General Pest Control

These photos were taken for a freelance job for General Pest Control. I don’t know if they were for a brochure, a Missourian ad or what. I also don’t know the names of the people in the photo. They were probably shot around 1964. Click on any photo to make it larger.

Checking under the sink

The lady of the house must have known we were coming because I don’t think I’ve ever seen an area under a kitchen sink so neat and organized.

I took my flash off the camera, but I should have bounced it off the ceiling to get rid of the harsh shadow behind the guy’s head. Maybe I thought about doing that but was afraid it wouldn’t get enough light under the sink. That’s one advantage of today’s digital cameras: you can see the picture before you leave.

Shadow shows Honeywell strobe

I would never have made a print that showed my shadow or any sign of me, but I left my shadow in here because it shows the Honeywell Strobonar 65C or 65D strobe bolted on the camera. I had both over the years They were called “potato mashers” because of their shape. The 65C used rechargeable batteries in the head. The disadvantage was that it was slow to recycle, so you couldn’t shoot one shot right after another.

The 65D used a 510-volt battery that dangled from a case on your belt. It recycled quickly because of the high voltage zap it gave the capacitors. Since it used the same frame as the 65C and because it didn’t use batteries in the head, there was a neat little storage space where you could put a spare cord or other accessory.

The high-voltage battery had one drawback (other than being relatively expensive): if the battery cord had a short and you were anywhere near a wet surface, all that voltage would surge though YOU and flat put you on the ground. I was walking across a wet football field one night when I thought I had been tackled from behind. After a second jolt, I decided it was time to go back to the car for a spare cord.

What channel were they watching?

Here’s another shot I would have cropped tighter in the real world, but I left it wide so you could speculate what TV channel they were watching. Their antenna is pointing to the northwest. I would have thought the KFVS World’s Tallest Man-made Structure would have been more to the north toward Egypt Mills. The only two other stations you could pick up in Cape were Paducah to the north-northeast and St. Louis to the north.

That would have been about the right direction to pick up the old KFVS tower that was located next to North County Park near the old KFVS radio tower, but by the mid-60s when these photos were taken that tower wasn’t used any more.

[Wife Lila, who was proofreading this, thinks it was Harrisburg we watched instead of St. Louis. The channels she remembers getting were 3, 6 and 12. I’m certainly not going to contradict her.]

Owned and operated by the Paynes

Leeman Payne’s obituary in the Dec. 29, 2010, Missourian said that Mr. Payne and his wife, Dorothy, owned and operated General Pest Control for 35 years. He also built and sold homes in Cape and Bollinger counties. I didn’t make a personal connection with General Pest Control until I saw that Mr. Payne was survived by a daughter, Carolyn. In the interest of full disclosure, Carolyn and I dated briefly before I won a coin toss with Jim Stone and hooked up with the future Wife Lila. Maybe that’s how I got the freelance job.

An Internet search landed me on the D & L Pest Control website where it says that in 1987 “D&L makes its largest acquisition to date by purchasing General Pest Control Company of Cape Girardeau MO. With this purchase D&L opens its first branch office, in Cape Girardeau. After years of steady growth in the Dexter office this merger makes D&L the largest pest control company in Southeast Missouri. By now the D&L team has grown from 1 employee in 1979 to 14 employees. Greg DeProw now takes over as branch manager in the Cape Girardeau office. The purchase of General Pest Control also introduces D&L service to southern Illinois.”


Frank J. Brockmeyer, Blacksmith

“For 42 years, Frank Brockmeyer has lifted, heated, pounded, molded and tempered hot steel,” I wrote in a rare bylined story on The Missourian’s front page August 23, 1967. (The paper doled out bylines about as often as it gave raises.) Unfortunately, the page was microfilmed at a 90-degree angle, so you can’t search on that date. You have to search for August 22, then lay on your side to read it.) Click on any photo to make it larger.

One of the last blacksmiths

Mr. Brockmeyer, who was going to turn 66 on September 17, was one of the city’s last blacksmiths. His shop – a small, sagging brick and wooden structure with a weatherbeaten door – was located at 35 South Spanish.

Massive anvils

Behind the door were the tools of the smithy’s trade: the massive anvils securely anchored to equally massive blocks of wood; the huge wooden tub filled with water; the forge, and the tongs and sledge hammers and grinders and other paraphernalia.

The forge

The work is getting harder, “but any kind of work gets harder when you get older,” he quickly added, with a smile breaking out around the curved pipe usually carried in his mouth. “Lot of people think this is easy, but you try to hold this hot steel with tongs and swing at it with a hammer. Here – feel this hammer. That’s eight pounds,” he said.

