Cape’s Not a Town; It’s the Twilight Zone

My friend, Jan Norris, the former food editor of The Palm Beach Post and a fellow blogger, asked me to look up a local artist, Brad Elfrink, who produces beautiful hand-crafted buttons and jewelry. Jan’s a button collector, who writes for other collectors.

Brad’s a a relatively young guy originally from Marble Hill who has developed a love for Cape Girardeau’s buildings and people. I was describing a couple of landmarks I had been searching for over the weekend. “Want to see some pieces of them?” he asked, showing me some remnants he had saved from the bulldozer.

I’ll be writing about Brad and his finds later.

When I got back into the car, I called Jan and said, “Most places have six degrees of separation. Cape reduces it to two.”

It was still early, so I decided to shoot some other buildings I remembered in and around the 1600 block of Independence.

Old Fire Station Number Two

We used to go there on grade school field trips. It looks like it might have had two bays in the old days.

Pak-a-Snak, an early convenience store

Just east of the fire station, on the same side of the street, was the Pak-a-Snak. A Missourian story Aug. 17, 1955, called it the first drive-in, cash and carry market of its kind in Cape. We’d call it a convenience store today.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Farrow were the first owners. They sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Porter Stubbs in 1955. The store hours – shocking – were 8 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. every day including – double shocking – Sundays and holidays.

A trip to the Twilight Zone

I wanted a photo of the old Donut Drive-in, but I wasn’t exactly sure which shop it was in. I heard music coming from a small bar a couple of doors down, so I figured somebody there might be able to help me out.

I don’t spend a whole lot of time in bars. I HAVE had occasion to step into one from time to time when I’m riding my bicycle. It doesn’t matter if it’s a redneck bar, a biker bar or just a coffee shop full of regulars, as soon as you step through the door wearing bike shorts and a glow-in-the-dark jersey, conversation stops and all eyes focus on you.

How to survive wearing Lycra

At that point, I’ve found your odds of survival go up if you glance around the room, pause a couple of beats and then say in a loud voice, “Y’all sure do dress funny around here.” Before long, people are asking how far you’ve come, how far are you going, what have you seen along the way, and are offering to buy you drinks or a meal.

There was a man holding a beer in the doorway. “Come on in. There’s plenty of room,” he said with a smile.

“You’ve got enough gray hair that you can probably help me,” I said, handing him a business card.

“Are you Kenny Steinhoff?”

I’ve been running from that nickname since 1967, but I had to admit that – in Cape – I was “Kenny Steinhoff.”

“I’m Jerry Schweain,” he said, extending his hand and smiling wider.

Turns out he was a truck-driving friend and former neighbor of my brother-in-law, John Perry. He posed with a friendly woman from behind the bar, then said, “I’ve got something to show you that you probably never thought you’d see again.”

He reached for his wallet, fumbled around for a bit, then pulled out a worn and faded Palm Beach Post-Times business card with my home phone number scrawled on it. “You told me to give you a call if I ever got down to your neck of the woods. I never got closer than around Tampa, so I never called you.”

I gave him that card in 1977 or 1978.

Only in Cape Girardeau would someone hold onto your business card for 30-plus years and then run into you in a neighborhood bar 1,100 miles from where you live.

Donut Drive-in

With Jerry’s help, I was able to locate the Donut Drive-in. The building still had the serving windows. It was a big deal to pull up to the window on Sunday morning on the way home from church to pick up some fresh donuts or Long Johns,  jelly-filled donut pastries  so sweet they’d find a cavity faster than a dentist.

Earl Kirchoff opened the doughnut stand in 1952. The ad in the 1964 Girardot had the slogan “Tote a Poke Home.”

42 Replies to “Cape’s Not a Town; It’s the Twilight Zone”

  1. I remember the pak-A-Snak. As I recall, the front was all big garage doors and they were all opened each day. Just a wide open concept.

    I think the drive in donut place was owned by
    Barb Howard Johnson’s parents. Classmate 1966.

  2. The “Pak a Snak” and “Snappy Sak It” on 61 north of Wimpy’s were way of head of their time. My oldest Daughter Stacy went o preschool in the same building above the Pak-a-Snak. I drove her to school most mornings and because the entrance was on the street above and behind the Pak-a-Snak, I got a good look at “Long View” a lot. My Daughter will not eat Macaroni and Cheese to this day because the way the school made it for lunch everyday, at least according to her.

    The drive in donut shop was the Dixie Creame Donut Shop and was owned at a time my Barbara Howard’s (Class of 66”) mom and dad. The best thing of the Menus was Kettle Tarts! These were a mass of dount Dough with center filled with with a giant blob of jelly…oh my! I would ride my bike or run from the pool at Capaha Park in the mornings and buy a dozen for all the pool rats that were teaching lessons or cleaning up.
    I still can remember biting into a wonderful Kettle tart and tasting the warm Dough and Apricot jelly running down my face. Wow! A dozen would feed about 3 or 4 of us.
    I am pretty sure the FDA has banned Kettle Tarts from being produced in the western hemisphere.

