How to Check for Plumbing Leaks

Regular readers of this blog have been treated to a series of non-Cape stories about the adventures of owning an older home in Florida.

Two days ago, you heard about our Termite Travails.

Years ago, I worked on a special edition of The Palm Beach Post called “Crests of Hope, Troughs of Despair,” which chronicled the Cuban Boatlift and the plight of Haitian refugees. Yesterday’s post was a lot like that, starting with “fits like socks on a flamingo,” and ending up with “SHUT THE WATER OFF!!!!”

This morning, while Wife Lila was getting ready to go to church, her brother, John Perry, was installing the connections for the washer hookup. He wanted to have someone standing by the hookup to look for leaks while he was out at the street turning on the main. Since that’s a pretty good distance, I volunteered to stand in the living room to relay the word from Lila that all was good.

The last thing John said as he headed to the front door was, “I left the faucet on outside, so if you hear water running, don’t worry.”

A relay person wasn’t needed

As soon as John opened the main valve, I’m pretty sure you folks in Cape heard Lila screaming. It seems that John had left the faucets open to let steam escape when he sweated the fittings. He forgot to close them for the test. The water came out full force right at Lila.

I’ll be ready to pull the plug

The next nearest experience like this was when Lila and I shared an old house in Gastonia, N.C., with Chuck Beckley,  a photographer I brought from Athens, OH. We needed to hook up the ice maker on our refrigerator, but I couldn’t find the main shutoff valve.

Chuck, you drill a quarter-inch hole in the cold water supply pipe, then we’ll stick the ice maker tap into the hole. A little water won’t hurt anything because we’re in an unfinished basement. I’ll keep my hand on the electrical cord back here at the receptacle in case the drill shorts out from the water.” See, a good supervisor always thinks about the safety of his workers.

You’d be surprised at how far water under 40 to 60-psi will shoot through a quarter-inch hole. You’d be even MORE surprised at how much water can come gushing out of two faucets aimed at eye-level.

All is forgiven

Just to show that there were no hard feelings, Lila quickly ran over to John to give him a big hug. The fact that she was soaking wet with cold water very quickly became apparent to John. She was sharing more than the love.

How do you shoot pictures like this?

Some of you may wonder how it’s possible to quickly capture photos like these.

It’s all part of the going to special photojournalism classes at schools like Ohio University where you learn how to quickly make the right choices and decisions. I recall one test question that asked, “You see a man jump off a bridge. You have a camera in one hand and a rope in the other. What do you do?”

The answer: it all depends on whether you have a wide angle or a telephoto lens on the camera. You may have to change lenses before you can shoot.

Actually, I WAS confronted with a jumper on a bridge once. You can read about my experience on the Blue Heron Bridge here.

“Like Socks on a Flamingo”

I shared with you our termite travails yesterday. I was a little sloppy in my descriptions, I guess, because several readers thought it was Lila’s Brother who had gone termite surfing under our house. The confusion arose, because the termite exterminator’s first name, John, was the same as B-‘n’-Law John Perry’s. Some of you said you thought you knew John, but couldn’t identify him by his feet (which weren’t his anyway).

Several other readers asked if John was in this class or that class. For the record, he was in the Central High School Class of 1970. I posted a link to a photo of John when he was down here to repair our kitchen and discovered a family of possums. living under the sink. Again, my caption must have been sloppy, because there was some confusion then, too.

Possum in the foreground

For the record, John Perry is in the background. The possom, which was released unharmed, is in the foreground.

Still no Barry Goldwater

I thought I was going to have plenty of time to wrap up the Barry Goldwater visit to Cairo photos, but things kept getting in the way.

The termite guys came bright and early to do a second treatment. Then, John started putting the wall back together.

The first step was to cut a heavy piece of treated plywood to go over and around stuff that had to stick through it.

Is it good for flamingos to wear socks?

It sounded like there were water lines, power lines, lines of credit, fog lines, pencil lines, eye liners and all kinds of stuff to make holes for

Wife Lila came in and asked, “Did you hear what he just said? He said it fits like socks on a flamingo.”

Well, I’ve spent about half my life around construction and about half my life in Florida, so I know a little bit about building things and a little about flamingos. I didn’t, however, know if a sock-clad flamingo was a good or bad thing.

From the photo, it appears to be a good thing.

John Perry in 1969

Wife Lila suggested, correctly, as always, that folks who went so school with him might recognize him as he was in those days. Here’s his junior class photo from the 1969 Girardot yearbook.

