Jo Ann Bock’s Book

Jo Ann Bock at Tom Nuemeyer book signing 03-14-2010I photographed Jo Ann Bock at Tom Neumeyer’s book signing for his photo documentary book, Cape Girardeau Then & Now back in 2010.

When Mrs. Bock wrote Around the Town of Cape Girardeau in Eighty Years, she asked if she could use one of the photos on the back cover of her book. I didn’t hesitate to give her permission. She sent me a copy of the book in return. I was pleasantly surprised to see she had some extraordinarily nice things to say about a piece I wrote about her husband, Howard Bock, when he died.

Mr. Bock Changed my life

Howard Bock CHS 23In the curious way that things in Cape are intertwined, Mrs. Bock was my Cub Scout den mother and knew I was interested in photography. When I got to Central, her husband was in charge of the Tiger and Girardot photo staffs and asked if I’d like to join. That was, indirectly, the start of my photography career.

We saw different slices of time

Jo Ann Bock BookHoward and Jo Ann Bock were getting married (1950) just about the time I was getting born (1947), so we view Cape through slightly different lenses. She stayed in Cape, except for a few years, and I left in 1967, although Cape has never left me.

In the introduction to one of the chapters, she says, “Sometimes a person will ask why I didn’t mention this place, or that person, or recall a special event. My answer is that memories take different directions with people.” Maybe that’s why even though she and I plow the same ground, we come up with different crops.

Her view of Broadway

Vandeven Merchantile Company 1967She and a city directory did a good job of creating a list of businesses and residences along the Broadway corridor. We have some memory overlap on some long-time businesses like Vandeven’s and the movie theaters, but a lot of places she remembers were long gone when the 1960s came around.

Here’s a partial list of what I found along Broadway between Kingshighway and Main Street.

Library and Courthouse

Cook kidsids playing in courthouse fountain on Cape Girardeau's Common Pleas Courthouse grounds June 29, 1967She and I both spent a lot of time in the Cape Public Library when it was located on the grounds of the Common Pleas Courthouse. Unlike these kids, she “never felt right about playing in the fountain with that soldier staring down at me.”

Just for the record, the soldier that stared down at her was smashed by a falling limb. The pieced-together original lives at the Jackson Courthouse, and a replacement casting stares down at children today. Maybe the new one would be less intimidating.

The George Alt House

Trinity Lutheran School neighborhood c 1966We both served our time in the George Alt House, turned into Trinity Hall by Trinity Lutheran School.

A walk down Main Street

107 Main St Cape Girardeau MO 10-20-2009 - Hecht's Mrs. Bock takes us for a walk down Main Street, reeling off a list of businesses that are mostly not there. In fact, the only business still in operation is Zickfield’s Jewelry. Hecht’s is gone, as is Newberry’s, where she worked in the infant clothing department for 15 cents an hour.

Here’s a page where I posted photos of many of the businesses I remembered from my era. The current generation will think Main Street was nothing but bars and antique shops with a little art thrown in.

Hurrah for Haarig

Meyer-Suedekum 03-29-2010_2679That’s the name of her chapter covering the Good Hope / Sprigg area. She drops names like Hirsch’s for groceries, Suedekum’s for hardware, Cape Cut Rate for drugs and the anchor, Farmer’s and Merchants Bank. If she mentioned Pure Ice, I must have missed it.

Music and Majorettes

Homecoming 34Mrs. Bock devotes several chapters to the Cape Girardeau music scene: choirs, operettas, plays, the Cape Choraliers, the Girardot Rose Chorus, and local dance bands. She also mentions being a Central High School majorette in 1946.


SEMO Fair Groscurth's Blue Grass Shows MidwayShe and I both spent time at the district fair, both as kids enjoying the rides and exhibits, then later covering it for The Southeast Missourian.

Bring on the Barbecue

Wib's BBQ Brown Hot (outside meat) sandwichThis chapter touched on two of my favorite barbecue places: the Blue Hole Garden and Wib’s.

 Parade of Photographers

GD Fronabarger c 1967You don’t serve as a high school publication adviser and a Missourian reporter without running across that strange subset of humans (some would debate that human part) called photographers. She was suitably enough impressed with us that she devoted a whole chapter to photographers she knew and worked with.

One-Shot Frony, AKA Garland D. Fronabarger, was one of the most unique newspaper photographers I ever ran into. His gruff exterior covered up a gruff interior. He got his name because he would growl around a pipe or cigar clenched between his teeth, “Don’t blink. I’m taking one shot,” push the shutter release and walk off.

