Gussie Phillips (Maybe)

Phillips Family TBD 02I’ve never paid much attention to genealogy. Part of it was that we had such a small immediate family we weren’t hard to track. The other part was that I never could understand all that stuff about third cousins twice removed. It sounded too much like math, and I never cottoned much to math.

Anyway, I opened a file drawer looking for something else (sound familiar?) and found a packet of photos wrapped in yellowing paper. From notes scrawled on the back of some of the prints, I gather they must have been of the Adolph and Gussie Phillips branch of the family. I vaguely remember Mother talking about some relatives who lived out in California, but I let it go in one ear and out the other

I got the impression that they were relatively well off. Well enough off that they had a water tank big enough to serve as an impromptu swimming pool.

That must be Gussie

Phillips Family TBD 05There was no info on the back of the water tank photo, but this couple was identified as “Shorty & Gussie taken at St. Pedro.” When I looked at it closely, the woman looks like the one on the right side of the swimming picture. (Click on it to make it larger.)

She’s quite striking looking in both pictures.

I’ll have to see what else I can dig up on that side of the family. There are plenty of fascinating photos in the collection.

Dutchtown: Flood of 1993

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993Some of you have been wondering where I’ve been. I was busy in Cape getting a boat ready to pull down to Florida for Kid Adam, then it was a long slog south because of weather. When you’ve been gone from home for months, there are a number of things you have to catch up on. If you don’t accept all those excuses, I’ll have to fall back on “the dog ate my homework” and hope you don’t know that I don’t own a dog. (I’m owned by a cat, but they rarely eat homework.)

OK, to bring us back to the headline, I was in Chicago for phone switch training when the Flood of 1993 was going on. I told the boss that I’d pay any difference in ticket price to do a stopover in Missouri for a couple of days, so I could see the high water.

Dad’s construction company owned a piece of ground at the southeast corner of Highways 25 and 74 in Dutchtown. It had gone under in 1973, and was revisited by water backing up from the Mississippi River in 1993. Brother Mark and I rented a canoe to explore the property at the height of the flood. The building we’re headed toward was what we called the mechanics shed.

Big enough to hold heavy equipment

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993The building had a super-thick slab strong enough to hold bulldozers and draglines when they needed repair and maintenance. Half of it was set aside for mechanical and welding work, and the other side had storage cabinets and a carpentry setup.

The first challenge was how to open the door. The Master lock was located just beyond where you could reach it comfortably without tipping the canoe over. My key ring, 22 years later, is still bent from trying to twist the lock open.

Not a pretty sight

Mark’s first peek showed stuff bobbing around all over the place. We lost some good table and band saws because we never thought the water would come up so high and so fast.

How do we get through the door?

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993The next challenge was how to get a wide canoe through a narrow door. It was part of family lore that Dad once built a boat in a basement on Themis street, then figured out it was too big to get out. I never knew for sure if that was true, and he’s not around to either confirm or deny the story.

I REALLY didn’t want to go swimming, and I REALLY, REALLY didn’t want to spill all my camera gear in the drink, but how can you pass up an opportunity like this?

I went first

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993I managed get the bow of the canoe far enough into the building to rig a 2×8 or 2×10 board between the top of a cabinet and some shelving, and clambered out. Mark handed up everything that was in the boat and followed my lead.

Once the boat was empty, he was able to twist it enough to get it through the door.

Mark doesn’t look comfortable

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993He’s giving me the look that says, “I bet you’ve rigged that board to dump me. I can’t figure out HOW you did it, but I’m pretty sure something nasty is going to happen.”

Snakes?

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993He looked even more uncomfortable when I started sharing snake stories from other floods and hurricanes I had covered. “Don’t forget,” I warned him, “snakes are looking for high ground, and they might mistake you for high ground.”

Compressor was flood casualty

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993There was a huge, industrial-size air compressor on the mechanic side of the shed that wasn’t bolted to the floor. When the water came up, the air tank on the bottom started to float, but the heavy motor and compressor on the top caused the unit to flip over. Had it been bolted down, the water wouldn’t have gotten up high enough to do any damage. Mark’s using the big ceiling hoist to get it out of the water.

