55th Vandivort Reunion

When your family is small enough that we could hold our family reunion in a phone booth (for you young whippersnappers, go see an old Superman movie to see what a phone booth is), the Vandivort reunion made my head spin. Gosh, that sure is a lot of people.

Harriet Smith and Ron Stein

Harriet Smith, a regular reader, sent me an invitation to the 55th annual reunion of the Clyde and Julia Vandivort family to be held over the Fourth of July weekend. They were going to tour the old family home at 630 North Street, visit one of the old family farms and even have a paintball melee for the youngsters. At the last minute, though, Harriet sent out a message saying that the weather was too hot for the outdoor activities. They might have lots of members, she implied, but they didn’t want to lose any to the record-breaking heat wave.

I took lots of notes and even kept a digital tape recorder running for much of the visit, but I’m going to invoke the “Suzy Rule” and run mostly photos. (The Suzy Rule came about when Second Son Adam brought home his first date; I could tell that it was going to be E pluribus unum, so I told him that all subsequent girls would be called Suzy. Because of the high incidence of Julias in the extended Vandivort family, I modified it to be the “Julia Rule” today.)

I just couldn’t keep track of all the names, faces and stories. Sorry.

Ties to Cape

Paul Arthur Stein, a grandson of the Vandivorts, echoed the sentiments of many in saying that all of them have pieces of the family history.It was fun listening to the same account told in slightly different versions by different people.

When he was making the pilgrimages back to the home place, he and the other boys were exiled to the third floor where “it was really hot.”

Harriet made mention of the boys sneaking in beer and “having a gay old time.” Paul didn’t reference that. While the boys were sweltering on the third floor, the girls, she said, were in the carriage house “raising holy hell and having a wonderful time. Grandmother had lots of help and lots of patience.”

When Paul’s generation got older, they put the kids in the basement with a babysitter, games and a TV set so the adults could talk. Now, he said, THOSE kids are adults, the best of friends and come from all over the country to get together.

Owners opened house

The house stayed in the family until it was sold to a fraternity in the early 1970s. “Unfortunately,” said Harriet, “they just ruined it. We would come to town, drive by the house and cry.”

John Perry (no relation to the John Perrys in my family) and Steven Williams bought the house and have spent a lot of effort renovating it. The older family members could point out changes that had been made to the layout of the house, but they seemed to be happy with the job John and Steven have done.

With the exception of an apartment house on the east side, much of the neighborhood has remained the same, with some of the same neighbors. Half a block to the west is the Lamkin home where I photographed the children selling Kool-Aid

Vandivort Reunion Photo Gallery

Thanks to the family for letting me spend some time with them. You all have the same connection to Cape as I do. Even though we’re miles away from the place, it’s still close in our hearts. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

27 Replies to “55th Vandivort Reunion”

  1. I certainly remember the house. I have a question. Is the Paul Stein in the picture the grandson of the Stein family of the 1600 block of Themis St? I think it probably is.If so we used to play together when they visited their grandparents.

  2. How fortunate the Vandivorts are to have their family home so well preserved! Not many family homes recieve that care.

  3. Clyde Vandivort is in photo #7. So nice to see the house looking so well and to see the family continuing to gather.

  4. Cool hosue is that the same Vandivort as Walter Vandivort? I always wondered who lived in that house. There are seveal on the street that are interesting, tell us more!

    1. I’m going to give you a tentative “yes.” Harriet gave me a list of Central High School Vandivorts. He shows up as class of ’63.

      Here are some others:

      1958 Paul M. Vandivort Des Peres, Missouri
      1959 Martha Vandivort Haskett Boise, Idaho
      1961 Clyde A. Vandivort Kirkwood, Missouri
      1963 Walter D. Vandivort San Diego, California
      Rita Vandivort Warren Rockville, Maryland
      1979 Julia Bangert Kohlberg Chesterfield, Missouri
      1980 Karen Bangert Muir Cape Girardeau, Missouri

  5. So glad to know that this beautiful home has been rescued from that destructive fraternity and restored.

    Speaking of which, does anyone know the status/condition of the two gracious old homes on North Sprigg, between SEMO’s “main” campus and the Track & Field Complex? In the 1970’s, they belonged to the Shivelbine and Phalen families. I think a fraternity pretty much wrecked the Phalen’s house, but I can’t recall if it’s still standing or if the university had it razed.