Paul Lueders, a Master Photographer who shot almost every school group and class photo for years, was the opposite of Frony: he was quiet, patient and willing to take however long it took to get his subject comfortable.

She mentions several other professional and student photographers who crossed her path over the years, then launches into two pages of such nice things about me I thought maybe I was reading my obit.

How do I get a copy?

Jo Ann Bock Book backIf you grew up in Cape, you might find yourself between the pages of Around the Town of Cape Girardeau in Eighty Years. She manages to work in more names than the phone book. So, how do you get copy?

The book is available on Amazon for $15.49. It’s eligible for free shipping though Amazon Prime, so if you sign up for a 30-day free trial of Prime by January 10, you can save some money and get it in two days.


Knocking on Doors

Dave Allen 07-27-2013I wanted to see if I could find any trace of the house on Robinson Road where I photographed Bill Robinson and Jesse King in 1969. I drove the length of the short road and didn’t see a house like it, so I doubled back to see if any of the land forms were the same. I got no answer at the first two houses I tried. At the third, I was greeted by two dogs about half my size who threatened to lick me to death. A young man working on a bicycle pedal was almost as friendly as his dogs (except for the licking part), but he was of no help.

I drove down a lane and heard a dog barking inside a trailer. When I knocked on the door, the dog came charging down the hallway and launched himself at the window at about neck-high. They (a) didn’t need a doorbell and (b) probably didn’t have many door-to-door salesmen (who survived.)

I had better luck at the last house: Dave Allen was working out in his driveway. After I explained my mission, he thought he might have a vague recollection of the two men, but said his dad might be better able to help. He reached out for him on his cellphone. While we were waiting, Dave showed me two farm tractors he was restoring and told me that the Allen family had been living on that land since 1850. Nobody else’s name has ever been on it, he said.

Norm Allen

Norman K Allen 07-27-2013

Norman K. Allen, 77, was a delight to talk with. He thought the house might have been one “just before you go down the steep hill with the curve. We didn’t go down there much.” He said it was possible the old house might have been reconfigured, but a second glance convinced us that it must have been replaced with a newer one if we were in the right place. (I’m not convinced we were. Some points of the terrain didn’t add up for me.)

Another Allen was fascinating: Capt. Josiah Benton Allen was one of the men responsible for the erection of the Civil War memorial on the Main Green at Ohio University. When he enlisted in the Union Army, his mother didn’t want him to go. “She chased him all the way from the house to the train,” Norm said. He was 19.

Capt. Allen lost arm at Vickburg

Norman K Allen 07-27-2013The information Dave and Norm provided pretty much dovetailed with a biography of Capt. Allen in the 1883 History of Hocking Valley: “July 4, 1861, he enlisted in Company C, Thirtieth Ohio Volunteer Infantry as a private. In April, 1862, he was promoted to First Orderly Sergeant. He participated in a number of battles and skirmishes, the most important being Giles Court-House, Carnitax Ferry, Second Bull Run, Centerville, South Mountain, Antietam, Haines’s Bluff, Jackson, Champion Hill, Black River and Vicksburg.

At the last, May 22, 1863, while storming Fort Gregg, he being in command of his company at the time, all but fourteen of his men were killed, he himself losing his left arm. After submitting to two amputations of the same arm, and being unfitted for service thereby, he was discharged for disability in 1861.

He returned to Athens and attended the Ohio University until the close of the college year in 1866, then went to Missouri and that fall was engaged in the insurance business. During the winter he taught school in the village of Maysville, of that State; returned to Athens in April, 1867, and the following fall was, without opposition, elected Recorder of Athens County on the Republican ticket. He held that office by being re-elected, for twelve years. From January to June, 1880, he held the stewardship of the Athens Asylum for the Insane. Losing that position through a change in the administration, he was appointed Recording Clerk in the office of the Secretary of State at Columbus, in December, 1880, remaining there until January, 1883.

Historical treasure trove

Norman K Allen 07-27-2013Saturday evening, I was meeting with some of the folks from the Athens Historical Society and Museum and giving them a recap of my day. “Does the name ‘Josiah Benton Allen’ mean anything to you?” I asked.

The room suddenly got quiet, then someone said, “Well, duh, yes. He was a big deal.”

“What would you say if I told you I spent two hours with his descendants. Oh, and by the way, they have his Purple Heart and some of his original correspondence?”

Saying something like that to historians elicits a Pavlovian response. “How did you meet these people?”

“Oh, just by knocking on doors. That’s what I used to do.”

(You can click on the photos to make them larger.)