Hired as apprentice in 1925

Back in 1925, when Mr. Brockmeyer was apprenticed to Joe G. Schonhoff, owners brought their horses into the building to be shod. After the shop acquired so much equipment that there wasn’t enough room for the operation, they went to the farms to do the job. The original owners started the business in a different location in 1890.

The worst thing you can do

Those days were past. Mr. Brockmeyer said it had been 27 years since he had last shod a horse, and he didn’t appear to have missed the task. “Do you know the worst thing you can do?” he asked. “It’s shoeing a horse laying down.” Noting a perplexed look on his listener [another rare thing: Missourian reporters were not to insert themselves into the story] he continued, “That’s where you have to rope him, throw him, hogtie him and then shoe him.”

You can’t trust newspapers

I was curious to see if the paper had run any other stories about Mr. Brockmeyer. I found his obituary in the May 15, 1983, paper, the day he died at 81. He was born Sept. 17, 1901, at Apple Creek, the son of Theodore and Mary Schumer Brockmeyer. On Sept. 24, 1924, he married the former Mary Eftink of Oran, who survived him. The couple had nine children. His only son tried blacksmithing, but didn’t like it, Mr. Brockmeyer said.

The obit said he was a self-employed blacksmith, operating a shop on South Spanish from 1925 until his retirement in 1963. He couldn’t have retired in 1963, because I shot him working in 1967, back when he shared his philosophy of work: “When things get too rough, I just quit and go fishing.”

Atlas Plastic Workers Strike for More Money

The Missourian caption under my photo on the front page August 29, 1966, read, “A line of pickets bearing signs proclaiming a strike against Atlas Plastics Corp. here march in front of the company offices on Broadview. The walkout began Saturday afternoon. From left, the men are Lawrence Hagan, Glen Grojean, Tom Gibbar, Joe Gockel, Mitchell Gill and Earl Rhodes. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Albert M. Spradling, the company’s attorney, said the union was asking for an across-the-board wage increase of nearly a dollar an hour plus additional fringe benefits. Atlas Production workers earned an average of $1.88 per hour, Spradling said.The company wanted to spread the increase over a three-year contract; the union was holding out for a one-year agreement.

Atlas was third Cape strike

A September 21, 1968, story said that a walkout of 200 employees had shut down the Atlas plant, the city’s third industrial strike in three months. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local went on strike July 29 at Davis Electric Co., and IBEW Local 1601 employees of Superior Electric struck Aug. 18. I wonder if these strikes were tied in with the parent and student protest at the Jackson Junior High School in 1964.

Six employees were arrested September 24, 1968, when they blocked a truck leaving the plant after being served a restraining order.




Buckner’s Pneumatic Tubes: Gone

Let’s get the big question out of the way first: the pneumatic tubes that whisked your money to and from the cashiers are gone. Not a trace of them remains, the owner said.

This isn’t the definitive story on the Buckner-Ragsdale building, by the way. I just knocked off a few shots when I stopped by on another errand. We’ll do it up right on the next trip.

UPDATE to original story about Buckner-Ragsdale

I won’t need to do the definitive story on the long-time Cape business. Reader JTL left this link to the Lamkin family website.

Be sure to follow this link to advertisements, photos of the store and its employees and all sorts of historical information. This will take you back to an era where customer service was a reality, not a buzzword.

“Messrs. Buckner, Ragsdale & Lamkin built the store upon and retained those principals of  retailing that placed the customer first.  Services such as free alterations, free delivery, no interest credit, free gift wraping and an in depth knowledge of customers maintained in the memories of the large and loyal sales staff differentiated Mainstreet retailing from the Sears catalog.  During the 1970s, marketing professors at Southeast Missouri State College often used Buckners as an example of an antiquated, not numbers oriented retail establishment.  It was, without apology.  Those inculcated with modern retailing practices might try this experiment.  Call the  Macy’s salesperson most knowledgeable of your personal preferences and say, “I’m going to a Texas Hold ’em party tonight.  You know what I like.  Send me five dresses/coats/pairs of shoes on the afternoon delivery, and I’ll pick one.  I’ll return the others sometime next week, and pay for the one I keep maybe next month.”  What response would one receive for this once standard 60’s request?”

Buckner-Ragsdale photo gallery

These are details I thought were interesting on a cold, rainy, blustery day. It don’t take me long to lose interest when icy water is dripping down my collar. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.