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.

 

 

 

Mill Street Bridge

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970When I’m not thinking about Cape, I hang out on the You Know You’re from Athens, Ohio, If… Facebook page. Folks there post memories of things I shot working for The Athens Messenger in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Someone brought up the old Mill Street Bridge this week.

This is a photo I took of the bridge the day it was destroyed on August 25, 1970, because the river was being relocated as part of a flood control project.

The bridge went splash close to deadline, so I rushed this photo in, only to be told, “Oh, I have that dummied in as a vertical. It’s too late to change, so go back and find a vertical.”

I told the editor to let me have his seat. I laid out the front page to give myself a nice horizontal ride, rewrote a couple of headlines, and said, “This’ll work.” That’s when I appreciated all the pages Missourian editor John Blue let me lay out and the hundreds of headlines I had written.

The biggest lemon in the world

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The vehicle on the left is my 1969 VW Squareback, the biggest lemon ever to be squeezed out of Germany. I loved the car, but it loved the repair shop more. I ended up selling it with the engine in a cardboard box.

Wife Lila and I lived in a basement apartment a few blocks from the bridge and the river. The landlord showed us a big valve they’d have to close if the river got high; otherwise, we were going to find ourselves wading in sewage.

Hocking River gauge

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The little square concrete structure on the far left is the river gauge. It was mentioned in a 1916 Water-Supply Paper talking about the Hocking River Basin. It was located “at a single span highway bridge at Mill Street, about three-fourths mile from business district of Athens, Athens County.” The left bank, it said, overflows at gage (their spelling) height 17 feet and the water passes around the bridge. The study noted there were ruins of an old mill dam 300 feet downstream.

Bridge was cut apart

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The horizontal members of the bridge were cut, leaving only the sides and bed behind. I don’t recall what actually brought the bridge down. The crane has been moved well back, and I don’t see the guy with the cutting torch in the final photos.

I’m pretty sure they didn’t use dynamite, like Dad did with a bridge over the Black River in Wayne county, Missouri. In his case, he had to drop the bridge straight down to keep it from damaging the new bridge next to it on one side and a bunch of phone lines on the other. The blast part went great, but cutting it apart like these guys are doing went not so well. You can see a video of it here.

Bridge demo gallery

Here’s a collection of photos of the bridge’s final moments. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the images.

 

Merit Badge Counselors

Merit Badge books c 1960sYesterday I ran a list of Boy Scout merit badges available in 1965, along with a gallery of merit badge books my brothers and I collected over the years. Today’s post will have a list of every counselor registered with the Shawnee district in 1971, and a little about the counselor’s role.

It’s interesting to read through the list of counselors. The men who volunteered for the job included some of the top in their field: names like Hal Lehman (Architecture), Jake Wells (Art), Weldon Hager (Athletics), Lawrence Bahn (Atomic Energy), John Seesing (Aviation), Bill Ewing (Music and Bugling), Fred Wilferth (Citizenship in the Nation and Scholarship), Ed Blummenberg (farming badges), Earl Siemers (Dairying), Dr. L.W. Hathaway (Dog Care and Pets), Tom Holshouser (Drafting), Milton Ueleke (Electricity and Electronics), Sheriff Ivan McClain (Fingerprinting),  Henry Ochs (Fruit and Nut Growing and Gardening), John Blue (Journalism), Dr. W.O. Seabaugh (Horsemanship), Claude Foeste (Landscape Architecture), Richard Flentge (Swimming and Lifesaving), Harry Siemer (Personal Finances), Dr. J.A. Kinder (Personal Fitness, Wildlife Management and Public Health), B.W. Birk (Plumbing), Bill Nowell (Photography), Clarence Suedekum (Salesmanship), James L. Garner (Sculpture), Larry Grisvard (Theater), and Calvin Brennan (Wood Carving).

What was a merit badge counselor?

1971 Merit badge counselors 01The counselor was an adult who had a specialized field of knowledge who could determine if a Scout had met all the requirements for a particular badge. The official rules make it clear.

