Lily Pond Behind Fire Dept. No. 1

I must have been about five or six when this photo was taken behind Fire Dept. No. 1 at Frederick and Independence. That would have made it about 1952 or 53. I’m standing on the stone and concrete bridge over a fountain or lily pond.

Firefighters were different then

First off, they were firemen. Women weren’t added into the mix until decades later. Secondly, the old stereotype of firemen sitting around waiting for the alarm bell to ring was probably true. These guys didn’t do hazmat drills, run medical calls or worry about much other than squirting wet stuff on red stuff.

That’s not to knock what they did when the bell DID go off. I’ve always said that I didn’t care if a firefighter spent his or her whole career playing checkers. The first time they went running into a smoking building other folks were running out of, they earned every penny they’d been paid. Burning buildings are scary places.

Departments didn’t have fancy breathing gear. In fact, REAL firemen were proud of how much smoke they could suck and who could hawk up the biggest globule of black soot when the flames were out.

Marker dates back to 1944

I’m assuming this overgrown marker listing everyone in the department goes back to when the mini-park was dedicated. It says June 1944 on it.

Some things remain the same

Cape firefighters have moved on to fancier digs, better training, more sophisticated equipment and more complicated duties. Putting water on fires is probably the smallest percentage of what they do.

The old Fire Dept. No. 1 building has been converted into the Cape River Heritage Museum.

The old lily pond and bridge are still there, looking much like they did when I was wearing my shorts and Buster Brown shoes. I wish I had held up as well as the little park. Note the size of the tree that isn’t even in the old photos.

30 Replies to “Lily Pond Behind Fire Dept. No. 1”

  1. I never even knew there was a lily pond behind that building. I’ll have to stop by there one day.

    Thanks, Ken

  2. Did not know that either, or it just never stuck with me. I do remember the old police station being a church. I used to have some of the old light fixtures out of that building. But that’s another story for another day.

  3. We used to play there when we were little, Jim West, Mike Randal and others. We had a lot of fun trying to catch the gold fish and then the Firemen would yell at us and make us leave. We then “grew up” and went to the Bus station next door and played the pinball machines for a number of years. I remember my brother Charles and Jimmy Vogelsang teaching me to ride a bicycle. I was doing well so they said lets ride down to the Bus station and play the pinball machines. Well I didn’t know that the bike they had put me on didn’t have any brakes, We went down Fredrick St from Meriwether, there is a hill when you reach Independence St, I flew through the intersections just missing a car and the only way to stop the bike was to hit the large pole that served as the sign for the Bus station. That was a sudden jolt. We sure had fun as kids even if your brother and his friends tried to kill you a couple of times.

  4. I remember my Dad used to have Rabies Clinics there every year and when I got old enough, I would help him by writing the rabies certificate.

  5. Eggimann’s feed store was just east, & especially comes to mind in the Spring! Dad & Mom would go get baby chicks or rabbits that we kids associated with Easter but they purchased to feed & butcher for the table! Seven kids to feed made it a necessity, I’m sure. They had to wait until after our bedtime & process them at night to keep from traumatizing us! I learned to count from trying to keep tabs on the number of Easter pets left in the hutches & pen!

    The dog pound was close by also & one of our best pets ever, Pug, adopted our family there! She grew up with me & my younger brother! Thanks for once again bringing those ancient archives of my mind to the forefront!!!

  6. Use to walk by there every day on my way home from Lorimier school. The jail was upstairs and that really fascinated me…but I was more interested in the Central Inn across the street!!

  7. ken,

    the museum is in the process of restoring the pond. the pictures are great and i will be taking them to the next board meeting.
    do you know anything, about the badges, in the concrete, by the light pole? If so
    please let me know.

  8. Ken,
    As many times as I have been by that building, I am ashamed to say that I never knew that bridge and pond area existed!!! Thank you again for operating as our eyes to show us things that we do not see through our own.

    I do remember the feed store and their selling bunnies and chicks at Easter that had been dyed in pretty pastel colors. That surely is outlawed today as I would expect the dyes would be hazardous to the health of the animals.

