A Face in the Crowd

Ohio University Martin Luther King Day of MourningSarah Boumphrey, assistant to the office of the president of Ohio University, contacted me this afternoon. I thought it might be to let me know that they were finally going to give me my degree, but that wasn’t it.

She said that one of the faces in the crowd in my Martin Luther King, Jr., National Day of Mourning photos belonged to a young man who would eventually become the president of the university, and she wanted permission to Tweet it to commemorate Martin Luther King Day.

Here it is in context

Ohio University Martin Luther King Day of MourningThe man who would become president, Dr. Roderick J. McDavis is on the right side of the photo. Follow the brick column straight down until you see a man in a white coat (Sarah thought he looked a little like Sean Penn). Dr. McDavis to behind and to his left.

You can click on the photo to make it larger.

Who would have thought?

MLK Day of Mourning Catalog Show 02-27-2013The young man at the podium, James Steele, led a peaceful sit-in at the intersection of the town’s main drag, Court and Union Streets at the close of the memorial service.

He told the Ohio University Post in 2012, “It would have been hard for me to be persuaded that there would be a black president of OU (today). We can talk so much about the remaining problems and difficulties that we can lose sight of how profound some of the progress has been.”

Where do we go from here?

Ohio University Martin Luther King Day of MourningAfter the sit-in broke up, a few tattered signs remained behind, including one that is asking the question we’re still asking today, “Where do we go from here?”

The tight head shot of Dr. McDavis will be linked to this 2012 post which contains more photos and a more complete description of what happened on that Sunday, April 7, 1968, day when the nation was reeling in shock.

In 2013, the photographs were part of “Dawn of Mourning,” presented by Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc. in conjunction with the College of Arts and Sciences, the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, the Foster and Helen Cornwell Lecture Series, University College, the Campus Involvement Center, The Athens Messenger and The Post. Here is a catalog of the photos in the show.

 

 

Rerun: Telephone Talk

Telephone similar to ones in kitchen and basementIf you grew up in Cape, you were in the land of EDgewater. If you lived over in Jackson, you were a CIrcle person. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are probably also going to be surprised to see that the telephone has a round thing instead of buttons.

Here’s where you can find out a little bit about EDgewater, CIrcle, RAmond, LOcust, TUlip and GRanite.

See, back in those days, the phone company, Ma Bell, was the only game in town. You leased the phone from them (and because of that, they made it so bulletproof that telephones and cockroaches were going to be the only thing left after The Big One was dropped). You didn’t have modular jacks: the phone was wired directly to the jack and the phone company was responsible if anything went wrong with it.

Like with the other rerun posts, click on the links to see more photos and get the full stories.

Extensions cost extra

You were charged by extension, and the phone company could tell by the voltage drop how many ringing phones you had connected, and they would periodically run tests to check for bootleg equipment.

One of my buddies had an illegal extension in his house. The phone rang and a Bell tech asked how many phones he had in his house. Fibbing, he said, “Just one,” and he ran to unplug the extra one.

The phone rang again. Same tech. “You just unplugged it, didn’t you?” he said.

I acquired a couple of spare phones over the years, but I hooked up toggle switches on the ringer so they (a) wouldn’t wake up the kids and (b) wouldn’t show up to that sneaky tech.

It’s all AM and FM

Malcolm Steinhoff w buttset 08-10-2008Most of you think I was always a photographer. I spent the last 13 or so years of my newspaper career as a telecommunications manger, a job I really liked, but was totally unqualified for to start out. I got it because I was a good project manager, understood construction, got along with other departments, knew how to live within a budget and, most importantly, had a staff who really knew what they were doing to keep the phones humming.

When I was invited to speak at a telecommunications manager conference, I said that most kids want to grow up to be firemen or rocket ship drivers or other dramatic things; very few proclaim, “Mom and Dad, I want to hang a butt set off my belt.” Most of us fell into the job like I had.

My first crisis

I had Mike, my No. 2 Guy, to ease me into the job and to kick me under the table when I’d start to say something dumb in a meeting. My first big crisis occurred when we had a planned building power outage that caused the whole place to go dark. We had one critical phone switch that suddenly decided that it LIKED taking a nap and didn’t want to wake up.

