While I was going through old files at Mother’s house, I ran across this deposit slip from December 26, 1963. I thought of it with Labor Day coming up.
It tells a number of stories
I was paid slightly under thirty bucks a week from SKJ – Steinhoff, Kirkwood & Joiner. Dad put me to work as a laborer one summer mostly to show me why I wouldn’t want to go into the construction business. It was the only time from age 12 until I retired from The Palm Beach Post in 2008 that I wasn’t employed by a paper in some capacity or another.
Even then, I had two deposits for photos: $5 from The Missourian, and $1.90 from the Board of Education (I don’t have a clue where that odd amount came from).
Another guess is that Dad must have leaned on me to cash all my summer checks before the end of the year so he could close out his books. As a kid with few expenses, I drove the poor accountant at The Missourian crazy because I wouldn’t cash my checks for weeks. This was the last time in my life I was able to cause that problem.
When I’m not thinking about Cape, I hang out on the You Know You’re from Athens, Ohio, If… Facebook page. Folks there post memories of things I shot working for The Athens Messenger in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Someone brought up the old Mill Street Bridge this week.
This is a photo I took of the bridge the day it was destroyed on August 25, 1970, because the river was being relocated as part of a flood control project.
The bridge went splash close to deadline, so I rushed this photo in, only to be told, “Oh, I have that dummied in as a vertical. It’s too late to change, so go back and find a vertical.”
I told the editor to let me have his seat. I laid out the front page to give myself a nice horizontal ride, rewrote a couple of headlines, and said, “This’ll work.” That’s when I appreciated all the pages Missourian editor John Blue let me lay out and the hundreds of headlines I had written.
The biggest lemon in the world
The vehicle on the left is my 1969 VW Squareback, the biggest lemon ever to be squeezed out of Germany. I loved the car, but it loved the repair shop more. I ended up selling it with the engine in a cardboard box.
Wife Lila and I lived in a basement apartment a few blocks from the bridge and the river. The landlord showed us a big valve they’d have to close if the river got high; otherwise, we were going to find ourselves wading in sewage.
Hocking River gauge
The little square concrete structure on the far left is the river gauge. It was mentioned in a 1916 Water-Supply Paper talking about the Hocking River Basin. It was located “at a single span highway bridge at Mill Street, about three-fourths mile from business district of Athens, Athens County.” The left bank, it said, overflows at gage (their spelling) height 17 feet and the water passes around the bridge. The study noted there were ruins of an old mill dam 300 feet downstream.
Bridge was cut apart
The horizontal members of the bridge were cut, leaving only the sides and bed behind. I don’t recall what actually brought the bridge down. The crane has been moved well back, and I don’t see the guy with the cutting torch in the final photos.
I’m pretty sure they didn’t use dynamite, like Dad did with a bridge over the Black River in Wayne county, Missouri. In his case, he had to drop the bridge straight down to keep it from damaging the new bridge next to it on one side and a bunch of phone lines on the other. The blast part went great, but cutting it apart like these guys are doing went not so well. You can see a video of it here.
Bridge demo gallery
Here’s a collection of photos of the bridge’s final moments. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the images.
You couldn’t beat Saturday’s March weather: winds were calm, skies were blue, temps were in the mid-60s. I decided to take advantage of it. I spent some time at Salem Cemetery, then made a quick pass through Dutchtown, and updated my old pictures of the Allenville railroad bridge. You’ll see those later.
By the time I got through with the bridge, the sun was about to dip below the horizon and the temps were dipping just about as fast. I stuck my camera in the car and was just getting in when I looked up, probably to keep from bumping my folically-challenged head on the doorframe.
These utility lines caught my eye. I was going to keep getting into the car, then my old rule kicked in: shoot it when you see it.
A view down Hwy N
This is what you saw if you looked down Hwy N instead of up in the air. Around that curve, headed to Delta, is where one of Southeast Missouri’s unsolved murders occurred.
On July 3, 1954, Bonnie Huffman’s 1938 Ford was found parked in the middle of this road. Sixty hours later, the body of the pretty, young schoolteacher was found in a ditch nearby. Her neck was broken, and the 100-plus-degree summer temperatures had caused advanced decomposition.
