Learning More about My Dad

Dad was born April 17, 1917, which would have made him 104 this year had he not died at 60 in 1977. I found some old letters in his files recently that have helped fill in some blanks and also confirmed stuff I had heard (or misheard) over the years.

I did a blog post in 2010 where I used a post out of his scrapbook to show me and a check he had received for what sounds like the first job he and his new partner, James Kirkwood, did in Ellington.

1949 letter to his brother, Paul Steinhoff

Here’s the three-page letter he wrote to his younger brother, Paul, on Oct. 3, 1949. You can click on any image to make it larger, then use the left and right arrow keys to move around.

I’ll pull out excerpts from it, and add comments.

Paul, Dad and Their Father

Paul – LV – Louis Steinhoff c 1934

This was in Dad’s high school scrapbook, so it must have been taken in the early 1930s. Paul is on the left, Dad is in the middle, and Louis Steinhoff, their father, is on the right. This may be the only photo I’ve seen of him.

It’s hard to read, but, based on other photos on the scrapbook, it was taken at 116 North Middle Street. That would have made it possible for him to be close enough to the Broadway theater to have used his toy wagon to carry music for the woman piano player to play in the silent movies. We always thought that to be a family legend until we saw an obit for the woman in the past decade or so.

Mexican Vacation

The folks wanted to take a trip so we, along with Mary Lee’s Dad and Mother took off to the south. We spent 3 weeks with everybody having a good time. Kenny finally had to give up his bottle in Mexico where we couldn’t get any milk. That was one good thing the trip did or he might have been on the bottle yet.

In February I took in a partner by the name of James Kirkwood. Kirkwood was an engineer for the Highway Dept. for 20 years, having a very good background.

Mother Had to Run Her Dad’s Store

We moved the trailer to Ellington and was there until July 14, except that Mary Lee had to come home in the late part of May and stay at Advance. Mr. Welch had a serious heart attack and was forced to stay at home in bed for three months. He is just now being able to do a little work at the store. Mary Lee had to take care of the business during this time. I moved the trailer to Charleston, but batched it during this time.

Steinhoff & Kirkwood Built Rt. W from Cape to Fruitland

On July 29th we were successful bidders on Route W in Cape Girardeau county. This job begins on Perry Ave. outside of Cape Girardeau city limits and runs to Fruitland, Mo. It’s a rather large job but are doing well, and except for weather conditions we should finish sometime this month or the first of next.

Our Trailer Was On a Now-Gone Hill behind Colonial Restaurant

We have moved the trailer to Cape and have parked it on Hyway 61 near the Colonial Restaurant in a private-owned yard. Kenny likes it back at Cape and has several playmates. Kirkwood has one boy 6 months older than Kenny and one girl that is just beginning to go to school.

Kenny is quite a big lad now and talks a blue streak all the time and is plenty heavy for his age. He has a tricycle and rides all the time. He is crazy about books and I do believe that he has well over 100 of them at the trailer and at his grandmother’s.

1949 Cardinals vs Cubs

There is one thing he will be able to say when he grows up, and that will be that he saw a National League baseball game as soon as his daddy. We went to St. Louis a week ago Sunday and saw the Cardinals play the Chicago Cubs. He finally went to sleep before the game was completed. We spent the morning at the zoo taking in the Monkey show.

Ice cream and a life of crime

He goes to the stores here at Advance and gets his own ice cream cones and soda by himself and he really thinks he is doing something.

Steinhoffs Had a Gas Station?

DX service station premium glasses 08-26-2015Man, you never know what you’re going to find when you scrape the Mississippi River mud off an old glass. I had intended this to be a quick nostalgia piece about the days when you got all kinds of giveaways when you filled your gas tank.

Little did I know that it would let me discover something about my family that I never knew.

A search hint

Missourian search resultsHere’s a little hint if you want to search The Missourian’s archives. In this particular instance, I typed “DX service station” in the search box. (The quote marks means return that exact value, not every story with the words “service” or “station” in them.) Then, when I hovered over the SEARCH button, I waited until choices came up, then selected “Archive since 1918,” which will return the most results. (That’s a hint from Missourian librarian Sharon Sanders who has a blog of her own.)

