A Fortress Penetrated

Saturday was a day dominated by song lyrics and emotions I can’t explain.

When I became a newspaper photographer, I was sure my press pass was bulletproof and I thought my camera lens was a magic shield that protected me from the things that my camera was recording. It was only years later, that I discovered that the lens wasn’t a shield, it was a magnifying glass that etched a movie deep into my memories, a movie that often plays when most normal folks are asleep.

Most of the time I’m the guy Paul Simon sings about in I Am A Rock.

 I’ve built walls

 I’ve built walls,

A fortress deep and mighty,

That none may penetrate…

I touch no one and no one touches me.

I am a rock. I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;

And an island never cries.

 An auction caused a crack in the wall

Friend Shari Stiver and I were headed up to Tower Rock in Perry County when we stumbled across a yard sale. The folks there said we might like to stop at a home auction going on about a block up the road. I’m not going to mention where it was, because it’s not important and I don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy. They said the owners were a well-regarded elderly couple getting on in age who decided to sell their home and possessions to move into a smaller place.

The auctioneer was moving rapidly through small lots of odds and ends, having to work hard to get a $5 or $6 bid. When he finished, he invited everyone to step inside the modest little house to look at the furniture before he moved on to the farm equipment. The man was noted for restoring antique tractors, we were told.

Childish artwork struck me

There wasn’t much to look at inside. I was going to suggest to Shari that we get back on the road when we walked into a bedroom and I saw these scrawled pieces of art probably done by a grandchild. I made three half-hearted exposures. The light was lousy and the color balance was funky. It didn’t feel like a situation that was going to make a picture good enough to work any harder.

For the record, I love shooting old, abandoned buildings. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I can feel vibrations from the folks who have passed through those places.

THIS building wasn’t abandoned enough for my taste. I felt something looking at those pictures on the wall that caused me to suddenly tell Shari I had to get out of there.

When Shari and I walked back to the car, I didn’t tell her how those scrawled pictures hit me. All I told her was that John Cougar Mellancamp’s Rain On The Scarecrow, the story of a family farm being auctioned off, was playing in my head:

” When you take away a man’s dignity”

And Grandma’s on the front porch swing with a Bible in her hand;

Sometimes I hear her singing, “Take Me to the Promised Land.”

When you take away a man’s dignity and he can’t work his land and cows,

There’ll be blood on the scarecrow, blood on the plow.

Maybe the end is closer than the beginning

Over some fine Italian dishes that evening at Mario’s Pasta House, Shari volunteered that maybe we’re getting to the point in our lives where we’re starting to see the end more clearly than the beginning (my paraphrase). Maybe I saw those photos on the old couple’s wall and flashed on Grandson Malcolm’s scrawled artwork for his grandmother on OUR refrigerator.

Should I write about it?

Tonight I pulled up the 500+ frames I shot today and tried to decide what I was going to put in the blog for Sunday. All of the other photos neatly filed away under geographical categories: Tower Rock; Cemetery near Dutchtown; old barn near Egypt Mills…

When I got down to the three frames from the auction, I almost deleted them, something I hardly ever do. I pulled them up on the screen and felt a wave of emotion sweep over me. I called Wife Lila back in Florida and said, “I’ve got a photo that I think I’m going to run, but I don’t know if I should.” I tried to give her the 25-word-or-less version, but found my voice cracking. Finally, she said, “If it touches you, maybe it’ll touch someone else.”

So, here it is. We’ll be back in the fortress tomorrow and all will be well again.

Red Dagger Play, Which One?

We haven’t had a mystery post in quite awhile, so here’s the question: What is the name of the play? I thought it was My Sister Eileen, but I couldn’t find anything in the Google News Archive for 1964-1965 in either The Missourian or The Southeast Weekly Bulletin that supported my guess. Ditto my Girardots.

Was it Our Hearts Were Young and Gay?

Vicky Roth wrote a piece for The Missourian’s Youth Page on Feb. 15, 1965, headlined Casting for Red Dagger Production Is Completed.

Cornelia Otis Skinner will be portrayed by Miss Sally Wright, senior, and Miss Sharon Stiver, who is also a senior, will enact the part of Emily Kimbrough. Cornelia’s father will be played by Albert Spradling, and Mrs. Skinner will be characterized by Miss Mary Sudholdt. The two young women’s romantic interests, Leo McEvoy and Dick Winters, will be portrayed by John Magill and Lee Dahringer.

On a cruise to Europe, Cornelia and Emily have amusing encounters with the ship’s company, among them the steward, Gary Fischer; the purser, Steven Crowe; the stewardess, Miss Frances Hopkins; the admiral, Wm. East [Editor’s note: The Missourian had a style quirk that said to abbreviate William as Wm.]; and the inspector, Miss Marcia Maupin. The two girls also meet two English girls, Harriet St. John and Winifred Blaugh, portrayed by Miss Norma Wagoner and Miss Ann Buchanan, respectively.

During the Paris visit, Cornelia and Emily conquer their living problems with the aid of Madame Elise, Miss Yyonne Askew, the landlady, and her daughter, Therese, played by Miss Sheila Kirchoff. Cornelia also attempts acting lessons with the “great” French actor, Monsieur De La Croiz, who will be portrayed by Ronald Marshall. During the confusion and laughter, the window cleaner, Grant Holt, adds his comments to the hilarious events. The play is under the direction of Mrs. Wm. Busch.

It STILL sounds more like My Sister Eileen

When I read a synopsis of My Sister Eileen, it sure sounds like the characters I see in the photos, up to and including the pack of Portuguese Merchant Marines and their conga line, led by Sherry McBride.

I started to put names on the pictures, but then decided, hey, if I don’t even know the NAME of the play, what are the odds that I’m going to get the names of the cast right? So, I’m going to throw up a gallery of photos, some of which have names (some of which might even be correct); the rest are going to be fill-in-the-blanks.

Gallery of high school play

Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery. Good hunting.

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.