Jesse James sent me a set of photos he shot while he was in Cape over the Christmas holidays. He happened to be at the end of Bellevue, which was the site of Civil War Fort A.
The old apartment building at 155 Bellevue has been razed and the land cleared for some kind of project. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)
Not much of a loss
I usually lament the passing of buildings, but this apartment wasn’t much even when I used to visit a reporter friend there in the mid-1960s. Here’s what it looked like in 2011.
I did a Missourian search to see if there had been any stories about what was going on, but nothing popped up. Most of the briefs associated with that address were miscellaneous moperies that showed up in the police briefs.
It looks like Jesse’s photo shows the tree behind the apartment has been saved.
From the air
Here’s an overview of the neighborhood taken in 2011. The apartment is the white building to the left and below the Fort A label.
A Missourian hangout
Arlene Southern’s apartment was the unofficial hangout for The Missourian’s younger staffers. Jerry Obermark, left, covered cops. Denny O’Neil was one of the most talented writers I ever worked with. He and Jerry went with me to cover the Buck Nelson Flying Saucer Convention in the Missouri Ozarks.
I chased former managing editor Don Gordon down in North Carolina a couple of summers ago. He still talked about how preppy-looking Mary Beth Vawter talked her way into an interview with Barry Goldwater’s wife when Barry was campaigning in Cairo in 1964.
Tall-hair Arlene was the improbable choice for religion editor. She might have been the one who made the mistake of slugging the church briefs “god junk.” Her readers weren’t happy when the composing room forgot to take the slug out before the story ran in the paper.
You notice the table is set for four. I must have been relegated to the kids’ table.
They should hire some high school kid
Of course, grousing about our jobs, pay, hours and assignments took up a lot of our time. I remember when the gripe stick was passed to me one night.
I said, “Yeah, they ought to hire some high school kid to do the scut work to free us up to do really important stories.” When I looked up, everybody was grinning. That’s when I realized that was exactly what The Missourian had done: I was that high school kid.
There was a rumor that some illegal herbs might have been burned in that apartment, but the group protected my innocence and never did anything like that in my presence. They probably should have loosened up a bit so I wasn’t so surprised when I got to Ohio University. The first time I went to a party, I thought, “Wow, these college students must be really poor: they’re having to share a cigarette.”
Fantastic view of river
The very thing that made it a great vantage point for controlling the river during the Civil War makes it a great location to live today. I’d love to sit on a deck or balcony and watch the river go by.
View from Broadway
Here’s the view of the property looking north from the parking lot of what used to be the former First National bank at the corner of Broadway and Main.
“KID!!!” bellowed the burned-out copy editor who had come to The Jackson Pioneer from The Kansas City Star. I was “KID!” until I was about 25, but in this case, I really WAS a kid. It was the summer of my junior year of high school.
He was editing my “exclusive” interview with Gary Rust, a Goldwater supporter and a delegate to the 1964 GOP National Convention.
My lead was “One week out of the year, once every four years, the nation is stricken by elephantiasis.”
“Kid,” he continued, in a quieter tone, “either you don’t know that elephantiasis is an African venereal disease that causes your nuts to swell up so big you have to carry them in a wheelbarrow, or you DO know and you are the most astute political writer for your age in the country.” After a pause, he said with a sly grin, “Either way, I’m not going to change it.”
I’ve been telling that tale for years, but, truth be told, I wasn’t absolutely, positively sure that it was true. HAD the story actually run?
When I came home this time, Brother Mark gave me a huge, wax-coated cardboard box that had once contained chicken pieces. In it was a stack of clips from the paying-my-dues days at The Jackson Pioneer, The Central High School Tiger, The Ohio University Post and a smattering of other things.
For better or worse, near the middle of the stack was my June 24, 1964, story as I had remembered it. (Like always, you can click on the photos to make them larger.)
How to get a newspaper job
Rust had gotten me the job in the first place. I was a Barry Goldwater fanatic; had worked on a political campaign a year or so before; Friend Shari’s grandmother was a big poobah in the Republican party, and The Pioneer was a Republican paper. The Pioneer’s publisher, John Hoffman III, had been injured in a car wreck that had killed his wife. Rust thought Hoffman could use some help, so he introduced us. [That’s Hoffman in a wheelchair covering a high school football game.]
Hoffman said, “We’re not making much money; we can only afford to pay you $75 or $100 every two weeks.”
Not completely understanding how this negotiating game was played, I promptly said, “I’m just getting started out. I’ll take $75.”
Wall to wall people
Rust described the convention as “wall to wall people.” Always a sucker for numbers, I shared that the event was linked to the world with 30 TV cameras, 325 teletypewriter lines, 264 radio circuits and over 3,000 telephones.
He said the convention was basically a “fight between the liberals and the conservatives of the Republican Party. By the end of the week everyone was trying to outdo the other in being a conservative. About 80% of those attending the powwow were behind Goldwater.”
Counting hand claps
I never watched one of those political events afterward without thinking about an observation he made. It was reported that immediately after Goldwater spoke, there was a brief silence before the applause.
“It wasn’t the type speech you clap or applaud. It was more an outline of his principles and philosophies, and it was a shame to have to applaud, but we were all politically-minded enough to know there was probably someone in the back of the room marking down ’26 hand claps for Nixon – hmmmm, only 22 hand claps for Goldwater…’”
Could have torn them up
Rust told the group, including candidates Jean Ann Bradshaw, Truman Farrow, Robert Hemperley and Harold Kuehle, that most of the Goldwater people there were “most generous and decent. At any time during the convention, they could have torn them (the Scranton people) up on any vote.”
Goldwater’s success came as a shock to many people. Rust said, “We found ourselves with a winner and we didn’t even know how to celebrate.”
