Learning More about My Dad

Dad was born April 17, 1917, which would have made him 104 this year had he not died at 60 in 1977. I found some old letters in his files recently that have helped fill in some blanks and also confirmed stuff I had heard (or misheard) over the years.

I did a blog post in 2010 where I used a post out of his scrapbook to show me and a check he had received for what sounds like the first job he and his new partner, James Kirkwood, did in Ellington.

1949 letter to his brother, Paul Steinhoff

Here’s the three-page letter he wrote to his younger brother, Paul, on Oct. 3, 1949. You can click on any image to make it larger, then use the left and right arrow keys to move around.

I’ll pull out excerpts from it, and add comments.

Paul, Dad and Their Father

Paul – LV – Louis Steinhoff c 1934

This was in Dad’s high school scrapbook, so it must have been taken in the early 1930s. Paul is on the left, Dad is in the middle, and Louis Steinhoff, their father, is on the right. This may be the only photo I’ve seen of him.

It’s hard to read, but, based on other photos on the scrapbook, it was taken at 116 North Middle Street. That would have made it possible for him to be close enough to the Broadway theater to have used his toy wagon to carry music for the woman piano player to play in the silent movies. We always thought that to be a family legend until we saw an obit for the woman in the past decade or so.

Mexican Vacation

The folks wanted to take a trip so we, along with Mary Lee’s Dad and Mother took off to the south. We spent 3 weeks with everybody having a good time. Kenny finally had to give up his bottle in Mexico where we couldn’t get any milk. That was one good thing the trip did or he might have been on the bottle yet.

In February I took in a partner by the name of James Kirkwood. Kirkwood was an engineer for the Highway Dept. for 20 years, having a very good background.

Mother Had to Run Her Dad’s Store

We moved the trailer to Ellington and was there until July 14, except that Mary Lee had to come home in the late part of May and stay at Advance. Mr. Welch had a serious heart attack and was forced to stay at home in bed for three months. He is just now being able to do a little work at the store. Mary Lee had to take care of the business during this time. I moved the trailer to Charleston, but batched it during this time.

Steinhoff & Kirkwood Built Rt. W from Cape to Fruitland

On July 29th we were successful bidders on Route W in Cape Girardeau county. This job begins on Perry Ave. outside of Cape Girardeau city limits and runs to Fruitland, Mo. It’s a rather large job but are doing well, and except for weather conditions we should finish sometime this month or the first of next.

Our Trailer Was On a Now-Gone Hill behind Colonial Restaurant

We have moved the trailer to Cape and have parked it on Hyway 61 near the Colonial Restaurant in a private-owned yard. Kenny likes it back at Cape and has several playmates. Kirkwood has one boy 6 months older than Kenny and one girl that is just beginning to go to school.

Kenny is quite a big lad now and talks a blue streak all the time and is plenty heavy for his age. He has a tricycle and rides all the time. He is crazy about books and I do believe that he has well over 100 of them at the trailer and at his grandmother’s.

1949 Cardinals vs Cubs

There is one thing he will be able to say when he grows up, and that will be that he saw a National League baseball game as soon as his daddy. We went to St. Louis a week ago Sunday and saw the Cardinals play the Chicago Cubs. He finally went to sleep before the game was completed. We spent the morning at the zoo taking in the Monkey show.

Ice cream and a life of crime

He goes to the stores here at Advance and gets his own ice cream cones and soda by himself and he really thinks he is doing something.

16 Replies to “Learning More about My Dad”

  1. I really enjoyed this. Maybe it would make a good book . It may not be a big seller, but your family members would love it!

    1. We were a pretty scandal-free family. I’d have to make up some spicy stuff if I wanted it to sell.

      Mother always said she wasn’t too anxious to dig too deep into the family background: “We might stumble onto a horse thief or two out there.”