Over the years, countless theories have been advanced, leads followed and suspects interviewed, all to no avail. John Blue, a reporter at the time, covered the story from the start and became obsessed with the case. When he was editor of The Missourian, he kept the story alive.
Missourian front page
This is the original story on the July 6, 1954, front page. The timing of the story was unfortunate for the paper: July 4 was a Sunday, when the paper didn’t publish, and Monday was a holiday. That meant the story didn’t break until Tuesday.
I’ve been dragging my feet putting this post up, because I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t feel more emotion at my visit to the Central High School Gymnasium Saturday, the last public viewing before it’s torn down sometime during this month and March.
Here, by the way is a panorama shot from the top of the south bleachers looking to the north. Click on it to make it larger.
Maybe I didn’t connect because all of the spirit signs, the Tiger logos, the baseball brag board and the Alma Mater had all been removed from the walls. My knees didn’t like the bleachers that we were made to run up and down in P.E.
It was the noise that was missing
It was too quiet. There were no basketballs bouncing off the shiny floor. No coaches blowing their whistles and bellowing at lackadaisical students like me. There was no hollering nor the SPLAT! of one of those red rubber dodgeballs leaving an equally red mark on some slow-to-move freshman.
No fond memories
I can’t think of any fond memories I had about that room. I hated physical education class with a purple passion. I had neither the skills nor the desire to play sports.
I attended tens of dances and proms, but, with few exceptions, my job was to wait until this queen or that queen was crowned, then head home to process my film for The Missourian, The Tiger or The Girardot.
First high school girlfriend Shari found out I wasn’t fibbing when I told her I didn’t know how to dance, and last high school girlfriend Wife Lila will confirm that I never got any better.
I thought the showers were bigger
When I journeyed to the locker room and showers, I was astounded at how small the shower room was. It’s hard to believe that you could cram a dozen or more guys in there at one time, even considering that I was half the size I am today.
I stand by a description I wrote in 2013: “We guys were herded into gang showers where earsplitting hoots and hollers echoed off the tile walls like a bad prison movie. At least once during this session (which I tried to complete as quickly as possible), there would be something that sounded like a space shuttle lifting off, followed by a sulfurous cloud of methane gas that rolled off the tiles in a green cloud, prompting another Neanderthal to try to best the earlier contribution.”
If the dodgeballs went “SPLAT!” the snapping of wet towels sounded like a wild bunch of cowboys trying to get the herd moving by cracking their bullwhips.
Bleacher and floor signup sheet
There was a signup sheet near the entrance where people could leave their names if they were interested in getting pieces of the bleachers or floor when the building is being torn down. I talked with Coach Terry Kitchen Monday to get details, but he said the administration hadn’t made a decision yet on what will happen with the salvage. He asked me to check back later this week to see what was going to happen. When I hear, I’ll post an update.
I have to admit I wouldn’t mind having a chunk of bleacher.
A moment with Terry Crass
On my way out, I stopped to chat with a man wearing an orange shirt. It turned out to be Terry Crass, probably one of the nicest guys who ever walked the halls of Central High School. As team manager of just about every sport except Chess, he kept players patched up, and he’s doing much the same work today at the Veterans Home.
After a few minutes of chit-chat, Terry said, “On the afternoon JFK got killed, I was in Mr. Ford’s algebra class. The weather was bad. It was a lousy-looking day. Mr. Wilferth came on the PA and said the president had been shot. We didn’t know anything.
“The bell rings and I hit out to the study hall. Nobody was saying anything. Everybody was crying. There was a big black and white TV in there. That’s when Walter Cronkite looked up at the clock over his shoulder and said, “From Dallas, Texas, the FLASH, apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.” [I inserted the actual quote, but Terry pretty much nailed it from memory.]
I had a flashback
I flashed back to another TV on that day. One that was sitting in the gym with shocked students staring at it. “All you could hear was breathing,” I told The Missourian when I rushed my photo to the paper to make my first EXTRA edition.
Suddenly, I must have swallowed a marble because I couldn’t say anything, and there was a lot of dust in the air that caused my eyes to water.
I guess I DID leave a little piece of myself in that old gym.
Last Day photo gallery
Here are some random photos of folks saying goodbye to the old building. Click on any picture to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.