Gerald Love and His Remarkable Mother

While I was in Cape, I got an email from Gerald Love: “Ken, when is the next CHS Reunion?”

Not exactly sure what he was asking, I replied, “The most immediate reunion is this weekend. No telling when the one after that will be held.”

He said that he was going to be in town visiting his mother this weekend and would like to attend. “You could tell ’em you’re Jim Stone,” I told him. “I got an email from his this morning saying he wasn’t going to be able to make it.”

To be honest, the name Gerald Love was familiar, but I couldn’t put a face to the name. That’s not unusual. I have a memory for events and dialog, but have a real problem linking people and names.

Gerald Love AKA Jim Stone

Wife Lila and I were sitting at a table with Joe Snell, Gail Tibbles and Jacqie (Bill) Jackson over a lunch for the Class of 65 when this fellow in a red shirt walks up. “Are you Kenny Steinhoff?”

“I’ve been running from that name since 1967, but I’ll have to say ‘yes.'”

“I’m Gerald Love. I’d heard you were a practical joker, but when you suggested I check in using the name Jim Stone, I thought that might be tough. I remember Jim as being a redhead.”

Retired from the Air Force

Gerald spent most of his adult life in the Air Force, programming coordinates into nuclear missiles. (He assured us that there are safeguards that would keep a rogue programmer from sending a missile into his ex-wife’s house.)

How did he get into that job? When it came time to take tests to determine his occupational specialty, he failed every section except one dealing with electronics. The scorer called him aside and said, “This is highly unusual. How could you fail math, English and all of those other sections, but get 100% on electronics?”

“If I had scored high in those areas,” Gerald said, “You’d have made me a cook or a clerk or something. I wanted into electronics.”

The tester assumed that anyone who could game the system like that was someone who could do well as a programmer, so he passed him on to electronics.

What was Cape really like?

As the conversation went on, I felt like it would be OK to ask Gerald something that had been on my mind for years: race relations in Cape. I raised the issue on Obama’s inauguration day on my other blog.

“Cape schools were integrated by the time we got into high sch0ol and I don’t recall any issues between the races, but I’m looking at it from a majority white viewpoint. What was your perspective?

“There was no friction with the kids,” he replied.  “There might have been some adults with problems, but not the kids.”

This isn’t going to work out

Then, Gerald shared the story of when he first became aware of his skin color and prejudice. You could tell that it was something that bothers him more than half a century later.

“I once heard about a job to go house to house selling stuff. I was the only black kid who showed up. All of the other kids were white. I knew them all from the neighborhood.  This adult called me into the back of the room and said, ‘I don’t this is going to work out.'”

“Why? I can sell.”

“‘No, you don’t understand. This is to go door to door to sell,’ he tried to explain.”

“That’s no problem. I’m used to walking.”

“‘No, you still don’t understand, I’m not sure people will open their door to you,’ he said, finally.”

“There was a narrow little alley running from that store to my house. I cried all the way home because I kept thinking, what is this? [Looking at his arm.] Is the only reason I didn’t get the job? I went and told my mom and she said, “I’ve been meaning to talk with you about this for some time. I guess it’s time now.”

Gerald’s mother was an incredible woman

Gerald told us how hard his mother, Geraldine Love, worked to provide for him and his seven siblings. She saw to it that every one of them went to college.

March 13, 2002, the Missouri House of Representatives passed House Resolution 782 which said, in part:

Whereas, on March 16, 1927, in Belzoni, Mississippi, God brought a special gift to this great nation with the birth of an adorable infant by the name of Geraldine Young; and

Whereas, while celebrating her Seventy-fifth Birthday, Geraldine Young Love will have the opportunity to reminisce about some of the significant events in her life such as moving to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where she graduated from John S. Cobb High School; marrying Henry Love (deceased); and giving birth to two sons and six daughters; and

Whereas, God has blessed Geraldine Love with the loving devotion of a wonderful family whose members include her children, Gerald, a retired member of the United States Air Force who lives in Nebraska; JoAnn, a personnel director for the federal government who lives in the Washington, D.C., area; Hannah, a registered nurse who lives in St. Louis; Glenda, a retired member of the United States Air Force who lives in Nebraska; Henry, a dialysis nurse practitioner who lives in St. Louis; Jennifer, a medical records transcriber who also lives in St. Louis; Jeanne, a computer information specialist and teacher who lives in Jefferson City; and Gail, who was a certified public accountant prior to her untimely passing; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all of whom have been the light of her life; and

