Taking One for the Team at Franklin School

 

See that DONATE Button at the top left of the page? You folks owe me. I took one for the team Wednesday afternoon at Franklin School.

A couple of Facebook friends posted that demolition of the old school had started, so I figured I’d better get over there before it was too late. I saw a story in The Missourian that said that workers had hit a snag when they stirred up some honeybees. One worker had to be taken to the hospital and a beekeeper was brought in to deal with the situation.

What happened to Ben Franklin?

I had something else I could shoot to let things cool down, so I didn’t get to Franklin until early afternoon. The job site was quiet. No equipment was working and no workers were around. I held my camera over the fence to take a photo of the ripped-up pedestal where Benjamin Franklin, the school’s namesake, used to stand at the southeast corner of the campus. (I wonder if he was salvaged.)

Steps and sidewalk coming out

Then, I wandered to the front of the school to take some shots of the steps where it has been said that some introductory biology classes had been offered. Class looks like it has been dismissed for good.

I read somewhere that the facade around the front door had been preserved. It’s a little ironic because Franklin was the only school in the city that had been built without a name.

Better to ask forgiveness…

I saw an open gate on the north side of the school. An open gate to me means an invitation, so I walked into the parking lot to see an open supply trailer and a couple of trucks. My intention was to find the foreman to get permission to walk around the site since there was no work going on, but I couldn’t find anyone.

Since there was no one to ask, and because I was already there, I opted to observe the “it’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission rule.” I REALLY wanted to see if they had preserved the old flag pole.

Bees and rattlesnakes

I had just taken the first photo of it being on the ground when I saw a dark object buzzing around my nose. “This isn’t good,” I thought. Just about that time, I felt somebody stick a red-hot poker onto my lip.

I knew that feeling. In the mid-70s, on the way back from covering a trucker strike in Georgia and Alabama, I read that Whigham, Ga., was holding a rattlesnake roundup. I called the office, told ’em I’d be on the road another day

I soon found myself wandering around a Georgia pine forest on a chilly foggy morning with a guy who said the unusually warm weather was keeping the snakes above ground instead of curled up in gopher turtle burrows.  (My new buddy would stick a long plastic pipe down the gopher hole, pour down a couple of ounces of gasoline and wait for the fumes to drive the snake to the surface. They weren’t home, unfortunately.)

Since they were on top of the ground, that meant the snakes had as good of a chance of finding us as we did of finding them. I finally got a shot of him draping a four-foot rattler around his neck, and we headed back to the snake pen where the hunters dumped their catches (live and very unhappy, by the way) into a fenced-off area. They were destined for skinning and being eaten.

I was invited into the area. Much against my better judgement, I stepped into the pen. I was assured that rattlers can’t strike longer than their length, so I was “perfectly safe.” I was concentrating on (a) trying to figure out how long my subject was (and adding a couple of feet for safety), and focusing on his flickering tongue when I felt that red-hot poker hit my thumb.

Dead in Whigham

“This boy is dead,” I thought. “Somewhere in the back of Editor & Publisher, the journalism trade magazine, my passing will be dutifully noted: ‘Ken Steinhoff, Palm Beach Post director of photography, died in the line of duty. He wasn’t covering a war; wasn’t trapped in a burning building trying to save an old woman’s Cocker Spaniel; didn’t sacrifice his life pushing a child out of the path of a speeding auto; no, he died of stupidity by stepping into a pen of unhappy rattlesnakes in a nowhere town in Georgia.'”

I found out to my chagrin, surprise and pleasure that I was not dead: that I hadn’t tangled with a rattlesnake, but had stirred up a nest of ground wasps. Still, I decided that the photographs I had taken in the pen were sufficient for my needs and exited quickly.

Back to Franklin

The bee had friends

After the red-hot poker to the lip, I noticed half a dozen other buzzing objects starting to circle my head. Having read that having one bee sting someone will sometimes set the whole hive into a frenzy, I took two more frames and walked quickly and calmly back to my car. I yanked the stinger out of my lip, taking some small satisfaction in knowing THAT bee isn’t going to sting anybody else. (The tiny object at the end of my thumbnail is the stinger.)

Sister-in-law Marty Riley lives a few blocks away from the school, so I stopped by her house to get some ice for a rapidly swelling lip. She, unfortunately, wasn’t home.

I decided drop by The Missourian to see librarian Sharon Sanders, figuring that if I went into apocalyptic shock and fell twitching on the floor Fred Lynch, could shoot a picture of me, filling his spot news quota without leaving the office. Photographers stick together.

One final bee story: my only Workers Comp claim as a photographer came from a bee-related incident. When I got back to the office, I dutifully filled out H.R.’s Description of Injury form: “I was assigned to photograph what was supposed to be 14 million dead bees. The beekeeper wanted to show me his 14,000,000 bee loss, so he kicked the hive apart. 13,999,999 bees were dead. One was not.”

Stings more than the bee

I didn’t go to Franklin, so I shouldn’t have any strong feelings about the school. Still, seeing the flag pole on the ground gave me a feeling of loss. I wondered how many proud youngsters had raised and lowered the flag on that pole. I could hear the sound of the metal clips that secured the flag to the halyards banging against the pole on a windy day.

I also thought of how this flag pole and base was a mirror image of one I photographed in front of Washington School before it was torn down. They could save a few pieces of facade, but not a classic flag pole.

