Frank J. Brockmeyer, Blacksmith

“For 42 years, Frank Brockmeyer has lifted, heated, pounded, molded and tempered hot steel,” I wrote in a rare bylined story on The Missourian’s front page August 23, 1967. (The paper doled out bylines about as often as it gave raises.) Unfortunately, the page was microfilmed at a 90-degree angle, so you can’t search on that date. You have to search for August 22, then lay on your side to read it.) Click on any photo to make it larger.

One of the last blacksmiths

Mr. Brockmeyer, who was going to turn 66 on September 17, was one of the city’s last blacksmiths. His shop – a small, sagging brick and wooden structure with a weatherbeaten door – was located at 35 South Spanish.

Massive anvils

Behind the door were the tools of the smithy’s trade: the massive anvils securely anchored to equally massive blocks of wood; the huge wooden tub filled with water; the forge, and the tongs and sledge hammers and grinders and other paraphernalia.

The forge

The work is getting harder, “but any kind of work gets harder when you get older,” he quickly added, with a smile breaking out around the curved pipe usually carried in his mouth. “Lot of people think this is easy, but you try to hold this hot steel with tongs and swing at it with a hammer. Here – feel this hammer. That’s eight pounds,” he said.

Hired as apprentice in 1925

Back in 1925, when Mr. Brockmeyer was apprenticed to Joe G. Schonhoff, owners brought their horses into the building to be shod. After the shop acquired so much equipment that there wasn’t enough room for the operation, they went to the farms to do the job. The original owners started the business in a different location in 1890.

The worst thing you can do

Those days were past. Mr. Brockmeyer said it had been 27 years since he had last shod a horse, and he didn’t appear to have missed the task. “Do you know the worst thing you can do?” he asked. “It’s shoeing a horse laying down.” Noting a perplexed look on his listener [another rare thing: Missourian reporters were not to insert themselves into the story] he continued, “That’s where you have to rope him, throw him, hogtie him and then shoe him.”

You can’t trust newspapers

I was curious to see if the paper had run any other stories about Mr. Brockmeyer. I found his obituary in the May 15, 1983, paper, the day he died at 81. He was born Sept. 17, 1901, at Apple Creek, the son of Theodore and Mary Schumer Brockmeyer. On Sept. 24, 1924, he married the former Mary Eftink of Oran, who survived him. The couple had nine children. His only son tried blacksmithing, but didn’t like it, Mr. Brockmeyer said.

The obit said he was a self-employed blacksmith, operating a shop on South Spanish from 1925 until his retirement in 1963. He couldn’t have retired in 1963, because I shot him working in 1967, back when he shared his philosophy of work: “When things get too rough, I just quit and go fishing.”

SEMO’s Capaha Arrow Turns 100

Southeast Missouri State University’s student paper, The Capaha Arrow, turned 100 on Feb.l, a Missourian story by M.D. Kittle pointed out. Despite what my kids might think, I wasn’t around to help put out the inaugural issue.

I know I had a lot of photos in The Arrow, but the 1966 and 1967 Sagamore yearbooks don’t list me as being on the newspaper staff.  The photo above shows the front page of the newspaper set in type at The Missourian’s print shop. The picture on the front page is one I took, and this image appeared in The Sagamore.

Journalism Class

I had W.W. Norris, the paper’s adviser, for Journalism at SEMO. It was an easy A. I don’t remember Mr. Norris as being a particularly inspiring instructor, but we got along fine. After I’d breezed through the class exercises, he’d come over and we’d trade newspaper stories.

I wish I could dredge up some fond memories of The Arrow, but I can’t think of any memorable photos I shot there.

Part of that was because I spent as little time as possible on campus. That drove poor Missourian Editor John Blue to distraction because I was ostensibly hired as Campus Correspondent. I have a number of memos from him pointing that out and asking when I was going to get around to actually writing about SEMO doings. He’d probably have fired me if I hadn’t worn so many other hats (so cheaply).

Chief Sagamore and The Sagamore are gone

I’ve already written about the exile of Chief Sagamore for the more politically correct Rowdy Redhawk. In fact, The Capaha Arrow has dropped the “Capaha” from it’s name. It’s just The Arrow these days.

Bill East wondered what happened to The Sagamore if Chief Sagamore was deemed inappropriate. I went to the official SEMO website, put “Sagamore” in the search box and was directed to “Fun Facts,” where I was told, “The Sagamore Yearbook is no longer in production. Southeast began the Sagamore in 1912 and in 1989 decided to no longer print a University yearbook.”

So, if the university hadn’t pulled the plug on it, The Sagamore would have celebrated its centennial in 2012.

Don’t dis the subdivision editor

Wife Lila worked on The Sagamore as a subdivision editor. She rejected a print from one of the staff photographers, who sassed, back, “Let’s see if YOU can do any better.”

That was a mistake. She marched right into the darkroom and showed him that she HAD learned something from all those hours looking over my shoulder.

I normally side with the photographer, but I’d have loved to have seen that little exchange.

