Mill Street Bridge

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970When I’m not thinking about Cape, I hang out on the You Know You’re from Athens, Ohio, If… Facebook page. Folks there post memories of things I shot working for The Athens Messenger in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Someone brought up the old Mill Street Bridge this week.

This is a photo I took of the bridge the day it was destroyed on August 25, 1970, because the river was being relocated as part of a flood control project.

The bridge went splash close to deadline, so I rushed this photo in, only to be told, “Oh, I have that dummied in as a vertical. It’s too late to change, so go back and find a vertical.”

I told the editor to let me have his seat. I laid out the front page to give myself a nice horizontal ride, rewrote a couple of headlines, and said, “This’ll work.” That’s when I appreciated all the pages Missourian editor John Blue let me lay out and the hundreds of headlines I had written.

The biggest lemon in the world

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The vehicle on the left is my 1969 VW Squareback, the biggest lemon ever to be squeezed out of Germany. I loved the car, but it loved the repair shop more. I ended up selling it with the engine in a cardboard box.

Wife Lila and I lived in a basement apartment a few blocks from the bridge and the river. The landlord showed us a big valve they’d have to close if the river got high; otherwise, we were going to find ourselves wading in sewage.

Hocking River gauge

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The little square concrete structure on the far left is the river gauge. It was mentioned in a 1916 Water-Supply Paper talking about the Hocking River Basin. It was located “at a single span highway bridge at Mill Street, about three-fourths mile from business district of Athens, Athens County.” The left bank, it said, overflows at gage (their spelling) height 17 feet and the water passes around the bridge. The study noted there were ruins of an old mill dam 300 feet downstream.

Bridge was cut apart

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The horizontal members of the bridge were cut, leaving only the sides and bed behind. I don’t recall what actually brought the bridge down. The crane has been moved well back, and I don’t see the guy with the cutting torch in the final photos.

I’m pretty sure they didn’t use dynamite, like Dad did with a bridge over the Black River in Wayne county, Missouri. In his case, he had to drop the bridge straight down to keep it from damaging the new bridge next to it on one side and a bunch of phone lines on the other. The blast part went great, but cutting it apart like these guys are doing went not so well. You can see a video of it here.

Bridge demo gallery

Here’s a collection of photos of the bridge’s final moments. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the images.


Merit Badge Counselors

Merit Badge books c 1960sYesterday I ran a list of Boy Scout merit badges available in 1965, along with a gallery of merit badge books my brothers and I collected over the years. Today’s post will have a list of every counselor registered with the Shawnee district in 1971, and a little about the counselor’s role.

It’s interesting to read through the list of counselors. The men who volunteered for the job included some of the top in their field: names like Hal Lehman (Architecture), Jake Wells (Art), Weldon Hager (Athletics), Lawrence Bahn (Atomic Energy), John Seesing (Aviation), Bill Ewing (Music and Bugling), Fred Wilferth (Citizenship in the Nation and Scholarship), Ed Blummenberg (farming badges), Earl Siemers (Dairying), Dr. L.W. Hathaway (Dog Care and Pets), Tom Holshouser (Drafting), Milton Ueleke (Electricity and Electronics), Sheriff Ivan McClain (Fingerprinting),  Henry Ochs (Fruit and Nut Growing and Gardening), John Blue (Journalism), Dr. W.O. Seabaugh (Horsemanship), Claude Foeste (Landscape Architecture), Richard Flentge (Swimming and Lifesaving), Harry Siemer (Personal Finances), Dr. J.A. Kinder (Personal Fitness, Wildlife Management and Public Health), B.W. Birk (Plumbing), Bill Nowell (Photography), Clarence Suedekum (Salesmanship), James L. Garner (Sculpture), Larry Grisvard (Theater), and Calvin Brennan (Wood Carving).

What was a merit badge counselor?

1971 Merit badge counselors 01The counselor was an adult who had a specialized field of knowledge who could determine if a Scout had met all the requirements for a particular badge. The official rules make it clear.

You are expected to meet the requirements as they are stated—no more and no less. You must do exactly what is stated in the requirements. If it says “show or demonstrate,” that is what you must do. Just telling about it isn’t enough. The same thing holds true for such words as “make,” “list,” “in the field,” and “collect,” “identify,” and “label.”