Above is what came up. Click on the photos to make them large enough to read.

Employed by Steinhoff DX Service Station?

1945-10-04 MissourianpMy eye went straight to the last entry: “…employed by the Steinhoff DX Service Station.” What the heck is that?

The link took me to an October 4, 1945, war brief about two soldier sons of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Lacy who had been serving since 1944. The story said Pfc. Donald Lacy, a graduate of Central High School, was employed by the Steinhoff D-X Service Station on Broadway before his induction in October, 1944.

That’s the first I had ever heard of such a station. This is one of those times when I wish I could ask Dad or Mother for background info.

Bill Wescoat station at Broadway and Perry

Wreck at Broadway and Perry Ave c 1966The next story I checked was a brief from July 18, 1940: “Workmen have started to build a concrete drive and areaway at the Bill Wescoat D-X service station at Broadway and Perry avenue. Also a lubrication and washroom is to be built on the west side of the station and adjoining it. Westcoat is building the annex and the Midcontinent Petroleum Corp. is making the driveway.

The station at the far right of this wreck photo taken in the mid-60s is probably that station, although it was a Texaco here.

H.H. Steinhoff, Proprietor

1946-03-19 Missourian clipI struck paydirt with this March 29, 1946, ad. H.H. Steinhoff was listed as proprietor of Steinhoff’s D-X Service at 1700 Broadway. H.H. was Hubert Steinhoff, my dad’s brother.

1700 Broadway is the intersection of Broadway and Perry avenue mentioned in the 1940 story.

Uncle Hu

Hubert SteinhoffHubert – Uncle Hu we called him – was the “funny uncle,” and not the kind that the family keeps locked in the attic. He was a jolly guy, always ready to fool around with us boys.

He particularly enjoyed giving us presents that would drive my parents crazy (until they came to a agreement that live animals and toys that made loud noises were not appropriate gifts). I don’t claim to be a snappy dresser, but I AM happy that I didn’t follow in Uncle Hu’s sartorial footsteps.

I don’t know how long he was associated with the service station. When I knew him, he was working for an asphalt company in Illinois. I was always impressed that his car had one of those long, low-band two-way radio antennas that went “twanga-twanga-twanga” when you came to a sudden stop.

Our monogrammed glasses

DX service station premium glasses 08-26-2015I don’t know where the glass came from that started this search, but it appears that it DOES have our family initial on it.






Brother Mark Gets Older

Mark Steinhoff 2cd birthdayI was lucky enough to stumble across these negatives just in time for Brother Mark’s March 10 birthday. How old is he? I guess I could root around and find his birth year, but let’s just say (1) he’s younger than I am and (2) Mother, Kid Adam and I went to his 50th surprise party in St. Louis quite a few years back, so he’s on the far side of that.

I think it will suffice to say that he no longer has to fear dying young.

Look at all the cultural icons in one photo: the cowboy hat, shirt and vest; the pinch-your-finger-right-off rocking horse; the toy telephone of indeterminate color and something dark and round with feet. It looks like his second birthday, unless Mother had used up all her candles on Mark’s older brothers.

Christmas time

David - Mary - Ken - Mark SteinhoffThis shot of Mother, David, Mark and me was shot at Christmas. David, with his bow tie was the spiffy dresser of the crew. Mark looks like a deer caught in the headlights in the backwoods of Bollinger County.

Speaking of spiffy dressers

Hubert SteinhoffThis is Dad’s brother Hubert, or “Unk” or “Uncle Hue.” He was the uncle every kid should have. He was funny, patient and enjoyed being around us kids. Uncle Mark followed in his footsteps.

Well, maybe not exactly: I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mark in an outfit like this.

Peaceful coexistence

Mark - David SteinhoffSomeone must have wanted to get a shot of David and Mark when they weren’t saying things like, “He’s looking at me” or “Make him STOP!” It was a LONG, LONG trip from Cape to Florida and back in 1960.