  6. Thanks, Ken I remember the home as a passerbye. It is wonderful to hear that the Vandivorts have been able to continue their reunions. At one time in Cape I attended the Stone, Heimbaugh, Stroder, Hitt, Friend and Kight family reunions. The problem is that the older members passed away and no one wants to take the responsibility to organize the reunion. This Fall I am planning a reunion of six of us first cousins. I am calling it “The half dozen cousins Reunion”. Complete with tee-shirts and activities, it should be fun.

  7. We lived across the street from the Vandivort family for many years at 702 North Street and they were not just good neighbors, but also good people and friends. Other than Rita, the kids were older than we were, but I remember Clyde and Walter (we were of the few who shared the name) well. Our mom and dad spent many mornings having coffee in the Vandivort kitchen. I suspect they wanted to escape the six of us. In any event, the Lamkins send greetings and best wishes for another happy and successful Vandivort family reunion.

  8. Great to see the Lamkins at the 90th birthday celebration! It was a perfect mindshift to visiting the old homesite, a place of so very many memories. Lots of great stories told about the fourth generation inhabiting the basement, with the Lamkin babysitters!!

  9. It was indeed our “other” grandparents who lived on Themis. Paul would have been your playmate…..and I remember you too, Emily! Last night as we shot fireworks over the Mississippi River and sat on the stone wall looking at the magnificent bridge blazing with light in the July sky….I had a boulder-sized lump in my throat. I swear I could hear the strains of America The Beautiful playing in the distance. Cape will always be the setting of cherished memories of cousins, grandparents, and FUN!!!

  10. Harriet, I too remember you and Paul and another brother, Harry, I think. I have fond memories of when you would often spend much time in Cape during the summer. Thanks for responding to my query. We are currently at our cottage in northwestern Ontario where we spend most of the summer. Home is Alton, IL. We were recently in Cape of the Franklin School open house. My mother taught there with “Miss Kathryn”, you aunt I think. Many fond memories of Cape.

  11. It is so great to see so many replies. I am the person that has put together the reunion for the last several years. Reading the well wishes from everyone makes it worth all the effort. Melissa Lamkin was my babysitter for many years and is a huge part of my childhood reunion memories.

  12. Yes, Emily, that is me and hello to you. It is my brother Ron that you are thinking of as the third person in our family.

    I might add that the Cape Chamber of Commerce ought to set up a Family Reunion Promotion Department. Our reunion reliably brings anywhere from 85 to 110 each year to Cape — about 90 this year. That’s a nice little injection into the economy — you should see the family shoppers at the Mall each year as well as the spending at restaurants, hotels and Schnucks where we purchase food for the annual cook-out and the drink and munchies for the hospitality suite.

  13. I tried to post earlier but it doesn’t seem to have posted. I plan the Vandivort reunion and it is so incredibly special that we get together every year in Cape. The people in Cape that I work with are amazing. Melissa Lamkin babysat my brother and I for many years.

  14. I just completed a 10 hour drive bringing Dad to our family place in Michigan for the remainder of the summer and we somehow got on the subject of nicknames from his pals and other Cape Girardeau notables. Names like Droop, Mutt and Freck were some of the best, but they reminded me of an all-time favorite: Skinny. As in Skinny Vandivort. I never called him anything but “Mr.” of course, but that was one fine moniker.

  15. Valerie and Karen, Every 4th of July I think of all of you. I have many wonderful memories of all of you. I often wonder how your lives turned out. Karen told me that some of you live in Connecticut like me. Have a great reunion!

  16. Being back at 630 North Street was such a treat for all the Vandivorts, but especially for the “third” generation, the 20 grand children of Julia and Clyde Vandivort. We had wonderful times there when we were young. The house is full of great memories of love and fun and family. Thank you John and Steven for making the visit possible.