    The bar you were in was probably the old Pink Pony…the first place in Cape where you could get a mixed drink, at least legally! I know nothing of this place and have never been in there. ….by the way, have they taken down my picture behind the bar of banned patron’s yet?

    Thanks for all you do in making our past lives come around a little more for visit, and a reminder of where we came from and how we got here.

    1. Terry,

      I don’t think it’s the Pink Pony. When Jerry, the guy who held on to my business card all these years, was pointing out landmarks, I believe he said the Pony was different than the bar we were in.

      You’re still well remembered in Cape. Remembered so well, in fact, that your picture is displayed with the international slash mark that means NO on it right next to the Welcome to Cape Girardeau sign.

      1. Tell you about a story about the pink pony and fire station # 2. One night around 1 am after closing of the pink pony, we heard a commotion on the fire phone that connects station 2 directly to station # 1 dispatcher. We were in the bed room, finally the captain called the dispatcher and asked what he wanted. The dispatcher said some one from station 2 keeps calling for a cab. The captain finally got up to check out the station. He found a guy who came from the pink pony and got into the station was calling on the fire phone for a cab. He was under the weather and didn’t even know where he was. There was 2 of these in the station one in the kitchen and the other in the bed room.

  3. I have been reading about all the neighborhood groceries in the 60’s Tigers newsletters, and today you hit my neighborhood. I lived three doors down at 1710 Independence, and frequented the fire station, Pak a Snak, and the Donut Drive-In on a regular basis. When I was in grade school my mom would send me to Pak a Snak for lunch meat. She always had specific instructions about how many slices (3-6) and what brand of a particular meat to buy. I was to always purchase Mayrose bologna because the other brands contained too much garlic. I guess mom was a fat and garlic connoisseur.

    Because I passed by the fire station so often, the firemen knew me and allowed me to wander in and look at the trucks. I followed a path through the “woods” on Sunset, if I wanted to take the long route. It circled the fire station and came out at the store. The doors to the truck bays were open in good weather, and the men would sit outside and watch the traffic on Independence. Remember we didn’t have air conditioning in the early 50’s.

    For me, the Donut Drive-In was another Lewis family icon. Freda Howard was a sister to the Lewis brothers who owned and operated Wimpy’s. The two years I attended junior high at Schultz were the only years I rode the bus to school. When Barb Howard Johnson, who actually lived next door to Schultz School, rode to the donut shop after school, we would cross the street, go in the side door, and be allowed to eat whatever we wanted! LIG!!! I was always amazed at the huge slabs of dough being cut into donuts and the size of the fryers. Often Mrs. Howard would be glazing racks of fresh donuts when we arrived. Something I always crave in the fall is a spice donut. They were a seasonal favorite topped with either a caramel or orange frosting and some sort of crunchy bits. Those who tout the Krispy K. or Dunkin D’s never had the gastronomic experience of eating the “real thing”—-i.e. a Dixie Cream Donut.

  4. The famous Donut Drive-in was a logistcal nitemare. A large semi circle of cars started in the middle of Independance and inched up to the right serving window. If line too long (always) you could park any where (sometimes @ Pak-a-snack) and walk through the cars to the left serving window. With the heavenly smells released every time the windows opened – there were no short tempers – just friendly conversation. Long-Johns ruled our house every Sunday morning. All of the Brune-Beer-guts started out as Long-John Jelly-bellys. Rumor has it that is how Mike “Belly” Long built his famous phasic – on LJs. It worked out well for the Brunes as we got all his hand-me-down cloths. They cycled from Greg through Brad and Scott and ended with Lance (slightly worse for the wear)! Long-Johns clad the Brune Boys!

    1. I had an experience when I was in high school in the mid 90s. I was leaving Dixie Cream and had to wait to pull on to Independence cuz there was a Cape PD car coming down the road with lights and sirens on. Next thing I know he pulls into the lot gets in line and shuts them off. I guess he had a doughnut emergency. Lol

  5. My friend worked at the Donut Drive-in. I used to go in before she got off to pick her up so we could party and she would fill me up with donuts. I ate so many of them that I got founded on donuts and wouldn’t eat them for years. Too bad I switched back to eating donuts as Im sure it helped my middle aged spread. I also remember the traffic tie-up on Independence St waiting to get to the drive in window.

