Little Things on Father’s Day

I pulled a few slides at random from some slide trays I had just put into sleeves. None of the pictures are particularly significant, but they all brought back memories from 1961 when most of them were taken. This was an exception. It was taken in West Palm Beach at Christmastime 1973. That’s Wife Lila, Brother Mark and Dad on the couch. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

A couple of things catch my eye. The ring on Dad’s right hand belonged to my grandfather, Roy Welch. My grandmother, Elsie Adkins Welch, kept telling him that some of the help was tapping the till in their Advance inn and tavern. Roy, who always thought the best of everyone, said that was impossible – he’d notice it. So, over a period of time, she’d dip into the cash register when he wasn’t looking. Eventually, she had siphoned off enough to buy him that ring. When my grandfather died, Grandmother gave Dad the ring.

Ring passed down to me

When Dad died in 1977, Mother passed it on to me. When it’s time, Son Matt will get it. (Son Adam will get my Palm Beach Post 20-Year Rolex.) I don’t look down at my right hand without thinking of Dad and Grandfather. I hope Matt and Grandson Malcolm will carry on the tradition.

When Lila and I got married, we were furniture poor. Our second domicile was a huge basement apartment with a living room that had little in it except a couple of twin bed mattresses that Lila had covered with corduroy material. They served as a place to sit and a place for overnight guests to sleep. After Mother and Dad paid us their first visit, Dad handed me a check and said, “Please, buy something for us to sleep on before we come back.” The couch / sleeper bed came from that check.

Comic books and watermelon

I learned to read from comic books. Dad would pick one up from time to time. His favorite was Scrooge McDuck. I can’t quite see which one he’s reading here at the kitchen table.

The slide had “Winter Watermelon March 1961” on it. That’s my grandmother on the left. Mark is making short work of the melon. (We shot a lot of pictures of him at that age because we weren’t sure how long he’d be cute.)

The clown cookie jar is still kicking around. I’m not sure, but those glasses may have been giveaways from a service station promotion from the days when you actually got service and not just gas. The sandwich toaster is open on the counter, so that probably means we had barbecue sandwiches. Desert was always a big deal at our house. That’s why you can see watermelon, brownies and a bowl that probably contained ice cream.

Dad was a smoker

Dad looks tired in this shot. It was hard to shoot a picture of him without a cigarette in his hand.

I think it was New Year’s Day my sophomore year that Dad chewed me out for staying out late the night before. In the days before I worked for Missourian, it was understood that I would be home at what they considered a reasonable hour. I wasn’t THAT late, so I was surprised that Dad jumped me.

A few weeks later, he explained. At midnight that New Year’s Eve, he had tossed all his cigarettes in the fireplace and had quit smoking cold turkey. He didn’t tell anyone until he was sure that he could do it. I remember him saying that it was easier than he thought it would be. “I got to the point where I was disgusted with myself. I’d have one cigarette smouldering in the ashtray, have one in my mouth and be pulling out a new one to light. I got tired of burning holes in my clothes. It was time.”

As far as I know, he never took another puff. It sure made it a lot harder to buy him a present, though. I new pipe or some smoking paraphernalia was always a fall-back gift.

Napping in my room

One thing I inherited from Dad was an appreciation for a good nap. Here he is nodding off my my bedroom.

There are some interesting memory touchstones here, too. Hanging from the curtains are motivational flyers The Missourian would put on our bundles of papers. Cynical even at our young age, we carriers called them “sucker sheets” and wondered why they couldn’t take the money they spent on the flyers and pay us a little more.

The black object on the top of the window is a barometer that belonged to my grandfather. I still have it on our mantle here. Just over the top of Dad’s toe, over in the corner, is a magazine rack with my initials on it that he built in his basement workshop. I still have it and a set of bookends he made for me. Mother has taken over this room for her bedroom. She likes to be able to sit and look out the window while playing with her iPad.

Missourian Achievement Edition

We paperboys hated The Missourian’s Achievement Edition, the biggest paper of the year. Looks like Mother came to pick me up at the station where the truck dropped of my papers. That’s Brother David on the left; Mark’s on the right. I can’t make out who the front seat passenger is.

