“Where Were We 48 Years Ago Today?”

Ernie Chiles and I were on the way to Painton Airport to pick up his plane to fly some aerials around Cape and Perry Counties on Sunday. As we were passing through Delta, I asked him, “Do you know where we were on this day in 1963?”

Ernie, who still thinks I enrolled him in the Rock of the Month Club when he was my earth science teacher, hesitated, wondering if this was a trick question.

I gave him some hints: “School had just let out and we were on our way to the Cape Airport to fly some aerials. Something happened that changed my whole career path. Right in front of us there was a cloud of dust and we came upon a fresh auto accident.”

“He’s nuts!”

That jogged his memory, “I remember you jumping out of the car and taking pictures, ‘He’s nuts, I thought.’ There are loaves of bread laying all around all over the pavement… and there you are running all around with a camera. ‘He’s nuts!’ You WERE a good photographer.

“You just never know which fork in the road you’re going to take. You look back and ask, ‘Wonder why I went down that way…?'”

Fame and Fortune

I managed to get into the high school darkroom that night to process and print my film. We don’t remember if Ernie had the right keys or if I had to go through principal Fred Wilferth. We both think the principal was involved.

The next morning, I was at The Missourian bright and early with my photos.

When my bundle of papers came flying out of the delivery truck that afternoon, two of my pictures were on the front page, along with a byline. After the next day’s mail brought a $10 check, I was ruined for real work from that day on.

One thing that I didn’t notice until years afterward was that I had, in my excitement or inexperience, “flopped” the negatives in the enlarger when I printed them. Everything is reversed left-to-right from the real world. Nobody ever noticed it because there was nothing obvious in the photo – like writing – to give away my mistake. Good thing Editor John Blue isn’t around to hear my confession. He might make me give my $10 back.

Ernie, Ken and Jim Stone in 1963

Ernie was the rare teacher who would associate with students outside of school. In addition to being a pilot, he was a ham radio operator.  I put all of my money toward camera equipment, but Jim flirted with amateur radio for awhile in high school.

Ernie’s radio room today

Ernie’s a little grayer than he was in 1963, but he can still set a plane down on a grass runway in a 20-knot crosswind. The little two-seater cockpit is a little snugger than it was in the old days, I noticed.

Ernie gave me a great ride today – you’ll be seeing the aerials we shot over a period of time – and he’s given me a great 48-year ride. He didn’t exactly ENCOURAGE me to choose photojournalism as a career (“He’s nuts!”), but he helped me down the right fork.

Most teachers I’ve had (a) wouldn’t have associated with a student after hours, (b) wouldn’t have involved them in their hobbies, (c) would have told me to stay in the car or have driven past the wreck and (d) wouldn’t have facilitated my getting into the school darkroom when the building was locked up.

Central High School may have had teachers who handled academic subjects better than Ernie, but Ernie Chiles is the only one I made a point to come back to see when I hit town. I can say nice things about him without embarrassing us both because he lives in a neighborhood that doesn’t have a fast broadband Internet connection and he never sees this blog.

19 Replies to ““Where Were We 48 Years Ago Today?””

    1. I wondered if anyone would notice that photo of him on the wall. I shot that one, too.

      And, in case anyone thought W0RMS was a comment on his health and hygiene, it’s actually his ham callsign.

  1. I know how you got hooked when you saw your pictures and byline. I was also hooked (some may say doomed) the first time I saw my name in print on a byline.

  2. Beautiful day yesterday, great memory, & thanks for sharing…glad you had the wind beneath your wings once again with a good friend! Bill & I made a trip to Cape County Park & Memorial Park to put Easter Memorials on & visit. Later, at Bucheit’s, on arrival caught a glimpse of a fb friend on his way out with a mission to fulfill. Didn’t get a chance to greet him but it was nice to see you!

    1. I’m pretty oblivious to folks around me. I used to look for former classmates, but never spotted any.

      Today, when I see someone who looks familiar, I realize that the person I’m looking at would have to be my classmate’s child or grandchild.

  3. From the appearance of the scene looks like the injured was a fatality, particularly if Doc Ford was present. However, the only ambulance service in those days were funeral homes….not a real comfort

  4. Ken, another wonderful story. Based on everything I’ve read about Ernie Chiles, I am sorry that I never met him. He sounds like the kind of guy I could have spent hours and hours just hanging around because he was cool; besides he might have gotten me started in ham radio.
    It’s obvious that you were pointed in the right direction, based on the long career that you had before retiring – not to mention your obvious talent.

    1. I didn’t realize how cool at the time. He was one of only a couple of teachers I got to know as individuals and not just adults in positions of authority.

      That’s not taking anything away from teachers like Miss Sadler, but I can’t imagine hanging around with her after class.

  5. Hahaha! I TAUGHT with Mrs. Sadler, and I couldn’t imagine “hanging around” with her! However, even as a newbie at Central, I did go see Alta Muegge outside of school time. She was wonderfully supportive of me during my first year at Central. Her late husband had been a revered football coach before I came to Central.

  6. If a teacher associates with a student in 2011 the teacher will be arrested! We lived in a different time and we were so lucky to have done so!

  7. wow you do know how to get the attention of a ham radio operator: show another ham’s radio shack! I think I was leaving Cape when Ernie was active but I am still active ham. Tell Ernie may call was K0RNK and now is W1FDR.

    1. Ernie was K0FCW in those days. He had to give it up when he moved out of the region.

      Wasn’t your dad K0LID?

      I got my license after they abolished the Morse code requirement. It’s been long enough ago that I have to renew by May. I doubt that I’ve transmitted half a dozen times.

      I used radios for communications. I never got into radios as the end, with endless ragchewing about equipment, but little real content.

      I don’t remember my issued call sign. I signed up for the vanity call of K0KLS. K0 for my Missouri roots, followed by my initials. I could remember that.

  8. Ken,I didn’t know Ernie Chiles, but I was greatly influenced by Edan Glenn, my art teacher at Central. I was as comfortable with her outside the classroom as I was in her classes. She inspired me to be the same kind of caring person and (art)teacher. I have students today, after 32 years of teaching and 6 years of retirement, who stay in contact with me. I had enjoyed many related interests outside of school with students sharing same strong convictions, respect, and enthusiasm for the art community.
    My senior (’66) English teacher, Inez Smith, inspired me with her enthusiasm in literature. Although the classroom was the only place where I enjoyed her company, I was, nevertheless, thankful for the impression she left upon me. In my wildest dreams, I became a teacher of both the arts and literature. :)))

    I want to express my gratitude to all of my teachers in Cape Girardeau who were truly professional and dedicated to our education.

  9. What a great story of friendship. There were a couple of teachers I had in school that went above and beyond. But it was already starting to get to the point teachers couldn’t associate outside of school with a student. One did have a gathering at her house for our class though and that was pretty cool.

    How awesome that you were right there to catch those images. You just never know how your life is going to change and what the catalyst will be. And how exciting to see your name in print like that. Especially at such an early age. Any age really.

    BTW…I wasn’t there, but I think you probably signed him up for the “rock of the month club”. Sounds just like you. 🙂

    1. Jim and I would be proud to take credit for the stunt, but we were innocent.

      There was one more kid in his classes whose dad owned a trucking company. We figure HE might have been the one. And, he was the kind of guy who would take the secret to his grave.

  10. For me, my ah hah moment was the day when I was 16 and saw a Navy Recruiting brochure that one of the girls had brought to school. Up until then I didn’t know that women could join. Joining the Navy after graduation was one of my best decisions. Even after retiring, I am now working for the Navy as a civilian. Still think it is a great opportunity.

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