Buried in a box of old newspaper clips that are crumbling bad enough that I’ve been sneezing all afternoon was my first grade Reading Race Prize.
Mrs. Kelpe, the first grade teacher every kid should have, wrote on the back, “To Kenneth, who was once again the winner of the Reading Race. I am proud of you, Kenneth.” It was dated March 25, 1954, the day after my birthday.
My “sailer” hat
My first grade scrapbook has this photo of me wearing the prize for winning an earlier Reading race.
The account of my big day
Dad’s typewriter didn’t have a spellchecker on it, so some typos crept in from time to time. The fact that he and Mother went to all the trouble to document my young life is much appreciated. As Kid Rel II, Brother David’s scrapbook was a lot shorter. Brother Rel III Mark’s book simply said, “Refer to earlier editions.”
“…Mrs. Kelpe timed up on readying (sic) today and had a prize for the fastest ones. I won as my time was only 1-1/2 minutes. It took one boy 6 minutes. The prize was a white sailer hat. A little bit [big] but I like it. Boy! I was good to win that hat. [OK, so I needed to work on humility.] I told Mrs. Kelpe she was the best teacher I ever had and I’ve had a plenty.“
I was looking at a copy of my first grade scrapbook when the entry for September 22, 1953, caused me to scratch my head. The last sentence said, “Mother and [I] went to the parade for Roland Bushe POW. They took so long in getting ready that I went to sleep in the car.”
It took a little while to track the story down because the Korean prisoner of war was actually Lt. Roland G. Busch.
You can read the whole Missourian story here (some of the microfilm didn’t copy cleanly). In part, it said, “An estimated 3,000 persons gave Roland G. Busch, Jr., a hero’s welcome Tuesday night as the young Navy flyer returned home after 16 months in a Communist prisoner of war camp in Korea. Busch, three times decorated, presumed dead, and newly promoted to lieutenant junior grade, told a crowd in Courthouse Park he just wanted to see some State College Indian football games.
The photo caption said that Lt. Busch was greeted by Mayor Manning P. Greer and the flyer’s family: his mother; Mrs. R.G. Busch, his sisters, Mrs. Gene Olson and Miss Della Lee Busch; his brother, Elwin, and his father, R.G. Busch.The family stopped in Columbia to visit the veteran’s youngest sister, Miss Jacqueline Busch, a student at University of Missouri.
Pilot dies in crash
A February 18, 1961, Missourian article added details about the flyer’s Korean saga, but also carried the sad news that he had been killed in a plane crash off the coast of California. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. R.G. Busch, 309 South Spanish, were told that his plane collided with the water and neither it nor his body were recovered.
Subject of wartime mystery
“During the Korean Wat, Lt. Busch was the object of one of wartime’s mysteries that was not cleared up until he was finally released from a P.O.W. camp.
“His parents, on May 28, 1952, were notified by the Navy he had lost his life the previous day when his plane crashed into a Korean mountainside. Yet they talked with him only a few days before in a Tokyo hospital and he said he would not be going back into combat because of burns suffered when an anti-aircraft incendiary burst in his plane’s cockpit. It subsequently developed that Lt. Busch had been dismissed from the Tokyo Hospital and returned to his carrier, The Valley Forge, but not on combat flight duty. The ship was to have returned to the States in just a few days on rotation and he was to have come back.
“But in the meantime, his shipboard roommate, now Lt. Cmdr. H..E. Sterrett, Jr., who married one of Lt. Busch’s sisters, was shot down. Lt. Busch asked for flight assignment to join search parties. It was while he was on this mission that his plane was shot down.
“He remained a prisoner of war for 17 months.”
Here’s my “sailer hat”
Since it was mentioned above, I guess I should include a photo of me sporting my “sailer hat.”
Side note: Mother has been out in Austin visiting her Granddaughter Kim’s family. She called me from the airport in Austin. “I was sitting here waiting for my flight to be called when a man walked up and asked if I was Mrs. Steinhoff. When I said I was, he said he recognized my photo from the blog.”
She didn’t get his name. They should quit hanging photos of the Most Wanted on post office walls. I think we can do better publishing them here.
I have fond memories of Trinity Hall, previously know as the Alt House. I know I attended kindergarten, first and second grades there. There’s a slim chance that third grade was held there, too, but I might be wrong about that.
Mrs. Bohnsack was the kindergarten teacher; Mrs. Kelpe was the perfect first grade teacher who made every child feel loved; Miss Gade controlled her second grade pupils. I remember her as a rather severe woman who wore old-fashioned black high-topped shoes. You did not want to get on the wrong side of Miss Gade. Her sister, another Miss Gade, also taught at Trinity Lutheran School. Mrs. Froemsdorf taught third grade. She combined the nicer qualities of Mrs. Kelpe with mixture of Miss Gade’s sternness.
