New Madrid’s Riverfront Park

New Madrid Riverfront Park 08-14-2013Mother and I drove down to the Mississippi Mudd in New Madrid for dinner. She likes frog legs and they are reputed to have big ones (the reputation is deserved). I had a hamburger steak with bacon wrapped around it and covered with some great grilled onions and peppers that added flavor to the meat.

It was getting late in the afternoon, so we took a drive up on the levee and down to the waterfront where I shot the baptism in 1967.

Lined with walkways

New Madrid Riverfront Park 08-14-2013Cape’s riverfront has a nice walkway that has been extended recently, but I really like the high overlook you get from this arrangement. Another nice thing is that you could watch the river when it gets high, unlike at Cape, which has to close the floodgates. I bet the view of a flooding Mississippi is spectacular from the long pier in the background.

Look at the cat

New Madrid Riverfront Park 08-14-2013

I got out of the car with a medium length zoom, figuring all I was going to take was an overall photo. A piece of paper blowing in the wind near the water’s edge caught my eye. I looked at it for a few more seconds, then turned to go back for the body with the longer telephone lens so I could shoot this white cat in the lower right part of the frame. I don’t know what he was hunting, but he was working hard at it.

Click on the photo to make it larger.

Strange stone structure

New Madrid Riverfront Park 08-14-2013I heard childish voices coming from this stone structure. Kaceja Thomas, who is a high school freshman, didn’t know if it had any special significance or if it was just a neat place to play. Her brother who claimed to be 7 didn’t slow down enough for me to get a good photo of him. For the record, Sis said, “You’re not 7, you’re 6. I should know. You’re my brother.”

I’m textually inept

New Madrid Riverfront Park 08-14-2013I printing this cropped version of Ms. Thomas because I told her she could go to the library to see her photo this morning. She gave me her cellphone number, but I’m not exactly sure how to transfer my digital camera photos to her. I can think of a convoluted way to do it, but I really need a 10-year-old kid to show me a simpler way.

Project cost  $4.1 million

New Madrid Riverfront Park 08-14-2013A 2001 Missourian story said the riverfront park and levee improvements cost $4.1 million. The project wasn’t just to make a pretty park. City officials said large rocks which kept the levee from eroding made upkeep difficult. Filling in the rocks with dirt and planting grass over them made the area easier to mow.

The plan was to build a lighted walking path with benches for seating and improved parking, tables for public use and amphitheater seating in the Riverfront Park. The boat ramp and boat parking were to be improved also. It looks like mission accomplished to me.

I wish Cape had a park where tourists – and locals – could get a gander at the river without leaving their cars. New Madrid has done it right.


East Side Cemetery

East Side Cemetery AKA Denhart Cemetery - Russell Street 08-06-2013When Jennifer Schwent and I went to New Madrid to see if we could find the people who were in my 1967 Mississippi River baptism photos, we met a very nice and very helpful woman who told us some interesting stories about Pastor B.B. Gillespie. The march to the Mississippi started at his Church of God in Christ church. When I mentioned that I had heard that the church had burned down since my last visit, the helpful woman’s voice dropped and she said, “I wouldn’t go down there. It’s too dangerous.”

“Ma’am, Russell Street is only about three or four blocks long. I’ve walked it from end to end knocking on doors and chatting with people on their porches. I’ve been to church services there. No one has been anything but friendly and helpful.”

“Well, I wouldn’t feel safe down there,” she warned again.

As we cruised the length of Russell Street, we did get a long look from a gaggle of young men gathered on one street corner, but that’s to be expected when a strange van with Florida tags drives by gawking. We stopped in front of the ruins of the church, but it didn’t make a picture worth getting out of the car in the light rain..

East Side – Denhart Cemetery

East Side AKA Denart Cemetery - Russell St. New Madrid 08-06-2013Across the street, we noticed a fenced-in expanse of green grass with what appeared to be grave markers scattered around in it. “I’m not afraid to get out and take a closer look,” Jennifer volunteered.

“I like you, kid,” I said, opening the door.

Only about 15 graves identified

East Side Cemetery AKA Denhart Cemetery - Russell Street 08-06-2013We wandered the cemetery wondering just how many people were buried in a space that large. The City of New Madrid website says that nine of the 114 cemeteries in New Madrid County are located in the city. The one we were visiting on Russell Street goes by two names: the East Side Cemetery and the Denhart Cemetery. According to a document on the website, only about 15 graves are marked and / or identified.