You are expected to meet the requirements as they are stated—no more and no less. You must do exactly what is stated in the requirements. If it says “show or demonstrate,” that is what you must do. Just telling about it isn’t enough. The same thing holds true for such words as “make,” “list,” “in the field,” and “collect,” “identify,” and “label.”

Contacting a counselor could be scary

1971 Merit badge counselors 02The scariest – and, to me, most valuable part of the process – was when you had to screw up your courage to set up an appointment with someone who might be a prominent citizen in the community. When you got there, you were generally pleasantly surprised to meet someone who had a real interest in the topic you had picked, and was more than willing to share that knowledge.

That’s not to say that some counselors weren’t tougher than others. Dad wasn’t afraid to tell a boy that he needed to schedule another appointment because he didn’t meet the requirements. That, too, was an important lesson.

Mass production Eagles

1971 Merit badge counselors 03Troop 8, sponsored by the Trinity Lutheran Men’s Club, didn’t have many Eagle Scouts when I was in it. We looked up at those who had attained the rank with awe. Part of that was that we felt that it was a rank that was best achieved by an individual who was motivated to make those “scary” calls on his own.

There were some troops in the area that we perceived to be “mass-production Eagle factories” that brought in counselors and ran boys through the merit badge process in groups. Even as young boys, we could see the difference. Our perception might have been wrong, but our Eagles were numbered in the ones, and other troops had them by the tens.

Obligatory confession since a Scout Is Trustworthy: I never felt I deserved my Horsemanship merit badge that I earned at Camp Lewallen. I think everybody who signed up for the course and paid for the riding time passed it. I was about as good at riding a horse as I was at dancing. I read everything in the Horsemanship merit badge book, but the horse and I were never on the same page at the same time.

Times have changed

1971 Merit badge counselors 04I met with all my counselors on my own. Generally, my folks would drop me off, and I’d call them for a pickup when we were done. That’s not how it’s done today. The official policy:

You must have another person with you at each meeting with the merit badge counselor. This person can be another Scout, your parents or guardian, a brother or sister, a relative, or a friend.

The list of counselors

Here’s the complete list. Finding a counselor for Citizenship topics, Cooking, Electricity or Photography was pretty easy. I don’t know what you’d do if you wanted to earn Textiles, Skiing, Small Boat Sailing or Pottery. Click on any photo to make it big enough to read, then use your arrow keys to move around.

What’s particularly neat is that the address and phone number of the counselor is listed. That might be fun for some of you who are looking for neighbors.

March Weather and Murder

Utility lines near Allenville - Delta 03-05-2016You couldn’t beat Saturday’s March weather: winds were calm, skies were blue, temps were in the mid-60s. I decided to take advantage of it. I spent some time at Salem Cemetery, then made a quick pass through Dutchtown, and updated my old pictures of the Allenville railroad bridge. You’ll see those later.

By the time I got through with the bridge, the sun was about to dip below the horizon and the temps were dipping just about as fast. I stuck my camera in the car and was just getting in when I looked up, probably to keep from bumping my folically-challenged head on the doorframe.

These utility lines caught my eye. I was going to keep getting into the car, then my old rule kicked in: shoot it when you see it.

A view down Hwy N

Utility lines near Allenville - Delta 03-05-2016This is what you saw if you looked down Hwy N instead of up in the air. Around that curve, headed to Delta, is where one of Southeast Missouri’s unsolved murders occurred.

On July 3, 1954, Bonnie Huffman’s 1938 Ford was found parked in the middle of this road. Sixty hours later, the body of the pretty, young schoolteacher was found in a ditch nearby. Her neck was broken, and the 100-plus-degree summer temperatures had caused advanced decomposition.

Over the years, countless theories have been advanced, leads followed and suspects interviewed, all to no avail. John Blue, a reporter at the time, covered the story from the start and became obsessed with the case. When he was editor of The Missourian, he kept the story alive.

Missourian front page

1954-07-06 Missourian - Bonnie HuffmanThis is the original story on the July 6, 1954, front page. The timing of the story was unfortunate for the paper: July 4 was a Sunday, when the paper didn’t publish, and Monday was a holiday. That meant the story didn’t break until Tuesday.

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.