$2 Million Shawnee Park Center

June 17, 1959, The Missourian reported that citizens and churches were trying to raise $5,500 in operating expenses for the Smelterville Civic Center to be opened in the renovated Hartle building..

Fifty-two years later, a March 16, 2011, story by Scott Moyers said that the $2 million Shawnee Park Center was going to open March 28. Quite a contrast. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

For years, residents in the central area had the Arena Building for activities; the Osage Center and the water park was built later for the northern part of the city. South Cape, always the municipal step child, was pretty much neglected until the Shawnee Park Center was built at 835 S. West End Blvd, next to the Shawnee Sports Complex..

14,541 square feet

The 14,541 square-foot facility includes:

  • 6,500-square-foot gym.
  • 870-square-foot fitness room.
  • 720-square-foot activity room.
  • 1,540-square-foot meeting room that can be divided into two rooms.
  • A full-service kitchen.

Stories about old Civic Center

  • June 17, 1959 – A special committee composed of 70 Cape Girardeau groups planned to raise $5,500 for operating funds for a Smelterville Civic Center. The funds would come from three sources: many churches agreed to contribute 10 cents per communicant to provide start-up money; donations from civic clubs and industrial firms would be solicited, and a giant variety show using local talent would be held.
  • May 9, 1960Report of accomplishments: attendance increased from 15 to 20 children on a Saturday to over 100; demand grew so much that arrangements were made to use the May Greene School gym for Saturday athletic programs; a state-sponsored program taught many women in Smelterville the use of sewing machines; a quilting program had been started; the county medical society gave assistance and an eye clinic was held.
  • May 11, 1960 –  Stephen Limbaugh, Miss Bertie Cleino and Rev. Owen Whitfield were elected to the Civic Center board of directors. Henry Ochs reviewed the center’s accomplishments and said that plans were being made to add washing machines and bathing facilities to the building. Gary Rust talked about expansion plans. Fred Thomas reported on Saturday activities. C.C. McClue announced a fundraising drive for June.
  • May 10, 1961Mississippi River was expected to crest at 39 feet, the fourth highest point since the modern record of 42.4 feet on May 27, 1943. [That compares with 48.49 ft on August 8, 1993.] Some Smelterville families move into the Civic Center when their homes flooded. The rise was unexpected. The river came up 6.9 feet in 48 hours.
  • Dec. 23, 1966 – SEMO students insured that Christmas presents were available to children at the Civic Center.

Links to old Civic Center photos

I’ve done two stories with photos of old Civic Center activities:



The Faces of Occupy Cape

The Missourian ran a story about Occupy Cape in the November 6th paper, so I was hoping to run into them. The comments after the story were one of the reasons I’m sometimes ashamed to say I’m from here. Speak Out and the comments that follow stories contain mean-spirited, Yahoo-level talking parts that pass for wit in this area.

In case readers missed it the first time, one of them felt compelled to ask the question, “How about occupying a job?” twice.

Another wrote, “I observed them marching on William, in the hood, not sure what they are protesting Bet you that most of them play dungeons and draggons in their mothers basements.” [Spelling and punctuation as printed in the paper.]

I would encourage you to read the story, then the comments. Some of the demonstrators in this photo posted long, intelligent responses to the jabs and jibes. Click on any photo, by the way, to make it larger.

“Get A Job!”

I spent about an hour on the corner with the group, numbering at most eight, including me. I was surprised at the number of friendly toots and waves they got. Only four people hollered, “Get A Job!”

Eric, who is from the St. Charles area, would respond, “I’m working THREE jobs and going to grad school.”

61-year-old civil engineer

The Old Man of the movement on Saturday was Walden Morris, 61, a civil engineer and an LSU grad. He had been out in Salt Lake City for a year and a half working on a gas and oil pipeline project when he decided to attend a rally just to see what it was all about. Before he knew it, he was on the State Capitol steps speaking to 400 people under the watchful eyes of TV cameras. “I had been waiting for that moment for years. I just let ’em have it.”

“Fed up with the way the country is being run”

Chris McEwen, an art major from Mobile, Alabama, said he “got stranded in Cape for youthful reasons.”

“What was her name?” I asked. He grinned and said, “You got that right.”

He was on the street corner because he’s “fed up with the way the country is bring run.” He’d like to see money taken out of politics.

Came from conservative Democrats

Nathaniel Lee, of St. Louis, came from a family of conservative Democrats. He has a dual major in accounting and international business. He’d like to get his C.P.A. and work as a federal auditor “trying to fix the system from within.”

This IS Cape, after all

The group has a website, Occupy Cape Girardeau.

I had to be amused at a note in the Nov. 12, 2011, General Assembly Minutes: “We opened by appointing by consensus Kerrick Long as this week’s facilitator, after which he read the Principles of Solidarity using the People’s Mic. The principles of solidarity were interrupted when an officer of the Cape Girardeau Police Department arrived and stated that the CGPD received a complaint about the demonstration at Freedom Corner earlier. He said if we did not keep quiet demonstrating by the road, we could go to jail. We apologized, and said we would be sure not to shout too close to the road. He told us we could continue using the People’s Mic at the benches since it was farther from the road.”

Being a bit of a rebel, I’d have asked the cop to bring out a decibel meter to tell me how much more we were disturbing the peace in the middle of the afternoon in a public park compared to other activities in the park. These folks have a lot to learn about civil disobedience and standing up for your rights.

[The Occupy movement doesn’t use mechanical megaphones. They use “The People’s Mic,” where someone who wants to say something speaks in short bursts that are re-shouted by the group. Considering that the largest assembly in Cape has been less than 20, I doubt that hearing the speaker is a problem.]

1967 Protest at Petit N’ Orleans restaurant

This was the last protest I covered in Cape. These SEMO students were protesting the Petit N’ Orleans restaurant’s dress code in 1967. The cops shut them down, too.

Education costs are rising

Brandon Burton, a pre-veterinary medicine major from St. Louis, is concerned about the rising cost of a college education.

Parts of the Occupy Cape website makes me think I’m back in my treehouse days when I see a whole section in the General Assembly Guide devoted to “Hand Gestures.” The movement strikes me as unfocused and a bit naive at times: long on feel-good rhetoric and short on practical solutions.

I will say, though, if you are tempted to roll down your window and shout “Get a Job!” pull over to the side and talk with these folks. You may find that you have more in common with them than you think. A couple of the members concluded that they and the Tea Party are both saying the same thing: the system ain’t working. They may disagree about what’s broken, how it got broken and how to fix it, but they’re starting from a common viewpoint.




Water Park Holiday Lights

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the Family Aquatic Center at Osage Center (AKA to me as the Water Park) was all lit up for the holidays. I was already in the left lane to turn toward Kingsway, so I didn’t even slow down.

I should have stopped that night. It wasn’t 25 degrees and the grass didn’t crunch under my steps.

I had planned to do a piece on the Occupy Cape Girardeau movement, but Jim Stone and I spent most of the day roaming and visiting, so I didn’t have the energy to do it justice tonight. I was looking for something quick and easy to post. (Click on the photo to make it larger.)

How did I shoot the photo?

  • It was dark, so the camera autoselected an ISO (“film” speed of 1600. The high speed, plus the dark areas resulted in about half a dozen red and blue spots of “noise” that had to be edited out in Photoshop CS5 Extended.
  • It was darker than dark, but my fingers were too cold to fiddle with a tripod, so I grabbed my monopod to take at least a little shake out of the photo.
  • I was shivering and the cold made me need to pee, so I backed up against a utility pole to give me a little more stability (and to finish up as quickly as possible).
  • Frames that were given more light also required a slower shutter speed, which made them less sharp. Frames that were grossly underexposed showed the lights and were sharper, but lost the nice curvy lines of the empty pool. (The light color wasn’t ice; it was light reflecting off the walls of the pool.)
  • This compromise was a .625-second exposure @ f/4 at 26mm. I could have zoomed in tighter. When I went to edit it, I cropped in from all four sides to emphasize the lights. When I shot it, I thought I’d like the lights surrounded by more darkness, but that wasn’t the case.

1964 Capaha Park Swim Meet

This is a swim meet at Capaha Park Pool on July 31, 1964, if we believe the note on the negative sleeve. There are big holes in Google’s Missourian archives for the last part of 1964, so I don’t know if a story ran in the paper. Some of the pictures are pretty marginal, but there are a bunch of Capaha Pool fans our there who will overlook the technical shortcomings. Click on any photo to make it larger.

I almost got electrocuted

All I remember about this swim meet was that I almost got electrocuted. My electronic flash – strobe – was sick, so I borrowed one from somebody so I could cover the meet.

In case you didn’t know, strobes work by sucking an electrical charge out of low voltage batteries and storing it in a capacitor until it’s boosted to hundreds of volts. When you press the shutter release, that closes a contact that sends all that voltage across the flash tube, producing a very short duration powerful blast of light. Later models operated off a 510-volt battery, but that’s another, equally painful story.

Keep the plug covered

The batteries would drain fairly quickly, so some of the strobes had ports where you could plug the unit into a regular electrical outlet. Well, what can go in, can also come out, so you’re supposed to keep the contacts covered with a plug when you’re not using it with AC power. The guy who loaned it to me either wanted to see me dead or he didn’t have the plug. I never did find out.

Photographer lights up

So, anyway, I’m walking across the wet pool deck when my finger accidentally touches those exposed contacts. The strobe says, “This guy must want to take a picture, so I’m going to dump my XXX volts and make a bright flash.” Instead of going through the flash tube, all those electrons took the path of least resistance – my body – to get to the wet pool deck. I thought somebody had tackled me from behind. I looked all around, though, and there was nobody close to me.

Flash was brighter than the photographer

I went on to cover the meet and POW!!! the same thing happened. This time I realized what was going on and made sure to keep my fingers away from the light-the-photographer-up contacts.

Remember braiding lanyards?

I think the kid on the far right is braiding a plastic lanyard. That was all the rage when I was in grade school. Square braiding was easy; round braid was a little harder. I can’t remember all the ways we used them. I think the challenge was in the braiding. Actual utility was secondary.

Wife Lila pointed out that these were taken before the lanes were painted on the pool bottom. Here’s what the pool looked like when they were getting ready for the season. It contains links to most of the other Capaha Park Pool stories we’ve done.