Taking One for the Team at Franklin School


See that DONATE Button at the top left of the page? You folks owe me. I took one for the team Wednesday afternoon at Franklin School.

A couple of Facebook friends posted that demolition of the old school had started, so I figured I’d better get over there before it was too late. I saw a story in The Missourian that said that workers had hit a snag when they stirred up some honeybees. One worker had to be taken to the hospital and a beekeeper was brought in to deal with the situation.

What happened to Ben Franklin?

I had something else I could shoot to let things cool down, so I didn’t get to Franklin until early afternoon. The job site was quiet. No equipment was working and no workers were around. I held my camera over the fence to take a photo of the ripped-up pedestal where Benjamin Franklin, the school’s namesake, used to stand at the southeast corner of the campus. (I wonder if he was salvaged.)

Steps and sidewalk coming out

Then, I wandered to the front of the school to take some shots of the steps where it has been said that some introductory biology classes had been offered. Class looks like it has been dismissed for good.

I read somewhere that the facade around the front door had been preserved. It’s a little ironic because Franklin was the only school in the city that had been built without a name.

Better to ask forgiveness…

I saw an open gate on the north side of the school. An open gate to me means an invitation, so I walked into the parking lot to see an open supply trailer and a couple of trucks. My intention was to find the foreman to get permission to walk around the site since there was no work going on, but I couldn’t find anyone.

Since there was no one to ask, and because I was already there, I opted to observe the “it’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission rule.” I REALLY wanted to see if they had preserved the old flag pole.

Bees and rattlesnakes

I had just taken the first photo of it being on the ground when I saw a dark object buzzing around my nose. “This isn’t good,” I thought. Just about that time, I felt somebody stick a red-hot poker onto my lip.

I knew that feeling. In the mid-70s, on the way back from covering a trucker strike in Georgia and Alabama, I read that Whigham, Ga., was holding a rattlesnake roundup. I called the office, told ’em I’d be on the road another day

I soon found myself wandering around a Georgia pine forest on a chilly foggy morning with a guy who said the unusually warm weather was keeping the snakes above ground instead of curled up in gopher turtle burrows.  (My new buddy would stick a long plastic pipe down the gopher hole, pour down a couple of ounces of gasoline and wait for the fumes to drive the snake to the surface. They weren’t home, unfortunately.)

Since they were on top of the ground, that meant the snakes had as good of a chance of finding us as we did of finding them. I finally got a shot of him draping a four-foot rattler around his neck, and we headed back to the snake pen where the hunters dumped their catches (live and very unhappy, by the way) into a fenced-off area. They were destined for skinning and being eaten.

I was invited into the area. Much against my better judgement, I stepped into the pen. I was assured that rattlers can’t strike longer than their length, so I was “perfectly safe.” I was concentrating on (a) trying to figure out how long my subject was (and adding a couple of feet for safety), and focusing on his flickering tongue when I felt that red-hot poker hit my thumb.

Dead in Whigham

“This boy is dead,” I thought. “Somewhere in the back of Editor & Publisher, the journalism trade magazine, my passing will be dutifully noted: ‘Ken Steinhoff, Palm Beach Post director of photography, died in the line of duty. He wasn’t covering a war; wasn’t trapped in a burning building trying to save an old woman’s Cocker Spaniel; didn’t sacrifice his life pushing a child out of the path of a speeding auto; no, he died of stupidity by stepping into a pen of unhappy rattlesnakes in a nowhere town in Georgia.'”

I found out to my chagrin, surprise and pleasure that I was not dead: that I hadn’t tangled with a rattlesnake, but had stirred up a nest of ground wasps. Still, I decided that the photographs I had taken in the pen were sufficient for my needs and exited quickly.

Back to Franklin

The bee had friends

After the red-hot poker to the lip, I noticed half a dozen other buzzing objects starting to circle my head. Having read that having one bee sting someone will sometimes set the whole hive into a frenzy, I took two more frames and walked quickly and calmly back to my car. I yanked the stinger out of my lip, taking some small satisfaction in knowing THAT bee isn’t going to sting anybody else. (The tiny object at the end of my thumbnail is the stinger.)

Sister-in-law Marty Riley lives a few blocks away from the school, so I stopped by her house to get some ice for a rapidly swelling lip. She, unfortunately, wasn’t home.

I decided drop by The Missourian to see librarian Sharon Sanders, figuring that if I went into apocalyptic shock and fell twitching on the floor Fred Lynch, could shoot a picture of me, filling his spot news quota without leaving the office. Photographers stick together.