  9. Loved the pictures of the fish pond and old fire house.My aunts used to take me down there all the time.We lived at 515 Themis St. just behind the firestation and dairy. Our route was
    pound and firemen, who were extra nice and always took time to talk, across the street to the hatchery,to see the chicks, back across the st. to the dairy for an icecream, and back for a nap. Big trip for a three or four year old. Great memories. Thanks so much for enriching our lives. Your talents in photography did not surprise me , your skill as a journalist is something I had not considered. Please keep it up.Thanks again. Jerrette

  10. Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Ken. My siblings and I practically grew up in Fire Station #1, as well as all 4 stations. We spent more time at # 1 because we would often stop by after school during the years we attended Lorimier Elemntary. Our dad, W.D.(Dub)Welker joined the fire department in 1951. He was made captain in 1953, and remained so until he retired in 1983.
    The lily pond and the old bus station brings back a lot of memories. OMG,look at those cars in the background… of the fire station’s parking lot. One of them could have been ours!! I also remember Jesse James and Jimmy West in that neighborhood. We were in same class at school. Dad chuckled when I told him Jesse’s story on this site. He remembers them, too.LOL.:))))
    My brother, Sam Welker, joined the department in 1977. He retired last year as fire inspector.
    My sister, Kathy, and I recently made a day’s adventure with visits to all of the old fire stations, and took pictures.We ended up with some neat photos and stories from that outing.
    I asked Dad about the tree in your more recent photo, Ken. He said he helped plant that tree. Cool, huh?
    Thanks again. I had a blast with those moments from the past.

  11. I am Susan’s sister,Kathy. I actually had tears in my eyes reading the article and comments posted. That firestation and lily pond is huge part of my family’s history. I felt like we could claim part ownership because the firestation was like a second home to us. It certainly was for my father and my brother. Susan and I did have a wonderful time going down memory lane. While we were at the fish pond the fire alarm went off at the new station up the street and the firetrucks went sc reaming past us. It was so surreal. I can’t count the number of times that had happen to us while visiting our dad there. We laughed and we cried. I know it was something only Susan and I could appreciate. Also I want to just clear up a myth about fireman. Even back then firemen had to stay busy during the day. They cleaned every day,regular maintenance was done, and they did tasks for the city and community.They would only sit out by the pond in the late afternoons and evenings. Back in “in the day” the firemen fixed and made toys that were donated at Christmas. They also were the ones that put the Christmas lights up that swagged across Broadway and Main St. They had to replace the burned out bulbs, and take the decorations down and store them at season’s end. Thank you,Ken for sparking the memories again.

    1. Fred,

      Thanks for posting the gallery. There was a lot more interest in the fire station than I thought there would be.

      Some of the out-of-towners will appreciate seeing your photos.

  12. The fireman that was working in the 40’s built the park. They had lot of skills and did a fine job. The badges in the concrete belong to some of these firefighters and thought it would look good and stand out. The pond used to be cleaned out once or twice a year, before wenter and starting spring.

  13. We had a fire department behind our house when I lived on Whitener. One day the firemen were raising the flag. Like a good Brownie, I stood at attention and saluted. I was mortified when they laughed at me!

    1. Hi Tricia. I grew up in the house you mentioned. Your name and handprints were still in the concrete of the back steps when we sold the house in 2010 — almost 50 years later.. That house had lots of potential — it just needed an extra bathroom:-)

  14. When I was a kid, my uncle George dunn, and my friend Freeman lucy, Dad Paul lucy, worked there and they did their own cooking meals, we would eat there the best chile I even ate. at the time, now I think my home made chile is the best.