Aerial view of Trinity Lutheran School neighborhood
This aerial from around 1966 shows Trinity Lutheran School in the middle of the photo. If you look to the left side of the frame, there are a number of changes at the Broadway / Pacific intersection. The First Chance / Last Chance Saloon is gone. Just about everything west of the Esquire Theater has been turned into a parking lot. Howards has moved into the old Vandeven’s Merchantile. The Broadway Theater is at the top center of the photo.
Closeup of Trinity School
The building with the peaked roofs nestled in behind the other buildings is Trinity Hall, originally the George Alt House, built in 1903 by Capt. George E. Alt.. Missourian librarian Sharon Sanders’ From the Morgue blog has a photo of the building taken before the land was sold for the Lutheran School.
Sharon quotes historic preservation consultant Terri Foley describing the building as a two-story house influenced by the Shingle style. It may have had two stories, but it also had a sizable attic that I always wanted to explore as a kid, but there was a gate blocking off the stairway. I either didn’t have the nerve to push past it or I never found it unlatched, I don’t remember.
Fred Lynch ran a Frony picture of the kindergarten’s wooden jungle gym from 1947. The view out the window looks like the kindergarten was on the second floor, which seems right. Mrs. Kelpe’s first grade was on the first floor on the south side of the building.
Capt. Alt killed in World War I
Sharon’s story said that Capt. Alt was born in Japan in 1870, while his father was working there. The elder Alt bought 20,000 acres of land in the Cape Girardeau area in 1875. Capt. Alt came here when he was 21 to manage his father’s real estate holdings. His family held grand balls and parties in the Alt House until they left the area in 1913. The following year, he returned to England to fight the Germans in World War I. He was killed in the second Battle of Ypres on April 15, 1915, becoming what some have said was the first Cape Girardeau casualty of the war.
I’m not sure where we heard the story, but someone told us kids that “the Englishman” who lived in the house was determined that he would never sleep off English soil, so the legs of his bed were placed in cans containing soil from his native land. I’ve never seen any written account of that, but it was a cool story, nonetheless.
The Lutheran congregation bought the property for $10,000 the summer of Capt. Alt’s death. After my generation attended class there, the school was converted to a youth center in 1959. By 1967, it was beginning to look pretty shabby inside.
The smell of wet wool on radiators
Looking at the radiator on the left side of the photo brings back the memories of wet wool drying on hot radiators on cold, snowy days.
Destruction vs deconstruction
Somebody asked me the other day what the difference was between “destruction” and “deconstuction.” My first response was to say that the latter was some new high-falutin’ made-up word. Then, when I looked at this photos, the difference became clear.
THIS is destruction. No pains were taken to salvage any of the beautiful details of the structure. Everything was to be ground into small pieces and hauled off.
Historical pile of rubble
Yet one more piece of Cape Girardeau’s past was reduced to splinters. Deconstruction would have involved a slower, more precise disassembly with the goal of saving as many features as possible for reuse.
I’ve been looking for the photos I shot of the wrecking ball crashing into the building, but they’re proving elusive. They’ll show up some day.
2010 aerial of Trinity Lutheran School
This aerial of the neighborhood looking to the east was taken November 6, 2010.
I was going to classify this photo in the mystery category, but after taking a closer look at it, I’m pretty sure it was my Trinity Lutheran School first grade class on a field trip to an unknown farm. Click the photo to make it larger.
The woman in the back row, left, looks like long-time first grade teacher Mrs. Walter (Lulu) Kelpe. The woman to the right might be Mother.
Jerry O’Connell put a potato on his nose
The boy in the second row, left, might be Jerry O’Connell. My folks set up a first grade diary / scrapbook for me. (I should explain to you younger folks that a scrapbook is kind of like a blog without electricity.)
There’s an entry for Sept. 15, 1953, that says, “I ate at school again. I like it and really eat more than I do at home. It is so loud that you almost have to yell to talk. Jerry O’Connell always tries to be funny. You know what he did today? He put a potato on his nose to make us laugh. I didn’t laugh. I didn’t think that was so nice.” I was a tough audience all the way back in the first grade.
The boy in the striped shirt next to him looks like David Hahs.
Sally Wright Owen wrote in an August 25, 1980, Missourian story, “At Trinity Lutheran School here, first day business was a little unusual in Mrs. Walter Kelpe’s first grade classroom. When Brandon Hahs, 6, son of Mr. and Mrs. David L. Hahs, 3237 Lakewood, took his seat, he became the third generation to have Mrs. Kelpe as a teacher. Brandon’s father was a pupil in Mrs. Kelpe’s class, as was Brandon’s grandmother, Mrs. M. Luther Hahs, 2526 Allendale.”
The girl second from the left in the front row looks like Della Dee Heise, who has been featured here as a Central High School majorette. The boy next to her, leaning forward, may be Ronald Dost. I’m pretty sure the kid in the flannel shirt in the middle of the bottom row is me. Here was a picture of our kindergarten class taken in Trinity Hall in 1953.
I guess I’m going to have to scan my scrapbook. Jerry O’Connell wasn’t the only first grader who did wild and crazy things.