Contacting a counselor could be scary

1971 Merit badge counselors 02The scariest – and, to me, most valuable part of the process – was when you had to screw up your courage to set up an appointment with someone who might be a prominent citizen in the community. When you got there, you were generally pleasantly surprised to meet someone who had a real interest in the topic you had picked, and was more than willing to share that knowledge.

That’s not to say that some counselors weren’t tougher than others. Dad wasn’t afraid to tell a boy that he needed to schedule another appointment because he didn’t meet the requirements. That, too, was an important lesson.

Mass production Eagles

1971 Merit badge counselors 03Troop 8, sponsored by the Trinity Lutheran Men’s Club, didn’t have many Eagle Scouts when I was in it. We looked up at those who had attained the rank with awe. Part of that was that we felt that it was a rank that was best achieved by an individual who was motivated to make those “scary” calls on his own.

There were some troops in the area that we perceived to be “mass-production Eagle factories” that brought in counselors and ran boys through the merit badge process in groups. Even as young boys, we could see the difference. Our perception might have been wrong, but our Eagles were numbered in the ones, and other troops had them by the tens.

Obligatory confession since a Scout Is Trustworthy: I never felt I deserved my Horsemanship merit badge that I earned at Camp Lewallen. I think everybody who signed up for the course and paid for the riding time passed it. I was about as good at riding a horse as I was at dancing. I read everything in the Horsemanship merit badge book, but the horse and I were never on the same page at the same time.

Times have changed

1971 Merit badge counselors 04I met with all my counselors on my own. Generally, my folks would drop me off, and I’d call them for a pickup when we were done. That’s not how it’s done today. The official policy:

You must have another person with you at each meeting with the merit badge counselor. This person can be another Scout, your parents or guardian, a brother or sister, a relative, or a friend.

The list of counselors

Here’s the complete list. Finding a counselor for Citizenship topics, Cooking, Electricity or Photography was pretty easy. I don’t know what you’d do if you wanted to earn Textiles, Skiing, Small Boat Sailing or Pottery. Click on any photo to make it big enough to read, then use your arrow keys to move around.

What’s particularly neat is that the address and phone number of the counselor is listed. That might be fun for some of you who are looking for neighbors.

March Weather and Murder

Utility lines near Allenville - Delta 03-05-2016You couldn’t beat Saturday’s March weather: winds were calm, skies were blue, temps were in the mid-60s. I decided to take advantage of it. I spent some time at Salem Cemetery, then made a quick pass through Dutchtown, and updated my old pictures of the Allenville railroad bridge. You’ll see those later.

By the time I got through with the bridge, the sun was about to dip below the horizon and the temps were dipping just about as fast. I stuck my camera in the car and was just getting in when I looked up, probably to keep from bumping my folically-challenged head on the doorframe.

These utility lines caught my eye. I was going to keep getting into the car, then my old rule kicked in: shoot it when you see it.

A view down Hwy N

Utility lines near Allenville - Delta 03-05-2016This is what you saw if you looked down Hwy N instead of up in the air. Around that curve, headed to Delta, is where one of Southeast Missouri’s unsolved murders occurred.

On July 3, 1954, Bonnie Huffman’s 1938 Ford was found parked in the middle of this road. Sixty hours later, the body of the pretty, young schoolteacher was found in a ditch nearby. Her neck was broken, and the 100-plus-degree summer temperatures had caused advanced decomposition.

Over the years, countless theories have been advanced, leads followed and suspects interviewed, all to no avail. John Blue, a reporter at the time, covered the story from the start and became obsessed with the case. When he was editor of The Missourian, he kept the story alive.

Missourian front page

1954-07-06 Missourian - Bonnie HuffmanThis is the original story on the July 6, 1954, front page. The timing of the story was unfortunate for the paper: July 4 was a Sunday, when the paper didn’t publish, and Monday was a holiday. That meant the story didn’t break until Tuesday.

KFC Closes, Plans to Rebuild

Closed KFC 02-11-2016I have to admit that I’m a sucker for Kentucky Fried Chicken’s hot wings, cole slaw and chicken pot pies. That’s why I was disappointed when I drove by the KFC at William and Sheridan and saw the sign that said it was closed.

The Missourian had a story on February 10 that said not only was it closed, it was going to be torn down. The good news for people with my cravings is that it’s going to be rebuilt.

