Tuning Up Rosie

Erica and Glenn Hamilton tune Rosie the piano at history center 06-13-2023

Erica and Glenn Hamilton came to the Cape Girardeau County History Center in Jackson to tune “Rosie,” an 1879ish Brazilian Rosewood piano, Serial Number 17919.

Rosie getting ready for Sallie Ann

Erica and Glenn Hamilton tune Rosie the piano at history center 06-13-2023

Rosie is getting in shape for the Welcome Home Sallie Ann tea party on June 17, at the history center at Jackson. The doll, which dates back to the 1840s, passed through the family for generations before coming home to Jackson and the History Center. (Sallie Ann is on display in the background of this photo.)

The tea party will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Special refreshments will be served, and Antebellum textile expert Hope Eddleman will talk about the doll’s clothing.

Lots of pieces and parts

Erica and Glenn Hamilton tune Rosie the piano at history center 06-13-2023

Mother always wanted me to learn how to play the piano so I’d be the life of the party. I demurred, grumbling that I hardly knew how to play the radio, let alone a complicated musical instrument. Besides, being the life of the party was the last thing in the world that would appeal to me.

Because of that, I never had much occasion to peer into the innards of the music machine. I was surprised at how modular it all was. The keyboard, with the hammers that hit the strings, pulls out like a kitchen drawer, for example.

Tools are relatively simple

Erica and Glenn Hamilton tune Rosie the piano at history center 06-13-2023

I didn’t stay for the whole process, but the tools I saw being used were things that most of us have in the kitchen junk drawer – basic screwdrivers.

Most of the rough tuning seemed to involve hitting a key and seeing if it caused the hammer to hit the right combination of strings.

Once the striking part was on target, it was a matter of a trained ear getting the string tensions where they made the right sounds. If Erica and Glenn used any fancy electronic gizmos, they wheeled them in after I left.

I’m sure Sallie Ann will be pleased.







History Center Christmas Trees

I went to the Cape Girardeau County History Center on the square in Jackson on Monday to shoot the annual display of Christmas trees. That night, I realized that I had missed the point in thinking of the trees as just trees. 

The display is themed, and each tree carries out a part of that theme. The details are what make them work. I went back later in the week to concentrate on parts, instead of the whole tree.

See for yourself until the trees come down on January 15. The History Center will be open during the Southern Country Church Tour until 8 p.m. on Dec. 10, and on the Original Country Church Tour on Dec. 15 and 16.

Director Carla Jordan wrote a description of The Nativity Story: History, Tradition, and Beauty, that I will borrow.

Food Pantry Tree

This tree is our annual Food Pantry tree.   It is covered with musical stars and angels created by our docent team.  You may choose an ornament for a $5 donation that will be given to the Jackson Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry.

The Drummer Boy

Designer Jo Nell Cougill brought this popular Nativity story into the modern-era with Civil War drummers, and instruments that make a joyful noise like the early story of the Little Drummer Boy.

The Legend of the Spider Tree

I have to confess that this is one of my favorites because it tells a story I’d never heard before. (Click on the photos in this gallery to make them larger, then use your arrow keys to move through them.)

The Legend of the Spider Tree is designed by mother/son team, Lisa and Brody Goodman.  The legend has different variations in Germany and the Ukraine, but the version we chose tells of the Christ-Child’s Christmas Eve visit to the family home to leave blessings.  The family had thoroughly cleaned in order to prepare for the visit.  The spiders also wished to see the Christ-Child and scampered up the family’s tree to get a good view, leaving their webs behind.  The Christ-Child was delighted with the spiders, but did not want the family to find their cleaning efforts disregarded, and He touched the webs, turning them to silver and gold.

The Legend of the Candy Cane

The Legend of the Candy Cane is illustrated in the tree created by 8-year-old, Ben, with his Grandmother Sandy Loesel. One legend says that the candy cane dates back to 1670, and the sweet sticks of candy were used by the choirmaster to keep choir boys hushed during the Living Creche ceremony at Cologne Cathedral in Germany. 

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day designed and created by Karen Friese. The story is based on an 1863 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was distraught by the loss of his wife in a tragic fire, and his son joined the Union Army during the Civil War and was severely injured.  Upon hearing the Christmas bells ringing on Christmas morning during this dark period, Longfellow found comfort in the church bells, and wrote the famous poem, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep…peace on earth, and good will to men.”  The poem was first published in Our Young Folks, a juvenile magazine in 1865, and is now a beloved Christmas carol.

Feathered Friends

In the history of Christian art, animal forms have been important symbols. Birds have been used to represent the Holy Spirit, the Passion of Christ and immortality. Doves are a common bird illustrated in the rafters of the Nativity story.  At the Nativity there might have been sparrows, swallows, and possibly roosters and hens.  This tree celebrates all of the feathered friends and their celebration of this Christmas legend.

Chrismon Tree

Chrismon Tree (symbols of Christ): A group of participants met next door at the Research Annex each month for 11 months, creating Chrismon’s with their instructor, Jo Nell Cougill.  The class created this tree with the symbols they learned to make.  Some of these symbols are ancient, and some are more modern.  The Chrismon tradition was renewed and preserved by Frances Spencer and the women of the Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Virginia in 1957.

