I Hate Cursive Writing

LV Steinhoff writing exercises for Ken Steinhoff 11-1960Reader Madeline DeJournett posted a link on Facebook to a Psychology Today story entitled “What Learning Cursive Does for Your Brain.” The story whines that schools are phasing out the teaching of cursive writing.

Madeline, a former school teacher, opines: “Can you imagine that they would give it up? It is a sad state of affairs, when our dependency on technology and machines cause us to abandon basic traditional skills like writing!”

“Good riddance,” says me. I started typing in the first grade or thereabouts. By the time I was in the third or fourth grade, I was a proficient hunt ‘n’ peck typist. I tried to learn touch typing by doing exercises when I got high school age and got where I can mostly type without looking at my hands, but it ain’t pretty.

Dad had the most beautiful handwriting you would ever want to see. It appalled him to see my chicken scratching, so he embarked on a campaign in the fall of 1960 to improve my writing. I had to do several pages of drills every day. They started out with curves and lines.

Then we moved on to words

LV Steinhoff writing exercises for Ken Steinhoff 11-1960Dad would write an example, then I would have to copy it for three lines. His letters weren’t formed exactly like we were taught in class, but they were like artworks. Mine were more like modern art.

Long about that time, I was in Pastor Fessler’s Confirmation Class. His standing Monday assignment was for us to hand in a 150-word summery of his Sunday sermon. That turned out to be the most useful thing I got out of Confirmation. I learned how to take good notes in my own personal scrawling, then go home to the typewriter where I would bang out exactly 150 words. Not 149, not 151. Exactly 150. I have no idea if he actually counted the words (or even read them), but it was a point of pride to hit the number on the nose.

Building a vocabulary

LV Steinhoff writing exercises for Ken Steinhoff 11-1960When I complained about the finger exercises, Dad gave me a new assignment: he’d write a word out of the dictionary, I’d have to copy it, then define it. My handwriting didn’t improve, but my vocabulary certainly did.

I found only one notebook of writing practice, so I suspect that Dad finally gave me up as a lost cause. I think I didn’t make an effort because I knew I’d never be able to write as well as he did.

How did my writing turn out?

LV and Ken Steinhoff signaturesI got into a business where you had to write quotes all the time. I developed my own shortcuts and abbreviations that probably nobody else could decipher, but worked for me.

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across a box of my old notebooks from the late 60s and was amazed at how some of those scrawls transported me back in time. I saw a quote from an old man describing a big coal mining disaster in Southern Ohio. “It put black crepe on every home in the valley.” Even if I didn’t have a physical photograph of the man, that sentence popped him into my mind. He’s long dead, but his words live on in my notebook.

Probably the best answer to the question, “How did my writing turn out?” would be answered by comparing Dad’s signature with mine. (In case you can’t quite make it out, the second line reads “Kenneth L. Steinhoff.)

Sorry, Dad.

Guardian Angel Catholic Church

Guardian Angel Catholic Church in Oran 02-03-2013I mentioned yesterday in the Tour de Oran that photos of the Guardian Angel Catholic Church in Oran would be coming. Well, here they are. The first photo shows a white house on the left that Readers Madeline DeJournett and Samantha K identified as the priest’s house. Ms. K answered my question about why the house was so large: the sisters of the church lived there when the church still had sisters.

The outside is impressive

Guardian Angel Catholic Church in Oran 02-03-2013

The brickwork and detail on the outside of the church, with a cornerstone that displays MCMXVI – 1916 for the Roman Numeral challenged – is beautiful. I don’t see how a small town like Oran could have supported such an impressive building. What’s interesting is that Oran, unlike so many other small towns, has actually picked up a few residents between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.

As of the census of 2000, there were 1,264 people, 507 households, and 353 families in the Oran. By the 2010 census, the numbers had increased to 1,294 people, 518 households, and 360 families. That’s not a lot, but it reverses what I would have thought would be the trend.

Inside is breathtaking

Guardian Angel Catholic Church in Oran 02-03-2013Just by the luck of the draw, I happened on to the Catholic churches in Oran, New Hamburg and Kelso on our wanderings. All were impressive, but this was by far and away the most impressive and most tastefully done.

The other thing that surprised me was that none of the churches were locked. That is refreshing.

Organ pipes

Guardian Angel Catholic Church in Oran 02-03-2013

I’ve seen lots of church organ pipes. I’ve never seen any decorated like these. I couldn’t find much of the history of the church on the Internet, so I’m counting on you to share your memories of the place. If I had wanted to, I could have spent all day photographing the details of the place, but I felt a little uncomfortable wandering around without telling anyone what I was doing.

Photo gallery of Oran’s Guardian Angel Catholic Church

This is a far cry from the Old McKendree Chapel between Cape and Jackson. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.