Afternoon at Grace and Guy’s

At Grace and Guy Gardiners

I actually like this as an image. We spent a lot of time under these shade trees at Grace and Guy Gardiner’s house in Advance. Mother is on the left and Grandmother Elsie Welch is on the right with David. Mark, the center of attention as usual, is in the foreground with his orange push-up.

Those hours of listening to oldtimers talk about taming Swampeast Missouri had an influence, I’m sure. It’s funny how the world works: one day we’re a kid listening to old farts spinning tales, and the next thing we know, we’ve taken their place.

Monkey, Buick and my bike

David and Mark Steinhoff w Buick LaSabre station wagonBrothers David and Mark pose next to our 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon. Mark is dressed in some kind of strange jumpsuit and he’s holding a stuffed animal. It’s hard to make out, but I think it might have been a monkey. Off on the right is one of the few photos I’ve been able to find of my bike. It looks like it might have my Missourian paper bag in the front basket.

Chillin’ in the pool

Ken - David - Mark Steinhoff in backyard poolI didn’t get to spend much time in the Country Club swimming pool, but that didn’t matter. We Steinhoff boys had our own pool in the backyard. I think Mark was housebroken by the time we got the pool.

So, Mark, here’s wishing you a Happy Whatever Birthday.

Cape Sewer Project 1940-41

Dad worked for Markham and Brown Construction before he started his own company. These photos are from one of his scrapbooks. They were captioned “Sewer Job – 1940 – 41 Cape.” His sewers aren’t as old as the ones I posted yesterday.

1936 Project required 25 to 100 men

I couldn’t find any news stories about the 1940 project, but E.L. Markham was awarded a $125,837.69 contract to construct a sanitary sewer in the West End in 1936. The February 1, 1936, Missourian story said the project would employ an average of 25 to 100 men for a period of three months. The money was going to  come from PWA, one of the alphabet soup of “make-work” agencies created to get men working and pull the country out of the depression. (We’d call that a stimulus project today).

80% of work to be done by machines

Eighty per cent of the excavation work was to be done by machinery. Laying the sewer pipes would be done by guys like this. About 11 miles of ditches needed to be dug.

Dad said a guy came up to him on a job and complained, “Mister, that dragline you’re operating put 20 men with shovels out of work.”

Without missing a beat, Dad responded, “Yep, or 2,000 men with teaspoons.”

The H.H.S. in the above photo would have been my Uncle Hubert Steinhoff. He ended up working for an asphalt company in Illinois.

Skilled labor made 60 to 75 cents per hour

Three classes of labor were to be employed: skilled, semi-skilled or intermediate, and common laborer. Ninety per cent of the workers were to be taken from the relief rolls in the city before looking for other workers.

Skilled labor, such as operators of machines, concrete finishers and brick layers, were to be paid 60 to 75 cents per hour; intermediate labor, 40 cents, and common labor, 30 cents. Because the goal was to employ as many men as possible, no laborer could be worked more than eight hours a day or 130 hours a month. The PWA preferred that the work day be divided up into two five-hour shifts.

I remember Peewee

Some of these guys have the fresh-off-the-farm look of some of the fellows I worked with one summer. One young guy named Peewee was built like a fireplug and was strong as an ox. He would make lunch money by betting passersby that he could rip his shirt off just by expanding his chest. As soon as the mark had handed over the ernest money, Peewee would take a big gulp of air and the shirt would go ripping off like The Hulk on the TV show.

One day three or four of us were wresting a concrete bucket onto a truck. Peewee walked up, told us to step aside, and threw it on the truck by himself.

Dad was really sorry the day Peewee told him he was going to have to leave the job because he’d been drafted. All that was left was for him to pass his physical. The next day Peewee was back on the job. The army rejected him because he had gotten “all stoved up” when a wagon fell over on him when he was a kid. Maybe that’s why I was a 128-pound weakling: I didn’t have a wagon fall on me during my formative years.

Photo gallery of sewer project

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