Scott City I-55 Interchange Under Construction in 1960s

A trip to St. Louis or Memphis took all day

If you’re a Post-Boomer, you probably don’t know going to St. Louis or Memphis was an all-day affair before Interstate 55 was built. It was such a big deal that The Missourian routinely ran briefs that said, “Mr. and Mrs. John Jones, 1618 Somewhere St., journeyed to St. Louis for shopping and to see relatives.”

It wasn’t until the late 60s that the paper established the policy that a mere trip to those two cities didn’t warrant coverage unless actual news was committed.

I had forgotten how recently I-55 was constructed, until I saw the aerial photo above tacked on the end of the roll that had the Bald Knob Cross shots on it. That would have put it roughly in 1964. (Also on the roll are some shots of downtown Cape before the KFVS building was built. They’re coming in the next few days.)

It took me a little head-scratching to figure out where the photo was taken. My first guess was Route K near the mall, but there are no railroad tracks out there. Then, I remembered some overpasses over tracks in the Chaffee area, but there’s no Interstate there.

It was the Scott City Interchange

Finally, I pulled up Google Earth and started searching for railroad tracks near an interchange with a highway overpass nearby. I also figured that it was probably near the Cape Airport where Ernie Chiles and I would have taken off. Bingo. That was it. The giveaway turned out to be what I assume to be a train station just east of the ramp area.

Highway 61 is the overpass on the left

The overpass to the left of the interchange carried traffic north over the Diversion Channel to Cape and south to Benton. The road that parallels the railroad track is Main Street leading into Scott City.

The equipment used to build the Interstate was a little more modern than the steam roller my Dad used to pave Rt. 25 going into Advance in 1941.

Here’s a map showing the Scott City Interchange as it looks today


View Scott City Interchange in a larger map

Bald Knob Cross Restoration Planned

There was a story in The Southeast Missourian that plans are in place to finish restoration of the Bald Knob Cross. I’d be more excited if I hadn’t heard that for years.

Still, the story jogged my memory that I had shot some aerials and ground shots of the Cross in the late 60s. I was pleased to see that the shot from the air was better than I had remembered. Parts of the film had deteriorated over the years, so my selection of pictures was limited.

Cross stands 111 feet tall, 1,000 feet above sea level

Cross project conceived in 1937

The project was spearheaded by Wayman Presley, who found 116 individuals who raised enough money between 1948 to 1951 to buy the land atop Bald Knob Hill. The foundation was poured in 1953. You can read more at the Bald Knob Cross web site.

Selling pigs raised $30,000

Financial shortfalls have been the one constant throughout the history of the Cross. The Bald Knob web site says that Presley quit his job with the Post Office to throw himself into fund raising. An appearance on This Is Your Life helped, but money was still tight.

A challenge to supporters to raise pigs, sell them and turn the profits over to the cross raised $30,000.

The Cross was completed in 1963

The formal groundbreaking ceremony was held in 1953. The bare metal framework of the Cross stood for several years until there was enough money to cover the superstructure with 900 heavy steel panels with a bright white veneer.

The Cross web site said that 40,000 watts of lighting made the structure visible for 7,500 square miles.

The symbol of peace became a source of conflict

The Cross was supposed to be an interdenominational symbol of peace, but internal conflicts were growing at the same time as the structure was deteriorating.  The disputes became so serious by 2006 the courts stepped in and locked down the properties until everything could be sorted out.

Agreement was reached in 2008

From the web site:

In the summer of 2008 a settlement that was supported by both sides of the conflict began taking shape. In the agreement, all current board members would step down and the court would appoint a temporary transitional board comprised of mostly religious leaders in Southern Illinois. The final legal settlement became official on Christmas Eve 2008. The seven member transitional board met in the middle of January 2009 for the first time. Since that time, the board has been extremely busy. In addition to the obvious challenge of the physical restoration of the Cross, the organizational structure, fiscal policies and procedures, and program development aspects of Bald Knob have been addressed. Physical restoration of the Cross has already begun.

Location of Bald Knob Cross near Alto Pass, IL


View Bald Knob Cross of Peace in a larger map

Here’s another “cross” picture

Wife Lila, who was looking over the page before I published it, remarked that the Bald Knob Cross reminded her of a photo I had taken of an abandoned strip mine in Southeastern Ohio in 1969. A power pole caught the late afternoon light just right to look like a cross. The picture ran almost full page in The Athens Messenger on the first Earth Day. It’s always been one of my favorite pictures.

Here’s the background story.

She was right. (Of course, that’s always the case. It goes without saying, but she like to hear me say it anyway.) I’ll let you decide.

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.