Mother and the Belly Up Bar

Bro Mark sent a cryptic email to the family last night: “Gran can now check another box off her list.” He wouldn’t give me a hint, said she’d have to tell me.

I called Mother, but got a busy signal all morning; after that, the phone went to the answering machine. I figured she must be out skydiving or water skiing on the Mississippi.

She finally called me back to tell me about her excursion last night. She and several of her friends ended up at the Belly Up Bar and Grill in Oran. I can just about picture what that kind of establishment looked like. I usually didn’t frequent places like that until after the shootin’ and cuttin’ was over.

(For the record, that’s the Elk’s Club in Cairo, not the Belly Up Bar and Grill.)

 When does the dancin’ start?

When she walked in, she noticed a couple of pool tables. “When do they start dancing on the tables?,” she asked.

“After about two beers,” she was told.

She met lots of friendly and interesting people, including a guy who was drinking a pink-colored beer. She got up enough nerve to ask him what it was. “Beer and tomato juice,” he answered. “I always drink it that way.”

(Note: that’s not the Belly Up Bar and Grill, either. It was taken at D’Ladiums in Cape.

Want to go for a ride?

When they got ready to leave, Mother paused to admire a motorcycle in the parking lot. She told the owner that she didn’t realize they were so big when they blasted past her on the highway.

After chatting a bit, the guy said, “Want to go for a ride?”

“I haven’t been on one since I’m a teenager, but, sure.”

They went blasting around Oran. (It doesn’t take long to lap Oran.) She said she was surprised that it was very comfortable: it was like riding in the back seat of a car.

She’s polling her friends to see if any of them snapped a picture of her before she roared off.

(Nope, not the Belly Up Bar and Grill: motorcycle racing at Arena Park.)

This is a poor substitute

I’ve sent a note to the neighbors telling them not to worry if they look out the window and see this. She’s just reliving her glory days at the Oran Belly Up Bar and Grill.

(You guessed it. This isn’t the Belly Up Bar and Grill. It’s Mother celebrating her 2004 Birthday Season. She turned 90 in 2011.)

Other Mother exploits

Mother says she can’t go to the store these days without someone coming up to her to ask her if she’s the one in the blog. Here are some of her past exploits in case you’ve missed them.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Stories: 2009 to 2011

When I cranked up this blog on Oct. 20, 2009, I never dreamed that I’d still be churning out stories two years later. The first post contained a photo that later became one of two rotating pictures at the top of the blog page. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

This is the time when publications traditionally look at the previous year. I started to do that, but discovered that some of the top read stories from 2011 had actually run in 2010 and were still getting hits, probably from search engines. That caused me to look at what the most popular stories were overall.

 Rush Limbaugh – Koran-burning Terry Jones

The most-read story of 2010 and 2011 continues to be the coincidence that the two best-known members of the Central High School Class of 1969 are Rush Limbaugh and the kooky pastor, Terry Jones, who threatened to burn the Koran (and eventually DID burn one when he was out of the spotlight).

The Sept. 9, 2010, story has garnered 14,274 pageviews, about four times as many as any other story I’ve done. It was picked up by media all over the world.

I rode tight herd on the comment section, which attracted 150 comments, to keep the train on the tracks. I was impressed by the general high tone of the discussion compared to the trash talk I saw on other sites. When it was all over, I had deleted only three comments that stepped over the line into personal attacks on other readers.

 Cape’s new water park

The second most-popular story is probably a fluke. April 18, 2010, I did a quick and dirty story on Cape’s new water park while it was still under construction and compared it to the Lickitysplit Water Slide that used to be between Cape and Jackson on Hwy 61.

It kept getting a smattering of hits during the summer of 2011, probably from people searching for information about the park. Interestingly enough, folks who got there, probably by mistake, ended up spending over two minutes reading the page, something that’s highly unusual. Folks who don’t find exactly what they’re searching for generally bounce out in about 10 seconds.