  2. Ken, nice job of pulling out some family history that I was not aware of. A couple of those photos I have never seen, or remembered ever seeing so thanks for bringing them into the daylight. Each time you show a construction photo I immediately smell the diesel fuel that most of the heavy equipment used, love that smell yet today. Reminds me of sitting on bulldozer on job sites with Dad as he moved dirt around, good times…fresh dirt being turned over clouds of dark diesel fuel smoke and soggy sandwiches. Dad and Jim Kirkwood were a perfect match for each other, friendly man who always seemed happy. I remember being at the Kingsway house and Dad was waiting on Jim to come by and pick him up. Dad said, “now watch, Kirkwood will be here exactly 5 minutes before he is suppose to pick me up, he’s never late and always early.” Sure enough, Kirkwood pulled up early that morning and and we both smiled at each other on how prompt he was. Dad couldn’t have gone into business with a nicer man.

    1. Like you, spring means the sound of a diesel motor coming to life under a cloud of black smoke. Then there’s the clank-clank-clank of the treads advancing. The smell of freshly-turned earth mingling with that diesel smoke will probably be one of my last memories when I close my eyes for the last time.

      Dad was the consummate dragline operator who could drop his bucket exactly where he wanted to, like a pro fly fisherman who knew exactly where to cast his bait to catch the wily lunker next to the stump. I spent hours standing on the running board of his dragline watching him pull levers (“who needs to go to a gym? It takes 17 pounds of pull to move those levers, and I do it all day long”) and work foot pedals. Still, like you, it was the time aboard the dozer that was most memorable.

      Our two Dads put “Little Jimmy” and me to work one summer. One of our jobs was to make sure the forms on a road in Dexter were spaced exactly the right distance apart by gauging the width with a piece of string and some wooden pieces that would go over the outside of the forms. We were to walk the length of that day’s planned pour, stopping from time to time to check the distances.

      “Big Jimmy” might have always been five minutes early to arrive, but he was a slow moving, slow talking guy. Little Jimmy and I were walking along the site, with me leading the way, more or less tugging him along. I overheard one of the workers say, “It’s pretty obvious which kid is Louie’s, and which one is Jim’s.” It wasn’t a criticism, just an observation.

      I wouldn’t trade those days for any amount of money.

  3. In April 2013, on the 100th birthday of my father, I also found a way to fill in some blanks about my dad. I went to the archive section of Kent Library and was shown a 1942 State College Sagamore year book. It had the first photo of my father as an employee of the College. He would remain as a professor at the College for 35 years, dying in 1977. I remember being scolded by the attending person for photographing the yearbook pages. Used my no flash digital camera. Glad I did. Your story really returned me to that memory. Thanks for writing and posting it.

    1. It’s a shame that some folks would rather play gatekeeper instead of facilitator. I see no problem in your taking a photo from the yearbook if you weren’t using a flash. The person may have been concerned with copyright issues, but even a stickler like me will work with folks who aren’t going to use photos for publication.

  4. I met your dad at Lewallen in the 60s. I spent many hours talking to him about everything, nothing. He was a fascinating man. The last time I saw him was in ’76. He was having coffee with Mr. Voss and invited me to join them. His untimely passing was a shock.

    1. Dad didn’t have a whole lot of friends, so far as I know, until he got involved in Scouting. He became a much more outgoing person, and enjoyed working on projects at the unit and district level. It added much to his later life.

  5. Great article. I will think of your Dad when I travel back and forth on Rt W.
    It is so nice to dig up memories of those we love who have passed and find more clues to our past.

  6. Love this one, maybe because I live and have been raised in Ellington, my dad was born and raised here he’s passed on now, but I’m always interested in learning more about our little town, I think in that time it may have been a booming little town. My Mothers family is from Cape area(Stovall/Flannery ) I remember my great grandfather living in Dutch Town then moved to Jackson when got older always next to railroad tracks, lol my grandmother was from Illinois (Blackwell )I always watch for the names, THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR POST

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