Water Plant Goldfish Pond

I scanned a really cool photo of my mother on top of Cape Rock. Then, I looked closely at the photo next to it and recognized it as the fountain in the small park just north of the water plant on Cape Rock Drive. I’m going to guess the photos were taken in the early 1940s. [Click on  the photos to make them larger.]

Aerial of Cape Rock and the water plant today

Here’s an aerial I shot last November of the area. The water plant is in the center, The small park with the fountain is directly across the street. The towboat is pushing barges off Cape Rock. The Country Club golf course is at the top left.

“Outstanding example of good taste”

A May 21, 1931, Page One Missourian story gushed, “A project of the Better Service Club…might be described as one outstanding example of good taste in landscaping and beautification in this city… Situated on the brow of a wooded ravine just north of the site to be occupied by the new $250,000 water plant, the rock garden and its central fountain forms an attractive background to the woodland.

This garden was built for the employees by Judge I.R. Kelso of the Utilities company… The cost of lighting the place and planting it to flower and shrubbery will be borne by the employees, who will also maintain the project.”

Has electric fountain

“A feature of this garden spot is an electric fountain, the only one of its kind as far as is known in Southern Missouri. Four huge stone pillars form an entrance to this small park, two of the pillars being located at each end of the park and containing an ornamental lamp, and two others forming a support for a proposed illuminated sign.

The large pool, including the fountain, forms the central structure of the garden. The entire garden is bounded by an attractive design of stone arranged in a tasteful manner under the supervision of Tony Haas. Around the edge of the large pool a walk has been constructed, leading from the entrance, and on the inside of the walk is a concrete, rock and brick trough for water planting. The fountain will be a bowl-shaped affair, with a circular spray which can be adjusted to a diameter from seven to 70 feet. A center spray will be forced about 20 feet high.”

[Note: I read in another account that the pool was shaped to resemble a light bulb, keeping with the utility theme.]

Night illumination

“Around the base of the fountain beneath the water surface a sealed case contained lights of seven different colors will be arranged to give a vari-colored illumination to the sprays from the fountain, forming a beautiful spectacle at night. Four floodlights concealed in the entrance pillars will also play on the fountain.”

Sun dial and crystal ball planned

“North of the pool will be a sun dial and a crystal ball will also be included in the arrangement. A pleasing feature of the beautification plans is the retaining of much of the native growth of the site. A large tree and smaller trees have been left growing at advantageous points in the garden.

“It is the plan of the employees to landscape an adjacent plot of ground to the park and provide a recreation center which will include tennis courts and other similar facilities.”

Almost lost?

I could swear that I read somewhere that the park was almost lost not too long ago but a land swap was worked out. I’ve looked through all my bookmarks and couldn’t find the story again. The good news is that is still looks much like it did in the 40s and will, hopefully, be there for many more generations.

Missourian photographer Fred Lynch and I compared notes one day about how many times we had relied on that fountain for weather wild art.

 

Christmas at The Steinhoffs

Christmas was always a big deal at our house, as the 1966 photo above shows. The Christmas tree was always set up in the basement recreation room, as they were called in those days.

When we boys got up, Dad and Mother (mostly Dad) would torture us by making us wait until everybody got ready to go downstairs. Grandmother, who moved slowly because of arthritis, was always the first to go down.

When I got into high school, and became the official photographic historian, I was given the go-ahead to go next.

Christmas 1969

I had been doing some photo books for class projects at Ohio University, so Lila and I decided to put together one of our first Christmas as married folks in 1969. Here’s what it looked like.

Each person generally got one big “special” present. They weren’t always under the tree. In fact, as we got older, Christmas morning turned out to be more like a scavenger hunt as we tracked down clues all over the house. Dad and Mother (mostly Dad) took great pleasure in watching us scurry.

Mother got a skillet

Mother would almost always get at least one utilitarian present. It might be a skillet like this, or a vacuum cleaner or a clothes dryer.

Then she’d get a “fun” gift

It might be a series of cards with clues as to what she should buy with the money enclosed or it might be an actual gift.

Boys got lots of small gifts

Dad loved to buy things. I think he started shopping for next Christmas on Dec. 26. We never did figure out were he squirreled away all the loot. In fact, sometimes, he’d forget what all he HAD bought. At the end of opening orgy, he’d look around, then disappear for a few minutes, returning with yet another box or two that he recognized were missing.

Grandmother liked “smell-good” stuff

She’d get cosmetics, books, scarfs and knick-knacks.

Dad lived for Christmas

He loved to watch us tearing into the packages.

We were too busy to see this

We kids were too busy ripping paper to watch the interplay between our parents. I don’t think I paid much attention to them until I shot this book.

Dad got harder to buy for

My junior or senior year in high school, Dad decided to quit smoking on New Year’s Eve without telling any of us. We didn’t know why he had gotten cranky for several weeks. He finally said that he threw all his cigarettes in the fireplace at the end of the year, but didn’t want to say anything until he was sure he had kicked the habit.