  15. It’s my honor to serve on the board of the Cape River Heritage Museum located in the old Fire/Police station. Next time you are in Cape please stop by and visit the Museum and enjoy the historic building and Lilly Pond Garden.
    We are constantly taking measures to maintain the building and preserve it’s history, while improving it and the grounds for it’s current use as a museum that celebrates and memorializes Cape’s colorful past.
    A few recent projects are:
    **You’ll be happy to know we just drained the Lilly Pond, cleaned it and installed a new pump so we have constant circulating water with a small fountain. The garden area is restored and maintained and it’s a beautiful place to visit again. Fish and Lilly’s to come.
    **The gravel parking lot to the east has just been paved and striped for parking by the City.
    **An attractive sign has been erected fronting Independence Street to advertise our events and exhibits.
    **We are preparing to launch a campaign to erect a statue & memorial on the grounds to commemorate and honor our fireman & policeman heroes.
    Our museum is open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons from mid-March through mid-December. THE MUSEUM IS NOW CLOSED FOR THE SEASON AND WILL REOPEN ON SATURDAY MARCH 15, 2014.
    Please visit our web site at:


    PS: If you do find yourself visiting Cape while we are closed – give me a call and I’ll try to set up or give you a personal tour. (573)579-9495.

    1. Brad, That’s one of the reasons I’ve never been in the Cape River Heritage Museum: it’s always closed when I’ve wanted to visit.

      It boggles my mind that Altenburg, population 352, can have a Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum open every day of the year except Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, but Cape, population 38,544, has a River Heritage Museum that is closed for months at a time.

      I mean, FLORIDA has tourist seasons, but CAPE?

  16. Well Dr. Steinhoff…. I guess those 352 Lutherans in Altenburg have a lot more money than our little board of volunteers on social security. The City of Cape helps us a little with utilities, maintenance and upkeep, but we are totally self sustained on donations, memberships, and a few money raising projects. We have no employees – it’s just us “Chickens” donating our time and arthritic labor.

    Now – if you would like to donate some funds from the affluent and opulent Steinhoff Foundation – I promise we will ear-mark them for a full time employee to keep the museum open, and hopefully unboggle your over taxed little mind.

    Oh and for your information, Doctor… One of our primary fund raisers is proving tours and receptions for the “tourists” that visit “little Ol’ Cape” on the River Boats…. and “yes Virginia” – their visits are “seasonal”.

    And… as for that “Personal Tour”…. “NO SOUP FOR YOU”! (a quote from the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld 1999)

    1. What? In a town the size of Cape you don’t have a stable of rich doctors and lawyers with deeper pockets than a handful of German farmers in Perry County? You can’t shake loose some volunteers from SEMO’s historical preservation program to help you out? The museum I work with in Athens, Ohio, has a strong internship program that is invaluable.

      I’ll be happy to cut you in for 10% of the profits from this blog. When will I receive a sizable check from you to offset my losses?

      All kidding aside, I really have a hard time believing you can’t get more support.

  17. The SEMO University Crisp Museum, and the Discovery Playhouse must have all the rich doc’s and Semo internships tied up. We do get some volunteer hours from the Semo U programs but we don’t currently have an internship. I’ll ask why at the next board meeting. I’m new at this. I know the students do get “credits” of some sort for volunteering.

    ok….. soup for you.

  18. I too have stood on the bridge many a time. My grandad, Art Ludwig was a police officer both in this building and later at the converted church just down the street. The other day, I ran across my fingerprint sheet that grandpa did of my on one night time visit when he was manning the front desk. I think I was four and he was showing me all of the items in the desk drawer including the finger print kit which he told me no to touch, just about the time that I dipped one hand into the very interesting black ink. With that bit of resisting a police officer, he promptly did the whole formal print sheet on me. Who knows, I may have been the youngest person every “printed” in the 1950’s. I don’t think I ever visited him there without playing on the bridge.

  19. Cape River Heritage Museum & Lily Pond in Cape Girardeau , MO 573-334-0405

    OPEN HOUSE for the museum opening for the season will be on Friday April 11, at 5- 8:00 pm. Snacks, Beverages & Wine. As you may know The old Fire/Police Dept. No. 1 building on Independence St. (accross from the new Limbaugh Federal Courthouse) has been converted into the Cape River Heritage Museum.

    PLEASE JOIN US if you are near by, and see the many renovations and displays we have worked on all winter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *