Weighty Thoughts at Arena Park

Arena Park 06-24-1967I don’t know who these guys are, what they are doing or even what the thing they’re staring at is. I DO know that the negative sleeve said June 24, 1967, but I didn’t find it in The Missourian around that date.

I see one of the trains in the background, and that makes me pretty sure it’s Arena Park, not Capaha Park. (If you click on the photo to make it larger, you can see the train off on the left.)

It’s not a swing

Arena Park 06-24-1967I thought the thing might be a swing, but the seat is fixed. If it’s a bench, it sure has a lot of structure supporting it. There aren’t enough horizontal pieces for it to be a jungle gym.

Maybe that’s why the guys all have a perplexed look.

“Who ordered this thing?” I can see the blame game shaping up.

Iconic Racing Photos

Stockcar races 1966Continuing my holiday reruns: it’s hard to define what make a photo iconic, but I think these photos have that timeless quality.

Arena Park Stock Car Races was a popular topic: it garnered 58 comments from people who remembered the drivers and many an evening spent at Arena Park. The racer above was Lester Harris, who was also the subject of a piece, “Cheating Death to Make Phones Ring.”

Click on the pictures to make them larger; click on the links to see more images and comments.

Stock car scuffles

Stockcar race scuffle 2Not all of the action took place behind the wheel.

The officer on the right was “Dub” Wilson. Someone back at the office said, “Looks like Dub must have gotten down in the dirt.”

Another reporter said, “Nah, that’s the way Dub’s uniform always looks.”

Arena Park Motorcycle racing

Arena Park Motorcycle racing in the 1960sMotorcycle racing never attracted huge crowds Dick McClard commented. See if you recognize anyone in the more than dozen photos.


Wrestling and Gorgeous George

Wrestling sign - Arena Park - General Sign CoWhen I saw this sign in the treasure trove of General Sign photos Terry Hopkins‘ dad loaned me, I immediately thought of going to wrestling matches at Arena Park with Dad.

The funny thing about it was that I thought I had memories of seeing Gorgeous George wrestling there. The only problem with that is that he died in 1963 at the age of 48. His last fight in Cape was in 1955, I can’t see Dad taking me to a wresting match when I was eight.

Cape matches

A Gorgeous George fan tried to list every fight George Raymond Wagner (his real name until he changed it the day after Christmas in 1950). Here is a list of his Cape bouts:

  • May 4, 1953 – Cape Girardeau, MO Red Roberts(sub for Gorgeous George) vs. Lester Welch
  • November 26, 1954 – Cape Girardeau, MO Joe Tangero beat Gorgeous George in a 2 of 3 falls match
  • November 18, 1955 – Cape Girardeau, MO Dick Hutton beat Gorgeous George in a 2 of 3 falls match

Joined WWE Hall of Fame in 2010

The WWE website has some bio information:

Born in 1915, George Wagner grew up poor in Nebraska during the Great Depression and turned to professional wrestling as a way to earn a living. Early in his career, Wagner was a normal, clean-cut grappler like most of the competitors of the era. Due to his small stature and limited abilities in the ring, he experienced little success. Then he got an idea.

Seeing an opportunity to bring more entertainment to the world of professional wrestling, George Wagner became Gorgeous George, a snooty, platinum blonde villain who draped himself in lace and fur and entered the ring to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.” Accompanied by a manservant who sprayed the ring down with Chanel perfume, George would enrage the audience just by walking into an arena. When the official would attempt to check George for foreign objects, he would recoil and shout, “Get your filthy hands off of me!”

While this behavior may seem tame by today’s standards, it was unheard of in the 1940s. Needless to say, audiences ate it up and bought tickets just to hate him. At the same time, televisions were becoming a fixture of American households during the post-World War II economic boom and professional wrestling was what everyone was watching. With his over-the-top antics and self-proclaimed nicknames like “The Beautiful Bicep” and “The Sensation of the Nation,” Gorgeous George quickly became the biggest attraction on this new medium. By the end of the decade, the man who grew up poor was now the highest paid athlete in the world.

High school wrestling

Helen Ketterer watching wrestlingI covered a Central High School wrestling match where mild-mannered Miss Helen Ketterer, let her wild out. It was a side I had never seen before.

You’re going to be shopping, right?

Everybody is all agog at the idea of getting up from the turkey table on Thanksgiving to fight the crowds for bargains. If you are more inclined to relax on the holiday and do your shopping on line, keep me in mind.
Buy From Amazon.com to Support Ken SteinhoffI encourage you to shop locally, but if you order from Amazon, click on the Big Red Button at the top left of the page (or this one) to get to Amazon. I’ll make about 6% on anything you purchase, and it won’t add a penny to your cost. There’s also a tiny yellow button that will allow you to make a donation to the site. You don’t even have to put a bow on it.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving if we don’t get together before then.

2014 SEMO District Fair

SEMO District Fair 09-09-2014After covering the Cannonball run, I almost didn’t go to the fair Tuesday night. Then I looked at the 80% chance of rain Wednesday night. I have been to some rainy SEMO District Fairs, and I didn’t want to punch that ticket (literally) again.

While I was waiting to turn toward Arena Park, a number of fair announcements flashed up on the sign. One, I thought, said something about tickets being $40. “There better be a place to turn around, ’cause no fair is worth forty bucks,” I thought.

I got waved over to a parking place without having to reach for my wallet. That’s a good thing. I walked toward where all the action was and saw a sign that said $5. That’s more my speed. I got my five bucks worth before the evening was over.

 I concentrated on people

SEMO District Fair 09-09-2014There are some things I should mention: I feel guilty that I didn’t see the things off the midway that really make up a fair: the livestock, cooking contests, quilts and crafts …

Since I had a limited amount of time to spend, and because it was so late, I concentrated on the flash and trash of the midway food, rides and games of chance. I also spent more time taking photos of people than things.

I don’t do heartwarming much, but I really enjoyed what I presumed to be fathers and grandfathers enjoying their kids.

Older stories about fairs

Photo gallery of 2014 Fair

Sometimes you just have to get out of the way and let the photos tell the story. I’ve tried to group the gallery somewhat according to subject. That’s why you’ll find the potato booth together, rides together and games of chance together. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.