The Boat House

When you wanted to impress visitors from out of town with the homes in Cape Girardeau, there’s one place you’d always take them – The Boat House at the corner of West End Blvd. and Highland Dr., across from Capaha Park. This story attracted 2,109 readers and 28 comments, including good information from the family that owns it.

 Bill’s Transition to Jacqie

One of the most interesting and challenging stories I’ve done started out with this email: “Hi lila and kenny. Its bill jackson but if you have facebook, you will discover that many changes have taken place. It seems that after all these years I am more comfortable as Jacqie, my female half and counterpart. Florida is much more familiar with this than cape. The reunion should be very interesting.”

 Bill and Wife Lila were good friends from lifeguarding days. In fact, he was her first date in high school. We connected in Cape and St. Louis and I produced a video showing our classmate as both Bill and Jacqie. For a first effort at an ambitious project, I’m happy with the way it turned out. The page has only logged 2,024 hits, but the video has been viewed 16,106 times. I was really pleased to see how understanding the 31 commenters were and how well Jacqie was accepted at the class reunion.

Here’s a comment I posted after I saw the reaction to the piece:

“It’s amazing how much more accepting we are of others’ differences when we get a few miles on the old odometer. Maybe some things do get better with age. In a scene I had to cut because of time constraints, Bill commented, ‘We were all not exactly as kind to each other as children as we could have been, but that’s the nature of being children. You’re learning how to be human beings.’

 “Looks like my readers have done a good job passing the human being test. That’s a pretty good diploma to tack on the wall.”

 Rains, Wind and Flooding

I was in Cape during the spring of 2011 just before the near-record flooding. A page of photos showing Cape’s flood control project that kept the Town Plaza from flooding like it did in earlier decades, attracted 1,976 visitors and 28 comments. There’s a link on the page to a video I shot when Mother and I took shelter from a hail storm earlier in the week.

 Kent State, Never Forget

I can always count on getting a message from friend and fellow photographer John Lopinot every May 4. Usually the subject line says it all: “Never Forget.” May 4th, of course, is the day that four Kent State students were gunned down by the Ohio National Guard.

 I pulled together a sequence of photos of protests and demonstrations I covered at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, during that tumultuous period. Another photographer and I were on our way to Kent State when word of the shootings came over the car radio. We headed back to Athens, figuring we needed to be in our own backyard that night.

The page has been read 1,876 times and attracted 27 comments, including one from my former Ohio University Post colleague Clarence Page, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a frequent talking head on TV.

From Shoe Factory to Casino

I still contend that the city missed the boat in not finding a way to make a productive use of the old shoe factory. If the old Central High School on Pacific can be re-purposed as Schultz Senior Apartments, then surely the landmark building on North Main could have been saved. It’s a moot point, though. The building was torn down decades ago and a gambling casino is going up on the property.

The page showing aerial and ground photos of the shoe factory taken in 1970 and the area around it taken before the land was cleared in 2010, drew 1,829 visitors and 22 comments, one from the granddaughter of a woman who had been scalped by machinery in the shoe factory.

Capaha Park reduced to memories

I did several stories on the razing of the Capaha Park swimming pool. This was one that hit close to home: much of Wife Lila’s teen years were spent at the pool swimming, lifeguarding and teaching swimming.

I dug out a bunch of vintage photos and turned the page loose for Lila, Bill/Jacqie Jackson and Terry Hopkins to write about how much that hole in the ground meant to them. Terry’s account ended, “At one time, I wanted my ashes scattered on the hill above the pool just so I could be close and watch people having fun at a place I loved. Farewell my 12-foot deep, 8-lane, L-shaped fun factory and memory maker, farewell.”

There were 35 comments, some almost as long as the original piece. A total of 1,654 people visited the page.

 Central High School ’60s reunion

June 27, 2010, I ran one of several galleries of photos of the 1960s decade class reunion. It picked up 1,641 readers and 23 comments.

On the last night, I was moved to write, “This isn’t my favorite photo of the weekend, far from it. It’s a mediocre image from a technical standpoint, but it’s the one that caused a wave of deja vu to wash over me.