  6. The Donut Drive-in was originally owned by the Howards. Mrs Howard is a sister to the Lewis brothers who owned Wimpy’s. Guess the family covered you for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  7. Oh my gosh! Jelly Long Johns!!! I have scoured bakeries all over the Southeast looking for them. The bakers look at me and say, “What?” I even described them to the bakery manager at Ingles Supermarket and she said there’s no way they could make me a special order of them. Please tell me we can get some when we go to Cape for the 1960 50th Reunion in October. This area was also my neighborhood growing up . . . the 1700 block of Whitener Street. I wonder how many times I was sent to the Pak-a-Snak to buy soup, bread, whatever we forgot to get. The Donut Drive-In was heaven and the smells! My favorite treat from there was the peach fried pies. To die for!

  8. I was out of town and couldn’t comment on your Molly Kester’s place but I also lived on Flint Hill and my Mother would send me down to Mollies to bring home Pickle Loaf lunch meat for a special treat every now and then. My Grandmother would have me get her a container of Four Roses ice cream. I couldn’t dally but had to hurry to get it home before it melted too much.

  9. fire house #2 had 2 bays for the two fire trucks. I worked at this station for 20 years until it closed around 1990 when the new station opened up. this was a very active block at that time.

    Pak a snak was our lunch and dessert was Donut drive in…

  10. As for the guy who kept your card for Thirty years…

    Who doesn’t… look in your wallet!

    And these were SOME donuts,
    and you hit a home run with this one too!

    I guess more people than “little ole me” used to get Donuts there an loved the Dixie Creame taste!
    Fried Peach pies…and Kettle Tarts and Jelly Filled Long Johns…hey you don’t get much better than that…and note there is NO WHERE in the world where you can get these now!

    We may have all lived in the Twilight zone, but it was pretty dang good part of the Twilight zone.

  11. I can remember going to the Pak A Snak many years ago while i was in High School and my ex wife used to work at the Donut Drive in. Those were the best donuts in town. I’d like to have some now, it is a lot of tasty memories LOL!!!!

  12. Wow! My grandmother or aunt would stop with me at Pak-a-Snak to get me some type of treat and since I grew up on Dorothy St out Hopper Rd, summertime would find us kids making the relatively short trek to Snappy Sak It to get those candy cigarettes, licorice, and wax bottles of fruit flavored liquids. Sundays were almost always punctuated with a stop at Donut Drive-In. In all these years, the only donuts that match my memories of how good those were are the ones that could be had here in Kansas City at Lamar’s. Thanks again for another trip down memory lane!

  13. I had a friend who worked at the donut drive-in during high school. We would stop by to see him and get a fresh out of the fryer cinnamon bun and chocolate milk. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm good. As a young boy, I would spend some summer nights watching TV at the fire station, eating popcorn and a cold Pepsi with the firemen. I lived two blocks away.

  14. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  15. My Dad was a firefighter and captain at Station #2 on Independence Street, as well as working at the other 3 stations from time to time. I frequented all of them. But it was at this station where I broke the bay door. See the one missing in the picture? My sister, Kathy, and I were there when the bell went off. The guys had been preparing their noon meal, so they shut down the stove on their way out of the kitchen. Dad hollered at me to close the bay door behind them. I do not know why he said that. I yanked on the chain as I had seen the men do many times. The complete chain fell to the floor. Kathy and I hustled out of there. When the guys returned to the station, they all assumed Big Red (one of the firemen) had pulled too hard and had done the damage. I had to fess up. Actually, I do not know why there is something different in place of that door. Nothing to do with me, I am sure. I think I am sure.

  16. I was pleasantly surprised to see all the great memories of Donut Drive-In. My parents bought the business in the mid 80’s after the Howards retired. They too had fond memories growing up in Cape and having those delish donuts. They continued the tradition using the original recipes. My parents both graduated frim Cape Central, you might have known them. Their names were Eugene (Gene) York and Karen (Sitze) York

  17. i left cape in 1960 but still call it home. i knew some of you guys as I lived at 1734 Independance and my grandparents at 1721 Whitener. i recall a red headed clerk at the pak a snack named linda that was murdered in the late 50’s….have thought about the incident many times over the years as I went the back way to that store with my sisters and cousin almost every day, it was one of those hush hush things that parents didnt talk about back then. does anyone else recall the incident? I also remember my uncle getting in trouble by visiting The Pink Pony 🙂 I would LOVE to share emories with you folks-please email me at I remember Sally \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

  18. Houch’s Donuts at 1001 N. Kingshighway in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, has jelly filled long johns. They are not the same as the Dixie Cream, but still are very good. They are located at the corner of North Kingshighway and Hopper Road in the former Kentucky Fried Chicken brick building. You have to ask for them since they most likely sell custard filled long johns there.