Whereas, Geraldine Love distinguished herself after the death of her husband by solely raising eight children under the age of 19 in a two-bedroom shack, where she somehow managed to put enough money aside to eventually buy a nice, clean brick house with three bedrooms and a basement; and

Now, therefore, be it resolved that we, the members of the Missouri House of Representatives, Ninety-first General Assembly, unanimously join in extending our most hearty congratulations and special birthday greetings to Geraldine Love at this significant milestone and in wishing her much peace and contentment as she continues to enjoy her golden years…

Mrs. Love died June 29

When I sent Gerald a note asking for permission to tell his story about the sales job he didn’t get, he sent the sad news that his mother had passed away on June 29. Here is her obituary in The Missourian.

I’m sorry that I didn’t know her. She sounds like an extraordinary woman.

Central High School Reunion: The End (Maybe)

This isn’t my favorite photo of the weekend, far from it. It’s a mediocre image from a technical standpoint, but it’s the one that caused a wave of deja vu to wash over me.

It was the end of the evening. The crowd was starting to drift away. A few couples got up to dance. I climbed up on the stage for a higher angle and stood there holding my camera and waiting for a photo to happen.

Suddenly I was transported back forty-plus years. It dawned on me that my life had come full circle. I was the same kid I was in high school who was AT the event, but not part of the event.

He’s got his photographer’s face on

Shortly after my youngest son, Adam, married Carly, we went to my niece’s wedding. I’m not big on socializing, so I grabbed a camera and started walking around shooting candids. Carly turned to Adam and said something like, “Wow, I’ve never seen your dad with his photographer’s face on.”

I’m not sure exactly what he told her, but I assume he assured her that it wasn’t something that ran in the family.

How to be invisible

I worked a long time at being able to disengage when I’m shooting. One of my favorite photo stories was of an old barber in West Palm Beach who stayed open just because he was lonely. On a good day, he might get two customers, all as old or older than him.

After shooting pictures of him holding up a parking meter in front of his store and greeting one customer, I pulled back and started shooting detail shots around the shop. Eventually, he became so unaware of me that I shot him fully stretched out asleep in his barber’s chair. I figure that was the ultimate test of invisibility: to get someone who was starved for company to tune me out.

Enough self-analysis. You guys want to see photos from the reunion on Saturday night and a lunch for the Class of 65 (which was crashed by folks from other classes).

She still has the same freckles

Nancy Froemsdorf came up  to me looking almost exactly like she did at Trinity Lutheran School in the first grade. I don’t think she’s added or subtracted a freckle. OK, she’s better looking than she was in first grade, who am I kidding?

Where was Pam?

Pam Taveggia promised all the way back in October that she was coming to the reunion so she, Jim Stone, and I could hook up with Ernie Chiles so she could “hug the stuffin'” out of him. First, Stone emails me on Thursday saying he couldn’t make it because he had to save the world or some other lame excuse, then Pam bails.

Sherry with her top down

I’ve already recounted how Sherry Huff Swanson led me to believe that this year’s reunion was going to be memorable when we got out to her car. I have to concede that she didn’t tell me any falsehoods, but the encounter, to steal Paul Simon’s words, didn’t “meet my sweet imagination.”

Here is Miz Sherry ensconced in Louise.

Terry Hopkins cleans up real good

Since I’ve poked fun at Terry Hopkins this week, I guess I should even things out by showing him resplendent in his tux. “I only have two kinds of clothes,” he said. “Shorts and a tux.” Who’d have thunk it?

Previous reunion stories

Photo Gallery from reunion and lunch

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to step through the gallery.

We’re headed back to Florida Wednesday, so it’ll going to be sort of slow here for a few days.

There are a couple of more stories I’m going to do about folks I talked with at the reunion. I had lunch with a fellow I wish I had gotten to know better when I was growing up.

Some things in the works

Some of you have asked about getting copies of the photos. When the dust settles, I’m going to upload all of the photos to a site where you can download higher resolution copies of everything I’ve posted from the reunion.