 “It was the end of the evening. The crowd was starting to drift away. A few couples got up to dance. I climbed up on the stage for a higher angle and stood there holding my camera and waiting for a photo to happen.

 “Suddenly I was transported back forty-plus years. It dawned on me that my life had come full circle. I was the same kid I was in high school who was AT the event, but not PART of the event.”

This account of the last night contains links to all of the reunion pages.

 Annie Laurie’s Laurie Ann

There’s a bit of nepotism here. Laurie Everett, who owns Annie Laurie’s Antiques on Broadway across from Shivelbine’s, is my wife’s niece. Putting that aside, she’s a shrewd businesswoman who was worth a story because of the building she’s in (the old Brinkopf-Howell Funeral Home) and for her interesting life. The petite blonde was an army MP who was an Expert marksman before she got into the antique business. She’s as good at that as she is with a gun: her shop was rated #1 Antique Shop in Cape County three out of three years (maybe four, since that story was done in 2010).

It’s not your typical stodgy antique shop. She makes good use of social media and has developed quite a following of SEMO students with her emphasis on vintage clothing, dorm makeovers and competition for models to become the face of the shop.

 Tornado drills and the JFK assassination

I stopped by Alma Schrader School to get some photos identified just as they were conducting a tornado drill. That give me a flashback to that stormy day in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I took photos of students gathered around a TV in the gym and rushed them to The Missourian to make my first EXTRA!

 Wimpy’s in 1966, 1967 and 2009

There are two topics that will always bring in readers and comments: Wimpy’s Drive-in and the Blue Hole BBQ. Everybody who grew up in that era has fond memories of both.

I shot a night time exposure photo of the intersection of Cape Rock Drive and North Kingshighway in 1966 that showed the traffic patterns in and around Wimpy’s. In 1967, I shot a wreck at the intersection with the drive-in in the background. By 2009, Wimpy’s was gone and the intersection had changed, but I tried the time exposure technique again.

Readers: 1,552; comments: 31, including much discussion of a shootout near there that took  the lives of two Cape police officers.

 Top Stories of 2011

In addition to the 2009 and 2010 stories above, here are the top stories that were published in 2011:

  •  Cape’s tornado of 1949: a riveting account of the May 21, 1949, tornado that killed 22 people, hospitalized 72 and injured hundreds, written by a pregnant newlywed to her mother on pages torn from a day calendar. If you haven’t read it, you should.
  • Do these photos say Cape? A collection of photos of Cape Girardeau for use by the city on its web page.
  • 43 years of Cairo photographs: I’ve been fascinated with Cairo since I covered my first riot there in 1967. This was a collection of photos of the town which is, unfortunately, disappearing a block at a time.
  • Arena Park Stock Car races: Vintage photos of the Arena Park stock car races. Some of them are classics.

 Mind-numbing statistics

Since the site started in 2009, it has seen its pages viewed 565,631 times. I’ve written 641 posts containing 512,268 words and you all have left 5,728 comments. In fact, commenters have written 391,796 words, almost as many as I have in the original stories. The depth of detail in those comments is astounding. I’ve posted nearly 5,600 photos.

Support this site

Here’s a link to my Tower Rock book and my 2012 calendar.

In addition, if you do your Amazon shopping by clicking on any of the Amazon ads on the page, I get a tiny percentage of your purchase without it costing you anything additional.

 

 

Glad I’m Still in Cape

I’m not happy to be looking at car payments again, but I’m glad I’m not somewhere down around the Georgia – Florida line. I’ve had a productive Friday and Saturday, although not in the way I had planned.

Friday afternoon, just about the time I was supposed to be heading over to Kentucky Lake for the first leg of my trip back home, I got a call from a fellow who thought he might have been a kid in some photos I shot back in 1966 or ’67. I’ve been chasing wild geese all week trying to get some leads on this. We made arrangements to meet at 5 p.m. After we decided he was going to help me track down a bunch of other folks on my next visit, I had some time to kill.