Dad was working some jobs around Cape during the last year or so I was a carrier. He’d help me roll my papers, then we’d head off in either the station wagon or his pickup. Once he got to know my route, we made it a game to see how quickly we could get all the papers delivered. If it hadn’t been for half a dozen or so customers who insisted their papers be put on their front doors, I swear that the first paper would still have been in the air when I threw the last house.

Earlier stories about Dad



Academic Hall Construction

Some things, like SEMO’s Academic Hall never seem to change. This is what it looked like April 15, 2011. You can click on the pictures to make them larger.

Academic Hall 1966ish

Cape Girardeau was a black and white town in the middle ’60s.

Speaking of that, I’ve been talking about sending out a book proposal. I was putting the final touches on it Sunday night (Monday morning deadline, but, of course, I wouldn’t procrastinate) when I noticed that none of the books I had seen by this publisher had any color in them. When I shipped off the package, I asked the editor if they were a black and white publisher only. The sad answer was, yes. Because most of their books are old images from dusty archives, they don’t run color.

I thanked them for considering me, then withdrew my proposal. Looks like it’ll be a little longer before you have a chance to hold something in your hands. It’s gonna happen, but not as soon as I had hoped.

2012 Academic Hall renovation

Brother Mark slowed his car down long enough to snap a few frames of repair work being done at Academic Hall.

Academic Hall terraces

You can see the green terraces that Major James Frances Brooks designed for Louis Houck and that showed up in photos of the 1967 graduation ceremonies.

Terraces from Mother’s scrapbook

Here are the terraces from Mother’s scrapbook. The photo was probably taken in the late ’30s or early 1940s. Note the old car in the shadows.


Shedding Light on Carbide Lanterns

Here’s a shot of Dad helping set up a campsite. That’s Brother Mark hiding behind the tree. I’m pretty sure that’s Mother in the background looking for some poison ivy to step in. The setting is kind of odd: it’s right on a road and butts up to a fence. I don’t know who the boy on the right is. Brother David is in another shot, and that’s not him.

What caught my eye, though, was the lantern Dad is reaching for. It’s one of at least two carbide lanterns we owned. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

What’s a carbide lantern?

They were one of the most common sources of light for miners and coonhunters. There’s a good explanation of carbide lanterns on Mother Earth News.

I’m pretty sure we bought the lanterns at Beard’s Sport Shop. They were simple devices. They consisted of a super-bright reflector attached to a device that contained two chambers. You put water in the top chamber and calcium carbide in the lower chamber. When you dripped water onto the carbide, it would emit acetylene gas – the same stuff you use mixed with oxygen for welding. A wheel flint, like on a cigarette lighter, would provide a spark to ignite the gas. No matches required.

Calcium carbide was available in just about any hardware store when I was a kid. We kept ours in a big glass jug with a wide mouth. It looked like gravel. In fact, we’d freak out new campers by putting some on the ground and pouring a little water on it. Casually pitching a match in the general direction of the brew, we’d warn them that you had to be careful where you built your fire because the gravel around there would burn. POOF! They’d spend an inordinate amount of time trying to light rocks until you clued them in.

The highly efficient reflectors would throw a beam a long way. If you cut back on the water drip, they’d burn for hours. The only catch was that they emitted a lot of soot that would clog the gas passage. They were great when they worked, but I always found them a pain to keep burning.

Carbide lanterns are hard to find these days. There was only one listing for carbide lanterns on Amazon. This caver site has some good information on how to buy a used lantern.

Dad Would Have Been 95 April 17

Dad was born April 17, 1917. That would have made him 95 this year. He had an interesting quirk. He’d make up small pocket diaries or journals that he’d carry in his shirt pocket. The covers were made of cut-up manila folders and the pages were of paper cut and stapled inside. He had a rubber stamp that he would use at the start of every month to date every pair of facing pages. (Click on any image to make it larger.)

