The Night Belongs to Me

Broadway 11-13-2015_2464I like roaming the streets at night. Maybe part of it is that I don’t like to get up early. Even most of my bicycle riding was done as the sun was going down and later. The streets were quieter. People weren’t in as much of a hurry. It was fun cruising through neighborhoods chatting with people walking their dogs, pushing baby strollers or rolling their garbage cans to the curb.

If you saw a flickering light in a darkened room, you knew the residents were watching TV; if the light was steady, they were on their computer. If their windows were open, you could smell their dinners cooking, and maybe even guess what part of the country or world they were from by those fragrances.

After I dropped off my late-night meeting or sports photos at The Missourian (so I wouldn’t have to get up early in the morning to do it), I’d roam up and down the streets and alleys listening to police calls, talking to the night watchmen or just enjoying a city asleep. The cops all knew my car, so they never stopped me to see if I was up to something.

View from Fort A

View from Fort A 11-13-2015The view from what had once been Civil War Fort A at the end of Bellvue is arguably the prettiest view of Cape Girardeau. I wish I had been there 15 minutes earlier so the barge would have shown up better in the reflections of lights on the river. Of course, had I been there 15 minutes earlier, the boat would have been below the bridge, and it wouldn’t have mattered what the light level was. As it turned out, I had to wait about five minutes for it to get where it is here.

KFVS antenna farm

KFVS at night 11-13-2015Coming down the hill from Bellvue on North Lorimier from Fort A, my eye was drawn to the KFVS tower and the antenna farm behind it. I drove past, wondering if it was worth a shot. When I saw the crescent moon over the Marquette Hotel. I circled the block and was lucky enough to find a parking spot just about where I needed to shoot. (You can click on the photos to make them larger, by the way.)

A car pulled in across the street just about the time I got out of mine. The driver must have wondered what I was up to, because I could sense he was watching me. Finally, when I opened the door to get back into my van, he got out and walked across the street. I didn’t stick around to see if he went into KFVS or walked down the hill to what used to be the the N’Orleans, the brick building on the left.

The antenna on the right is a twin to the iconic one on the last hill on Highway 61 coming into Cape from Jackson.

It’s that time of year again

Buy From Amazon.com to Support Ken SteinhoffEverybody is getting all excited about Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Overspend Wednesday (I made that one up), so I’m going to join the din.

If you are going to shop Amazon anyway, please go to my blog and click on the big red ‘Click Here’ button at the top left of the page (or, this one). That’ll take you directly to Amazon with a code embedded. If you buy something, I’ll make from four to seven percent of your purchase price without it costing you anything.

Think of it as being your painless Christmas present to me.

Jack Burris: Broadway Night Watchman

Jack Burris was the Broadway “door shaker” and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. After I shot a night assignment or sporting event, I’d have to go home to process and print the film. I’d rather stay up late than get up early, so I’d drive the photos back to The Missourian to keep from having to deliver them in the morning.

After that, I’d cruise the streets listening to police calls through my Tomkins Tunaverter, a little gray gizmo that lived between the car antenna and the AM radio. It converted the VHF FM police radio transmissions to AM broadcast frequencies so they’d play over the car radio. The only catch is that the Cape cops didn’t have but about three cars on the street at any one time, so there wasn’t a lot of radio traffic. You didn’t know whether the radio was quiet because the tubes had warmed up, causing the radio to drift off frequency, or if the Tunaverter had slipped off channel.

Jack carried a Motorola Brick

That’s where Jack would come in handy. He had been issued one of the first Motorola two-way radios that didn’t look like a lunch box. The HT-100, was better known as “The Brick” because it was about the same size and weight of one. I found one on the surplus market about 15 years later and had it converted to work on my newspaper’s frequency. I never picked it up without thinking of Jack.

Anyway, I’d pull up along the sidewalk and shoot the bull with him. After a decent interval, I’d say, “Jack, how about calling dispatch to give them a 10-4 check?” He’d do that, I’d fiddle with the radio dial and make sure I was back on frequency.

Jack was the first of many

I don’t know that Jack fed me any stories that made it into print. We mostly just passed the time talking about stuff of no consequence. If he told me what he had done before becoming a merchant night watchman, I don’t recall what it was. The only story I could find in The Missourian was an account of how he reported the Idan-Ha fire to beat patrolman James A. Crites in 1968. He knew Girlfriend Lila, who was working as cashier at the Rialto. I sort of liked the idea that he was keeping an eye out for her.

He taught me how to cultivate police and fire dispatchers working nightshifts. On slow nights, they welcomed a visitor who could speak their language and trade war stories. They’d pay me back by giving me a middle-of-the-night call if they thought something was going on that I’d be interested in. Even if I didn’t think it was worth running, I’d pull on my pants and head out to check on it, making sure I stopped by the station to thank them.

“Please expedite. We’re in excess of 105 mph”

I was passing the time with Andy, the Athens, Ohio, police dispatcher one night when a laconic voice came over the radio, “Athens 1 to Athens PD, run Ohio XYZ-123, please.” I told Andy that I could save him the trouble. “That’s my new car. I’m parked on the sidewalk in front of the station. John probably didn’t know that it’s mine.”

“Athens 1, Athens PD, please expedite. The driver just took off. We’re northbound on 50 in excess of 105 and he’s pulling away from me.”

If I had thought for a minute, I would have known that my Datsun couldn’t have hit 105 if it had been dropped off a cliff in a downdraft. Instead of processing that thought, though, I blasted out the front door where I spotted my new car and two cops in cruisers enjoying their joke.

Photo technical notes

I shot these photos under what you could call “available darkness,” because it sure didn’t pass for light. The film was so underexposed that I wouldn’t have even tried to make a print on photo paper. It’s amazing how much detail my Nikon Super Coolscan 8000 can find in something taken under miserable lighting conditions. The negative sleeve was dated May 23, 1967.