often talked about how the site CHS sits on was once a swampy field with a dead horse in it.

Surety bond was returned

Since SK&J didn’t get the job, the school board returned their surety bond. I’ll post that as a gallery in case anyone knows any of the people who signed it. You can click on any of the three images to make it larger, then use the arrows to move through the other documents.

The bond was issued by United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company, doing business as W.E. Walker in Cape. Other names mentioned included P.F. Lee, G.P Moore, Dorothy Drexel, and M. Luther Pittman.