Advance Catholic Church Sold

Advance reader Madeline DeJournett, a reporter for The North Stoddard Countian, had a note on her Facebook page that the old Catholic Church in Advance had been sold. Here’s a photo I took of it in the fall of 2010. (You can click on it to make it larger.)

Madeline’s post said the church was built in 1909, but had been vacant since the congregation built a new church in 1991. The Rev. Chad Farris and his family have moved up from Malden to establish a Pentecostal congregation in the building.

From the photos she had, it looks like the interior is in good shape, too. I’ll have to check it out in a few weeks.

(Sorry for the heavy dose of churches lately. It’s just the luck of the draw.)


Dexter’s Corner Stop Cafe

I’ve spent the past two days trying to find some folks I shot in New Madrid 44 years ago. It’s a long, hot story that we’ll cover later. My quest today took me to Sikeston, which isn’t far from Dexter. I managed to convince Mother that riding around with me was more fun that mowing the lawn when the heat index is 114 (she was mowing the lawn, not me). This is a mowing photo taken several years ago in Dutchtown to show her style.

Madeline DeJournett, Advance reporter and avid reader of this blog, has been touting a new restaurant in Dexter called the Mediterranean Steak House “on Locust, south of the Ben Franklin store.” That’s the way you give directions when you live in a small town. There’s no way to enter that in my GPS, so we got quite a tour of Dexter.

Dexter provided an education

I remember Dexter well. Jim Kirkwood and I got to help build Hwy 60 going through the town the summer that our two dads, L.V. Steinhoff and James Kirkwood of Steinhoff & Kirkwood, decided that we should learn the value of education. They wanted to get us smart enough NOT to do what they did for a living. I kept looking for a landmark that would help me find the stretch of road we helped pour, but it’s changed a lot.

Anyway, at 33 minutes past Hungry o’clock, we pulled up in front of the steak house. It was closed on Monday. We went back to the main drag and passed predictable fast food joints.

Corner Stop Cafe

I thought I remembered see a small local diner just up the street from the steak house, so we headed back down Locust, past the Ben Franklin store, until we came to the Corner Stop Cafe. There were a few cars around it, it looked clean and it looked new, so we decided to give it a shot.

As soon as we opened the door, I felt right at home: a voice said, “Watch your step.” I’ve been getting that advice for years, but then I looked down and saw that you had to step down to get into the restaurant. We apologized for showing up at closing time, but our server, who turned out to be the owner, was gracious. I asked for advice and Phyllis Kull said that she sells about 500 of their “Nothing Like It Chicken” a week, so it must be good.

The menu described it as “Chicken salad, cranberry, smoked Gouda cheese and Granny Smith apples slices, served on Texas toast.” All of that, plus a side (some great potato salad) for six bucks. My foodie friend, Jan Norris would have taken a photo of the plate, but I had more important things in mind – finishing it off so I could have some strawberry pie. Mother had a bacon quiche (hold the bacon) with toast and a generous serving of fresh fruit. They forgot to hold the bacon, but it was served on top, so I got it and pronounced it excellent.

I apologize to Phyllis for sticking her outside where the lighting was so harsh. She’s much more attractive than the picture would lead you to believe.

Mural done by local artist

The inside of the cafe is attractive, without being cutesy. The mural, a work in progress, is being done by a local artist. Phyllis is from Colorado. Her husband, Alan, has family in the area, so they wanted to move closer to them. They opened the place March 16, 2010, and have been doing well. “Dexter is a great community. We’ve been blessed.” One of the customers when we walked in was the mayor, she said.

I normally avoid sweet tea, but they had it just right. After being out in the hot sun, I downed three glasses of it. I told Phyllis that I had been shooting in a church in New Madrid Sunday when it was equally as hot. “When the preacher started talking about hell, fire and brimstone,” I said, “I jumped to my feet and shouted, ‘Thank you, Jesus, for bringing us some relief.’ At first I thought I might not have that testifying thing figured out exactly right, but an old man in the back row hollered, ‘AMEN,’ so I guess I did OK.”

Mother, who normally takes everything with a grain of salt, looked at me in horror and said, “You DIDN’T?” For once, I couldn’t milk it for all it was worth. I had to tell her I was kidding.

How was the pie?

I ordered the strawberry and Mother had the blackberry. They used fresh fruit, but the filling was a Jello-style that I’m not really fond of. It was good, but not my favorite. Of the two, I liked the blackberry better. The actual, non-Madeline-style address is 5 South Locust, Dexter, Mo.

I’m not sorry the steak house was closed. This place is a great find: good food in good quantities, served by some nice people. I sure wish they were in Cape and West Palm Beach.