Bald Headed Men of America

LV Steinhoff Bald Headed Men of America 1973

In 1973, I sponsored Dad to a lifetime membership in the Bald Headed Men of America. He started losing his hair in his 20s, so I knew I was going to be destined to comb my hair with a washrag. He was self conscious about it, Mother said, and always wore a hat when he was younger.

When he got older, he said one of the few things he missed about having hair was the protection it gave you against sunburn and scraping your head on stuff.

Check out my comb-over

Ken Steinhoff in PBNI Photo dept 06-1970I didn’t have any room to talk. By 1976, this photo taken in the Palm Beach Post photo department, will demonstrate I was sporting a serious comb-over. In my defense, I can only say that when you are combing your hair, you are look straight into your face, not at the top of your head. You’ve been parting your hair since childhood, so you don’t sense that your part keeps creeping closer and closer to your ear.

My moment of truth came when I was riding in an open National Guard jeep on the way to photograph their summer camp. I felt my hair streaming out about a foot and thought, “Kid, your hair is going to get caught the in rearview mirror of a passing semi and you’re going to be dragged to an ignoble death.”

I visited a barber when I got back to town, and said, “It’s time.”

(I don’t think it’s necessary for you to click on the photo to make it larger.)

Founder J.T. Capps III

LV Steinhoff Bald Headed Men of America 1973I did a quick Google search for BHMA founder J.T. Capps III, figuring his obit would have some interesting tidbit I could add to the post. It turned out that he’s still alive and promoting beautiful heads – at least as late as 2015.

Maybe guys who don’t waste energy growing hair live longer. I certainly hope so.


LV Steinhoff Bald Headed Men of America 1973The organization even had a newsletter that came out quarterly. The July 1974 noted that Vice President Gerald Ford had been made the group’s first honorary member.


Ford Vs. Carter, 1976

720 1976-10-20 Missourian Ford-Carter AdThe hall closet was a catchall for seldom-worn coats, bottles of booze given Dad by vendors at Christmas (some have unbroken seals dating back to 1965) and general domestic detritus. On the top shelf was a stack of yellowing newspapers. Almost every time I came home, Mother would say, “Why don’t you go through those papers and either take them with you or throw them out.”

Every time, I’d answer, “Next time.”

A treasure trove of history

“Next time” finally came the other day. I discovered they were newspapers that had headlines of most of the major stories between the mid-1950s and the early 1970s. Space launches, Martin Luther King assassination and the riots in its aftermath, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Robert F. Kennedy assassination. Some were from The Southeast Missourian and The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, but there were also covers from papers all over the country.

It dawned on me that in the days before the Internet, newspapers would subscribe to a couple dozen publications, most of which never got read. I must have gone through the stacks and grabbed those significant headlines. Or, maybe I snatched them up from Metro News on Broadway.

I liked Carter, but voted for Ford

Let me go on record as saying that I believe that Jimmy Carter was an honorable man who got dealt a bad deck of cards during his term. I would have voted for him except for two things:

  1. I admired the way Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, sparing the country months of turmoil, even though he had to have known that he was committing political suicide. He took one for the country.
  2. I covered Gerald Ford when he came to South Florida on an uncharacteristically cold, rainy day. He rode in an open car waving at crowds and stopping to shake hands from time to time the whole length of Palm Beach County. I leapfrogged from spot to spot to catch him at several vantage points, and thought to myself (while wet and shivering), “This guy REALLY wants this job.”

A gentle attack ad

Jimmy Carter’s announcement that he has cancer made this Oct. 20, 1976, ad particularly memorable for me.

Carter made the mistake of being honest in a Playboy interview: Christ said, “I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.” I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do—and I have done it—and God forgives me for it. But that doesn’t mean that I condemn someone who not only looks on a woman with lust but who leaves his wife and shacks up with somebody out of wedlock. Christ says, don’t consider yourself better than someone else because one guy screws a whole bunch of women while the other guy is loyal to his wife. The guy who’s loyal to his wife ought not to be condescending or proud because of the relative degree of sinfulness.

The religious right, predictably, went nutso and condemned one of the most honorable and Christian presidents we’ve had for simply telling the truth.