He was meticulous about recording every penny (literally EVERY penny) he spent every day. Generally there would be some mention of the weather and a brief accounting of what he had done during the day. By February, 1975, he and his partner, James Kirkwood, were beginning to wind down Steinhoff & Kirkwood Construction, so he had a lot more time to spend on stuff like Scouts. (SOR stands for ScoutORama, for example.)

Uncharacteristically, he set off a section: Got Big News about being Grandpa this PM. Talked to Ken Okee. Fla (I must have been in Okeechobee) later to Lila. (Then reverting to company business, he finished up by saying that he talked to Jim in Fla this PM.)

December second was big day

On December 2, 1975, we find that the day had sunshine in the 50s; he got up at 4:30 A.M., had toast and coffee, then left for Memphis Airport.

Picked up Ken & Lila and seen Grand child 1st time at 11:10 A.M. (He consistently used “seen” for “saw” and “too” for “to,” but otherwise generally used good grammar and spelling with lots of abbreviations. His penmanship was precise.)

Along the way to and from Memphis, he had coffee for .83 (with a 15-cent tip), bought a paper for 15 cents and put six bucks of gas in the car.

Here’s the first meeting with Matt

Matt was born September 27, 1975. (Matt’s the one who scanned these for me about 10 or 12 years ago. He was disappointed that his birth wasn’t mentioned in the journal, probably because Dad was over at Kentucky Lake on the day.) Here is Mother, Wife Lila, Dad and Matt getting together for the first time at the Memphis Airport. It’s the same airport we would fly out of in 1977 after Dad’s funeral.

Matt got a cold

December was cloudy, cold and damp. Dad got up at 6:45 and went to 7:30 church by himself, where he took Communion. When he got back home, he built a fire in the fireplace and watched Cardinal football until 1:45. Took 13 of us to dinner, including Lila’s mother, brother and sister; my grandmother, Elsie Welch, Mother, Brother Mark and Mark’s date. (The Cardinals beat Dallas, in case you were interested.)

The final note for the day said that Matt got cold. Nose stopped up. Call Dr. Kinder. [Matt doesn’t know how lucky he was that Dr. Herbert had probably retired by then. That’s why Matt can still eat¬†Popsicles.]

Headed back to Florida

  • December 11 – Clear, sunshine and warmer. Got car checked over for trip to Florida. Left Cape for Lake and Florida 12:30 PM – arrive at trailer at 3:00 PM. Matt didn’t sleep too well tonight. He threw a real cry buster at Joe Summers. Had his nose cleaned out.
  • December 12 – Sunshine clear. Up at 5:30 because Matt up since 3:00. Lila back to bed. Got Matt to sleep for abt 1 Hr 1/4. Left Lake for Florida at 9:15 AM. Ate at Cracker BL Manchester 12:30. Drove to Macon Ga. by 8:00 PM. Matt feeling better today – was really good.
  • December 13 – Clear sunshine – left Macon, Ga., at 9:15 ate at Shoney’s. had blueberry pancakes – No Good – Drove to Wildwood & ate at Union 76 at 3:00 PM – then on to WPB arrive at 8:00 PM. 1093 miles. Matt real good on trip. [Editor’s note: I have two routes I take from FL to MO. Both of them are within a dozen miles of being 1,100 miles. I find it interesting that Dad’s trip was 1,093 miles.]

Another interesting thing I had forgotten was that while Lila and Matt were parked in Cape, I flew down to Corpus Christi, Tex., for a job interview. I had been at The Post for almost exactly three years, generally about as long as I was comfortable anywhere. While the Texas paper and I were talking about the move, I was offered the job of director of photography at The Post. I took it and spent the next 35 years in photo, as editorial operations manger and as telecommunications manager. I discovered that I didn’t have to move to a new town every three years if I took on new responsibilities at the same company.

Other stories, pictures of Dad

This picture was taken before we left for my Trinity Lutheran School eighth grade graduation ceremony. They weren’t sure how many more graduation ceremonies there might be, so they dressed for the occasion.