I Only Borrow the Souls

One of the most rewarding things about doing this blog is the opportunity to connect readers with their pasts. I’ve been asked a lot of times over the years how to take pictures. Most of the times I dismiss the question by saying something like, “I walk in, draw a box around a tiny segment of time, then walk out.”

Or, I might paraphrase Bob Greene, a Chicago columnist, “I make people love me for 28 minutes, then I steal their souls.”

Doing this blog has taught me that I didn’t really ‘steal” the souls. I merely borrowed them for three, four or five decades. Now I’m returning them.

When I started circulating photos I had taken in Smelterville in the mid-60s, one of them made it into the hands of Fay Powders. It was her mother, and it was the only photograph she has of her. Watch the video to hear Fay talk about it.

Cheating death

When I ran the story about Lester Harris, a SW Bell repairman who would cheat death by dangling from a cable chair suspended over the Diversion channel (a cable that had probably been damaged by people shooting at it), family, friends and coworkers all shared stories about the man. He was also featured in a story about stock car racers at Arena Park.

I particularly like this one from Jennifer Adams: Lester Harris is my grandpa. I live next to him and when I came home today he was telling me all about this. He always told me stories of him working for Southwestern Bell but never saw pictures of it until today. Thanks for posting these pictures!!”

Lester’s daughter, Sandy Harris Lyke, sent this update September 24, “My Dad has been very ill this past year. He could use all the prayers people want to send his way.

“Great operator, greater father”

Judy Finley spotted her dad operating a crane in a story about construction projects at SEMO. I’m using that photo and quote in my Altenburg presentation.

When I shot pictures of the last days before The Palm Beach Post farmed out its award-winning production department, I wrote, “I’ve always believed that every worker should be able to show his or her kids and grandkids what they did for a living.”



15 Replies to “I Only Borrow the Souls”

  1. This brought a huge lump to my throat….and tears to my eyes. I envy you the service you render to humanity.

  2. Ken, seeing people “at work” makes them so real. My favorite picture of my dad was one that ran in the Marquette Cement magazine when I was young. He was doing his “job” in the pack house. All the family pictures were great, but that was the real BJ Crites for over forty years every day. The pictures you have taken do capture the real people in so many venues. Wish I could be in MO when you do the Altenburg show. Have fun with the experience and keep thosepictures coming.

  3. Wow, what an interview with Fay Powers. Between that and the picture I feel like I know the lady. Thanks Ken for sharing your talent with us all.

  4. thank you for my mother, what a God send. I can remember
    seeing what we call telegram lineman working on lines in the picture above, you make my heart smile with all this history. I love it and thank God for you.

    Fay Powders

    1. Fay,

      I can’t thank you enough for spending time with me. I can’t think of anything I’ve done as a photographer that has meant more to me than being able to give you that photo of your mother.

  5. Harriet Smith said it for me too. Love getting to share all these moments I have enjoyed for years now. What an incredible tribute to your work!

  6. the first house i remembered growing up was on south fredderick..507. so smelterville wasn’t that far away.
    i went to school with fay..great to see you!

  7. The house behind Billy Beal is my house & mother’s house, the one with the gate & fence. I enjoy living there.

  8. This is a very interesting video, however, I do not recognize the either women. But the pens on the front of her dress is very familiar; women used to do that a lot. Thanks for the dvd. May I ask: Is there something fulfilling for you in going back to those events?

    1. When I retired from the newspaper business in 2008, I started looking back over the stuff I had been shooting for the past half-century and realized that what I had once shot as news had turned into history.

      It is rewarding when I can share photographs that, for the most part, have never been seen. Kids and grandkids are finding out things about family members they never knew.

  9. Great history! Thanks Ken!
    I knew some people from there who attended St. Vincent’s elementary school, when the Holy Family school first and, then, the church were closed – the school in the 1950’s, when the Sisters of Loretto, who taught there, were moved to their own convent next to the new St. Vincent’s elementary school built in 1956 and the church later in the 1960s. I served Catholic Mass there in the late 1950’s, riding there with the priest who served there and at St. Vincent’s in his car. We came to Cape in 1958 from Festus, but my family goes back to ancestors on both sides to the Shawnee mother, Gabrielle Oeussa, who mothered a daughter, Marguerite Valle, with Francois Valle, Sr. Commandant of Ste. Genevieve under both the Spanish and French in Ste. Genevieve during the 1700s. In the 1960’s I volunteered with the Civic Center and went down to see some school friends from St. Vincent’s elementary who lived there. I met a lot of friendly people, some of whom lived in dirt-floored homes with concrete porches and several rooms inside the homes. About 1970 a group from Sing-Out Cape went there to paint a home that had smoke damage from a fire.
    Everyone finally moved out after the horrific record 1973 flood that didn’t recede for months. In the 1990s while running furniture deliveries all over town for the outreach ministry, Marillac’s Moveables, I met several former members of the Holy Family Church, who told me they were unfortunately informed by a letter from the Catholic Diocese that Holy Family Church was to close in the 1960s and they could join either St. Mary’s or St. Vincent’s. No one met with the church members or spoke with them about all this. Most former Catholics of Holy Family, who had helped build the church with the basement where school was held for their children, formed New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, which occupied the former Holy Family Church many families had worked to build. Later on, New Bethel moved to Linden, where it’s located today. Good people and friends, with whom I shared time and education.

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