  19. Omg. Somehow I found this website blog and glad I did!

    When I was growing up on Lombardo in the 1960’s, I remember Snappy Sak It on N. Kingshighway and the many walking trips my sisters and I made there. The selection of candy was heavenly! I also remember it was run by a sweet old couple whose names I could not remember nor the true name of the store. Now I know the store name, but not the old couple. Mentioned here was Mr. and Mrs. Charles Farrow who owned Pak A Snak on Independence (which I remember, too.) So my question is: Did they also own Snappy Sak It?

    Because whomever ran Snappy Sak It were like surrogate grandparents to me, it seems. And although I was very young, that name did ring a bell or two.

    Loved reading all the trips down memory lane here, Ken.

    Thank you.

  20. (All CG CHS ’66)Sally Bierbaum Dirks’ comments bring back so many memories. During part of high school, I lived further down the 1700 block of independence. Pam Burkhimer Hudson lived on the same block of Whitener. The alley between was my highway. Barb Howard Johnson was part of the gang. The parents of all three were just terrific–so very kind.

  21. When Joni Tickel attended CG CHS, Class of 66, didn’t her father have some kind of insurance office in the 1700 block of Independence? I was thinking it was on the Snappy Sak side of the street.

  22. Yes you are correct Mrs Neumeyer! William “Bill” Tickel did have an Insurance office in the building just West of the Pack-A-Snak building. His business and office were eventually acquired by Charlie Webber.

    Directly across the street – and two doors down from the Donut Drive-In – was the BRUNE’S CLEANERS Pick-Up & Delivery outlet. Brune’s Cleaners & Furriers (early 1950s – mid 1960s) was located at 212 N Main – which later became the License Bureau Office, and is now the Johnson & Schneider Law offices.

  23. Ken, the barber shop to which you are referring was owned by my Daddy, Merrell Hobbs, but everyone knew him by Hobbs or his nickname of “Fat.” How neat to know you (whose articles I read every week) have one of the chairs from his shop in your home. The shop was there for quite a few years, re-locating from Broadway between Margraff Jewelers and the Idan-Ha Hotel and again re-located for the final time to the Town Plaza Shopping Center when it was built. I remember well the Pack-A-Snak, Donut Drive-In, Brune’s Cleaners, the Pink Pony and the insurance office as most of the men of those businesses were clients of Daddy’s.

    1. hi hilda….i remember you….my first job as a age 19 was for ur dad at the plaza shop…i cant remember if i stated in dec of 1963 or jan 1964….the five barbers…harlan weber…kenny green…ray skinner…im wade gregg dyer and merrell hobbs

  24. Ken,
    The Bock family drove to the Donut Drive-In on Independence STreet on a regular basis…still haven’t
    found donuts as good as those tasted.
    Have you received copy of my book “Around the Town
    of Cape Girardeau in Eighty Years” from Southeast
    University Regional History Dept.? I requested the
    director send you one since you are featured in the
    “Photographers on Parade” section and you gave permission to use my photograph on the back cover.
    The book is also available on (Jo Ann)

    1. Yes, my copy arrived a few days ago. I set it aside to read and review. Now that I’ve read the kind words you wrote about me, I guess I’d better get on the ball.

      You were smart not to include an index. I read some advice an author got on how to have a best-selling in Washington: write a long, dull book without an index, then send notes to all your friends, “I hope you don’t mind what I wrote about you.”

  25. I used to walk by these everyday on my way to the Jr High and the High School. A couple of times the firemen turned on the sirens right when I was walking by and scared the bejesus out of me.

  26. I remember riding my gold Schwinn Stingray bike from my house at S. Henderson and Meriwether to Franklin School, then when school was over, riding over to the Pak-a-Snak to spend almost my entire allowance on a whole box of Topps baseball cards (5 cents/pack with bubble gum included). That bike was so cool! I got it one Christmas, and remember that it cost $50, which was an enormous amount back in the day. Thanks for the memory.

  27. Our Father would take us t get donuts. I have not found any donuts that can be compared to Dixie Creme. There wasn’t a one that didn’t melt n your mouth/ You could only eat a couple of the french as they were so rich. I was going to Central and we would go to Pack-a-Snak and get a big bottle of pepsi for dime I believe it was. Then we would go across the street and get a dozen of day old glazed donuts for a quarter. That was our lunch. Didn’t help having gym class right after lunch. My mouth waters just thinking about them. sure would like to have some more.

  28. Ken, the far right end of the ground floor of the Pack-a-snak used to be a very small restaurant. No idea what the name was, but when I was in fifth and sixth grade around the corner at Franklin school, my folks would occasionally let me walk over there to have lunch. As I recall, they had really excellent ham and beans.

  29. My grandparents Charles and Ruby Farrow owned the snack store-when they sold it they must’ve bought another one to run, as I remember visiting them there(along with all that vintage candy!) when I was a toddler in the 60s. 1955 was the year my parents were married, so I don’t remember the original location! Very cool.

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