A Rainy Night in Cape Girardeau

Rainy streets in Cape 02-18-2013Ever wonder why car ads always show wet roads, but it’s never raining? It’s because all the reflections are REALLY neat.  This is southbound on Kingshighway south of Broadway. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

I had to make a run to UPS to send a thumb drive full of photos to the Athen (OH) Historical Society and Museum. When I stopped by there last month, I left off a bunch of photos I took when I worked in Athens back in the late ’60s and early 70s. Friend Jan and I had barely gotten out of town when curator Jessica Cyders pinged me to ask if I thought it would be possible to put together an exhibit on the Martin Luther King National Day of Mourning I shot in 1968 by February 27 to cap off a Black History Month conference. Since Jessica and Danielle Echols were doing to do most of the heavy lifting, I agreed.

I’m flying out to speak to the group at the end of the month, and I’m busy putting together a show catalog right now. It’s neat that someone thinks my old stuff is worth sharing.

Tuesday I’m supposed to speak to a historical preservation class at Southeast Missouri State University. I threw in a lot of new Cape-specific stuff this afternoon, so what I say is going to be as big a surprise to me as it will be to the class.

Stop light at Pacific and Independence

Rainy streets in Cape 02-18-2013After I dropped the drive at UPS, I decided I’d drive around looking for rain art. Photographers always thought life was unfair. Reporters did weather stories by calling the weather bureau, digging out clips about the Last Big Storm and, if they could be bothered, looking out the windows. Photographers had to get their shoes muddy.

Old Traffic Bridge

Rainy streets in Cape 02-18-2013Downtown was kinda blah, so I stopped by what remains of the old Traffic Bridge.

Since I retired, my new contract says that I don’t go hungry, get wet or lift heavy objects. These photos were all taken from inside my van with the heater running.

Haarig or Good Hope

Rainy streets in Cape 02-18-2013The wind and rain were really whipping from the south when I paused on Good Hope looking west toward Sprigg. It was coming across the road in sheets.

Pacific looking south from SEMO

Rainy streets in Cape 02-18-2013

I figured I’d better scope out where I’m supposed to be presenting Tuesday, so I went up Pacific to the Carnahan Building. On the way back I tried to capture the rain coming up the street and down the hill.  These are the times I envy the TV guys with their video. It’s tough to get across the concept of driving rain in a still.

Through the windshield

Rainy streets in Cape 02-18-2013When an oncoming car lit up the water droplets on the windshield, the camera’s autofocus thought that’s what I wanted to shoot. It’s neat, and I’m glad it happened, but it wasn’t my target.

Martin Luther King National Day of Mourning

President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed Sunday, April 7, 1968, as a national day of mourning for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I wrote back in January about a class project at Ohio University that put me in an ideal position to cover the event in front of the John Calhoun Baker University Center as both a student and photo editor of The Ohio University Post.

Next weekend is the 100th anniversary of The OU Post and some of these photos have my colleagues in the background. I won’t be able to make it to Athens for the reunion, so this is my contribution to being there in spirit.

Students filled the street

Hundreds, if not thousands, of students filled the street in front of the student union and spilled out onto the Main Green.

OU President Vernon Alden spoke

The Kennedyesque OU President Vernon Alden, center, wearing a black armband, spoke.

Religious leaders were present

All of the local faiths were represented.

Crowd was solemn

I was struck by how seriously everyone took the ceremony.

A salt and pepper group

The front ranks were heavily represented by black students, many wearing signs that said “In Mourning.”

Not your normal gathering

Most of the white students in the back were dressed more casually, but this wasn’t your normal student gathering.

The mood was solemn and there was no laughing or calling across the group.

I had been to many protests, concerts and gatherings on the Main Green, but this one had a feeling of dignity about it.

It brought to mind the spontaneous gathering the day of the Kent State shootings.

Instead of being your normal batch of campus radicals, you had a mixture of jocks, sorority girls, frat boys, professors and townspeople all coming together to try to make sense of what had happened.

The racial mix on this day was probably proportional to the school’s makeup.

The ceremony ended

After the formal ceremony ended, the crowd started to disperse. Many of them walked a block north to Court and Union, the main intersection in town.

A small group of students sit down

A small group of students sat down in the middle of the intersection.

The crowd grows

More and more students joined the sit-in. Again, uncharacteristically, this wasn’t your normal group of rowdy drunk students who block this intersection on the first warm spring night after a cold winter. You can tell from the expressions that this is a serious occasion.

All of downtown is blocked

Finally, the whole intersection for at least a half-block in all directions was full of students.

James Steele addresses crowd

James Steele, who was one of the speakers at the formal ceremony, addresses the crowd.

I should explain something before we get to the part where things turn ugly. Ohio University was founded in 1804, so the local police have a lot of experience in dealing with unruly students.

Usual procedure was to see if they’d break up on their own. If not, a half-dozen cops would show up in “bats and hats,” somebody would read the riot act over a bullhorn, then there would be some pushing and shoving, followed by everybody heading back on campus.