First Presbyterian Church

I captured the final days of the First Presbyterian Church located at the corner of Broadway and Lorimier, across from The Southeast Missourian, in March of 1965. The building was 63 years old.

When I look photos of landmark buildings torn down in those days, I’m amazed at how little was salvaged. The 110-year-old bell that had called out firefighters and warned of jail breaks was saved to be reinstalled in the new church, but beautiful ornate woodwork was knocked down and hauled off.

Cornerstone was removed

A March 30, 1965, Missourian story said that the building’s cornerstone was removed and would be examined  later by a church committee comprised of Jack L. Oliver, Allen L. Oliver, Wendell P. Black, Mrs. Clyde A. McDonald and Mrs. Robert L. Beckman.

Bell goes back home

Before the end of the year, the new church far enough along that the bell could be reinstalled.

The re-belling didn’t go smoothly

The Dec. 1, 1965, Missourian story chronicled a number of missteps before the bell was placed gently into its cradle.

  • It had to be moved to a spot directly in front of the church.
  • The boom on the crane had to be lengthened.
  • A parking meter was in the way and had to be removed.
  • The crane ran out of gas and someone had to be dispatched to bring back five gallons to crank it up.

Finally it was on its way up

The Missourian building is on the left. The Idan-Ha Hotel hadn’t burned yet, and the city was still using the silver star Christmas decorations. Anybody know when those were phased out and what happened to them? I always thought they were kind of classy looking.

Pete Gibbar and Bill Vopelker were waiting

Pete Gibbar and Bill Vopelker, both of Perryville, were in the bell tower waiting for it to be lowered into place.

Bell bolted into place

The bell landed right where it was supposed to and was quickly bolted into its collar.

It works!

Pete and Bill were clearly happy when they rang the bell for the first time in its new home, the third of its existence. It was originally mounted in a wooden tower located on the courthouse side of the original brick Presbyterian Church. The tower and the church were torn down in 1904 to build the church that was just razed.

The bell, which is inscribed, Jones & Hitchcock, founders, Troy, N,Y, 1855,” was originally cast for a St. Louis church, but it proved too heavy to be used there. Mrs. Addie McNeely bought the bell for First Presbyterian for $500. It’s 43-1/2 inches wide at the mouth and weighs about 1,400 pounds.

First Presbyterian Church Photo gallery

Here is a gallery of other photos, including a strange shot I took while changing film on my way up to the bell tower. I include it because it shows some of the buildings in the area. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to step through the gallery.

1989 Idan-Ha Hotel Fire

I happened to be in Cape on vacation July 7, 1989, when I heard about a fire at Broadway and Fountain. I was about 1,100 miles out of my jurisdiction, but nobody hassled me when I started taking pictures of firefighters fighting a fire at what was left of the old Idan-Ha Hotel.

Investigators determined that a tenant on the second floor left her room without realizing that she had left a pot cooking on an electric stove. She heard her smoke alarm going off, ran back into the apartment and found it engulfed in flames. She left the door open, which allowed it to spread to the rest of the building.

The Missourian gave the story extensive play in the July 9, 1989, edition. Missourian photographer Mark Sterkel showed up while I was there, so I was robbed of a chance to get another photo in the paper.

Some residents jumped from windows

About half of the 40 to 45 residents were home when the fire broke out. Several of them jumped out windows and off fire escapes to escape the blaze. The building’s concrete floors and brick walls slowed the spread of the fire upward, but it also trapped the heat, which made the fire difficult to fight.

First priority was rescue

The first call came in at 5:31 p.m.; it went to a second alarm four minutes later. When firefighters arrived, they saw a woman sitting with both legs out a second floor window, “not far from jumping or being overcome by smoke” Assistant Fire Chief Jim Niswonger said. Once she and other residents were evacuated, attention turned to fighting the fire.

A heavy stream of water from the aerial platform ladder truck’s deluge knocked the main blaze down pretty quickly. Two firefighters had minor injuries.

Part of hotel burned in 1968

This 1964 aerial shows the Idan-Ha Hotel before a 1968 fire destroyed the northeast portion of the building. The Common Pleas Courthouse is at the bottom; The Southeast Missourian is in the middle; the Idan-Ha is at the top left, across the street from the H & H Building and the Marquette Hotel. The KFVS TV building hadn’t been constructed yet. I think the tall, light-colored building at the corner of Broadway and Fountain was the Post Office at that time.

Here is a link to The Missourian’s story about the June 29, 1968, fire which destroyed the main section of the hotel, Milady’s Shop, the Rainbow Coffee Shop. Six other nearby businesses were also damaged.

Fire resources stretched thin

While crews from three of the Cape’s four stations were fighting the fire, three other minor fires were reported in the city. Fortunately, they were small enough to be handled without calling in mutual aid from Scott City or Jackson.

Photos of Broadway and Fountain

You can see additional photos of the intersection of Broadway and Fountain, including the Idan-Ha Hotel as it looked in 1966 and the present day.