Love Came Down at Christmas

Love Came Down at Christmas. This tree was designed and created by Jan Vogel, and represents the Christmas season of love.

Olive Wood Nativity

The long narrow pecan table has two topiary trees with a central olive wood Nativity. All of the olive wood ornaments and the Nativity are from the Holy Land, a gift from the Kenneth White Collection. The beautiful ceramic Nativity set on the buffet was created by Kenneth White’s mother in her private ceramics studio.

PEO-LA Star Tree

The Star: This tree has been a part of our Christmas tradition for 7 years.  It is designed and created each year by the PEO-LA organization and chapter.

Marian Blue Tree

This Marian Blue tree is another tree that has been a part of our exhibitions for years, but the new tree adds a special focus on the special blue color. Early Egyptians loved bold cobalt blue and pulverized lapis lazuli stones to obtain the pigment for embellishments and art works.  For millennia, blue has been a costly, sacred hue—at times more prized than gold.  Marian blue is a color creating Mary’s elevation in the interpretation of historic art since the 5th century.  During the first few centuries after Christ, Mary was often depicted in a red gown or wrapped in a pink mantle.  Slowly, blue replaced the artist’s preferred color for Mary.

The Donkey Tree

Donkey Tree: nearly always depicted as Mary’s mode of transport to Bethlehem. We chose to place this dear animal near Mary.

The Joseph Tree

Joseph Tree: You will see the symbols of Joseph’s carpentry tools, the symbol of the lily, a menorah and a yarmulke tree topper. You often see the lily flower depicted in art with Joseph.  An ancient legend says that Joseph was chosen from among other men by the blossoming of his staff like a lily.  “The just man shall blossom like a lily.”

The Three Wisemen

The Three Wisemen: This story tree tells of the visitors to the Nativity who came to Bethlehem bearing gifts that are symbolized under the tree. This tree represents that the Nativity story is for all people.

A Multitude of Angels

A Multitude of Angels: created and designed by LaVerne Wachter and Mary Kiehne, from Mary’s personal angel collection.

Click on any image to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.

White Feather Tree

The next angel tree is full of winged child-like angels from the Bradford Collection. The angels were a gift from the Dr. Deborah Price and Kenneth White Collection.

Lace Angels

A small tree on the coffee bar has lace angels created by Juanita M. Criddle Niswonger. A beautiful host of angels fly above an artist, Lori Mitchell Nativity.

The Shepherd and Lamb Tree

The Shepherd and Lamb Tree: created from a group effort of love.

Oxen Tree

Oxen Tree: this unique tree designed and created by Jo Nell Cougill, acknowledges the oxen that is always present near Jesus in traditional Nativity scenes. Oxen are symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel, representing strength and power.  Note the other symbols represented on the tree.  The oxen yoke is a gift from the Robert and Yvonne Keathley Collection.

Happy Birthday, Jesus

The Happy Birthday, Jesus tree by the PEO organization, Chapter DJ. Note that the items on this tree are handmade by the members. This tree has grown each year and has become a traditional feature in the exhibit.

Oh, Holy Night

Oh, Holy Night tree. The Nativity ornaments on this tree are a part of the 50+ year collection of docent, Carolyn Taylor.

A special thanks to Abbey Road Christian Church for the use of their Creche for the Oh, Holy Night exhibit.

The Giving Tree

This little tree has tags on it to be  taken home to remind you to contribute things that we need to run the History Center and Research Center, copy paper, cleaning supplies and office materials.


A Soldier Frozen in Time

Metal toy soldier – 2022-05-27

There’s no telling what might pop up when you start digging through boxes of Steinhoff heirlooms.

It’s appropriate that this metal toy soldier came to light in time to commemorate Memorial Day. It looks like he might be dressed in a World War I uniform. I don’t ever recall seeing him before, so I have no idea of his history.

Now that he’s had a chance to see the light, I’m going to have him march over to the Cape Girardeau County History Center in Jackson so he can be enjoyed by others.

One Tin Soldier

While working on this guy, One Tim Soldier, the 1971 hit song in the movie Billy Jack, came to mind.

The song told the story of two neighboring tribes, the warlike Valley People and the peaceful Mountain Kingdom which possesses a great treasure buried under a stone. The Valley People demand the treasure. The Mountain People respond that they will share it with “their brothers,” but the Valley People invade and slaughter the Mountain People. On overturning the stone, they find nothing except the words “Peace On Earth” inscribed beneath it.

The song ends

Go ahead and hate your neighbor
Go ahead and cheat a friend
Do it in the name of heaven
You can justify it in the end
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day
On the bloody morning after
One tin soldier rides away

Previous stories about veterans and memorials


Nowell’s Camera Shop

Briana Schoen w Nowell’s sign 01-26-2022

Barb Frokler mentioned in a Facebook group called Cape Rewound that the Nowell’s Camera Shop sign that hung out over the sidewalk at 609 Broadway was in the basement of the Mississippi Mutts. I suggested to Carla Jordan, director at the Cape Girardeau County History Center in Jackson, that the sign would be a great acquisition if she could score it.