  17. Wow! So wonderful to see the old Vandivort House in beautiful repair once again! It broke my heart to drive by and see it in such disrepair. The Vandivort Family was so wise to buy the house back and keep it in the family for those memorable reunions. What a fabulous gift to have the family back home in the house where it all began. So good to see Clyde Vandivort’61,in the pictures. Every time I pass that house I always remember the time that Clyde, John Oliver, Bob Shirley and I think Allan Bellamy or Steve Rickard got together for a jazz session. I was amazed at how well they were able to play and I loved being in that old house that I had admired so many times from afar. I’ll never forget the smiling face of Clyde’s mom. Her face lit up and beamed all over with that wonderful smile. So, too, did the face of Libby Oliver, John’s dear mother. Just feel that I was blessed to have known these two sweet ladies and their terrific sons. Thanks for featuring this lovely old house and the sweet family that grew up within her walls. Are there any pictures of Paul and Julia Vandivort’s house just down the street? It too is one of Cape’s beautiful old Victorian houses.

  18. Just a note to everyone who came to our house sunday the july the 1 it was such a great treat to have everyone there everyone is always welcome to vcome by and vist hope to see everyone next year hope you will come back and a special thanks for the music box and the great pix you gave up again thank u feel free to call or vist anytime would love to share the house with anyone who is around for christmas to come see the home

  19. Looks like fabulous time! What a beautiful house. It is just timeless! A home full of memories and life!

  20. Melissa, Where in Ct do you live? I live outside of Hartford. I would love to see you! We had a meeting at the Drury Lodge this year and I was telling my husband all about our memories there. I also told him about the times that we packed as many kids as possible in to Rita’s station wagon (and bottomed out on Sprig street) on our way to something fun.

  21. I can’t believe I came across these wonderful photos this morning. I spent many days (and nights) in that home. The Vandivort family was my second family. Rita Derris Vandivort cared for me as if I were her own. I remember, as small children, Rita-Vandivort Warren and I rolling snowballs on the stone ledges of the grand old homes (Leming and Lamkin) on North Street while walking to Camous School. Many days we’d get home from school and there would be two wooden salad bowls full of chocolate chip cookies (the best recipe ever) and two tall glass of icy cold Sunny Hill Dairy milk waiting at the kitchen where we’d sit and do our homework.

    There used to be grand old sugar maple trees in the front yard (as well as beautiful magnolias) and in the fall you could find us playing in the leaves.

    The house had a radiator heating system with pipes running along the walls in a couple of rooms on the second floor. Rita Beth and I used to tap on the pipes at night time to send messages to one another from room-to-room.

    Rita used to pile Rita Beth and me. along with all our swimming gear, into her Chevy station wagon and drive us to the Oliver home or the Country Club every day in the summer to go swimming. We’d stay all day and drink our grape sodas and eat Payday candy bars while playing checkers and cards! Then swim some more.

    When we were in high school, Rita had moved her room into the basement. The cold concrete floors were covered with oriental rugs and the furniture was a wonderful mismatched collection of antiques that were delightfully comfortable. The old stone walled foundation was so solidly built; we could play Beatles albums as loud as we wanted and never disturb anyone. We’d sit for hours just talking the night away and listening to our favorite folk and rock music!

    I finally grew up and was engaged and of course, Rita gave me a bridesmaids luncheon in her beautiful home. The photos in my album show a grand old home, lovingly restored by Rita (after her kids were grown and gone) with the exqusite Vandivort antiques and, of course, those wonderful oriental rugs. Her extensive “Peanuts” (the Charles Schultz comic character)was there, too!

    I was included in many of those July family reunions through the years and yes, they were big, happy and wonderful! Thanks for bringing back the memories.

    1. Glad you found them. Thanks for sharing your memories.

      I’m staying in my brother’s house in St. Louis with a friend who is a native Floridan. I was explaining to her how radiators work, but I forgot to tell her about tapping out messages on them.

  22. I was in Cape on Sunday to visit with and have lunch with Dad. At his request we did the ‘brunch’ at the new Isle Casino after which we did a ‘drive-by’ of the old homestead. Both the Lamkin and Vandivort houses looked majestic to me, though while coming of age it was just home to us, wild as it was at times. As an aside, while the food at the casino was palatable and admitting that the gambling thing holds little allure for me, I found the place underwhelming–unless one has a yen for a lot of smoke and tattoos on a Sunday afternoon.

  23. For the eventual book – The Vandivort property included a large carriage house in which my parents and I were living at the time of the 1949 tornado. My mother’s letter regarding that event is included elsewhere, but just wanted to note that it was written in the above.

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