One final bee story: my only Workers Comp claim as a photographer came from a bee-related incident. When I got back to the office, I dutifully filled out H.R.’s Description of Injury form: “I was assigned to photograph what was supposed to be 14 million dead bees. The beekeeper wanted to show me his 14,000,000 bee loss, so he kicked the hive apart. 13,999,999 bees were dead. One was not.”

Stings more than the bee

I didn’t go to Franklin, so I shouldn’t have any strong feelings about the school. Still, seeing the flag pole on the ground gave me a feeling of loss. I wondered how many proud youngsters had raised and lowered the flag on that pole. I could hear the sound of the metal clips that secured the flag to the halyards banging against the pole on a windy day.

I also thought of how this flag pole and base was a mirror image of one I photographed in front of Washington School before it was torn down. They could save a few pieces of facade, but not a classic flag pole.

Photo Gallery of Franklin School

I wish I had more photos, but you guys don’t pay enough to keep me shooting with bees swarming around. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.


34 Replies to “Taking One for the Team at Franklin School”

  1. Brings back memories-my first grade teacher Mrs. Young and Mrs. Dye in 6th grade. Also Miss Krieger (shudder). As a first grader, I was terrified of her.

  2. I have no Franklin stories, but last winter I sold two old combines to a junk man, who had to cut the persimmon trees out of them and haul them off with a hive of angry bees that have been the bane of my existence for about ten years. That was one of the best deals I ever made. I took my $400 to Florida and had a good time!
    My old friend Paul Corbin has two bee hives on his car port, and he insists that they’re “friendly.” He brought an empty hive box out to my farm one day to see if he wanted my “combine bees,” but he changed his mind when he saw them. He said that they were NOT Italian bees like his. We concluded that they must have been Iraqi bees, since they were so warlike…
    I wonder what kind of bees were living in the Franklin school?
    Ah, Ken–we are so impressed with your bravery! What won’t you do to get a good story??

  3. I went to Franklin School and I had the honor of raising and lowering the American flag. I also remember sitting on those front steps discussing some research project. It is actually very sad. On previous trips back to Cape, I enjoyed driving by Franklin and seeing things I remembered from those six years. No longer!

  4. The school may be gone but I will still have some great memories of Franklin School from first grade in 1950 to finally playing adult basketball in the early 1980s.
    In my part of the Saint Louis area, it has been hot and dry. That means I can always count on getting stung by at least one ground bee a mowing season. They burrow a small hole in the ground and seem to be very territorial when it is hot and dry. They don’t seem to like me mowing over them, although if they would stay in their hole and mind their own business, we would both be happy!

  5. Like Andy I remember Franklin school…a great place to grow up. I attended six years there and is was THE school in Cape. I remember Andy and Mike Rogers raising the flag for some event…I remember we all (at least the chosen few) were proud of our patrol boy badges and whatever you called the belt and loop over your shoulder we wore with the yellow helmet liners, way cool. In my sixth grade year the long yellow poles with flags on them with were added and used them to stop traffic.
    Those were heady days indeed…
    BTW: I was going to donate a “shiny new dime” but my computer does not have coin slot. If any of you guys computer’s has a coin slot, please donate a dime to the cause for me and I will pay you back when I see you!

  6. I feel like William Wallace in Braveheart. They can tear down Franklin School, but they can’t take away our memories. I just received a photo last week of the collective first-grade classes of 1955-56 at the train station. I could identify friends immediately, though at this age a few names got left on the tip of my tongue. Franklin School was a microcosm of what life was like in the 1950’s. It is one in a long list of reasons why when I’m asked if I’m from St. Louis, my response is, “No, I live in St. Louis. I’m from Cape Girardeau.” And proud of it.

  7. I went to kindergarden at Frankin and remember cutting through the playground to get to class.Somehow i think Mrs. Simpson”s ghost has lsunched a premptive strike for messing with her school.

    1. The lesson I learned is that my readers like to see me suffer. I’ve had several donations this morning. If a bee sting will do that, I wonder what a little toe would bring in.

  8. I was a Franklin School patrol boy on the corner of Themis and Keller one afternoon (probably 1960 or so) when a police-led motorcade passed on it’d way to Senator Spradling’s house. Through the limousine window I could see the face of former President Harry Truman.

  9. I did the “PONY” (I think they called it that) for a couple of years back in the late 70s. Franklin was one of my favorite stops. But I can’t remember who the receptionist was at the time, anyone remember?