We asked someone if they thought the compressor was salvageable, but we were told that the motor was probably shot. We gave it no thought for about ten years until Brother-in-Law John came down to help us with something. He said he’d take the thing off our hands.

Sure enough, when I went over to his shop a couple of weeks ago, the compressor was puttering away as good as new. I’m glad it found a good home.

On the same side as the compressor was our ski boat, The Mary Lou, floating, still attached to its trailer. (You’ll hear more about The Mary Lou later.)

Water marks

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993When I got back to Cape several months later, the armpit-high water marks on the buildings were still evident. Mark may be my “little brother,” but he’s not that little.

I saw drone aerial photos of the property shot a couple of days ago. The water is already into the buildings, and I suspect that Mark and I could take a canoe through the big shed pretty much the same at 1993 if the water crests as high as predicted.

 

I’m Skating for Awhile

Skates in Kingsway atticI took advantage of a relatively cool day to venture up into the attic. Brothers Mark and David are coming to town the week of September 20 to, as Mark euphemistically puts it, “declutter the house.”

I’m going to ease off a few days to give me more time to root through and set aside stuff that I think has sentimental or historical value. It’s hard to realize, but this’ll be the last chance I’ll have to do that.

We’re not putting the house on the market until the spring unless something changes, so, except for a couple of quick trips back to Florida, I’ll be in Cape for the duration. When the house sells, it’ll probably mark the end of my Cape chapter, and maybe my Cape book.

Bring your own skate key

I’ll be posting more photos of treasures like these as we come upon them. Niece Laurie Everett of Annie Laurie’s Antique Shop is going to work with us, so you will have lots of opportunities to own some Steinhoff Originals.

You will need to find your own skate key, unfortunately. I didn’t see one in the box.

Wedding Photography Paranoia

Mark Steinhoff - Robin Hirsch wedding 09-08-2014Over my years as a news photographer, I photographed presidents, would-be presidents, a pope and the Queen of England. I was at shot and missed, swung at and hit. I braved fires, floods and famines. (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating about the latter, but I DID go without lunch a few times.)

I waded in flood waters where I realized I represented high ground to the snakes around me, and I stood next to a water tower in a lightning storm hoping to get a good photo (with Wife Lila holding an umbrella over me. She was my insurance policy: I figured God wouldn’t strike HER with lightning).

So, where did I draw the line?

Weddings

I used to say that the only weddings I’d shoot were those of friends, and I defined a friend as someone who wouldn’t ask me to shoot his or her wedding.

Why did I feel that way?

  • I hate set-up shots, and most wedding photography I had seen was a collection of cliched set-ups.
  • I don’t herd cats well.
  • Because of pilot error, technical snafus, processing mistakes and just plain bad luck, I have blown assignments, exposing me to scorn and ridicule from my peers and ugly conversations with editors. None of that scares me like the wrath of a bride’s mother who has just found out her Princess Perfect’s wedding photos didn’t turn out.

Wedding Plan B

Mark Steinhoff - Robin Hirsch wedding 09-08-2014In the few times I couldn’t wheedle my way out of shooting a wedding, I’d set a ground rule: I wouldn’t deliver the prints until they had been married a year. If the marriage didn’t last that long, they wouldn’t want them anyway.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t walk around shooting candids at a wedding. That was a way I could keep from having to make small talk with folks I didn’t know, it would give them stuff that the formal photographer didn’t shoot, and it would insulate me from mad mothers.

So, when Robin and Brother Mark got married on her birthday, September 8, 2014, I did my wander-around-taking photos thing. Since they made it past the one-year mark, I guess it’s safe to post these pictures.

Wedding photo galler

Here’s where we all were a year ago. Steinhoff weddings are as unconventional as Steinhoff funerals. I’m happy to deliver these photos. Click on one to make it larger, then use the arrow keys to poke around.