Jim Stone and Main Street Neon

Jim Stone, Shari Stiver and I had our own mini-reunion October 2010 after the big official one. We promised to do it again. Jim had something come up that kept him from coming Octoberish, but I was lucky enough to still be in town the first part of December, when he could make it. We thought we’d give it another shot.

Right before we were to get together, though, Shari said she was suffering from a bout of bronchitis and wouldn’t be able to make it. We tried all kinds of entreaties.

  • Brother Mark and his friends had just finished baking hundreds of cookies; he’d send a sample of those down with her.
  • Jim offered to pick her up and drive her to Cape.
  • I offered to go half on a bottle of oxygen to keep her alive.

Finally, on Friday, it looked like she might make it, but, alas, she cancelled on us at the last minute.

“Jim, do you think this is the 2011 version of when she used to tell me, “I’d love to go out with you, but Friday night is the night I wash my hair?”

He was kind enough not to answer me, because I think I already knew the answer.

So, anyway, we spent the afternoon roaming around. Late in the afternoon, I spotted that the back door at Central High School was open. He hadn’t been back in the place in decades, so I said, “Let’s go.”

(I subscribe to the Roger Miller King of the Road Theory: “I know…every lock that ain’t locked when no one’s around” when it comes to this kind of thing.

Wandering the hallways naked

“I’m from Florida. You’re from Boston. We’re old and confused. We’ll just tell anybody that asks that we’re late for our math final and we can’t find our lockers and that’s why we’re roaming the hallways naked.” (Recurring dream / nightmare.)

Jim was properly impressed with the quality of upkeep. (We did note some peeling paint in the stairwell leading up to the auditorium stage.) I tried to convince Jim that we should go up to the third floor to his old haunts in the science department. He was reluctant to explore too far. He’s done some work for the State Department, so he might know more about rendition flights and whether they apply to people snooping around in old high school buildings than I do. We wiped our fingerprints off and exited the building, speaking to a number of people on our way out who didn’t give us a second look.

Jim wanted to cruise downtown to see if there was any life after dark, so we ended up at Port Cape Girardeau for dinner. I had some fancy-named nachos that were excellent – way better than the taco chips drenched in Velveeta cheese that you usually get.

Neon at Broussard’s

Instead of heading back to the car, I started strolling along Main Street. The neon lights and people on the street in front of Broussard’s Cajun Cuisine caught my eye.

Wow, more neon

I looked behind me and saw more neon.

You’re from Boston?

I was just lining up a third shot when I noticed that Jim was huddled in a doorway to get out of the slight breeze that was blowing down the street. “Stone, you’re from BOSTON. How can you be cold?”

“If I was in Boston, I’d have warmer clothes. I didn’t remember that Cape could be this cold.”

In fairness, a street thermometer showed the temperature to be about 27 degrees. One weather forecast said that we might experience record low temps for this date, although I don’t remember what the old record was.

So, instead of being able to bring you a nice collection of neon photos from Main Street, I had to put Stone in my van and crank the temperature up to Melt. You know how it is when folks get old. They can’t stand the cold like they once could.

Other Jim Stone stories

Trinity’s Boy Scout Troop 8

Tom Mueller, younger brother of my old debate partner, John Mueller, sent me an email the other day that he and his mother had gone up to Altenburg to the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum where the bought a copy of my photo book, Tower Rock:  “A Demon That Devours Travelers.” (Shameless plug will appear at the end of this.)

The Mueller family was prominent in Wittenberg, just down the hill, so he thought I’d be interested in talking with his mother. We made arrangements for Tom, his mother and his friend Becky Kleckner to come over Sunday evening to look at old pictures.

This gave me an opportunity to drag out a bunch of photos that I think he might have rather have stayed lost to history, but this shot of Trinity Lutheran School’s Boy Scout Troop 8 was deemed acceptable for public display. (Buying my book gives you a lot of leeway over my picture selections.) You can click on the picture to make it larger.

Tom is in back row

Right after we shook hands, he agreed that he wouldn’t call me Kenny if I wouldn’t call him Tommy. Deal.