That complicated our gift-giving, though. That ruled out pipes, tobacco, pipe stands, lighters and other smoking accessories.

Taking inventory

Once we had everything unwrapped, it was time to concentrate on that “special” gift. David must have gotten a turntable this year. I remember some of my big presents being a Hallicrafters S-38E shortwave radio (Son Matt has it now), a Daisy pump action BB gun, an Argus Autronic 35 (my first 35mm camera) and, a few years later, a Pentax camera.

They proclaimed it a success

When it was all over, it’s obvious that they rated our morning a success.

Biggest trash day of the year

I read somewhere that the day after Christmas is the biggest trash day of the year. When I see all of the debris left over in 1966, I can believe it.

I should feel guilty about all of the stuff we got, but Grandson Malcolm is playing with some of the toys and Mother’s attic has a lot left for the next one.

I’m glad Lila and I put this together. It brings back a lot of good memories.

Don’t Stare at My Mother’s Arm

Liberty with the truth warning: there may be some parts of what you read next that might not exactly be lies, but they stretch the truth to the point of snapping. [The story was originally written to promote the Convention Bureau’s Storytelling Festival.]

What’s the matter with her arm?

Mother couldn’t figure out why my brother Mark’s friends always looked at her funny. They’d appear to be staring, then glance away quickly when she looked at them.

She found out later that Mark had told them, “Don’t stare at my mother’s arm, she’s self-conscious about it.”

“What’s the matter with your mother’s arm,” they’d ask.

It’s a long story

Here’s how he tells it in (mostly) his own words:

After Dad died and all of us boys scattered all over the country, Mother got a little lonely. She was okay financially, but she wanted to do something a little different to keep busy, something that would let her see the sights, be around other people and make herself feel useful.

She was a cook on a riverboat

She decided to work as a cook on a towboat, The Robert Kilpatrick. She worked 20 days on and got 20 days off.

She had her own small utility boat that was kept on the barge on a hoist.  When she  ran low on supplies, she would have the captain radio ahead to the nearest town and give them the “grocery list.”  As they came close to the town, they would lower her boat into the water. She would take off, load up the supplies (the store would meet her at the river with them), and then she’d floor it to catch up with the tow.

One day as the tow was being broken up and put into the lock and dam (modern day tows now “push” as many as 30 barges at a time and dams/locks were not designed to accommodate more than eight at a time, two abreast),  she decided she wouldn’t launch her own boat, she’d stay with the tow. She was getting ready to climb a steel ladder from the the barge  to the top of the lock so she could board a waiting cab to go into town for the supplies when something went terribly wrong.

Tragic accident took her arm

Suddenly the barges shifted in the lock and her arm was caught between the edge of the barge and the concrete dam wall. It pinched it clean off at the elbow.

Tragic, yes, but not enough to keep our mother down.  No  sir.  In fact, some of the guys in the machine shop – the burly  guys who ate steak for breakfast and kept the massive engines working  down below – fashioned her a couple of custom “snap on” tools that were a little more functional than the basic hook that was all insurance would cover.

One was a spatula that could easily turn extra large omelets (and used to scrape the grill to keep food from sticking to it); the other was a meat fork with three tines.  Two tines faced the the same direction so she could pick up meat from the grill, and one tine was bent 90 degrees in the other direction, so she could open and close the oven doors with it.

OSHA said somebody’s gonna get an eye poked out

OSHA thought the custom tools created a hazard to workers who might get impaled if the boat hit rough water and caused her to stumble, so she quit rather than kowtow to bureaucrats.

She became a Happy Hooker

Her next job was working for the city of Cape Girardeau as a wrecker driver.  She drove a tow truck all over town looking for scofflaws who had outstanding parking tickets so she could impound their vehicle.  Nobody ever tried to  stop her after she raised her artificial arm and clicked her custom tool fingers at them like mad magpies.

Prosthetic technology progressed to the point where she decided to give up the hook and custom attachments for an arm that was covered in soft plastic that was almost lifelike. The doctors did a great job of matching her skin tone, too.

She got so she’d play along

When Mark’s friends threw him a surprise 50th birthday party, Mother, Son Adam and I showed up. When she noticed some of the guests giving her arm a quick glance, she pulled her hand up into her sleeve so it looked like she had left her prosthesis  at home.

“You can’t take that slot machine”

Storytelling is in our genes.

My mother’s family owned several businesses in Advance at one time or another. One was a tavern that had a few slot machines to bring in some extra (if illegal) income. Her parents had to leave one afternoon and left her in charge. She was all of about 13 years old.

It must have been an election year, because the place suddenly filled with law enforcement officers who were going to confiscate the slot machines as being illegal gambling devices. Mother knew that one of the machines was full of money, so she stood up to the sheriff and said, “You can’t take that one. It’s broken. If it doesn’t work, it’s no more a gambling machine than that bar stool.”