It WAS available, so I was dispatched to see if it would fit in my Honda Odyssey van. You can tell from comparing it to employee Briana Schoen that it wasn’t going to happen, even if I opened the sunroof.

Exhibit Kept Growing

Once the word got out that the sign would be part of a lobby exhibit, folks started contributing pieces of their personal photographic history.

History of 609 Broadway

A number of businesses have called this address home. One of the earliest was Phil C. Haman’s Drugs. The mosaic tile with the name is still there.

A 1934 Girardot ad said the store sold Kodaks, pens, pencils and drugs. The display window on the right used to read “Kodaks” in big black letters.

Eastman Kodak tried to get it taken down for trademark violation, but Nowell’s successfully argued that the sign dated back to when “Kodak” was a generic term for consumer cameras. I don’t know what happened to the window, maybe it was broken and replaced with clear glass.

I took the Broadway sign photo Sept. 12, 2001, when I rode my bike all over town shooting the main streets and landmarks.

Bill Nowell and his wife, Juvernia, opened Nowell’s Camera Shop in the early 1950s and became Cape’s only photo specialty shop.

The Mississippi Mutts folks moved into the location in 2015, after starting the business at 1231 Broadway in 2012. Sherry Jennings is the owner, and Barb Frokler is the manager.  The store sells a plethora of pet paraphernalia and treats, many goodies housed in the original cabinets along the walls. (I didn’t spot any Terrytoon movies, alas.)

Linda Folsom Hatch commented on another post that “My grandparents, Carl and Quinn Bauerle, bought the camera shop building and lived in the apartment upstairs for many years…..I still have some of the old bottles from the drug store (Hamans).”

Nowell’s supported The Girardot

Like Haman’s, Nowell’s bought an ad in the 1963 Central High School Girardot yearbook.

Some proofreader must have been asleep. Notice that the Walther’s Furniture Company ad spells the city’s name as “Garadeau.”

I practically lived in Nowell’s

Nowell’s Camera Store – Broadway 12-20-1966

I spent many a long hour leaning on the counters in the camera store lusting after Pentax cameras and lenses. (I didn’t switch to Nikon until after a student at Ohio University sold me a Nikon F with three lenses for $150 so he could pay his rent.)

Ironically, I have very few photos from the time I hid out there. I was a kid who got paid $5 per picture (later reduced to $3 a photo for non-assigned art when John Blue calculated that my salary plus freelance photos amounted to more money than some senior reporters made). 

Pictures that didn’t generate revenue didn’t get taken unless I was trying to finish out a roll.

Here’s how it works

Customers didn’t just walk in and buy a camera. Bill Nowell and his staff would help you make the right choice, then explain everything you needed to know to take good pictures.

When I did a blog post about Mary Nowell, the comment section was filled with tributes to her dad.

Try this in a big box store

A couple buddies and I decided to skip school one afternoon. To make my exit less obvious, I left my gear in the school darkroom.

Wouldn’t you know it, one of the first things we saw was a train vs truck crash in South Cape. I dashed into Nowell’s, grabbed a Pentax, a roll of Tri-X black and white film, and shouted, “I’ll be back” over my shoulder as I bolted out the door.

I don’t think Mr. Nowell batted an eye.

When I scanned the film recently, I discovered that I had not only shot the wreck, but a fire on the same roll. You can read a full report of my youthful transgressions here.

My buddies and I managed to escape any consequences from our absence. I DO recall, though, Mr. G. stopping me in the hall a few weeks later and saying, “I know you’re up to something, I just haven’t figured out WHAT yet. I’m keeping my eye on you.” Of course, knowing him, he probably delivered that speech to everybody at one time or another just to keep us on our toes.

Nowell’s fed my photographic addiction

I discovered a trove of cancelled checks written to the camera shop when I was rooting through old files. This was a place and a time when you could even write a “counter” check if you didn’t have your checkbook with you.

Mr. Nowell trusted a lot of young photographers by letting us buy on credit. I would usually pay cash for large purchases, like cameras and lenses, but I’d charge film and supplies.

I overheard Dad tell a friend of his one day, “Mr. Nowell even lets him run a charge account.” That was his form of bragging that his kid was recognized as trustworthy by a respected local businessman. It’s funny, but most of the praise I got from Dad was overheard, and not direct.

A cornucopia of cool stuff 

Nowell’s Camera Store – Broadway 12-20-1966

It wasn’t just cameras, film, chemicals and photo paper. You could walk in and be tempted by all kinds of cool stuff, including black & white 8mm Terrytoon cartoon films. (I’m pretty sure I’ll run across some reels of those one of these days.)

I don’t know how he did it, but Mr. Nowell managed to snag a dry mount press for me when they were supposed to be limited to governmental agencies. It mounted hundreds of prints for contests, classes and exhibits. It currently lives at the Jackson museum.

A place known for careful listening

No customer was rushed, no matter what the purchase. I wish I could remember this saleswoman’s name.

Marty Cearnal could twist my arm

To be fair, though, he didn’t have to twist it much to sell me photo gear. If you look up “super salesmen” in the dictionary, it probably has his photo next to it.