TOM is in the back row, fifth from the left. I’m guessing this was probably taken around 1966, so almost all of these boys were younger brothers of my classmates. Little brothers weren’t something that older guys paid much attention to, so I’m just going to throw out some last names since I notice family resemblances.

Ronnie Dost is frozen as Ronnie in my mind

In the back couple of rows, I see what has to be a Huckstep, a Pensel, Brad Verhines and Ralph Fuhrmann. The two guys standing at the far right are Ronnie Dost and Joe Snell. Ronnie died right after we graduated, so he’s frozen as Ronnie forever in my mind. He and Joe were both Central High Class of ’65, so they deserve two names.

The two men kneeling in the center are Assistant Scoutmaster Harry Ruesler and Scoutmaster Ralph Haman. Ralph’s son is in front of him. I’m pretty sure that’s an O’Connell second from the left, kneeling.

The middle row has, I think, a Fiehler, a Boardman and a Ruesler in it.

This was an orderly grouping. You can tell from all the scuff marks on the floor that the troop was usually about one atomic particle from attaining critical mass and exploding in every direction. (Jim Stone will probably tell me my analogy is all wrong, but that’s why he was a physicist and I was a photographer.)

Here’s the shameless plug for Tower Rock

My kid tells me I should be pitching my book harder. So, if you’d like to have a book of pretty pictures of Tower Rock, contact these folks. It costs $14 if you pick it up yourself, which I encourage you to do. The museum just finished setting up their Christmas exhibit and they tell me it’s better than 2010. Admission is free, so that’s a double good deal, because shipping and handling on the book is five bucks and you won’t get to see the exhibit.

Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum
P.O. Box 53
75 Church Street
Altenburg, Missouri 63732

Telephone
573-824-6070

Email:
info@altenburgmuseum.org

 

 

Barry Goldwater Campaigns in Cairo

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.

Driving on Ice Crash Course

I was cruising around on a snowy December day in 1966 when I learned that studded snow tires will help you get GOING, but aren’t all that great at stopping.

Jim Stone, Carol Klarsfeld and I were creeping down a steep hall off Bertling when I came around a curve to find a car skidded out and sideways on my side of the road. I put on my brakes, but the same ice that kept him from going UP the hill kept me from stopping going DOWN the hill.

You can’t hurt a 59 Buick LaSabre

My car caught his left rear door and left rear quarter panel, crunching sheet metal and peeling paint. The damage to my 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon was so insignificant that I didn’t even shoot a photo of it.

It was certainly less a dent than I got on my first driving lesson with Ernie Chiles.

First on the scene

Considering how many miles I drove a year under all kinds of condition, I was pretty lucky (knock wood) never to have been involved in a serious crash. I DID have a few fender benders, though.

I was cruising on a twisty road in Southern Ohio when a farm tractor pulling a trailer full of kids pulled out of a lane in front of me. I opted to steer into a ditch to keep from hitting the tractor. Damage was minimal, but I reported the crash anyway.

The trooper who pulled up recognized me and said, “I bet that’s the fastest you’ve ever been to the scene of an accident.”

How to deal with insurance companies

Not long after that, I was following a bus that was coming into a small Ohio town. The bus stopped. I stopped. The guy behind me DIDN’T stop. He was cited. He had insurance with Grange Insurance, which took its sweet time settling with me.

I was hanging out at the highway patrol HQ trading gossip and complaining about getting jerked around when one of the troopers gave me some advice: “Call the agent and tell him that it’s a good thing it’s taking so long for them to get you a check. You’ve noticed some pains in your neck and back that didn’t start hurting right away. If it doesn’t stop hurting by tomorrow, you’ll go to the doctor to get checked out.”

Insurance adjuster tracked me down

I did as he said. That night, I was covering a high school football game in Logan, OH, where this photo was taken. At half time, a guy walked up to me and asked if I was Ken Steinhoff. I said I was.

It was the insurance agent from Grange. He wanted to know if we could go to my car to get out of the rain. When we got to it, I asked if he would like me to get a flashlight so he could inspect the damage to my vehicle.

“No, I just wanted to get out of the rain so I could write you a check if you think the amount is reasonable.” It was more than reasonable. My aches and pains went away immediately.