I’ll tell you later about another paper in the stack: my story of covering Ronald Reagan stumping for Goldwater and how I got to meet the new Linotype operator.
I really miss the day before PACs and big money took over political campaigns. There was a time when you could put on a campaign rally with a few convertibles and a handful of locals folks willing to don sashes and straw hats and wave at their neighbors. This Goldwater parade is headed north on Sprigg, passing the Ford dealership. The signs, of course, had to sport the union “bug.” Click on any photo to make it larger.
A couple of boys on bicycles with “Bury Goldwater” signs offered a counterpoint to the Young Republican floats in the 1964 SEMO Homecoming Parade. You had the feeling in those days that folks could support a candidate, but still have a cup of coffee with someone who backed the opposition.
I’m not sure whether to count Barry Goldwater as the first presidential candidate I covered or the second. Barry was in Cairo on Oct. 2, 1964, but I had covered Ronald Reagan stumping FOR Goldwater in Sikeston earlier for The Jackson Pioneer. To be honest, I think I was more impressed by Reagan than Goldwater.
I was prepared when I went to see Reagan. I had a 4×5 Speed Graphic camera, a 35mm camera and a Polaroid camera. I’m sure I had a dozen backup pencils and, maybe, even a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder.
Find the Central students in the crowd
[Note: click on the photos to make them larger. There are a lot of interesting faces in the crowd. Once you get into the gallery, you can click on the left or right side of the photo to move backwards and forwards to the other images.]
I haven’t run across my film and clips from the Sikeston Reagan speech, but I’ll never forget writing the story. I’ve probably recounted it before, but, that’s what happens when you get old.
I was sitting at the typewriter churning out pages and pages of copy. Since we were a Republican newspaper, I was given a lot of latitude.
One more word about Reagan….
Just then, the double doors separating the newsroom from the composing room slammed open and a burly, ink-stained wretch came charging at me with my copy wadded up in fists that were short a finger or two. “Kid, you type one more F-‘ing word and I’ll break your fingers.”
Mother didn’t raise any fools. I quickly typed – 30 – which is newspaperspeak for The End, and handed him my last sheet. He snatched it up and disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.
I had just met the new Linotype operator. The Jackson Pioneer was an unusual place to work. If the Linotype operator didn’t agree with an editorial, he’d simply refuse to set it.
The universal media scowl
Maybe all these newsmen and women started out at small papers like I did. That would explain the carefully cultivated squint and universal scowls on the faces. Or, it might just be that they had heard Barry’s standard speech a hundred times before and they were wondering where they were going to end up for lunch.
Central High Tiger represented
Jim Stone, Shari Stiver and Sally Wright covered the rally for the Central High School Tiger. Jim had the school’s 4×5 Crown Graphic camera and Shari and Sally shared a byline on the Oct. 23 front-page story.
Despite their expressions, the story said “The impressions of the two editors who covered this story for The Tiger was mainly one of pure excitement. ‘We had our own press passes and sat in the very front of the press box, and they even fed us,’ said Sally Wright, 12B.
“‘And we saw every detail,’ added Shari Stiver, 12B.”
The Tiger story and photos
The editors weren’t the only ones excited. They quoted Pat Sommers as saying, “I shook his hand twice – I’ll never wash my hands again!”
Barbara Nunnelly sounded less impressed. “He’s different from what I expected, but he’s a very good speaker,” she said.
Access to candidates
Something that strikes me today is the access the press (and the public) had to a presidential candidate in 1964. You can tell from the variety of angles that I was all over the place. You have to remember that John F. Kennedy had been shot less than a year before. When I looked around the Cairo High School football field where the rally was held, I saw all kinds of places where a sniper could be hiding, and felt distinctly uneasy.
I love crowd shots
That ability to move around and pick your own photo angles was quickly quashed in the coming years. By the time Jimmy Carter was elected, you had to submit requests for media credentials well in advance of the visit. You had to provide a photo, DOB, place of birth and a whole raft of other info before you got your credential.
What that was mostly good for was so they could herd you into a tightly controlled spot where you could shoot only what they wanted you to shoot, from the angle they wanted you to shoot it, when they wanted it shot. It irked me no end to go through all those security checks only to be kept farther back than the general public and have to deal with a stage-managed photo op. (Can we say, “Mission Accomplished?”)
Not every PR idea works
I don’t know if the concept of Goldwater Girls was a local idea or one cooked up by the campaign folks, but it has to go down as a really bad idea. I can just see the girls saying, “You want us to dress up HOW? And be seen in public?”
Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater Girl
Holy Cow! It WASN’T a local idea.
I just Googled “Goldwater Girl” and the first story to pop up was an account of a Charles Gibson interview with Hilary Clinton that quoted her as saying, “My best friend and I became quote ‘Goldwater Girls. We got to wear cowboy hats. We had a sash that said, you know, I voted AUH2O. I mean, it was really a lot of fun.”
Relatives spinning in their graves
I was an ardent Barry Goldwater supporter. My grandmother, Elsie Welch, was in the hospital before the 1964 election. She said, “I know you wish you were old enough to vote for Goldwater. If you get me an absentee ballot, I’ll cast my vote for him for you.”
I went to the Clerk of Courts, picked up the absentee ballot and took it to the hospital. She made a blue X to vote a straight Republican ticket and said, “I can hear my relatives spinning in their graves because I just voted for a Republican.”
I knew she wasn’t registered to vote, so I didn’t file the ballot just to have it thrown out. I’ve held on to it for all these years as something to remember my grandmother by.
Unless she’s reading this over my shoulder – and I wouldn’t rule that out – she never knew that her vote didn’t count.
Goldwater Rally Photo Gallery
As mentioned earlier, click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.