Yes, children, we had traffic jams in Cape in The Old Days. I shot this one on Independence looking toward Kingshighway on the same day I shot the demolition of the St. Charles Hotel, April 13, 1967.
It took some headscratching to figure out where it was taken. The key landmarks were the bridge over Cape LaCroix Creek, the Wiethop Truck Sales sign, the highway sign pointing to Hwy 61 and the car dealership way off in the background.
I must have been using my 200mm telephoto lens. That would have accounted for the way everything is compressed and looks closer than it really is.
The only thing that’s still there is Wiethop. Moon Distributing Company and Pollack Hide and Fur, which don’t show at that intersection, are long gone. Harris Motor Company has become Aldi’s. The area off to the right contains Kmart, Schnucks, Walgreen Drugs and some other stores.
And, that traffic-jammed two-lane road has become four lanes with a suicide center turn lane.
Ever wonder why car ads always show wet roads, but it’s never raining? It’s because all the reflections are REALLY neat. This is southbound on Kingshighway south of Broadway. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)
I had to make a run to UPS to send a thumb drive full of photos to the Athen (OH) Historical Society and Museum. When I stopped by there last month, I left off a bunch of photos I took when I worked in Athens back in the late ’60s and early 70s. Friend Jan and I had barely gotten out of town when curator Jessica Cyders pinged me to ask if I thought it would be possible to put together an exhibit on the Martin Luther King National Day of Mourning I shot in 1968 by February 27 to cap off a Black History Month conference. Since Jessica and Danielle Echols were doing to do most of the heavy lifting, I agreed.
I’m flying out to speak to the group at the end of the month, and I’m busy putting together a show catalog right now. It’s neat that someone thinks my old stuff is worth sharing.
Tuesday I’m supposed to speak to a historical preservation class at Southeast Missouri State University. I threw in a lot of new Cape-specific stuff this afternoon, so what I say is going to be as big a surprise to me as it will be to the class.
Stop light at Pacific and Independence
After I dropped the drive at UPS, I decided I’d drive around looking for rain art. Photographers always thought life was unfair. Reporters did weather stories by calling the weather bureau, digging out clips about the Last Big Storm and, if they could be bothered, looking out the windows. Photographers had to get their shoes muddy.
Old Traffic Bridge
Downtown was kinda blah, so I stopped by what remains of the old Traffic Bridge.
Since I retired, my new contract says that I don’t go hungry, get wet or lift heavy objects. These photos were all taken from inside my van with the heater running.
Haarig or Good Hope
The wind and rain were really whipping from the south when I paused on Good Hope looking west toward Sprigg. It was coming across the road in sheets.
Pacific looking south from SEMO
I figured I’d better scope out where I’m supposed to be presenting Tuesday, so I went up Pacific to the Carnahan Building. On the way back I tried to capture the rain coming up the street and down the hill. These are the times I envy the TV guys with their video. It’s tough to get across the concept of driving rain in a still.
Through the windshield
When an oncoming car lit up the water droplets on the windshield, the camera’s autofocus thought that’s what I wanted to shoot. It’s neat, and I’m glad it happened, but it wasn’t my target.
People who whiz up I-55 to get from Cape to St. Louis in about two hours never give a thought to U.S. Highway 61 that runs from the lands of ice and snow to New Orleans. Roads used to be known by names, not just numbers. Route 66, running east and west across the country was known as The Mother Road. North-South Highway 61 was El Camino Real – The King’s Road.
Going through Cape, it’s still called Kingshighway, and I grew up on Kingsway Drive, which parallels it.
Old U.S. 61 was a hilly, curvy, narrow road. Heavily-laden underpowered trucks growling up the steep hills would back up cars dozens deep. Eventually, someone would get impatient and try to pass, resulting in a grinding head-on collision that left dead scattered all over the roadside.
CB radios were decades in the future, so truckers and savvy drivers learned to communicate with their lights and hand signals to warn of speed traps and hazards ahead. Flashing headlights or an arm extended palm-down and waved in a patting motion meant “SLOW DOWN!”
Welcome rest area
About halfway between Cape and St. Louis, north of Bloomsdale and its Dew Drop Inn, was the Fourche a du Clos Valley Roadside Park. It had a spectacular view across the valley, picnic tables and a stone grill that’s still there. It has every feel of a WPA project, but I couldn’t find any markers around to confirm that. It was a great place to pull off to let your car and your kids cool off. I don’t think we ever passed there without stopping.
There were no rest facilities at the rest area, so what you might take as little white carnations all over the place when you looked over the stone wall and down the hill were actually tufts of toilet paper. Not all of the things in the Good Old Days were all that great.
I’m happy to report that there were no carnations visible on this visit.
583 feet above sea level
In case you were confused about which way you were going, there is still a concrete arrow that point NORTH. Next to it is a stone that proclaims that you’re standing 583 feet above sea level.
U.S. 61 has been improved
U.S. 61 has been improved. Cuts and fills have made the grades not so steep; the road has been widened and most of the through traffic stays on the Interstate, so it’s not the white-knuckle drive you might remember as a kid. I actually enjoyed my cruise south along the new old road.
Fourche a du Clos Valley Roadside Park photo gallery
Take a load off and click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left of right side of the image to move through the gallery.