About four in the morning, two hours before the call centers were supposed to open, I asked Mike the question that all techs hate to hear: “Any idea what the problem is?” The obvious, unstated answer is, “No. If I knew how to fix it, we’d have all been in bed two hours ago.”

Mike, one of the best troubleshooters I’ve ever worked with, turned to me and calmly spelled out the facts of telephonic life. In fact they apply to every aspect of real life, too.

You’re going to have to follow this link to read his words of wisdom.

 Before cell phones

Boys talking on tin can telephonesI was more comfortable with this level of technology. I mean, how can you beat unlimited voice and data plans and no need for batteries?

Dropping a dime

Pay telephone booths near Scott Quadrangle c 1967We didn’t have phones in our dorm rooms when I first moved into Scott Quad my junior year. If we wanted to call home, we had to find a phone booth that worked, a real challenge because the phone company wasn’t diligent about emptying the money out of them. When they were full, they were full.

Like Buddy Jim Stone points out, we didn’t have helicopter parents back in those days because we weren’t connected 24/7. By the time you were able to call home, you had probably already worked out the problem yourself (or had forgotten it).

If you look at a closeup photo at this link, you can see that the price of a call had just gone up from a nickel to a dime.

Car phones coming to Cape

Achievement Edition Car phones 02-26-1966The big news in 1966 was that car phones were coming to Cape.

How times have changed (I hope)

1944 Cape Telephone Book P32 Restaurants - coloredThe 1944 Cape County Telephone Directory contains a jarring classification. Follow the link to see the not-colored restaurants in Cape.

Cheating Death to make phone ring

Lester Harris SW Bell repairman over the Diversion Channel 08-18-1965I’ve mentioned Lester Harris quite a few times in this blog. He was one of those dedicated Bell techs we all took for granted.

There was a telephone cable that spanned the Diversion Channel just east of I-55. From time to time, some nimrod couldn’t resist the temptation to take a shot at it. If he was halfway accurate, phones in Scott City and the airport would go dead.

Lester would walk the roadway until he found fresh shell casings that would give him a rough idea where he was going to find the break. Then, he’d strap on his tool belt, and climbing spikes to shinny up a pole to where he could hook his cable buggy over a wire cable that supported the phone wires.

Let’s put this in perspective. Phone wire is softer and more delicate than steel cable, but what is to say that some stray bullets haven’t nicked some of the wire strands that are holding Lester 60 feet above the Diversion Channel? In a perfect world, they would catch the shooter and send him out of the cable buggy to make sure it was safe before Lester got on it.

Lester was featured in the stock car racing post the other day.

Microwave towers

ATT microwave tower - Ridge Road - Jackson 08-09-2014The horizon used to be dotted with long-haul microwave towers like this one on Ridge Road in Jackson. Fiber optic cable has made them obsolete, and many have been torn down or repurposed as cell towers.

 

 

 

OU Party Time

Athens OH party 08-31-2014I’ve been working late at the Athens County Historical Society and Museum office. Athens, Ohio, is the home of Ohio University, once known as a top-ranked party school. (If it’s been down-graded, I’d hate to see what the top 10 looks like.)

There are several bars to the left of me; there’s a bar across the street from me, and there’s a bar and a rental house with a kazillion people in it on the right side.

The female voices that echo off the surrounding buildings are hitting frequencies that I thought only dogs could hear (and just short of that which would break glass). I haven’t heard the equivalent of the male voices since a camping trip on Fisheating Creek during alligator mating season. It’s not even the music that is earsplitting. It’s the cacophony of voices. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Words don’t do it justice

I shot the Saturday night video when I was getting ready to pull out of the parking lot about one in the morning. It’ll give you an idea what Court Street sounded like. I sent the video to CHS Buddy Jim Stone, who had been in town dropping Son Oliver off for class earlier.

His reaction: “Gee. Oliver said they were having movie night in their new apartment with perhaps a few games of chess.”

Party in progress

Athens OH party 08-31-2014When I drove down Court Street, Athens’ main North-South drag late Sunday afternoon, I spotted the party in the first photo two doors down from the office. I couldn’t resist.

When I walked up, there was a guy with a cellphone camera taking a picture of a couple of his friends. “Would you like to get in the photo?” is always a good icebreaker. The next thing I knew, half the party crowded into the photo.