Photo Gallery of Franklin School

I wish I had more photos, but you guys don’t pay enough to keep me shooting with bees swarming around. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

 

Dutchtown Cemetery on Ridge

There’s an old cemetery atop a ridge overlooking Dutchtown that I feel compelled to visit every time I come to Cape. There’s no particular reason to go up there. We have no family buried there. I’ve never followed a hearse up the steep, narrow road to the burying ground, but something calls me.

Cemetery over 125 years old in 1967

A Missourian story about the closing of Dutchtown’s St. Edward’s Catholic Church said the cemetery was more than 125 years old in 1967. That would put it between 175 and 200 years old today. I’m going to take that with a tiny grain of salt.

The cemetery was located on the hill because much of the surrounding land was swamp.

The first St. Edward’s, a frame building, was built in 1898, but burned January 29, 1928. The first mass in church that served the community for 69 years was offered in 1928. A nationwide shortage of priests was given as the reason for the 1967 closure.

You can see the steeple of the church in the background of a Frony photo of Dutchtown that Fred Lynch used in his blog. Librarian Sharon Sanders has two stories about the church in her column.

Coffins carried at shoulder level

The Missourian story said parishioners recalled seeing pallbearers. sometimes walking in the rain, bearing coffins at shoulder level up this steep hill. It’s paved these days, but it’s still a tough pull in my car. I’d hate to think of carrying a coffin up there. [I was trying to figure out whether “coffin” or “casket” was the correct term and have to admit I didn’t know the difference. A coffin, I found, is defined as a funerary box with six sides, generally tapered around the shoulders; a casket is generally four-sided.]

Photographed for years and different seasons

These photos were taken over several years and in different seasons. This was taken Oct. 27, 2011.

Cemetery well-maintained

The fenced part of the cemetery is well-maintained.

Path leads to ridge

At the top of the narrow road is a small space just barely big enough to turn around. If you walk to your right up the hill and through a gate, you enter the fenced-in cemetery. If you go straight up, you’re taken to a trail that runs along the ridge. That’s the part I find most fascinating.

Tombstones scattered all over hill

As you walk along the ridge, you encounter a dozen or more tombstones scattered apparently randomly all over the hillside. Some of them are large; some of them mark the final resting places of whole families. It’s daunting enough to think of getting a coffin up there; I don’t know what kind of effort it would take to haul a tombstone weighing several hundreds of pounds that high.

Markers from before 1900

One small stone marks the grave of an infant who was born in 1896 and died “aged 11 M 25 D.”  The inscription reads, “A little infant of ours so dear lies sweetly sleeping here.”

Find A Grave has some information

The website Find A Grave has some information about the site. It lists two “famous” internments:

  • John Lockee – a member of Company H for the Illinois Artillery. He was killed in the Civil War.
  • L. Jackson Summerlin – born 1845, died 1916. His property became what is known as Dutchtown Cemetery. His family plot is one that sits outside the fenced area.

Here is a partial list of other  internments from Find A Grave. Here’s a more complete list compiled by an individual.

Photo gallery of Dutchtown cemetery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery. Please chime in if you know anything about the place. I haven’t found much information on it.

 

 

Broadway and Sprigg

Missourian Librarian Sharon Sanders runs an interesting blog on Thursdays called “From the Morgue.” Back in the less PC Good Old Days, that what we called the repository of yellowing clips carefully snipped out by the custodian of the newspaper’s history. Folks like Sharon and her predecessor, Judy Crow, really DO know where the bodies are buried and can find the skeletons in closets going back generations. You do NOT want to get on the wrong side of the newspaper librarian. They used to possess both sharp tongues and sharp scissors.

I’m not sure what Digital Sharon could do to a reporter who didn’t bring back a much-handled envelope of old clips, but I bet it wouldn’t be pretty. On one of our first meetings, I started to raise my camera to take her picture. I don’t normally take no for an answer – I’ve shot Popes and Presidents, rioters and guys with guns – but I put my camera down when she shook her head. I knew right away that she wasn’t somebody to mess with.

I felt fortunate to escape with my life and a photo of a stack of aging clips.

Broadway and Sprigg

Her blog Thursday said one of her most-requested photos is of the building that used to be at the northeast corner of Broadway and Sprigg Street. It’s a vacant lot next to the Last Call Bar today. She’s done all the historical heavy lifting about that block, so it’s worth heading over there.

I don’t have any photos going back that far, but I do have the area today.

This aerial from November 2010 shows a number of landmarks. The red building is the Last Call she mentions. The white building diagonally across the street is the infamous 633 – 635 – 637 Broadway trio of buildings that have been a source of controversy for a long time. One building was razed and the other two are being renovated. In the center of the picture is Trinity Lutheran Church. The brick building to its left is Shivelbines Music and the white building across the street is Annie Laurie’s Antiques.

Last Call

It’s hard to miss the Last Call if you’re eastbound on Broadway. Its red colors are set off by a blue sky.

Blue-sided building is gone

The blue-sided building with the iconic mural at the top center of the aerial and the ones next to it were torn down at the end of 2011. Walther’s Furniture, across the street, has turned into Discovery Playhouse.

Like a gap in a first-grader’s grin

The northwest corner of Broadway and Sprigg has another empty spot. That’s where the old Chris Cross Cafe used to be. This view is south on Sprigg toward Broadway somewhere around 1966 or 1967. The three-story building on the south side of Broadway was the Cape Hotel. It burned and the spot is occupied by a Subway today.

Trinity Hall AKA Alt House

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.

This photo shows the kindergarten class I wrote about earlier. Click on any photo to make it larger.

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.

Other Trinity Lutheran School stories

Photo gallery of Trinity Hall

Here are more photos of the razing of Trinity Hall / the Alt House. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.