Learning More about My Dad

Dad was born April 17, 1917, which would have made him 104 this year had he not died at 60 in 1977. I found some old letters in his files recently that have helped fill in some blanks and also confirmed stuff I had heard (or misheard) over the years.

I did a blog post in 2010 where I used a post out of his scrapbook to show me and a check he had received for what sounds like the first job he and his new partner, James Kirkwood, did in Ellington.

1949 letter to his brother, Paul Steinhoff

Here’s the three-page letter he wrote to his younger brother, Paul, on Oct. 3, 1949. You can click on any image to make it larger, then use the left and right arrow keys to move around.

I’ll pull out excerpts from it, and add comments.

Paul, Dad and Their Father

Paul – LV – Louis Steinhoff c 1934

This was in Dad’s high school scrapbook, so it must have been taken in the early 1930s. Paul is on the left, Dad is in the middle, and Louis Steinhoff, their father, is on the right. This may be the only photo I’ve seen of him.

It’s hard to read, but, based on other photos on the scrapbook, it was taken at 116 North Middle Street. That would have made it possible for him to be close enough to the Broadway theater to have used his toy wagon to carry music for the woman piano player to play in the silent movies. We always thought that to be a family legend until we saw an obit for the woman in the past decade or so.

Mexican Vacation

The folks wanted to take a trip so we, along with Mary Lee’s Dad and Mother took off to the south. We spent 3 weeks with everybody having a good time. Kenny finally had to give up his bottle in Mexico where we couldn’t get any milk. That was one good thing the trip did or he might have been on the bottle yet.

In February I took in a partner by the name of James Kirkwood. Kirkwood was an engineer for the Highway Dept. for 20 years, having a very good background.

Mother Had to Run Her Dad’s Store

We moved the trailer to Ellington and was there until July 14, except that Mary Lee had to come home in the late part of May and stay at Advance. Mr. Welch had a serious heart attack and was forced to stay at home in bed for three months. He is just now being able to do a little work at the store. Mary Lee had to take care of the business during this time. I moved the trailer to Charleston, but batched it during this time.

Steinhoff & Kirkwood Built Rt. W from Cape to Fruitland

On July 29th we were successful bidders on Route W in Cape Girardeau county. This job begins on Perry Ave. outside of Cape Girardeau city limits and runs to Fruitland, Mo. It’s a rather large job but are doing well, and except for weather conditions we should finish sometime this month or the first of next.

Our Trailer Was On a Now-Gone Hill behind Colonial Restaurant

We have moved the trailer to Cape and have parked it on Hyway 61 near the Colonial Restaurant in a private-owned yard. Kenny likes it back at Cape and has several playmates. Kirkwood has one boy 6 months older than Kenny and one girl that is just beginning to go to school.

Kenny is quite a big lad now and talks a blue streak all the time and is plenty heavy for his age. He has a tricycle and rides all the time. He is crazy about books and I do believe that he has well over 100 of them at the trailer and at his grandmother’s.

1949 Cardinals vs Cubs

There is one thing he will be able to say when he grows up, and that will be that he saw a National League baseball game as soon as his daddy. We went to St. Louis a week ago Sunday and saw the Cardinals play the Chicago Cubs. He finally went to sleep before the game was completed. We spent the morning at the zoo taking in the Monkey show.

Ice cream and a life of crime

He goes to the stores here at Advance and gets his own ice cream cones and soda by himself and he really thinks he is doing something.

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.

You Want a Heater in That?

P21 Chev Pickup 03-20-1964I now know why I’m a pack rat. Mother’s attic was a time capsule, and Dad’s filing cabinets are a treasure trove of business minutia. I’ve found things going back to 1946. The one summer I worked for him, he set me to scooping up every nail, screw and bolt on the floor of the various shops, and then had me carefully put each one in its proper bin.

I thought he was just giving me busy work to do between unloading lumber and concrete forms coming back from jobs, but, no, I see that his year end inventories were down to the nut, bolt and screw level. Not by box, but by item.

Jim Kirkwood got an “economy heater”

Dad and his partners would usually trade pickup trucks every three years to get the most trade-in value out of them.

The invoice above shows that Jim Kirkwood got a new 1964 Chevrolet 1/2-ton pickup for a grand total of $2,240.70. (Click on it to make it easier to read.)

Extras included a wheel carrier for $15.10; an economy heater for $53.80; a manual radio for $47.90, and two-speed windshield wipers for $16.15.

1967’s model was spiffier

P23 1867 Chev pickupKirkwood’s 1967 truck had a few more extras. Maybe Steinhoff, Kirkwood and Joiner had had a good year. The overall cost was $2,754.20, but his old truck was worth$1,423.20 in trade.

Here were his options:

  • Heater – $68.35
  • Radio – $58.65
  • Wheel carrier – $14.00
  • Gauges – 10.80
  • Heavy-duty springs – $6.50
  • Powerglide – $199.10
  • Deluxe rear window – $43.05
  • 2-tone paint – $16.15 (White/Red)
  • Custom molding – $43.05
  • M/S tires (rear) – 6.80

My oil changing experience

Mark Steinhoff Easter 1962Dad was due for a new truck the summer I worked for him. He’d only had it a few weeks when he pulled it into the shop and told me to change the oil.