When was it built?

Closed KFC 02-11-2016When I read the story, something was missing. If I had turned that copy in, editor jBlue would have kicked it back until I answered the question, “When was it built?”

I found that wasn’t as easy to figure out as I thought it would be. It took a couple hours of rooting around in the Google’s Missourian archives to come up with an answer. (Keep reading.)

The first reference to Kentucky Fried Chicken I could find was a May 23, 1970, story that said Ralph Harris was “remodeling his Kentucky Fried Chicken building at 2100 William Street, adding a center cupola to the roof, this to be painted in the red and white candy stripe effect which characterizes the food chain’s buildings. The new cupola extends 12 feet above the building roof.”

That address, 2100 William, would put in on the north side of the street, across the street from the present building, at 2101 William.

A&W Rootbeer expanding

A news brief right above that one said that Richard Popp is expanding his A&W Rootbeer facility at 335 North Kingshighway “by adding the longest automobile stall canopy in the city. The addition, to the west side of the existing building, is 120 feet long and provides 22 car stalls, the facility providing 32 stalls overall. The new canopy will include under-roof lighting and a system of speakers for customer order placement. Blacktop pavement will be added to areas not already paved.”

A KFC on Broadway?

Closed KFC 02-11-2016Adding to my confusion was a June 5, 1971, reference to steel being raised for a building in the 1300 block of Broadway that would house businesses, including a franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant. It sounded like it was adjacent to a new Shell station at 1325 Broadway that was going to be managed by Kenneth Wunderlich.

An empire of KFCs

Closed KFC 02-11-2016A May 9, 1976, business story by Frony mentioned that Kentucky Fried Chicken’s local franchise operators, Ralph and Lloyd Harris are erecting a new building on Highway 61 in Jackson and plan to open a new facility there early in June. The Harris brothers will now have 11 of the facilities, including two in Cape Girardeau, two in Poplar Bluff, and one in each of the following: Sikeston, Dexter, Malden, Kennett and Hayti. A new one opened Thursday in Cairo, Ill.

I don’t remember this one

Closed KFC 02-11-2016Frony’s February 6, 1977, business column talked about a KFC I don’t remember:

The term “restaurant” has its own local momentum. Another new one is to open soon and preliminary construction work has started on another. Frank and Lloyd Harris who, with their Harris Take Home enterprise, operate a number of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the area, are building another, this one at the northwest corner of North Kingshighway and Hopper Road. They recently purchased a portion of the area formerly occupied by the old West Mount Motel, which area fronts 340 feet on Kingshighway and has a depth roughly of 165 feet, from West Cape Development Co., the transaction handled by Cape Reality Co. Workmen are razing a building on the site. Plans are to have the structure ready in early summer.

The new facility will, in addition to the regular service given by other units of its type, feature a smorgasbord. The Harris brothers now operate Kentucky Fried Chicken stores at 2100 William, 1315 Broadway, also in Jackson and other area communities.

Here’s the answer: 1981

I finally found the answer to when the present facility was built in an April 26, 1981, business column.

Construction will begin shortly on a new building on the south side of the 2100 block of William street for Harris Take Homes, Inc., owners and operators of Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurants in Cape Girardeau and the area. Plans are in contractors’ hands for bidding, and a contract will be awarded in a few days. The local firm, with offices at 1001 North Kingshighway, is owned by Ralph and Lloyd Harris, who opened a restaurant at 2100 William 16 years ago and three years ago built another at Kingshighway and Hopper Road.

The new building, featuring the latest in design by the Kentucky Fried Chicken firm, which franchises its outlets, will be 71 by 26 feet and is located on a lot 140 by 140 feet recently purchased from Texaco, Inc., which had operated a retail gasoline facility there. The building housing the station was razed to make room for the new structure.

This new restaurant, which will have seating for about 85 persons and have a drive-up window, will replace the present one on William. The Harris brothers own the group of buildings of which the restaurant is a part, and the old location will be leased to other interests.

Land behind KFC has been cleared

Closed KFC 02-11-2016Google Earth shows four or five buildings that were in the area that has been cleared behind the KFC. The Missourian story said that land will be used as part of the new construction.

We’re looking north from Good Hope towards William. Sheridan is to the right.