I headed down to see how much water had been pumped out of the cement plant quarry, but decided instead to cut down Old Hwy 61, which is east of I-55 and deadends at a boat ramp at the Diversion Channel. Yesterday was the first day I noticed that it wasn’t under water. It’s amazing what a few days will do. These fields had three or four feet of water on them when I hit town a month ago. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Ed and Melinda Roberts

Right after shooting this, I met Ed and Melinda Roberts of Jackson catching bait for their trotlines. We talked for a bit, then they invited me to go out the Diversion Channel and up the Mississippi River to set out the lines. I’ll be posting two days of photos from that excursion: one on them fishing and the other on the the beauty of the waterway.

CT lands in Cairo

Then, to top it all off, I got a Facebook message from CT, a reporter I worked with at The Ohio University Post, saying she was visiting her brother in Paducah, had become interested in Cairo after seeing my photos and was planning on a day trip there. I quickly made arrangments to meet her and her four brothers in town. It was the first time we had seen each other since the late 70s. I’ll have more on that  reunion in the next few days.

(I call her CT because her real name is Carol Towarnicky, a name I could never remember how to pronounce when I was introducing her to a subject. It usually came out some variation of TwarkNarky or something equally awkward.) Her brother shot this with my camera. I may have half the hair I had when she last saw me, but I am, otherwise, twice the man (in girth and weight). She was kind enough not to point that out. I knew there was a reason I liked her.

All in all, it was a better time to be in Cape than on the road. Tuesday morning, though, I have to be at the Cape airport to catch a Cape Air flight to St. Louis at 5:15. It’s not like the old Ozark days when you’d call to ask when the next flight to St. Louis was and they’d answer, “What time can you make it?”

 

 

Bird’s Point Levee July 2011

I was working on a project that sent me on a wild goose chase to Wilson City, east of Charleston and west of Cairo off U.S. 62. Had the bridge not been closed, I could have been in Cairo in less than 10 miles. Mother was along for the ride, so I told her we should go down to see Bird’s Point since we were so close. I plugged it into the GPS and we were off on an adventure.

As best I can piece together, we came off 62 on Mississippi County Route 301, drove until we saw some work being done in the distance on the levee, but decided not to ignore the signs warning us to keep out. We kept on CR301 until it hit CR302, then went up on the levee, which was called CR 303. Along the way, we saw some signs that water had been in that area, but we also saw lots of freshly-planted fields. Click on any photo to make it larger.

Old remains found

I’m guessing the road was closed because old remains had been found along one section of the levee. The Missourian reported that the Osage Nation American Indian tribe has been involved in the investigation, leading to the assumption that the bones and relics were part of a native tribal settlement. The Department of Natural Resources has put a blackout on news of the finds at the request of the Native American tribes involved in order to protect the site from looters.

Remaining water is bird paradise

We saw scores of wading birds taking advantage of the fish trapped in water left behind after the flood.

Fields are turning green

Despite dire predictions that the fields would be ruined for decades, we saw plenty of evidence that farmers were able to plant a lot of crops as soon as the fields dried out. In fairness, we only saw a tiny fraction of the land that had been flooded. I’m sure there ARE parts that have been turned into moonscape and are buried under huge deposits of sand. My point is that not ALL of the land has been ruined.

Scour area is impressive

CR 303, the levee road, ended abruptly at one of the places it was breached. The massive flow of water gouged deep holes in the ground. My van parked atop the levee will give you a sense of scale. I’m guessing the levee is about 15 feet above surrounding terrain. The bluff in the foreground are 15 or 20 feet below that, and I don’t know how deep the water is in the pit.

View behind me

As impressive as that is, if you turn 180 degrees and look the other direction, the fields are clear and have been planted. I don’t know how much work it took to get them into that condition, but looking at the gouged earth without looking at the planted fields will give you the wrong impression, and vice versa.

Equipment at the ready

I don’t know if this equipment belongs to farmers or if it’s there to repair the levee. I didn’t want to interfere with whatever work they were doing, so I didn’t go down to ask.

Interactive Google Map of area


View Bird’s Point Levee in a larger map
 

Gallery of Bird’s Point photos

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right to move through the gallery.