Why Pictures Don’t Run

Bill East and Russell DoughtyBill East posted this picture of two 1966 Outstanding Seniors posing at the sundial outside the old Public Library at the Common Pleas Courthouse grounds.

That’s Russell Doughty on the left and Bill on the right.

I remembered Bill and Russ, but I didn’t recall taking that picture until I stumbled across the negative this evening. It was shot as a full-frame vertical originally.

Sometimes photos are cropped to save space or to remove distracting elements to tell the story better.

Sometimes there are other considerations.

Outstanding Seniors Russell Doughty - Bill EastWhen I looked closely at the plaque on the sundial, I noticed something I hadn’t seen when I pushed the shutter: a commonly-used four-letter word beginning with the letter S. [As always, click on the photo to make it larger.]

That turned a well-composed full-length vertical into a tightly-cropped square.

“IT” Happens

I’m not the only photographer who has had that happen: The Simon and Garfunkel boxed set Old Friends includes a live version of the song A Poem on the Underground Wall, prefaced by an anecdote from Garfunkel about its origin: he explains that a photo shoot for the cover of the album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. was ruined because the subway wall they had intended to use as a backdrop had obscenities written on it. Something that they didn’t discover until AFTER the shoot, according to one version.

Students wear costumes to class at Central High School

You find out who your friends are

My debate partner Pat Sommers, in the front row in the white sheet, attempts to send a message. Fortunately, I had other frames.

The Tiger was less lucky with a photo of a group of athletes, one or more of whom flashed the single-digit salute. It wasn’t noticed until after the photo was engraved, the page made up and ready to go to press. Just before we decided to kill the picture and lay out the page differently, one of the engravers thought he had a solution. He’d take some acid and carefully etch out the offending digit.

The only problem was that he wasn’t successful. When the paper was distributed, the digit was still there, except now it was surrounded by a white circle. I vaguely remember that there were repercussions. If I had been given a vote, I would have held out for neutering.

It’s not just people you have to watch out for

When I got to West Palm Beach, I was given an assignment for The Palm Beach Post to shoot a major piece on a small town that had gone on an annexation binge. They gambled that they could score a bunch of tax money if they acquired a bunch of undeveloped land, that wouldn’t require services for many, many years. (Or at least until the current crop of politicians moved on.)

The tiny village had a distinctly rural feel, so I was very pleased to shoot a photo of a pony looking through a fence within a block of what passed for the main drag. The editors liked it well enough to run it huge on the section front as lead art on Sunday.

Saturday afternoon, while the page was being put together for an advance press run, I got a radio call from an engraver.

“I can’t get in touch with any editors or your boss, but your name is on the picture and I think you need to come in.”

Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

When I got there, the engraver asked, “Do you see anything wrong with this picture?”

“No, you did a great job of separating it. It looks just like the original.”

“Take a closer look,” he said. “Let me give you a hint. There’s something in this picture that isn’t a fence post.”

Indeed, he was right. That pony was REALLY happy to see me. Fortunately, I had another frame. The engraver got a six-pack of thanks from me.

Penzel and Stone Are Appreciated

Cape Girardeau Optimist Club recognizes Jim Stone and Carolyn PenzelThe 1965 Girardot says that the Cape Girardeau Optimist Club honored Jim Stone and Carolyn Penzel during their first annual Youth Appreciation Week. Jim and Carolyn were given trophies.

The school was presented with a print of Wasserberger’s Sad Clown. Sounded like kind of a strange choice to me, but I barely made it out of Art 101 in college.

Who was Wasserberger?

A Google search turns up a Polish artist named Nathan Wasserberger, who was born in 1928 and is still alive, at least as recently as early 2009. He is best known for his nudes and darker works which reflect the horrors he saw when his family and friends were killed in World War II and he spent time in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

I wonder if the print is still kicking around.

Photographers hate grip ‘n grins

Carolyn Penzel recognized by Cape Girardeau Optimist ClubThe bane of every smalltown newspaper photographer – and what else is a high school but a small town? – is the presentation photo.

We hate grip n grins, three-people-and-a-piece of paper, check passings with a giant check, ribbon cuttings with giant scissors, ground breakings with gold-painted shovels with ribbons tied to the handles wielded by guys wearing suits and hard hats… Geez, the list could go on and on and I get the shivers just thinking about how many of those I’ve done.

You have to keep it in perspective

Jim Stone recognized by Cape Girardeau Optimist Club during Youth Appreciation WeekThe most important thing you had to keep in the back of your mind, though, was that this routine PITA assignment for you might be a big deal for the folks in the picture.

I remember when my Dad was awarded the Boy Scout’s Silver Beaver Award. It was the highest adult award you could get as an adult volunteer and Dad was very proud to have received it. The newspaper photographer did a lousy job of taking the picture; it was poorly set up and badly lit.

After that experience, I made it a point to do the absolute best job I could even if the assignment WAS a cliche.

After all, EVERYBODY is SOMEBODY’S mother, father, brother or sister.

Photographers get the last word

OK, I have to recall one check-passing I did in Athens, Ohio. A gaggle of local movers and shakers were making my life difficult by hamming it up and mugging the camera while I was shooting.

I ended up running a three-shot sequence of their antics.

The day it hit the streets, the publisher called me in and said that some of the people in the picture thought I had made them look “undignified. I promised them that I would talk with you about it. That concludes your obligatory chewing out,” he concluded.

