I was passing the candy shelves in Buchheit’s the other night when a bag of orange somethings called out my name.
It triggered an immediate memory.
When I was about two years old, Dad must have been building a road around Poplar Bluff, which meant we were living in the trailer he pulled from job to job.
Mother came back from shopping all excited because she had won a full grocery cart of goodies in some kind of store promotion. The only thing I can remember about the contents was a cellophane package of something that looked like peanuts, was a color of orange not found in nature, and tasted vaguely like bananas.
That could have very well been the last time I ate one.
I didn’t need a lifetime supply
Back to Buchheit’s: the bag I spotted contained a lifetime supply of the marshmallow goodies, and cost way more than I wanted to invest in a trip down memory lane.
On a subsequent pass, though, I spotted a smaller bag that was priced low enough that it was worth an experiment. I tore it open and was immediately transported back to my childhood.
I put some samples in plastic bags and went making the rounds of Cape friends and relatives (full disclosure: it only took two bags). They too, allowed as how they still tasted and smelled the same as the ones they had wrestled away from dinosaurs in their childhoods.
What’s the story about these things?
Google says that circus peanuts are an American peanut-shaped marshmallow candy that date back to the 19th century, when they were one of a large variety of unwrapped “penny candy” sold in retail outlets like five-and-dime stores.
As of the 2010s, the most familiar variety of mass-produced circus peanuts is orange-colored and flavored with an artificial banana flavor
Confectioners originally distributed an orange-flavored variety that was only available seasonally due to a lack of packaging capable of preserving the candy. In the 1940s, circus peanuts became one of the many candies to become available year-round owing to the industrial proliferation of cellophane packaging.
You have to draw the line somewhere
My memory lane hits a dead end before it gets to Candy Corn Blvd. I don’t care to revisit some things.
Barb Frokler mentioned in a Facebook group called Cape Rewound that the Nowell’s Camera Shop sign that hung out over the sidewalk at 609 Broadway was in the basement of the Mississippi Mutts. I suggested to Carla Jordan, director at the Cape Girardeau County History Center in Jackson, that the sign would be a great acquisition if she could score it.
It WAS available, so I was dispatched to see if it would fit in my Honda Odyssey van. You can tell from comparing it to employee Briana Schoen that it wasn’t going to happen, even if I opened the sunroof.
Exhibit Kept Growing
Once the word got out that the sign would be part of a lobby exhibit, folks started contributing pieces of their personal photographic history.
History of 609 Broadway
A number of businesses have called this address home. One of the earliest was Phil C. Haman’s Drugs. The mosaic tile with the name is still there.
A 1934 Girardot ad said the store sold Kodaks, pens, pencils and drugs. The display window on the right used to read “Kodaks” in big black letters.
Eastman Kodak tried to get it taken down for trademark violation, but Nowell’s successfully argued that the sign dated back to when “Kodak” was a generic term for consumer cameras. I don’t know what happened to the window, maybe it was broken and replaced with clear glass.
I took the Broadway sign photo Sept. 12, 2001, when I rode my bike all over town shooting the main streets and landmarks.
Bill Nowell and his wife, Juvernia, opened Nowell’s Camera Shop in the early 1950s and became Cape’s only photo specialty shop.
The Mississippi Mutts folks moved into the location in 2015, after starting the business at 1231 Broadway in 2012. Sherry Jennings is the owner, and Barb Frokler is the manager. The store sells a plethora of pet paraphernalia and treats, many goodies housed in the original cabinets along the walls. (I didn’t spot any Terrytoon movies, alas.)
Linda Folsom Hatch commented on another post that “My grandparents, Carl and Quinn Bauerle, bought the camera shop building and lived in the apartment upstairs for many years…..I still have some of the old bottles from the drug store (Hamans).”
Nowell’s supported The Girardot
Like Haman’s, Nowell’s bought an ad in the 1963 Central High School Girardot yearbook.
Some proofreader must have been asleep. Notice that the Walther’s Furniture Company ad spells the city’s name as “Garadeau.”
I practically lived in Nowell’s
I spent many a long hour leaning on the counters in the camera store lusting after Pentax cameras and lenses. (I didn’t switch to Nikon until after a student at Ohio University sold me a Nikon F with three lenses for $150 so he could pay his rent.)
Ironically, I have very few photos from the time I hid out there. I was a kid who got paid $5 per picture (later reduced to $3 a photo for non-assigned art when John Blue calculated that my salary plus freelance photos amounted to more money than some senior reporters made).
Pictures that didn’t generate revenue didn’t get taken unless I was trying to finish out a roll.
Here’s how it works
Customers didn’t just walk in and buy a camera. Bill Nowell and his staff would help you make the right choice, then explain everything you needed to know to take good pictures.
A couple buddies and I decided to skip school one afternoon. To make my exit less obvious, I left my gear in the school darkroom.
Wouldn’t you know it, one of the first things we saw was a train vs truck crash in South Cape. I dashed into Nowell’s, grabbed a Pentax, a roll of Tri-X black and white film, and shouted, “I’ll be back” over my shoulder as I bolted out the door.
I don’t think Mr. Nowell batted an eye.
When I scanned the film recently, I discovered that I had not only shot the wreck, but a fire on the same roll. You can read a full report of my youthful transgressions here.
My buddies and I managed to escape any consequences from our absence. I DO recall, though, Mr. G. stopping me in the hall a few weeks later and saying, “I know you’re up to something, I just haven’t figured out WHAT yet. I’m keeping my eye on you.” Of course, knowing him, he probably delivered that speech to everybody at one time or another just to keep us on our toes.