I may also create a CHS Reunion fan page on Facebook where you can tag the photos with names. Give me a couple of weeks to pull all that together.

Thanks for all the kind words over the weekend. You all are as much a part of this blog as I am. Without readers, I’m just some poor fool standing on a tree stump shouting out at the forest. I love to hear your echoes.


Tour of “Old” Central High School

When the reunion organizers proposed a tour of the “new” Central High School, there was a clamor for a tour of the “old” Central High School, because that’s where we built our memories. The Class of 66 scheduled a breakfast in the cafeteria at 9 Saturday morning. They and the other classes got to prowl the school later.

Table-dancing skills prove useful

Vicky Seabaugh asked me to shoot a photo of the Class of 66 after breakfast.

Some of the students are partially hidden because they didn’t heed my admonition, “If you can’t see ME, my camera can’t see YOU.” Some of the folks with apparent prior table dancing experience used their skills to become more visible. (No hips were broken in the making of this photograph.)

That’s my locker

Bill Stone said he was lucky enough to share a locker with a small-time local hoodlum. “Nobody messed with MY locker,” he said. Our old tan lockers have been replaced by spiffy orange ones.

Auditorium seats have been recovered

I don’t know if these folks are looking for their initials or what. The auditorium looked as serviceable as ever.

Terry Hopkins shows his prowess

I kept telling Terry Hopkins that I needed him to do one more rep to make sure I got a good picture, but he finally wised up.

We got to walk across the gym floor

Walking across the gym floor was taboo when we were in school. You just didn’t do it. Not more than once, at least.

Standards must have been relaxed, because Terry Kitchen led us right on to it. (Go here to here Terry’s account of the Ghosts of the Trophy Case.) He’s the fellow in the orange and white shoes at left.

The ADA brings elevators to CHS

Janet Zickfield had to depend on other students to carry her up and down the many stairs at Central High School when we were there. Today’s students can use an elevator.

Photo Gallery of CHS tour

Here’s a photo gallery of our tour. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left of right side of the photo to move through the gallery. We’re not done yet. More photos are coming.

Central High’s 60’s Reunion, Day 1

The Central High School 60’s Decade Reunion is over. These pictures are from Friday’s events. I’ll have photos from Saturday’s tour of the high school on Monday. I may post more pictures from other Saturday activities on Tuesday. Then we’re done for at least another five years.

It was better than expected

Friday night was spent wandering around trying to read name tags to see if you recognized anyone. Frequent contributors Bill East (blue shirt) and Terry Hopkins (bleep-eating grin) are here.

I have to admit that I wasn’t sure I was looking forward to the reunion. I haven’t kept in touch with my old classmates, and I hadn’t enjoyed the two reunions I had attended.

People at the 20th were still trying to impress each other. (OK, I was guilty of that, too.) The 2005 reunion had music that was played so loudly that it was almost impossible to talk, and everyone was packed so tightly together that it was hard to mingle.

What you need for a great reunion

  • The organizers this year told the DJ to keep the volume at a reasonable level.
  • The tables were far enough apart that you could maneuver around them.
  • There were interesting displays around the outside of the room.
  • The event wasn’t bogged down with a program and lots of announcements.

Because of the setup of the room, it was possible to have more, longer conversations with classmates than ever before. I had the feeling that we’re all hitting the age where we’re interesting in connecting with each other and our pasts more than in previous years.

Here’s what I look like

My wife took this and insisted that I put in at least one shot of me if I was going to show how gray everyone else had turned. That’s Sherry Huff Swanson in the middle and Joe Snell on the right.

Sherry just about induced a heart attack when she pulled me over to the side and said we should go outside to her convertible where she’d take her top down. Holy Cow! I missed the 10th reunion where skinny dipping was alleged, but the 2010 reunion sounded like it might be memorable.

Turned out my hearing is slipping. We went out to her convertible, but it was the CAR that had the top down. And, all she had in mind was being photographed IN the car. Alone.

My favorite reunion photo

I ran this as a placeholder yesterday, but it’s my favorite reunion photo so far. It captures the spirit of our decade. We may have some miles on the odometer, but we can still rev it up when we need to.

Photo Gallery

Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the right or left side of the photo to move through the gallery.