Rarely were any arrests made. Some bricks and bottles might get thrown and a few windows could get broken, but I never heard of any looting of the downtown stores. The police didn’t even use teargas at any event I covered until the spring of 1970.

Captain Charlie Cochran didn’t follow script

Athens Police Captain Charlie Cochran, always a hothead, didn’t follow the script. Instead of giving the normal order to disperse and having enough officers present to enforce it, he waded into the demonstrators and literally threw them off “my street.”

Seriously misread crowd

Charlie didn’t realize this wasn’t your normal unfocused mob of kids out for a good time. These folks had seen their national leader gunned down. They were hurting and looking for a place to direct their anger. They didn’t take kindly to being manhandled on a day of mourning.

Cooler head prevails

A friend grabbed the fellow who had been thrown to the ground just before he could retaliate. If the two had tangled, I’m convinced the whole crowd would have joined in and someone would have been seriously hurt.

Chief, James Walen works out compromise

Before things could get out of hand, Police Chief Fred James, left, and James Walen, university vice president for administrative affairs, right, worked out a compromise.

The chief agreed to allow the students to continue the demonstration for a “reasonable amount of time” and the students agreed to leave peacefully after that.

Charlie didn’t look happy to have me part of this confab, but this isn’t the first nor the last time that we’d have an awkward moment together. I’m not sure who the concerned citizen in the middle was.

Before long, intersection open

The bulk of the crowd retreated to the corners, then, after a “reasonable time,” everyone else moved on.

“Where do we go from here?”

A writer in The Athena, the university yearbook, penned, “The King is Dead! It echoed in microphones; and hearts were horrified throughout the campus, country, and world. Martin Luther King Jr. started a dream, but a bullet couldn’t shatter it. Now, where will his dream go?

“We talk about the coup d’etats of South America and the street riots in Europe, but when will we stop destroying our Kennedys and Luthers? Let us not scatter after the black arm bands have been put away.”

Well, that’s not exactly deathless prose, but it – and the scraps of posters in the middle of the street – raise an important question: “Where do we go from here?” Based on the headlines I worked on later, it doesn’t look like we learned a lot from 1968.

Photo gallery of King Memorial Day

I’ve included a wide variety of photos. If you were there that day, you might want to share them with your grandkids. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Post and Athena folks, I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted Clarence Page, Joyce Halasa, Ed Pieratt, Todd Schofer and Tom Price. (Now that I think of it, I think this is a class I flunked because I didn’t turn in an assignment. Wonder if I could submit this for extra credit 43 years late.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAACP Comes to Cape

It was appropriate to have run across these photos with Martin Luther King Day coming up.

[Editor’s note: I’ve kept with the vernacular used by The Missourian, even though the language feels strange these days.]

Kivie Kaplan, national president of the NAACP, came to speak to the local chapter and the public in the St. James AME Church Aug. 9, 1967.

The Missourian’s story the next day identified the folks in the photo above as the Rev. Ben H. Cleaver, retired minister, left, and the Rev. Wallace Ward, pastor of the St. James AME Church. Behind them are members of the church’s junior choir, Misses Ruth Watson, Janis Jefferson, Olivia Johnson and Diane Mitchell.

[Editor’s note: The Missourian’s cutline has the woman on the left identified as Ruth Watson; Ron Bedell said it should be Ruth Wilson and I’m pretty sure he’s correct. Here’s where you can see a photo of Ruth at last summer’s reunion.]

NAACP “does not condone violence”

Kaplan went out of his way to assure the audience of about 100 that his organization does “not condone violence,” and stresses at all times the “peaceful and legal pursuit” of its objectives. He added that the NAACP has more than 500,000 members and represents 90 per cent of the Negro population.

Police present to “direct traffic”

He said Black Power leaders and others who advocate violence as a means to acquire civil liberties represent “only a fraction of one per cent of the Negro people.”

The city fathers may not have been as sure of that. The story went on to say that “About a dozen policemen were on hand at the church to direct the flow of traffic and presumably to halt any outbreak of disorder. No disturbance was reported, however.”

It was reported that there was applause at least two points and audible “amens” came from the crowd occasionally.

Kaplan was welcomed to the city by Mayor J. Hugh Logan, who expressed his interest in Mr. Kaplan’s address.

Kaplan implies local firms show bias

Cape school integrated early and peacefully. Classmate Gerald Love said at the reunion last summer, “There was no friction with the kids. There might have been some adults with problems, but not the kids.”  It’s worth going back to read Gerald Love’s story, though, of his introduction to racism in Cape.

Kaplan said he had been told that of the 400 persons employed by Marquette Cement Mfg. Co., only five are Negroes; out of 240 employees of Missouri Utilities, only four are Negroes. At Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., there is only one Negro out of a total of 200 employees.

Photo gallery of NAACP meeting

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