Go shut off the water!!!

Back to the present day:

After spending the afternoon visiting two hardware stores and an electrical supply dealer, John set to making more magic and I started editing Barry.

Suddenly I heard John shout, “Go shut off the water!!!” I gathered that the flamingo was in the process of getting his socks wet.

John was cutting off a piece of PVC drain pipe when the saw nicked a copper supply line. On my way to get the cut-off tool, I saw my B-‘n’-Law doing a good imitation of a small boy sticking his finger in the dike. It turned out that most of the water on the floor came from tears, because John managed to overturn his beer in the ensuing confusion. (A Facebook friend said that was a true case of alcohol abuse.)

John tried to minimize the beer spill by saying he did it on purpose. “My hammer looked thirsty,” he said. “So I poured a little on the floor to give it a drink.”

Look for the Barry Goldwater photos on Monday.

Cape’s Not a Town; It’s the Twilight Zone

My friend, Jan Norris, the former food editor of The Palm Beach Post and a fellow blogger, asked me to look up a local artist, Brad Elfrink, who produces beautiful hand-crafted buttons and jewelry. Jan’s a button collector, who writes for other collectors.

Brad’s a a relatively young guy originally from Marble Hill who has developed a love for Cape Girardeau’s buildings and people. I was describing a couple of landmarks I had been searching for over the weekend. “Want to see some pieces of them?” he asked, showing me some remnants he had saved from the bulldozer.

I’ll be writing about Brad and his finds later.

When I got back into the car, I called Jan and said, “Most places have six degrees of separation. Cape reduces it to two.”

It was still early, so I decided to shoot some other buildings I remembered in and around the 1600 block of Independence.

Old Fire Station Number Two

We used to go there on grade school field trips. It looks like it might have had two bays in the old days.

Pak-a-Snak, an early convenience store

Just east of the fire station, on the same side of the street, was the Pak-a-Snak. A Missourian story Aug. 17, 1955, called it the first drive-in, cash and carry market of its kind in Cape. We’d call it a convenience store today.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Farrow were the first owners. They sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Porter Stubbs in 1955. The store hours – shocking – were 8 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. every day including – double shocking – Sundays and holidays.

A trip to the Twilight Zone

I wanted a photo of the old Donut Drive-in, but I wasn’t exactly sure which shop it was in. I heard music coming from a small bar a couple of doors down, so I figured somebody there might be able to help me out.

I don’t spend a whole lot of time in bars. I HAVE had occasion to step into one from time to time when I’m riding my bicycle. It doesn’t matter if it’s a redneck bar, a biker bar or just a coffee shop full of regulars, as soon as you step through the door wearing bike shorts and a glow-in-the-dark jersey, conversation stops and all eyes focus on you.

How to survive wearing Lycra

At that point, I’ve found your odds of survival go up if you glance around the room, pause a couple of beats and then say in a loud voice, “Y’all sure do dress funny around here.” Before long, people are asking how far you’ve come, how far are you going, what have you seen along the way, and are offering to buy you drinks or a meal.

There was a man holding a beer in the doorway. “Come on in. There’s plenty of room,” he said with a smile.

“You’ve got enough gray hair that you can probably help me,” I said, handing him a business card.

“Are you Kenny Steinhoff?”

I’ve been running from that nickname since 1967, but I had to admit that – in Cape – I was “Kenny Steinhoff.”

“I’m Jerry Schweain,” he said, extending his hand and smiling wider.

Turns out he was a truck-driving friend and former neighbor of my brother-in-law, John Perry. He posed with a friendly woman from behind the bar, then said, “I’ve got something to show you that you probably never thought you’d see again.”

He reached for his wallet, fumbled around for a bit, then pulled out a worn and faded Palm Beach Post-Times business card with my home phone number scrawled on it. “You told me to give you a call if I ever got down to your neck of the woods. I never got closer than around Tampa, so I never called you.”

I gave him that card in 1977 or 1978.

Only in Cape Girardeau would someone hold onto your business card for 30-plus years and then run into you in a neighborhood bar 1,100 miles from where you live.

Donut Drive-in

With Jerry’s help, I was able to locate the Donut Drive-in. The building still had the serving windows. It was a big deal to pull up to the window on Sunday morning on the way home from church to pick up some fresh donuts or Long Johns,  jelly-filled donut pastries  so sweet they’d find a cavity faster than a dentist.

Earl Kirchoff opened the doughnut stand in 1952. The ad in the 1964 Girardot had the slogan “Tote a Poke Home.”