They left it behind.

Don’t forget the Storytelling Festival

If you made it all the way down here, you must appreciate tall tales. When this story was first published, you could click on the photo below, which would take you to the Convention Bureau’s Storytelling Festival website. I had optimistically written, “It’ll help me convince the convention bureau folks that this would be a great place to advertise, and it’ll set you up for a weekend that sounds like a lot of fun.” It might have done the latter, but the former never happened.

Cape Girardeau Then & Now

Some time between graduating from Central High School in 1965 and leaving for Ohio University in 1967, I hopped on a train in Cape Girardeau to go to a National Press Photographers Association Flying Short Course. I heard two things at that seminar that influenced my photography from then on.

Ken Heyman and This America

A photographer named Ken Heyman illustrated This America, A Portrait of a Nation, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. At that stage in my career, I thought any photograph that was published in a book had to be great. Looking back at it now, I know that some of the photos WERE iconic, some were solid images and some were merely pedestrian, at best.

Two photographers were sitting in front of me. One turned to the other and whispered, “I could shoot pictures better than that.”

His buddy responded, “Yeah, but the difference between him and you is that HE actually did it.”

Tom Neumeyer actually did it

I’ve never forgotten that lesson.

When I got back to Cape a couple of weeks ago, those the words I heard at that seminar 40-plus years ago came flooding back at me when I heard that some guy named Tom Neumeyer was holding a book signing for his new photo documentary book, Cape Girardeau Then & Now.

It’s a collection of 120 vintage photographs paired with what you would find at those locations today.

I COULD HAVE done that book. TOM did it.

When we went to Cape’s new public library (which is really nice, by the way) and I saw framed photos from the book hanging on the wall, I knew I had to have a copy.

Small world department

The person who took my money was Carolyn Penzel, another member of the Class of 65.

When I got up to Tom to have my book signed, he recognized my name and asked how [Family nickname my wife has been trying to leave behind for almost half a century] was.

Just about that time, Don and Marty (Perry) Riley, my in-laws walked in.

Life’s like a pinball game

I’ve always admired folks who know what they are going to do and go after goals in a straight line. My career path has been more like a pinball game where outside influences bounced me all over the place. I was reminded of that when I ran into a some people who had a major part in my life as a newspaper photographer.

I saw my Mother, Mary Steinhoff, (left) talking with Jo Ann Bock, who is a multifaceted writer and former teacher who was married to Howard Bock. When I came to Central High School as a freshman, Mr. Bock knew I had an interest in photography. He invited me to join The Tiger and Girardot photo staffs and taught me how to process film and make prints. When he died in May 2009, I discovered many things I never knew about the man.

I was admiring Tom’s photos on the wall when a man walked up and said, “I used to be Gary Rust.”

“I used to be Ken Steinhoff,” I countered.

Gary Rust, now a newspaper magnate, got me my first newspaper job. John Hoffman, the editor and publisher of The Jackson Pioneer had been in an auto accident that severely injured him and and killed his wife. Gary knew he needed help in the office, so he recommended me.

I think the recommendation was more because I had been dating the granddaughter of the local head of the Republican Party, and I was a rabid Barry Goldwater supporter, than it was for any journalistic prowess.

By the time I left the paper, I learned how to be a reporter, photographer, typesetter, layout editor, photo engraver… all for the munificent sum of $75 every two weeks.

There IS a market for photo books

Years ago, I helped illustrate a book, New Burlington: The Life and Death of an American Village. The writer encouraged me to turn my photos into a book of its own, but I was told “picture books don’t sell.”

I’m glad to see that Tom is proving an exception to that rule. So many people bought his books that they had to scurry out to the car to bring in extra boxes.

Where to find Then & Now

I see copies of his book all over Cape. Here’s a note he sent me with a list of places to find it.

  • Arts Council of Southeast Missouri
  • Annie Laurie’s Antiques
  • Back Porch Antiques
  • Broadway Books and Roasting
  • Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Crisp Museum
  • Cup’N’Cork
  • Grassroots BMW
  • Lang’s Jewelry
  • Mississippi Mud House
  • Neumeyer Photography
  • Old Town Cape
  • Renaissance
  • SEMO University Bookstore
  • Somewhere in Time Antiques
  • Stev-Mark

Tom said Dr. Frank Nickell’s website has an order form to download.

What was that second thing?

I mentioned that I came away from that seminar in Peoria with two life-defining messages.

The second was from Louisville Courier-Journal photographer Bill Strode who talked about photo ethics. “If I set up a photograph and there are only two people in the room – me and the subject – then that’s two too many people in the world who know that I’m a damned liar.”

Gallery of book signing photos

One of the nice things about doing this as a blog instead of as a newspaper story is that I won’t get in trouble if I don’t identify all of the people in the pictures. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to step through the gallery.