Nowell’s fed my photographic addiction
I discovered a trove of cancelled checks written to the camera shop when I was rooting through old files. This was a place and a time when you could even write a “counter” check if you didn’t have your checkbook with you.
Mr. Nowell trusted a lot of young photographers by letting us buy on credit. I would usually pay cash for large purchases, like cameras and lenses, but I’d charge film and supplies.
I overheard Dad tell a friend of his one day, “Mr. Nowell even lets him run a charge account.” That was his form of bragging that his kid was recognized as trustworthy by a respected local businessman. It’s funny, but most of the praise I got from Dad was overheard, and not direct.
A cornucopia of cool stuff
It wasn’t just cameras, film, chemicals and photo paper. You could walk in and be tempted by all kinds of cool stuff, including black & white 8mm Terrytoon cartoon films. (I’m pretty sure I’ll run across some reels of those one of these days.)
I don’t know how he did it, but Mr. Nowell managed to snag a dry mount press for me when they were supposed to be limited to governmental agencies. It mounted hundreds of prints for contests, classes and exhibits. It currently lives at the Jackson museum.
A place known for careful listening
No customer was rushed, no matter what the purchase. I wish I could remember this saleswoman’s name.
Marty Cearnal could twist my arm
To be fair, though, he didn’t have to twist it much to sell me photo gear. If you look up “super salesmen” in the dictionary, it probably has his photo next to it.
Weather forecasts for SE Missouri had something for everyone in a week’s time. We had warm temps, single-digit temps, 4 inches of rain, thundersleet, freezing rain and snow.
There were reports of trees down and power outages scattered all around, but 1618 Kingsway dodged a big bullet (so far). Trees and bushes got a beautiful decoration of ice, but wind that could have caused serious problems didn’t materialize.
When I looked out the front window the night the rain was freezing, I was surprised to see my American flag looking like it had been starched, then ironed flat. It was frozen into a solid sheet.
By the next morning, it was still mostly frozen, but there had been enough wind to create cracks in the coating.
The only casualty (so far)
I did a quick walkaround and saw a few small branches down, but this bent-over bush with the split trunk may have been the only fatality.
Still, though, the temps will be below freezing for another day, so there may be other trees and bushes that’ll crack under the continued strain.
Green covered with ice
Some grass and mosses were turning green under the warmer than usual winter, but they got a serious shock when they were covered with sleet, snow and ice.
I was surprised to see half a dozen robins wading in my front yard the day when the rain was coming down the hardest.
I ordered a generator
I bought a 3000-watt generator after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. It sat in my backyard shed unused except for annual test firings until the 2004 hurricane season when three storms passed over us, leaving us without power for multiple days.
After the first storm of the series, I ordered a 7,500-watt generator and added a kit that would allow it to run on gasoline, propane or natural gas. I also put a tap on our electrical service panel that would let me power most of the house.
Florida hurricane supplies
We keep all our hurricane supplies in a shed in the back yard. They include aluminum panels to go over the doors and windows, the generator, spare oil and filters, mounting hardware, and tarps (up to and including 30-footers).
We’ve been through the drill enough times that we can have the house battened down in an afternoon, with the help of Matt and Grandson Malcolm.
The smaller Hugo generator went to Son Matt, who used it at his house.
He rewired his house and bought a bigger generator, which made the old one surplus again. I reclaimed it and have it parked under my basement stairs in Cape “just in case.”
I had the electrical panel in Cape house upgraded from a four-fuse 60-amp box to a modern service panel. That started me thinking about a generator big enough to feed the whole house, if I was careful to balance my load.
Tri-fuel generators are hard to find
I dithered for months, but the ice storm caused me to pull the trigger. Once capable of running on gas, propane and natural gas are hard to find. I’m going to have to drive to Marion to pick one up the first week of March.
Even if it sits silent for as long as the Hugo generator did, it’s worth the comfort of knowing its there. (I think I paid $300 for the 3,000-watt unit. Three hundred bucks spread out over about 10 years was painless.)
Pretty ice photos
You can take a tour of my yard by clicking on any image to make it larger, then use the arrow keys to move through the gallery.
My old high school teacher and pilot used to repeat the old adage, “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots; there aren’t any old, bold pilots.”
I spent a lot of time in the ink-slinging business being a bold photographer, but now that I have achieved the status of an old photographer, I’m not quite as bold. Not too many years ago, I roamed Cape shooting weather photos. This gallery was all taken without backing the van out of the driveway.
Here are some links to weather pictures and stories when I was younger and bolder.
I was living in Florida when I bought a reproduction of a 1926 Rand McNally road atlas to try to plot out my trip back to Cape Girardeau.
I noted to Dad in a letter that “i got this new-fangled book from the AAA people, but they didn’t allow as how it was possible to get from fla. to mo., so they wouldn’t even give me a triptik.
[Editor’s note: It was my style to type informal communications on cheap newspaper copy paper and in all lowercase. My theory was that it signaled to the recipient not to expect clean spelling and grammar.]
Wait until the bridge is built
aaa suggested waiting a few more years until they get the bridge built across the river at cape-what-ever-it-is. they said there’s a ferry there, but it ain’t to be counted on.
Why don’t you just wave from Illinois?
aaa pointed out that you have to go all the way to either memphis or st. louis to drive across the river and, confidentially, they said it don’t look much different on the west side of the river than the east.
maybe we could just stand on opposite sides of the river and wave, they suggested.