Now, I had never changed the oil in anything before, but how hard could it be? You unscrew a plug, let all the goop drain out, you put the plug back and you pour in new goop, right?

That’s exactly what I did. I was surprised that it took less oil than I expected, but a check of the dip stick showed the crankcase was full.

(That’s Brother Mark crawling over one of Dad’s trucks. He was partial to green and white, but I think a blue one slipped in from time to time.)

“Something’s wrong with the transmission”

Dad was working a job out in the Missouri Ozarks, so he didn’t get back until late the next afternoon.

“There’s something wrong with the transmission. It kept popping out of gear all the time. I hope I didn’t get a lemon,” he said over dinner.

The next day he discovered that there was zip, zero, zilch transmission fluid in the vehicle.

I got the drain plug part right, I just didn’t know that belly of the beast had TWO drain plugs – one for oil and the other for transmission fluid.

I give Dad credit. He didn’t chew me out. The truck and I both survived the experience.

 

 

Dad Would Have Been 95 April 17

Dad was born April 17, 1917. That would have made him 95 this year. He had an interesting quirk. He’d make up small pocket diaries or journals that he’d carry in his shirt pocket. The covers were made of cut-up manila folders and the pages were of paper cut and stapled inside. He had a rubber stamp that he would use at the start of every month to date every pair of facing pages. (Click on any image to make it larger.)

He was meticulous about recording every penny (literally EVERY penny) he spent every day. Generally there would be some mention of the weather and a brief accounting of what he had done during the day. By February, 1975, he and his partner, James Kirkwood, were beginning to wind down Steinhoff & Kirkwood Construction, so he had a lot more time to spend on stuff like Scouts. (SOR stands for ScoutORama, for example.)

Uncharacteristically, he set off a section: Got Big News about being Grandpa this PM. Talked to Ken Okee. Fla (I must have been in Okeechobee) later to Lila. (Then reverting to company business, he finished up by saying that he talked to Jim in Fla this PM.)

December second was big day

On December 2, 1975, we find that the day had sunshine in the 50s; he got up at 4:30 A.M., had toast and coffee, then left for Memphis Airport.

Picked up Ken & Lila and seen Grand child 1st time at 11:10 A.M. (He consistently used “seen” for “saw” and “too” for “to,” but otherwise generally used good grammar and spelling with lots of abbreviations. His penmanship was precise.)

Along the way to and from Memphis, he had coffee for .83 (with a 15-cent tip), bought a paper for 15 cents and put six bucks of gas in the car.

Here’s the first meeting with Matt

Matt was born September 27, 1975. (Matt’s the one who scanned these for me about 10 or 12 years ago. He was disappointed that his birth wasn’t mentioned in the journal, probably because Dad was over at Kentucky Lake on the day.) Here is Mother, Wife Lila, Dad and Matt getting together for the first time at the Memphis Airport. It’s the same airport we would fly out of in 1977 after Dad’s funeral.

Matt got a cold

December was cloudy, cold and damp. Dad got up at 6:45 and went to 7:30 church by himself, where he took Communion. When he got back home, he built a fire in the fireplace and watched Cardinal football until 1:45. Took 13 of us to dinner, including Lila’s mother, brother and sister; my grandmother, Elsie Welch, Mother, Brother Mark and Mark’s date. (The Cardinals beat Dallas, in case you were interested.)

The final note for the day said that Matt got cold. Nose stopped up. Call Dr. Kinder. [Matt doesn’t know how lucky he was that Dr. Herbert had probably retired by then. That’s why Matt can still eat¬†Popsicles.]

Headed back to Florida

  • December 11 – Clear, sunshine and warmer. Got car checked over for trip to Florida. Left Cape for Lake and Florida 12:30 PM – arrive at trailer at 3:00 PM. Matt didn’t sleep too well tonight. He threw a real cry buster at Joe Summers. Had his nose cleaned out.
  • December 12 – Sunshine clear. Up at 5:30 because Matt up since 3:00. Lila back to bed. Got Matt to sleep for abt 1 Hr 1/4. Left Lake for Florida at 9:15 AM. Ate at Cracker BL Manchester 12:30. Drove to Macon Ga. by 8:00 PM. Matt feeling better today – was really good.
  • December 13 – Clear sunshine – left Macon, Ga., at 9:15 ate at Shoney’s. had blueberry pancakes – No Good – Drove to Wildwood & ate at Union 76 at 3:00 PM – then on to WPB arrive at 8:00 PM. 1093 miles. Matt real good on trip. [Editor’s note: I have two routes I take from FL to MO. Both of them are within a dozen miles of being 1,100 miles. I find it interesting that Dad’s trip was 1,093 miles.]

Another interesting thing I had forgotten was that while Lila and Matt were parked in Cape, I flew down to Corpus Christi, Tex., for a job interview. I had been at The Post for almost exactly three years, generally about as long as I was comfortable anywhere. While the Texas paper and I were talking about the move, I was offered the job of director of photography at The Post. I took it and spent the next 35 years in photo, as editorial operations manger and as telecommunications manager. I discovered that I didn’t have to move to a new town every three years if I took on new responsibilities at the same company.

Other stories, pictures of Dad

This picture was taken before we left for my Trinity Lutheran School eighth grade graduation ceremony. They weren’t sure how many more graduation ceremonies there might be, so they dressed for the occasion.