  10. Wasn’t Anita Meinz the secretary or was she at Junior High? I have good memories of my grade school years there but some of the best are when I helped Mrs Simpson with a kindergarden class as a senior 1966

  11. Who remembers the maypole dance at Franklin School?

    May 28, 1986 Southeast Missourian
    A long-standing tradition at Franklin School here is the Maypole Dance, traditionally performed as the opening event at annual Field Day activities. Here, sixth grade girls holding colorful streamers make their way around the pole. (Fred Lynch photo)


  12. The statue has been saved and will be placed with the new building. We tried to save the flag pole, but I believe there were structural challenges to that. The front of the building (facade) is now in the library. They have placed in in the kiva and has shelves. It is very tastefully done and looks awesome. When the lockers were removed we found a lot of “goodies” behind them. Some are now placed in a shadow box that will be placed in the new building. Please look for the open house for the new one. I am sorry you were stung.

    1. Even if you couldn’t save the pole, it would be nice to save the base. As you can tell from the comments, a lot of students have fond memories of raising the flag in front of the school.

      I wonder if Ben would fit atop it?

  13. I have great memories of Franklin School so the pictures arouse a lot sadness. I, too, took a few pictures yesterday, but did not encounter the bees. They discontinued the Maypole dance when my daughters were there because some parents and at least one teacher said it was pagan. To me it was just a tradition.

  14. It is kind of sad to drive by and watch Franklin disappear. Great memories of 1st thru sixth grades. Andy. I remember being a patrol boy, flag football, Mrs. Simpson, Mrs. Meinz (a 1st grade teacher), Mrs. Dalton, David Brandt, Russ Doughty, Jim Cochrane, Mr. Russell ………. Now I’m smiling again… Mrs Meinz is now living in Texas with relatives. She was my neighbor down on Penny St. for a few years before she moved. Great memories .. Russ Doughty, are you still out there somewhere? Ken, I don’t remember any “bee” stories…..

  15. Rest in peace Franklin School. I lived a half block away on Themis and went from first- sixth grades: Muss Willer, Miss Mueller, Miss Reed, Mrs. Welsh,Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Dye– now those were some amazing teachers! I even worked in the cafeteria! I shot some photos in April of the school. Thanks for risking body and soul to post these, Ken!

  16. Hebrew, we are retired and living in Nixa, Mo. I remember Franklin very well and that you and I were friends there for years. If I remember, when Alma Schrader school was built to accommodate the westward expansion of Cape, I was supposed to go there, but luckily stayed at Franklin. Maybe because I pitched a fit about changing schools.

  17. Thanks so much, Ken, for all your efforts to keep the memories alive! Two memories stand out for me. There used to be a clover covered hill on the side of Franklin that kids loved to roll down in the spring. When I tried it, at age 5 or 6, I rolled over a honey bee and had my own bee experience! The other was going out for recess on the back paved play area with all of the “four square” painted boxes. Suddenly there were “hundreds” (well, maybe dozens) of rubber balls of all sizes flying off the roof and bouncing all around us. It was unexpected and magical! Evidently the custodian was clearing the roof of all the balls that had found themselves on the roof.

    Good times! A donation is on the way!

  18. Ah, memories of Franklin. Many good ones. It had the smell of a school. Scent memories are among our strongest, and Franklin’s was a blend of books, floor polish, and sweaty kids. And Miss Kreiger…jeeze, was there anyone she didn’t scare the crap out of?

  19. Thank you for the sad photos, Ken.
    I proudly went to Franklin School. To this day, Ben Franklin is one of my personal heroes.

  20. Only went to Franklin 4th and 5th grade. previous years were spent at Lorimer where I had Mrs Nellie Simpson one of my all time favorites. When we were in the 6th grade at Franklin, because of overcrowding, the 6th graders went to the Jr High (old Schultz) . We thought we were hot! Lived in the Franklin area from 4th grade through high school. Best aera ever! And still is. Hate that they are tearing down the school but the coppola on top makes it look like an older school. At least it is new without that modern ugly look of Alma Schrader and Jefferson! Favorite teacher at Franklin was Mrs Kelly…she lived right across the street on Themis. The Krueger sisters lived down the street. They personified Old Maids! I remember we thought Pug Russell and Miss Pollack were fooling around. Any one else remember that? Great memories of kindergarten and elementary school years….Sorry about the bee sting, Ken, you go above and beyond!!

  21. Sorry we weren’t home to ice your face. We used to have an easily accessible freezer in the garage, but it bit the dust this spring. Hang in there. This, too, shall pass.

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