Mill Street Bridge

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970When 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

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The 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

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The 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

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The 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.

 

 

Bill Cosby in Concert

Bill Cosby Ohio University 02-09-1969SEMO Classmate, photo buddy and, eventually, best man, Andy McLean introduced me to Bill Cosby. Andy had every Cosby LP every pressed and had memorized every routine until he could do them better than Cosby.

So, when I had a chance to see Cosby in concert at Ohio University in 1969, I snagged two tickets for Fiance Lila and me. We had a front-row seat for his performance in the round (OK, it was in the square, but I didn’t do all that hot in geometry, so I didn’t quibble).

Unusual experience

Bill Cosby Ohio University 02-09-1969This was an unusual concert for me. Usually I’m so busy shooting the show from every angle, including the overhead catwalks, that the actual performance is a blur to me. Well, my pictures are sharp, but my memory of what the artist performed is fuzzy. This time, though, I enjoyed the performance as a civilian. I still shot pictures from my seat, but I got to enjoy the show.

Depending on your generation, you may remember Cosby as Fat Albert, Cliff Huxtable or the guy who pitched Jell-O, but he’ll always be Noah to me.

“Come around, Idiot, Come around”

Bill Cosby Ohio University 02-09-1969Cosby’s routine about driving a stick shift in San Fransisco resonated with me. See, Athens is said to be built on seven hills, and some of them are ungodly steep. Usually with a stop sign at the top of them.

I had never driven a manual transmission before, but I wanted a Volkswagen Squareback. I bought the car and trusted that Lila could teach me how to drive it. Trust me, if your girlfriend can teach you to drive a stick and still be willing to marry you, then you better snatch her up.

There was one killer hill (with a stop sign) on the way from the house to the office. She taught me the technique of pushing the clutch down with my left foot, putting my right foot on the gas, holding up on the emergency brake with my right hand, and frantically waving my left arm out the window while shouting, like Cosby, “Come around, Idiot, Come around.”

Did he cut it short?

Bill Cosby Concert Ohio University 02-09-1969I had a coworker on The OU Post who thought Cosby had cheated the audience by putting on a short show. If it WAS shorter than usual, the audience around me didn’t seem to mind.

Well, maybe Andy could have done it better, but I was pleased with the performance.

Other performances

I was telling someone the other day that I’m embarrassed to have shot a bunch of performances and paid so little attention to them that I don’t know if they were famous or not when I run across the negatives. Here are some I DO remember:

Bill Cosby photo gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Another Valentine’s Day

Ken and Lila Steinhoff picnic somewhere in Southern Ohio c 1970When I was living in Cape, I was a sucker for whatever new toy Nowell’s Camera would get in. I thought this half-frame camera was kind of neat. It was called a half-frame because it took two photos on a normal 35-mm frame of film.

The good news is that you got twice as many photos per roll as a normal 35mm camera; the bad news is that you also got half the quality. Because of that, I hardly ever used it. If I was going to shoot something I cared about, I’d just as soon use a “real” camera.

Still, it was good for goofing around with. Based on other photos taken when my muttonchops were in that state of growth, I’d say this picnic was about 1970ish. It was chilly enough that I was wearing an old corduroy jacket I picked up at a charity sale held every year when the students left stuff behind in the dorms. It wasn’t all that warm, but I wore it everywhere.

Wife Lila is cute as bug

Ken and Lila Steinhoff picnic somewhere in Southern Ohio c 1970She’s warm enough in her sweater that she can leave her jacket open. Click on the photos to make them larger.

Fishing for fun, not food

Ken and Lila Steinhoff picnic somewhere in Southern Ohio c 1970

Buddy, boss and fellow Athens Messenger photographer Bob Rogers lived out in the country (you didn’t have to go very far out of Athens proper to be in the country) in a house with a pond in the back. I’d keep my fishing equipment on his porch and sneak off on a slow day to see if anything was biting. I’d park close enough to the pond to hear the police calls on my scanner so I could pretend to be working. If I got lucky, I’d leave the string in the water and a note telling Bob he was having fish for supper. This looks too big to have been Bob’s pond.

I’m wearing a pair of  “fur”-like lined boots that I probably bought for all of  about $12. I doubt that any sheep or other animals were harmed in the making of the footwear lining. They WERE warm and relatively waterproof. I wore them until the smell was so bad that flowers would wilt when I walked by. Plastic flowers.

How do you recycle something like that? Easy, I gave them to Brother David, who wore them for who knows how many years out in Oklahoma. If I ever read some scientific study that attributes Oklahomans’  lack of smell sensitivity to some kind of genetic anomaly, I’m going to have to speak up and tell ’em about David and my boots.

Beagle bait

Ken and Lila Steinhoff picnic somewhere in Southern Ohio c 1970If there’s a beagle anywhere within miles of Wife Lila, they’ll make a beeline for her.

Don’t know what we had

Ken and Lila Steinhoff picnic somewhere in Southern Ohio c 1970I tried to blow up the picture to see what we had on our picnic, but I couldn’t make out much. It looks like we had a glass bottle containing some kind of soft drink. I suspect that the beagle wound up with as much of our lunch as we did.

Best of cars, worst of cars

Ken and Lila Steinhoff picnic somewhere in Southern Ohio c 1970

I bought this 1969 Volkswagen Squareback before I even tried to drive a stick shift. Lila had the task of teaching me how to shift gears on Athens’ steep hills. It was a long time before I could get away from having to keep one hand on the wheel and one hand on the emergency brake when I got stopped at the top of a hill. I learned very quickly where Bill Cosby’s “Go Around, Idiot, Go Around” bit came from.

It was a lemon from the time I drove it brand-new off the dealer’s lot and had it run out of gas two blocks away. We took it on a trip to Mexico. Not far out of Athens, I started smelling gas. Stopped at a service station where I was told the gas line had come loose in the back of the car (where the engine lived). Got down the road a bit and smelled gas again. The gas line was pulled loose from the tank (which was in the front of the car). Somebody had skimped on the amount of hose they had installed.

Air-cooled engine wasn’t

One night coming back from Columbus, we stopped for one of the red lights in Logan. The tiny town might not have had much, but it had lots of traffic lights, all synched to make you stop for each one. Apparently the brakes had been adjusted too tightly and were dragging. So long as I was cranking at highway speeds, the wheels would turn. When I slowed down for the light, they locked up solid. We had to wait by the side of the road for about an hour until they cooled down enough to release.

The biggest and baddest defect was that the air louvers that were designed to blow air back through the air-cooled engine were installed backward, causing them to suck instead of blow. I ended up selling the car with the engine disassembled and dwelling in a cardboard box.

It was a fun car to drive, though, and it was a nice small stationwagon-type vehicle. Too bad it was mechanically unsound and poorly put together. I’ll never forget those VW heaters. They depending on engine revs to blow the hot air. If you were in fourth to make time, your engine was turning over too slowly to produce heat. If you dropped down to third for heat, then you were over-revving the engine. You had to accept the fact that your carpet would turn to ice in about November and stay frozen until after the spring thaw.

A Valentine’s Day apart

I’m in Missouri and she’s in Florida for this Valentine’s Day. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about her. In my mind, she’s still the pig-tailed girl on the picnic. Then I look in the mirror and think, “What’s that cute thing doing hanging out with an old coot?”