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.

 

 

Pat Stephens: 51 Years at The Post

Pat Stephens in her office at PBNI 08-29-2008Pat Stephens started at Palm Beach Newspapers in 1965, the year I graduated from Cape Girardeau Central High School. My first newspaper photo was published April 18, 1963, so I started in the ink-slinging business a little before her. The main difference is that I took a buyout in the fall of 2008 and put the newspaper business behind me.

Two days before I walked out the door for the last time, I wandered the building shooting pictures of the people who were special to me. Pat was at the top of the list.

Pat, 69, was on The Post’s payroll right up until the day she died, Thursday, April 7, 2016. That’s 51 years working for the same company. In contrast, I passed through nine papers (counting high school and college pubs) in four states in 45 years.

Post reporter Sonja Isger wrote an excellent obituary that Pat would have thought was “too much.” [I hope it doesn’t get trapped behind the paper’s paywall.]

The headline was appropriate: “Remembering The Post’s Constant Caretaker.” She was one of those unsung heroes the public never knew about, but was a big reason your paper hit the stoop in the morning. Reporting, writing and editing the paper is all well and good, but if the ink doesn’t get squirted on the toilet paper, it doesn’t matter.

An early member of the 20-Year Club

PBNI 20-Year Club members 08-17-2008She started in the production department back in the days of hot type, and shepherded it though several confusing iterations of publishing and pagination systems.

Pat shows up in the middle of the middle column listing the earliest members of the Twenty Year Service Club. Click on this, or any of the photos, to make them larger.

Pat became office Mac expert

Pat Stephens in her office at PBNI 08-29-2008When the paper transitioned from manual to electric typewriters; from hot type to cold type and then to computer-output pages, Pat went along with the ride. The editorial and advertising systems were on Macs, and she became the office expert on them.

As a PC guy, I would mock Macintosh computers (Know why a Mac mouse has only one button? It’s because that’s as high as a Mac user can count.), but never to Pat. It just wouldn’t have been right. She took pride in her equipment.

She loved her one-eyed horse

Pat Stephens in her office at PBNI 08-29-2008She loved her aging, one-eyed horse, Baxter, and would talk about him often when things were quiet.

Winner of the Purple Cow

Pat Stephens in her office at PBNI 08-29-2008Her hard work won her the company’s Purple Cow award, displayed proudly on her bookcase.

I worked a lot of long hours at weird times, but I don’t think I was ever in the building when Pat wasn’t. If some department manager (usually a new hire with all the answers) would decide that all the world’s problems could be solved by shuffling workers from one cube to another, Pat would show up with her gray rolling cart to swap pieces-parts and huge, 24-inch monitors that were so big that you could put four wheels on them and they’d pass for Volkswagens.

At times like this, she might be heard uttering her opinion of such tomfoolery, but then she would mock-slap her face twisting her head from the “force” of the blow.

The pressure relief valve

Pat Stephens in her office at PBNI 08-29-2008Every paper I worked for had one place and one person you could visit when the pressure lid was about to blow off the cooker. Judy Crow’s morgue was that place at The Missourian. (In these more sensitive times, the morgue has been rebranded “the library.”)

Pat’s office was the relief valve at The Post. Pat would listen patiently as you blew off steam, nodding appropriately at the right times, all the time plying you with her ever-full candy dish. Her office was full of plush animals and pictures of horses and wildlife that would have been kitschy in any other context, but were oddly comforting in Pat’s Place.

I always liked this shot of Pat’s menagerie keeping an eye on her.

Heaven’s candy jars will be full

Pat Stephens in her office at PBNI 08-29-2008Pat Stephens was probably one of the last generation that could go to work at a newspaper right out of high school and stay at the same place for 51 years. I am proud to have been her colleague and her friend. Heaven will be a better place now that there is someone there to ride the horses and keep the candy jars full.

Wedding Photography Paranoia

Mark Steinhoff - Robin Hirsch wedding 09-08-2014Over my years as a news photographer, I photographed presidents, would-be presidents, a pope and the Queen of England. I was at shot and missed, swung at and hit. I braved fires, floods and famines. (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating about the latter, but I DID go without lunch a few times.)

I waded in flood waters where I realized I represented high ground to the snakes around me, and I stood next to a water tower in a lightning storm hoping to get a good photo (with Wife Lila holding an umbrella over me. She was my insurance policy: I figured God wouldn’t strike HER with lightning).

So, where did I draw the line?

Weddings

I used to say that the only weddings I’d shoot were those of friends, and I defined a friend as someone who wouldn’t ask me to shoot his or her wedding.

Why did I feel that way?

  • I hate set-up shots, and most wedding photography I had seen was a collection of cliched set-ups.
  • I don’t herd cats well.
  • Because of pilot error, technical snafus, processing mistakes and just plain bad luck, I have blown assignments, exposing me to scorn and ridicule from my peers and ugly conversations with editors. None of that scares me like the wrath of a bride’s mother who has just found out her Princess Perfect’s wedding photos didn’t turn out.

Wedding Plan B

Mark Steinhoff - Robin Hirsch wedding 09-08-2014In the few times I couldn’t wheedle my way out of shooting a wedding, I’d set a ground rule: I wouldn’t deliver the prints until they had been married a year. If the marriage didn’t last that long, they wouldn’t want them anyway.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t walk around shooting candids at a wedding. That was a way I could keep from having to make small talk with folks I didn’t know, it would give them stuff that the formal photographer didn’t shoot, and it would insulate me from mad mothers.

So, when Robin and Brother Mark got married on her birthday, September 8, 2014, I did my wander-around-taking photos thing. Since they made it past the one-year mark, I guess it’s safe to post these pictures.

Wedding photo galler

Here’s where we all were a year ago. Steinhoff weddings are as unconventional as Steinhoff funerals. I’m happy to deliver these photos. Click on one to make it larger, then use the arrow keys to poke around.

 

English Prof Gerald Mills

SEMO English prof Gerald Miller c 1966I probably shot English Prof Gerald Mills for The Sagamore. I’m pretty sure he was married to Linda Mills, who worked in the newsroom at The Missourian.

If I’m remembering that correctly, one night they invited me over to meet one of their friends who was a professional magazine freelancer. He wasn’t a big name, but he had some nice photos in his portfolio and was very patient when I kept pulling mediocre photo after mediocre photo from a stack of paper boxes I had brought along.

Difference between a good and bad photographer

Mostly silent through the cascade of crappy images, when he saw the last print come out of the last box, he sighed, looked me in the eye and said, kindly, “The difference between a good photographer and bad photographer is that a good photographer never shows his bad pictures.”

Point made.

I can’t think of his name now, but we stayed in touch for a number of years. He was good about sending me lists of publications looking for stock freelance photos. I don’t think I ever sold anything, but it was good experience to pitch my work.