I have to grudgingly respect this ad and its quiet message, though. It is factual, understated and effective.

Still, I’m sure Playboy circulation skyrocketed for that issue: I mean, you had to run right out to by a copy “to read the interview,” right?

Train Cars Hop Track

Twenty-seven railroad cars squashed together in a massive pileup Monday morning (March 7, 1966) about a mile north of Neely’s Landing. Two crew members were hurt and two workers were injured later during the clean-up operations, the Missourian story said.

“It’s one of the worst train wrecks I’ve ever seen,” a railroad worker of 44 years commented.

Frisco on regular run

The 76-car Frisco freight train was on its daily St. Louis-to-Memphis run when the cars in the middle derailed almost directly in front of the main cut of the Westlake Rock Quarry, a 200-foot bluff to the west. The Mississippi River was about 150 feet to the east, but no cars went into the river.

Conductor and brakeman injured

Engineer J.H. Davenport lost contact with his crew after the pileup. He found that the conductor, A.L.Bailey, and the rear brakeman, R.L Becker, were injured and “shook up.” He phoned for help from the home of Sylvester Hitchcock at Neely’s Landing. The two injured crewmen were taken to the Frisco Hospital in St. Louis. Neither was seriously hurt.

Massive cranes came from St. Louis and Memphis

Two wrecker crews worked with giant cranes mounted on railroad flatcars to clear the tracks. A crew from Memphis, with a 250-ton crane, worked the wreck from the south. A St. Louis crew, working with a slightly smaller crane attacked from the north.

Bulldozer shoved, pushed and rammed

Gerald Ford of Neely’s Landing used a bulldozer to help push the freight cars off the tracks. As the steel cable on the crane pulled one end of the cars, the dozer shoved, pushed and rammed the other end.

What caused it?

It was working this wreck that I stumbled onto a technique that came in handy over the years. Nobody would comment on the cause of the derailment, so I tried getting the workers aside and asked, “You’ve seen a lot of these things. When you’ve pulled apart ones that looked like this one, what did you find?”

The engineer said he thought the cause might have been a spreading of the rails or a break in the rails. One of the crewmen said that one of the wheels might have frozen and jumped the tracks.

Cable whipped back on workmen

Two crewmen were injured when a cable whipped back striking about six workmen and catching the legs of two of the men.

I learned from experience to be wary of cables. One of the first things Dad taught me when I was a kid hanging around his job sites was to always step on, not over, a cable on the ground. That way you’d be thrown to the side instead of being cut in half if someone suddenly took up the slack without warning. I saw enough tow cables go whipping around to always stay a cable-length away when they were under load.

It was a cold night

This must have been one of those nights when Frony said, “Let the Kid handle it.”

I was going to comment that we didn’t have any access problems at the scene, but the last paragraph of the story says that a Frisco official grabbed a Missourian photographer (me) as he was taking a picture of the wreckage. He warned the photographer and a Missourian reporter not to get too close. Another reporter who did not have a press card was told to leave.

Frisco was better than the B&O

That’s still better than the treatment I was used to getting when the B&O Railroad would pile up a train in southern Ohio. Their railroad bulls were of the ilk and era of the days when hobos were rousted from the trains by clubs and worse. To add to the problem, they had law enforcement powers and were quick to threaten you with arrest for trespassing on their right-of-way. Derailments were common because their tracks were in miserable shape, with rotted ties and spikes that were loose or missing.

I thought I had them when a trainload of new automobiles piled up south of Athens, Ohio. Before I headed to the scene, I stopped by the county courthouse to see who owned the land alongside the track. I called the farmer to ask if I could cut across his field and shoot the wreck from his property. “Sure,” he said. “You’re welcome.” Then, just as I was starting to put the phone down with a sly smile on my face, he finished his sentence. “You do remember, don’t you, that the Hocking River is flooding. You’re going to have to be about nine feet tall if you’re going to stand there.” Drat!

Train wreck photo gallery

Some of these images are redundant, but I figure Keith Robinson and his train buff buddies will find details in them that the rest of us will miss. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.