Altenburg Full Moon

Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum full moon 07-22-2013I spent the day roaming around in small coal mining towns I last saw in the early 1970s. It’s funny how I would catch a glimpse of the side of a building and recognize it immediately, then pass through a whole town without a flicker

Athens Historical Society Museum curator Jessica Cyders and I met with some members of the Little Cities of Black Diamonds to see what mutual interests we might have. I photographed the architecture in town of Shawnee in 1969 for an independent study course. It felt good to see so many buildings still standing. Some are a bit wobbly, but I don’t stand so straight these days, either.

Lutheran Heritage Center

The photo above isn’t from Shawnee. It is the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg taken under the full moon. I described all kinds of technical machinations for shooting Tower Rock the other night. This is decidedly low-tech. I shot it out my car window. The shutter speed was slow enough that I had to turn off the motor to get it anywhere near sharp.

The moon provided some nice backlighting, but the right side of the building was a trifle dark. I moved car slightly so the headlights hit it. It would have been a little more evenly lit if I had aimed the car a little more to the left.  I used that technique when I was doing a story on an old homeless guy who sold pencils on the street. I spotted him asleep on a dark park bench. Once I got the angle I wanted, I radioed another photographer to drive over and light him up.

Trinity Lutheran Church

Trinity Lutheran Church Altenburg full moon 07-22-2013I was was headed to drop Gerard Fiehler off at his house when we decided to see how the moon looked on the Trinity Lutheran Church. I thought a street light made the building look ugly and was turning around when I shot the photo of the center. While I was doing that, Gerard got out of the car to see if he could find an angle where we could get the moon without seeing the street light.

His diligence paid off. It’s not a great shot, but it’s pretty good for a situation I was going to blow off.

Clouds a Warmup Act for the Moon

Preparing for full moon at Tower Rock 07-22-2013I wanted to capture the full moon at Tower Rock in Perry County.

Gerard Fiehler from the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum came along to shoo the mosquitoes. While waiting for the moon to show up, we were treated to this magnificent display of clouds at sunset.

I’ll get around to the full moon pictures when I’m more awake.

Photo gallery of clouds

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the sides to move through the gallery.

Reinhold “Dixie” Degenhardt 1915-2013

Reinhold "Dixie" Degenhardt, Altenburg, B 09-25-1915, 11-08-2011I’m starting to work on a project in Perry County tentatively called “The Last Generation,” about the members of the early pioneer families who were the last to speak German as their primary language. My subjects range in age from their 60s to one who is over 100.

I’ve had the pleasure to photograph three members of the Degenhardt family, including Reinhold Degenhardt. I didn’t know his real name was Reinhold until I saw it in his obituary today because everybody always called him “Dixie.”

Reinhold A. Degenhardt’s obituary

Reinhold A. “Dixie” Degenhardt, 97, of Altenburg, MO died March 5, 2013 at Perry County Memorial Hospital in Perryville.  He was born on September 25, 1915 in Wittenberg, Mo., son of August G. and Mathilde S. (Poppitz) Degenhardt. He married Thekla Koch on April 21, 1940. She preceded him in death on October 31, 1975. He married Margie Engert Johnson in May 1978. She survives in Altenburg, MO.

Reinhold "Dixie" Degenhardt, Altenburg, B 09-25-1915, 11-08-2011Initially Dixie farmed and was later employed as a meat cutter in Jackson, MO. He held various leadership positions (President, Elder, Treasurer, Trustee) at both Trinity Lutheran and Immanuel Lutheran churches in Altenburg. He held various leadership positions with the local chapter of MFA Oil Co. He was active in the Lutheran Layman’s League. He served numerous years as committee man for the Perry County Republican Party. Dixie played baseball for the Altenburg Aces in the 1940’s, softball for the Trinity Lutheran team in the 1950’s, and Dartball for the Trinity Lutheran Layman’s League. He sent food and clothing to the Degenhardt relatives in East Germany following World War II. In 1960, he brought second cousin and East German refugee Heidi Schultz-Netzer to America, providing a home for her, and sent her to high school. Heidi married Albert Boettcher, Jr. Dixie worked at East Perry Lumber Co. from 1967 through 1980. He continued beef cattle farming until 1990.