Got an internship?

Athens OH party 08-31-2014A kid came up to me and said, “I saw you flipping cameras back and forth. Are you a pro?” I handed him a business card and told him what I do now.

He wanted to know if I took on interns. I said that I was a Florida guy writing about MO in the middle ’60s and Ohio in the late ’60s, so I didn’t know how well he’d fit in.

“Are you a nark?”

Athens OH party 08-31-2014The next guy asked, “Are you a nark?”

The last time that question was raised, I told him, was in about 1974. I was at a big group of partying young folks about to be chased out by the sheriff when I saw a guy pointing at me and asking his buddy, “Think he’s a nark?”

“You gotta be kidding,” his buddy observed. “He’s too straight-looking to be a nark.”

“I love Athens”

Athens OH party 08-31-2014Another kid said he was from Detroit and “loved Athens.”

“If you are somewhere and mention that you went to school in Athens, it’s like you have a bond.”

Curator Jessica and I had talked about that. Athens’ uptown shopping area, bars and restaurants are adjacent to campus and everything is within walking distance, so a lot of students don’t have cars. It’s also a relatively isolated area not close to any major population centers. A lot of students come from places like Cleveland and Akron that are too far away for a casual weekend commute, so they hang out in town and grow close to it.

That’s a lot different from Cape, where the SEMO campus is nowhere near the shopping areas and St. Louis is an easy two-hour drive. The university and town treat each other with benign neglect.

What’s with the pointing thing?

Athens OH party 08-31-2014So, what’s with the pointing gesture thing that shows up in so many pictures. It’s something I’ve not run into before.

Monday morning, I showed up at a local diner for breakfast. There was a blonde at the table across from me who must have been one of those who attended a Sunday night party because I could see her eyeballs throbbing all the way across the room. I think if a server had dropped a tray of plates behind her, her head would have exploded.

Interestingly enough, the streets were quiet and almost deserted Monday night. I guess even OU students can stand only such much partying.

 

 

Beer Comes to Ohio University

Low beer comes to Ohio University's Baker Center 02-04-1969Curator Jessica called to ask if she could use one of my photos to promote the Athens Country Historical Society & Museum’s Historic Tavern Tours this week. It’s all part of the 9th Annual Ohio Brew Week Festival, not that university students need any excuse to quaff beer. [Miz Jessica explained to me later I was wrong. Brew Week was cooked up to help the bars out during the slow summer season when the student population drops off.]

Kenny Kerr pours the beers

Low beer comes to Ohio University's Baker Center 02-04-1969It was a chilly February day in 1969 when Kenny Kerr (the guy with the shiny hairdo) of Kerr Distrubuting poured the first beers to be served in Ohio University’s Ohio Room in Baker Center.

You had your choice of Stroh’s, Stroh’s or Stroh’s. And, it was low-test 3.2 beer. Low-point beer, as it is more accurately called, is a beer that contains 3.2% alcohol by weight.

Since it could be sold to 18-year-olds, it eliminated having to determine if a drinker was 18 or 21. I don’t think I ever saw anyone carded at the Ohio Room, probably because most college students were at least 18.

Theory about binge drinking

Low beer comes to Ohio University's Baker Center 02-04-1969When I was in Athens over Halloween, I debated going uptown to shoot the costumed pub crawl festivities, but opted out because (a) it was cold, (b) parking was a problem and (c) one of the OU Post’s former editors from my era said, “I got tired of having my shoes puked on.”

He went on to explain that we lived in a different era: we didn’t have any money in 1969. Students would pool their cash with a few friends, head over to the Ohio Room for a couple of pitchers of 3.2 beer, do some socializing, then go home. Now it’s all about large quantities of booze, he said, and the streets are filled with inebriated students engaged in inappropriate behavior, some of which finds its way onto the Internet.

 Pouring beer like water

Here’s a gallery of photos of the day when Stroh’s beer poured like water – and according to some purists – tasted about the same. Stroh’s, by the way, had an interesting history. It started as a regional beer, then ended up as the third largest brewer in the country. It even marketed a Stroh’s ice cream. A whole bunch of market changes caused problems for the company, though, and in 1999, after being in business for 149 years, it sold its labels to Pabst Brewing Company and Miller Brewing Company.

Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.