The Find A Grave website lists 123 interments, and only about 11% of them have been photographed.

Those must be the scary people

East Side AKA Denart Cemetery - Russell St. New Madrid 08-06-2013While there, we heard raucous laughter and talk coming from the street corner about a block and half away. “Those must be the people we’re supposed to be afraid of,” I said. “Let’s go meet them.”

We walked up the group of five or six men and a woman. Turning to one of the men, I said, “Your beard is about as gray as mine, so you might be able to help me.” I explained our mission, then went back to the van to bring back a stack of baptism photos.

You need to talk with my mother

East Side AKA Denart Cemetery - Russell St. New Madrid 08-06-2013A small crowd gathered to look at the pictures. From time to time, someone would come up with a name, but they were of older people, all of whom were long dead. “You need to talk with my mother,” the grayest beard said. “She’s 90 years old and knows everybody.”

“Are you going to be on this street corner if I come back in a few months?” I asked him. The answer was yes, so I guess we have a date for the fall.

And, that’s how Jennifer and I escaped death or worse on the mean streets of New Madrid.

A Day in New Madrid

New Mardrid Mississippi River baptism 09-03-1967I shot a march and Mississippi River baptism in New Madrid in the summer of 1967. I spent a week in 2011 trying to identify the people in the photos, to no avail. The few adults that were named are all dead and nobody recognized the young folks.

Altenburg Lutheran Heritage Center intern Jennifer Schwent volunteered that she had worked in a small museum in New Madrid and had some contacts who might be able to help. We journeyed to the Higgerson Landing Gift Shop where site director Riley Bock gave me some leads, but we struck out on names. He WAS able to help identify exactly where on Main Street one of the photos was taken.

Main Street 1967

New Mardrid Mississippi River baptism 09-03-1967Here is the group marching down Main Street in 1967.

Main Street 2013

Main Street New Madrid 08-06-2013The Claire Hotel Coffee Shop has become The Corsage Shop these days. The white building in the old photo is now the Main Street Market.

Higgerson School

Jennifer Schwent at  Higgerson Landing Gift Shop and Museum New Madrid 08-06-2013_7953I’ve put this project on the back burner until I get some others finished. Here, by the way, is Jennifer in front of a neat timeline of the Higgerson School she helped put together. It lists key events in the history of the one-room school and has photos of the teachers who taught there.

I like her because she argued successfully that this blog should be accepted as a resource in historical preservation classes at SEMO.

Keeping Kids Busy

Playtime in the ’60s was pretty unstructured. Parents shooed their kids out the door and figured they’d find something to do until mealtime. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Richard, son of Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Drye, 1808 North Main Street, elected to protect the family garbage can from marauders. His bored expression makes it look like his backyard suffers from a dearth of marauders. His cap’s earflaps should protect him if an unexpected summer snowstorm sneaks up behind him.

Fun in the sprinklers

All of the photos but this one ran on the June 18, 1966, Missourian Youth Page to go along with a story about what made kids finishing the second grade at at Campus School happy about summertime. I try to do my posts from scanned negatives to get better quality, but I happened across these kid pictures in a box and decided to run them even if time and the elements has caused the prints to fade.

This boy’s picture didn’t run and there was no ID written on the back of the print, so he’ll have to stand in for all of us who ran barefoot through a backyard sprinkler.

 The ups and downs of playing at the park

Debbie Statler came up to Capaha Park from New Madrid for a school picnic. The microfiche copy was blurry, but Debbie’s parents looked like Mr. and Mrs. Delbert Statler. Going to Cape for a New Madrid child was probably like a Cape kid going to St. Louis.

Richard Harris was busy stealing souls

New Madrid youngster Ricky, son of Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Harris, is making sure he has a record of the day’s activities. I wonder if it was a passing fancy or if he was sucked into his soul-stealing machine like I was at about the same age. I hope he got a clear picture without his finger in front of the lens. His Kodak Duaflex II was carefully protected in what we photographers called a never-ready case. They might keep your camera clean and safe, but they also got in the way and kept you from being able to shoot quickly and to change film easily. I’ve got a bunch of them in the attic that never saw service.


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