 Survivors include four sons, Larry L. and Pearline Degenhardt of St. Louis, MO, Dewey D. and Marilyn Degenhardt of Jefferson City, MO, Lynn J. Degenhardt of Altenburg, Dean A. and Marguerite Degenhardt of Lisle, IL, one daughter, Connie S. Degenhardt Levy (Griff Gresham) of Columbia; two stepsons, Wayne and Lillette Johnson of St. Charles, MO, Kenneth Johnson of St. Louis; one sister, Paula Holt of Perryville; one brother, Wilmar W. Degenhardt of St. Louis; grandchildren, Grant and Christy, Ryan Degenhardt and Jeanne Aubuchon, Tyler and Sherlyn, Clay and Dori, Jennifer, Dawn, Monica, and David Degenhardt, Carly, Carrie, and Casie Levy, Marvin, Reina, and Tiffany Johnson; and seven great-grandchildren.

Wilmar Degenhardt

Wilmar Degenhardt 11-17-2010I have to credit Wilmar with showing me how important old photos are. I scanned the first batch of Wittenburg photos from 1966, had a stack of Walmart 4×6″ prints made, and showed up at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg to see if anyone there could help me identify the people and places. Director Carla Jordan said I should talk with Wilmar.

When we flipped through the aerial photographs, he suddenly exclaimed, “Ohhhhh. This is a rare find. This is the house where I was born.” You can hear him in this video.

Wilmar talks about Seelitz


This was the first inkling I had that my photographs had captured things that perhaps nobody else had. Or, maybe that nobody else had held onto for all these years. Seeing his reaction fueled my interest in doing projects like this.

Lynn Degenhardt

Lynn Degenhardt in Seelitz 10-28-2011Lynn showed me Wilmar’s birthplace, which, along with most of the other buildings in the aerial, is still standing. He’s an expert on Seelitz, one of the early German settlements. He explained that the communities in the lowlands like Seelitz and Wittenberg didn’t survive as well as the ridge communities like Altenburg and Frohna. Floods and disease took their toll on the settlements closer to the river.

 

 

 

Pride Goeth Before a Bird Cage

Having my photos exhibited at the Lutheran Heritage Cultural Center and Museum and speaking at the Immigration Conference in Altenburg and a DAR meeting in Cape is heady stuff for a newspaper photographer. Every time I start thinking I’m going to have to go out and buy a bigger hat, I return to my roots.

I’ve had days when I shot a photo I really liked: it captured the essence of a moment or the soul of the subject. I’d pull back and bask in that proud moment when I are sure that I have produced something of lasting value.

Then, I’d go to the first assignment the next day and see my photo staring up from the bottom of a bird cage or spread out on the floor for a dog’s duty.

That goes a long way toward keeping you humble.

Show ends November 9

Carla Jordan and her staff tell me that a fair number of my readers have made the pretty drive to Altenburg. For any of you who have been putting it off, better saddle up. The show is coming down November 9 or thereabouts to make way for the annual Christmas Tree exhibit.

Friend Shari is bring some of her St. Louis friends down to see the pictures, so I’m going to hang out with them in Altenburg for awhile Saturday afternoon. I’m not exactly sure when we’re going to be there or how long we’ll be around, but you can call the museum at 573-824-6070 to see if we’ve been there yet, are there or have left.

There are two 2013 calendars, a Tower Rock Book and a catalog of the exhibit photos on sale in the gift shop. (They will also do mail order.) Here is more information about how you can obtain the publications. There are also a limited number of prints available.

Photo gallery of exhibit pictures

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery gallery.