Kage School, a Picture with a Question Mark

Students in front of Kage School in Cape Girardeau circa 1965-66

It wasn’t until I had looked at this picture five or six times that I realized that the students are forming a question mark.

That leads me to believe that I must have shot the picture for a “What’s going to happen to Kage School?” story.

Since the school, which was established in 1880, closed May 20, 1966, exactly 112 years after its creation, that’s probably what it was.

One of the last one-room schools

Interior of Cape Girardeau's Kage School before it closed in 1966

The National Register of Historic Places Registration Form has fascinating factoids buried all through it.

  • It was one of the last one-room school houses in the area, right up until it closed.
  • It was unusual because of its racial and economic diversity. Enrollment included white children from well-established families, the district’s African-American students from as far back as 1889 or earlier and children from the County Poor Farm.
  • Because of the need for children to work on family farms, the school term was usually only the three or four winter months.
  • The current brick building was erected in 1880 for a low bid of $1,200. (Additions and changes brought the total to $1,600).
  • The original log cabin school cost $180.25, including a $9.25 fireplace. After the new building was completed, the old one was sold to Henry Klaproth for $13.
  • Electricity and lights were installed January 21, 1938, most likely as a result of a WPA project to upgrade schools.

The long, cold walk

Outhouse behind Cape Girardau's Kage School

The school started serving hot lunches in 1933 once a week. Later a makeshift cafeteria was created by erecting a partition in a back corner of the classroom. Times were tough and Kage was the first rural school in the area to serve a hot lunch.

One thing the school DIDN’T have was indoor bathrooms. Outhouses were used until the school closed.

Updated photos

Here’s what Kage School looks like today, including old initials carved into the brick walls.

They Have Vampires; WE had Beatles

September, 1965, I heard that The Beatles’ movie Help! was going to play at the Esquire. It had gotten all kinds of buzz everywhere else it played, so I decided to do something unusual to cover it.

Beatles movie Help! plays at the Esquire Theater in Cape Girardeau in 1965I was going to use infrared film and infrared flashbulbs to photograph the audience’s reactions without drawing attention to myself. If you were looking directly at the flashbulb when it went off, you might see a dull glow of the filament, but it was otherwise invisible.

Infrared light makes some colors and skin tones look strange and the years have not been kind to the negatives, but it’s still fun to look back at a more innocent age.

The goal was to be unobtrusive

The Missourian normally wanted full names, addresses and the names of parents, but the editor understood that I needed to be unobtrusive and waived the rule.

Because of that, I only know (or can guess) at a few of the audience members.

The girl on the left, for example, is Marty Perry Riley, who would become my sister-in-law four years later.

A few Central High students showed up

Pat Sommers, second from left and Phil Vinyard, to his right, watch Help!The person second from the left is Pat Sommers; Phil Vinyard is next to him on the right. I think the popcorn muncher on the right is Jim Stone, but he denies it. He thinks the fellow on the far left is Bill Wilson; Terry Hopkins guessed Jim Wilson. I’ll let someone else make the call.

Pat Johnson watches Beatles movie Help!I’m sure the girl on the right is Pat Johnson. We not only went to high school together, but we spent eight years as classmates at Trinity Lutheran School.

Everyone else is a mystery to me. Feel free to comment and I’ll update the information.

Denny O’Neil wrote the story

Denny O’Neil was the reporter assigned to do the story to accompany my pictures. He went on to gain fame in the comic book business after he left The Missourian.

His best-known works include Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman with Neal Adams, The Shadow with Mike Kaluta and The Question with Denys Cowan, all of which were hailed for their sophisticated stories that expanded the artistic potential of the mainstream portion of the medium. As an editor, he is principally known for editing the various Batman titles. Today, he sits on the board of directors of the charity The Hero Initiative.

Beatles movie Help! plays at the Esquire Theater in Cape Girardeau in 1965He was one of the best newspaper feature writers I ever worked with. You’ll hear more later about us pairing up to cover Millie the Duck at Capaha Park and Buck Nelson’s Flying Saucer Convention.

Excerpts from The Southeast Missourian

By Dennis O’Neil

Missourian Staff Writer

Dim the house lights. Let the ritual begin.

Beatles movie Help! plays at the Esquire Theater in Cape Girardeau in 1965The screen flickers, there are a few lines of dialog, a few titters from the assembled worshipers, then the ear-splitting shriek of a hundred young female voices raised in simultaneous adoration.

A great, natural phenomenon is present. On the movie screen four young men – The Beatles, the pop-songsters supreme, the Twentieth Century’s equivalent of minor deities – are singing “Help, I need sumbodah” and every girl in the audience would like to be that sumbodah.

Beatles movie Help! plays at the Esquire Theater in Cape Girardeau in 1965Grandmothers and spinsters, too, would like to help these shaggy performers. Because, astonishingly, their’s is not sex appeal. Other pop singers raised to the stars on heaps of adolescent dollars – Elvis, the young Frank Sinatra, and going way back, Rudy Valle – made a strong appeal to the three-lettered feeling. Not the Beatles.

They are funny, these Beatles, they generate giggles, not sighs. they are cuddly, like teddy bears. And they are genuinely talented. Leonard Bernstein, conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, composer and conductor of the classics, calls their home-brewed music a “small art form.”

Enjoy the gallery

Click on any image to make it larger, then step through the photos by clicking on the left or right side. And, like the Beatles, I need help from sum-bodah to put names with the pictures. Please leave comments if you recognize yourself or a friend.